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I want to provide limited internet access for a crowd of people (~50) who will be attending a 1-hour talk of mine, at a conference where wireless is not provided. But I want to give them access to a particular server, so they can actually use it during a "hands-on" part of the talk. The site serves html and does ajax interaction, so it would be important to have low latency, but I don't anticipate needing much bandwidth.

Is it reasonable to try using the following configuration?

(usb internet connection -- my computer -- wireless router -- the crowd)

In particular, does this give me the capability to restrict the crowd's access to just one server? Do I need any special software on my computer other than the usb internet connection interface? For this level of traffic, is a consumer router and laptop probably ok?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

There's just so many bottlenecks here... you'd have 50 people connected to a consumer router, each of whom would need some bandwith via a little anemic USB internet connection...

Its just augh. At this point, these are a few suggestions worth looking at

  1. Run the server locally if you can, off a laptop or something. This will eliminate the bottleneck at the internet connection side and reduce latency significantly. This also means you just have to worry about the wireless router catching fire at worst. This also allows you to use the server as an additional router
  2. Use the server as an additional router - most routers have crappy processors and this is a bottleneck - you can throw together a basic wireless access point with aircrack-ng
  3. If you DO use a home grade router, get something modern and running dd-wrt , these seem to perform better under pressure. DD-wrt forums seem to indicate regular routers seem to do 30-80 clients fine
  4. Consider seperating out N and G networks as a way of splitting user load. Run them on 5 and 2.4 ghz bands. Crappier wireless adaptors will get shunted to the latter.
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The wireless router will be your key point. The average low cost consumer wireless router simply doesn't have the resources to handle that many users. You need commercial hardware spec'ed to handle that load. Call around to see if someone has a rental system since you only need it for a few hours.

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