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Safely Sharing Your Wireless Internet With CoovaAP, Part I

CoovaAP: Based on OpenWRT

  • March 16, 2009
  • By Eric Geier

You want to offer wireless Internet to your customers, or share your connection with neighbors? Well, you don't have to spend several hundreds to set up a simple-- or advanced-- Wi-Fi hotspot. The Linux and open source community offers several different solutions, from live CDs (ZoneCD) to firmware replacements (DD-WRT & CoovaAP) for wireless routers. If you want to offer free Wi-Fi access and have some spare time, you shouldn't have to invest more than a old computer or router.

In this two-part tutorial, we'll explore the CoovaAP firmware and their hosted services. In this part, we'll discover how to turn that mundane router to a hotspot gateway, set up the captive portal with different registration modes, and configure bandwidth limiting. In the next part, we'll discover the Coova hosted services and see how you can offer secure WPA/WPA2 access to the hotspot users.

Discovering CoovaAP

CoovaAP is based on the open source OpenWRT firmware replacement and designed specifically for hotspots. In addition to being a normal access point, it supports WDS (wireless distribution system). Thus if your location requires multiple APs, some can be set in repeater mode instead of having to run Ethernet cables to them. The wireless router and hotspot settings are easily configurable with a web browser, like regular routers.

The CoovaAP firmware features an customizable internal captive portal, where you can either require user accounts (self registering or defined by you) or require users just to just agree to the terms of service (ToS). Figure 1 shows the portal page shown in users when using the self registering method. Figure 2 shows the ToS page users would see when not requiring users to have accounts. Plus it even has a Facebook portal feature. Traffic shaping or bandwidth control is also included, so you can limit how much Internet power guests use.

CoovaAP has a built-in CoovaChilli Access Controller, based on the ChilliSpot solution, and the WiFiDog Access Controller. Using CoovaChilli and Coova's hosted services, CoovaAP can even run WPA/WPA2-Enterprise (password-based) authentication and encryption for the hotspot users. CoovaAP also has an internal PPTP VPN client and server, plus OpenVPN's client.


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