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MiFi OS launches for 2352 and 2372


Those of you that have the MiFi 2352 or 2372 will know that the device contains more than just a 3G/Wifi router. There’s a GPS and an application processor inside. The application processor runs a basic web server that allows configuration and statistics. Unfortunately, the GPS has never been accessible and despite promises of new applications, they never materialised. MiFi OS looks likely to change that.

MiFi OS is a new set of firmware that includes a number of applications aimed at the corporate user. VPN, data tracking, location service, cloud storage and SMS handling applications are all included. We saw an application demonstration back in Feb (video below) although we suspect that things will look different on the finished product.

The new OS is being offered to carriers (who will want to authorise its use, run the assisted GPS servers and presumably, make sure it is locked to a premium data service) and according to other news, it will launch with Teir 1 wireless carriers in Q4.

Press Release

Official Info on the Mifi 2372 Battery Issue. (Updated with reports from 2352 owners)


mifi If you’ve got a Novatel Mifi 2372 (Canada) or 2352 (Europe) model, you might want to read this.

Update: Readers have confirmed that the 2352 is affected. See comments below and check back here for feedback from Novatel. I am in direct contact.

Apparently there have been some battery swelling issues reported on the 2372 related to Bell which have caused the battery door to become jammed. In two cases, it appears that customers have punctured their batteries by using sharp objects to remove the cover.

Engadget have reported the story (in a rather sensationalist fashion considering that this is a safety issue) and we’ve had a call from Novatel themselves who took the time to detail the issue.

Two carriers in Canada have reported the issue and Bell have made the decision to disable their MiFi’s remotely. (There’s a remote-kill feature?) Novatel have kicked off a program of battery and battery door replacements through the two carriers and issued a product advisory.

Note that there is no product recall taking place.

What they fail to address is the 2352 which is the same device with European HSPA bands. Novatel confirmed to us that the 2352 is the same design so one assumes that the same battery supplier is used and that the same problem can occur. 2352 owners out there, please be careful. Don’t use sharp objects to open the battery cover and if you experience a swollen battery, please let Novatel know (and drop a comment here so that we can pass it on too.)

GSMA Agrees With Us and Gives the MiFi an Award.


Clearly the GSMA have been looking for guidance on what to choose as a top mobile gadget at MWC, saw that we had awarded Mobile Accesory of the Year to Novatel’s MiFi and followed suit by giving their own little award for Best Connected Device (Non-handset)

Or maybe they checked it out and realised it was a damn fine bit of kit on their own.

Either way, Novatel just picked up another award for the MiFi from the GSMA

SAN DIEGO ­ Feb. 22, 2010 ­ Novatel Wireless (NASDAQ: NVTL), a leading
provider of wireless broadband solutions, is pleased to announce that its
MiFi  Intelligent Mobile Hotspot has won the GSMA Global Mobile Award for
Best Mobile Connected Device (non-handset). The GSMA Global Mobile Awards is
the mobile industry¹s leading annual award presentation that honors
excellence and innovation in the mobile communications industry worldwide.

Full press release.

Well done Novatel. Keep that Mifi-love flowing. Our wish-list is below:

  • 10 hours battery life (Bigger battery version?)
  • USB charging without becoming a USB device
  • Easier to understand indicator lights. (After nearly a year, I still don’t understand them!)
  • Less heat
  • Faster cold boot
  • Firmware upgrade for existing owners to enable GPS and applications support.

The MiFi 2352 (HSDPA version) saved our bacon quite a few times at MWC. It was the hotel WiFi, our live podcast feed and we used it countless times around the site and at events with a cheap, 35 Euro flat rate SIM card from Vodafone ES. I even used it for advertising. I set my SSID as ‘Chippy and Carrypad are here’ and people actually found me because of it too.

It goes without saying that we thoroughly recommend it and if you’re interested in the HSDPA version, it’s available through our friends at Mobilx for just 214 Euro inclusive of EU taxes. Trust us, it’s worth it! (Affiliate link.)

Next-Gen Mifi Firmware Includes GPS and Apps. Demo Video.


As promised at CES, Novatel are moving forward with their plans for the Mifi 3G personal mobile internet hotspot (that has been a life-saver for me at MWC) to include applications and software features. We spoke to the team at the Mifi booth at MWC a few days ago and got a nice demo of a GPS-enabled application. GPS is enabled in the next firmware but I’m getting the impression that it’s going to be a new model of the Mifi with slightly newer features which ‘might’ include, USB charging without becoming a device, better battery life and of course, the GPS. I’m hoping that the firmware comes to existing Mifi’s (or at least the ones with the application processor in them) to enable the GPS that’s already included in the unit.

In the video below, Gareth Davis talks about some of the things possible and demonstrates a nice GPS-enabled application served through the Mifi webserver itself.

We have also heard that the EyeFi (Wifi-enabled SD card) application is progressing and we’ll be sure to keep a close eye on it.  Clearly a web-based navigation service would be possible and there’s a ton of things that can be done with social networking. Can anyone think of other interesting apps that could be created on this platform?(Apart from the obvious ‘free wifi’ password-inspection app that would be sure to pick up some interesting information if you left it for a few hours in a press conference!)

Mobile Reporting Kit V7 Aims for Sub-2lb (1kg) Flexibility.


Lightweigh Media Blogging KitMobile World Congress is going to call for a significant refinement of my ultra mobile reporting kit (see below for previous versions) which means leaving the netbook in the hotel safe and traveling as light as possible. I aim to be roaming with only a man-bag and with about 1KG/2.2lb of equipment which is quite a challenge. Quality and speed of reporting during the day may suffer but I’m prepared to take the hit in order to be mobile and quick. Here’s a detailed look at my MWC setup as it stands just a few days from travelling.

The initial kit list looks something like this:

Hardware (825gm / 1.8lb)

  • UMID BZ as PC and USB power source. Including mains charger cable.
  • Nokia N82 as camera and backup 3G tether.  Including spare battery.
  • Mifi 2352 as primary 3G hotspot
  • USB cables for charging and connecting

Optional (about 500gm due to heavy aluminum mic.)

The bag

Oh the stress of choosing a bag. Right now I’m leaning towards the Jack Wolfskin one because it can be worn in on the back or front of the body and it looks, well, less man-baggy!

MWC Man-Bag Choice

IMG_4720 IMG_4714

Capabilities

  • Text blogging
  • Photo Blogging to blog, twitter etc.
  • Video Blogging
  • Live video streaming (as per V6 of the reporting kit – See sample video at base of article)
  • Normal PC activities.

Live one-take Video demonstration (15 mins)

Here’s how I would use the kit to post images and videos with text.

UMID BZ Video  Demo Test

Yup, problems occur but in previous and recent tests it  looks like it will take about 5 minutes to do a 2-paragraph blog post around a photo. Video really depends on Internet bandwidth but with the mobile reporting kit I can close the lid of the UMID and leave it to continue posting to YouTube. You have to be careful of time-outs in this case because re-starting the uploads usually requires a full upload again.  Here’s the image I took during the video. As you can see, quality is excellent (click to enlarge.)

Other notes

Weight including adapter cables: 829gm (1.8lb)

Cost

  • UMID BZ: $549
  • Photo camera: Around $300 but get one with BT and Xenon flash.
  • Mifi: $250

Improvements and optimisations.

Could a Motorola Droid/Milestone do all this? Yes. Photo’s to Flickr and editing and re-posting from Flickr is easily possible. Video also possible. Live video using QIK also possible. Text entry with Droid keyboard also possible. Cost: Around $500 including an extra battery (or two!) It’s a great single-device option and way, way lighter than what I’ll be carrying.

The issue with using a Droid is that you don’t have a PC with you for ‘everything else.’ That includes basic video editing, 100% full web access, USB accessories support (printing, usb sticks, usb cam for example) high quality audio recording using USB mic/audacity, audio/video streaming using UStream, connectivity to LCD screen and full size keyboard and use of all the normal desktop client software such as Firefox, Tweetdeck, Paint Shop, LiveWriter, Skype and anything else that a PC would be flexible for. It’s basically a trade-off. Using the UMID is way more expensive but it gives that flexibility to use to a full desktop tool-set if required and that, to me, is worth it’s weight in gold. If either the N82 or UMID die, I’m left with one working device which is a nice backup strategy.

The N82 video quality (test video here) could be improved a lot. I’d love to see a photo camera with high-compression, 720p video recording and checking across the range of smartphones available today, the Omnia i8910 would make a better choice for video with it’s 720p capability. File sizes could be a problem though so HQ VGA at about 2mbps H.264 would be perfect. Anyone out there done extensive phone-cam testing?

Battery life is an issue and will require careful management. Fortunately the UMID BZ is proving excellent in that respect and just by closing the lid I can make it go into standby or hibernation. Returning for these standby modes is 5 and 20 seconds respectively. The UMID is returngin a regular 4.5-5hr in-use battery life. Despite that, I’ll carry a mains charger with me because I may have to charge the Mifi or the N82. Both can be charged via USB which is a huge bonus. The Mifi can even be used while it charges.

Update: In a 34 minute test I saw 17% battery drain indicating 200 minutes of battery life. About 3 hours! (Device closed with screen/touchscreen off)

Embedded 3G in the UMID. Yes, this would be great. No question. There’s no need for a Mifi if you’re only using one 3G-capable device but even in that scenario, i’d probably have the Mifi with me as a backup. The antenna on it is superb and it comes in really handy for a table of five net-less bloggers!

Your suggestions welcome.

Please feed-back in the comment section below. I love to hear how people are using their mobile kit. Are you mobile blogging at MWC? If so, lets meet and have a chat about the kit on video.

I’ll post a follow-up after MWC.

Previous versions of the ultra mobile reporting kit.

V6 (Jun 2009) is here.

V5 (March 2009) is here.

V4 (Sept 2009) is here.

V3 (Feb 2008) is here.

V2 (Sept 2007) is here

V1 (March 2007) is here.

Hat-tip to Jenn at Pocketables who successfully used the flickr-to-blog method at CES 2008.

Thanks to UMID for the loan of the BZ. If I didn’t have the UMID here, I would have replaced it with the Fujitsu U820 as a second choice. The BZ really is the best choice out there right now.

Update:

Live test recording: Video/Audio stream recorded by Ustream

Warning: Proven Security Issue on MiFi 3G routers. (Updated with Novatel response)


I’ve been extremely happy with the Mifi 2352 (and the Sprint version I used at CES) We voted it mobile gadget of the year and have previously highlighted it for ease of use and its ability to improve security over open hotspots. Unfortunately we’re going to have to retract the latter statement because of a serious security issue based around multiple vulnerabilities. The latest update highlights the ultimate danger.

http://evilpacket.net/2010/jan/14/mifi-geopwn/

1-16-2010:
@aramosf posted to twitter that the MiFi’s config can be directly accessed without authentication. If you combine his attack with the above attacks it turns out that an attacker can download the entire device configuration, including clear text credentials!

The hack has been proven on the Verizon version of the Mifi but we’d recommend caution for all Mifi users. Keep your Mifi out of view when in use and hide the SSD if possible.

Combined with further software installed on the application processor version of the MiFi, the 2352, it’s not difficult to imagine a situation where the MiFi is turned into a traffic logger.

We’ve contacted Novatel for a statement and will update you here on the latest.

Latest from Novatel:

MiFi has CGI parameters that are intentionally programmable so that developers can read or change MiFi settings and build browser based widgets.  Most of these are openly published by Novatel.  There are other CGI settings not published  for MiFi that are accessible only when a user surfs to a malicious web site and stays connected to that site.  The nature of the threat is better characterized by the ability of the hacker to change MiFi settings, only when connected to the malicious site, and does not provide access to the user’s personal data.  The exception to this is location data such as GPS.  In this instance, the user location data is visible only when the user is connected to the malicious site and GPS is activated.  No malware remains on MiFi when the user disconnects from the malicious site.  Any data received or sent through MiFi is secure.  Novatel will provide a patch going forward.

Win a MiFi 2352 3G Hotspot with Carrypad and Mobilx


mobilxmifiOver at Carrypad, we’re giving away a MiFi 2352.

For more detailed information, a review and a video, check out the round-up we published over at UMPCPortal earlier this year.

To have a chance to win the Mifi 2352, all you have to do is to answer one easy question. Head on over to Carrypad for more details.

Many thanks to Mobilx for their support. Mobilx offer a wide range of mobile computing solutions and are able to ship worldwide. Check out their web site here.

UMPC Product Awards 2009


bestof2009

2009 was, again,  a tough year for designing, building and selling UMPCs. Windows Vista continued to drag down performance and the economic situation meant that many UMPCs didn’t reach the market. Despite that, the advances we’ve seen in 2009 have been some of the best ever. Performance was boosted with the availability of high-speed SSD drives. Battery life was improved through the use of the Intel Menlow platform and market pressure meant that the price/performance ratio took a huge step forward. In one of our videos this year I talked about ‘double the battery life, for half the price.’ That’s how far we’ve come since 2006 but into that equation go more features like GPS, 3G, haptic feedback, better designs, silent operation and lighter weight. Only last week, Fujitsu launched the UH900 which makes it, if our database serves us correctly, the first 5.6 inch ultra mobile PC to break the 500gm barrier. Amazing.

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