Last week, I talked about how you can tell if someone is stealing your Wifi – but today I’d like to show you how to let others share your Internet – with a Wifi Hotspot. Setting up a public Wifi Hotspot is great for small businesses who want to attract or offer additional value for customers, but you might also want to try it in your neighbourhood if you have a particular product or service to advertise.
In the set up we will look at today, the first page users will see is a page with banner advertising and a little about your company or service, as well as usage terms – once they click “agree”, they can use the Internet.
What You Will Need:
A DD-WRT Flashed Router
A DD-WRT flashed router is the basis of this and any future DD-WRT tutorials. If your router is compatible, generally you can download the appropriate version and simply upload through the web interface. There is a long list of compatible routers and instructions in the DD-WRT wiki, but we cannot cover installation procedures here due to the sheer variety. Bear in mind that different routers have different levels of compatibility, and some features will not be available on your router if it cannot handle the full DD-WRT firmware install due to memory limitations.
If you do decide to go forward with DD-WRT and explore the other features it can offer you, it’s best to buy a new one that you know is fully compatible. I purchased a high power 802.11n router that was listed as 100% compatible with easy installation for around $150.
A Free Authentication Provider Account
In addition to configuring your DD-WRT router, you need to have some kind of user authentication system. Today we will be using a service called HotSpot System, which you can use for free to manage a basic free Wifi Hotspot with your own customized landing page.
A Twitter Account
Since HotSpot System is offering a free service, they do ask for a little self-promotion. For this you need to follow their Twitter account, and tweet about their service. Feel free to make a new Twitter account just for this purpose.
Getting Started: HotSpotSystem
Though there are a few different providers you can use to manage the user authentication side of things, I’ve picked out HotSpotSystem as it’s fairly user friendly and setup is built into the router firmware. They offer a range of plans depending on what your HotSpot requirements are, but a basic free Wifi Hotspot with splash page is free. Paid plans allow you to charge users for access, or print special coupons for paying customers. Next time I will show you a free service that allows you to charge for access, but let’s concentrate on a free hotspot with splash page today.
Sign up for a free account here, and make sure you choose the “HOTSPOT SPLASH” account option. Follow the instructions for connecting with your Twitter account and posting a quick tweet. Then add the details of your new location and your business / contact information.
From the customize section, you can create a new skin based off an old skin, and completely adjust the CSS and HTML as you wish. I’m going with the default for now.
Set Up Your Router
Log into your DD-WRT screen and access the Service -> Hotspot screen. Enable the HotSpotSystem option, and enter your operator username you got when registering. Your location number will be 1 if you’ve only set up a single location. You also need to Enable Special Settings and Enable “Login on Splash Page”. Save and apply settings.
At this point, you will automatically get an email from HotSpotSystem saying your hotspot has been set up. I also needed to adjust the Wireless Settings to change the SSID of my free hotspot (by default it’s set up as HotSpotSystem.com-location or something horrible like that), and to remove the existing password I had on the network. Here’s the page of my Wireless Settings in case you have problems too.
If you still can’t get it working, it may be best to put the router back to factory settings and start from a clean slate. Follow the set up guide from HotSpot System.
You should now be able to see your open Wifi network, but anything you attempt to do on it will take you to your user registration splash page like this! Congratulations, you can now begin to customize the page to promote your own sites or business by logging into the HotSpotSystem site and selecting Customize.
If you’d rather charge for Wifi access or earn money from persistent advertising, I’ll be writing a tutorial for those soon so subscribe to the MakeUseOf RSS feed or keep an eye on the front page.
As ever, let us know how you get on in the comments. Will you be setting up a wifi hotspot? Are you totally against the idea of sharing your Internet connection? Too complicated?