altruism of neglect
Wednesday, February 22 2006
In the course of diagnosing a problem with an inn's WiFi installation in Woodstock today, I discovered one of the problems with the burgeoning cornucopia of unconfigured WiFi access points, the ubiquitous devices creating an ad hoc cellular internet through the altruism of neglect. The problem with this inn wasn't that there wasn't a strong enough WiFi signal. It was that there were too many strong WiFi signals, all of them in the default middle channel (6) of the 802.11b/g spectrum. With four hotspots accessible from the parking lot, all of them on Channel 6, I could immediately grasp why none of the inn's guests had been able to use any of them reliably. The solution was just to move the inn's WiFi channel down to 1 and maybe add another hotspot at the other physical end of the network, broadcasting on Channel 11. (There are only three non-overlapping channels in the 802.11b/g spectrum.) In addition to a DLink router was a strange patch-antenna-based access point attached high on the outside of one the buildings, a piece of industrial-grade equipment installed back when WiFi products were not yet cheap consumer commodities. I spent entirely too much time with the inn's owner and a couple of its employees trying to figure out how to modify that device's configuration (it too was broadcasting on Channel 6). The owner even climbed out a window at one point so he could see the label of whoever had manufactured it (a company that has since gone the way of the Brachiosaur). In the end we had to leave it as it had been.
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