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Building Wireless Community Networks Rob Flickenger
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
182 pages
£ 20.95
Published: 4th July 2003
reviewed by Raza Rizvi
   in the December 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

I came to this book somewhat sceptical suspecting that it would be full of waffle about creating cosy environments to get around broadband provider blackspots.

I was wrong, it actually turned out to be both an interesting read, written partly in the first person, and a good source of wireless information written in a relatively accessible style!

It is true that some (but by no means all) of the information is only of use to the United States, but the underlying details of the 802.11b standard will be of use to those who want to either altruistically enable their community, or even to those who want to tinker with setting up stuff in their own homes (or make use of wireless kit in someone else's home without them realising).

The slim book runs through the technical background to the IEEE 802.11 standards family before describing the hardware and software components of the wireless network (cards, DHCP, NAT, routing, VPNs). Access Points themselves are dealt with in a separate chapter using the Apple AirPort as an example (though you need not have a Macintosh to make use of this AP).

For the geeks, chapter 5 covers the building of a Linux PC based access point with plenty of URLs and some code/configuration file snippets. Antennae themselves are covered over the next few chapters, with some US bias, but this is more noticeable when discussion turns to 'cantennas', the use of kitchen items as wireless equipment (ala the ubiquitous Pringles can).

The last 40 pages can be ignored, as they deal with local community projects in the US (except that Consume does get a mention), and with the FCC regulations for wireless spectrum use - obviously not appropriate in the UK.

The author manages to keep your interest through his use of personal stories and tips (like not killing yourself when working on flat roofs late at night!). Despite the low page count, he manages to pack in enough information for it to be useful without it overwhelming the reader.

It's slightly eccentric, it's US biased, but it is worth reading if you have an interest in the area.

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