It’s a pleasure to watch a book mature. The first edition of Wireless Hacks gave me a warm feeling inside, like holding my hands over the vacuum tube in a pre-transistor radio. The glow of this book illuminated Rob Flickenger’s intense interest in spreading knowledge of cool stuff in order to spread more knowledge about the world in general.
This second edition, which brings the practical deployer (building networks is part of his day job) and fellow wireless hacker Roger Weeks onboard, feels more like a device constructed by the love child of The Professor from Gilligan’s Island and Mr. Spock: it beeps, it twitters, there are coconut shreds, and then, surprisingly, it produces a glass of tea out of thin air or transports several people to geosynchronous orbit.
The book has grown up, just a little, which makes it no less charming or useful. Wireless Hacks isn’t about breaking technology to serve your needs. Rather, it’s about bending it. So much of today’s wireless networking hardware, software, and firmware has been carefully tailored to suit what the manufacturer or service provider feels you are entitled to do with it. But we own the tech and, for unlicensed networks, we own the airwaves. Wireless Hacks stands up, raises its hand, and says, “Excuse me, I don’t buy into your world view.”
A great number of the tips and some of the lengthy hacks in the book should become standard operating procedure at companies that use wireless tech and want to increase its value for their use. Being able to more broadly use Bluetooth beyond limited, support purposes; extending range of equipment legally without using expensive proprietary or identically branded devices; or having the flexibility to crack open the hardware or software to fiddle with its innards and tweak to one’s liking is less about hacking and more about just making things work.
Wireless Hacks could as easily have been titled It’s My Equipment, Damnit, and perhaps those of you reading the foreword to find out whether this book is for you would find that title more comforting. While I was raised with a soldering iron in one hand and a diode in the other, self-modding my 1979-era OSI C1P 6502-based computer, I guarantee that while the spirit pervades this book, molten metal isn’t a necessity—but it is an option—for carrying out most of the tasks in the book.
Rob and Roger and their legion of colleagues contributing tips are trying to make the world smaller by extending signals further. This book is another step in the right direction for a small, wireless world.
August 28, 2005, Seattle, WA