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The Internet

War Car Offers Wi-Fi 123

NetGyver writes "news.com has an interesting story about public hot-spot operators that use a weapon in protest against the growth of commercial Wi-Fi networks: Michael Oh's "war car." The 1997 Saturn has enough Wi-Fi equipment installed on its bumper and rooftop to create a 150-foot wireless network, said Oh, who helps run a free wireless network covering two Boston city blocks and is one of hundreds of so-called public hot-spot operators who believe Wi-Fi networks and the Internet access they offer should remain free."
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War Car Offers Wi-Fi

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  • COuld someone send one to my university campus near the dorms :)
  • Who the fuck is protesting "the growth of commercial Wi-Fi networks"?

    At most they are protesting that they have to pay to sit at Starbucks and log on to their network.
  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @09:55AM (#4256536)
    "...Wi-Fi networks and the Internet access they offer should remain free." But they aren't free now! People that hook on to unsecured Wi-Fi networks are stealing, plain and simple.
    • How is it plain and simple? In my opinion, resources that are on public property are free by implied consent. If you're going to let your signal spill over into areas you didn't intend it, no one's stealing.
      • In my opinion, resources that are on public property are free by implied consent.

        Your opinion is silly. Can I have your car next time you park on a street?

        • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @01:43PM (#4257234) Homepage
          In my opinion, resources that are on public property are free by implied consent. Your opinion is silly. Can I have your car next time you park on a street?

          Pull your head out, please. Like all those idiots who say "copying a music CD is theft/stealing", you are comparing real property e.g. my car, with services. Services may or may not cost someone money based on quantity used. WiFi accesss on public property could be compared to putting a drinking fountain next to the sidewalk. Water is a metered utility, but cheap enough for a drinking fountain to not incur any significant cost; likewise, 'net access is cheap in that it's usually either flat-rate or metered only above a certain cap. If you don't lock up your sidewalk-adjacent drinking fountain, people will use it and you'd have a hard time getting the authorities to do anything about it. If you don't want the public using your sidewalk-accessable drinking fountain (wireless network), lock it up (encrypt it) and only give keys to those whom you wish to use it. If you pay a lot of money on a metered basis for your Internet access, then you're a fool to leave it open for anyone to use (see sidewalk drinking fountain analogy).
          Point is, one can pontificate about absolute morality (picking a dime up off the sidewalk is theft!), or take the Common Law/rational approach to such things (would a reasonable and prudent person assume that a drinking fountain by the sidewalk is for public use?). Free WiFi 'net access is common enough that if a reasonable and prudent person with an 802.11b equipped laptop found himself able to access his webmail at Denny's, he'd assume it was intended for public use. To argue that one should seek specific permission first renders unusable such publicly-available things as parking lots and sidewalks.
          • Point is, one can pontificate about absolute morality (picking a dime up off the sidewalk is theft!), or take the Common Law/rational approach to such things (would a reasonable and prudent person assume that a drinking fountain by the sidewalk is for public use?). Free WiFi 'net access is common enough that if a reasonable and prudent person with an 802.11b equipped laptop found himself able to access his webmail at Denny's, he'd assume it was intended for public use.

            Yeah, right. I'm driving past a building and I happen to see that I can, for a few feet, access BOBS_NETWORK. Doubtless that means that Bob is delighted to let any passerby use the access which he has paid for.

            By your analogy, if he left his door unlocked I could come in and make a couple calls on his home phone. Hey! It's not like he's getting charged by the call! Wait, a reasonable and prudent person wouldn't think that one could enter another person's home... and a reasonable and prudent person wouldn't think that one could get unauthorized access to another person's network.

            Your comparison between metered and unmetered services is completely idiotic. The point is, Bob paid for his Internet access, and it's his. It isn't yours. And it's his to decide who gets to use it, even if it wouldn't cost him any more to let you use it also. Just because you contrived a clever way to use it without his knowledge or permission doesn't mean it's yours.

            I can see here the age-old argument that the clever have the natural right to steal from the foolish.

            • Yeah, right. I'm driving past a building and I happen to see that I can, for a few feet, access BOBS_NETWORK. Doubtless that means that Bob is delighted to let any passerby use the access which he has paid for.

              "Bob was surprised to notice that passers-by were using the sidewalk-adjacent drinking fountain he installed which was intended for his own personal use while mowing the lawn." Though one could probably guess that Bob didn't mean to share his internet, as more and more people do set up open nodes this inference will become less concrete. The problem is that Bob needs to understand how to set up his system properly (or maybe put up a sign that says "WiFi not for public use"). If Bob finds his water bill goes through the roof because joggers are stopping by in the early a.m. to use his drinking fountain, he needs to take steps to make it clear that it's not a public drinking fountain. Like a lock (encryption).

              By your analogy, if he left his door unlocked I could come in and make a couple calls on his home phone

              No, because by entering his home without permission you are breaking the analogy. Inside the house is private property, requiring the commission of trespass in order to use the phone. The drinking fountain at the sidewalk has attached to it implied consent for public use. As more free WiFi nodes appear, consent will be implied as well. The proper phone analogy would be if one installed a phone extension in a phone booth facing the sidewalk where anyone walking by could pick up the handset and dial. Implied consent once again. If you called the cops on someone using your sidewalk phone they'd say "idiot. lock it up or take it out if you don't want people using it."

              and a reasonable and prudent person wouldn't think that one could get unauthorized access to another person's network.

              Again, we are fast approaching the point where a reasonable and prudent person would conclude that an open node in a public place is OK to use.

              The point is, Bob paid for his Internet access, and it's his. It isn't yours. And it's his to decide who gets to use it, even if it wouldn't cost him any more to let you use it also.

              The duty of allowing/disallowing access to WiFi nodes falls upon the owner of that node. It doesn't take a genius to turn encryption on, and (again) the fact that it's not on could be construed as permission to use the node. The controlling factor shouldn't be an arbitrary, absolute law; it should be people taking reasonable steps to secure otherwise publicly accessable resources. What it comes down to is, the onus of protecting a resource from public consumption is on the one paying for said resource. If it's that important SECURE IT!.

              I can see here the age-old argument that the clever have the natural right to steal from the foolish.

              No, what you see here is the argument that the foolish have no right to complain when they fail to take reasonable and prudent precautions to prevent public use of private facilities. The law is full of analagous precedent. If you have an unfenced, unlocked, abandoned house and some kids walk in and one of them hurts themselves while playing therein, not only will you find it nearly impossible to have them convicted of trespass, but you will find yourself defending against a charge of maintaining an attractive nuisance. The concepts here aren't all that new, only the technology is.
              • Again, we are fast approaching the point where a reasonable and prudent person would conclude that an open node in a public place is OK to use.

                I would note that despite your obfuscation, two things remain:

                The first is that you know that these people don't want you using their networks. All this rhetoric about how someday wireless networks will be universal doesn't conceal the fact that you know that you are intruding upon them.

                The second is that, when you strip away all the redundancies, what you have said is this: it's their fault that they haven't kept me out. And that is the age-old self-rationalization of the thief.

                • I would note that despite your obfuscation, two things remain:

                  Obfuscation? I'm sorry, I thought I was providing a multitude of plausible counter-scenarios to counter your solitary example scenario. Perhaps you think it obfuscation to illustrate that the extreme case shouldn't be the basis for argument.

                  The first is that you know that these people don't want you using their networks. All this rhetoric about how someday wireless networks will be universal doesn't conceal the fact that you know that you are intruding upon them.

                  No, I don't necessarily know if I'm intruding on a private network. Sure, you can whip up a dozen scenarios where it would be clear that I was, but I can concoct an equal number of hypotheticals where the opposite is true. I'm not arguing a specific scenario where I can suddenly access the entire C: drive Bob's new Dell machine full of pr0n; I'm arguing that there are too many possible cases IN GENERAL where it'd not be clear whether a WiFi node is intended for common consumption and therefore a blanket denunciation of anyone utilizing such is irrational.

                  The second is that, when you strip away all the redundancies, what you have said is this: it's their fault that they haven't kept me out. And that is the age-old self-rationalization of the thief.

                  Cripes, man, that may be a rationalization of a thief, but it is also the basis of quite a bit of law! Ever heard of an easement? I can legally keep you from fencing your yard if I've been using it as a shortcut long enough and you haven't done anything to stop me (fence, signs). The point is, I'm not going to intrude on a network that's obviously not meant for public use, but in cases not so obvious the best person to control access is the provider. Not some blanket moratorium without written consent, etc. Do you have to get written consent from a store before using it's parking lot? Again, the law is fairly clear about this already. The extreme case you argue is irrelevant because it is extreme enough where a reasonable and prudent person would say "hey, this isn't a public node; this is Bob's network and I can see all his pr0n". The type of case that's relevant is one such as: "You're sitting outside a Starbuck's in Santa Clara and your 802.11b card comes up green; you have internet access and nothing else; is it reasonable and prudent to assume it's a public node?" Maybe it's from Starbuck's. Maybe it's from the bagel shop across the street. Maybe it's from Bob's 802.11b hub in the apartment above the bagel shop. Should Bob be allowed to have you arrested/fined for "hacking" if it was Bob's node? Or should Bob turn his damn encryption on? Think, man!
            • one thing I pulled out of a book a long time ago, I think it was a dragon lance book, about dwarfs... (I could be wrong)...

              Doors are meant to keep people out. Don't put a door there if it is always going to be open...

              Hence why people put doors on there homes.

              If I see an open door, doesn't the mean that you are free to come in, isn't that what open door policy implies... If my boss has an open door, I will walk in and ask a question. However, if my boss has her door shut, I make sure that I knock, and thats only if it is very important.

              do I have to draw the lines?
      • Resources on public property are free by implied consent?

        Cars parked on the street are not free for the taking.

        Bikes on a city bike rack are not free for the taking.

        A food stand on a sidewalk isn't free for the taking.

        If I am standing on the sidewalk, and have money in my pocket can one just take that from me since it's free by implied consent?
      • How is it plain and simple? In my opinion, resources that are on public property are free by implied consent. If you're going to let your signal spill over into areas you didn't intend it, no one's stealing.
        Great opinion you have there, but it's better not practiced in the real world.

        You may believe that resources on public property are free to be used, but resources available on your own private property aren't even free. Just because Dish Network and DirecTV paint the entire US with their programming signals (including your back yard and rooftop) does not stop them or the Government from pressing criminal charges when you take advantage of this 'free' resource. And the satellite resources you would take advantage of causes no degredation to paying customers.

        The phone company, cell phone companies, cable company, and even neighbors with cordless phones, baby monitors, and access points would have an issue with you and your opinion. There are even legal issues using simple scanners to monitor frequencies in use by cell phones (assuming you are in the U.S.).

        Note that I am not saying your opinion is wrong, just what would happen if it were actually practiced.

        • by pyite ( 140350 )
          Yes, but things like Satalite service are locked out to prevent illegal use. If a network is not locked, and Joe iBook Schmoe randomly has internet access when he's at a park or something, he's not going to think he's stealing. If someone takes reasonable (obvious) precautions to protect their service, then circumventing this protection in my opinion is wrong. And yes, I have no problems with people "eavesdropping" cordless phones, baby monitors, etc. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy with such devices. Part 15 of FCC rules: a) Device may not cause harmful interference. Well, let's interpret that as saying my neighbor's cordless phone causes interference harmful to my interception of residual energy from the big bang on my scanner. If you don't want something to be heard or accessed, put up a Faraday cage around your house. Just as someone stated before, if you put a water fountain on the edge of your property next to the sidewalk, people aren't going to think it's just for you. If it is just for you, put up a fence.
    • by Gumber ( 17306 )
      These people are offering free public Internet access via an unsecured Wi-Fi network? How is this stealing?
    • by dissy ( 172727 )
      Point A)

      If i choose to allow public access to my network by placing a hub outside of my building with a sign stating "Free internet", why do you insist anyone that takes my offer is a thief?

      Public WiFi is no different except for the link medium being RF instead of long strands of metal.

      You are no doubt using slashdot for free because they said you are allowed to. Guess your a theif too huh.

      Point B)

      WiFi is radio.. The signal is just protons. It is no different really than light.

      If you feel a WiFi signal can be owned, then I declair i own the color blue (And any frequency close to it.)

      Anyone that sees the color blue without my express permission is now a theif.

      Silly you say? I aggree. You cant own photons, you cant own RF spectrum, and you sure as Hell dont own any photons that are passing through my house and body right this moment.

      If you dont want me to have your formatted protons, then keep them to yourself.
      The second they pass through me and or my house or even arguably anywhere i happen to be standing, those protons are free to be decoded in anyway I see fit.

      Dont like it? Dont send those protons to me and i wont come after them.

      Plain and simple indeed.
      --Jon
      • I think you might mean pHotons in a few places, not pRotons ;). Also, I think you can "own" part of the RF spectrum, or at least be licensed to use it. Try transmitting at 1800 MHz at a fairly high power and see how long it takes before someone comes knocking at your door...

        However, you don't need to be licensed to transmit around the 2.4 GHz band at low-ish power levels, which is what 802.11b uses. So there's nothing illegal about it for either party, except that as a provider, you might be violating the terms of service of your ISP contract.

    • All bandwidth that are not 100% utilized are a waste. That means if you have 2mbit/s ADSL or cable, for every second you are not sending/receiving 2 Mbit/s you are wasting resources. The same goes for the longdistance WAN links. So its not stealing, only use of unused resources that otherwise would be wasted. Most people are only using 1% of their internet link, so its only good to give other people access to your bandwidth thru WiFi aslong as the AP is setup in a secure way.
  • Ut oh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Adam9 ( 93947 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @09:55AM (#4256543) Journal
    So if this car got into an accident.. would that be a Denial of Service attack?
    • So if this car got into an accident...would that be a Denial of Service attack?

      In other news today, three RIAA chauffeurs were placed under investigation for apparently ramming other cars off the road. "We were trying to protect our copyrights," claimed Hillary Rosen, head of the RIAA. "Just as VHS is like the Boston Strangler, these criminals are like Ted Bundy in his Volkswagon."
    • Some people claimed it was a tragic accident, but there were a few people who believed Starbucks hired several thugs to...oh..."talk" to him.
    • No wonder the gangsters always say they put someone on "ice[.bx]" when they kill them. I'm sorry that was bad :)
    • Re:Ut oh (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kredal ( 566494 )
      No, it would be a packet collision.
    • Is how he avoids the accident in the first place driving about with that great long ethernet cable hanging off his bumper...

      I don't get the protest angle, the problem isn't having to pay, it is the ridiculous markup. Its like the hotels who charge $15 a night for high speed internet access.

      • Its like the hotels who charge $15 a night for high speed internet access.

        It's not all that bad compared to the $1.50 they charge for a 12 ounce can of soda. A can of soda lasts you what, ten minutes? An hour and a half of leeching and you break even. Besides, it cuts into their PPV pr0n profits, and they have to make that up somewhere.

  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @09:56AM (#4256546) Journal
    Why doesn't he start putting up 'free' phone booths in protest against the 'evil' spread of
    commercial payphones?
    I know you guys all love Free software and everything, but it's simple economics... if people really want something (WiFi) and are willing to pay for it, a commercial entity will provide it. It's really interesting that Slashdot loves to carp about how other countries have such wonderful wireless networks and America
    is supposedly in the stoneage, and then they bitch and moan about how wireless networks are everywhere, its just you have to actually pay to use them!

    (P.S.--> If you use a 'free' college wireless network like I do everyday, just remember: it's not 'free' unless you don't pay any tuition to go to school.... think about it)
    • Read and learn [slashdot.org] you dork. Simple economics has all but destroyed the telecom industry moron.
    • I don't think that's the problem. There are pleanty of wireless spectrums that are heavily regulated which companies can and do charge for services on.

      Wi-fi is an largly unregulated spectrum. It's one of the few ones the common man has. And so it's pretty dang hard to swallow companies making a buck off something like this, espically when they seem to act with indifference to the free use of an open spectrum. Remember this [slashdot.org]?

      If somebody wants to give away his or her bandwith (as long as it's in accordance with his providers TOS) on a public spectrum, why is he somehow worse then a company doing that?
      • "Wi-fi is an largly unregulated spectrum. It's one of the few ones the common man has. And so it's pretty dang hard to swallow companies making a buck off something like this..."


        But is is easy to swallow companies making a lot more than a buck off of radio spectrum because the govenment has given them a monopoly to use it? Or the vast tracts of spectrum set aside for the military that go unused?


        I think, therefore, ken_i_m

    • Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it. The real question is repeat which historical analogy. Will WiFi become like drinking fountains?

  • It looks like he has some sort of tubular antenna on there, wouldn't an omnidirectional be a better choice?

    Maybe that antenna is the one for the fixed wireless service (which is is probably violating FCC laws by using mobile), and the 802.11 antenna is the thing on top of that?
  • mine can still carry a two bikes and a canoe on the roof rack for my honeymoon tomorrow. ;-)
  • by deander2 ( 26173 ) <public @ k e r e d . o rg> on Saturday September 14, 2002 @10:03AM (#4256566) Homepage

    he's trying to put a hole in their business model? and try proving it should be free? is this guy on crack?

    no hole, because it's only within 1500' of his base, and he's not parked outside the starbucks all the time.

    and to prove a business should offer it for free? how much money did he spend? how much time did he spend? what business is going to invest that for a guaranteed no return?

    don't get me wrong, i think businesses would do well to offer value-add services like wireless internet inside their stores free-of-charge just like they do restrooms. I think starbuck's plan will go the way of the pay-toilet. but this guy is going about demonstrating it the wrong way.

    the crack monkies are definitely among us.. :-)
    • i think businesses would do well to offer value-add services like wireless internet inside their stores free-of-charge just like they do restrooms. I think starbuck's plan will go the way of the pay-toilet. but this guy is going about demonstrating it the wrong way.

      If it weren't for those brave rebels who dared to park their porta-potty in the parking lot of stores with pay toilets then we would all still be paying to use the toilet.
    • Yes, I agree. If he really wants to put Starbuck out of business he should be giving away free coffee in front of their shop.
    • will go the way of the pay-toilet.

      You sure about this... When I was in Europe, I had to pay to take my shits... I also had to pay for water at a restaurant, ketchup at McDonalds, etc.

      I think by charging for the access, they encourage people to LEAVE.. after all 1 cup of coffee doesn't cover the space the person occupies for 2 hours of web surfing...
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Osiris Ani ( 230116 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @10:23AM (#4256614)
    A Starbucks representative could not be reached Friday for comment. A representative at Wireless carrier T-Mobile, which supplies Starbucks with the access, declined to comment.
    Probably because they couldn't care less. Seriously, what's the point? Okay, he drives the war car around and provides sporadic wireless 'net access to people in the general area of a Starbucks, thus proving to them that they do indeed have a choice... until he drives away.

    Then the user is left without the choice unless someone else nearby also happens to be giving it away, which is unlikely, as there would be no benefit in his being there in the first place if a free Wi-Fi alternative already existed in the area.

    Thus he proves the the business model against which he's rallying is perfectly sound, as it provides consistent 'net access to all subscribing patrons. Yes, unlike the war car, their pay network is there when the customers need it.

    Okey dokey.

    Not every neighborhood is chock full of good citizens who are willing to share their bandwidth with anyone within range who happens to have a laptop. There's nothing inherently wrong with or immoral about a business model based upon selling Internet access. Those who want to set up public access Wi-Fi networks that will serve their local few hundred meters are welcome to it, but I fail to see the point in blasting ISPs for actually daring to charge for the services they provide.

    Sometimes stuff costs money. Sometimes people are willing to pay for that stuff, and thus they reap whatever benefits are available to them. Those who are not willing to pay for stuff have the option of seeking alternatives to stuff, circumventing the fee model for stuff, or simply doing without stuff.

    • But he does run a free service in the area. He's got 3-5 public spots on that street already. The nearest is at 338 Newbury St, while the Starbucks is 350 Newbury.

      That's very close! [yahoo.com]

      And if the reporters had bothered to interview him, they'd see that he's fishing for a closer neighbor of Starbucks to host his antenna permanently.

    • Here in Atlanta I have a neighbor in one of the highrises who is offering his bandwidth to me when I drive [dashpc.com] past his apartment. I found him on a local wi-fi [atlantafreenet.com] sharing site. I drive past his highrise everyday enroute to work and it's a great opportunity to pull down weather and traffic [dashpc.com] data. I think its just a matter of time until this kind of thing becomes more prevalent.

  • and pay for my ISP's uplink so we can provide WiFi for free? Let's see, a dozen T1s (we have the routers) would run under $10,000 a month. And *still* only provide full utilization to 1.5 11mbps WiFi users.
    • I would ask him to come out here but at 1500 feet he would not even make it out to the highway let alone to the nearest backbone. Note: I rent a small place on a cattle ranch that is a mile down a gravel road from a rural route highway.

      I think, therefore, ken_i_m
  • According to Warchalking.org, Schlotzky's Deli in some locations offers free WiFi. Personally, I would like more free sites. Usually when I am away, not even hotels have it in the locations I have gone/need to go. There is a coffee shop here in Columbus that has free WiFi. Stauf's. They not only have GREAT coffee, but you can sit in front of their store OUTSIDE using the WiFi. If you don't have a card, they will even loan you one. Honestly, I realize bandwidth costs money, but some of the hotels and restaurants already have access for themselves and don't even push the envelope with their use. I guess you can say it's sort of like if the hotels only had bathrooms for thier employees, but the guests had to go across the street. That said, if I found a open node, I would not use it unless they had a sign saying it was cool. Kind of like when I went to a training place and the trainer said thay if we needed to hook our laptops to their network it was cool and they had a tone of DHCP addresses and open ports. Nice.
  • I want a beowulf cluster of these ... on my next traffic jam. Let's quake!
    • For some reason that sounds fun as hell, however it could be a reason to start a traffic jam in the first place. But hell, I'd love to have something like this available on those long trips for when you get stuck in some mean big city traffic. Looks like I might have to airbrush my handle on my bumper or something now. What'd be kind of funny if a whole clan was carpooling somewhere (like a con or something) and this happened. Okay okay, just let me dream... :p
  • If this is such a great business model, and has no real revenue stream (that I can see, anyway), who picks up the tab for the parking meters/tickets?

    Sounds to me like this guy just spent a WHACK of cash to outfit a car with WI-FI, plus a couple of bucks in parking, to thumb his nose at Starbuck$ and rip off bandwidth from neighbouring businesses.

    Why did Starbuck$ not make a comment? Why bother... the guy (or his car) is not going to be there tomorrow.

  • His web site (Score:4, Informative)

    by ProfessorPuke ( 318074 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @11:12AM (#4256747)
    Is here [newburyopen.net]
    A few comments have insulted this guy, calling his car a dumb publicity stunt. They say he's not really providing a viable alternative to the paid system, because his car will just drive away the next evening.

    Wrong! In this neighborhood, he's been working to provide free 802.11b connections for some time. Any property owner on Newbury Street can contact him to get a free WAP installed.

    The point is that most of the utility of portable WiFi access is dependent on connectivity, not high bandwidth. Most users will be very satisfied if they can just check/read their email, and download a little text. That works fine with a 30kbps link, and increasing bandwidth only slowly increases percieved value. That kind of data rate can get lost in the noise of anyone's broadband connection- so if you throttle the utilization of anonymous users, you've got essentially $0 costs (besides $100 for the WAP box).

    Since the financial barriers to entry are so low, this won't be a viable business for T-Mobile; unless they can somehow block out new entries. And they can do this by grabbing up prime chunks of this unregulated RF spectrum by getting their transmitters installed first.

    Its a race- whoever can deploy first will win the consumer mindshare. Once users take 802.11b for granted, they won't be willing to pay. But there will be property owners willing to run cheap WAPs to attract potential customers.

    It is true that the War Car is just a stunt for publicity- and it seems to have worked. Maybe this will inspire some other coffee-vendors to ask him for help in competing with Starbucks.

    • Mod this up! (Score:2, Informative)

      by Lurkingrue ( 521019 )
      Many people (probably those who don't live in Boston or those who haven't really read the associated articles) don't seem to get what the guy with the War Car is doing. The parent article here does, and should be modded up so we have less "its just a stunt" responses so prominent.

      IMHO, of course.
    • Good point, though a $100 WAP isn't going to be capable enough to throttle anonymous users.
  • "...who believe Wi-Fi networks and the Internet access they offer should remain free."

    Peace and free internet, man... Free, until I realize I can either make a killing off of it or can't pay the bills or can so inundate you with banner ads and pop-ups as to seriously dilute the meaning of the word "free". Sure, they all believe it should be free, but it normally doesn't stay that way for long... I'm sure yahoo started with the same principle in mind. Capitalist pigs ^__^
  • I'm not sure where I see the problem here...

    it's a protocol/band anyone can use.

    If people want to set up nodes and use layers on it to authenticate, and charge money, that does not preclude someone else from also using wi-fi equipment in the same area.

    Yes, there is a density issue, but both parties are affected equally.

    Saying "wi-fi should remain free" is absurd. That's like saying "Ethernet should remain free!"

  • full disclosure: i'm a field tech at tech superpowers. i am one of the people who worked on the newburyopen.net [newburyopen.net] project, and am listed as a co-author of the specs [newburyopen.net] we released last week.

    the network exists primarily because we had spare bandwidth and wanted to do something neat with it. mike figured out how to make the repeaters we use to make the nodes, and set about talking with merchants on the street. we wanted to do something for the newbury st. community, and this was something that was essentially free, and that nobody else could provide, so we let it rip.

    there are a whopping three remote nodes presently (with hundreds more coming in no time!), plus the central access point at our offices. why not more? because we have to bill hours to fund the thing, which is what we've been doing since this spring. we DO have jobs, you know...i mean besides this stuff.

    about three weeks ago, mike had some kind of fevered evening in which he built this insane rig that sits on top of his car. it's tall and black, and you don't want to drive with it in place. but we can get pretty good ranges with it, and it does work a quarter-mile away from the t-1.

    but this is the thing: it's not a commercial venture - it's professionally installed in your home or business, yes; it's corporate-funded (technically, we're an inc.); there's tech support available - but it's not about making money, and therefore isn't meant to comptete with starbucks or anyone else, as the cnet article kind of implies. if it were, we wouldn't have released the specs, but we did, because we wanted to help along the idea of free, open networks. ours, for example, will stay free. whether or not we could be charging, we don't intend to, because it's more fun this way.

    also, just to make the point, people who hook up to THIS unsecured network *aren't* stealing, plain or simple. and that's the whole idea - if there were more (deliberately) unsecured networks, people wouldn't have to steal access. so go do your part!
  • Reading the documents from tech superpowers shows that they are just one enforcement officer away from the FCC shutting them down.

    Here is a prime example. From their technical document I found the following passage.

    "We use an Airport Base Station, Lucent Pigtail connector, and Orinoco Wide-area Antenna. All of these parts are available on our online store, but be warned: the use of a Lucent Pigtail connector on an Airport requires the removal of the case and drilling of a hole. This will void your warranty and most resellers (including us) will not take back a product after it's been modified in this way."

    Gee guys, I hate to break this to you, but these modifications don't just void your warranty. These modifications also convert the Apple Airport into a device that is illegal to use in the United States. Here are some relevant FCC regulations.

    "15.204(b) - A transmission system consisting of an intentional radiator, an external radio frequency power amplifier, and an antenna, may be authorized, marketed and used under this part. However, when a transmission system is authorized as a system, it must always be marketed as a complete system and must always be used in the configuration in which it was authorized. ...

    15.204(c) - Only the antenna with which an intentional radiator is authorized may be used with the intentional radiator."


    In other words, Apple certified and sold the Airport as a system. When you drill it open, disconnect the internal antenna, and connect an external antenna you have built a new uncertified configuration which cannot legally be used.

    This is the sort of thing that makes it hard for legitimate for-profit WISPs (who use legal equipment) to compete with these hobbyists networks. The gear that WISPs have to pay $1000 for, the hobbyists cobble together for $200.
    • This is the sort of thing that makes it hard for legitimate for-profit WISPs (who use legal equipment) to compete with these hobbyists networks. The gear that WISPs have to pay $1000 for, the hobbyists cobble together for $200.

      I would wager to say that if a hobbyist can aquire the same equipment for much less money without stealing anything I would say the fundamental flaw in this system isn't the hobbyist's problem. I understand the need for FCC regulations but this provides a very good counter-example.

      • I don't understand your comment. I didn't accuse the hobbyists of "stealing" anything. What I pointed out they are doing is using an illegal combination of cheap equipment in a uncertified configuration.
        • The comment meant that if a hobbyist can create something that's externally detectable RF signatures are indistinguishable from a licensed device, then it should be legal for him to do so.


          And in fact, it is, by rule 15.23:


          (a) Equipment authorization is not required for devices that are not marketed, are not constructed from a kit, and are built in quantities of fire or less for personal use.

          (One could argue that techsuperpowers is "marketing" modified devices, even if they're not charging for them. They should be careful about this- but as a professional group, hopefully they are)

          • (a) Equipment authorization is not required for devices that are not marketed, are not constructed from a kit, and are built in quantities of five or less for personal use.

            But they clearly aren't using them for "personal use"...
    • If that's illegal, than so are most of these "Professional WISPs" you mention. For a radio system to be certified, not only must each component be certified, but the FCC must approve of the system as a whole. That means each time you add or remove antennas, or reconfigure in any way, you've got to resubmit the layout for the FCC rubberstamp.

      Fortunately, "uncertified" doesn't mean "illegal". It does mean that if the FCC gets complaints on you it may take longer for you to get cleared up. But 2.5ghz is unregulated spectrum, do you think they'll monitor it very closely?

      Besides, nonprofit providers won't lose anything by pulling the plug for a week or two if the Feds make a stern phone call. Commerical providers with revenue needs don't have the option.

      • "If that's illegal, than so are most of these "Professional WISPs" you mention."

        The legitimate WISPs use certified configurations for their radio gear.

        "For a radio system to be certified, not only must each component be certified, but the FCC must approve of the system as a whole. That means each time you add or remove antennas, or reconfigure in any way, you've got to resubmit the layout for the FCC rubberstamp."

        Bingo! You understand! If you go out and buy a Breezecom AP, you can ONLY use that AP with antennas that have been certified with it. You can't approach building a network like a catalog shopping exercise, where you mix-and-match radios, amplifiers, and antennas.
    • This is the sort of thing that makes it hard for legitimate for-profit WISPs (who use legal equipment) to compete with these hobbyists networks. The gear that WISPs have to pay $1000 for, the hobbyists cobble together for $200.


      Had it ever occured to you that for profit WISPs shouldn't be trying to make a buck on top of a free, unregulated public spectrum? Companies already have access to a large chunk of the different radio spectrum that the common person can't touch.

      When you start limiting modifications a person can do because it interfers with business running on the same public spectrum, you start down a slippery slope; Eventually we end up with some wisp setting up a tower at the shop accross the street, and I learn my $150 WAP I bought and put an antennea on is suddenly illegal.

      • "Had it ever occured to you that for profit WISPs shouldn't be trying to make a buck on top of a free, unregulated public spectrum? "

        The FCC specifically allows commercial use of this unregulated spectrum. Your argument is like saying that if I put up $10,000 worth of solar panels to convert the "free unregulated" sunlight into electricity, I shouldn't be allowed to sell that electricity.

        "Companies already have access to a large chunk of the different radio spectrum that the common person can't touch."

        A lot of the WISPs out there aren't much more than some linux geek with a T1 in his basement and an antenna on his roof. Just because someone wants to recoup his investment and make some money doesn't make him a bad person.

        "When you start limiting modifications a person can do because it interfers with business running on the same public spectrum, you start down a slippery slope; Eventually we end up with some wisp setting up a tower at the shop accross the street, and I learn my $150 WAP I bought and put an antennea on is suddenly illegal."

        Your $150 WAP that you modified with a new antenna isn't "suddenly illegal", it was illegal all along. Putting a bigger antenna on your WAP to get more power radiated is sort of like yanking all the smog control off your car to get more horsepower. You can get along with it for awhile, but you are polluting the public space and you can't base a business on illegal hardware.

        The reason the FCC is so anal about this isn't just to keep you from interfering with people in the same part of the spectrum, it is also to keep you from interfering with people in different parts of the spectrum. As soon as you create a new transmitter/antenna combination you are now creating new harmonics. How do you know that you aren't now leaking into a part of the spectrum that you aren't supposed to be in?

        So, pretend that you are just a cool hobbyist who thinks that wifi is neat and you want to roll out a wireless network. You are immediately faced with the choice of either using illegal homebrew configurations or legal certified configurations. If you go the illegal path, then you are basing your network on not getting caught. If you go the legal route, then you have to spend 2x to 5x as much for your equipment.

        Which path do you take?

        Pretend you decide to go legal, and start spending money on $1000 APs and $500 CPEs. Aren't you going to be a little pissed when the hobbyists come on with their homebrew $200 APs and $100 CPEs?

        I think it is great that people out there want to build these networks and provide free bandwidth, I really do. But the attitude that you can just build whatever you want (hacked Linksys APs, Pringles can antennas) and deploy it is going to end up giving the hobby a black eye AND make it harder for people who seriously want to bring wireless broadband to their neighborhoods.
        • The FCC specifically allows commercial use of this unregulated spectrum. Your argument is like saying that if I put up $10,000 worth of solar panels to convert the "free unregulated" sunlight into electricity, I shouldn't be allowed to sell that electricity.


          True, and I personally am not bothered if somebody wants to make money off this. But what I do have a problem with is how often a company acts in difference to the public. This is a great example [slashdot.org].

          To go back to your anology, it would be as if I spent $1,000 on a solar panel and used it to provide free eletricity, then a for profit utility spent $10,000 on panels that blocked out part of the suns coverage. I could go down to radio shack and for $100 buy an add on that would boost my power to equal the big companys, but somehow that's wrong?
          • "But what I do have a problem with is how often a company acts in difference to the public. This is a great example."

            Don't get me wrong. I'm not defending Starbucks, and I have no problem with community groups or hobbyists banding together to provide free or cheap wireless broadband. What I am saying is that the current rules, as they exist, say that we all, big and little, commercial and nonprofit, have to use certified configurations of equipment.

            " I could go down to radio shack and for $100 buy an add on that would boost my power to equal the big companys, but somehow that's wrong?

            Well, according to the way radio equipment is regulated, yes it is illegal if your radio-shack power-booster built a configuration that hadn't been tested and certified.

            Like it or not, you can't just hack together a bunch of gear and start stomping on spectrum. You need to use configurations that have been certified, that is just how the game is played. Certification is how we insure that radio devices stay in the spectrum where they are supposed to be.

            Maybe if you want to take an "open-source" approach to this, a consortium of these community groups could propose a "standard" hacked solution of a consumer AP and a cheap antennna, then take that configuration and submit it to the FCC for certification.
    • sorry to ruin the fun, but we're using an approved combination. the card in the apple base station is a lucent, the antenna is made by lucent, and the combination is authorized.

      see here [slashdot.org] for some more on the history of the project.

      -john deyoung
      tech superpowers
      • I appreciate you responding, but I don't buy what you are telling me.

        First, regarding your base station:

        You are probably using the Apple Airport with base FCC ID #IMR-WLPC24H.

        That radio is approved for use with antennas:
        AIN24-OD-ALAN
        AIN24-OD-AP05
        AIN24-OD- AP07
        AIN24-OD-AP11
        AIN24-OD-0202

        None of these antennas exceeds 2 dBi.

        While you aren't specific as to what Orinoco attenna you are using on your AP, I doubt it is one of the above.

        Meanwhile, back in the "war car" you have pictures of a Hawking bridge with a 14 dBi Orinoco. I'll bet if you post the FCC ID of the Hawking bridge we will find this is another uncertified configuration.
  • This is an example of "having only one tool". The adage is about a hammer but in this case it is Free Software but defined as "free as in beer".

    I love Open/Free Software, so much so I founded the local LUG. But nowhere (except by such clueless as Mr. Oh) in all of Open/Free Software philosophy does it say you can not make money. At no time has RMS ever said a person can not make money. He merely advocates limits to the models which might be used to make money. Providing a service is a viable model.

    Let's look at it from another direction. Microsoft was guilty of using illegal business methods by providing IE free with its operating system. It was a loss leader for the purpose of breaking Netscape's business model.

    Mr. Oh is giving away Internet access that costs his company money to break Starbuck's added-service model. Bandwidth costs money. Perhaps in some future utopia bandwidth will be free but today it costs money. It costs significant amounts of money to create/obtain more bandwidth. There is no "copy" command for creating more bandwidth. CD burners can not make more for the price of a blank.

    He is a luser when it comes to wireless. 1500 feet is only 500 yards, barely over a quarter mile. While the car is a mobile point, the link between it and his office is still a point-to-point link. The APs mounted on the car are point-to-multipoint and have a range of only 300 feet!?! Off-the-shelf equipment does better than this. I am currently playing with some gear at 1 1/2 miles without modifications.

    It is my sincere hope that wireless will massively drive down the cost of bandwidth. Out where I live APs have to have a minimum of two miles range or they would not be cost effective. Point-to-point links for backhaul need to run 10 miles or more at a shot. Out past me from town those distances rise rapidly. This is doable tech. Wireless ISPs in rural settings are the fastest growing sector of the ISP market. There are now 3000+ wISPs in the US. In rural areas wireless is the only option possible for boardband access. I and millions of other rural residents will never have the option of cable or xDSL.

    Thankfully this infrastructure is being built today by commercial, co-op, and community organizations.

    I think, therefore, ken_i_m
    Chief Gadgeteer, Elegant Innovations
  • Oh really?
  • by Gumber ( 17306 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @01:36PM (#4257216) Homepage
    It seems to me that antagonizing commercial WiFi operators is an invitation to regulations.

    The existing unlicensed spectrum may remain free, but it will become filled up with a proliferation of low power RF devices, ranging from WiFi, to phones to RF-lighting.

    When this time comes, we will want the FCC to open up more unlicensed spectrum, but we may not get it, or as much, if commercial WiFi providers are at the same time lobbying the FCC for their own slice of licensed spectrum so they can do business without people deliberately trying to screw them.
  • If you want to "target greedy business", hit the phone companies and the cable providers, who make it damn difficult for a small local wireless provider like ourselves to compete. Verizon wants you to purchase a DS-3 to their ATM network to provide DSL, and their wholesale DSL circuit costs are only about $10 less (if even) than their retail price. In some "special promotion" cases, the wholesale cost is less than what they retail it for. Cable companies won't even talk to you if you try to talk to them.

    Now, who is the "big evil commercial interest" here? Us, a small, local wireless-only ISP, or Verizon and Adelphia, big-time companies that can run at a loss for years to hold the little guys back?

    Trust me, our monthly fees barely cover what goes into supporting it. I don't see how someone can provide free wireless without sharing a cable or dsl connection, which providers generally don't allow in their policies.

    Finally, all of these people putting up significant time and money to provide free wireless have to be making money somewhere to support the costs. How are their companies or employers doing anything less evil than we are?
  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Saturday September 14, 2002 @04:50PM (#4257905)
    Why rant about should there be free wireless; rant about there will be free wireless. It just makes sense.

    The secondary profits of providing free wireless access are more than the primary profits of commerical wireless access. A free site tends to have about $500 in fixed costs, $100 per month in variable costs for bandwith at the site, and, well, nothing for billing and back end systems. A commercial site has these costs, plus about $50 per site to keep the back end and user accounts running, plus $10 per user per month in technical support costs. The technical support costs are the killer.

    I chatted with a marketing droid for our local coffee shop's provider. It took him a bit to understand that $20 per month really was the maximum I would pay, that I wouldn't pay more for lighting fast access or access to any of the hundred of so sites nationwide or for special software so that I didn't need to keep a browser window minimized. I have access elsewhere; it's only worth $20 per month. Too bad they have technical support from people trying to get their 802.11(b) card to work under Windows 95/98/98SE/2K/ME/NT/XP/XPpro with NetScape/IE4/IT5/....

    That provider tanked, someone else took over a month later. The coffee house noticed a significant drop during the slow hours when geeks drank coffee and typed on computers. The other coffee house is not as good but had free wireless and I spend $120 in the month I was there.

    Hold it you say, $120 per month for wireless? Well, about $80 per month in profit. I drink a lot of coffee. It's worth more to the coffee shop to provide the wireless point, provide no support, and sell coffee than it will ever be worth to the wireless service provider to deal with billing and customer support for $20 per month.

    Wireless wants to be free, just because it makes more money that way.

  • The MPAA has their own "WarCars" which combat and repress the operators of the free (MPAA: free=bad) wi-fi spreading saturn "war cars".

    The MPAA's "war cars" are Humvees with dual machine guns and radar systems. Deluxe models have "WI-FI" seeking missile launchers.

"Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" -- Looney Tunes, "What's Opera Doc?" (1957, Chuck Jones)

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