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The Internet

DIY: Building A Wireless Freenet 152

techmuse writes: "Moshe Bar has an excellent article at Byte describing how he designed a wireless freenet for his community, and convinced his neighbors to participate. Most importantly, the freenet has resulted in new forms of interaction and strengthened social ties within his own local community (the inverse of what happens on the wider Internet)." And since consumer-grade wireless access points are now cheaper than a large hard drive, this sort of guide is especially welcome.
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DIY: Building A Wireless Freenet

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  • Byte is already /.'d, but here is my best guess: freenets are good, although the impact on the service providers will be detrimental. Data transmission, and ISP will become more and more a commodity, as the services become more standardized (think AOL allowing IM access).
  • cheap? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    consumer-grade wireless access points are now cheaper than a large hard drive

    Where are you buying them that cheap? I just bought a 40 GB for $100, I have yet to see an access point anywhere near that.
    • At this point I wouldn't consider 40GB large. I'm not busting your balls, I'm just saying....I have an 80GB, I would say that's on the large side. 100GB definitely qualifies as large. Since there are now 100+GB drives out there.
  • Internet communities (Score:4, Interesting)

    by totallygeek ( 263191 ) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:01PM (#2380533) Homepage
    I have long wondered why we don't have neighborhood-supported Internet access. Where I live, though, a new subdivision was coming up where people would have the funds to pay for this type of technology. It was not a bad deal:
    • Unlimited (virtually) email addresses
    • Unlimited (virtually) web space
    • Private, backed up file areas
    • T-1 Internet connection
    • NAT technology, no proxy

    The problem was with everyone not wanting to pay. It would have been T-1 access to every home for about 70 dollars per month. Every home built out there would have a 24 port hub and CAT 5 wiring as part of the house.

    I have also wondered why this has not caught on, considering hotels and dorm rooms at schools have this technology implemented just fine.

    • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:16PM (#2380605)
      I have a feeling it's because many people don't care about internet access enough to pay $70/month for it, and many more (myself included) would rather pay $40/month for a personal DSL connection, considering that if you get a good provider, a DSL connection can be every bit as fast as T1.

      As for all the other perks, I doubt joe schmoe has a use for unlimited webspace or sees a need for backed up filespace on the network.

      Hotels and dorm rooms are an entirely different issue in many peoples' minds, especially since the costs are very different. . . My school has an OC3 connection, but when you divide the cost among 1,200 students, the cost is much less per person. As for hotels, if they even jump the price by $5/night, that ends up being a potential of $150/month per room, but to the person leasing the room it's still an okay price because if you want internet access bad enough to have it in your hotel room, you're probably willing to pay $5 for a night of it.
    • I can understand where $70 might bother joe average consumer. I'd personally love it considering I pay for business class DSL for my apartment. I know that when I buy my house, I'm definitely getting it wired for CAT5. Too bad there can't be "tech" communities where everyone wants that kind of service.
    • They tried this in Utah... While I never had it, they got bought and shut down their service, now they sell the technology (http://www.airswitch.com/ [airswitch.com]), I hear it was super fast, but their prices were outragous for basic features that come standard with DSL and cable, $50 for base service, $10 extra for 100 megabit local connection as opposed to 10 megabit - who cares, your internet speed will be exactly the same. It had some advantages such as games with other subscribers was great. I'm not sure if they used NAT or what (I know it was $20 more a month for a public IP), but you mentioned it, the problem I see with that is what happens when one or more person wants a specific port forwarded to them?
  • by mini me ( 132455 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:01PM (#2380534)
    I always thought one way to roll out the mobile internet is to create a freenet like network between all the mobile nodes. Every device acts as a node for the network and can route data to nearby nodes.

    For argument sake, lets say that each device can transmit up to 100ft. You however want to connect to a node that is 200ft. away. Luckly there is a node in between you that can route the information between you. Lets say you want to connect to someone miles away, well the same rules apply, just keep hoping until you find the host. Certain internet access points would be established too to keep wireless trafic to a minimum (for less hops) as well as routing traffic to nodes outside of your range.

    This would take some pretty fancy routing but I think it would be possible. If these nodes were added to every device that can use them (cell phones, pdas, radios, etc) then the network will quickly form. It may not be as ideal as other wireless network topolgies, but it is better than nothing at all, like we have right now!
    • The biggest problem is not routing, but bandwidth. All of these wireless devices arent running gigabit backbone connections, but 56k speeds or less. Modern routing would require only a few modifications to work with this, but such a network would use enormous amounts of bandwidth, and with current speeds, it would pretty much DoS itself offline if it got big enough.
    • Or perhaps mounting 'communal' stations at some place that occurs ever 100ft (Telephone poles, bathrooms, mailboxes)?

      The routing would definately be a problem (this sounds VERY similar to gnutella's file find method) though might be useful for text messaging or the sort as long as you don't mind others reading your love notes.
      • Or perhaps mounting 'communal' stations at some place that occurs ever 100ft (Telephone poles, bathrooms, mailboxes)?

        That sounds a lot like the Ricochet network. Now that Metricom/Ricochet is bankrupt, maybe someone can acquire all their boxes and put them to this use.

    • create a freenet like network between all the mobile nodes
      There's a good article about that here [ecn.net.au].

      The biggest hassle is that governments collect enormous amounts of revenue from communications companies, so they do not look kindly on things like this. It would be very easy for anyone that wants to stop you to find you.

  • Wow, this is a great idea. But the application I'd really like to see is a T3 (or better) being pretty much standard coming into eavery big apartment building, or city block. Using wireless could save so much on infrastructure costs that it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect high-speed internet to be cheap and accessible almost universally. Between this and sub-$700 PCs, we could have most of the population online very soon... and maybe an ubiquity of online communication would make everyone's life better.

    Or maybe I'm just a geek.

    • This would be a great idea, but remember the idiot factor. Most people in my neighborhood have only the vaguest understanding of what the Internet is, and usually can't even remember the operating system they're running.
    • There is an apartment building in Cincinnati, Ohio which has 'high speed' internet access.

      They don't give details over the phone, but I've gotten one report it's a shared T1 system - with a febile attempt at load balancing; but fast none the less.

      Someone I know lived there while they put the system in. This place is pricey so it's basically in the rent, not to mention that business travelers usually stay there. My one friend's father stayed there, he just had to plug his network card in and boot up [windoze]and it all worked.

      It's in the downtown area so I won't give out the name... as I'm encouraged to boycott that area.
  • by gusnz ( 455113 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:09PM (#2380568) Homepage
    This guy might have a valid point about the OSS business models at the start of the article. However, don't let that put anyone off!

    This is exactly what we want to see -- hobbyists helping hobbyists. It might not make money, but it's a valuable contribution to the community, both real-world and virtual.

    I assume that conducting the Freenet experiment with less-versed people might not be feasible altogether. At least not with today's technology.

    True, not everyone has the expertise available to set up several servers/firewalls/NAT boxes, and this could well be the major challenge facing Open Source. Someone should put together a wireless_net.rpm 'For Idiots' or similar, then finally things will start to change.

    Local networks are probably going to be the wave of the future as costs decrease and several-PC homes start to become more common. Experiments like this, pushing forward the mass application of such technology, should be happening everywhere.
  • Its excellent to see the way the participants work together for their common good..
  • BBS Days (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kallahar ( 227430 ) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:19PM (#2380621) Homepage
    The greatest thing about the BBS days (other than TradeWars and OOII) was that you were connecting to people nearby. Though you never met face-to-face, it was still nice to know that they were in the same area. I would love to find a local web site in my area that was focused exclusively on my neighborhood. Alas, I can find none. We don't need a wireless freenet, we just need better focused sites. People say we're anti-social, but computers have ALWAYS been about connecting people to people!
    • Re:BBS Days (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CrystalCut ( 307381 )
      I really appreciated reading your point of view. I was on a local BBS for almost 10 years, including during the "Golden Years" in BBS terms. I met many wonderful people who I'm still friends with going now 15 years later. The internet has disappointed me in locating like minded people in my area, but I've always believed the Internet can be a wonderful way of connecting to others. It's a shame all the hype about pr0n, hackers, and AOL idiot's make us forget the cool folks we speak to in email and via IM.

      Going back to those BBS days via a local freenet would be tremendous experiance for those involved in the set-up and administration efforts, as well as those enjoying the effects of local broadband survice. I sincerely hope that more technology inclined people show an interest in this type of connectivity.
    • My company specialized in localized intranets :)

      Albeit more aimed at master planned communities...


    • Local web sites are a reality in Mexico. Some friends and I have been running a website focused on teens and their social activities in our city, Merida, Yucatan. Even the name of the site is relevant to our community Yukas.com [yukas.com] (Yukas is shorthand for Yucatecan, i.e. from Yucatan). Although I have to admit that even though a community has grown around it, most of the comments and discussions are filled with nasty and insulting behavior, I guess it's just the result of allowing anonymous posters in a community focused on teens. If you can read spanish visit the site. By the way, I would really like to hear any advice on how to control the level of attacks on personal people, since everyone in the community actually knows each other, flame wars are really nasty and kids just hide behind anonimity to hurt other kids.
    • Couldn't agree more, except for the never meeting f2f. I met friends on local BBSes fifteen years ago that are my some of my most enduring and close friends to this day. The Internet doesn't have a decent mechanism for that.
    • Wow. The BBS crowd of my youth ALWAYS used to get together. Many of my friends back in my home area to date either were part of the BBS scene or connected to it somehow. We used to stop by each others' houses, meet up at malls and coffee places, wander around the local univerisities, and occasionally even use computers. The conversations tended to sound quite a bit like geeks in space, actually, lots of trying to be funny by quoting monty python and such, and many unreasoned opinions about things we didn't know much about.
  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:20PM (#2380625) Journal
    Public "freenets" are a great idea.

    They are such a great idea that I'm sure that this will be lobbied against by big corps like AOL/Time Warner and eventually be likened to terrorism SOMEHOW if they ever catch on.

    Sorry if I'm pessemistic, but at the rate things are going, I have no reason to believe these won't be made illegal in the near future.

  • Sounds great but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:21PM (#2380627)
    If my cable company found out about this somehow, they would pull by connection so fast, half our house would go with the wall plate. Then of course I'd be stuck because there's not a terrific variety of reliable vendors to choose from in our neck of the woods. So it would have to be low-key, somehow.

    Besides, more than a few people would likely saturate the upstream on almost any cable modem and many DSL's. Any words of wisdom for those of us with 10 Mbit pipes running into our house?

    How about, for example, a peer-peer setup with multiple cable modem gateways splitting the load?
    Would that work with multiple base stations?
    • by runswithd6s ( 65165 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @07:02PM (#2380904) Homepage
      True, but hiding from the cable company isn't that difficult. There are a number of solutions out there to make your tcp/ip stack look like that of a Windoze or Mac box. If you're using some form of NAT'ing, the cable company won't even see your network. Sure, there are some more sophisticated ways of sniffing out NAT traffic, but is the cable company REALLY going to invest time and money to bust everyone doing it? Probably not.

      Besides, with the advanced routing techniques available to Linux/UNIX/BSD style boxes, you don't have to be the sole upstream provider. You can peer amongst other Wireless users that have a full/part-time connection to the Internet. Imagine redundancy over multiple users whose ISP's in turn have redundant connections over multiple networks using diverse methods of connectivity (Cable, xDSL, Modem, Leased Lines, Wireless, T1/T3, etc). Add in QOS rules to classify, route, and limit traffic. If one of you gets picked out for incorrect bandwidth useage, you're not out of the game. You may have added latency and reduction in local bandwidth resources, and your community members would have lost a fraction of their total bandwidth. Guess what, you still win; you're still connected.

      • I was considering specifically the idea of posting advertisements locally, the installation trucks roll through often enough that they might spot one. Obviously there's a low chance of discovery, but the repurcussions would likely be swift and possibly litigious in nature (although it being non-profit, they'd likely not have much of a ground to stand in).

        Realize that ISP's have a *lot* to lose if freenet's become popular, so stamping them out with extreme prejudice is practically a requirement of their stockholder agreements.

        As for multiple modems peered together, that was the point of my message. How feasible is it, I ask from a perspective of inexperience with both wireless bases and bridges.
  • The author was very lucky to have a free 10mbit/sec connection.

    Normal residential DSL lines include terms of service agreements that disallow any sharing of the line outside of the residence in which it was intended to serve. (that's how they make their money). This may not be true if you upgrade to a more expensive business class DSL line.

    Freenet is a bad name for obvious already taken name reasons and that it is really a "cheap community net"

  • by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 ) <mister.sketchNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:25PM (#2380647)
    I want to setup a wireless network similar to this, but I wouldn't get my bandwidth for free so I'd have to charge a small fee to cover the cost of the T-1 or T-3 line. The main problem I saw was distance, sure I could put up a powerful antenna on my home, but what about everyones wireless cards? I figured I could transmit to them, but I figured their little antennas wouldn't be able to transmit to me unless I also put up a powerful antenna on each home.

    Does anyone have some ideas about how I could do this? The chaining of access points sounds like a good idea, but there is the routing issue if one goes down, not to mention to cost factor of having one in every home, maybe one every couple of homes to keep a fairly tight network. Could someone point me to a good resource that describes how I could setup a network like this and make it work well? What about FCC regulations on doing this type of thing? Ideally, in the future, I'd like to provide a wireless type service to my whole town, are there any regulations for using a standard wireless network for profit like that?

    I have so many questions about this type of network setup so if you want to e-mail me the answers and maybe we could talk off-slashdot, that'd be great too. My e-mail is pretty easy to figure out since there is no JeffSketch.com domain.

    Thanks in advance.
    • I figured I could transmit to them, but I figured their little antennas wouldn't be able to transmit to me unless I also put up a powerful antenna on each home.

      The big antenna you transmitted to the little antenna with, can hear the little antennas without you having to boost their signal. I.E. you don't need to upgrade your clients antennas....

      • Is this kind of similar to how cell phones work? There's a big antenna that all the little antennas can transmit to. It just seemed like the little antennas would have a finite range that they could transmit before the signal degraded too far to be usable.
        • Is this kind of similar to how cell phones work? There's a big antenna that all the little antennas can transmit to. It just seemed like the little antennas would have a finite range that they could transmit before the signal degraded too far to be usable.

          Yes, similar to how cell phones work in that regard. The degraded signal can still be received by the big antenna even if the little antenna at the same distance couldn't recieve it.

          If you had two big antennas then the distance the could communicate over would be greater than that of a big antenna and a little antenna.

    • by Patrick Lewis ( 30844 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:56PM (#2380863)
      See Personal Telco [personaltelco.net]. Its got tons of stuff on FCC regs, example hardware, existing communities, and a really good mailing list.

      To answer your question, your neighbors would need to buy or build a Directional Antenna to point at your omni antenna. The FCC says you can't exceed certain output levels, but other than that, it is "unregulated".
    • Well firstly you can't use a "powerful antenna" operating on ISM bands. The highest PEP you're allowed is 1 watt will get you decent range in dry air. You also have to figure out if your phone company or whoever is providing your T1 is going to care if you're reselling your bandwidth. Freenets get away with being called freenets because they are essentially free. Someone has a high speed connection and sticks an AirPort base station on their roof so other people can access their network. You're looking to set up infrastructure which I doubt many people are going to want to foot the bill for. I'd say just stick with a small setup and let your local neighbors use your net.
  • ahh...security? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by drDugan ( 219551 )
    I am no expert here, but I've HEARD all sorts of nasty things about the insecure nature of 802.11b networks. If it does become popular to have free networks of wireless access, doesn't security become even more of an issue? I imagine lots of hackers watching all the traffic siphoned through their antennas. Can anyone comment?
    • Yes, wireless networks are insecure. However, as the article suggests, using IPSec [ietf.org] solves the problem pretty nicely.

      Or does it?

    • Security is sort of a non-issue in a community network. It's like everyone in the area is plugged into a big hub. If you want to keep them out of your traffic, you have to use your own endpoint-to-endpoint encryption.
      • I guess my question is relevant because most users don't know about this / or don't know how to do this. I just see it as a possible reason against useing and promoting this kind of net access.

        • That's an understandable position.

          Recently (well, over the last few months) the 802.11b WEP encryption suite has been shattered. But most folks don't seem to understand the role of encryption (particularly radio encryption) in the overall scheme of things.

          Lets compare two situations. One is a guy on a dialup through AOL who has his email client configured to poll for his office email every 10 minutes over pop3.

          Next is a lady that happens to live across the street from her office. She uses an 802.11b PCMCIA radio card and a small antenna. She also polls for her email every 10 minutes using pop3.

          All the security minded folks around here will agree that both of these people are begging to get themselves hacked.

          The guy on the dialup is sending packets "in the clear" to AOL. Those clear packets hop through the internet until they reach the guys office. Any server along that path (which could easily be 10-15 or more hops) could be hacked and those clear packets could be sniffed. Any of the routing tables along the way could be corrupted with false data redirecting those pop3 reqests to an arbitrary IP. And thanks to god-knows-who, pop3 includes a clear-text username and password.

          In the case of our lady friend, anyone with the proper equiptment could camp out within a few thousand feet of her house and sniff out the same information. Such an attack would be effectivly impossible to detect or backtrace. If the radio link is WEP encrypted, they will have to sit long enough to gather a chunk of data, how long varies (2-12 hours?) but that's not nearly long enough to matter.

          Snagging either password is non-trivial. Which is 'easier' depends on the attacker. If you live in the same city a radio link is a real invite. But if you can't get physically close, you're not going to be able to sniff into the pop session. Our gentleman friend isn't so lucky. Anyone in the world can (try to) hack him. Are you worried about your neighbors or the script-kiddies continents away?
  • I can't get to the stupid article, but I have a question. It looks like I'm getting a second or third floor apartment overlooking a lake widely used for recreation (eg take the boat out and anchor for a weekend). I'd have no problem offering limited access to the public, but I don't know if they will be able to reliably communicate with my base. If I make super-directional antennas, I cut out the periphery. Does the spectrum used for 802.11b carry well (eg bounce at short distances I guess) over water?
  • Wireless solutions are great for local area networks and other small implimentations... I love the idea of a large wireless freenet, something huge! Lets theorize for a moment:

    What if something as cool as this really did take off and become a world wide phenomena, much like the wired internet itself? I'm sure that bandwidth limitations would become a serious issue, especially since a large wireless net would have to make many more hops for packet transmittal. Theres only so much junk that can be crammed into thte airwaves! Either the FCC will have to open more bands, or we'll have to get really creative with our wireless technology. One way to help congestion would be to have strict restrictions on useless data transmission, like spam... which would be analogous with a "freenet" in my opinion.

    Love the idea though... anybody want to get help get something started in the Portland, Maine area?

    • Either the FCC will have to open more bands, or we'll have to get really creative with our wireless technology.

      I'd say let's get creative until we just can't stand it anymore. That way, we'll be able to get a lot more out of any more resources that might be given to us.
  • by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:39PM (#2380715) Homepage
    how attractive would a free wireless access be in a small downtown to techies? i live in a small city on the oregon coast, and economically, it is pretty much rock bottom. timber is on its way out, and many people have to look elsewere for work (big cities like portland and seattle). now i realize there needs to be other forms of economic enticement, but would freewireless access in a (empty) downtown area help attract people from crowded cities? you can bring your laptop and pda to the local cafe, and work while enjoying the ocean breeze.
    i realize it's a crazy idea, but i would like to take my pda out where ever i am, and be able to stay connected.

  • by jwkane ( 180726 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:40PM (#2380733) Homepage
    It all comes down to scalability. Lets suppose you covered a small town with a mesh of roof-top radio AP's. Since you're probably interested in getting out to the internet you'll need some kind soul to forward your traffic.

    Therein lies problem number one. Who foots the bill for the bytes?

    Lets assume you can find enough people willing to contribute bandwidth for the good of the community or charge a small amount every month to maintain a dedicated line.

    Now you'll note that the closer you are to the internet uplink the faster your connection is going to be (fewer hops). Anyone on the fringes of such a network is going to have to hop-hop-hop their way to the uplink. This is bad for the fringes. People right next to the uplink might _think_ they have it made, but then you remember.. everyone further away from the uplink than you is going to be hopping through you.

    So, lets assume you figure out a static routing method that takes advantage of all available radio channels, avoids massive short hops and avoids overloading the AP's nearest to the uplink.

    Plunk, someone between you and the uplink flips the wrong breaker and powers down their AP. Goodbye static routing. Clearly not an appropriate choice in this environment. Lets try to create a dynamic routing system for hundreds of nodes none of which have global visibility and none of which can be a point of failure. We'll need to ensure that AP's can be added and removed anywhere on the mesh at any time.

    After all that, how much 'free' bandwidth will your 200-300$ AP investment give you? Enough to compete with dial-up modems. Maybe.

    It's not all dark and grim. 802.11a is right around the corner and it's five times faster than 802.11b. It's probably reasonable to assume that 802.11* types of radio systems will only get faster over the next half-dozen years.

    I should mention that I work for a company that develops high-speed radio networks. Rooftop mesh might be the future, but it sure ain't the present.
    • 802.11* will get faster, one can hope, if no government or "free" market manipulations meddle with the natural growth of the tech.

      Mayhap the radionet will never get better than modem speeds... ok, but most people get modem sppeds while connected with the net anyway. No diff.

      As for connecting with the Internet, and the bottleneck that the connection with a commercial ISP engenders... is it really desirable to connect with the commercial Internet in the long run with this tech? I'm sure it will be done, of course, but perhaps a small-i, non-commercial, non-regulated internet should be grown on the rooftops of the world. Paid for out of our collective pockets, maintained by our hands and the hands of those who come after after us - the crazy college kids who always have had raw rebellion in their unwashed little souls... :)

      Not possible? That was the first Internet, before businesses and the governent and all those rich, greedy interests ate it alive. It was a communal effort.

      A radionet would be cheaper to create than the old Internet was: the hardware is cheap, the protocols written, the knowledge widespread.

      As for backbones, mayhap someday lasers will be winking from their own "Pringle cans" from building to building, tucked away from FCC and FBI scanners and smiffers.

      I've been saddened by the death of my dreams of the free-range Internet... it seems that the dream could live on in the form of jerry-rigged cans and mirrors all over the world.

      And it might even be... fun again?
    • As you say, scalability really is the main issue. A recent technical paper called "The Capcity of Wireless Networks" argues that the per user capacity of a wireless net with n nodes is proportional to 1/sqrt(n). This means that if you quadruple the number of nodes you halve the capacity each user gets. This would imply that eventually adding more nodes decreases everyone's capacity!

      The math behind the 1/sqrt(n) argument in the paper is a little involved. However, the 1/sqrt(n) essentially occurs because as you add more nodes, each node has to spend more and more time relaying other people's packets.

      To see why this occurs, consider a WIRED network where every node is on a square k by k grid where the number of users is n = k*k. Let each node be connected by a wire only to it's four nearest neighbors. Assume that each wire can carry 1 packet/sec. To route packets to a far away desitination you need the intermediate nodes to relay for you.

      If each node (i,j) wants to transmit a packet to another randomly chosen node (i',j'), then each packet has to go thourgh an average of k hops. This is because on average |i-i'| + |j-j'| = k. Therefore on average each packet goes through k hops. Since there are only n wires, on average you can only have n/k packets/second of throughput.

      To get the throughput per user you divide the total throughput by the number of users to get capacity per user = n/k/n = 1/k = 1/sqrt(n) and there you have it. As you add more users the per user capacity goes down.

      You might think that in a wireless network you can avoid the hops and have node (i,j) transmit directly to node (i',j'). The problem is that this would cause so much interference to all the other nodes that it makes your capacity even worse.
    • Lets try to create a dynamic routing system for hundreds of nodes none of which have global visibility and none of which can be a point of failure.

      Ad Hoc Networking [amazon.com], by Charles Perkins (editor)

      Ad Hoc Mobile Wireless Networks: Protocols and Systems [amazon.com], by C.-K. Toh (not yet published)

    • This wasn't intended to be a large scale net, but a small scale one. I believe he said that there were about 80-90 members. Think of it as a business-lan sized network. And think of it as being used for business-lan kind of purposes (i.e., most of the communication happens within the local net, only a little goes out).

      Now even that's not exactly right. Some of those members were themselves small businesses (I think he mentioned a library ... ok, "businesses"). It costs around $300 to get in, so not everyone joins. Still, think of a small business district (or one isolated shopping center) with a few blocks of surrounding neighborhood.

      Still, I'd been thinking of municipal networks as a reasonable choice, and this is an even more local option. Greater locality enhances the community building aspects. Sounds like an all-around good thing (though it probably has it's downside). It's worth noting the attention that he paid to firewalls. This is probably a quite important feature in his success.
  • by HamNRye ( 20218 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @06:43PM (#2380750) Homepage
    From the article:

    The final aspect is the one of trust towards me. Since all traffic goes through my servers, and all e-mail is stored in my computers, etc. the Freenet members need to trust me. If they just slightly mistrust me, they would start using conventional dial-up connections to send more intimate or secret messages. This shows again the limited application scope of Freenets.

    Why don't they worry about this kind of stuff with their own ISP?? "I connect to AOL because I want someone I don't know reading my e-mail."

    Granted, it's a bit more embarassing when the guy down the street reads your love letter to Celine Dion, but why not balk when it's Earthlink, the FBI, or anybody freakin' else. Hey, I presonally would rather know who is reading my mail, so I can walk down the street and give him a PHP tutorial. (Pretty Humongous Pain)

    But the reality that this should bring home to everyone, is this: Do you trust your upstream providers?? (Say at least as much as the Post Office?)

    ~Hammy (The unbeliever)

    "When a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is attacked, which people are innocent again??"

    • Granted, it's a bit more embarassing when the guy down the street reads your love letter to Celine Dion, but why not balk when it's Earthlink, the FBI, or anybody freakin' else.

      Because the simple fact of the matter is, what you don't know can't hurt you. If Billy Bob the FBI agent reads all about my affairs with that English teacher, no harm is done. But if Suzie Q next door to me reads about it, and tells her mom, who tells my wife, then I'm in some deep shit.

  • I just don't have that kind of trust in other people.

    If I were to open my wireless access point to neighbors, I'm liable for their behavior. My DSL provider isn't going to want to hear "It wasn't me, it was my neighbor.". So if my neighbor gets busted for kiddy porn, or for hacking some vulnerable server out there, I don't want to be the one paying the fines/jail time, etc.

    So for now, the only people that will be allowed access to my internet pipe are people I know and trust.

    • And this is exactly the thing that will kill the Freenets - at least as far as anonymous, ad-hoc access goes. If you open your net link to anyone nearby with a radio card, then you're really no better than a zombie box. *You* will be held responsible for whatever they do on the net.

      That said, it could work for closed groups - say a membership co-op, or local association. As long as there's some way of tracking back to the miscreants. Sad, but that's the state of things.
    • for kiddie porn, slander against Scientologists, for, um, um...

      what exactly are we afraid of here? What is the EXACT risk one runs by connecting a radionet to your DSL? Express it mathematically. Are you more likely to be killed in a car crash tomorrow? Cancer? Be murdered?

      Is it mostly the DMCA and the Son of DMCA we're talking about here? If it is, damn them and run a Freenet.

      The "risk" is mostly hysteria to the Nth degree. Kiddee Purn wasn't a threat to the republic when BBS's were running. It isn't now.

      What we are really running a risk in creating these radionets, free from guvmint regs, is the specter of men on horseback ONCE AGAIN whipping up the panic over KP, Terrorist Encryption, and Copyright Violation Terror, and then we see the FBI rolling around the neighborhoods, triangulating broadcase nodes and arresting BBS operators for felonious and immoral behavior, ie talking to other people via a non-licensed digital medium.

      Why do I see Prohibition 4 coming? First was the insane Alcohol Prohibition. Then it was the Drug Prohibition. Then, the Intellectual Property copy control Prohibition.

      Four will be prohibition of networks without government saction, with nasty prison sentences. First amendment be damned, as we've seen these last few weeks.

      Save the children! Save the Republic! Save the new profits to be made by the newly-rewritten copyright laws for the IP owning conglomerates of America!

      Puritans can be defined as a group of people determined to root out other people having fun without consequence, and then punishing them for their sins. We are in a Puritanical phase in the US this decade.

      I may be cynical, but I'm usually right.
      • I don't know the numbers on how often illegal porn happens. I will say that I've seen two people lose jobs over porn. And as far as hacking attempts, I'd say that's a far greater risk, my firewall logs verify that. All I'm saying is that I'm certainly not going to be the first guy on my block to go to jail because I allowed it to happen. I wouldn't be opposed to having a neighborhood co-op or something with people that I live next to and know to some degree, but even in that scenario, security would be my highest concern.
        • There are no numbers. At all. It's not quantifiable, so therefore they make them up.

          As for losing jobs over porn, that's a non-issue as far as what we are concerned about in this thread. Businesses are hysterically concerned about lawsuits for "sexual harrassment", and are extremely nuts in general about the use of their equipment. The loss of those jobs has nothing to do with illegal porn.

          By the way, it's a rather fluidly defined term, illegal porn. A few bad turns on the Supreme Court Road and Playboy could be illegal, to be over the top here. But not by much. I am very leery of "illegal" speech.

          Hacking risk also is not quantifiable. It's perception.

          As for the fear of going to jail.. AHA! Exactly! It's about fear, it's about avoidance, it's about being controlled. Just today a friend of mine, an honest-to-gawd coder, told me he's stopped downloading because he's afraid to go to jail. It's that bad. The control freaks can cow an entire world by very few lawsuits, and endless threats.

          Such is why I like the radionets. Freedom is worth the bother. I'd rather be free and fending off Spam than spend an eternity logging into Microsoft's servers to verify my identity to permit me to use the Net.

          Free speech, ie the First Amendment, is specifically joined to anonymous pamphleteering. The ability to post, view, and participate anonymously in free speech ventures is essential to not only our own liberty, but also to freedom fighters all over the planet, to whistleblowers, and to former cult members who want to tell their stories without being pursued and destroyed.

          I like freedom. I'm weird that way. I had this dream once, that we could all speak our minds without being punished for it by anyone with enuf cash to hire a team of lawyers. I used to dream that we could share video and audio over secure channels, build our own TV networks, remove scarcity from the knowledge market by making infinite copies of books to the poor of the world... instead I see the triumph of the greedy who want control, over all of it.
          • In my book, it's not about fear. It's about responsibility for one's own actions. Since many computer users don't have enough of a clue to actually BE responsible for their own actions, I'm not going to allow those users access to the net via MY connection. That's my point. It's MY connection. I'm paying for it. I'm responsible for the activity that takes place on it. So therefore I don't want random clueless users bumming my connection and screwing things up for me, either with my ISP, or with law enforcement agencies.
      • You seem to think that the only problem with lack-of-accountability, is that The Man might not like it.

        Well, there's more to it than that. For example, how about spammers? How are you going to feel when some anonymous person who you route packets for, sends a bunch of spam, launches DoS attacks, etc, and then everyone (not just the gov't) traces it back to your box? How will you like it when people start mailbombing you, blackholing you, etc, all because of what someone else did from your address?

        Face it, some people really are assholes. Do you want to be blamed for what they do?

        • Cable modem companies, @Home in particular, let millions of spam forgeries (the Sporge attack) hit the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup back in 99 (98?) and the FBI was not interested. At all. A bot attack from locations in California, routed thru Canada @Home unsecured clients.

          Where was the blame for them then?

          Where is it now?

          Why is accountablity only for the guy without a fat bank account and corporate power? Sigh. Don't bother answering that.

          Spam attacks are not stopped by the guv, or corporations, or lawyers or prosecutors. They are stopped by admins and net volunteers who track the bastid down.

          It was like that in 98, and still is now. The Man and IP owners aren't interested in making the Internet a wonderful place to live; they want it CONTROLLED.

          Certain types of people gravitate towards power over others. They thrive on it. Anyone who has dealt with a volunteer group or similar has watched in amazement as the sharks ate their way to power. And this is what is happening now.

          The Guv does not want uncheck communications... kiddy porn is a straw man. They want access to our communications. The people who want power will rationalize anything, anything at all to get access to keys to wreck their opponents, whether it is "kiddy porn", unpatriotic speech, or suspicious encrypted communication... if you have nothing to hide, Sir, why are you hiding...?

          IP interests are merely out to make money. Googols and Googolplexes of money that they did not have before, and they are using the straw man of "theft" on the net to build up case precedent to tax the sales of PCs, and access to the net, to pay them eternal revenue streams undreamt-of in the days of vinyl or even CDs.

          Frankly, I'd like to see the radionet stay SMALL, and slow, and unconnected to the commercial Internet. Sort of like what the net was, :) originally.

          That way, it belongs to the people creating and maintaining it, without the interference of conglomerates, RIAA, the gatekeepers of morality, IP barons, and campus net admins.

          It's called freedom, and we had it once. It'd be ideal to get it back.

          Otherwise, I'm thinking fondly of a cottage in Nova Scotia without anything resembling a PC or a Net. I do not want to live like a bug under so many microscopes.

  • by jmatlock ( 232136 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @07:25PM (#2381019)
    I don't think people this cooperative live around here in Atlanta...

    Hell; I'd be happy if my ****ing neighbors wouldn't use those "really cool" spread spectrum 2.4 ghz phones. I can always tell when they get a phone call, because all of my wireless nodes drop off the net.

    I figured out who it was, though, when I picked up the handy neighborhood association phonebook and started calling numbers until my network died... now all I need is some neat way to jam their phone so they'll think "it sucks". :-)

    • Did you consider discussing it with them instead? After all, that was the point of this article: strengthening community ties.
    • Sure.. just buy a bigger antenna for your wireless equipment and drowned out his signal.

      i'm sure he will take it back to the deal and say it's broken.
  • by Z4rd0Z ( 211373 ) <joseph at mammalia dot net> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @07:34PM (#2381061) Homepage
    ...the freenet has resulted in new form s of interaction and strenthened ties within his own local community (the inverse of what happends on the wider Internet)

    Ahem, would you care to back this up? I know someone who was afraid to leave the house for a long time. After talking with people on the internet, he began to feel less disconnected from the world and began to venture out into the world again. I had long thought of the internet as something that kept people behind closed doors, but now I'm not so sure. I'd like to see some evidence before I'll believe the kind of sweeping factoids that the person who posted this article just made.

    • by waldoj ( 8229 )
      Ahem, would you care to back this up?

      The author did back it up. He got together with his neighbors and had some beer. He's got each neighbor working with each neighbor next door to assure access. They're talking on IRC.

      I don't know about you, but that's way ahead of my relationship with my neighbors.

      • No, he didn't back up the claim that what he did had an effect that was the inverse of what happends on the wider Internet, to use his exact words. I never implied what he did was not bringing together a community. I think what he did was great. He simply made a sweeping claim that I disagree with.
  • We are building one in Brisbane.

    Brisbane Mesh [uq.edu.au]

  • In Europe and Israel (where I live and work), we have 91.0 MHz overall to play with, and 9 channels, numbered 1 through 9. Of those 9 channels, 1, 6, and 11 don't overlap at all, allowing as many as three access points to operate in close proximity of each other.

    Is it just me, or does something not quite make sense here?
    • Europe should have 13 channels, as opposed to the US with it's 11.

      But that still only gives 3 non-overlapping channels.. just like the US.
  • A web/mail/Usenet/IRC/bind 9.1 cluster running LVS (Linux Virtual Servers, www.lvs.org) on 5
    rack 1U computers. I chose no-name rack units that have been sitting around idly in my lab.
    Each has 512 MB of RAM, 18-GB internal disk, and two NICs.

    This guy obviously isn't poor, who in their right mind has five 1U computers lying around doing nothing. He could have at least been running folding, genome, seti etc.

    Blah blah blah blah beowulf blah blah blah.
    • He saw them doing nothing. He figured out what he wanted to do with them. And now they aren't idle any more.

      seti, etc. is only one option. Others may freely choose other options.

  • It's neither the wireless aspect nor the Internet connection that's of interest to me, it's the BBS-like community that has come to exist around the network. I have no idea if anybody would want to use this lacking an Internet connection, but the community network aspect is fantastic. If this weren't hooked up to the Internet, concerns of security problems would drop tremendously, no doubt making adoption even simpler.

    I guess I miss the old BBS community. Heck, I know that I miss it. Security was definitely a concern, but I knew just about everybody using my BBS. Or if I didn't know them, I'd get to know them at one of our monthly get-togethers. I've tried to move towards recreating the old community with cvillenews.com [cvillenews.com] and a free community mailing list server [waldo.net], which is a start. But the concept of closing these off to the Internet at large and localizing them is fascinating to me.

    Has anybody else set up an isolated metropolitan network? Any success?

    • I like this idea too. A private network of people, with some 'internet-like' services inside. Things like email (maybe gatewayed to the internet, maybe not), local DNS, web, file sharings.

      Put together a few clever CGI's, maybe an IRCd and you could have yourself a nice little wireless network of people, independent of the Internet. People would download interesting things from their own Internet connection, and make them available to the neighbourhood at no cost. A mini-napster if you will.

      Like others, I miss the community aspect of the big, bad Internet and I think it could be rekindled somewhat with projects like this. Also, here in Australia it isn't feasible to share a broadband connection with other people, the AUP and bandwidth charges make it illegal or too expensive. Not too mention the carrier laws coming into play, there are many issues to resolve when you move Internet traffic over the air.

      There are some groups here in Australia attempting things like this, see http://www.air.net.au [air.net.au].

  • Okay so there is a limit to how big a roof-top mesh network can scale with a single network access point but what about a different configuration? Where I live many people have cable-modem and/or DSL network access. How can the wireless mesh be used to dynamically route packets to the internet if many points on the mesh are connected to the internet via various ISP links? Is it technically possible? Is it practical?

    I have 384kbit bandwidth both ways on my DSL line whereas most people have 768down/128up connections. Sometimes I wish I had that extra 384kbit inbound. What is the liklihood that a mesh with 5 gateways (using different ISPs) distributed over 20 nodes could provide on-average much better bandwidth to the entire network?

    • It's really not much different than the issues faced by The Internet (you know, the big one). Yes, you can have multiple routes. But it requires smarter routing than just entering a "default gateway" somewhere.

      It's complicated by the fact that everything would be hidden behind NAT, so a given connection would have to stick to one route, and return routes for that connection would have to be the same as the outgoing route. (When I say "same route" I mean that they would all at least have that one NAT point in common.)

      So no, I don't think you're ever going to get a single file to download faster than the single fastest gateway's connection, at least with conventional stateful protocols (e.g. ftp, http, etc).

      But with multiple downloads, or using a stateless file transfer protocol (e.g. NFS) ... hmm ... it's theoretically possible that you could use multiple gateways. Router dudes (alas, I am not one) probably know how to set this up with existing software.

  • I'm dubious, but open-minded. Somebody please convince me that this can be done, because I'd like to do it.

    I understand that if you want any distance at all, you MUST use directional antennas, on both ends. Nobody makes them, so you'll have to roll your own. And you'll need a separate bridge-bridge setup per client. That's about 400 bucks/client. Then you must use a switch to divvy up the data, and the reviews I have read say to forget about encryption if you want reasonable bandwidth.

    Is practical networking really possible with 802.11b? Or is this just another "gee whizz" article big on buzz, but short on facts?

  • ...and so I found myself wondering just what is it that's new about a wireless ferret?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    check http://www.wirelessanarchy.com [wirelessanarchy.com] or start your own page and get it added, pretty soon others will start contacting you and before you know it, you've created one in your hometown.
  • by extrasolar ( 28341 ) on Wednesday October 03, 2001 @02:27AM (#2382114) Homepage Journal

    Is it a dream or a reality that a Global Independent Wireless Network is possible? What I mean is:

    • Global in that is covers almost the whole earth. People in Afghanistan or Siberia can hook in without even a phone system.
    • Independent means that this is an independent effort of government or corporations. This is partly my fear that we'll soon loose free speech and privacy on the internet...I would rather have this independent network that no single entity can pull the plug on.
    • Wireless means that it doesn't require physical wires to connect whether this means laser beams, radio waves, or smoke signals.

    But I'm not knowledgable about this kind of thing. Is it possible? How long would it take? What is your opinion of it? But if it happens, it sounds like one of the engineering feats of the century.

  • from 40 to 128 bits (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    From the article:
    The bridging configuration of base stations allows you to turn encryption from 40 bit up to 128 bit, although this will surely slow down the bandwidth a little. In some countries, like France, encryption is not permitted except for ridiculously small keys
    Can someone explains how much it would affect the
    bandwith going from 40 to 128 bits ?
    How often is a session key generated with 802.11b
    and what is the smallest packet size anyway ?

    By the way, encryption is totally permitted in
    France since more than one year and, contrarly
    to U.S., there is little chance of going back
    to heavy regulated crypto. Use 256 bits
    private key if you want.

  • As the internet becomes more and more commercialized, how feasible would it be to just eliminate it (for the most part) from the equation with something like this?

    I see it like the old bbs days (when it was a labor of love, not money)... Communities of freenets springing up, and then connecting to one another, just like the old internet model. And if a subnet starts acting up (spamming, porn, whatever), you just cut that net off from yours. I mean, it becomes a manageable beast, you don't have to worry about out-of-date contact info's in bought out companies with "Who really cares" management?

    I dunno, it sounds like this could be the wave of the future of "non-commercial" internet alternatives.

  • Imagine... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is not entirely related, but imagine lots of wireless freenets connecting each other - if they are big enough (many, many cities connected, some even running their servers on it) they can engage in a *peering* agreement with a big ISP, therefore actually getting a free connection to the "other part of the internet" :-)
  • Consume the Net (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nwetters ( 93281 )

    I went to a meeting last night held by some guys from consume the net [consume.net], a London-based community wireless project. The question-and-answer session brought up some questions that didn't seem to have been solved:

    1. If I share my Internet bandwidth with the rest of my street, what's the incentive for my next-door neighbour to increase the communal bandwidth?
    2. Same question, but from a different angle. Since the ISPs' business plans rely on underuse of bandwidth, isn't it obvious that a sucessful bandwidth-sharing project will lead to either withdrawal of service, or increased charges?
    3. Everyone will be looking to get maximum coverage out of their antennas, and the current cards tend to lock onto the strongest signal. If I set up an antenna on my chimney, am I going to deny service to the graphic designer trying to use his AirPort card next door?

    Overall, the guys running the project were helpful, and obviously trying to move forward by consensus. I think I'll buy the kit and get involved. However, there remain many problems with such schemes, both technical and legal, and it's only worthwhile getting involved at this early stage for the 'how does it work' factor.

  • I wanted to do something similar, maybe a private net that will be public. I have a friend who owns a few buildings within a few blocks of each other, and has money to purchase equipment to do this. His key thing was he wanted to use his laptop down at the local coffee shop. I did get some Linksys's to connect two of the buildings (pure line of sight about 800ft) and waiting on the antenna's.

    I know all about the theory of wireless, and the fresnel zone and how objects kill signal but how well does that happen in real life? I know when i put up the AP in my house i could get down the street and still get signal even when i couldn't see the AP cause of the corner of the building was blocking view.

    Anyone have some personal stories?

8 Catfish = 1 Octo-puss