Light Up an Apartment Building

So you want to put in a wireless network in your apartment? WARNING!!! some assembly required! 

Questions to ask yourself

Do my neighbors fear RF? Many people are scared of RF. Don’t get started until you know someone is not going to freak out. Hint: If they have small children and adore them they might be potential RF alarmists. Will they try to make you the PC support guy/gal? You do not want your neighbors asking you about how to fix their printer in the lobby every night. Do I have anger mgmt issues? This is a project for the patient and nuturing type. 

How to figure out coverage

A nice rule of thumb for every 5000 square feet use a single AP. This can vary dramatically dependently depending on the construction of the building. With no obstructions in an open air environment 40,000-50,000 sq ft per AP is not unusual. This is just rule of thumb not the science of RF coverage for apartment buildings. Depending on the interior construction of your building it could be less then 5,000 sq ft. Now this a crude method I know. If you want better estimation of signal prorogation take a good AP set it up in your apartment and see how far down the hall you can get with your laptop before you lose contact with your AP. You also need to note the signal strength as you walk away. When the signal strength gets to about %50 that is about the max distance. A good AP does make a difference. So do not just assume the $50 Linksys or D-link is going to do it. Here are some other costs to consider: 

Per AP costs

Cisco Aironet 1100 (802.11g) AIR-AP-1121G-A-K9 $406 Padlocks for mounting kit $10 Contractor costs to run riser cables to AP $350 Cost per foot of cable non-plenum rated cat 5 cabling: Approx .35 The contractor cost is mostly a conservative guess. The cost in your building could be dramatically different. 

Broadband costs

This is tricky. You need a service that permits sharing to do this legally. You also want a pretty speedy service. About the fastest DSL you can order these days is 6m/768 from the likes of Speakeasy.net . Which may or may not be enough bandwidth. That costs are $130 a month. We are also huge fans of bway.net they offer good prices, world class service and no bullshit. 

Suggested Budget/Equipment

Central equipment

Soekris 4501 – Gateway $232 Compact Flash 128 – Gateway $45 24 port powered switch CISCO Catalyst WS-C3550-24PWR-SMI $2360 broadband router/bridge $100 50 pack RJ-45 connectors $25 24-port angled CAT5e patch panel Belkin F4P338-24 AB5-AN $74 3 ft CAT5e pre-made patch cables $2 Belkin F4D047? hinged wall-mount bracket #1224 $32 Misc hardware/power strip/tie wraps/etc $200 

Software to load on gateway

PebbleLinux 

Tools

Cable Stripper RJ-45 Crimper Drill Screw driver Cable Tester 

Parts

Heavy duty dry wall anchors 

Configuring the Equipment

Access Point

Switch

Gateway

Controlling Access

WifiDog

User Accounts

Cost Sharing

Building Web Applications

Neighbor Node

What else?

Running the Network

Bandwidth sharing

Problem users

Kicking users off

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Bringing Wi-Fi to Public Spaces in NYC