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Building Wireless Community Networks by Rob Flickenger

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Chapter 2. Defining Project Scope

What do you want to accomplish? As a sysadmin, this is a question I ask whenever a user comes to me with a new request. It’s easy to get wrapped up in implementation details while forgetting exactly what it is you set out to do in the first place. As projects get more complex, it’s easy to find yourself “spinning your wheels” without actually getting anywhere.

The most common questions I’ve encountered about 802.11b networking seem to be the simplest:

  • How much does it cost?

  • How far will it go?

  • Can I use it to [ fill in the blank ] ?

Of course, these questions have pat theoretical answers, but they all have the same practical answer: “It depends!” It is easiest to explain how people have applied wireless to fit their needs and answer these questions by way of example.

People are using 802.11b networking in three general applications: point-to-point links, point-to-multipoint links , and ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) workgroups. A typical point-to-point application would be to provide network bandwidth where there isn’t any otherwise available. For example, suppose you have a DSL line at your office but can’t get one installed at your house (due to central office distance limits). If you have an unobstructed view of your home from your office, you can probably set up a point-to-point connection to connect the two together. With proper antennas and clear line of sight, reliable point-to-point links in excess of 20 miles are possible (at up to 11Mbps!).

One common ...

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