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Dan Rutter Suggests Tossing Some Wi-Fi At the Neighbors

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the well-not-in-so-many-words dept.

Communications 225

A few days ago, Dan Rutter (the Dan in "Dan's Data") published an interesting idea for extending the sort of philanthropic technical pranksterism that spawned throwies by applying the same approach to Wi-Fi. That means, looking what he hopes is not too far down the road, creating Wi-Fi repeaters that are cheap enough to deploy on the sly and frugal enough with power to run on solar power or cheaply replaceable batteries. But as he says, "If you've got a lot of spare money, a ladder and no respect for private property, though, you could already be stealthily deploying Open-Mesh or other such gadgets all over your neighbourhood." In some cities at least, you'd be hard pressed to ever avoid at least one available wireless access point, but that's not the experience for most people, most places -- which bears correction.

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Interesting (5, Interesting)

spikedvodka (188722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290614)

It's an interesting idea... but here's the thing I can't see the ISPs letting something like this happening.

Also, what's to prevent somebody from stealing one of the boxes, and causing an outage... or modifying the firmware on one of these boxes to sniff for passwords?

Re:Interesting (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290704)

Whats to say that the open network isn't already sniffing for passwords ect.

Re:Interesting (4, Insightful)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290804)

Also, what's to prevent somebody from stealing one of the boxes,

You need to make sure that the boxes are cheap and plentiful, so that stealing them is about as exciting as stealing a plastic bag from a supermarket.

causing an outage

If it's done right (e.g. using mesh networking technology), breaking just a few nodes should not cause an outage.

Re:Interesting (4, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291030)

You need to make sure that the boxes are cheap and plentiful, so that stealing them is about as exciting as stealing a plastic bag from a supermarket.

How much battery would be required to run something like a WRT54GL at reasonable latitudes assuming the only external power input is solar? I would think that the batteries and solar cells would be the more attractive things to steal, and if you can make them as cheap as plastic bags from a supermarket then you've solved a whole load more problems than community wireless :)

Power issues (3, Interesting)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291324)

I would think that the batteries and solar cells would be the more attractive things to steal, and if you can make them as cheap as plastic bags from a supermarket then you've solved a whole load more problems than community wireless :)

That's a very good point.

I don't think that using solar-powered devices is economically feasible; you really need access to external power.

In cities, there's power in every streetlamp, and we need to find ways to get the municipal authorities to give us access to that, and in every café or restaurant, and we need to explain to café owners that it's just a few watts. In the countryside, there's church towers (at least in Europe), so be nice to your local priest.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290928)

Oh please tell me you use SHTTP for anything where passwords are involved, especially over WiFi!

Re:Interesting (3, Insightful)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291084)

Nobody so far has said anything about your point that ISPs won't like it.

One would hope (yeah, I know...) that people on some kind of open mesh network might think to be a little more secure with their passwords, CC numbers, etc.

For some time, ISPs had clauses in contracts that only allowed a single computer to use a connection. With NAT so easy to implement, they relaxed that stipulation. But if subscribers start providing free internet to their neighbors, and especially if that network gets expanded as per suggestion, ISPs will probably start disconnecting users that abuse their policies.

And sure, people could figure out ways to spoof it, but if the technology is simple enough and the use gets widespread, ISPs will figure out how to detect these networks and get compensation for the misuse.

Re:Interesting (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291380)

But if subscribers start providing free internet to their neighbors, and especially if that network gets expanded as per suggestion, ISPs will probably start disconnecting users that abuse their policies.

And sure, people could figure out ways to spoof it, but if the technology is simple enough and the use gets widespread, ISPs will figure out how to detect these networks and get compensation for the misuse.


I've been wondering about this. If and when mesh networks take off, what do we need the ISPs for? They don't make the net, they still have to get their connections from somewhere, just like we do.

Isn't just about every government in possession and in charge of maintaining part of one of those fat underwater cables that brings and sends the data to other countries? Why should they only let ISPs, universities and other government organizations feed off the teet? Right now we need the ISPs to get that signal and feed it to our homes. But if it doesn't cost the government anything to just let it's citizens get access directly by setting up their own hardware, then why not? And since we wouldn't be using their equipment anymore, what could the ISPs do about it? Sure, they'd bitch and moan about the government eating their "right" to gouge customers, but hopefully we'd ignore them.

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291556)

Dude, there is nothing magic about an ISP. You could pay for a T1 or so and be your own ISP. You can set up your own hardware. Just be prepared to pay for it - the exact same way your ISP does.

Being an ISP is not anything that special. You just have to be willing to pay the costs, deal with the business aspects, deal with the legal aspects, and if you have employees, deal with income tax, unemployment tax, etc.

It's not like being an ISP is something willed or auctioned like season tickets or anything.

You can be an ISP, or even eliminate needing an ISP. All it takes is money.

You see, that is what ISPs provide - they handle all the business side of things and charge individual subscribers some reasonable amount for access through cable, DSL, digital cell access, etc.

Re:Interesting (2, Insightful)

Shajenko42 (627901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291610)

Isn't just about every government in possession and in charge of maintaining part of one of those fat underwater cables that brings and sends the data to other countries? Why should they only let ISPs, universities and other government organizations feed off the teet?
Because ISPs bribe, er, give campaign contributions to important politicians.

Re:Interesting (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291674)

Please see my post above.

You could be an ISP if you wanted to. That's what all that stuff about telcos having to install ISP equipment in their facilities was about.

There is nothing magic about being an ISP. All it takes is money and effort.

If you became an ISP, then you could have your own customers, bribe your own politicians (don't quite understand why, though), and fret about customers stealing bandwith from you so they could set up their own free WiFi networks while they bitch and complain about you.

Private Internet (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291098)

Yeah, but if this was done in large enough numbers, then the need to leave the mesh network for the Internet may not be that often. The end result would be a private Internet built and maintained by the users, not telcos - then we could really go tell the ISPs to get lost.

Re:Private Internet (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291568)

I think that was called FIDONet.

It's a...! (3, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290618)

Make sure to include a nondescript box and some blinking lights in the setup, we wouldn't want anybody to mistake it for any sort of improvised device.

I like it (3, Funny)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290630)

I really like the idea that this guy has, but I hate to think about the crazy ISPs would release on us if people started doing this. They're as bad as the media companies for wanting control over networks. I can just see it now, every repeater that you install is considered a lost sale with potentially thousands of users using it. Cease and desist or we will sue you for one brazillion dollars. Yet another argument for treating the internet like a public utility, just one that you can opt out of if you so choose.

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290646)

Well of course! If more than one person used the connection, they might actually use some of the bandwidth. Wouldn't want that.

Re:I like it (3, Informative)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290664)

Service is intended for one household only. And you're going "OMG GREEDY ISPS!!!" because they want to make money? It's their service! The greedy bastard here, is you. Newsflash: It's not your service. Feel free to make a personal wireless network that doesn't connect to the ISP's network, but don't be stealing their service "just because you can". Bad as the media companies for wanting "control over networks"? Here they'd just stop it because it's people are breaking the terms of agreement. It's NO DIFFERENT THAN COMMON CABLE THEFT. Oh, do you support stealing that, too?

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290718)

Because, of course, none of my tax dollars went into developing and deploying the internet backbone.

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290758)

Particularly not the underlying protocols.

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290976)

Damn you DARPA and my tax money! Damn you!

Re:I like it (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291354)

Because, of course, none of my tax dollars went into developing and deploying the internet backbone.

And you aren't benefiting from those tax dollars?

Just because your (and my) tax dollars helped develop the Internet doesn't mean that you are entitled to steal from your ISP.

With that kind of logic, why isn't it OK to shoplift a router or two at BestBuy? The technology they use was also developed using your tax dollars. How about a spool of Cat5e? Maybe a modem?

I know - why not shoplift your next computer? A whole lot of computer technology was developed during WWII to support the Manhattan Project - again using tax dollars. That makes it OK to steal from the manufacturers now, doesn't it?

Moron.

Re:I like it (4, Insightful)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290770)

Service is intended for one household only.

So? Years back, "service" was intended for one computer. We got ourselves routers because it was quite silly that providers were charging on a per computer basis. It just didn't make sense. Yes, some bits were different, but it were still just that, bits. Story is still the same now.

Re:I like it (4, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291042)

So? Years back, "service" was intended for one computer. We got ourselves routers because it was quite silly that providers were charging on a per computer basis. It just didn't make sense

So they go back to charging you by the megabyte. Full commercial rates for the five to fifteen households you are now servicing.

Re:I like it (3, Insightful)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291198)

Exactly. This is what is going to happen - metered Internet use.

And it will happen because some people abuse their connections and allow others free use of service they are not paying to support. Another pressure to move to metered use is because of file sharing.

But both will cause a change in Internet contracts. Maybe some fixed price as long as users stay below some data level, but tiered pricing after that level based on data transferred. Or even a straight cost per megabyte.

Whenever something good comes along, there will always be those that look for how it can be exploited to their advantage. Eventually the holes will get closed by some kind of draconian measure and everybody will be the worse for it.

Re:I like it (1)

endymion.nz (1093595) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291264)

Here in New Zealand metered internet use is the norm and has been since we stopped using dial up for residential customers of any ISP. You're right, it sucks a lot.

Re:I like it (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291236)

They could, but that would probably be a loss from them. Price per Gigabyte is rather low these days, the current pricing schemes actually benefit ISP's, since 80% of the people is paying for something they don't really use.

Full commercial rates for the five to fifteen households you are now servicing.
Why commercial rates? No-ones mention business use here. Second, just because people share stuff, doesn't mean some is servicing another. I don't even know what "servicing" means in this context?

Re:I like it (1)

phulegart (997083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291262)

We didn't get ourselves routers because it was "silly that providers were charging on a per computer basis"...

We got routers so we could have multiple computers share a single internet pipe that was coming into our homes. It didn't matter if the ISP said something about only one connection=one computer. We definitely did not add the ability for all the computers in our home to get online at the same time, because something was silly.

But I agree with the sentiment in a few posts that if something like what Dan is proposing starts to take off, the ISPs are gonna respond in some nasty ways. Passing out internet access for free to all your neighbors... and all their neighbors... that is practically stealing money from the ISPs.

Re:I like it (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291644)

We got routers so we could have multiple computers share a single internet pipe that was coming into our homes. It didn't matter if the ISP said something about only one connection=one computer.
Then we could have used switches as well. But at least here (Netherlands) we couldn't nor was it allowed (use of routers wasn't even allowed according to the service agreement).

Re:I like it (2, Interesting)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290864)

Service is intended for one household only.

The ISP sells me bandwidth, not service for a household. Also, people don't use Wi-Fi as a substitute for cable. It's much too slow and inconvenient, and service is somewhat sporadic. People use Wi-Fi temporarily, such as when they are at a friend's house, or a coffee shop, or their home modem is malfunctioning. If someone wants and can afford high speed internet access in their home, they will pay for cable or DSL.

I live in a large apartment building, and share my cable service via Wi-Fi. It gets used, but hardly. The amount of bandwidth strangers use on my network is a drop in the bucket compared to what I use.

Re:I like it (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291136)

The ISP sells service with a bandwidth cap for those that use a lot of it and impact others who pay for and expect certain bandwidth levels with their connection.

And a lot of people use WiFi permanently - not temporarily. It isn't so easy to retrofit most houses with ethernet.

What you are doing is rationalizing theft and misuse.

Read your contract. It's what you supposedly agreed to. If you now decide to do as you please, and steal bandwidth for your neighbors because it makes you some kind of hero, you are in violation of your contract (which you agreed to) and are a thief.

I'm sure you and others will probably argue, but if you are operating outside of your contract to give your ISPs services to other people, you are indedd a thief.

Re:I like it (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291702)

Also, people don't use Wi-Fi as a substitute for cable.

really? I'll bet you $100US that MOST home networks are wireless and not wired. Buffy and Joe Sixpack are too lazy and undereducated to run Cat5 all over the house. They buy a Wireless router, plug it in, and then use the wireless for their PERMANENT network wiring in the home. hell MOST brand new homes built today do NOT have any networking wires in them unless the owner asks for it to be installed. (most new home wiring is so half assed it's not funny, but that's a pet-peeve of mine.)

Yes MOST people do this, the non techies outnumber those of you that even know what a Cat5 Cable is 600 to 1.

Re:I like it (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290872)

Service is intended for one household only. And you're going "OMG GREEDY ISPS!!!" because they want to make money? It's their service! The greedy bastard here, is you. Newsflash: It's not your service.

What about people who lease business SDSL and/or T1s?

It's NO DIFFERENT THAN COMMON CABLE THEFT. Oh, do you support stealing that, too?

So is Comcast/Timewarner stealing bandwidth of the websites you visit? Cable service is a one way street. Internet connections are not. It is not actually illegal to share your bandwidth with you neighbor whereas stealing cable is. Yes, it breaks the EULAs but they aren't law and all the ISP can do is terminate your service.

And on a side note... How can they tell if you are sharing on purpose it or your just another one of the many average joe's who don't know how to secure their routers.

Or how can you tell if its your one of your 5 room mates (in the same house) sharing the same connection or the neighbor next door? Does each room mate have to buy their own Comcast connection in that case?

And also... Which is worse for the ISP... Sharing your bandwidth with a neighbor who never would have bought their service and only browses a few web pages just like you or a person who buys their service and maxes out their bandwidth 24/7 with legal Torrents and download services such as Steam and iTunes.

Of course this is the whole argument of Network Neutrality.

There is no simple answer and an analogy to cable stealing doesn't work because bandwidth sharing is not illegal.

Re:I like it (1, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291270)

"It is not actually illegal to share your bandwidth with you neighbor whereas stealing cable is. Yes, it breaks the EULAs but they aren't law and all the ISP can do is terminate your service."

And it is OK for people to just decide that contracts they sign and agree to are no longer valid because???

It really is stealing, moron, and you know it. All you are doing is trying to justify it and find some way to appease what little conscience you might still have.

What is worse for your ISP is that you are depriving it, and its employees, of revenue that could be used to make your own service better, feed their families, etc. It isn't up to you to subvert and deny their legitimate business.

There is a simple answer. What you are doing is wrong. It really is that simple. And your ISP could disconnect your service or even take you to court and sue for lost revenue and damages.

Why is that so hard for people like you to understand? Are you retarded or just stupid?

Re:I like it (1)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291410)

There is a simple answer. What you are doing is wrong. It really is that simple.
If you want to convince anyone, you actually have to provide an argument, rather than simply making a statement.

Re:I like it (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291634)

Wow! Cool! It's neat-O how you took a statement out of my post, ignored the arguments, and then said I should provide an argument if I was to convince anyone.

Maybe you too should read the very last line in my post that you replied to...

Re:I like it (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291706)

Although you are trolling, or should be anyway, under most of the ISP contract terms I've read (which is maybe a half dozen) there are provisions for breach of contract that involve paying early termination fees. And this is for ISP that require contracts rather than just a Terms of Service. Appealing termination fees usually involve arbitration rather than traditional courts, so you are being a bit dramatic.

I live in a rural area that is not serviced by cable or DSL. At my studio I have a WildBlue satellite connection that is whizz fast broadband by the local dial up standards. I run an open WAP. I get a lot of farmers who pull up to use it, the UPS guy, the mail lady, every so often even an actual person who wants to actually pay me for a print. None of these people live in my parking lot and I believe most of them subscribe to one ISP or another at home, so no one is missing out on any revenue.

Am I in violation of your ethical standards with regard to theft from ISPs?

Re:I like it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290892)

If there was a way to get internet access that didn't involve the local ISP, an expensive cell phone data plan, or a billion dollars to roll out my own personal fiber, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

As a customer, I want the ability to go away from my house and still be able to connect to the Internet. We have cell phones, gaming devices, laptops, and all kinds of toys designed to connect to the internet without being at a PC. Having to be within 30 feet of one defeats the purpose, and there are other places I'd like to go besides coffee shops and fast food places that have Wifi to attract customers.

The service that customers are paying for should tailor to their needs and wants. You might say "vote with your dollar!" But how? Neither the cable company nor the DSL company will do this. Hell, the dialup companies don't either. It's expensive to set up a mesh network, but the ISPs should be able to do something about it. Every so often they like to inch the cost of my service up, what else do they spend that money on?

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291038)

Depending on where you live, and the policies of the IXP in your area, rolling out your own personal fiber might actually be possible. A few years ago I chatted with someone who worked at a small IXP that had very lax regulations... From what he told me, if you live in the right location you could run some fiber of your own for around $50-75k. I can't vouch for the accuracy of this, he was just some random guy I met in a bar one night... But if that's true, and I had the money and was in the right location, I would certainly be willing to drop some cash on that. You could easily spend more on a new car, and that's going to depreciate incredibly quickly. If you had that kind of connection, and built up a free wireless network in the area, I could see the property values rising enough to almost pay for itself in time.

Re:I like it (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291476)

The service that customers are paying for should tailor to their needs and wants.

Yeah, and my car should fly and run on water.

What kind of world do you live in that you think the world should cater to your wants and needs? Some things either are not technologically or economically feasible. Maybe they just don't feel like doing it.

If you don't like it, and think you could do a better job, do it. You can be your own ISP if you pay for your own T1 connection. You could share bandwidth with your neighborhood, make arrangements to provide service somehow to your customers that travel (maybe get an 800 number dialup connection), or even negotiate sharing bandwidth with other ISPs so your customers could travel and use high speed somehow.

Too much work? Hmmmm.

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291598)

It's NO DIFFERENT THAN COMMON CABLE THEFT.
No, connecting your computer to a neighbour's network with their permission is not the same thing as splicing into a cable connection without the permission of the cable company.

With "cable theft", somebody receives a service which is not paid for.

With "connection sharing", somebody receives a service which is paid for, with the knowledge and consent of the person paying the bill.

In practical terms, when I buy a service from an ISP, I'm paying for the right to transit and receive up to X bytes per month over the Internet.

It shouldn't matter where those bytes come from. If I transmit a byte which originated in a computer in the house next door, that byte is no less "being paid for" than a byte which originated in a computer in my own house.

By law, any discussion about alleged "theft" must include a car analogy, so here's mine: Arguing that Internet connection sharing is "theft" is like arguing that car sharing is "theft"; three neighbours sharing the use of a single car is exactly the same as two of those neighbours strolling into a car showroom and stealing a car each.

Re:I like it (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291716)

Actually, when they sold it to me they quoted a certain amount of bandwidth and a certain amount of data transfer, per month. The "you've gotta use it all YOURSELF" clause is buried somewhere in the small print. For a reason.

Around here if I set myself up as an ISP (doesn't matter how small) the telco is required to sell me whatever kind of connection I want and I can do whatever I want with it.

Yes, sharing your Internet is different than cable theft. Cable is actually unlimited. If the Internet connection that was fully unlimited, then you'd have a point. As it is, sharing Internet is like sharing your sandwich, except that most people are horribly wasteful and always throw away more than half of their sandwiches.

brazillion (0, Offtopic)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290742)

A brazillion is not a number, as evidenced by this joke:

"
Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"
"

Re:brazillion (1)

mattpointblank (936343) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290812)

Boy, is the parent gonna be embarrassed when he realises that!

Not all ISP's suck (2, Informative)

GeorgeS (11440) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290894)

I use Speakeasy for my service and they actually have a program that allows and encourages you to share your net connection over a wi-fi setup.
They also encourage you to charge for it, but there's no reason why it can't be done for free if you'd like.

http://www.speakeasy.net/netshare/ [speakeasy.net]

Re:Not all ISP's suck (1)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291500)

Hmmm, that's pretty interesting. It seems Speakeasy realizes that you could be sharing the connection with your neighbor without charging them anything, or paying more yourself, so they've found the only legitimate way of earning some revenue from the practice. Free-sharing your connection has a cost now: you're losing the discount you could earn from SpeakEasy sharing. This really seems the best solution for everyone. Anyone notice any negatives?

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291008)

Brazil uses the real [wikipedia.org] , not the "Brazillion dollar" as you seem to think they do.

Re:I like it (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291046)

And phone network companies hate a few of the ideas on this coming from openmoko...

Please don't mention brazillions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291170)

Amazon women on the moon was bad enough. Now there is brazilla?

Does she destroy tokyo before moving onto the network infrastructure, or does she break that fine tradition?

It's a Billing Issue (2, Interesting)

scrib (1277042) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291318)

An unpopular solution would be for ISPs to charge for actual internet usage. Heavy users pay the same amount as people who only check their email every couple days.

If ISPs charged per GB up and down, they'd quickly lose interest in people who shared with a neighbor. It would also discourage use of Sandvine [wikipedia.org] to disrupt file sharing (Linux distros only, of course) because throttling bandwidth would throttle their profits. The marginal cost of bandwidth (for a subscriber) is Zero, so consumption is unrestrained.

People would have to be more careful securing their wireless, but they would also recognize that bandwidth is a commodity that costs money to provide. If you want to be a philanthropist under those conditions, go ahead! As it is, sharing a connection forces the ISP to be the philanthropist. (I'm not saying that's bad, mind you.)

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291402)

There's actually a project exactly dealing with this issue in Germany and other countries. There are a few router on which you can patch the firmware and get them linked up. Check out http://start.freifunk.net/ [freifunk.net] or http://global.freifunk.net/ [freifunk.net]

Re:I like it (1)

crack_vial (572312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291720)

Well, that is just it. No need to connect to the "internet". Roll your own! Connect up neighborhoods and eventually the world.

Wow, this is (not) brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290642)

"If you've got a lot of spare money, a ladder and no respect for private property,

I love any plan that starts with "If you've got a lot of spare money"...

(Not to mention a lot of spare bandwidth...)

But then it occurred to me that autonomous, solar powered, close-to-free Wi-Fi repeaters would be a much cooler idea. You could throw 'em around at random,... At the moment, no such thing exists.

The technology doesn't exist? Even better!

Re:Wow, this is (not) brilliant! (0, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290782)

Hey, don't underestimate the value of the play action fake [wikipedia.org]

Cool (1)

cloakable (885764) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290644)

I've been wanting to try doing something like this, to make a large, community intranet. Perhaps no need for an internet connection, but internal DNS, DHCP, web and possibly email.

Re:Cool (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290826)

I've been wanting to try doing something like this, to make a large, community intranet. Perhaps no need for an internet connection, but internal DNS, DHCP, web and possibly email.

Like an old school BBS but on wireless and without the internet?

I don't know how feasible or useful it would be, but the thought of the geekdom recreating the BBS days without the rest of the commercial internet is tantalizing.

Personally, I'd be willing to buy a router that relays for this purpose only to extend the mesh but not actually volunteer my paid ISP bandwidth or actually hook up any computers to bridge the two networks.

Of course, I think the biggest problem is the fact there won't be that many people in range and some people will have to set up tunnels to bridge the gaps between the mesh areas.

Still its a cool idea... Anyone know of existing projects in metropolitan areas?

Re:Cool (3, Interesting)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290884)

I've been wanting to try doing something like this, to make a large, community intranet.

...

Personally, I'd be willing to buy a router that relays for this purpose only to extend the mesh but not actually volunteer my paid ISP bandwidth or actually hook up any computers to bridge the two networks.

We, in Paris [jussieu.fr] , have been experimenting with just such a network, based on a dynamic mesh routing protocol (Babel [jussieu.fr] ) and an autoconfiguration protocol similar to DHCP (AHCP [jussieu.fr] ).

The results are mixed. On the one hand, a lot of geeky types turn out to be willing to volunteer their (paid-for) ADSL line and even to buy a router with their own pennies. On the other hand, normal users are not willing to install software they don't understand -- they just want to use a normal AP, and don't understand why they need to install extra software just to use the Internet.

some people will have to set up tunnels to bridge the gaps between the mesh areas.

Yes, that's exactly what we are doing. Unfortunately, setting up tunnels (VPNs) is complicated and error-prone, and existing VPN software are designed with static routing in mind. We're actually thinking of designing our own VPN implementation that is convenient to use with dynamic routing protocols.

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290932)

Personally, I'd be willing to buy a router that relays for this purpose only to extend the mesh but not actually volunteer my paid ISP bandwidth or actually hook up any computers to bridge the two networks.
Sounds even better. Just imagine a ton of community-operated networks all over the place, that didn't peer with the current Internet at any point (just with each other). I should point out that I'm imagining high-bandwidth fiber connections between these networks.

This really does seem like a decent idea: Give every country a ton of IPv6 addresses, have them divide those between their states/provinces, and then the states/provinces could keep registries of people running ISPs. It would really lower the barrier to entry with so few cables needing to be laid.

Basic common law principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290660)

Basic principle of law:
If your apple tree drops apples on my lawn, I'm allowed to eat them.

Re:Basic common law principle (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290762)

And if my dog poops on your lawn, feel free to eat that too.

Re:Basic common law principle (2, Funny)

jasomenaso (1042348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291666)

Basic principle of law: If your apple tree drops apples on my lawn, I'm allowed to eat them.

I am not sure that "basic principle" holds up in Australia.

I am pretty sure the legal thing to do in this circumstance is to return it to your neighbour

Of course, in the USA I guess standard legal practice is to moan and whinge, go on TV about it, then take your neighbour to court for their tree dropping an apple that was just a tad over-ripe, contributing to your dental decay.

"hardhack"? (1)

crenshawsgc (1228894) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290666)

I know that the word "hack" is cool, and now we have words like lifehack and hardhack. But what about this has anything to do with the "hack" part? Are we now reduced to using words just because theyre cool?

Re:"hardhack"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290698)

Hacking refers to any act which involves using a device or object for more than its originally intended purposes, so "hack" is perfectly acceptable here.

Re:"hardhack"? (4, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290768)

Using wi-fi hardware to make a wi-fi network is hacking now?

Re:"hardhack"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290806)

Are we now reduced to using words just because theyre cool?
Yes and no. "We" have always been doing this.

ISPs (2, Interesting)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290680)

I still wonder if it would be workable for an ISP to supply a router which gives the owner priority over the bandwidth but allows any subscriber to connect (only) to the internet.

For the consumer it's a mutual benefit, I make my bandwidth open to fellow customers and they do the same for me. The ISP wins from having a better service to attract customers, and also from wifi-only subscribers. The latter may also make for cost/price competitiveness, since you have more subscribers per physical connection.

Re:ISPs (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290732)

I'm sorry, are you from the past?

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=fon&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

Stealing & More (3, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290682)

I know the slashdot crowd is a big fan of free things, aren't we all, but when you sign on for internet you agree it's for your household, apartment, or whatever, not for you to provide publicly (even though many people inadvertently do with unsecured wireless networks).

Just like you can't steal cable or run a cable over to your neighbor's, you can't steal internet service either.

Likewise, when someone pirates something using your network, the person getting sued will probably be the person that pays the bill--you. And just think what would happen if someone downloads child pornography on your connection...!

Re:Stealing & More (1)

davidpbrown (757067) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290848)

The problem of identifying end users shouldn't prohibit innovative valid use of technology.. for all Big Brother's wanting to monitor us and for all the stupidity of people who believe the public must be controlled. Big Brother should work in the background not be changing the nature of the society it is supposed to support and work on behalf of.

We are not, despite what you may think simple Mindless Automata.

Re:Stealing & More (2, Insightful)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290886)

when you sign on for internet you agree it's for your household, apartment, or whatever, not for you to provide publicly
Not necessarily true, but even where it is they can, frankly, bite me. Since they sell unlimited bandwidth and then put in teeny small print to say, effectively "unlimited does not mean unlimited" I don't have much of a problem with ignoring their unnecessary restrictions. Remember, this is a breach of contract at worst.

My electricity and water suppliers are not able to put these restrictive terms into their contracts, I see no reason why I should respect the internet suppliers' attempts to do so.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290994)

I think in Australia (and, being slashdot, someone will correct me if i'm wrong :), you need a carrier license to supply a communication service to the public.

Also, I think ISP's can't advertise something like 'Unlimited', and then add conditions in small print. The conditions have to be as visible as the 'Unlimited' text, although i'm less certain about that one... it may have been a proposed law.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291024)

In the UK that's precisely what they do. For example, grabbed from Tiscali's site:

Unlimited downloads. This great value package offers you unlimited downloads every month. Download movies and music, play games online, watch video clips and listen to the radio. Fair usage policy applies.
It is not "Unlimited downloads" if a "fair usage policy" says it's limited.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

kingturkey (930819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291112)

I don't know about the font size part, but it wasn't a law. The ACCC (government competition body) sued Telstra for using the term 'unlimited' as it was misleading. It was a breach of the Trade Practices Act. As far as I'm aware, ISPs aren't allowed to call their plans unlimited at all, unless they actually are.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

jasomenaso (1042348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291426)

In Australia you will be classified as a carrier if you *charge* for provision of the service. If I say "take my bandwidth" to a brazillion strangers that is no issue.

Also, in Australia the majority of ISP's still charge by the gigabyte. (Honestly it makes sense.) The ISP's are not going to get ripped off by me sharing my bandwidth across the neighbourhood. I'll get a massive bill and/or speed-capped.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291032)

Restrictions on watering outdoor plants are common in utility service agreements(in areas with water supply issues). That is, they sell the water for a specific purpose and you will get a big fine if you use it contrary to the sale.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291166)

The problem is that "unlimited" is kind of like a buffet. Just because you can go back as often as you want doesn't mean it's right for you to give someone else a plate and tell them to eat as much as they want too on your buffet entry fee, unless you pay for their use of the buffet too.

Electricity and water, as far as I know, is usually not put on "unlimited" plans. You pay for every gallon and every kWhr consumed. You don't pay by the MB, GB or anything like that.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291360)

Don't be fooled by marketing.

You don't pay by the MB, GB or anything like that.
Unless your "unlimited" policy really is unlimited, yes you do. They just market it as if it weren't true, and you can't pay less in return for using less than the fixed amount that they're selling you.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

jasomenaso (1042348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291490)

Electricity and water, as far as I know, is usually not put on "unlimited" plans. You pay for every gallon and every kWhr consumed. You don't pay by the MB, GB or anything like that.
Erm in Australia most plans are still pay by the MB, GB - exactly like that.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

jrob323 (931808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291208)

There's no reason the power or water company would care if you supplied your neighbors, since you pay based on the amount you use. In that respect, cable tv, phone, internet etc are really delivered in more of a service model. If wi-fi 'meshing' is something customers begin to insist on, maybe the business model will change to accommodate it? Technically inclined customers can obviously drive this kind of change. I remember when you payed extra for phone service for additional phones (ringer equivalency number lost its meaning when electronic phones came out).. ditto cable tv.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

Annoid (1160621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290948)

Have to agree with this point of view. Your ISP's acceptable use policy probably does NOT give you the right to resell or share your connection.

If you want wireless, buy it.

The same logic applies to CD's, movies, etc.

What if it was the product of YOUR work that was being stolen; YOU weren't being paid for your work? Still think stealing it is ok?

Re:Stealing & More (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290982)

As a matter of fact it is and I can't say it bothers me very much. I dare say my publishers feel differently.

Re:Stealing & More (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291348)

The same thing happens everytime there's an article here about free wifi.

  • Some People are all for it
  • People give reasons why it won't work.
  • In the US CALEA [calea.org] is the law and demands that you be able to provide real time wire sniffing to anyone on the last hop. If you provide wifi, that's now your responsibility. A $10,000 a day non compliance responsibility.
  • How do you keep from being in trouble with the RIAA, MPAA, etc

It's a neat idea, and I hope people keep tinkering. However we also need to push the legal side and get the various big brother provisions of the law removed.

Re:Stealing & More (2, Insightful)

delt0r (999393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291600)

I provide a free access point. Its not against my ISP rules. There are 2 "AC" using it right now.

Just because in your area the ISP are wankers does not mean they all are.

X-Prise for this? (1)

randomErr (172078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290796)

So how much money would take to inspire a hacker to actually make something like and publish the schematics? I've been toying with the idea fo starting a foundation similar to the X-prise only on a smaller scale. So would $100 be enough?

Isn't this, essentially, what FON already do? (3, Informative)

SteveDob (449830) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290842)

My UK ISP already provide for 'municipal' wi-fi via an affiliation with FON. By opening up part of my spectrum, I get to piggyback my mobile devices on some other member's wi-fi when I need to.

The only additional item here seems to be not getting ISP permission to do what they are happy to give permission for anyway. Rebellion this isn't.

Re:Isn't this, essentially, what FON already do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290904)

not getting ISP permission to do what they are happy to give permission for anyway. Rebellion this isn't.

Back when Shuttle PCs first came out, I had thought of something slightly related: making a non-internet-connected wireless network, running what was basically a local craigslist-type site for small towns (perhaps using DNS tricks to redirect every request to that webserver).

Back then, we didn't have these new fangled wireless mesh things you younguns have, so I figured the tiny shuttle computer could easily be installed in a nook every few blocks, but someone would have to drive around town to update each of these sites with the latest news from city hall, the local church, for sale notices, etc. I realized pretty quickly that this was just pointless, but having an actual wireless mesh could revitalize that idea.

until someone loads questionable content (2, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290880)

that the police trace back to your ISP connection. They won't care that you had an open WiFi, all they'll know is that some pr0n, bomb-making literature, racist/hate traffic appeared on the internet and it was your IP address that was the source. You thought the RIAA was bad, wait until DHS gets on your case.

Bleat all you like about "helping the community" or philanthropy or whatever you like. This is a naive attitude - similar to leaving your garage door open and then claiming "it's not mine" when stolen goods are found inside.

Anyway, if these devices are so cheap that you can afford to leave them out in the open (until they die, suddenly the firt time it rains), then your neighbours can afford to by one themselves.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (1)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290902)

You want to make sure that traffic from the mesh network does not use your IP address, but one of the addresses assigned to the mesh network. This is not difficult to achieve, it just requires tunnels and careful design of your routing.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (0, Troll)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291004)

... and when one of your neighbours comes banging on your front door because their child has used your mesh network to circumvent their parental controls to download smut. What's your answer then?

Re:until someone loads questionable content (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291252)

Who cares, that's not really your problem. They can parent their own child which includes monitoring what they're doing not just hoping technology will do it all for them.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (1)

jim.hansson (1181963) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291372)

happy to be at services, then I tell them they obvisuly has a very bright child, should try to get the child to take some computer classes.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (1)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291526)

I tell them that I'd be happy to teach the child other methods of circumventing the parental controls.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23291006)

"This is a naive attitude - similar to leaving your garage door open and then claiming "it's not mine" when stolen goods are found inside."

You have a very warped mind, if you think I lock my garage door to keep thieves from leaving stolen goodies in my garage overnight.

Re:until someone loads questionable content (1)

fuego451 (958976) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291532)

Exactly! Which is why I finally decided to lock down my router last night, due to paranoia. I live in a new development where homes average 30 meters apart with no big trees or other obstructions so my router has pretty good reach. Most of my neighbors have the same ISP I do, which gives you an ADSL modem/router combo (I see four 'admin' and a 'linksys' AP's), but apparently these folks have no idea what AP they are connecting to and, somehow, mine was the first choice. I guess they liked the essid I chose, no_carrier.

Nice, but inconsistent with ISP bandwidth capping (1)

The Mutant (167716) | more than 6 years ago | (#23290980)

Sure, I'd love to be able to grab some 'Net time wherever I am, but the simple fact is (at least in the UK) ISP's are pretty aggressively putting bandwidth caps in place.

I installed a second wireless router upstairs to double the coverage in our flat, but only enabled WEP at the outset (yeh, I know); someone cracked the password and helped themselves to 6GB of download in one week.

Result? Virgin capped us down to dial up speeds for two weeks.

Nice one that, thanks for (ab)using my bandwidth.

So given that some people will abuse a resource, I don't see this happening - at least in the intermediate term.

My repeater setup to my neighbour (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23290998)

I have an edimax access point which was cheap and works as a repeater and access point at the same time. So I have it on the corner of my barn with a cheapo 9dbi omni-directional antenna. It picks up the internet from my router in my house and resends it around the barns corner to my neighbor who only really does some email when home from work so saves 300 dollars a year or so by not having a connection and it makes no difference to me. Cost about 50 dollars to set up all in new plus five dollars a year electricity. Compared to the big name repeaters with wds which seem very picky to what devices they repeat it really is great. I'm not sure why more devices don't have universal repeater modes, its much easier.

http://www.open-mesh.com/store/ is has tempting devices with more control. Doesn't mention duplex though. Most of these things, like my edimax, cut the signal in half as they can't send and recieve at the same time so a long chain of them would start to degrade. Also, as with all wifi, in reality you have to be carefull getting all your lines of sight just right to work. Any leafy tree branch or anything and it all falls apart.

So all in all if you just want to get your signal around the corner or something an edimax like mine and an ebay cheapo antenna is a stress free way. If I hadn't had a convenient power socket it would have been harder of course.

Sounds good to me (1)

khrath (782494) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291158)

Sounds like a great idea to me. Extending your footprint to allow yourself to have access anywhere you go in your own neighborhood isn't illegal, neither is leaving your wireless network unsecured. If you went out of your way to let all your neighbors know they could use your wifi, that would make you accountable for anything they do on it like pirating, but if you don't say anything and just leave it open, then anything they do isn't being done with your authorization, so you can just claim Plausible deniability because someone was using your service without your permission.

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

jasomenaso (1042348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291594)

Sounds like a great idea to me. Extending your footprint to allow yourself to have access anywhere you go in your own neighborhood isn't illegal, neither is leaving your wireless network unsecured. If you went out of your way to let all your neighbors know they could use your wifi, that would make you accountable for anything they do on it like pirating, but if you don't say anything and just leave it open, then anything they do isn't being done with your authorization, so you can just claim Plausible deniability because someone was using your service without your permission.

Claiming plausible deniability is good and all.

Assuming the folk that are

  • - knocking down your door in the early hours of the morning doing a kiddy-porn raid, and
  • - hauling your handcuffed ass out in front of the waiting press

care about plausible deniability might be a little naive.

When you win your court case due to the plausible deniability factor, but you've lost your job, defaulted on your house, have been bashed/raped in goal whilst waiting for bail (denied - 'wont someone think of the children') I am sure you won't feel it was such a great idea.

Re:Sounds good to me (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291668)

so you can just claim Plausible deniability because someone was using your service without your permission.

What everybody fails to grasp is this: if you're ever been merely accused of something the powers-that-be don't like (child pornography, "terrorist" materials, whatever) they're not going to listen to your plaintive cries of "but it's an open access point." They don't care as long as they can be publicly seen to be doing their jobs. Odds are the grunts arresting you won't know an access point from Adam, and they'll haul your ass off to jail as a matter of principle. Then, if you have a very good lawyer and are lucky enough to come before a tech-savvy judge (and don't count on that) you might have some form of viable defense. Then again, you might not, and could end up serving ten years to life. Either way, you've been seriously boned up the ass and for what? Giving your cheap-ass neighbor his jollies?

So, don't assume the cops or the Justice System will be reasonable about any of this, or even grasp the fundamental technical aspects of modern communications. They will take the simplest approach, which is it was your I.P. that was active when the offensive/illegal materials were downloaded, and even if it was someone else who did it it was still your equipment that was used. That wouldn't remotely constitute proof to an engineer, but so far lawyers have had a field day with it.

Bottom line, secure your access point as tightly as you can, and if you're going to download anything "questionable" do it through an encrypted anonymous service like Tor, and hope that that is sufficient to protect you. God help you if it's not, because nobody else will.

hmmm.... (1)

JoshEanes (1172285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23291572)

Wifi Philanthropist: "If you've got a lot of spare money, a ladder and no respect for private property" Cat Burglar: "If you've got no spare money, a ladder and no respect for private property" hmmmm.... interesting comparison.
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