[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
      particular intersection. 

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

NEW!   JavAPRS Filter Port 14580 Guide

UI-View Misc Notes and FAQ

"APRS 101"  Explanation of APRS Path Selection & Digipeating

Updated "Rev G" APRS            http://webs.lanset.com/wa8lmf/aprs
Symbols Set for UI-View,
UIpoint and APRSplus:

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.tapr.org/pipermail/aprssig/attachments/20060901/cf7a8b7a/attachment.html>

More information about the aprssig mailing list