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I keep running into this: I want to set up a temporary WiFi access point, but there's always someone who can't connect easily. So I end up spending at least 10 minutes on figuring out what's wrong with his OS/wireless-driver/etc.

The goal is to connect as many users as possible, with the minimum "support" effort from me. At the same time, I'm sure you'll agree that we don't want people we don't know using our precious bandwidth.

What have you used? WEP? MAC-address filtering? Any success or horror stories?

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If you are going to use a password, use WPA instead of WEP (even WPA2 if possible). WEP is too weak of an encryption method.. –  DeadHead Jul 21 '09 at 4:56
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I would agree, but I've already had a user whose WiFi-card driver had a buggy WPA and would not connect. I ended up switching to MAC-level control on during that LAN party, to accommodate just him. –  scraimer Jul 21 '09 at 5:10
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Get some UTP cable for those who have problems or old equipment... –  Arjan Jul 21 '09 at 6:49
    
Also consider using multiple access points: superuser.com/questions/122441/… –  Cawas Mar 30 '10 at 22:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you fancy setting up your own hotspot, then see coova.org (based on the no longer active ChilliSpot). ChilliSpot is also used in FON's Fonera.

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+1 coova.org looks awesome! –  scraimer Jul 22 '09 at 5:00
    
+1 for citing fonera! \o/ –  Cawas Mar 30 '10 at 22:16

Look at WiFi.com FAQ and How it Works presentation.

Wifi.com provides a software application which works regardless of the hardware in place. Wifi.com is compatible with any WiFi access point or router.

Enables you to grant access to your secure home or work wifi networks simply by sending an invitation to your friends and colleagues through the Wifi.com manager. No more remembering WEP keys or updating your friends with new keys - the Wifi.com manager does this automatically. You can add friends from your outlook contacts, hotmail, Gmail, and dozens of other programs with a few quick clicks.

We recommend you share your WiFi connection only with the people you trust. Wifi.com allows you to invite your friends and colleagues to use your secure wifi network without sharing your WEP key.

You have to work off their site for this, though...

Go to wifi.com and log into your account and you will have the ability to add or remove people from accessing your wifi network.

This is their finance angle...

More and more wifi hotspots are available free of charge, and we believe this trend will continue. However, there are may be times there isn't a free wifi hotspot available. And, if you must pay for a wifi connection then we feel it should be as affordable and easy to access as possible. Wifi.com lets you connect to premium wifi networks on a per minute basis just like a pre-paid phone card lets you make long distance calls. We have preloaded your account with a $5 credit so you can try this functionality next time you are in an airport or hotel. Through our strategic partnership with Whisher, you can recharge your premium wifi minutes account any time your account runs low.

Whisher was acquired by wifi.com in Q1 2009. We are utilizing many of their outstanding technologies and added many of our own to create what we hope you will feel is a superior WiFi experience.

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That might be closed to what I want... I think it would be totally kewl if there was a wireless access point which would let you connect, but all traffic would be routed to a website which would somehow sniff your computer's abilities, and connect you using the best encryption possible. I guess you'd have to throw in some kind of authentication (password or something) to prevent freeloaders. Hmm... –  scraimer Jul 21 '09 at 5:13
    
I don't know this, but there's another one: hotspotsystem.com –  Arjan Jul 21 '09 at 7:01

Please, don't use something like WEP encryption and MAC filtering.

The MAC address can be sniffed very easy and then spoofed on any laptop.

The WEP encryption an a busy network can be cracked in 5 minutes (from my experience), and then used to connect to the laptop or sniff and decrypt the traffic.

Just setup a WPA2 network with a long enough passphrase and you're done.

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I'd also recommend writing that long passphrase to a spare USB thumbdrive so you can hand it to a visitor. –  bmb Jul 21 '09 at 7:16
    
now, thats is an interesting idea! I was thinking about using QRCodes, but this makes more sense :-) –  scraimer Jul 22 '09 at 4:47

If you "know" the users then you will be able to use MAC address filtering. But use of a simple pass phrase would be enough in your case assuming you can trust the users. With modern operating systems its not difficult to connect to the network using passphrase so it will not increase the "support" effort because it just prompts the user.If you cannot trust the user (about confidentiality of the passphrase) then you may need a MAC filter.

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+1 Just like you said, I have to know the user. –  scraimer Jul 21 '09 at 5:07

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