Wireles Networking is a practical guide to planning and building low-cost telecommunications infrastructure. See the editorial for more information....

Dedicated Systems

Instead of setting up your computer as an access point from scratch, you may wish to use a dedicated Linux distribution that is specially tailored for this purpose. These distributions can make the job as simple as booting from a particular CD on a computer with a wireless interface. See the following section, Wireless-friendly operating systems for more information.

As you can see, it is straightforward to provide access point services from a standard Linux router. Using Linux gives you significantly more control over how packets are routed through your network, and allows for features that simply aren't possible on consumer grade access point hardware.

For example, you could start with either of the above two examples and implement a private wireless network where users are authenticated using a standard web browser. Using a captive portal such as Chillispot, wireless users can be checked against credentials in an existing database (say, a Windows domain server accessible via RADIUS). This arrangement could allow for preferential access to users in the database, while providing a very limited level of access for the general public.

Another popular application is the prepaid commercial model. In this model, users must purchase a ticket before accessing the network. This ticket provides a password that is valid for a limited amount of time (typically one day). When the ticket expires, the user must purchase another. This ticketing feature is only available on relatively expensive commercial networking equipment, but can be implemented using free software such as Chillispot and phpMyPrePaid. We will see more about captive portal technology and ticketing systems in the Authentication section in chapter six.

Last Update: 2007-01-18