[aprssig] Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) for APRS
Stephen H. Smith
wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Sat Sep 2 01:18:12 CDT 2006
kc5zrq at gmail.com wrote:
> I was recently contracted to map out the location of every Wi-Fi
> access point, in the the city where I live, for a company called
> Skyhook Wireless. They are using this data to provide a positioning
> system that can be used in lieu of satellite based GPS. I'm curious
> if anyone has considered using their system to provide location data
> for APRS. Perhaps the developers of Xastir or those creating
> UI-View32 plug-ins, might be able to use the developer API that
> Skyhook Wireless provides.
Microsoft is doing this now. When you install MapPoint 2006 or Streets
& Trips 2006, an additional application called MS Location Finder is
stealth installed without your permission or knowlege. This application
uses a 64MB database of the IP addresses of known WiFi hot spots in
airports, campuses, Starbucks, etc. to try to determine your location if
you don't have a GPS connected.
Further, if you DO have a GPS connected, and the WiFi transceiver is
enabled in your laptop, you are unknowingly reporting your whereabouts
to Microsoft every time you acquire a WiFi connection. My guess is that
Microsoft's agenda is to:
1. Rapidly expand the database of known WiFi IP addresses
2. Ultimately enable "location-based" marketing; i.e. when MS sees
you in an airport, they will pop up ads for local hotels, or hit
you with an ad for the Starbucks at the next corner as you pass a
Here is the complete writeup on this issue I posted last fall when
Streets 2006 first came out:
WARNING If you are using Streets&Trips 2006 or Autoroute 2006 READ THIS
Many APRS users use Microsoft Streets & Trips (or it's Euro equivalent
AutoRoute), either standalone, with APRS applications like UIview, or as
a source of static maps for other APRS applications. Before installing
or using the 2006 version of these programs, note the following.............
====== SPYWARE WARNING FOR STREETS 2006 !!! (=======
Also applies to AutoRoute 2006 (the Euro version of Streets)
Microsoft is using tactics virtually identical to spyware pushers in
Streets 2006. When you first insert the CD to install the program, an
undisclosed undocumented program is stealth loaded onto your harddisk,
even before the first screen of the install dialog appears.
This program, Microsoft Location Finder, utilizes Internet
connections, either hardwired or WiFi, to attempt to determine your
current location and reports it back to Microsoft. The application
attempts to triangulate your location by monitoring what WiFi hotspots
your PC can currently hear. If there is no WiFi present in the PC, it
attempts a whois on the IP address your wired connection is currently
using. The secret placing of this invasive privacy-invading application
on millions of PCs is apparently part of Microsoft's future plan for
"Location Based Services" which means popping up banner ads when MS
detects that you are within a block or so of a particular business.
The unwitting installation of this program places a 64 MEGABYTE ( !! )
password-protected database of the known locations of hundreds of
thousands of public WiFi hotspots in airports, cafes, Starbucks, etc on
your hard disk. (You can see it in the directory \Program
Files\Microsoft Location Finder). Further, you are recruited as an
unwitting accomplice in updating this database. Every time your GPS and
WiFi equipped laptop passes within range of a new hotspot, it's
coordinates are reported back to MS via your current Internet connection.
The first indication of the installation of this piece of unwanted
crapware is the appearance of an icon of a curved green arrow pointing
into a target in your Windows System Tray next to the clock. The
first time you run Streets, it produces a message "We have detected a
WiFi connection on this PC. Do you want us to determine your current
location on the map?". Whats wierd is that this message appears even
when there are NO network connections at all active on the machine.
Even though the install is completely undisclosed, an item IS placed in
the Install/Remove programs applet in the Windows control panel. The
uninstall routine is a COMPLETE SHAM! It removes the systray icon, an
.EXE file, and a couple of documents from the Location Finder
directory but leaves 4 DLLs (program modules) and the 64MB database.
Thinking perhaps it was just a sloppy uninstaller, I erased the
remaining files (especially the space-wasting database) by hand.
Starting Streets afterwards generated several error messages that
"program files were damaged or missing" and requested that the install
CD be placed in the drive so that this thing could be re-installed!!!
In other words, even after the supposed uninstall, Streets is calling
components of Location Finder.
After many hours of experimentation, I discovered there is a way to kill
this obnoxious crapware.
WARNING! This requires editing the Windows Registry database.
One errant keystroke here can totally trash your Windows system.
Back up the registry first!
1) Before initially installing Streets & Trips 2006 (or the Euro
equivalent AutoRoute), make sure you have NO network connections of any
kind live. Unplug any ethernet cable and ensure that your WiFi
transceiver is turned off.
2) After the install, immediately go to the Windows Control Panel
"Add/Remove Programs" and "uninstall" Microsoft Location Finder.
3) Locate the directory "\Program Files\Microsoft Location Finder"
and delete it.
4) Click "Start, Run" and enter "regedit" (The Windows Registry
Editor). In Regedit, pull down "Edit, Find" and search for "Microsoft
Location Finder". Keep pressing F3 to find the next occurance of this
phrase. Delete every item (registry "key") you find with this string in it.
5) Exit the Registry editor and reboot. Streets should now be able to
startup without Location Finder and without complaining. ====
Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf (at) aol.com
EchoLink Node: 14400 [Think bottom of the 2M band]
Home Page: http://wa8lmf.com
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