Benjamin Juang (ibneko) wrote,
Benjamin Juang

On the note of free wifi...

Three things are certain in life:

1. Death
2. Taxes
3. Increasingly complicated analogy wars in discussions of wi-fi freeriding


"I liken using somebody's unsecured wireless network to listening to a neighbor's music that they play loud enough for me to hear. I didn't ask my neighbor to send wifi signals into my home."

"Suppose you bought a used car lot, but not to sell the cars, just to have a nice inventory onhand for your friends and family who live nearby. You want to make it easy and convenient, so you get all the cars rekeyed so the same key will operate them all. You want to announce this service and distribute the keys, but it's too much trouble to look up each person's mailing address. So you get 1000 copies of the key made and bulk-mail them to everyone in the zip code, addressed to "Occupant", with an invitation that says "Feel free to borrow one of my cars!"

Naturally, you assume that only the friends and family you intended will use the cars. Imagine your surprise when you see strangers borrowing the cars!

Is this bad? Well, it's not doing anyone any harm... as long as you have enough cars left over for your friends and family too... as long as the strangers don't run over pedestrians with your cars and get the cops on your ass... as long as the local car rental company doesn't find out and come break your kees for stealing their business... Hmm, all in all, maybe it'd be safer to give the keys out only to selected individuals!"

"That was even worse. More accurate analogy: you have a loudspeaker shouting "HI! COME IN!" to all passersby. I ring your doorbell, and a key to the house and a nametag pops out of the mail slot.

Don't want me in your house? Don't advertise free admission then give me a key and a nametag."

"I twisted the doorknob (initiated association with the accesspoint), and the doorknob gave me permission to enter by retracting the latch (allowing me to associate and giving me a DHCP lease). The owner of the door could have configured the door differently, by engaging the lock mechanism (using WEP or WPA), so since he didn't I'm free to enter and watch his HBO (use his broadband internet access). I'm not "stealing" from him, because it's not like he has less HBO (internet) now that I've viewed some of his HBO (internet)."
Tags: amusements, geek, wifi

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