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O'Reilly Network: Recipe for a Linux 802.11b Home Network

Mar 10, 2001, 12:00 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Schuyler Erle)

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"...Needless to say, it wasn't long before I started thinking about other applications for this technology. I wanted Net access on my notebook computer from anywhere in or near my apartment, too. I started thinking about how I might control my stereo. I envisioned working on my laptop at a little garden table on a beautiful day under a stand of trees on my property, while birds chirp, leaves rustle, a light breeze wafts by, and one of Beethoven's symphonies blares from my window at, say, 80 dB. Freude! Naturally, the IEEE 802.11b wireless networking standard was the logical candidate for a means of implementing this nefarious scheme."

"However, OEM wireless "residential gateway" hardware isn't exactly cheap, running into the hundreds of dollars and even thousands before you even start thinking about radios for the portables. And bona fide access points are even pricier. Why go to all that expense, I reasoned, when hardware that's gathering dust in my friends' closets -- hardware that they're not using, and would part with for nothing -- will do the job just as well, with only a little extra effort on my part. People have been using free operating systems to build dedicated firewalls and routers on i386 and i486 machines for years. Why not add wireless?"

"So I set about about building a wireless gateway using Linux, 802.11b, and an old PC. The project was a stunning success. Doing it right took some research, and a bit of trial-and-error, but it seemed to me that, in the end, the task was straightforward enough that anyone with the right hardware and a little know-how could easily replicate our results. Therefore I've endeavored to produce my "recipe" for an 802.11b gateway for you to follow at home. (It didn't hurt that my manager, Peter, was interested in building one for his house.) Those of you who own the home version of our show should be able to play along."

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