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Linuxcare Founders Go Wireless 180

LinuxCare founders Dave Sifry, Art Tyde and Dave LaDuke have started their second company: Sputnik. Basically, they have an ISO you can download that will turn a laptop with an 802.11b card into a wireless gateway. They also wrote a user-authentication scheme that reroutes all traffic to the gateway until the user logs in via a web form. This should sound familiar to people who stay in broadband capable hotels a lot. Using this authentication technique, the software allows you to choose who can and cannot use your gateway, and in you'll be able to charge strangers for access (with Sputnik handling the billing). This will likely get some isps a wee bit upset. NewsForge has an article detailing what they are doing. Update: Turns out the authentication wasn't written by Sputnik, my bad. They use NoCatAuth
Disclaimer: I've known these guys for a long time and am pals with them, so I waited until someone else (in this case Grant at NewsForge and the NYT) put something up independently about them before linking to them.
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Linuxcare Founders Go Wireless

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:31PM (#3128505)
    Sputnik didn't write the 'captive portal' authentication system. It's a GPL'd program called
    • That's right - we started with the great code that the NoCatAuth [] guys wrote, and made some patches to do things like tunneling and use a more secure SSL-based username/password token method, and re-released the code back to the community. Go check out the NoCatAuth project - they're doing some great stuff.
    • won't work with wireless for security. someone who wants on the network can just take over someone elses MAC address that they sniffed. they can even be polite and wait until the original user goes offline before using it to be less likely that the original user would detect anything.
      • Well, it's true that unencrypted layer 2 traffic sucks over wireless. However, NoCatAuth combats this by requiring credentials to be resubmitted every so often. These credentials are sent only via SSL and are in theory secure. Therefore, if a MAC address is hijacked, the hijacker will only have at best a couple minutes before the session expires on them. This was considered "good enough", given what we have to work with. Any further questions, don't hesitate to visit the website & join the mailing list.
  • business model? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:31PM (#3128508) Journal
    OK, while I think this is some cool technology and is Linksys Done Right (tm), I have to ask...

    In this post-dot-com era, where's the business model?

    How do they expect to make money? LOTS of open-source software companies are making PLENTY of money these days, right?

    Kudos to them for putting together what seems to be a really nice product -- I just wouldn't expect to get rich at this one.

    Linuxcare -- the Clemens fastball down the middle...
    Sputnik -- The breaking ball down and out that the Babe himself couldn't hit.

    So where's strike 3 coming from?

    • Re:business model? (Score:2, Informative)

      by oherntp ( 203700 )
      If you actually go READ the site....

      They are taking the GPL'd nocat software and adding a few touches. Some of their source mods get relesed some are sold with the premium package.
      • That's not a business model. That's barely a product.

        Look, let's say I'm starting a company that's going to offer air-dropped frozen bananas anywhere in the world. Let's further say that I'm going to do it using some logistics software called Bananywhere, and that some of that software is going to be GPLed and some of it was going to be kept closed and sold to similar companies to support the revenue from my banana-dropping business.

        Would you say I had a business model just because I'm going to try to sell Bananywhere Gold?

        Not if you were sane, and especially not if my last business venture was Linuxcare.

    • Re:business model? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by grantus ( 261016 )
      In the story, the Linuxcare founders talk about also selling a partly proprietary version of this software to large companies. Basically, same concept with several more security add-ons to sell to corporations worried about firewalling their data away from other wireless users.

      Is that enough of a business model to support a cool project? To me, it makes as much sense as most Open Source business models, but only time will decide.


    • This announcement from Sputnik struck me as interesting; it perhaps indicates an answer to "how do you make money in an open source environment". Specifically, from what I can see, Sputnik does not make money from its source code as such, it makes money from the network and its partners in the delivery of whatever they deliver over the network. Note that entry to the network is authenticated - you can't just walk in without an account so ultimately users will pay for access to the network. For Sputnik, they have presumably decided, by and large, that they won't be making money specifically from the software. They intend to make their money actually delivering service and perhaps content. Making the underlying software technology open source drastically reduces the cost of the software (i.e. maintenance, development etc). From a business perspective this is a Good Thing - don't pour money into something that isn't going to make you a profit back. Further, much is made of the Sputnik team having avoided publicity until they have a working product. This also makes good business sense when you consider that building their partners and network is where the value lies, and if they had released early betas left right and centre they would probably have delayed their own launch whilst at the same time encouraging other people to, er, borrow the idea and corner network partners before Sputnik could. Ultimately, if the idea takes off, there will be more than enough space for competitors. However early in the game, it will only really be effective in certain small areas - cities that already have a lot of spare/obsolete IT capacity in company offices that they might as well get some value out of by becoming service nodes on the radio network. Potential competitors early in the game could mess up the whole idea, fragmenting the market before it has become established, leading at best to long delays until the behemoths come in and clean up from the pieces of failed start-ups. Any potential competitor wishing to enter at this stage, either has to use the open source software (hence maintaining standards & visibility), or alternatively drop a wedge of cash developing a proprietary alternative, thereby delay their own entry - undesirable at the start of something like this. Overall I think the open source concept makes exceptionally good sense in this case.
  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:33PM (#3128512)
    Even with Ricochet coming back, this seems like a much better idea if it catches on. Granted, if there are no gateways, nobody can use it, but it'd be a lot faster than Ricochet and (it seems) based off actual usage, not monthly fees. It seems there's a lot of potential for abuse here, but I'd definately like to check this out, it seems like a good way to make a little extra cash (though I'm curious if there's a way to block out abusive users, I don't need any m4d h4x0rz cracking machines through my IP.) This will also probably violate a lot of ISPs ToSes, but who cares, most of us are violating them anyway. :)
    • The Sputnik guys suggest you check your ISP's terms of service before signing up. They're definitely *not* encouraging people to risk getting dumped by their ISPs, and far be it for me to suggest anything different.

      My understanding is that this would violate some TOSes, but not others. As always, your mileage may vary.

      As for keeping out bad users, every user has to sign up with Sputnik to access a Sputnik affiliate. So a spammer starts abusing your bandwidth, you report them, and Sputnik shuts them down. Not a perfect solution, but that's the way it works elsewhere, right?


  • Yeah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jred ( 111898 )
    I don't know if the ISPs will be pissed off or not. This seems like a fairly straight business deal. Running it from CD makes me wonder how customizable it'll be. They're planning to make money by charging roamers to connect, while letting their partners (w/ fat pipes) connect for free.

    If anything, it should make the consumer broadband ISPs happy, since it restricts unauthorized use.
    • I should've clarified my comment a bit. They aren't aiming at consumers, but at businesses. Businesses have different TOSs than Joe Blow. I'm sure some of them allow them to resell.

      Also, assuming this catches on, there's actually a decent business plan, so they can always pay an ISP tax (which will most likely screw the Mom-n-Pops).
      • standard business TOS specifically excludes right to resell. I've seen it time and time again; DSL, cable, T1, ISDN.
        • Um, DSL and cable aren't exactly business class connections, that's why there is next to no QOS and most say for recrecational use only. As to T1's, what about the ISP's that run off of a T1 line? It all depends what you get in your TOS, I would think that most business class lines (T1, T3, etc) don't really care what you are using them for, as long as you pay your bills.
          • I would think that most business class lines (T1, T3, etc) don't really care what you are using them for, as long as you pay your bills.

            You would be wrong. I have dealt with 4 T1's over the last 5 years, and you can't resell or share. It's pretty damn simple. They care because they are the ISP, and they don't want you to be an ISP to someone else.

            It's one of the few things they actually care about.

            • Ok, so what about the ISP's that run off of a few T1 lines? Plus I would think that those TOS are from the ISP, you could just find another in that case, however if you wanted to sell your T1 as a point to point link from A to B I don't think they would care.
      • They aren't aiming at consumers, but at businesses.

        I don't see that on their site - where are you seeing it?

        The definition on their Sputnikology [] page seems to imply both consumers and businesses:

        Sputnik Affiliate

        A person or company that sets up a Sputnik Gateway and shares unused bandwidth with others. Sputnik Affiliates get priority roaming access across all Sputnik Gateways.

    • Re:Yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bourne ( 539955 )

      I don't know if the ISPs will be pissed off or not....If anything, it should make the consumer broadband ISPs happy, since it restricts unauthorized use.

      That depends on who is running the gateway. If the ISP is running the gateway, great, happy ISP. If Joe Blow with a cable modem sets this up and allows anyone in the Sputnik network to use his connectivity, the ISP will be less happy.

      Look at the Sputnik Sign Up [] page. Doesn't look like they're only planning on working with the ISPs...

      (Arguably, this use would conflict with the "not-for-profit" clause of most high-speed internet access agreements. So the ISPs probably do have a leg to stand on. God knows they can't build a decent mail server, but they do know how to litigate...)

      • Not really a big deal when you consider that there is *no* way for them to know this is occuring... unless someone tells them of course. None. Zip. Zilch. ZeRo.

        I do remember reading somewhere that the cable companies where trying to introduce a new form of adressing that would allow them to 'see' everything behind a NAT (the premise to prevent this type of type and to charge you per computer).
        • Not really a big deal when you consider that there is *no* way for them to know this is occuring... [...] None. Zip. Zilch. ZeRo.

          Unless they just sniff packet headers and notice that you're web surfing while you're playing Quake. Kind of difficult to do that with only two hands and one pair of eyes.

          Or unless they notice that you're viewing dozens of web pages per second.

          Either way, they'd have a hard time *proving* you're up to something, but they can jerk your connection around under any number of pretenses on their end. If this becomes a big problem, believe me, they'll start squashing people who try this.
        • Here in wisconsin our cable service is road runner. And the commercials for the service basically show two of the characters using the internet at the same time. They advertise multible computers online. Given that they only give you one modem and one IP, how can they then discurage NAT???
          This sig is a virus, take it and use it.
          • Road runner wasn't mentioned as one of the people looking into this - it was COX, AT&T, and ComCast.

            If I was a cynical person I would say that Time Warner was advertising it like that and planned on charging people per computer once it was firmly established in the marketplace.
  • by citroidSD ( 517889 ) <<citroidsd> <at> <>> on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:34PM (#3128516)
    From the article I get the impression it seems like one could mistake this for one of those affiliate "scams." Let me get this straight, I set up a wireless node, and then I get paid for my bandwidth, or I can connect to other wireless sputnik nodes? Only problem with that is that my (and your) broadband providers aren't going to be to keen on the idea of me being a reseller of bandwidth, when I originally signed up as an end home consumer for DSL. I'm not harping on the hardware and code, that seems all nice and nifty, but the idea of reselling your bandwidth probably will not go over too well.
    • That may be true. However, if you're using DSL you pay for the bandwidth, and if you are secure enough, they have no right (or proof for that matter)to deny you service. You setup an authentication service ala VPN and you can charge your neighbors for the privledge of using your "NETWORK SERVICE" and the bandwidth is just incidental. This wouldn't work on a cable net too much, where you pay 5-10 dollars extra for the benefit of multiple ip address, but this would be an excellent service for a 1.5 dsl link.
      • have you ever read the TOS for any modern ISP? They have every right, per the TOS, to shut you down; not just for reselling bandwidth, but often just for sharing it. The TOS limits the user of the ISP's service to you and your computers, not your neighbor, etc.
    • Wake up dude. Your missing the boat. We don't need ISPs anymore.
    • (Score:3, Informative)

      by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
      Wake up dude. Your missing the boat. We don't need ISPs anymore.
      • Wake up dude. You're missing the boat. We heard you the first time.

      • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Friday March 08, 2002 @12:41AM (#3128701)
        Wake up dude. Your missing the boat. We don't need ISPs anymore.

        That's true if your traffic is local to your neighbourhood.

        If you want to route traffic through more than your neighbourhood, though, you're going to run into problems. If the area you're routing traffic in is more than a few hops wide, you'll either be spending most of your bandwidth routing other peoples' messages, or you'll have to set up dedicated high-bandwidth links to let long routes bypass most users' nodes. Now if you have a network of these links... you have something that looks a lot like the existing backbone.

        If you have a backbone to maintain, you have to charge for use of the backbone to amortize building and maintenance costs. This gives you a multi-level system where the people running the backbone sell bandwidth to people who locally redistribute the bandwidth.

        Which looks a lot like the current system of multiple levels of ISPs.

        ISPs exist for a reason. If you try to do away with them, you'll just end up having to reinvent them.
        • So why am I sitting in an appartment in Bellevue (ie: close suburb of Seattle) reading this page over a 56k dialup link?

          If the "last mile" ISP's don't get busy and do some inventing soon I, or someone like me [], really will put them out of business.

        • ISPs exist for a reason. If you try to do away with them, you'll just end up having to reinvent them.

          True enough. But we just might be able to do a better job the second time.

    • Things like sharing connections and the ability to run servers without having to worry about being cut off are a good reason to spend the extra money for a business-grade DSL connection. Sure it costs more, but for a lot of Slashdot readers the extra cost wouldn't be that much of an issue.
  • Gee, I was starting to make my own thing like this. I am not unhappy that they beat me to the gate though.

    But where's the source? All I see is the ISO download. Unless the source can fit in the 48 or whatever megs.

    Now, to burn it onto a mini-CD......
    • it can fit of course in 48 megs. it's not like it's windows...

      all this is is a nice installer for a linux install, and NoCatAuth which is a GPL program. so they'd damn well better be giving out source...
    • No source on the ISO image. You can investigate it without burning a CD by:

      mount -o loop -t iso9660 /tmp/latest.iso /mnt/cdrom

      You can also mount the compressed root filesystem that is in the image, although it may be easier to uncompress it first using the utility they give you in the root of the ISO.
      • All the changes that we made are distributed on the ISO. We don't screw around with Open Source licensing, God knows we've been there, and we play by the rules.
  • 'cuz I know I sure would like to be able to roam at will and stay connected to my IV drip otherwise known as the Internet.
    • by Forrestina ( 120989 ) <> on Friday March 08, 2002 @12:40AM (#3128699) Homepage
      i hope it fails.

      here's why:
      i am part of a free wireless community already, i founded one in my town. we, unlike sputnik are working with ISP's to work out what would be acceptable with them. so that we save money, and they make just as much, but most likely on less tech support costs.

      sputnik isn't making any such attempts. they say at the bottom, please observe your isp's rules. bullshit, they're encouraging you to share your @home cable connection, which isn't allowed.

      in doing this, they are going to make isp's lock down against connection sharing, and when any honest community wireless group aproaches them, they will already have a bad taste in their mouth.

      another thing is, they are trying fairly hard to hide the fact that all their software is, is an installer for linux and NoCatAuth. (, which is a GPL application for authentication.

      so, here's to sputnik crashing and burning as fast as possible before they make all of us geeks out here trying to use our laptops in the park look like a bunch of swindling criminals like sputnik are.
      • Of course, you're free to your opinion, but we really are serious about working with ISPs to make sure that they make a profit on the additional bandwidth, if they are willing to change their AUPs. And we are just as serious in that we don't want people violating their AUPs and providing service that they are not allowed to provide.

        We sat down with a number of ISPs before rolling this out, and we think we've worked out a reasonable business model to encourage ISPs to parter with us, or at least, to change their restrictive AUPs to allow Sputnik Gateways - the ISPs get a cut of the revenue stream in return.

        We are always interested in hearing your feedback and comments as well - drop me an email at dsifry at sputnik dot com.
        • honestly, i don't think that your company deserves any of this "revenue stream", and that the extra money for sharing connections is an issue between the end user, and their isp. it will also result in supporting local isp's who are willing to work with individuals.

          i mean really, what are you providing? the people are providing the connections, the bandwidth, and the hardware. in addition to this, these nodes won't work very well without external antennas and cabling. most people won't be doing this, so the network will be... weak to say the least.

          sorry, i just don't see this going anywhere.
          • i mean really, what are you providing?

            Maybe you haven't noticed, but all of the other stuff you mentioned doesn't form a solution. They're providing the software to tie it all together in a nice, easy to implement solution. There's plenty of $$ to be made out there selling such solutions.

            • because of the lower power and poor antennas on most prism2 cards, it's more like they are selling banner ads on websites that get 10 hits per day. some solution.

              besides, if they are releasing their changes, chances are there will be a freenetworks installer coming up very soon now, which will allow you to configure it anyway you like, and not be required to give sifry the "revenue stream".
  • ZDNet [] recently posted this interesting story [] about LinuxCare [].
    • ZDNet [] recently posted this interesting story [] about LinuxCare [].

      Hmmm ...

      Linuxcare: Still Up And Swinging
      By Steven J.Vaughan-Nichols
      June 20, 2000

      Weird. He had a working time machine over a year and a half ago....

  • by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:49PM (#3128571) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I'm sick of the fact that I have two choices for getting broadband into my house: the Cable Monopoly and the Telephone Monopoly. What incentive do I have to follow their "User Agreements" when both of them are in violation of numerous antitrust laws? None. Look at Verizon: they beat every last CLEC to death, and now they've introduced legislation to "deregulate" the broadband market, which means "exercise monopoly power over".

    So, now we have a tool. A way for one person to subscribe for DSL or Cable Modem service and share their connection with the entire neighborhood, who can provide kickbacks in the form of cash. With a properly configured distribution of this package, it's entirely possible to make your routing/NAT'ing of your neighbors traffic completely undetectable.

    How's that for sticking it to the man? Illegal monopolies: This Is Your Wakeup Call!
    • if you really want to stick it to the man.... don't sign up with some company to do it!

      try hooking up with wireless groups around the country....
      http://personaltelco.n et
      ht tp://

      just a few examples..... there are lots more... or start your own group.

    • Oh don't smile yet. They've been selling broadband wireless here(Finland) for two years or so now, in various styles. So far, there aren't too many nice words for it. In some places, it works, but often, the ISP's are greedy and their tech knowledge is zip.

      Sometimes they just lack customer service, sometimes they don't how far that certain antenna actually reaches, sometimes they forget that some people aren't experts in installing pcmcia wireless cards on their first workstation they just bought a month ago. Sometimes they're overpriced. Sometimes they got too many people in the same access point. And almost always they lie about actual performance.

      The list is endless, however no matter how the ISP provides the internet connection, some basic things are just the same. WLAN's can save initial setup costs but they still need tech people behind it, they need customer service and they need proper pricing. I really do hope that somewhere else around the world, companies will actually do this PROPERLY. From all I've studied here, it wouldn't be impossible at all.

      The technology is good. We got a lot of employees home networks connected to the office with WLAN and we're looking at extremely long link uptimes even during snowstorms and even with long distances. Why does every ISP claim that WLAN, by definition isn't reliable...
    • "With a properly configured distribution of this package, it's entirely possible to make your routing/NAT'ing of your neighbors traffic completely undetectable."

      Any references to how to do this?

  • Reselling bandwidth (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Reselling bandwidth this way is going to get a lot of people bumped off their Internet Provider. It's almost always one of the Terms of Service that customers can't do so. I would estimate that ISPs will just firewall people away from the Sputnik server that 'handles the billing.'

    Or automatically close accounts of customers who access said server.
  • by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Thursday March 07, 2002 @11:55PM (#3128586)

    ..somone sniffing the network either captures your 'login' session, or simple takes over your 802.11 session?

    don't get me wrong, this is a good thing in many ways, but 802.11 is suck a leaky system that ANYTHING based on it has an inherent problem, short of limiting all connections to authenticated ssh or ipsec connections.

    802.11a/b/x is simple broken, and NO 'standard' ip connection routed over it can improve this, hwich is unfortunate, it's ONLY safe if you use a suitable encryption/authentication layer on top of it.

    of course, the number of people who realise just how public all internet data is seems to be a very small number, let alone the number of people who realise that email is in effect a public forum, and should NOT be used to forward their credit card numbers.

    the part about a simple setup for an 802.11 gateway is a good thing, it can be a pain to set up under linux, but hardly a revolutionary step.
    • What if all the passwords go over SSL?
      • That's exactly what happens. All the usernames and passwords (and unique tokens as well) are transmitted via SSL from the client direct to our authentication server and then only the token is sent back to the gateway.
    • All of the authentication communication is done via SSL to our servers. So, even if someone is sniffing the connection, they can't get any info from you.

      Any, you have to reauthenticate (via a minimized pop-up window) every 10 minutes or you're auto-logged out, so the window for session hijacking is small.
    • Your message is a tad bit sensationalized.

      Wireless suffers from same problems that many other network mediums have. If you take a broadcast network topology, without physical access restrictions (ie. someone can plug into your hub, or tap a thin-net connection) then you're in the exact same position. The only differences (and, yes, these are big) is that: a) you don't need a wire to connect to the network, and b) until fairly recently few even recognized the problems associated with wireless--or specifically that a lot of the problems associated with traditional topologies--apply.

      People assumed that WEP protected them, and that was it. If you didn't (or don't) build in additional security measures, then're pretty vulnerable, kind-of like if you had a network that had cat-5 jacks in public areas attached to a broadcast network.

      You can't just go off and say "802.11" is broken--it's not. Its not secure, but then again, very few things are. You do caveat your statement with the clause about encryption, but if you design your network with such measures as an afterthought, then duh...

      Nothing you state is wrong per se, it just seems like you've been watching a few too many TechTV shows.

      The short of it is this: Wireless technologies were made consumer-friendly way to rapidly. Think about how quickly home wireless bridges have been adopted. In the past year alone the growth in that market has grown almost exponentially. Any technology, which requires a certain amount of knowledge or expertise to deploy properly, that is rapidly made a consumer-class item is going to run into similar adoption difficulties.

      • Your message is a tad bit sensationalized
        .Ok American, let's get this straight for once and for all. Something is either a "tad" or a "bit" but not a "tad bit". They mean the same thing, when used in this context, so use one or the other, but not both! And don't even get me started on people who say "As far XXX, etc. etc.", instead of "As far as XXX is concerened, etc. etc.".
  • I was considering buying a wireless router to share my cable connection with my laptop. From what I have read, it does not seem necessary to buy a wireless router anymore. Anyone disagree?
  • ...but I can get a wireless gateway cheaper than a laptop...
    ...selling access probably violates my contract with my ISP...
    ...It sounds great for hotels wanting to buy a prepackaged deal, but most go through commercial ISPs...

    I'm not really sure what market they're trying to corner here... They're not planning on profitting from this are they?

    No offense guys, cool idea and all, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
    • The article talks about them having 400 customers "already," so my guess is they aren't planning to sell to individuals.

      I certainly hope not...

  • I wish they supported more than just the lame Intersil Prism II cards. I have two lucent/orinico, and a cisco aironet :( I was all set to download, but then I read the requirements []. Here's hoping that more coverage will come. Its all there in the kernel and/or pcmcia-cs.
  • Linuxcare Founders Go Wireless I knew they were smart and all, but it's cool that they found a way to turn completely wireless. They must save a ton on airfare and bus tickets!
  • For quite some time a trend has been worrying me.That trend is the internet turning into tv .I have always believed that How this phenomenon would occur is through a massive centralisation of isps.How I believed this centralisation would happen was through people like aol/time warner and sony who would start selling large chunks of there content ,(movies games tv/whatever),bundeled
    with net access and offered exclusively to there customers and that this would lead over time to people thinking about the internet along the same lines as tv and not as something new .I also believed that to compete the small isps would have to buy the rights to the content of big content companies and accept all of the strings that these content companies should choose to attach and hence that the internet would be controlled by about 5 ,(probably less),big isps.

    This story makes me a little more optimistic that the whole internet wiil = tv phenomenon does not have to happen.I also think that this would if adapted by alot of people make the internet alot harder to control and more competitive in terms of pricing .Also the whole concept of selling off ones bandwith to to help pay for the connection appeals to me ,as it stands over here in ireland monthly net connections for dsl are way way to much for me to afford and the prospect of selling on some of the bandwith which I would not be using is very appealing to me, If something like this existed over here i would support it.

    The only doughts I have about all of this is that
    a),it will not make money and b) eventualy some big company will take over and subvert the whole thing to its own ends .All in all thow I am very interested to see how this goes.It reminds me in some ways of a co-op only for bandwith.
  • Local Tech Support? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rewtie ( 552738 )
    OK, so, *when* it gets hacked, *when* it breaks, *when* it's down, *when* your laptop craps out, *when* Murphy comes to town...

    Who's stuck with the tech support?

    For that matter, who's stuck with the 'level 1' support issues?

    I owned/ran an ISP for 4 years (sold out, blah blah)... the myriad of non-related tech calls are amazing... UFie Greg's life isn't that too far off the the real thing...

    So, who gets that call? I've got a family and a day job, and a night job already... seems to me someone is missing a large factor here.

  • by Adam J. Richter ( 17693 ) on Friday March 08, 2002 @09:07AM (#3129648)

    LANRoamer [] is a GPL'ed system that has been doing this for a while. We gave presentations on it at Bay Area Wireless User Group [] and back in June, I believe, before even the NoCat project started.

    If you're into "bazaar" style software development, one thing you should note is that LANRoamer does network booting and upgrade reboots. So, if you contribute a useful feature to LANRoamer, it can be widely deployed quickly (based on our stability labels and the stability level each gateway owner has selected). Also, in addition to free accounts and revenue sharing to our access point providers, we also offer free courtesy accounts for people who run open access points (not just during a free beta), partly in an effort to thank the developers and "evangelists", but also to get them involved.

    Anyhow, here is the software [], including the latest LANRoamer network boot floppy [] or CD-ROM [].

    The network boot floppy currently requires that the first ethernet card be compatible with 3COM 3c59x, 8139too, Ether Express Pro 100, NE2000 PCI cards, Via Rhine, Tulip cards and PC-Net PCMCIA ethernet (the 802.11 card or the ethernet connection to your access point can be just about any card that Linux supports). Unlike NoKat (the last time I checked), LANRoamer can work behind firewalls, including NAT routers, even ones that distribute IP addresses that LANRoamer would otherwise use. Once your gateway is up, client machines can obtain addresses from your wireless gateway by DHCP and are taken to an SSL-based login page when they try to go anywhere on the web until they log in.

  • Good news / bad news (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As a former Linuxcare employee, I like this new venture because it's not likely to employ a lot of community people, promise them the planet and then go scrabbling for loose change under Sun's seatcovers. Good work boys, stay out of trouble.

    However, I can't help but suspect that this is more likely to have a negative impact on community wireless networks than a positive impact. Charging for wireless, sort of the "anti-community" approach. On the other hand, if they're only targetting business users, maybe it won't have such a negative impact after all. They do say they've talked to ISP's about AUP. On the other, other hand, isn't this likely to encourage local ISP's to be aggressive about competing with community wireless to make a little money in a new market? Don't they have the option of altering their AUP's to leave community wireless out in the cold?

    It's the usual slippery slope, boys. But at least you're not a major community road hazard this time around....

    • I don't see it as a good news/bad news thing at all!

      The people who are motivated to freely give away some of their bandwidth for the good of the community won't suddenly say "Oh darn, now I have to charge for it because this new wireless gateway is designed around a fee structure! There goes my idea for a freenet!" They'll just use other tools to get the job done. It's much easier to offer free access than to find ways of limiting access to paying customers.

      This venture simply makes controlled wireless access more feasible (at a reasonable price), and gives more people a new option to share part of their bandwidth while charging for it.

      This can't be a bad thing at all. Worst case: It ends up being a rather unpopular thing.

      Much more realistic case: It doesn't have massive impact on the industry, but coffee houses and hotels start to catch on, and some of them make good use of it. So do a few enterprising individuals.
  • Having read the part about using a laptop as an 802.11b gateway, I immediate thought about the technical possibility of reselling the overpriced broadband they sell at hotels. The target market for resold broadband is not the hotel you stay in, it's the hotel on the other side of the street whose windows are a direct shot from your window. Even better if the hotel across the street lacks broadband. Now, all they need is a freeware client that people can download to search for "renegade ISPs".

    What would stop someone from setting up a bunch of these things concealed in suspended ceilings and remotely controllable, offering service all over a metropolitan area just by staying in various hotel rooms and leaving behind some cleverly concealed hardware?
    • What would stop someone from setting up a bunch of these things concealed in suspended ceilings and remotely controllable, offering service all over a metropolitan area just by staying in various hotel rooms and leaving behind some cleverly concealed hardware?

      Um... hotel maintenance guys changing the light bulbs who notice them ($12/hr, $22 if union), interference from the fluorescent ballasts in the ceiling, trespass laws, theft laws (use of electricity that you're not paying for), metal-infused or metal-coated thermal class (reflects 802.11 nicely), the $800+ per node that you are putting at risk. Should I go on?
      • Metal-coated glass would certainly be a show-stopper, but none of the other stuff you mention is much of a problem. A clever antenna design might even make use of the metal coated glass or perhaps a metal window frame as part of the antenna or as a ground plane.

        I would estimate the risk per node as under $200 because you might be able to use low-cost access points until you get to a more secure "super-node" that performs the gateway function. Add in the cost of booking a hotel room for the purpose of installing the gear, and you're up to maybe $350 or so.

        There are some serious problems with this as a business model, and I'm not suggesting that someone go out and do this. However, there are spammers who violate most of the same laws you mention. My "rogue ISP" concept is just a variation of spam -- use other people's resources to deliver your product. Sleazy but effective, probably illegal, dubious enforcement, what's the difference?

        A realistic business model would be as a legitimate 802.11 ISP "entering through the front door", but that's not as much fun.

        This concept might be more useful as a CIA or NSA program to support the use of all kinds of little gizmos in buildings where wireless high-speed data would be useful. If I can think of it, they are probably doing it already.
  • Is there anyway to add a wireless card to a regular PC? I've heard of PCMCIA to PCI cards. Does anyone knw if they actually work? Are they any good? I want to set up my entire house using a wireless network, but I can't justify it w/ having only one laptop! Does any one know of a good brand of PCMCIA/PCI cards?
  • Apple's AirPort already has all of these capabilities. Tell me, does Sputnik's product support both 40-bit and 128-bit encryption like the AirPort does? By the way, if you're using an 802.11b card as a wireless gateway, the range isn't very good. The spec is 5m although people have reported being able to use it over 15m in line-of-sight situations. Apple uses a standard Lucent chipset in their cards, although the software supports 3rd party cards, usually without additional drivers, however non-lucent chipsets are limited to 2Mbps with Apple's software, rather than the 11Mbps that AirPort-spec cards can get.
  • People just haven't started hijacking the fibre off the lines for their own inet.

    I'd do it if I knew how. Any good FAQs on it? :)

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford