Wi-Fi Caravan Hits the Road

For a 14-hour trip this Friday along the West Coast, a group of wireless enthusiasts
are packing a briefcase full of Wi-Fi gear and a map of 802.11 access points
from Portland to San Francisco. Dubbed the "Wi-Fi Caravan," the high-tech
excursion plans to "demonstrate the freedom of a mobile wireless network."

While the ultimate destination of the caravan is CodeCon
2003
, a San Francisco Bay gathering of security and network developers,
along the route participating vehicles will stream music, conduct anonymous
FTP file transfers, play networked games and use IRC, along with other services.

"We’re the kind of guys that get our kicks combining technology and all
the fun stuff we can do with it," said Steven Cockayne of the Janus
Wireless Project
, organizers of the caravan. The Portland-based group develops
hardware and software creating mobile wireless networks for 802.11b users.

"We believe the best way to encourage consumers to purchase, customize
and use wireless networks is by making them simple to access, fun to use, and
portable enough to take with you anywhere," said the group in a statement.

On board the caravan is a briefcase-sized Linux cluster communicating with
laptops in the four other lead vehicles. Taiwan-based silicon chip developer
VIA Technologies, maker of the EPIA M-Series
mainboard used in the "Janus
Box
", says the road trip "has provided a superbly entertaining
technology demonstration of real-life ‘Total Connectivity’ that really highlights
the performance and networking flexibility of our platform," said Richard
Brown, VIA’s international marketing director.

Cockayne said the main ingredient for a successful mobile network is the software
developed by the Janus Wireless Project. The software drivers allow 802.11 systems
to continuously scan, then acquire, available access points while on the move.

The caravan leader said their route is designed to take them past public access
points provided at Starbucks, Borders and other venues. The journey also will
point out many wireless networks now gathering dust.

"The Wi-Fi Caravan aims to show how an 802.11 wireless network can be
maintained between several high speed moving vehicles using the existing wireless
access node infrastructure, much of which has been abandoned by defunct telecommunications
companies in and around the Portland area," said the statement.

Along with proving their software and hardware, the Janus Wireless Project
is also using the event to speak about the lack of wireless security.

"Fewer than 37 percent of the wireless access points we have polled are
secure," said Cockayne. He says the group went wardriving around Portland
and Seattle — even the Microsoft campus — and found thousands of open access
points.

The Janus Wireless Project will participate in wardriving
activities during CodeCon, which runs from Feb. 22-24.

There will be opportunities for the public to participate in Friday’s caravan.
GPS units will allow the vehicles to be tracked on the Internet. At least six
802.11a/b/g access points have been designated for public feedback. Also an
IRC chatroom (#janus on irc.freenode.net) has been created permitting people
to ask questions of the participants and help them locate nearby access points.

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