My wife runs a Coffee House with free Internet Access.  Until now, we just had a compleatly open Wifi Router.  This was great for the customers, but she worried about her liability.  So I had the task to create a solution with the following requirements:Users must acknowledge terms and conditionsEasy to useCollection of information (MAC…

My first hope was to buy a working solution, rather than building one.  Well, the price tag was beyond €1000, so that became a last-resort option.

My neighbor was then pointing me to OpenWRT, a Linux System for embedded devices.  He suggested to use it together with ChillySpot.  Cool.  I started to look into WRT, and for a while I was hoping to use it directly on my D-Link.  But that was too much to ask for, so I invested in a Linksys WRT54GL, a fairly cheap router that was opensourced by Linksys (thank you, Linksys!!!).  Installing OpenWRT was a breeze, and I was truely amazed!  A fully working Linux system, with web server and plenty of goodies, running on a router!

The excitement wasn’t lasting for long, though, as I was trying to get Chillispot to work. Even though there was plenty documentation online, the project became quickly a pain: Dependencies were missing, far too many parameters had to be tweaked, and the whole thing felt like a mess.  Even worse, eventually I figured out that Chillispot would not work without an accounting system, consisting of a Radius and Database Server, and those cannot be installed on the Router.  So I’d have to configure my home server, figure out a way to connect securely, etc., etc.  That was too much, and I started to look around for other software.

Then I discovered, NoCat, and NoCatSplash specifically. That sounded exactly what I wanted.  But my excitement started to crumble when the whole damn thing first didn’t work, and then started to give me Segmentation Faults.  I even went back and installed older versions of WRT, which only made things worse.

The final rescue came in the form of EWRT – a bundle of WRT and NoCatSplash.  So I flashed the router again.  First I got a shock – it looked as if I had lost WRT and was back to the Linksys interface!  But soon I discovered that EWRT simply gave the system the Linksys look.  And it worked – it worked beautifully!  Modifying the splash screen to fit the Cafe’s theme was extremely easy, too.

And that was that.  There is no collecting of information, but that wasn’t a firm requirement, and in retrospect seems like a lot of hassle for very little gain.

One response to “Creating a free public Hotspot”

  1. Aaron Booker Avatar

    Thanks for this post. Looks like EWRT closed down shop – are you still using it or have you moved on to something else. Thanks for the post – saved me LOTS of wasted time, I’m certain.