Might I borrow a cup of bandwidth please? I’m baking a wireless array!

I, Cringely’s latest column, A Cup of Bandwidth is very cool. He describes how he created an wireless array borrowing 3 wi-fi connections from neighbors (who knew) and the use of Sveasoft’s firmware for the linksys WRT54G routers he owns. If nothing else it’s pretty cool.

I decided to conduct an experiment, seeing how I could create an inherently reliable wireless Internet service through the use of multiple unreliable wireless Internet connections. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME (unless you want to). Remember, I am a professional.

If I was going to be serious about this borrowing a cup of Internet, then I’d need multiple connections — something that is harder to do than you might guess. Most computers, for example, are connected to only one network at a time. It isn’t so much the fact that there can’t be multiple active connections, but that some of the housekeeping issues like DNS and SMTP servers get complex.

My home office is on the third floor under a mansard tin roof. I’m amazed that my neighbors’ wireless signals can even get through to me but they do, though weakly. If I was going to reach out and touch a bunch of strangers, I’d need an external high-gain antenna — probably several of them.

So I climbed out the window and found a place to attach a vertical length of pipe, atop of which I mounted three 8 dB patch antennas I had sitting around from my earlier experiment in aerial WiFi. The patches were clamped to the pipe, one atop another. I chose to use three because that would give me one each for channels 1, 6, and 11, giving maximal legal coverage.

It would be great if you could just plug three WiFi adapter cards into your PC, remove the pigtail antennas and attach a length of LMR400 cable, but I don’t think it would work. Instead, I used three Linksys WRT54G 802.11g routers, re-flashed with Sveasoft firmware. My plan was to use each router as an Ethernet-to-Ethernet bridge, but actually acting as a client. An easier technique would be to use any of a number of WiFi gaming adapters, but I already had the WRT54Gs and figured that having the ability to increase their power might come in handy.

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