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Building a Wide-area Linux-based Wireless Network, part 2
Captive Portal Options
June 15, 2009
Last month, we discovered Open-Mesh, an organization offering open source Wi-Fi mesh hardware and services. We gathered the necessary hardware and configured the basic settings. Now we'll discover the captive portal options offered by the Open-Mesh routers, so we can display a disclaimer or terms of service, or require a payment or account. In this part, we'll also set up the built-in captive portal. It offers a basic solution that should work fine for many. Now let's get started!
Captive Portal Options
You can simply throw out the mesh nodes and start offering wireless Internet, however, you'll probably want to configure some type of captive portal if it's a public network. A captive portal prevents users from accessing the Internet until they either agree to your usage terms or at least view the portal or splash screen. This lets you show a disclaimer, agreement, or advertisements. Captive portals can also work in hand with authentication and billing solutions. Then the captive portal could prompt users to login and/or provide payment before Internet access is given.
You can either use a third-party service or use the captive portal and bandwidth limiting features provided by Open-Mesh. For third-party service, Open-Mesh can be manually configured for compatible RADIUS servers or you can use one of the pre-configured services. Two of the preconfigured choices is CoovaOM and WorldSpot.net. They give out their services for free when you are offering free hotspot access. They charge a small fee when you're offering paid hotspot access. CoovaOM is better integrated with Open-Mesh, however, WorldSpot.net offers a ticketing system.
First we'll fiddle with the captive portal built into Open-Mesh. Then we'll experiment with CoovaOM since it's provided by Coova, a premier provider of open-source and commercial Hotspot solutions. (Remember Coova? We discovered their open source replacement firmware for routers in a previous tutorial.)
Remember, any captive portal or limits you impose applies only to the public users (SSID #1). Your private network (SSID #2), fortunately, will always have unrestricted access.