NEW YORK -- Wi-Fi’s wireless capabilities to access the World Wide Web are so impressive that we often overlook the fact that wireless local area networks are indeed local. So when a grassroots organization in Montreal, Canada, wanted to enable more local interaction, it had to create its own proprietary solution.
The solution is WiFi Dog, a PHP-enabled authentication server created and maintained by Île Sans Fil, a non-profit community group dedicated to providing free public wireless Internet access. It is designed to replace the popular NoCatAuth authentication server that many hotspots operators currently use, said Benoit Grégoire, one of the founders of Île Sans Fil.
“WiFi Dog is an open source captive portal solution for wireless community groups that is currently in production at the 32 hotspots that Île Sans Fil in Montreal,” Grégoire said at a recent speaking engagement.
WiFi Dog consists of two parts: a Linux-based process known as a daemon that gets installed on the wireless router; and authentication software that runs on any PHP-enabled web server in a central location. Grégoire created the daemon in C language so it can be easily embedded into hardware; however, due to a netfilter installation and the IP table package, it must run off of a Linux box. There is nothing for the client laptop or PDA device to download.
WiFi Dog works by redirecting a user’s initial request through a local port on a gateway, which serves up a customizable splash page to either log-in or sign-up. Similar to NoCat, the information is relayed to the authentication server and, upon successfully logging in, the user receives an ID that is used to continually validate the user as well as record important usage information. (See diagram)
Source: Île Sans Fil
What makes WiFi Dog different from NoCat, according to Île Sans Fil, is that its auth server is geared toward capitalizing the infrastructure for the purpose of building localized portals and communities. For example, users can see exactly who is logged in each hotspot’s respective portal page. (See image)
Portal page for one of 32 Île Sans Fil Hotspots
To date, Île Sans Fil hasn’t leveraged this functionality out of respect for the privacy concerns of its users. But it does enable users that are logged through a specific portal to view specialized content that is only intended for that particular audience, a capability that NoCat currently cannot provide. NoCat representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.
As a non-profit organization, Île Sans Fil is determined not to display ads through this medium but clearly this raises a slew of possibilities.
WiFi Dog is available here free of charge under GNU General Public License.
Robert Liu is executive editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was executive editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.