Mirror Magazine

9th December 2001

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Techno Page

  • WAP: not to be outdone
  • Get it right with 'Getright'
  • WAP: not to be outdone

    The mobile phone has found its roots even in our so called economically down-trodden society. This is a valid indication of how important information is to our lives and how relatively cheap it comes now. It is a startling revelation of the advancement of IT to remember that just a few years ago, huge brick-shaped mobile phones that cost a fortune were a status symbol as much as a fashion statement rather than a communication tool of an elite few.

    The cellular phone itself has evolved drastically to be a wearable device that not only connects you to telephone networks, but also has inbuilt address books, games, MP3 players and even Internet browsers. The Internet has found its way into the cellular phones thanks to WAP. WAP, which stands for Wireless Application Protocol, has become popular because it is a secure specification that allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices such as mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios, smart-phones and communicators and supports most wireless networks. These include CDPD, CDMA, GSM, PDC, PHS, TDMA, FLEX, ReFLEX, iDEN, TETRA, DECT, DataTAC, and Mobitex.

    WAP enabled devices that use displays and access the Internet run what are called micro-browsers. They are browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape, but with small file sizes that can accommodate the low memory constraints of handheld devices and the low-bandwidth constraints of a wireless-handheld network.

    Although WAP supports HTML and XML, the WML language (an XML application) is specifically devised for small screens and one-hand navigation without a keyboard. WML is scalable from two-line text displays up through graphic screens found on items such as smart phones and communicators. WAP also supports WML Script. It is similar to JavaScript, but makes minimal demands on memory and CPU power because it does not contain many of the unnecessary functions found in other scripting languages. 

    Will 3G networks obliterate the need for WAP?

    Even as bandwidths increase, the cost of that bandwidth does not fall to zero. These costs result from higher power usage in the terminals, higher costs in the radio sections, greater use of RF spectrum, and increased network loading. In addition, the original constraints WAP was designed for intermittent coverage, small screens, low power consumption, wide scalability over bearers and devices, and one-handed operation - are still valid in 3G networks. Finally, we can expect the bandwidth required by application users to steadily increase. Therefore, there is still a need to optimize the device and network resources for wireless environments. We can expect WAP to optimize support for multimedia applications that continue to be relevant. If WAP is very successful in mass-markets on 2.5G networks, 3G networks may be needed purely for capacity relief.

    Is WAP secure? 

    WAP includes a specification called WTLS which implements options for authentication and encryption. It is optimized for use in the mobile environment. SSL or Secure Sockets Layer which is widely used in the "web" world to encrypt the data stream between the browser and the web server is also used in the WAP environment. However, SSL is only used between the web server and the WAP gateway. Between the WAP gateway and the WAP device, a similar system called WTLS or Wireless Transport Layer Security is used.

    Although no systems are totally secure, SSL and WTLS on their own provide adequate security for most applications. However, there is a potential security problem where the two protocols meet, and that's inside the WAP gateway. 

    SSL is not directly compatible with WTLS, so the WAP gateway must decrypt the SSL protected data stream coming from the web server and then re-encrypt it using WTLS before passing the data on to the WAP device. Inside the memory of the WAP gateway, the data is unprotected.

    All the major WAP players are developing solutions to this problem, but for now these solutions create other problems. Developers of so called "WAP servers or web servers with WAP gateway capabilities provide end-to-end security in a way because the data stream leaves the content server (the "WAP server") already encrypted with WTLS. 

    However, the mobile operator's WAP gateway can now no longer be part of the chain, and the user has to reconfigure his WAP device to point to the "WAP server" which will become the WAP gateway for this session. But, this WAP gateway only provides access to this one service, and when the user wants to access his other favourite WAP sites, he has to reconfigure his phone again. 
     

    Get it right with 'Getright'

    Here are some great programs which will be an addition to the article Hard facts of software.

    First of all I totally agree that Windows 2000 & Windows XP are very stable. But the difference is Windows XP is compatible with more software and hardware than Windows 2000. And the best part is that you still have the option to run almost all software used in previous Windows versions, with the special option in properties which enables to ran your program in Win 98/me/NT. And if your video card or other devices are incompatible with WinXP just get the Windows 2000 drivers and this will work fine.

    I think the best free download program is "Getright 4.5a", which has been rated No.1 download manager by CNET download.com .It has all the standard features like resuming interrupted downloads and faster downloading of files via a technology called " segmented downloading", which finds several faster servers where a file can be downloaded. The file can be segmented and different pieces can be downloaded from different servers at the same time. So with faster, reliable downloads with a simple interface and with variety of options like auto disconnect when downloads complete....etc, this great program will have an edge over DAP (download accelerator plus). You can download it from http://www.getright.com/ of from http://download.com.

    Another great free program is Xteq systems X-Setup. X-Setup is the ultimate in system configuration or "tweaking" as some people would say. It covers all types of options and has many useful features. You can download it from http://www.xteq.com/products/xset/

    I've heard in tech news that new Internet Explorer 6 has dropped java support (or some features). And I'm also told that full Java support can only found with IE 5.5 and earlier versions. But I'm using IE6 for several moths but haven't noticed any difference in Java web pages.

    Chathuraka



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