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Wireless APs in Homebrew Coffee Shops?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the instant-cybercybercafe:-just-add-water dept.

Wireless Networking 523

An anonymous reader writes "Having seen lots of complaints about the overpriced T-Mobile Wireless APs in Starbucks ($10/hr) got me thinking about setting up a wireless AP for the small, family-owned coffeeshop in my town under the tip jar model. I'm assuming ~$100 for the router, ~$500 for a PC to use to control quotas (to prevent over-zealous Kazaa users, block spammers and script kiddies and other would-be abusers) - but what software should I be using? Do enough people have 802.11a/g cards that it would be worth it to invest in that rather than an 802.11b router?" Has anyone considered making a Linux distribution for use by cybercafes, to handle wireless access and anything else such an outfit might need?

"Since this is a medium (50,000-ish) size town, and pretty much everyone in the coffee shop is a regular, would a tip jar model work? I'm figuring suggest a donation - what should I set that at?

Finally, keep in mind that the owner is not a geek - I'd be doing this when not studying (I'm a college student), so this would be set up over the summer, and most of the maintenance would be done on the weekends and/or via SSH.

Any other thoughts would be appreciated."

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523 comments

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FP! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828253)

FP! W00T!

Check out Austin wireless (5, Informative)

yar (170650) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828263)

http://www.austinwireless.net/cgi-bin/index.cgi
T hey've got several low-cost setups all around the Austin area.

Check out the Jihad (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828286)

wep key on receipt! (4, Insightful)

realyendor (32515) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828270)

Print the WEP key on the receipt, and change it daily.

Re:wep key on receipt! (2, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828290)

That's a great idea for us geeks, but too complex for the average Joe.

Tech support would eat up too much time.

Re:wep key on receipt! (5, Interesting)

Golias (176380) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828308)

Anybody wired enough to feel they need their laptop with them when they are drinking coffee at a mom & pop cafe is probably one of us geeks... at least, enough of one to know how to set a WEP key.

I think your estimates are way too high (5, Insightful)

IronTek (153138) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828271)

You can get 802.11b routers for 20 bucks AR now (and why bother with g if it's a tip-jar method).

Further, it probably doesn't even require $500 for a PC capable enough to do the job...if you have any computer shows in your area, you could probably just pick up an old (but reasonably loaded) PIII box for ~$100-$150.

With those kinds of prices, the coffee shop should go for it!

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (2, Informative)

The One KEA (707661) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828294)

That sounds reasonable - I run a dedicated Linux firewall on a P-!!! 933MHz with 512MB PC133 SDRAM on a Soyo SY-7VEM, and it works quite nicely as a firewall, Samba master browser and DNS server. The processor, mobo, and case (with PSU) came out to approx. $300, IIRC.

The parent was right - try going to a nearby computer show, you'll probably find something fairly cheap that will do the trick.

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (5, Funny)

Golias (176380) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828339)

Or, for that matter, pick up a used X-Box for about $125 and use the 007 hack to load Linux on it. Then you don't have a PC tower taking up precious restaurant space, just a tiny game console tucked under the counter somewhere.

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (0, Funny)

Hanji (626246) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828462)

... just a tiny game console...
XBox. Tiny Game Console. Riiiiiight....

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (5, Informative)

tallman68 (586637) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828371)

Might as well stick with b, if a b/g radio sees a b signal, the speed drops for all. Unless you hard set it to "g-only" then you lose most of your "customers".

Unless you want to put in 2 radios, but this is tip jar.

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (1)

HermanZA (633358) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828401)

Yup, no need for a PC. Just use a proper AP and disable ports 25 and 110 to block e-mail spammers. This will cost about $60 or so, plus a high speed modem and $10 pm for net access.

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (1)

aldoman (670791) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828469)

That will also block anyone sending or recieving POP3 email - which is likley to be quite a lot of your client base. However, I'd just get a Wireless access point with a MAC filtering blacklist so you can ban anyone spamming, using kazaa too much from the network...

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (4, Informative)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828405)

Further, it probably doesn't even require $500 for a PC capable enough to do the job...if you have any computer shows in your area, you could probably just pick up an old (but reasonably loaded) PIII box for ~$100-$150.

One caveat, however, which has bitten me on the ass before. Some wireless cards (esp. ones made by D-Link) are designed for use with PCI 2 compliant motherboards. Unfortunately, most Pentium III motherboards are based on PCI 1, and won't even "see" a PCI 2 card. Accordingly, before you shell out on a 802.11b PCI card, check that it will work in your "legacy" machine.

Re:I think your estimates are way too high (5, Interesting)

djqed (640717) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828443)

I don't even think the coffee shop would need to charge anything for it - no tip jar or anything. I go regularly to a cafe in my city (SF) which has free WiFi. The cafe is nearly always comfortably full - not impossible to get a table, but most seats are taken. Meanwhile, other cafes around town which charge for access or have no access at all are nearly empty during a weekday. I think the increased business from having the service would pay for itself in one or two days of extra sales. You could argue that WiFi encourages people to sit there for hours on 1 coffee, but personally if I'm there for a few hours or more I get a sandwich and a cookie in addition to my 2 drinks, which I would never pay for at this coffee shop otherwise.

router (3, Informative)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828272)

Well....figure on it this way. Each router or access point does not give 11mb (more like 3-6mb in actuality) to each node, but they end up sharing it. I suggest you invest in a switch, a regular router and some access points.

Re:router (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828331)

Except with normal web surfing you shouldn't have use for that much bandwidth.

Most DSL and Cable modem are only offered at 1.5Mb - 3.0Mb. It's not really worth worrying about when the chockpoint is not the AP but the Internet connection.

Re:router (5, Insightful)

Rhys (96510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828374)

Figure it's all going through a 150kb uplink and you're worried about the wireless bandwidth?

No PC (1)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828276)

Try without the quotas and stuff first, perhaps bandwidth hogs won't be a problem. This way you don't have to buy a PC. Or perhaps there are routers with these functions built in?

Re:No PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828376)

Plus, this being a small cafe, it's not the same problem as a city block sharing a digital cable line. If anybody is hogging bandwidth, you can just tap them on the shoulder and tell them to knock it off.

Re:No PC (5, Insightful)

Graff (532189) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828458)

If anybody is hogging bandwidth, you can just tap them on the shoulder and tell them to knock it off.

Except when the hog is a neighbor who has discovered the free access and is running a Kazaa file sharing client or doing some other high-bandwidth use activity. Remember, this is wireless - the person using the bandwidth might not always be visible to you.

Re:No PC (1)

toganet (176363) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828439)

Yeah -- the Uniden wireless router I just got for $20 AR has 'parental access controls' built in -- they let you block certain sites, subnets, etc, and it has packet filtering and port-forwarding, so you could block certain ports or whatever.

cafe software (2, Interesting)

computerme (655703) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828280)

this is not exaclty what you asked for but if you start to add more internet stations to the mix maybe you will need something like this:

http://www.baspe.com/baspecafe.html

Re:cafe software (2, Interesting)

tindur (658483) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828448)

My mother has a small cafe and she is getting an ADSL line there. Does a solution exist for putting Linux and a browser on a pc so that the guests could surf but not do any harm? Could you start a browser instead of a window manager? Would if be possible to use codes for surfing? You wouldn't want any one person to hog the machine...

Where is TrollKore? GNAA? I'm disappointed. (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828281)

I was hoping for an all out FP war as was apparently scheduled today.

What's next? (0, Funny)

Craig3010 (634402) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828283)

Bluetooth at the local crack den?

Bluetooth? (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828415)

More like Notooth.

consider g (1)

glucoseboy (686200) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828289)

I would consider g because of the higher bandwidth support. That higher bandwidth should translate into supporting more simulatneous users in the coffee shop. Assuming of course that the ISP connection is relatively high.

Re:consider g (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828428)

I fuckin doubt he's got a T3 or better into the coffee shop. If its DSL or Cable that'll be capped under 6Mbps, so I don't think the wirless bandwidth is an issue.

Try Sputnik... (2, Informative)

drdreff (715277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828291)

http://www.sputnik.com/ has more of what they are doing now, but 18 months ago I was using their boot-cd linux distro on a laptop to create an AP.

nocat.net has exactly what you need (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828293)

The later versions even do throttling.

Keep it simple. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828295)

Speaking as a small-town WISP, I'd recommend that the coffee shop owner look at it as an advertising expense, and don't bother charging. And from a technical perspective, don't bother with bandwidth throttling, either. Just stick with 802.11b at first, too. See if it makes any difference to the shop's bottom line. If the owner thinks it's valuable, they'll keep it. If you fiddle with it endlessly, they won't see the value.

Kazaa? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828298)

I'd block Kazaa altogether. Freedom of whatever, blah, blah, but you're setting yourself up for legal action if you're knowingly letting your customers do this... and they're eating YOUR bandwidth for free.

Personally, I'd use OpenBSD to do the firewalling/routing.

HOWEVER, DO NOT USE AN OPEN AP --- FORGET WEP KEYS TOO!

Set up a proxy server for all net access. Rotate the UN/PW combo and as someone else similarly suggested, PRINT THE PROXY SERVER PW on the receipt. This way you'll be protected from MALICIOUS WARDRIVERS.

Re:Kazaa? (1)

sgtron (35704) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828377)

he's not setting himself up for anything but angry customers if he starts blocking kazaa. he has nothing to fear from the riaa/mpaa/etal.. since he would be given common carrier status and therefore be immune.."I don't know what they do with the internet.. I provide it, they pay for it, after that I don't know or care what they do"..

Your proxy server idea is good though.

Re:Kazaa? (1)

mdpye (687533) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828459)

Kazaa is a pretty bad thing to have on your network though, one running instance with no active "traffic" regularly swarms our home network and makes it *very* difficult for any real traffic. Now in this case I just tend to go downstairs and kill the offending kazaam, or just unplug him from the switch if I'm feeling lazy (you can tell who it is by the LED which is blinking like a strobe...), but if people are payingt then there's going to be trouble...

MP

Wardriving without coffee?!!? (1)

coldnight (12780) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828464)

Set up a proxy server for all net access. Rotate the UN/PW combo and as someone else similarly suggested, PRINT THE PROXY SERVER PW on the receipt. This way you'll be protected from MALICIOUS WARDRIVERS.

Does this mean you go war-driving without coffee??! What are yo thinking?!!? :)

802.11b for compatability (3, Insightful)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828301)

Even if a lot of people have 802.11a/g cards, you'd probably be best served with 802.11b equipment. It's compatible with the most systems, and serving up broadband to multiple users, you'll probably still have a hard time saturating it to a noticible degree in a coffee shop setting.
Just my $0.02

Re:802.11b for compatability (1, Insightful)

StarManta (692541) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828419)

On a side note, g IS compatible with both a and b... but if my college cafeteria is any indication, only a small portion of users will bring their laptop to eat/drink with them. (I'm often the only one in the 200+ person cafeteria with his laptop open, and this is in a school where most students are *required* to have apple laptops with airport.) So, because of the small number of people using it, you probably wouldn't notice a difference between b and g in bandwidth. I'd go with b.

don't buy expensive hardware, get refurb for cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828302)

$500? Heck, you should be able to get a 500 MHz machine with onboard ethernet, which companies are throwing away these days, for $150. Pop in a $10 ethernet card and install IPCop and you're good to go.

But what would you call it? (3, Funny)

madgeorge (632496) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828311)

Java Desktop System is taken, I believe. :)

I've done something similar... (3, Informative)

Binestar (28861) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828312)

You can do what you are looking to do very inexpensively (not counting time) if you get a Linux supported PCMCIA card and a Toshiba SG-20. The SG-20's are available for ~$200 (Cheaper on ebay I'm sure) and they have a built in 7 port hub, 1 external interface, and a PCMCIA slot which you can put the wireless card into and setup an ad-hoc network for wireless users.

I currently use the SG-20's for a managed firewall solution for small businesses which I run Gentoo on. (You can substitute your Distribution of choice of course)

$500?! Are you nuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828316)

Just get an older computer (200-500 mhz), setup IPCop [sourceforge.net] with some bandwidth shaping [surestorm.com] and throttle those ports down. Heck, I'd even firewall it to maybe web, mail (pop3/imap, no smtp), aim/icq/msn/irc, and possibly ssh. The next version of IPCop will be even better for wireless setups. For hardware, consider something like the Netgear WAG311 [netgear.com] "dual band" adapter, and cover all the bases.

Some thoughts here (1)

dzym (544085) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828321)

Get a decent dual-mode A/G or tri-mode A/B/G access point, and skimp a bit on the computer hardware.

I would be surprised if you couldn't bring the price down to around $300 in total.

You can set up a NAT/firewall easily enough using iptables on any 2.4 kernel'd linux, but I'm not sure how you could handle quotas and I've never ever figured out traffic-shaping in linux--and I doubt many have.

Re: Popularity (2, Informative)

Silverkm (562018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828322)

What kind of popularity are you expecting?
20 people sharing a single dsl/cable line would not be very practical, so you would have to factor in the cost of a faster internet connection.

Do enough people have 802.11a/g

If you go with 802.11g router it will support both b/g and if you go for a 802.11b router, almost all 802.11g cards will support it.
Although, 802.11g built in cards, (most new notebooks) from my experiance have a hard time connecting to 802.11b. As for 802.11a, forget it, because no one will have a card for this, and it's rare that there is any compatability, because it using the 5 ghz frequency

Re: Popularity (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828445)

Although, 802.11g built in cards, (most new notebooks) from my experiance have a hard time connecting to 802.11b.
Do you have an example of this?
I have a Centrino notebook and it has no problem connecting to my LinkSys WAP11b at home or the Cisco (don't know model off hand) b at work. I was under the impression that almost all g/b can connect to each other...

Building Wireless Community Networks (4, Informative)

aheath (628369) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828325)

O'Reilly Associates [oreilly.com] has a book on this topic called Building Wireless Community Networks [yahoo.com] . The Second Editon was published last June. The ISBN is 0-596-00502-4.

I have not read the book, but I have looked at the table of contents and the index. The book looks to be a designed to answer many of the questions that you have asked. Hopefully someone on Slashdot has read the book and can tell you if it will help you in your effort to set up a wireless network at your local coffee shop.

use a FreeBSD Access Point (5, Informative)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828326)

Get a WiFi card (I got a Netgear MA311 refurb from Fry's for 30$), an old PC, configure it running FreeBSD to serve as an access point for your wireless network. Here's a great HOWTO:

Configuring a FreeBSD Access Point for Your Wireless Network [samag.com]

CB

NoCAT (0)

veskoteque (513522) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828328)

NoCAT is a nice tool that is available for exactly that kind of project.

Coffee shop distro (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828330)

Has anyone considered making a Linux distribution for use by cybercafes, to handle wireless access and anything else such an outfit might need?

Do you really think your average barista is going to want to deal with Linux when something goes awry?

No point in creating such a distro. Your average Mom and Pop coffee shop isn't going to be able to afford the massive cost of maintaining a Linux system for wireless access, nor will they want to invest the time in going through obscure and poorly written HOWTOs.

No, they are much more likely to invest in Windows 2003 and have it up and running in 5 minutes. Plus, they'll have a system that they won't need to hire an expert to troubleshoot.

Sometimes /. loses sight of the fact that Linux is still a niche OS that isn't appealing to people who take showers and have healthy social lives.

Re:Coffee shop distro (1)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828409)

incorrect, he stated that he wanted to build it himself, and then do troubleshooting via SSH whenever it was needed. If you follow a simple HOWTO on how to make a Linux or FreeBSD accesspoint, you can make it work. Once it's working, it'll "just work" from then on. If you don't have faith in a solution like that, then go another route, but I've been running a similar setup at home for 1 1/2 now, with no downtime -OR- administration needed. I'd like to see a MS solution that could do that...

CB

Re:Coffee shop distro (1)

kirbyman001 (448856) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828470)

Seen the price tag on Win2k3?

Best thing to do - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828332)

What you want to do is setup somthing like nocat.net. to control the bandwidth used, per hour, let's say, by MAC address.

Those that go over, you auto-reroute all their requests to tubgirl or goatse.cx

OpenBSD is your friend (4, Insightful)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828334)

Forget about making a Linux distro for this, everything you want to do is available within OpenBSD 3.4 and it's pf software. Basic packet filtering, NAT, user quotas and general bandwidth managment. OpenBSD 3.4 also comes with BIND9 and ISC's DHCP daemon for serving up IP addresses. Best of all, you can do it for the cost of a $100 PC you pick up at the local computer show (say a pentium pro or an earlier pentium II).

Re:OpenBSD is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828375)

I use a P/133 with OBSD and it runs laps around anything else I've used.

Re:OpenBSD is your friend (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828393)

How is that possible, what with BSD being dead and all?

Re:OpenBSD is your friend (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828463)

SHIT ON ME! It's official - Netcraft has fucking confirmed: *BSD is dying

Yet another cunting bombshell hit the "community" of *BSD asswipes when IDC recently confirmed that *BSD accounts for less than a fraction of one single puny fucking percent of all servers. Coming hot on the heels of the latest Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more fucking market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is ingesting itself backwards, disappearing up its very own shitter, as fittingly exemplified by coming a piss poor dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be a cock-sucking Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any fucking future at all for *BSD because that sorded, shit-filled, mutated testicle of an operating system is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink splashes across the accounting documents like a series of exploding bloodfarts. FreeBSD munches the most ass of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD cuntwipes Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying and its rotting corpse smells worse than a maggot, vomit, shit and piss cocktail.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the fucking numbers, shall we? OK!

OpenBSD wanker Theo states that there are a pathetic 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Oh, God, let's fucking see... The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore it's turd-suckingly obvious that there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore, by simple fucking arithmetic, there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. Surprise fucking surprise, this is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of those arseholes at Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD showed themselves to be a bunch of retarded tossers, went out of business and were taken over by BSDI who sell another special needs OS. Now BSDI is also a miserable failure, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house... pathetic.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily fucking declined in market share. *BSD is where it belongs, at death's door and its long term survival prospects are almost non-fucking-existant. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among moronic, dilettante shitheads. *BSD continues to Chew Satan's Dick And Fuck The Baby Jesus Up The Pooper. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD IS A FUCKING USELESS WASTE OF BITS AND IS DYING LIKE THE DOG THAT IT IS. IT MAKES ME SICK JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.

The "tip jar business model" (3, Funny)

NateKid (44775) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828336)

kinda reminds me of people who plan to make a profit giving software away for free...

Re:The "tip jar business model" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828380)

What kind of an idiot would do that?

Packet shapers on WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828337)

The prevention of bandwidth hogging would likely require usage of a packet shaper. The only ones I am aware of, are large, expensive rack-mounted boxes for use in corporate environments. I wonder if anyone has a simple, similar solution for use in "Every-Day Life".

Start small (2, Insightful)

jcsehak (559709) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828340)

I'd start with b, and if the service pays for itself (ie, if people are cool about the tip jar), upgrade to g later, and put a sign up like "the program's a success, so I upgraded!" That way people'll feel like their tips are really contributing.

do you think folks would really abuse it? (1)

la_phoenix (695260) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828341)

seems like in a smallish town where most/all customers are regular you aren't going to see people in there bogging down the network w/ KaZaA. am i hopelessly optimistic? if this is pro bono work, too, you probably could get folks to donate parts if you really want a PC to be part of the package.

Possible suggestion (1)

Warthog9 (100768) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828343)

Though this might not be EXACTLY what you are looking for your router pc might want to run a NoCat server, at least force people to authenticate via a "yes I won't do stupid stuff" model and give them the ability to even possibly paypal you the money as well as a tip jar somewhere for it?

Just an idea, and NoCat really isn't all that hard to setup and it can "control" as many waps as you have on the network (mind you it will control EVERYTHING on the network not just the waps) worth a look as several companies and government entities have/are setting up nocat control boxes in the town I live in to control wifi access either so they get paid or so you are forced to accept a certain TOS.

Soekris (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828344)

Why spend $500 on a noisy, failure prone PC when you can buy a small embedded computer that acts as an access point and a router? A Soekris net4521 [soekris.com] is an excellent choice at $235. You can even get a high power 802.11b PCMCIA card, pigtail, and antenna kit [netgate.com]

The OS work is already done for you as well, check out m0n0wall [m0n0.ch] for a complete FreeBSD solution with a fancy GUI config system, or one of the small Linux AP distros, or roll your own. I run OpenBSD on mine.

Gear (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828346)

I see a lot of people already recommending elaborate setups. But really, a simple 802.11b router will do the job. Sure, it maxes out at maybe 6Mb/sec for consumer gear, but how fast is the Internet connection? If you have a 2Mb/sec cable modem it doesn't matter how many users are in the shop, the bottleneck is still the Internet.

I also don't think you'll have a big problem with Kazaa users and the like. It's a small coffee shop, right? Think someone is going to sit for hours and hours just to do that? If you're worried you could throttle bandwidth or block ports...but that's sort of a hassle. If you block say, everything but 80 and 25 I'd hate it when I couldn't VPN to the office.

Survey (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828348)

I would take a survey of the customers to see if this is even in demand or if it would be used by more then a few people.
If there are lots of people interested, you will need to figure a price that will be able to maintain it over time, a bandwidth price/#of customers.
Also in the survey find out what these customers think is a reasonable amount to pay for the service.

If it is in demand and not a financial burden, I would look into getting a Wireless B AP...we don't want the 'creative' customers going crazy with that 54Mb pipe (11Mb should be more then enough for the average customer). Just be sure you have a big enough pipe to handle a bulk load of people and small enough where it's not a waste if money.

Suggestions (1)

PPGMD (679725) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828350)

Pick up the book Wireless hacks

In there is some pretty good information on what NoCat Internet is using for their network, and how to setup you own.

Good God, No!! (1)

USAPatriot (730422) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828352)

would a tip jar model work?

just look at yesterday's slashdot story for proof.

What is the point of offering this service for free? To get more people in the door and buy more coffee?

All this hardware and maintenance costs money and it has to come from somewhere. I've seen tip jars in coffeee houses, it barely pays for more than a few more cups of coffee. Thinking this will cover the cost of this expensive service is lunacy.

Re:Good God, No!! (1)

Cyphertube (62291) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828460)

I don't know where you live or what time of day you see the tip jars, but in both the D.C. metro and here in the Twin Cities, I've seen plenty of cash in the tip jar. You do realise that they empty the jar every few hours, right?

I had one guy tell me before that the tip jar effectively raised everyone's hourly wage by about two or three dollars. Of course, I've been looking at Caribou Coffee, which is a distinctly better place than Starbucks.

Before putting the service in, personally I would ask customers and find out what services they want or need. It may be surprising how many would use it, or under what circumstances they'd use the service. I know that I'd much rather meet some business clients in a coffee shop that in the office, but of course that depends on the client.

Local wireless group (1)

cloricus (691063) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828353)

We've been looking at approaching coffee shops in our town to expand on the community wireless network. I'm not sure what the atmosphere over there is in relation to wireless but there are several benefits or it like being cheap to set up, publicity if it has internet (eg email over coffee, access work etc etc) and just generally a service to people. Also see if your local wireless group is interested in helping out as it could provide content while you provide coverage. Tip jar idea is good, if it's not effective and you are making a loss on the project increase prices to match paying it off over the very long term. (Even 5c pieces add up.)

I'd say go for it.

Wireless AP (1)

Sefert (723060) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828354)

Brilliant idea! I would make the coffee shop eat the up front cost - and tell him it'll be reimbursed by the first 90 days worth of tips or some such. This gives the owner incentive to help push the service. You also have the problem that, being on the honor system, who's to say that the 5 dollar an hour staff don't see the 'tips' as theirs... Might be worth having a flat rate of 2 bucks a session or something (not enforced, but rather a recommended donation...), but that does cause you problems as a student, being able to service that if there's a problem.

NoCatAuth (1)

jelevy01 (574941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828358)

NoCatAuth will do everything you want, check out http://nocat.net/. Also try Sputnik, they have a bootable disto that is basedon NoCat that will also meet all your needs http://www.sputnik.com/

NOCAT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828364)

Check out:

http://nocat.net/ [nocat.net]

Thoughts (5, Insightful)

Some guy named Chris (9720) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828378)

First, if you don't pay more money per month for "resellable bandwidth", then you are in a legal gray area. Your generic office class DSL service is not resellable, so I'd avoid actually charging. You might be able to get away with a tip jar, but I'd forget about charging for the service.

Giving it away free also simplifies administration, and can be seen as an easy and cheap promotion to attract customers.

Secondly, with 802.11g routers costing $79, cost isn't much of an issue. This is a business expense, go ahead and pony up the $30 extra bucks for a decent piece of equipment.

Location, location, location (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828379)

Setting up a wireless access point is easy, as long as the coffee shop is located in a neighborhood where 50% of the residents will have left their 802.11 networks unsecured.

Wireless Coffee Shops? (0)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828383)

I don't know about you, but I go to coffee shops to get wired!

Seattle wireless network (1)

punkkid (675057) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828394)

provides alot of free nodes around Seattle. I would check out their [seattlewireless.net] website, as well as the NoCatNet [nocat.net] authentication software...

Port blocking? (2, Insightful)

goon america (536413) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828396)

to prevent over-zealous Kazaa users

Overzealous Kazaa users? There is some amount of Kazaa usage you'd allow in your coffeee shop? You don't really need a PC to do sophisticated packet filtering... why not just block the ports that Kazaa uses? I also don't know how you could "filter" vaguely defined script kiddie activity.

My wireless-basestation-included broadband router cost $55 with a $20 rebate, and you can block ports and ban MAC addresses with it (you have to assign the MAC address to a certain ip range, and then block that ip range), btw.

Re:Port blocking? (1)

goon america (536413) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828436)

Also, if you're going to go to the trouble of setting up a PC with smoothwall or something like that, you're not also going to need a broadband router, since a PC firewall with a second ethernet card is going to have all the functionality of a cheap broadband sharing device and much more.

Personal Telco Project of Portland Oregon (5, Informative)

tomwhore (10233) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828397)

A lot of what your talking about has been deployed to over 20 buisness locations and a horde more home sites here in Portland Oregon by a group called the Personal Telco Project.

http://www.personaltelco.net

We use NoCat on linux based boxes and it covers most of what your looking to do. You can set up Auth or simply a Splash, you can do throttling, shaping and the like, you can set up local content areas for biz and community use.

Its amazing what older PCs and low cost APs can do. Most of the stuff is easy to install, the few rough spots, like NoCat, have been feild tested and methodologies have been crafted to make it easier to set and and maintain.

Come on over to the url posted above for more information or head to #ptp on irc.freenode.net and ask for more info.

Plug Plug Plug (2, Informative)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828400)

In my old neighborhood the local indi coffee house is Common Grounds [commongrou...ington.com] . They have set up something similar (free access, tip jar to help pay). It couldn't hurt to drop them an e-mail and see how they've set things up.

Re:Plug Plug Plug (1)

nakedsource (736253) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828431)

Similar place in Little Rock Ar called 'Sufficient Grounds' and offers free wireless access and great prices (I had a cup of coffee with free refills and a basket of fried cheese sticks for under 4 bucks)

NoCatAuth -- The tool to use for cafe's... (1)

martinbogo (468553) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828402)


NoCat is a very good way to go, software-wise, if you are looking for a stable and well supported mesh network authentication system.

Even for just one AP and a cafe.

http://www.nocat.net

IRC channel: #wireless on www.freenode.net

Zyzel (0, Redundant)

dJCL (183345) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828407)

I know this may not be what you expected the answer to be...

The company I work for(in no way represented by this posting, or any other I make.) sells firewalls made by Zyzel, so we get their ads in the mail too.

Recently we recieved once for a simple hotspot setup: it was a wireless ap and a small bill printer. You walked in and pressed the button, and then could access the network, when you were done, you pressed the button again and it gave you your bill to pay(or free if wanted). I don't know the details on it, but look it up: Zyzel ZyAIR it's not too expensive and should "just work".

Enjoy!

OpenBSD, pf, ALTQ (4, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828408)

Traffic shaping is available by default and pretty easy to set up, and it runs well on cheap old hardware. You could invest a lot of effort hardening a Linux install to match what OpenBSD has by default.

There's provision for requiring authentication on wireless connections. Even with a tip jar model you may want that.

Keep WEP turned off (yes, you just heard that from a security consultant!). WEP doesn't match your security model 'cause it assumes everyone using the same key trusts each other. Since it doesn't do what you need, it's not worth the cost in inconveniencing the customers.

Turn the power down on the access point. No need to provide service to people across the street or down the block.

Re:OpenBSD, pf, ALTQ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828434)

It is now official - Netcraft has confirmed: *BSD is dying

Yet another crippling bombshell hit the beleaguered *BSD community when recently IDC confirmed that *BSD accounts for less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of the latest Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be a Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood. FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS hobbyist dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dead

Why PC? (2, Insightful)

po8 (187055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828413)

Seems to me that the PC is just another expensive thing to break. Look for a high-end wireless router that will supply whatever functionality you need in a self-contained box, and leave the PC out of it, at least until some need actually presents itself. You can probably find a decent router for under $100 at current prices; still much cheaper and simpler than $20 router + $200 PC.

LTSP ? (1)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828417)

How about just setting up some terminals for people to use? Remeber, not everyone has a laptop.

The 500 bucks would be plenty for a server if you want to set up 10 - 20 terminals on old junk hardware.

I recommend using Icewm with the XP theme (for familiarity) and mozilla. Open office would be nice too if you want to let students do some homework on them.
This is extremely simple to setup using K12LTSP [k12ltsp.org] and for the most part you don't have to worry about people hogging bandwith with p2p apps.

Go for cheap/reliable before speed... (4, Informative)

stienman (51024) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828422)

I don't think the tip jar will pay for the setup, but I suspect customers may come and drink more coffee, so it'll be worthwhile even as a learning experience.

Go with 802.11b. Your internet connection isn't nearly fast enough to saturate 11Mb/s. Use an access point that goes to an ethernet card on the computer, which has another card that goes to the internet. If you want to run a wired or private network as well, hang a third card off the computer and make sure no one can go from the public network to the private one, only to the internet.

Then go wild with the linux. Be aware that the more programs you run, the more vulnerable you are to attacks. You'll be ssh'ing in every month to update the software if you use any new software that hasn't undergone the rigors of years of public internet testing.

Alternately, use an AP/Router combination. Make sure you don't skimp. Many have ability to block ports, limit usage, etc. You won't be able to prevent spammers as easily, but your ISP will tell you if that' becoming an issue. If so, put in a box later.

-Adam

Semi-honor system.... (2, Interesting)

stuartkahler (569400) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828433)

I assume that you are doing this to bring more people into you shop or keep them there longer, rather than trying to make a killing selling the net access...

I would suggest changing the password daily, and giving it away free to people who spend $5+ (?) when they come in. Anyone else can pay 50 cents extra for it. It would be sort of an honor thing for people to not pick up a slip laying around and surf free.

I think anything that requires you to give out individual passwords would require you to raise your price on access by $1 just to cover the administration. If you don't change passwords regularly, people in neighboring businesses are likely to start using your connection.

Keep in mind that you will be providing a connection that could be popular with people trading kiddie porn if you are not careful. I would recommend putting a bandwidth cap of 128/16kbps or 256/16kbps to keep the roaches off you net.

Hopefully you already realize that you will be violating the TOS for any household internet account. Buying a business account will likely double the ISP cost.

Keep the administrative costs down (2, Informative)

maya (90492) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828442)

I set up a wireless system at the Brew House [brewhouse.com] in Cincinnati, which gets a fair amount of use and which has helped bring new customers into a neat neighborhood bar. When we first set the system up, we had all sorts of rules and regulations, and we were putting considerable effort into keeping track of who was allowed to use the system and making sure that users were "registered". We dropped all that, because it just wasn't worth it. Our costs for the connection are fixed, and the more people who use it, the better we like it. Now there are just four rules: keep it legal, keep it clean, keep it civil, and have fun. And we rely on the honor system to enforce those.

With regard to 'g' vs 'b' standards, the only purpose for the wireless router in a pub or cafe is to connect to the Internet, and a faster network doesn't improve that connection. Even at cable modem speeds, the Internet connection is still considerably slower than an 802.11b LAN.

For the Brewhouse system, we scavenged a couple of old PCs from customers and loaded Linux on them, and we got a wireless router on sale at MicroCenter for $40. The cost of a business connection to our local cable is the most significant cost we incur, and the proprietor thinks that is worth the buzz it creates, even if it didn't attract new customers.

Richard

Nomadix or Colubris (1)

darrelld2 (307106) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828444)

I set up these types of systems for hotels. I've found that Nomadix [nomadix.com] and Colubris [colubris.com] both make access points with authentications servers built in, perfect for your goal here. They both support limits on a per session basis, etc. Probably in the $500 - 1,000 range for the entire project.

Re:Nomadix or Colubris (1)

darrelld2 (307106) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828472)

I forgot to mention they support accounting of the usage as well. They also autodetect the network settings on the PC of the user. So if they have a static IP it will work, even if it isn't on the same range.

You can also do SMTP forwarding to a mail server you controll for spam filtering if you desire. These companies have already done all the leg work you are about to embark on, read up on the technologies even if you don't use it.

$200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828449)

I'm using one of those old, flatish, 66MHz gateway desktops (bought from the local used computer store for $60) running OpenBSD with a wireless card and an ethernet card. I've been running 128 bit encryption VPN, NAT,ssh, etc. on the same box without a problem for a year or so now.

802.11b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828451)

A lot of 802.11g networks will automatically downgrade if there's a single 802.11b on the network. So you might was well go with b. Besides, you're talking about basic internet connections (POP3,SMTP,FTP,HTTP, etc.), not peer-to-peer applications or client-to-client filesharing. 1 Mbps should be enough for anything but downloading ISOs or DiVX files ...

The solution you want to look at... (2, Informative)

jafo (11982) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828453)

You clearly want to look at the Soekris [soekris.com] small form factor computer like the 4801, mini-PCI WiFi cards such as the kits available for the Soekris at NetGate [netgate.com] , and set them up with a 128MB CF card instead of a hard drive and install Pebble Linux [nycwireless.net] on it.

The end result of this is a small integrated PC with no moving parts, and mounts it's file-system read-only so no worries about corruption, with a built-in access point. These work great, and are a bit larger than the size of a VHS casette.

I've deployed a number of these, and they are rock solid. Plus, they have advanced routing capabilities thanks to Linux, and the ability to block infected or abusive users from re-associating with the AP.

As far as going with 802.11 a or g... You must be pulling in some pretty mighty bandwidth to need to use something faster than 802.11g. Pebble includes "MadWiFi", a driver for some a/g cards, but I haven't used it.

Sean

Wireless router (1)

mydigitalself (472203) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828455)

why not get a wireless router that will handle all of your DHCP, DNS, Firewall etc...

that way you don't have to have any operating system or anything that will just confuse "mom and pop". if they've got this box that just plugs into their ADSL line and if things go wrong they turn it off and on again?

something like this [netgear.com] should do the trick nicely.

Quotas / Traffic-shaping (1)

Malduin (207683) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828456)

For the quota support, you could use a FreeBSD firewall with ipfw/dummynet traffic-shaping for the entire subnet. Granted, you'd have to slice it up on a per-IP basis for good quota support, but it still works great for me. You could set up WEP for security. If you are really anal about security, you could set up the firewall or another computer as a VPN server for the extra encryption.

Oh, and my opinion on the wireless stuff.. Stick with B or G. I always hated A. It never worked quite right for me, but I've had few negligible problems with the B/G stuff.

Port restrictions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7828461)

Is there any reason for a 'free', public setup like this to allow any traffic besides http and smtp? Maybe some of the ports used for AIM-type chat services?

802.11b is plenty (1)

MJArrison (154721) | more than 10 years ago | (#7828465)

If your uplink is limited to some variety of broadband/T1, then the 11Mbps provided by 802.11b will saturate your uplink 10x over. The only reason you'd need 802.11a/g is if you have some uber uplink, or you'd be doing a lot of in-coffee-shop file transfers.
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