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Setting Up a Wi-Fi Hotspot Using m0n0wall

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Need to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot that requires your patrons to authenticate? Sounds too expensive? On the contrary. Kulvir Singh Bhogal shows you how to set up the hotspot on the dirt-cheap.
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Being a techie has its benefits, but it also has its pitfalls. As a techie, my friends and family consider me to be their technical support person for whatever electronic gizmo they may own, regardless of whether or not I have come across said gizmo. Recently, one of my friends started up a coffee shop. Wanting to be a modern-day location, he wanted to provide free Wi-Fi Internet service to his customers so they could surf the web for hours while imbibing his overpriced coffee. As you may have guessed, I was drafted to set up his Wi-Fi hotspot. This article covers how I used a free offering named m0n0wall to set up the Wi-Fi hotspot.

I Encountered Some Problems at First...

At first when I tried setting up my friend's hotspot, I thought I could get away with setting up a wireless router for him and disabling encryption on the wireless router. Unfortunately, shortly after I set up the wireless router in my friend's coffee shop, I realized that neighboring shops soon discovered that they could use my friend's bandwidth. Because the wireless signal of the router I installed was unencrypted, it was easy for them to connect to the router without any password.

I considered setting up encryption on the router, but doing so would make it too tedious for customers to connect to the hotspot. That's when I decided it was time to browse the web and look for a viable solution.

I found a number of commercial solutions. The problem was that these solutions would cost my friend a significant monthly fee. No offense to my friend, but he is as cheap as they get. He wanted to set up the hotspot for next to nothing, leaning more towards the nothing. Consequently, a monthly fee was out of the question.

At first I considered using Public IP's free ZoneCD offering. The ZoneCD allows for a person to connect two routers together. One of the routers is unencrypted and can power the hotspot, while the other can be encrypted and allows for a person to connect computers that run day–to-day operations of your shop. When a user connects to the unencrypted router and tries to visit a site, he is redirected to a http://www.publicip.net web site. There he must provide a user name and password that you as the administrator have designated for your site. After properly authenticating, the user is able to surf the web. If the user is not authenticated properly, he can't. I liked this offering. The only problem was that I didn't like the idea of having to rely on http://www.publicip.net being up all the time. I seemed to be at the mercy of other's equipment.

After some more browsing, I stumbled on m0n0wall.

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