Personal Telco Monthly Meeting for April 28th 2004

When and Where

Urban Grind Coffee 2214 NE Oregon St. (take 22nd Ave. 2 blocks North of Sandy Blvd.)

Wednesday, April 28th, 6pm-9pm




Announcing Ewrt: a Linux distribution for the Linksys WRT54G, forked from the Linksys and Sveasoft code bases. The primary focus of Ewrt is to meet the needs of open wireless network operators by providing a captive portal based on NoCatSplash and large-scale management functionality on a stable and low-cost platform.

Company Bio: [ ProStructure] Consulting was founded in 2003 by Brandon Psmythe and Irving Popovetsky following ten years of engineering experience at companies such as Intel, Sprint, UUNet and NetIQ/Webtrends. ProStructure provides high-end network design, information security and DoS defense consulting to advanced IT shops all over the West coast.

Portless Networks is our side project to provide professional wireless deployment services to Enterprise and Commercial real-estate customers. We are also reducing the barrier-to-entry for open wireless network operators with our WRT54G-based platform.

Less Networks

"How Less Networks Helped the Austin Wireless City Project Beat T-Mobile in Six Months"

[ Less Networks] creates free software that allows people to create customer-branded Free WiFi hotspots in their community. They've partnered with the [ Austin Wireless City Project], Austin's community-based wireless user group, to promote free WiFi in Austin.

Agenda Items

Here's Sam Churchill's Review

Portless Networks, which gave the first of two presentations at the Thursday meeting, is testing a Linksys WRT-54G modification that embeds NoCat inside. The modified Linksys Box, unveiled at last night's PersonalTelco meeting, embeds NoCat captive portal software inside the small, popular 802.11g Linkys box which can be found in office supply stores for around $80. By flashing the on-board memory, coffee shops and other venues can plug the modified Linkys Box directly into a DSL or Cable Modem. It's designed to encourage the proliferation of "free spots" in small businesses.

Currently "free" networks like PersonalTelco, SeattleWireless and others use a computer (either a PC or a Soekris board) running NoCat Auth which provides a splash page and manages the "free" wireless side of a broadband connection. The small, one piece solution promises to make installation of "free spots" much less cumbersome.

While Rob Flickenger’s splash54g and Brian Beattie's BeWitched do much the same thing, developers Irving Popovetsky and Brandon Psmythe of Portless Networks, claim they have improved the reliabily of those earlier efforts.

Their software modification requires version 2 (v2) of the Linksys WRT-54G hardware which features a 200mhz MIPS processor, 4mb flash and 16mb of memory. Right now, it's a free effort and still in a testing stage.

Linksys recently embedded Boingo software into their $200 WRV54G but that device does not use an open source base and cannot use the software developed by Portless Networks directly. Similar one-piece access points are available from Sputnik, Fatport, Pronto and Soekris.

For further information see ProStructure Consulting, Seattlewireless Linksys WRT54G page, The Sveasoft Forums, Jim Buzbee's Batbox wrt54g Linux distribution, Rob Flickenger’s splash54g, Linksys GPL code center, The OpenWRT project, and The Wifi-box project. They like Bob Hestand (503) 704-1247 for hardware distribution.

The second presenter, Jason Levitt of Less Networks, reviewed their community LAN solution. The free community lan software allows people to create customer-branded Free WiFi hotspots. They've partnered with the Austin Wireless City Project, Austin's community-based wireless user group, to promote free WiFi in Austin.

What differentiates their free community lan software? Less Networks has simplifed the installation and uses a centralized server to authenticate. Then it re-directs users to the host's website. The Less Networks software requires you to create a user name and password (although there is no charge). The central server architecture provides centralized management and security funtions. The complications of installing NoCat currently require alpha geek skills. The Less Network's free kickstart software/disk (which just became available last night on SourceForge - somewhere), will enable a "headless" (no keyboard/monitor) and will include the Red Hat distribution and NoCatAuth.

Some PersonalTelco members wanted to know the Less Networks business model; i.e. if it was giving away the software for free, would it sell information about users? Levitt claimed they would not. He said the plan is to (hopefully) make money on premium services. Less Networks primary goal and requirement is free Internet access, he said. Easy installation is the Less Networks key to "beating T-Mobile" [at their own game].

The advantages of using the Less Networks auth server include:

TomHiggins 's Recap

Now that was a pretty amazing meeting. I got to the UG early to rest a bit before the storm but wound up talking or cramming on learning things from 3pm till about 9pm...6 hours of action packed educational filled PTP goodness.

Some Points I picked up during the night

chance to talk about the community center the city is inching towards making at the old Washington Monroe High School site. Win loose or draw it sounds like Phil has an interest in the project and a PTP vector is something that he has thought about. Who knows what will happen with all things political but its good to be able to bump into folks interested in this sort of thing at the UG

descended on the UG about PTP merch, art work, the Computerbits PTP nodes page and the whole Austin<>Portland thing.

the batteryfu is going to be interesting.

bit freaky. Having a convo with someone in the same room on a sip phone calling to a cellphone over FWD is like trying to talk to a Shaolin Master in a chopsockey flick with a bad dub track. You see their lips move but don't hear the words for about 1 second or so. Voip and all that rocks, just don't do it with folks you can see speaking, unless your into that sort of thing and then its a great experience. "you killed my master, now we fight.."

/ Port/Emerging-Tech issue out and calling for our next weekly to be the day we focus our efforts starting to craft the actual solution was perhaps the momentum starter of the whole meeting. Having some one step up and move beyond the debate to get us to a place we are working on an actual solution is one of the keys to making the PTP more than just a group that flaps its gums with nothing to show for it. There are lots of folks who helped build up to this moment at to them Hats Off. Now onto the fun of doing.

customized firmware and you have a wireless/wired AP, router, NoCat splashing, other cool things sprouting box. A couple of issues were raised about the legality of distributing what they are, I would like to hear more of the pluses and minuses of it here. I'm interested enough to want to get a box and play around with it.

unwiring a city. the city is Austin Texas, yes that very city Lonnie has been kvelling about. What they are doing is a lot like what the PTP is doing with a couple of key differences. The big one is they have a couple of moneymoney players and work with other city groups as a loose affiliation. They require user names and passwords to log onto their nodes and they have a central server to handle that and other distribution issues. They also crafted a HotSpot-On-A-CD solution for setting up nodes, something that I have been interested in for a while now. In the last couple of months there have been a couple of HotSpot-On-A-CD solutions and I think it might be time to grab some PTP mind share and look into learning from whats out there and crafting our own flava.

time please") the meeting. Lots. Finding the time to act on all the ideas that went thru my cranium would be a full time sleep dep task..which don't get me wrong I am not shying from but we need more folks working on things. It was great talking to folks who are looking for new nodes in their hoods and to folks working on projects they want to bring into the PTP. Distributing the work load is key to what we want to be and the sheer amount of things that need doing to be it.

The space, the atmosphere, the coffee...of all the places we meet up as a group the UG is hands down my fave.

There is tons more but I have just ran out of coffee. Id like to hear other folks impression of the meeting.