Thursday, February 27, 2014

Perfume: The Story of a Woman Frustrated by a Formulation Change

I am fascinated by the powerful memories that can be triggered by a specific scent, but my love of perfume was triggered by the realization that the formulation for a favorite perfume of mine had changed without warning. Back in the early '90s, the perfumes I recall being all the rage were ObsessionLiz Claiborne and Colors de Benetton. My favorite was Colors de Benetton in the clear bottle. Several years after I graduated high school, the big bottle I had to save up to buy had sprayed its last spritz.  I made the quick trip to the local Benetton store at the Florida Mall and bought a replacement. It didn't occur to me to try it out in the store, it was a simple refill purchase. The replacement bottle wasn't clear like the empty one I had at home, now it was a dark green. No matter, I thought - still the same name, price etc. WRONG. The green bottle smelled to me like it was a close cousin of Pine Sol. I thought there had to be something wrong with the bottle from the Benetton store, so I purchased one from, thinking I might get a bottle from a different batch (?). Nope. I sent the Pine Sol concoction back to and took the foul smelling stuff back to Benetton. I scoured the web for some information about why the perfume I loved no longer smelled like it did originally. I came up empty handed. Luckily, you can still find people selling unused (or partial used) bottles of perfume on eBay.

While I was on the quest for confirmation that Benetton had changed the formulation, I stumbled across I was completely unaware that there was a community of people sharing opinions/information on perfumes that had gone out of production, were new to the market or had quietly changed their formulation.

Around that time, I was also reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The undercurrent of the plot is scent and one of the main character's desire to recreate a 300 year old perfume from a bottle in her possession. 

I began to dig deeper into the world of perfume after seeing the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (I read the book afterwards, and naturally it was better.).  I then found Luca Turin through continued research, and read his book with Tania Sanchez - Perfumes the A-Z GuideThe Secret of Scent (Luca Turin), Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession (Chandler Burr).

As I was reading all these books, I researched how I could get my hands on the perfumes Luca Turin writes about. That's how I came across The Perfumed Court and the ladies at Sniffapalooza. Surrender to Chance is another group of women who sell perfume decants, so if TPC doesn't have what you're looking for, check over at SC.

Eventually I got interested enough to take part in two Sniffapalooza scent themed travel tours! The first one was to Barcelona, Spain and the second was to Lisbon, Portugal. Each trip was a unique excursion into Europe via one's nose!

I found my favorite perfume (hands down!) via Katie Puckrick's vlogged perfume reviews. Frederic Malle's Portrait of a Lady (Perfumer: Dominique Ropion) is the most fantastic perfume I've ever smelled. Katie's review of PoaL was so compelling, I purchased a sample from TPC, wore every last drop of it and just had to purchase a full bottle! At the time, it was quite difficult to buy from FM's online shop. I had to call my credit union, explain that I was attempting to purchase a perfume from an online shop in France - and could they please allow the transaction to complete? Once they'd opened some ports in the credit union firewall, my purchase was complete and I was ecstatic to have a full bottle of PoaL winging its way to me!

Fun fact: Marie Antoinette was caught trying to escape from the French Revolutionaries disguised as a peasant, but was recognized as royalty because she smelled fantastically of Houbigant, which no peasant could ever afford to wear.

This is but a small portion of my collection. I have hunted down dozens of different perfume decants after coming across a reference to a perfume critical to a character's reaction in a film (Arpege via "A Single Man", or many of those mentioned in a book (The Perfume Collector). My nose is always curious and learning.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Aruba's Got Gigabit Wifi For The Great Outdoors #WFD6

Aruba showed off their 802.11ac outdoor access point in an off-camera, 'don't talk about it til you can talk about it' session at the last WFD6.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the 274 and 275 can be discussed freely. We were shown a prototype of the 275 model access point and the single piece of metal bracket especially designed for the AP 275.

Christian Gilby wrote a good post on the new access point and published it to the Airheads community. In the post he also covers recommended distances between outdoor mesh access points as well as links to antenna options for the new access point.
The list price for the AP 275 is $1995 for the dual radio 3x3:3 access point. The access point can be controller based or controller-less. The power requirements for the access point is 802.3at or standard AC power. Inside the access point housing is two horizontal and one vertically polarized antenna. This access point has been designed to have advanced cellular coexistence, meaning it is good at out of band filtering in order to avoid the LTE frequencies which have side lobes which affect the 2.4GHz spectrum.

The access point was surprisingly lightweight given the size of the AP 275. I liked the single piece of metal mounting bracket and that the access point weights less than six pounds (~2.5 kg). The single type of installation bracket and the minimal weight of the unit will allow outdoor installations to be streamlined and simplified. This single mounting bracket however does not allow strand mounting (a popular mounting style for Cisco and Ruckus outdoor access points). This may or may not be an issue for Aruba mesh customers.

AirTight - Freaking Me Out By Spoofing All My SSIDs #WFD6

I've heard all about the different types of wireless attacks that can be launched against any wireless environment. Firesheep was one of the first wireless attacks I could see being launched on the wifi network of any restaurant, coffee shop or waiting room. Of course there are thousands of possible wireless attacks, but I'm dubious about the actual use of wireless attacks outside of a white/black hat conference, or attacks being launched at individuals instead of being launched at a corporation.

It seems to me that miscreants would be more likely to try out Wi-Fi attack tools at a University, coffee shops or an IT conference where their cracking attempts would most likely go unnoticed. The flip side to a newbie hacker trying out their tools is an individual/team working to obtain credit card information or other digital information that is of some financial value. These attacks would be in the same vein as that against T.J. Maxx back in 2005.

This all leads me to what I witnessed for the first time at AirTight when I sat down, opened my laptop and began to settle in for their WFD6 presentation. Coffee in hand, I looked around for the Wi-Fi PSK or credentials for their guest Wi-Fi. I noticed that my laptop showed it was already connected to a WLAN, but I thought it unlikely that the SSID from the last WFD was still in use, and that my credentials were still cached on my laptop. I clicked on the Wi-Fi connectivity icon and it showed that I was connected to the McCarran WiFi SSID. Say what? That's not even possible. That's the free Wi-Fi SSID from the airport in Las Vegas! As the list of available Wi-Fi networks available began to populate on my screen, there was no way that all these SSIDs were really available. I was seeing a list of every SSID I'd ever connected to and hadn't pruned from my list of known networks.

Turns out, what I was seeing was a Wi-Fi Pineapple running Karma. Basically what I was seeing was my laptop beaconing the request to connect to any of its known networks and the Pineapple responding back with "YES!"

I immediately began pruning my list of known networks on my laptop, but I don't have the option to remove known networks from my iPhone once that known network is out of range. I could always take the extreme measure of resetting all my Network Settings in my phone, but I wasn't ready to make that leap.

The Karma demonstration was a lead in for the "AirTight Magic Show" with Sean Blanton. The feature that AirTight has to combat a Pineapple/Karma attack is that the AirTight system can detect known enterprise user devices and make it so that once you connect to the secured corporate WLAN you’re actively blocked via de-auth packets from connecting to any other WLANs while you're in the workplace. With AirTight, it is possible to block the ability of known enterprise clients to join their own Mi-Fi devices or personal SSIDs.

I've not seen this type of functionality present in any other vendors' wireless capabilities. I was impressed not only by the Karma demo, but the ability of AirTight to keep enterprise devices associated to enterprise WLANs and prevent them from associating to 'unauthorized' WLANs.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prepping for Wireless Field Day 6

Wireless Field Day 6 is quickly approaching! The sponsors of this week's are a varied bunch. Some new, some returning for another WFD event. It's guaranteed to be information packed and technologically mind melting!

I'll be reunited with returning delegates Blake Krone, George Stefanick, Keith Parsons, Lee Badman, Jake Snyder, Sam Clements and Scott Stapleton and exposing the new delegates to the typical WFD hazing (joking!!). The new delegates are: Germán Capdehourat, Evert Bopp and Richard McIntosh.

As it stands today, I'm most curious about the Disaster Tech Labs and Plan Ceibal presentations, but that's because each of these organizations provides an invaluable resource to disaster survivors/responders (Disaster Tech) and helps the future of Uruguay through the country's youth (Plan Ceibal). 

I did my homework on Plan Ceibal (the one laptop per child project started in Uruguay in 2007) and found a heartwarming story of technology helping to enrich the lives of all Uruguay's state run school children.

I've known Evert (Disaster Tech Labs) through twitter for some time, and I know he's been involved in bringing wireless communications networks to a great many places where natural disasters have occurred.

Aside from that, I'm looking forward to hearing what's new at AirTight, Aruba and Xirrus as well as learning more about Cloudpath and Extreme Networks.

I'll be blogging, photographing and tweeting the event, so tune in to for the live video feeds and watch the #WFD6 hashtag on twitter for the full conversation.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Customer Loyalty, Location Tracking, Big Data and iBeacons

A lot of technology has recently entered the world of retail analytics. Some of it leverages Wi-Fi, some Bluetooth, some audio, but all of it is competing for your customer loyalty (Big Data). The crux of it all is an attempt by the retailer to engage with you, the customer by giving you coupons/discounts in trade for your demographic data or because you completed a task.

Gigwalk connects people/companies who need workers to fulfill temporary workload. Users of Gigwalk can agree to fulfill a requested task/service and receive payment via PayPal. You can think of it as a way for an employer to hire a temp worker without ever performing an interview. Gigwalk is an interesting way to connect employers with employees to complete piecemeal work. It reminds me a little of TaskRabbit but less errand/chore based and more task completion.

Checkpoints awards you points for completing surveys, watching videos, shopping online etc. Checkpoint is aligned with manufacturers instead of retailers. inMarket operates the largest mobile shopper platform and the underlying technology used is the iBeacon platform. 

iBeacons leverage Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to create a location-aware, context-aware wireless network within a retail establishment. The proximity information can be used to send targeted marketing to nearby smart phones to encourage purchases or to award users of the app with points for scanning product barcodes into the app.

Shopkick awards you points ("kicks") for visiting stores, scanning products or making purchases from retailers in the Shopkick network (Sports Authority, Macy's). The "kicks" can be accrued and turned into gift cards, free coffee awards or other prizes. The odd thing I read about Shopkick is that the app asks for permission to use the microphone on your smartphone. This is because the app listens for a specific frequency/sound pattern being transmitted from the Shopkick beacon installed in the store. The app also has the potential to record the audio during a TV broadcast if that is part of an opportunity to earn kicks. This is outlined the Shopkick privacy policy, but I doubt many Shopkick users will actually read this or the app EULA.
"record, determine or use information about or from another content delivery platform (for example, to unlock potential rewards or offers based on your watching of a specific a commercial or show that is broadcast on your television or on the web, the shopkick application may ask you to open the app while you are watching TV, and then we may record or analyze the audio signal from the television set via the shopkick app and your cell phone’s microphone, to determine the commercial, and/or program, including the date and/or time), and (v) record information derived from such above information and other sources such as entries and offers viewed on our website or on our social media presence, or information provided by Affiliated Partners (collectively, “Non-Personally Identifiable Information”)."
Stepsaway is another shopping app that detects customers' smart phones when they are near stores in shopping centers or other public spaces. Stepsaway allows retailers to use a cloud managed platform to push notifications to customers within range of their stores.

It is abundantly clear that the customer is actually the product. Brick and mortar stores are competing with one another for the attention (and wallet) of the consumer. Retailers are willing to offer exclusive discounts to customers to win/retain customer loyalty. What you're trading for those discounts is more than just the space the app takes up on your phone. You're often asked to trade your phone contacts, access to your photos, microphone and location in trade for access to the perceived benefits of the rewards network (via the app).

I'm not the target audience for customer loyalty/shopping apps, but the things I've been reading started me thinking about privacy issues, potential legal issues and how to avoid inadvertently contributing to the demographic database pool.

The fact that the iBeacon technology is Bluetooth with a different name leads me to wonder about how much interference iBeacons add to the 2.4GHz spectrum. How does a wireless infrastructure differentiate between an iBeacon and a Bluetooth source of interference?

Wireless technology is evolving quickly in many disparate ways. It's unclear how iBeacons will be used outside of the retail vertical, or when an active/passive RFID implementation would be preferential over Bluetooth. It's an exciting time in the world of wireless! Some of it makes me a little leery, but I'm hopeful for the possibilities of a more connected world.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Wireless USB Adapters in Every Hub, and Omnipeek On Every Laptop #WFD5

Tim McCreery President and CEO of WildPackets presented the company history to the Wireless Field Day 5 delegates. Wildpackets was founded in 1990, and now their customer base spans 60+ countries and over 7,000 customers.

Jay Botelho Director of Product Management spoke next, and gave us the WildPackets technical history.
  • First to support data capture and analysis of 802.11ac traffic
  • The most comprehensive voice over wifi analysis
  • Only application to support remote data capture from commercial enterprise access points
  • Best application for distributed networks with remote 24x7 real-time analysis
Since the last time WildPackets presented at WFD4, they've since brought to market full 802.11ac support and data captures from locally-attached or remote access points.

The demonstration of the 802.11ac capture was interesting in that copies of OmniPeek and 802.11ac adapters were gifted to the delegates in order for them to generate 802.11ac traffic in the presentation room. OmniPeek only has drivers for the Ralink chipset wireless adapters at this time, but they should have a two stream adapter supported by the end of this year.

Per Jay Botelho, trusting RSSI reporting from access points is iffy since vendors apply RSSI values differently. WildPackets does some analysis work on the capture that is RSSI, and they have to do some work to convert that to dBi or a percentage value.

OmniPeek has new columns added to it to simplify analysis of an 802.11ac capture:
  • MCS value
  • Spatial streams
  • Bandwidth used
  • Data rate
Using multiple adapters to capture data is key in analyzing client roaming in any wireless network. When Jay listed the channels his test network was configured for (2, 6 and 10) I was concerned, since these are not non-overlapping channels. I do not know if this was just for testing purposes that these channels were used, but it isn't an optimal configuration.

  • Top pane = flows categorized by application
  • bottom pane = problems detected
WildPackets is currently running a special discount on their Mobile WLAN Analyzer bundle. The bundle includes OmniPeek Professional and 3 OmniWiFi USB WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n) adapters. The $900 discount is only good through 10/31/2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MU-MIMO They're not calling you names, they're speeding up your Wi-Fi! #Aerohive #WFD5


The thing I always vividly remember from an Aerohive session at Wireless Field Day, is the presentation by Matthew Gast. I love how he intertwines fun facts and figures into a slide deck AND uses matrix math to explain things that are still (somewhat) theoretical in nature.

At the WFD5 eventMatthew Gast presented on MU-MIMO in 802.11ac. I tried to take notes, but the  information flow was more than my brain buffer can process in real-time.

802.11ac Wave-2 and its enablers
  • explicit beamforming in 802.11ac
  • matrix math
  • implementation
  • null steering
  • acknowledgement and queueing
4 features of 802.11ac
  • wider channels (80 & 160MHz)
  • more spatial streams (up to 8 in a single user tx, 4 in a multi-user tx)
  • 256-QAM
  • downlink MU-MIMO
null data packets
  • not even a L2 construct
  • it's a phy layer data plane to describe the way the energy will be steered
Multiple devices connected at the 64 QAM rates will be able to send/receive more data than a single 256 QAM device will tx/rx.

Several matrices are used in matrix math:
  • H is the channel matrix that describes the path between transmitter and receiver
  • Q is the steering matrix that alters the distribution of energy along a path
  • V is the feedback matrix, sent as part of the measurement process to derive Q
The feedback loop based on speeds now is "Did you get an ACK or not?", it's not a matrix describing the connectivity. You can mix data rates inside a feedback matrix data result.

The block ack protocol is used when transmitting to multiple devices at the same time. This is a layer on top of sending beamformed frames. Data rates within a beamformed frame can be mixed. Block ACKs get used as a distributed acknowledgment system along with the RTS-CTS mechanism.

Multi-user MIMO is trading total overall throughput for individual peak throughput, and only works downstream.

The GCMP encryption requires AES but has fewer trips through the AES block and is still only optional in 802.11ac. 

I know all of that is quite a mouthful of acronyms! If you haven't watched the Aerohive presentation series, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you did.

Aerohive ID Manager Demonstration at WFD5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Client Management Demonstration from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Application Visibility and Control Demonstration from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Application Visibility and Control Presentation at WFD5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.