This is permanently a work in progress. If you know a better answer to a question that is asked here please update the answer. Sign your contributions though and don't delete anything that you didn't write; the maintainer of the document will refactor in your contributions making sure nothing gets lost.

Topic Categories:

General Questions

  1. Q: What is 802.11?
    A: 802.11 is the name of a standard for computer communication over radio waves. It is maintained by the IEEE Standards Association.

  2. Q: What frequency does 802.11 use?
    A: It uses the 2.4GHz ISM band and UNII above 5GHz.

  3. Q: What does Adhoc, WiFi, WEP, Access Point, ESSID, Node, etc. mean?
    A: See the CategoryGlossary Page for links to explanations of common wireless terms.

  4. Q: Do I need a license from the FCC to use this stuff?
    A: The short answer is no. See the FccRegs page for more info.

  5. Q: Sometimes I get spam from your MailingList, how on earth can you let that happen?
    A: MailingLists are open because fundamentally they are about communication. Member-only lists hinder communications because people who aren't members can't post. Many people have multiple email addresses and having to sub them all is a PITA. Many people CC us on worthwhile threads because they know we'd be interested even though they aren't actually members, you can bet they won't bother resending it if it bounces because they aren't a member.

    Finally every non approved messages has to be approved/refused by AdamShand and the less he has to do that the less shitty emails he sends out :-). Until the people complaining about the spam annoy him more then the spam, or the spam gets really out of hand, the lists will stay open.

    If it really pisses you off and you think you can commit to being a moderator of the list (which basically means guaranteeing that you'll check your email every couple of hours lest people get pissed at you/us for blocking threads) contact Adam and he'll be happy make you responsible for acking messages. :-)

The Wiki Thing

  1. Q: What is this WikiWiki thing all about?
    A: A Wiki Web is a community built website, where the pages are open to the public for editing. Read the HelpForBeginners page to learn how it works.

  2. Q: So what you're saying is that I can delete whatever I want and anyone can delete whatever they want??
    A: Pretty much

  3. Q: So why should I bother contributing anything if anyone can just go and delete it??
    A: Well even though it's possible it doesn't really work that way. In normal operation no ones going to deliberately delete your content, they are here because they want to be a part of a WirelessCommunity as well! If someone deletes something you wrote by accident (it happens sometimes) someone will normally notice and restore it before you notice. If someone tries to attack the site (we've had this happen once) then there are a few options we have to weather the storm.

    In short, your contributions are safe so please contribute, we can use your help.

  4. Q: How do I create a link without creating a WikiName??
    A: There is special markup for this. Any text which is surrounded by this [" and this "] will become a link. An example would be MIR.

Getting Started

  1. Q: I want to connect to your network, how do I do that??
    A: Please see the GettingStarted page. Also try joining the MailingList and coming to a MonthlyMeeting.

  2. Q: How do I connect my computer to a "node?"?
    A: Assuming that you have all of your hardware, this is fairly simple. Using the configuration tool that comes with your wireless pc card, set the following parameters:

    • Network Mode: most nodes are running in infrastructure mode
    • ESSID (or Network Name): set this to match that of the node you are connecting to. (if you don't know it, ask the node owner)
    • WEP: if the node is using WEP get the key from the node owner
    • Most other settings can be left at their default values. Ask the node owner if there are any special settings you should know about.
    Point your antenna and the config tool should show you what kind of signal strength you're getting. Enjoy!
  3. Q: Why should I set up a community access point to a service I'm paying good money for??
    A: Good question, maybe you're just a nice guy. =) Or maybe you're willing to share a service you're paying for (but probably not using fully) with your local community.

    Most people with a high speed internet connection only use a small portion of it (well under 50%). The idea is to provide further incentive by giving anyone who sets up a public access node privileged access to all of the other nodes using some form of CaptivePortal, so you can share without hurting your own access speeds. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to open my laptop wherever I happen to be in town, and get a free, fast connection to the Internet - and I'd like anybody else who's willing to participate to do the same. Thousands of people around the world are trying to make the same dream a reality.

  4. Q: How do I find a WirelessCommunity in my area??
    A: We maintain a fairly comprehensive list of all the WirelessCommunities in the world that we have been able to track down. If you know of one that we don't have listed please contact us or go ahead and add it directly to the web site.

  5. Q: I want to start up a WirelessCommunity in my area??
    A: TerrySchmidt and AdamShand are working on a Community Incubator project. This will allow you to take advantage of our experience to get a new project going as quickly and as easily as possible. Stay tuned or email one of us for more information.

  6. Q: How much is all this going to cost me??
    A: Well it depends, on what you want and how you want to do it. You probably need to count on between US$500 and US$1000 to get a fully functioning node.


  1. Q: I understand what I need to do, what AccessPoint do you recommend I purchase??
    A: We don't really have a good recommendation yet, all the ones we've tried have various failings. There are some reviews (and links to other reviews) on our AccessPointReviews page.

Technical Details

  1. Q: I want to connect to my friends house Y miles away, can I do that with 802.11??
    A: The answer is maybe, it depends on a lot of things The distance the signal will travel is not an exact science. If you have clear line of sight, you have the potential to reach several miles. If you're trying to send the signal through walls or trees, for example, you could be restricted to a few feet. High gain antennas and amplifiers can help reach further, but there are limitations. The best way to find out is by trial and error. -ScottMcClung

  2. Q: What happens if my antenna is hit by lightning??
    A: Well if you don't have a LightningArrestor then most likely everything that is attached via a cable to your antenna will get fried. Ideally, have a metal rod 2 feet higher than the antenna with 14 gauge copper going to the ground (or a cold water pipe). If lightning strikes it will divert to the earth instead.

  3. Q: If I have an AccessPoint at a location without internet access, and a wireless client at another location with internet access can I get internet access from the first network via the second??
    A: AP bridging vs other stuff.

    Here's what I know (DanRichardson: Most Access Points (Airport Base Station et al) were NOT designed to talk to each other. They were meant to hook into a wired network where they are planted. This allows you to walk from an area of coverage to another area of coverage and use each base stations WIRED access to get on to the internet. Using MOST base stations, you can't do something most folks think is obvious:

    • DSL <-> AP <-> AP <-> AP <-> Wireless clients.

    In this example, the wireless clients would talk to on Access Point, and then each AP would repeat the packets until it hit the DSL connection at the end. It works this way with wired networks, no? What you need is a Point-to-Point or Point-to-Multipoint device - essentially making a wireless hard link between 2 or more access points - it's how the big companies link buildings wirelessly. Look at Karlnet ( for more info.

    Anyway, here's what you gotta do:

    • DSL <-> AP & Bridge <-> AP & Bridge <-> AP & Bridge <-> Wireless clients

    Or another example:

    • DSL <-> AP & Bridge & Wired Hub (w/ wired clients) <-> AP & Bridge & Wired Hub <-> AP & Bridge & Wired Hub <-> Wireless clients

    Going one better:

    • DSL <-> AP (w/ wireless clients) & Bridge & Wired Hub (w/ wired clients) <-> AP (..) & Bridge & Wired Hub (..) <-> AP & Bridge & Wired Hub <-> Wireless clients

    There are devices out there that will do all 3 functions: Bridge, Access Point, and Hub/Route packets - but they're EXPENSIVE ($1000+). It appears that for the time being, it's best to get individual devices & have a spaghetti (is that not the ODDEST word?) with cables everywhere. I'm in the process of testing a bunch of these things, because it's what I see as crucial for linking up all these nodes we want. What I'm going to have is:

    • DSL <-> Apple Airport Base Station (8 dB external antenna) & Linksys WAP 11 (Bridge Mode & external antenna) <-> WAP11 (Bridge Mode & external antenna) & Crossover cable (instead of wired hub)

    It would be cool to get 3 (or 4 or more) WAP11's in a "room" and see if they interact well. It would also be cool to get some other brand bridge to see how well they interact - throughput, WEP compatibility, etc.

    The Linksys WAP11's are pretty cheap (& getting cheaper by the day!) at $249 list, $199 at places like, and you can get discounts & on-line coupons all the time. I got a WAP11 for $145 and $181 shipped, plus another $15 rebate on each one.

    So, you now know what I know. :-)

    -- DanRichardson

  4. Q: How Many People can I fit on a T1/DSL/(Fill in the line)??
    A: See OverSubscription

  5. Q: I need more/different information!

    A: We've got a boatload of WirelessLinks for you.

The Personal Telco Project

  1. Q: What is The PersonalTelco Project??
    A: A good explanation is on the PersonalTelcoConstructed page.

  2. Q: How do I join PersonalTelco??
    A: Join our MailingList and come to the MonthlyMeetings or the WeeklyMeetings. Get involved it's that easy!

  3. Q: How do I get a cool PersonalTelco t-shirt??
    A: Check out the TeeShirt page.

  4. Q: Do you have meetings??
    A: Yes, most of the time they are on the last Wednesday of the month. See the MonthlyMeetings page for more details.

  5. Q: Is PersonalTelco a non-profit company??
    A: Yes. PersonalTelco is an Oregon state non-profit corporation and have 501c3 tax exempt status.

  6. Q: How can I contribute to PTP??
    A: Donations of money, equipment and great locations are always appreciated! Otherwise join our community by sharing your ideas freely on the website or MailingList. Our MonthlyMeetings are also open to the public and free of charge.

  7. Q: Can I donate money to PTP??
    A: Sure, we have a Paypal account you can donate funds into at Please clearly state that it's a donation if you send us money. (NeedsUpdate? -- DanRasmussen)

  8. Q: How do I contact PTP members??
    A: Many PTP members maintain a profile page. You will find a list of these on the CategoryHomepage list. People willing to speak for our community can be found our ContactUs page.

  9. Q: I'm doing an article on (PersonalTelco, wireless, 802.11, etc.) who do I contact for an interview?
    A: Please see the ContactUs page.

  10. Q: Do you have a mailing list??
    A: We have several! See the MailingList page.

  11. Q: How do ISPs feel about free wireless internet??
    A: Some ISPs approve of our efforts and some do not. We are (were? -- DanRasmussen) working on solutions to this problem. See the IspWirelessPolicies page for more info.

  12. Q: Will PTP help my company install its wireless system??
    A: If your company intends to share wireless service with the community you will doubtless find people willing and enthusiastic about helping you, but we are not a commercial consulting service.

  13. Q: Will PTP provide free wireless internet access for my event??
    A: Depends: is the event something cool, charitable, or 'community'? Maybe, it can never hurt to ask. Of course the final decision lies with the owner of the nearby node you intend to use. Try asking on the MailingList.


FrequentlyAskedQuestions (last edited 2012-04-04 13:53:39 by DanRasmussen)