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July 24, 2003

Taking WiFi to the Streets: O'Reilly Releases "Building Wireless Community Networks, Second Edition"

Sebastopol, CA--There was a time, not long ago, when wireless networking technology was cool. Now it's not only cool, but also extremely useful, cheap, and can do things that wired networks will never be able to do. In the last year, consumers have purchased millions of wireless networking components. Prices have fallen dramatically and more manufacturers have integrated wireless into their products. You can find wireless access in coffeehouses, parks, schools, offices, and homes. "What is it about wireless networking that has so many people worked into such a frenzy?" asks author Rob Flickenger in his new edition of Building Wireless Community Networks (O'Reilly, US $29.95). According to Flickenger, it's easy to understand.

"Wireless data networking is probably the most 'magical' technology to evolve in recent times," says Flickenger. "Think of it: by installing an inexpensive PC card, your laptop can suddenly send and receive data at a very high speed, to anyone in range, even through walls! Many laptops have dispensed with the PC card altogether, and seem to magically just 'be' online. Combined with the power of the Internet, your tiny battery-powered computer can now communicate globally."

Flickenger has worked with 802.11b technology, commonly known as WiFi (wireless fidelity) since its public release. The first edition of "Building Wireless Community Networks" helped thousands of people engage in community networking activities. At the time, it was impossible to predict how quickly and thoroughly WiFi would penetrate the marketplace. Today, with WiFi-enabled computers almost as common as Ethernet, it makes even more sense to build a community network using nothing but freely available radio spectrum.

The new edition of "Building Wireless Community Networks" has been thoroughly updated to keep pace with rapid changes in wireless technology. It shows readers how to make a network available, how to extend high-speed internet access into the many areas not served by DSL and cable providers, and how to build working communities and a shared though intangible network. All that's required to create an access point for high-speed internet connection is a gateway or base station. Once that is set up, any computer with a wireless card can log onto the network and share its resources.

In his book, Flickenger not only provides a blueprint for setting up wireless community networks, but prods the reader into creating a definition of "community." As Flickenger explains, "It might refer to your college campus where many people own their own laptops and want to share files and access to the Internet. Your idea of community could encompass your apartment building or neighborhood, where broadband internet access may not even be available. This book is intended to get you thinking about what is involved in getting people in your community connected together."

With that in mind, one of the goals of "Building Wireless Community Networks" is to help readers get their self-defined communities "unplugged" and online, using inexpensive off-the-shelf equipment. The book covers:

  • Selecting the appropriate equipment

  • Finding antenna sites, and building and installing antennas

  • Protecting your network from inappropriate access

  • Network monitoring tools and techniques (new)

  • Regulations affecting wireless deployment (new)

  • IP network administration, including DNS and IP Tunneling (new)

Flickenger's expertise, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for the topic, make "Building Wireless Community Networks, Second Edition" a useful and readable book for anyone interested in wireless connectivity.

Praise for the first edition:

"A slim, easy to follow volume on how to create a wireless community-wide network. Instructions on equipment, antenna placement, etc."
--Bob Schwabach, On Compters, December 2002

"A book well worth reading by anyone who is concerned about community access to the Internet."
--Major Keary, Book News, November 2002

"While there are quite a few excellent books that teach all the 802.11b know-how, 'Building Wireless Community Networks' is a book you can't afford to miss. Not only is it an exemplary DIY guide to building wireless networks and a masterpiece in terms of improvising and cutting costs, it's also one of the most amusing books I've read recently."
--Danny Kalev, IBM DeveloperWorks, October 2002

"A damned good read...Flickenger has done a remarkable job of squeezing in a lot of pertinent and hands-on material in such a small amount of space, and managed to keep it both readable and reliable throughout."
--Davey Winder, PC Pro, May 2002

"Corante recommends highly: An accessible guide to just what all the excitement on WiFi is about and how easy it can be to set up your own network. With details on everything from firewalls to configuration. Includes instructions on the infamous Pringles can antenna."
--Corante-Tech News: April 2002

"I highly recommend that you get O'Reilly's 'Building Wireless Community Networks' by Rob Flickenger. This book will give you a excellent insight of the current status of Wireless Community Networks, as well as some great information on network topologies, configurations, equipment, and antennas."
--Erik Bussink, Geneva Wireless Community Network, April 2002

"It's an easy call to say that this book contains somewhere between thousands and tens of thousands of dollars worth of advice on each of those constructive topics."
--Glenn Fleishman, weblogger.com, February 2002

"Flickenger not only provides a blueprint to setting up wireless community networks, but also prods the reader into creating an individual definition of 'community.'"
--Computers in Libraries, February 2002

"Plain and simple, this is a how-to guide to building a wireless network than spans more than just a dorm room...clear and organized...the author has impeccable credentials...the result is the perfect do-it-yourself manual for what many think is the future of the non-commercial net."
--Netsurfer Digest, January 2002

Additional Resources:

Building Wireless Community Networks, Second Edition
Rob Flickenger
ISBN 0-596-00502-4, 168 pages, $29.95 US, $46.95 CA, 20.95 UK
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

About O'Reilly

O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

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