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Old 04-19-2010, 09:49 AM
Mick
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

Any idea what the 'wifi' USE flag actually does in
www-client/mozilla-firefox? Is it merely to know when the machine is
on/off line and therefore try to connect to the Internet?
--
Regards,
Mick
 
Old 04-19-2010, 02:43 PM
Paul Hartman
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 4:49 AM, Mick <michaelkintzios@gmail.com> wrote:
> Any idea what the 'wifi' USE flag actually does in
> www-client/mozilla-firefox? Is it merely to know when the machine is
> on/off line and therefore try to connect to the Internet?

It enables Necko WiFi (and depends on wireless-tools). What does that
mean specifically? I don't know, but perhaps it is related to this:

"Introduced in Gecko 1.9.1: Code with UniversalXPConnect privileges
can monitor the list of available WiFi access points to obtain
information about them including their SSID, MAC address, and signal
strength. This capability was introduced primarily to allow WiFi-based
location services to be used by geolocation services."
 
Old 04-20-2010, 12:17 PM
Mick
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On 19 April 2010 15:43, Paul Hartman <paul.hartman+gentoo@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 4:49 AM, Mick <michaelkintzios@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Any idea what the 'wifi' USE flag actually does in
>> www-client/mozilla-firefox? *Is it merely to know when the machine is
>> on/off line and therefore try to connect to the Internet?
>
> It enables Necko WiFi (and depends on wireless-tools). What does that
> mean specifically? I don't know, but perhaps it is related to this:
>
> "Introduced in Gecko 1.9.1: Code with UniversalXPConnect privileges
> can monitor the list of available WiFi access points to obtain
> information about them including their SSID, MAC address, and signal
> strength. This capability was introduced primarily to allow WiFi-based
> location services to be used by geolocation services."

Hmm Mozilla's netlib. I had a look at the slides and bits of the
documentation on the Mozilla website, but I am still not really clear
what it does, or why it is needed.
--
Regards,
Mick
 
Old 04-20-2010, 10:55 PM
Stroller
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On 20 Apr 2010, at 13:17, Mick wrote:

...
"Introduced in Gecko 1.9.1: Code with UniversalXPConnect privileges
can monitor the list of available WiFi access points to obtain
information about them including their SSID, MAC address, and signal
strength. This capability was introduced primarily to allow WiFi-
based

location services to be used by geolocation services."


Hmm Mozilla's netlib. I had a look at the slides and bits of the
documentation on the Mozilla website, but I am still not really clear
what it does, or why it is needed.



I *believe* that the idea of having geolocation accessible to the
browser is so that websites should be able to provide locally-relevant
information.


The classic browser has no idea where you are, so if you open the
homepage of Starbucks / McDonalds / Burgerking / Tesco / Sainsburys /
whatever and click on "find my nearest store" then you'll need to
enter your zip code in order for the site to provide you that
information.


I *believe* that a geolocation-aware browser would be able to tell the
site where you are. So as soon as you open the webpage, the site will
query your browser, your browser will tell it where you are and an
AJAXy element on the page would say "Your nearest Tesco store is 13th
Street... Click here for directions".


I'm not really sure how this is supposed to work in practice. It's
clearly in its early days. This dougt.org guy (discovered by Googling)
seems to be involved with it on the Mozilla side and one of his blog
posts links to the W3C "Geolocation API Specification", which was only
finalised 6 months ago.


It says:

The Geolocation API defines a high-level interface to
location information associated only with the device hosting
the implementation, such as latitude and longitude. The API
itself is agnostic of the underlying location information
sources. Common sources of location information include
Global Positioning System (GPS) and location inferred from
network signals such as IP address, RFID, WiFi and Bluetooth
MAC addresses, and GSM/CDMA cell IDs, as well as user input.
No guarantee is given that the API returns the device's
actual location.

I can see that immediately that it's useful and practical if your GPS
talks to your browser and thus your location information is returned
to the website.


In theory one could determine one's location on the basis that the
locations of Fon_AP_1234, SkyHomebroadband_8797 and SmokyCoffeeShop
wifi APs, detected by a scan of your laptop's wifi card, are all
already known. However I am more sceptical about this in practice.


Note that browsers run on mobile phones, which often have GPS built in
these days, and that GPS chips are nowadays so cheap they could also
be build into laptops, were there the demand.


We could probably have a much longer discussion of how this could in
theory all work when it's fully developed, but in practice this USE
flag probably is of no use to any of us right now (unless, *perhaps*,
we're installing Gentoo on a mobile phone).


Stroller.
 
Old 04-21-2010, 03:01 PM
Paul Hartman
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 5:55 PM, Stroller
<stroller@stellar.eclipse.co.uk> wrote:
>
> On 20 Apr 2010, at 13:17, Mick wrote:
>>>
>>> ...
>>> "Introduced in Gecko 1.9.1: Code with UniversalXPConnect privileges
>>> can monitor the list of available WiFi access points to obtain
>>> information about them including their SSID, MAC address, and signal
>>> strength. This capability was introduced primarily to allow WiFi-based
>>> location services to be used by geolocation services."
>>
>> Hmm Mozilla's netlib. I had a look at the slides and bits of the
>> documentation on the Mozilla website, but I am still not really clear
>> what it does, or why it is needed.
>
>
> I *believe* that the idea of having geolocation accessible to the browser is
> so that websites should be able to provide locally-relevant information.
>
> The classic browser has no idea where you are, so if you open the homepage
> of Starbucks / McDonalds / Burgerking / Tesco / Sainsburys / whatever and
> click on "find my nearest store" then you'll need to enter your zip code in
> order for the site to provide you that information.
>
> I *believe* that a geolocation-aware browser would be able to tell the site
> where you are. So as soon as you open the webpage, the site will query your
> browser, your browser will tell it where you are and an AJAXy element on the
> page would say "Your nearest Tesco store is 13th Street... Click here for
> directions".
>

There are already big sites like Twitter and Google Maps that use the
geolocation API. Give it a try: http://www.google.com/maps/m

If it is able to get your location, it should have a little dot in the
bottom-right corner that will take you to your current location when
clicked.

The browser asks for your permission before giving your location away
to a website, so there's no need to worry about privacy as far as I
can tell. It is surprisingly accurate, I don't know what kind of magic
they use but I live in a small town (1 square mile in size) and it was
able to pinpoint me down to that level. Maybe from my search/browsing
history? I don't know... maybe I don't want to know.

What if the Google Street View vans, in addition to taking
photographs, were also scanning for wifi signals and recording their
location? That would give them an impressive database of wifi
"hotspots".

And, of course, like you said, when I run Firefox on my phone it uses
the built-in GPS receiver and can find me quite easily. If there's no
GPS signal available it uses a database of cellular tower locations to
triangulate where I am, which is much less accurate than GPS but still
accurate enough to show within a few blocks of where I am. There are
several mobile-oriented sites that use this API today for local
searches and so on.
 
Old 04-21-2010, 03:20 PM
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:01:20AM -0500, Paul Hartman wrote:
> There are already big sites like Twitter and Google Maps that use the
> geolocation API. Give it a try: http://www.google.com/maps/m
>
> If it is able to get your location, it should have a little dot in the
> bottom-right corner that will take you to your current location when
> clicked.
>
> The browser asks for your permission before giving your location away
> to a website, so there's no need to worry about privacy as far as I
> can tell. It is surprisingly accurate, I don't know what kind of magic
> they use but I live in a small town (1 square mile in size) and it was
> able to pinpoint me down to that level. Maybe from my search/browsing
> history? I don't know... maybe I don't want to know.
>

I think it doesn't locate you but your dslam or its fiber or voiceband
equivalent.
Well, it's only a supposition and I*may be all wrong but it sounds more
realistic than infering your physical location based on your browsing
history

--
Éric Valérian DUNAND
 
Old 04-21-2010, 09:27 PM
Mick
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Wednesday 21 April 2010 16:20:57 erdunand@gmail.com wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:01:20AM -0500, Paul Hartman wrote:
> > There are already big sites like Twitter and Google Maps that use the
> > geolocation API. Give it a try: http://www.google.com/maps/m
> >
> > If it is able to get your location, it should have a little dot in the
> > bottom-right corner that will take you to your current location when
> > clicked.
> >
> > The browser asks for your permission before giving your location away
> > to a website, so there's no need to worry about privacy as far as I
> > can tell. It is surprisingly accurate, I don't know what kind of magic
> > they use but I live in a small town (1 square mile in size) and it was
> > able to pinpoint me down to that level. Maybe from my search/browsing
> > history? I don't know... maybe I don't want to know.
>
> I think it doesn't locate you but your dslam or its fiber or voiceband
> equivalent.
> Well, it's only a supposition and I may be all wrong but it sounds more
> realistic than infering your physical location based on your browsing
> history

"Your currnet location is unavailable"

... phew! I started to get paranoid with all this. ;-)
--
Regards,
Mick
 
Old 04-22-2010, 12:10 AM
Stroller
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On 21 Apr 2010, at 16:01, Paul Hartman wrote:

...
I *believe* that a geolocation-aware browser would be able to tell
the site
where you are. So as soon as you open the webpage, the site will
query your
browser, your browser will tell it where you are and an AJAXy
element on the
page would say "Your nearest Tesco store is 13th Street... Click
here for

directions".



There are already big sites like Twitter and Google Maps that use the
geolocation API. Give it a try: http://www.google.com/maps/m

If it is able to get your location, it should have a little dot in the
bottom-right corner that will take you to your current location when
clicked.


Thanks!

That doesn't find my current location using my desktop Mac and Safari.
I CBA to try it with my current mobile phone which, although a "smart
phone", is an older model. I may get a flashy new Android unit soon,
so maybe I'll try it then.



What if the Google Street View vans, in addition to taking
photographs, were also scanning for wifi signals and recording their
location? That would give them an impressive database of wifi
"hotspots".


Indeed. I considered this when writing my previous response, but I
didn't know how interested readers would be. One could write quite a
lot on this subject.


Google (for instance) could get quite good data from this, but it
would be a lot of work. The locations of wifi access-points could be
triangulated quite accurately, but it's not really very clear how long
the data will stay accurate. There are probably hot-spots in town
centres and at fast-food restaurants which are static in the order of
5 years.


However once into residential areas, the SSIDs of APs may change quite
often, as residents move house or switch broadband providers. I'm not
sure about the US, but here in the UK (and I would imagine throughout
Europe) the majority of wifi access-points are supplied by ADSL and
cable ISPs. They like their customers to use their branded "BT
Homehub" (BT = British Telecom), or "Orange Livebox" in order to
reduce support overheads, and also because these are locked to their
DSL networks and thus help tie-in customers.


Nevertheless, customers typically change suppliers every 18 -24
months, just as soon as their contract expires and they see a new
"deal" from another ISP. So the SSID of Homehub1234, plotted 2 years
ago, may very well no longer be there. The widespread SSIDs of
"Linksys" and "Netgear" must be ignored, unless it is possible to
identify them by MAC address without authenticating.


Thus geolocation using wifi APs becomes quite a fraught problem, and
I'm not sure it's worth it, considering the how much more widespread
is use of mobile phones with GPS (or a cell-tower database).


Stroller.
 
Old 04-22-2010, 07:39 AM
Neil Bothwick
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Thu, 22 Apr 2010 01:10:00 +0100, Stroller wrote:

> The widespread SSIDs of
> "Linksys" and "Netgear" must be ignored, unless it is possible to
> identify them by MAC address without authenticating.

It is, try "sudo iwlist wlan0 scan" to see all APs in range, with their
SSIDs and MAC addresses.


--
Neil Bothwick

In the begining, there was nothing.
 
Old 04-23-2010, 03:42 PM
Paul Hartman
 
Default 'wifi' USE flag in firefox

On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:01 AM, Paul Hartman
<paul.hartman+gentoo@gmail.com> wrote:
> What if the Google Street View vans, in addition to taking
> photographs, were also scanning for wifi signals and recording their
> location? That would give them an impressive database of wifi
> "hotspots".

Hey, it looks like I may have been onto something

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/22/google_streetview_logs_wlans/
 

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