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New social and personal dynamics are being created every day because of wireless. This book attempts to examine the practical exploitation of wireless networking. The projects here will help you get an understanding of the driving force behind the revolution...
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Buy Wi-Fi Toys

ISBN 0764558943

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Wireless networking is permeating every facet of our modern society. Kids are using wireless cell phones and text messaging to keep in touch in ways never imagined a few years ago. Adults are using wireless networking to work from home, or away on vacation. Wireless Web and data works from the very depths of a Disneyland ride to cruise ship excursions and cross-country airline flights. Enthusiasts like yourself are breaking beyond packaged products to enter new realms of connectivity and mobility.

This book is a testament to the hobbyists, hackers, tweakers, and rule-benders who are constantly pushing the envelope of accepted use of technology.Wireless is especially ripe for experimentation by you rule-benders.

New social and personal dynamics are being created every day because of wireless. This book attempts to examine the practical exploitation of wireless networking. The projects here will help you get an understanding of the driving force behind the revolution.With the background and step-by-step nature of project creation, you will be able to move beyond the scope of this book and develop your own creations, to your own ends.

Wi-Fi Toys is an introduction to breaking down the boundaries set by manufacturers and product vendors. Seize your moment and create something astounding.


Internet without wires. Think about that for a minute. All of the entertainment, utility, and performance of the Internet yours, without being tied to a desk. Without even being tied to the home or office. Internet without wires...anywhere! Wireless is a growing revolution changing the way people communicate and share ideas. From cell phones to PDAs to mobile computers, wireless access puts you instantly in touch with millions of other people around the planet.Wi-Fi, in particular, is changing how people access the Internet from laptops and PDAs. It’s emerging as an alternative for cellular service, and it may even replace regular telephone lines as voice conversations begin to be re-routed over Wi-Fi networks in larger numbers.

Wi-Fi is that subset of wireless communications designed for high-speed Internet access. Sometimes simply referred to as “wireless,” or known by its many-lettered specification IEEE 802.11b, a, g, and so on, Wi-Fi allows compatible devices to connect without cables or physical connections. With speeds far in excess of most cable modem, DSL, and even T1 service,Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming the standard for Internet access. The store shelves are flooded with Wi-Fi access points, clients, music players, network hubs, and printers, and myriad other consumer devices sport Wi-Fi access.Take the Xbox, Playstation 2, and TiVo—these all have Wi-Fi ability now. Remember when people were saying how everything in the house will eventually be wired? How anything from a toaster or refrigerator to a stereo system or television would have Internet access? Well, it’s been some time coming, but with wireless in the home, these are now possibilities. Refrigerators are being sold with Wi-Fi connections, and several products will now connect your digital media from your computer to your television over Wi-Fi. I wonder when my toaster will send me a wireless e-mail when the toast pops?

Wireless is awesome, but it is also somewhat limited. The hardware you can buy in the store is mass-marketed and mass-produced. So it doesn’t have that extra edge that power users are looking for. Extra edges like longer range, sharing with friends, saying no to power lines, and finding every access point on your street can be yours with the projects in this book.

Wi-Fi Toys was written to help you take wireless to the next level. Go beyond the user manual and build your own projects using this book as your guide. Few things are more liberating than a Wi-Fi connection.

Who This Book Is For

This book is for you if you are interested in spending a little extra time with your Wi-Fi access points and computer. The primary focus is the technical enthusiasts with a few extra hours on the weekend. A small degree of technical know-how is helpful in understanding the concepts and putting together some of the more involved projects. The hardest physical skill you will encounter is drilling and soldering.

Many of the projects in this book can be accomplished with an assembly of off-the-shelf, easily purchased products, so hobbyists of all skill levels will find something in this book.

As this book is broken down into four main parts, you may wish to jump straight to the section that interests you. For example, in Part II, Chapter 5 introduces you to the art of war driving to find wireless networks in your neighborhood. In Part I, Chapter 4 shows you how to add an antenna to a wireless access point to increase usable range. And in Part IV, you can learn what it takes to get your TiVo onto your Wi-Fi network at home.

The book tries to introduce new concepts early in the book and build on them later as the book progresses. If you jump around and miss something, just go back and read the concept. What This Book Covers

The projects in this book are based on the Wi-Fi, IEEE 802.11b standard. This standard is commonly understood to support a theoretical transfer rate of 11 megabits per second (Mbps). In practice it can be as “low” as 3 Mbps. But that’s still way faster than most Internet connections. Wi-Fi 802.11b was chosen because of the extremely widespread adoption of the technology. It is the de facto standard throughout the world. Almost every product that supports another wireless standard also supports 802.11b. For example, wireless cards can come in tri-mode flavors which support 802.11b/a/g on the same card. Also, 802.11b is the cheapest of the three popular standards. If it’s good enough for 20,000 public hotspots, it’s good enough for us! Several new and promising wireless technologies are being developed and tested all the time. These emerging wireless technologies may vary greatly in cost, speed, and function. The projects in this book are meant to be adopted to new technologies as they become popular in the marketplace.

How This Book Is Structured

This book was designed for the novice wireless user.We expect you to know what a wireless access point is and how to plug it into your network at home.Where wireless gets really interesting is when you start to go beyond the plug-and-play nature of Wi-Fi-enabled devices. This book is divided into four parts. Each part separates a general concept and builds upon that concept. You can jump around to the different projects in each part. But it should be noted that earlier parts introduce earlier concepts.

Part I: Building Antennas This section of the book introduces you to the concept of an antenna as a transmission line. All wireless signals travel into and out of a network through the antenna. By understanding what the antenna does, you can take a wireless radio signal and cow it to your will by choosing the right antenna. You will be shown how to make and find cables, build antennas, and finally add one to your wireless access point.

Part II: War Driving—Wireless Network Discovery and Visualization Some of you will jump straight to this section and that’s fine.War driving is one of the coolest things about Wi-Fi. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I co-founded SOCALWUG. It can be WY016-FM.qxd 5/29/04 6:37 AM Page 23 Quark03 Quark03:BOOKS:PRD:WY016: argued that war driving has increased the popularity of wireless. It certainly got Wi-Fi its day in the news more than once. Hardly a week goes by without some newspaper somewhere mentioning war driving. This section shows you how to war drive and how to use the most popular program, NetStumbler. It also introduces many techniques for mapping your results.

Part III: Playing with Access Points This section can be very interesting.Wireless access points are the gateway between the wired and unwired world. By exploiting this ability to create connections between the physical and ethereal world of wireless, access points become a tool for your Wi-Fi endeavors. In this section, you will see how to build a weatherproof access point and create a free hotspot to share your wired connection with neighbors. Also, you will build a solar-powered repeater, connecting users to the Internet with no wires at all! And finally, we coined the term “AP games” to help describe the growing trend of using wireless access points for sport.

Part IV: Just for Fun Well, perhaps not all fun and games, this section presents some very cool projects as well as one or two that you may not be able to live without. Learn how to add Wi-Fi to your TiVo and create a wireless digital picture frame. Add Wi-Fi to a roadtrip and perform car-to-car videoconferencing. And ultimately, bring a computer more than 20 miles away onto your local wireless network by creating a long-distance Wi-Fi link.

What You Need to Use This Book

Some of the projects in this book can be performed using stand-alone wireless networks, especially if you are experimenting or just “playing around.” At a minimum, you should have a computer with wireless capability. Ideally, this computer is a laptop. Laptops with 300 MHz processors can now be found used for just a few hundred dollars on eBay.

If you will be sharing Internet access or setting up an in-home network, a high-speed connection is practically a must. On the other hand, if you just want to build an in-home network, all you need is two computers.

About the only strong requirement for this book is the desire to obtain wireless equipment. Each chapter will describe which components you will be working with.

You will also need tools.Tools are mentioned at the beginning of each chapter.You can expect to use common tools such as screwdrivers, wire cutters and strippers, crimping tools, and soldering irons. Wi-Fi security is an ever-present concern. As you will see in Chapter 5, “Gearing Up for War Driving,” finding a wireless network is not difficult. If you do not secure your network, anyone within range can eavesdrop on your network and possibly gain access to your files. It’s like letting them in the front door. Basic steps to secure your network are to enable the built-in encryption capabilities of your wireless devices, using WEP. If you plan to share your connection with others, make sure you install a personal firewall on your computer.

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Building Your Own Wi-Fi Antenna Cable
  Begin your Wi-Fi Toys first by understanding radio frequency and cable loss. Learn step-by-step how the professionals terminate a cable for use with Wi-Fi equipment. Find out how and where to choose the right pigtail for your equipment.

The entire first chapter of Wi-Fi Toys is now available as a PDF download. (requires Adobe Acrobat)

Chapter Two: Building a Classic Paperclip Antenna
  Learn about the many different types of Wi-Fi antennas and how they work. Build your own fully functional 2.4 GHz Yagi antenna from measuring and cutting paperclips and mounting them to a popsicle stick.
Chapter Three: Building a Directional Tin Can Antenna
  Learn how a waveguide works and build your own waveguide antenna from a coffee can and a piece of metal.

Read an adaptation of Chapter 3 at

Chapter Four: Modifying Your Access Point with a High-Gain Antenna
  Add an antenna to your wireless access point that will extend your coverage into the next room, the next house, or the next neighborhood.
Chapter Five: Gearing Up for War Driving
  Get your car ready for a wardrive by choosing the right wireless adapter, GPS, and software for success. Learn the tricks of the trade.

This chapter can be downloaded from PC Magazine.

Chapter Six: War Driving with NetStumbler
  Learn just about everything there is to know about Netstumbler, the most popular wardriving software on the road today.
Chapter Seven: Mapping Your War Driving Results
  Enter the realm of GIS by plotting the results of a wardrive in just about any mapping program available. Learn how to transform the output from Netstumbler into a map-friendly format. Find extra tricks of plotting signal strength and tracking down an elusive hotspot.
Chapter Eight: Build Your Own Outdoor Access Point
  Learn how to build a weatherproof access point and put it on the roof to share wireless broadband with your neighbors. Find out the secrets used by community wireless installers.
Chapter Nine: Building a Solar-Powered Wireless Repeater
  Learn how a wireless repeater is used and build your own for a remote hilltop or distant point on your property. Use solar power to make a truly wireless network. Place this on a mountainside to bring wireless to an entire region.
Chapter Ten: Creating a Free Wireless Hotspot
  Build a wireless hotspot that can display a welcome page and authenticates users before granting access to your internet connection.
Chapter Eleven: Playing Access Point Games
  Learn how to have fun with wireless access points. Play games in the great outdoors with your laptop computer and a few friends running around like crazy people in search of a signal.

Read an adaptation of Chapter 11 at

Chapter Twelve: Wi-Fi Your TiVo
  Follow these step-by-step instructions to add Wi-Fi to your TiVo and learn about the additional features a high-speed wireless connection brings to this massively useful home appliance.
Chapter Thirteen: Create a Long-Distance Wi-Fi Link
  Create a Wi-Fi link that can traverse the countryside from 1 mile to 10 miles and more. Find out how to build a link that can withstand the daily onslaught of weather, atmospheric effects, and signal degradation.

This chapter can be downloaded from PC Magazine.

Chapter Fourteen: Deploy a Car-to-Car Wireless Video Link
  Turn your vehicle into a mobile videoconferencing studio. Learn how to create a wireless window into the car behind you and go on a road trip with more people in your car (virtually) than ever.
Chapter Fifteen: Making a Dynamic Wireless Digital Picture Frame
  Use an old laptop to build a picture frame that can display all of those shots from your digital camera and camera cellphone. Learn how to update the frame over your wireless LAN to keep the content fresh.

About the Author
Michael Outmesguine Mike Outmesguine is president and founder of TransStellar, Inc., a successful technology services company with an emphasis on wireless mobility and energy information systems. As president, Mike has directed TransStellar, online at, through his vision of “wireless anywhere” to become a leader in the emerging wireless mobility market while adopting many of these techniques for the energy information market.

Mike is the co-founder of the Southern California Wireless Users Group (SOCALWUG), a nonprofit user community with a focus on introducing wireless technology to the end-user and business community. The SOCALWUG has been holding monthly meetings for over two years and archives all of the past meetings online in streaming media format. Thousands of wireless enthusiasts from around the world look forward to the monthly meetings and videos hosted on the Web at

Mike served in the U.S. Air Force as an electronic countermeasures specialist on B-52 aircraft and in the California Air National Guard in support of C-130 aircraft. Mike served for over 10 years and is a veteran of the Gulf War.

Additionally, Mike has been featured in several speaking engagements, newspaper, and online resources commenting on wireless technology, wireless security, and the impact on businesses and government using these technologies. Mike is FCC-licensed under the call sign KG6NHH.

His passion for technology goes back as far as he can remember. His first personal computer was a Sinclair ZX-81. (As a video-game addict, he couldn’t afford the coveted Apple ][e that had just been released!) Since those early years, Mike has spent countless hours immersed in the technology fields of computers, electronics, networking, the Internet, and most recently, mobile and wireless.

Mike enjoys long wardrives on the beach.

Recent Entries
Wi-Fi Toys: 5 chapters free online, 10 more to go (Sep 14)
Boosting cell reception with an amplifier (Aug 31)
Exploring the impact of a wireless renaissance in Tibet (Aug 11)
Marconi and the early years of wireless: SOCALWUG Meeting July 27th 2006 (Jul 24)
Lowe's Wi-Fi Hacker Gets 9 Year Jail Term (Jul 12)
San Francisco Municipal Network Hearing Alternatives (Jun 13)
RFID Toys: Unlock your front door with a wave (May 9)
WeyeFeye sign (Apr 11)
Warflying in the New York Times (as an aside) (Mar 4)
SOCALWUG video online and ready to download! (Feb 15)

re: Do forensic printer marks slow down printers? (3)
re: 2005 Acura Bluetooth and XM Traffic Demo Video (1)
re: New World Record for Wi-Fi Distance: 125 Miles (32)
re: Police Seize 23 TB of Pirated Content in Raid (2)
re: Cognio Laptop Spectrum Analyzer (3)
re: Mike O's Lab: Ambient Devices Digital Dashboard (2)
re: Popular Science goes really mobile with the Voltaic solar pack and Junxion Box (20)
re: Latest Bluetooth vulnerability sounds kind of bad (1)
re: From The Shadows goes 2.4 crazy (1)
re: Mad skillz from 9 year-old RC helicopter pilot (5)

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