After having sold over 2 million Fonera Simpl WiFi routers to telcos, we are now making our newest Fonera available to everyone online through our new Fon site. We sell it for 39 Euros / 49 USD.The Simpl is our newest palm-sized router, targeted to smartphone and tablet-PC users. With the new Fonera Simpl when you connect to Fon WiFi at home or on the go, you can Torrent,  listen to Spotify, stream YouTube videos and download and install heavy applications in a way that’s fast, simple and useful, without eating up your 3G credit and straining 3G networks.

FoneraSIMPLaltShot2The Fonera Simpl is really attractive to mobile operators. Customers only need to plug their Fonera Simpl into their fixed internet connection and can easily configure their smart devices to connect automatically to any Fon signal.  It offers several connection solutions for the SIMPL to assist users who want a hassle-free connection to Fon WiFi at home and on the go. New WPS functionality allows users to easily connect smart devices to their private WiFi signal with the touch of a button (on the back of the SIMPL). Smart devices can also be easily configured to connect automatically to the public Fon WiFi signal whenever one is within range. Fon offers downloadable connection applications for devices ranging from Android or Blackberry, based on the WISPr recommendation from the WFA, to the iPhone. The value to mobile operators from traffic offloading on overloaded 3G networks is very tangible and Fon is offering an easy and affordable solution to ease this problem and create great user experience.

The new Fonera SIMPL includes:

  • 1 WAN Ethernet port (for ADSL/Cable modem)
  • 1 LAN Ethernet port (for PC)
  • 1 SSID (Open, WEP, WPA, WPA2)
  • 1 SSID (Fon network)
  • 802.11n (150 Mbps)
  • 802.11b/g (54 Mbps) compatible
  • Detachable, external antenna

So far this is just an idea.  Indeed it is a dream that I had last night complemented with some dosage of reality added a few minutes as I woke up.  So the whole concept is very fresh on this Sunday morning.  I call it the Fon bikes and I call the Fon bicycles the Bikera (rhymes with Fonera).  This is inspired on Fon, the company I started in which people share WiFi at home buying a router called the Fonera and roam the world for free and at close to 3 million hotspots it is by far the larges WiFi network in the world.

The Fon Bikes would be a project to implement in small cities first.  Say the city of Lerida in Spain, or Geneva in Switzerland or the smaller cities of Japan which is Fon’s fastest growing country with over 100K new foneros getting Fon WiFi routers called Foneras every month.  In another way Fon Bikes is a project similar to Velolib in Paris but simpler and better.

The idea is that Fon would go to one of those towns and buy 1000 bicycles.  The bikes would be orange, the color of Fon, each one would have a unique identifier engraved in it and a simple lock mechanism that operates with a SIM card. Something like this bike that sells for only 99 pounds or this one which sells for the equivalent of 45 euros.  So say for only €50,000 you could place 1000 bright orange bikes around a town.  The unknown at this point is the SIM enabled lock.  Let’s assume that we get it for €20. So for another €20,000 we get say Geneva to have 1000 bikes with those locks. 1000 BIKERAS 🙂

And then the fun starts.  You tell everyone that they can use those bikes by making a payment with their smartphones of say 1 euro a ride, or they can buy a bike themselves for 70 euros and never pay again, all bikes are for free to those who donate a bike.  Moreover you tell them as we tell in Fon that if they do buy a bike for 70 euros that they can amortize it with the first 70 rentals as Fon will give them the euro it collects per rental and that after that Fon keeps half of the rental fee for building the network and system, and the person another half.  This means that you can enter the Fon Bike network, never pay again and make money with your bikera for only an initial €70 investment.

Now an obvious question is why would not just people pay €70 euros and get a bike for themselves and never be part of the system.  Many answers come to mind.  One is that by mass buying one model we can give people use of a better bike for less.  Onother one is that many times it is inconvenient to own a bike.  When you own a bike you cannot do one way trips.  If you go to work during the day you have to return at night in your bike.  If it starts raining you can’t switch to public transportation.  This system is an ideal solution for one way trips, and then there’s the speed at which you dispose of the bike anywhere.  In the Velolib system in Paris one of the biggest problems is to find one of those bike stations and if you don’t find one quickly they start charging you a lot of money for having the bike.  Here there is no disposal of the bike problem.  Lastly it is much better to be able to leave the bike in the street all the time.  Many bike owners have to make room in small apartments for their bikes, carry them up the stairs, etc.

Anyway, as I said I just woke up.  Dreamt this idea which is not a great start. And questions come to mind, like who will service the bikes or what if people just vandalize them or steal them.  But even if they steal them they would have to dispose of them somewhere, and then somebody else would “steal” them without knowing.  Because they would be public property in a way.

So instead of Fon’s “share a little wifi at home and roam the world for free” it would be “share your bike and any bike will be yours when you need it”.  I know these projects sound like anarchist cooperativism of the 1920s but what makes them less utopic is that Fon is the largest WiFi network in the world.  That Fon grows a T Mobile every month in terms of WiFi.  It makes you think if there other ways to make people fitter, healthier, alleviate pollution and reduce private cars in circulation.

Added a bit later:  two commentators have argued that if we have SIMs, we have a lock, we need electricity, why not also power a 3G to Wifi converter, charge it with a dinamo as we pedal and those bikes are also Foneras. Love this brainstormings!

Another commentator added that these bikes are also ad space, if they became say the Starbucks Bikes or something like that Starbucks may want to invest the initial money to get a city going.

And another idea that occured to me is that the homeless or unemployed could be trained on simple bike repairs and compensated for oiling the bikes, adjusting brakes, etc.  Probably they would not have gears.

Now I have to see who can make a SIM based locked managed with Smartphones or a SIM based lock Fonera 3G to WiFi.

I should add that I am a cycling fanatic ever since I was a bike messenger when studying at NYU.  And that right now…I am going biking in the Sierra outside of Madrid.

Ok, back from cycling I see somebody points a similar idea from a start up called SoBi.  I lived in NYC for 18 years and think NYC is the wrong town for something like this.  Also $500 per bike is totally out of budget.  I am thinking more like $50 bikes that nobody will want to steal because there will be so many of them that it will be worthless to steal them.  I am thinking very simple SIM based locks that could cost $20 that nobody would want to steal either.  But most of all I am thinking of places where people are educated and honest without being policed.  Places like Japan, Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, Denmark.  Interestingly in India, the country with the most poor people in the world vandalism is rare.  Vandalism is not about poverty, is about culture. The guys at SoBi, who look like a great group btw, have to spend $500 so people don’t steal a $50 bike.  I don’t want the bikeras to be locked.  I want there to be so many of them in a town that they just don’t have scarcity value.

In general I don’t see this system as a good one for USA.  People are too far apart from each other to cycle, NYC is an exception not a rule.  I also don’t see it for my native Argentina because of a general lack of civic culture, and not for my Spain where I live either except maybe in smaller cities like Zaragoza for the same reasons.

I like the idea of the commentator who says that bikes can save themselves all the electronics, that it’s the users who have the electronics.  So if the bike simply has a lock with a combination and it has a unique identifier the person emails/sms bike identifier and gets combination.  The locks can be changed around occasionally.

I’m very happy to announce that Broadcom, the leading company in providing cable solutions based on DOCSIS®, has finished adding the Fon software to its latest SDK. This is one more step, and a big one this time, into growing the Fon network towards making “WiFi everywhere” a real claim.

With this integration, Broadcom enables any manufacturer using their cable solution to make Fon ready routers in no time, saving development time and costs as well as providing professional support for future maintenance and improvement.

This has benefits for all Foneros, since it will allow the Fon network to grow even faster, for router manufacturers, who will be able to provide Fon ready solutions much faster and in a safe way, and for the ISPs, since they will be able to market Fon solutions much faster even upgrading their existing router base when possible.

All in all, great news for the WiFi market!

Image representing Sonos as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So this is one of the posts in which I am going to argue that when I was a teenager things were better, and you are going to think that I am one of those guys who thinks that things were always better in the past.  A disgruntled modernist of sorts. But no, that is not the case.  I can’t think of anything that was better 30 yrs ago than now, except one thing, music quality.

When I was a teen, I was a fan of HiFi music.  I used to build my own speakers, try to get the best turntable I could find, and the best amplifier.  Already playing cassette tapes was consider a “no no” as the quality would deteriorate considerably compared to vinyl records. I did like CDs though, as they seem to reach the whole sound range.

Now fast forward to 2010. My children play music off their laptops, their Macs. The speakers are terrible. Sound awful. And even myself I buy a Sonos, and the quality is acceptable, but not great. So what do I do? I still buy myself amazing speakers and amplifiers and whatever I have that produces music, I send through those. And I don’t even like the sound of Home Theaters except if you are watching movies. So we have one, but in the movie at home part of the house. Home Theaters invariably have bad speakers. So our solution for the living room and dining room is to have great old fashion Denon, Pioneer and Marantz, amplifiers connected to Yamaha speakers. It is not that the equipment is old. It’s the technology that is old. Even the Sonos I don’t use to amplify the sound, nor do I use the Sonos speakers that come with the unit. I just a use a Sonos box to convert Spotify, and even my own music library, from an input that comes over ethernet, into an audio output that goes into the Denon amplifier and the Yamaha speakers.  Something that soon amplifiers will do by themselves using AirPlay.

So in the end I walk around my home with an iPhone or HTC Nexus One (with Andronos installed) and I can play music, great quality music. And now I have both, the quality of the 80’s with the variety, accessibility and ease of use that we have 30 years later. My favorite band at the moment is The XX. My favorite song is Crystalised.

PS:  I am studying the app that was made for streaming music with a Fonera,

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Talking to my friend, a military expert, I learned that fighters with real pilots will be rare in the future. That most air battles will be fought with drones.  So instead of “the best pilots”, in the future what the air force will need, is amazing video game players to guide drones. Indeed use of drones is already common in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.  Now what surprised me was to find out that drone operators are suffering from more war stress syndrome than real pilots, a lot of it is from the thought of killing innocent people.  As bad as it sounds I think this is good news.  It shows humanity in them.  I think that pilots are stressed enough but when they kill they are also at risk, so maybe they have less remorse. Pilots are like toreros, they have the upper hand, but they can also die.  Drone operators are like toreros outside the arena.  They just zap the bull.

Personally I don’t share other people’s fascination with high tech war. I know there are bad people out there, Osama Bin Laden and others who want us dead and if they could they would nuke us.  But I also know that in the last 10 years we have lost the moral high ground that we had after 9-11, we have committed a lot of atrocities, and if anything there are more terrorists now than there were 10 years ago.  And as excited as some people may be with drones I think they make us in USA and EU look like terrorists. Moreover we armed Osama with Sting missiles and we suffer for it. These drones will sooner or later be used by Hamas, Hezbollah, and war will escalate much further.

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 20: Two new MacBook Ai...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

You can connect Apple TV to your TV and it’s pretty good. It only costs $99 and you get iTunes, Youtube, Netflix (North America only). But if you live in Europe I find it best to connect a MacMini to your projector TV or large display and add a VPN service like Witopia so you can surf as if you are in USA and get Hulu, Pandora. There are instances when the opposite is true. When you want to Spotify for example it is best to appear in Europe. In any case once you have a MacMini connected to a large display you have the keyboard problem. You can use a long wire to cover the distance that people need to seat away from a large display, say 3 meters (sorry I hate inches feet). But a 3 meter cable is ugly and inconvenient. You can also get a Bluetooth keyboard but then you have another problem and that is that large displays work great to watch movies, TV but poorly to type or surf because the print is too small from the right movie viewing distance. So there are two solutions. One is to use an iPhone app call Remote which is great but you will still have the problem of not seeing the small print from Movie viewing distance. The other one, the one I use, is to use screen sharing. Here’s a tutorial on how to use it.

The biggest advantage to use Screen Sharing in a MacBook air is that you can have BOTH a surfing experience and a movie watching experience. You surf on your laptop but you look at Netflix or any movie platform on the large display.

If Apple TV had a keyboard I could go for it. But I find the way in which you need to input information in Apple TV horribly annoying so the MacBook Air (or any mac laptop) plus MacMini connected to your TV is the best solution.

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When I write articles like this I feel sorry for the people involved. I love Endomondo, the sports app for Android, Blackberry and iPhone and had been using it for 2 months. But then all my friends are in Runkeeper. A competitor which for some reason is much more popular. So yesterday I chose to leave Endomondo and go for Runkeeper. Unfortunately I don’t see a Blackberry application for Runkeeper. This could sometimes be a problem. I generally work out with a Blackberry and either an Android or iPhone and Runkeeper is in the latter two. But if I only have a Blackberry then I have to use Endomondo and export to Runkeeper.

Personally I like Endomondo better. I like how it either shows you the map or the work out on different screens, your fastest and slowest lap and other features I do not see in Runkeeper. But with Runkeeper I get to share and compete with all my friends and even people I don’t know my workouts and as we all know working out has to do with competition, even if Runkeepers calls it a “street team”.

Last month I posted my genetic disease risk profile according to 23andMe. For those of you who don’t know this company, 23andMe is a genetic testing service that provides information and tools to understand your DNA. How does it work? Well, it’s really easy. You order a kit from their online store, spit into the tube that comes with the kit, send it back and in 6 to 8 weeks you can log into your account and start investigating your genome. I’m an investor in 23andMe and I was very curious to try out the service. The results to my genetic disease risk profile were quite interesting, but what I really find fascinating is that from just a few drops of saliva I can learn lots about my ancestry.

23andMe offers information on both sides of the family. I learnt that from my mother’s side, my haplogroup is H7. The haplogroup H “originated in the Near East and then expanded after the peak of the Ice Age into Europe, where it is the most prevalent haplogroup today. It is present in about half of the Scandinavian population and is also common along the continent’s Atlantic coast”. The haplogroup H is over 40,000 years old, and it’s present mostly in scandinavians and basques. Below you can see a map indicating the presence of this group:

Maternal Haplogroup

From my father’s side the information is completely different, and quite interesting at that. My paternal haplogroup is E1b1b1c1, which is a subgroup of haplogroup E. This haplogroup arose in the eastern part of Africa about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. It’s pretty common in Africa, present in Arabs and Berbers, Senegalese and Bantu-speaking groups in South Africa and Kenya in levels of almost 75%. E1b1b1c1 comes from E1b1b1c, and it’s the most popular group stemming from it. It originated at the end of the Ice Age, around 15,000 years ago, and now it’s common in eastern Africa, the Near East and Mediterranean European populations. Below, my paternal ancestry map:

Paternal Haplogroup

But the most interesting thing about my parental genetics is that, according to 23andMe, you can be genetically jewish. If someone had told me that before, I’d have though that this person was very racist. However, now I see that it is actually possible. My paternal haplogroup is present in Ethiopians, Jordanians, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. E1b1b1c1 averages 10% among both Ashkenazi from eastern Europe and Sephardic Jews from Iberia. It’s also present in Ethiopian Jews, Yemenite Jews and Libyan Jews. This means that this specific haplogroup was present in the Jews that left the Levant and spread through the Old World around 2,000 years ago, which means that it is possible to determine if a person is Jew or has jewish ancestry based on their DNA. Who knew?

23andMe also offers a map of “global similarity”, so you can compare your genetic information to those around the world and see in which parts of the world there are people with similar genetic information to yours. Mine says I’m closest to Southern and Northern Europeans, then Near Eastenders and Central Asians. I also resemble Northern Africans, Siberians, North Americans, South Americans, Oceanians and Eastern Asians.

Global similarity

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