Sebastopol, CA--No cords, no fiber optics, no cables, no cable networks: creating a connected online community is now freer than ever, literally. Consumer demand is growing for high bandwidth Internet access, most commonly offered by ISPs (Internet service providers)--for a price. Parallel to this demand is the growing popularity of wireless community networks powered by 802.11b technology, which pairs speedy Internet access with cheap, reliable equipment for a compelling alternative to ISPs. Wireless community networks are especially appealing to communities on a budget, such as schools and small businesses, and to individuals in an area where land-based Internet access simply isn't available.
Building Wireless Community Networks by Rob Flickenger (O'Reilly & Associates, US $24.95) answers the first big question those contemplating creating a wireless community network ask: how? "For the cost of hardware and a bit of careful planning, large amounts of information can now be sent for miles at very little cost, without ever involving a telephone or cable company," Flickenger asserts. The book details real-world networking examples, from selecting appropriate equipment and finding likely antenna sites to the general problem of outdoor networking. (One of Flickenger's tips: Lay your antennas in the spring. A well-placed antenna in the winter may disappoint in April when the trees are blooming, which can deflect and drop your signal.) He also includes sample configuration files, network layout diagrams, even topographical maps.
Flickenger has worked with 802.11b since its public release, and Building Wireless Community Networks is the only community networking book that covers 802.11b, which is emerging as a key wireless technology. "There's much more to 802.11b spec than that teeny little 'b' indicates," Flickenger remarks. "802.11b is not just the downstairs apartment of 802.11; it's a whole new world of wireless possibilities." 802.11b, also known as WiFi (wireless fidelity) or WLAN (wireless LAN), uses an unlicensed frequency employed by other devices such as microwave ovens and cordless phones--a frequency anyone can use for free.
Through his humor and enthusiasm, Flickenger not only provides a blueprint to setting up wireless community networks, but prods the reader into creating an individual definition of "community." Notes Flickenger in his preface, "This book is intended to get you thinking about what is involved in getting people in your community connected."
Articles and weblogs by author Rob Flickenger, including NoCatAuth: Authentication for Wireless Networks and 802.11b Tips, Tricks, and Facts.
Chapter 3, Network Layout, is available free online.
More information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author biography, and samples.
A cover graphic in jpeg format.
Information on the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, featuring Rob Flickenger and wireless technology information.
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