Pocket Networks

bring your network with you

Aug 13, 2010 - 3 minute read

Here We Go!

Well, this is our first post on our new site!

The objective of this site is to document the creation and use of portable networks.

When I registered this domain, the concept of a “Personal Area Network” over Bluetooth fascinated me. It was literally a “pocket network.” I still have not set a PAN up, but I have toted networking equipment in my luggage on several trips to set up a LAN in a hotel room at conventions, so while that’s not quite a “pocket” network, it’s still a portable network.

With the proliferation of “smarter” phones and true smart phones, the importance of PANs to keep phones and PDAs in sync has diminished; however, new devices like netbooks and tablets like the iPad that use WiFi as their primary connection need something to get online with. This is where we will focus.

Early Efforts

Windows 98 Second Edition was the first version of Windows to include Internet Connection Sharing, enabling easy setup of NAT routing. Additionally, Apple released the first AirPort router, which included a modem, around that same time, and Mac OS X contains a similar function to ICS. Every version of Windows since then has included ICS, and Apple has continued to produce AirPort products.

Impromptu networks could be made easily with these sort of things, and once wireless networking started to catch on, wireless networks were made in similar fashion. Networking started to become portable then.

Initial Personal Effort

In 2005, some of my friends and I attended a convention and paid the hotel for access. On the last day of the convention we discovered open wireless in the lobby. That gave me an idea for the next year.

The following year we aimed a directional antenna through our room’s window at the skylight over the lobby. We had set up an impromptu network for wired access at the very least. We’ve continued doing similar for the past few years at the convention as well.

Current Efforts

Upon discovering Cradlepoint’s products, I began researching acquiring an aircard for my personal use as well as use at conventions. Their products work rather well for their intended purpose but are somewhat limited.

As a crazy person, I decided to improve on their idea: I installed IPCop on my spare netbook and configured it to function as a truly portable wireless router with a 3G connection. This will be used for this year’s convention and future conventions.

Additionally, Connectify has released a piece of software to enable Windows 7 computers to share an existing connection, wired or wireless, with other wireless clients. They frequently retweet reports by other Twitter members of using their software to create a quick network.

Having some sort of portable network means you can bring your connection with you. This is a tremendous boon for travelers and commuters alike. Until wireless connections are truly ubiquitous, being able to create your own connection will have to do.