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Compact Kanex MySpot extends an Ethernet network to Wi-Fi

Glenn Fleishman | Jan. 14, 2013
Kanex's $60 MySpot aims to let you easily create a secure Wi-Fi network in a hotel room or any other location where you have an ethernet port that provides automatically assigned IP addresses. This seems like a marvelous idea, but the MySpot doesn't quite live up to the promise on scrutiny.

Kanex's $60 MySpot aims to let you easily create a secure Wi-Fi network in a hotel room or any other location where you have an ethernet port that provides automatically assigned IP addresses. This seems like a marvelous idea, but the MySpot doesn't quite live up to the promise on scrutiny.

The MySpot weighs just a few ounces and is tiny, at just three inches long by a bit over one inch square. The MySpot is powered by USB, but doesn't use USB for data transfer or configuration. You connect its built-in USB cable (which snaps into the body of the device when not in use) to a USB port on a computer or to a USB-to-AC adapter (not supplied) for power, and then connect an ethernet cable to the other end of the MySpot for data. You supply the ethernet cable--some hotels may have an ethernet stub or cable in the room, while others provide just a jack.

I tested the MySpot while traveling, plugging it into a hotel room's ethernet jack during a conference in which the facility's Wi-Fi was regularly overwhelmed by the quantity of attendees trying to connect. The MySpot gave me quasi-private access to the fast, wired Internet connection through a separate Wi-Fi channel. I also performed similar tests elsewhere, with the same effect. The unit powers up rapidly, as well.

As one would expect from a compact device using an outdated Wi-Fi standard (see below), the MySpot's network isn't strong enough to be usable from rooms away. Within a single room, coverage is fair to good, and in most circumstances where the MySpot makes more sense than the larger and heavier $99 Apple AirPort Express, you'll be within line of sight anyway. I didn't exhaustively test speed, but the MySpot keeps up fine with high-speed cable broadband compared to directly wired and other Wi-Fi connections.

The MySpot, however, has a number of compromises that make it potentially insecure and less of a value. For example, Kanex has equipped it with a single 2.4GHz radio that uses the old 802.11g protocol and broken WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security. The choices to use 802.11g, which has been gradually superseded by the much faster 802.11n (which debuted in 2007), and a single frequency band make sense from a cost standpoint given the intended uses of the MySpot: 802.11g can deliver 20 to 25 Mbps of net throughput over short distances, and most hotels and similar venues won't offer data rates faster than that.

But offering just WEP, instead of the now-standard WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2) method, is peculiar at any point after 2004, when WPA2 started appearing in hardware. A WEP key can be easily cracked using free software, sometimes in a matter of minutes, making it a poor choice for any fixed installation in a home or office. Although it's far less likely WEP would be broken when using a temporary hotspot like the MySpot, WEP is still a 13-year-old technology that was replaced 9 years ago with a much-improved version.

 

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