A rather quiet day; I was home playing around with the new WiFi router I've bought a few days ago. I'd been using my MacBook -sitting on the sofa- with a 1 Gb ethernet cable sofar, but that didn't work on the balcony or the kitchen or the bedroom or… You get the idea.
On one of the forums I follow someone said that he had proposed 'village-wide' WiFi connection via FON routers in his neighbourhood. The idea behind FON is that people with a broadband connection (ADSL, fibre or cable) attach a FON WiFi router to their broadband. This router has two channels: one 'private' for your own local WiFi connection to e.g. the back of the garden, and one 'public' where other FON router owners can make use of. This way, once you have a FON at home you have free access to 600.000 WiFi hotspots in the world.
A community based world-wide WiFi network sounds good. I like the idea of free WiFi all over the world. I looked at the propaganda on FON's website and saw you could buy a router for € 14.95 Not a bad price at all, so I ordered one. It arrived yesterday and today I've been setting it up.
They sell the thing as 'plug and play'; just plug it in, let it sit for half an hour while it gets its software updates from the internet, register yourself on the FON network and WiFi away.
my linux box in its natural environment
According to messages on the FON-users bulletin boards (both international and Dutch) this seems to work. Not for me, though. I don't have a ISP-router with more than one ethernet port. Mine has just one port which is connected to my linux server which also functions as my firewall and router. Out of the linux box comes a second ethernet cable which is connected to a gigabit switch. The FON-box is connected to this switch.
This means the FON-box doesn't automagically gets an IP-address, since addresses on my network are hardwired and not handled by DHCP. I had to do some 'plug and pray': reconfiguring my MacBook with a different local -non routable- IP-address, connecting directly to the FON-box with a cable, manually configuring the box, etc. It took some time, but in the end it all worked. I can now connect from anywhere in the house (or ~100m outside) to the interwebtubes via wireless. I feel like Marconi.
After I got the thing to work I wondered what more you could do with it. A lot, it seems. The box runs an embedded version of linux and the web is full of clever hacks for the FON-box to make it sit up and roll over. People have been hacking the thing left, right and center. One of these days, when I'm bored and the weather sucks, I'm going to have a look at the different hacks and see which ones I'd like to install. Until that day I'll just use it for what it is, a WiFi router.
If you want to buy one of these things: I've got 20 invites I can send to friends. These friends can get a FON-box for a discount price of € 5.99. Let me know if you want an invite.
In the mean time, you can have a look on where you can find FON hotspots you could connect to. It might surprise you how many places are already well-connected.