Monday, April 18, 2005

Wi-Fi Saga

The fact that I installed wi-fi in my favorite cafe has generated a lot of interest. Here's the whole story:

Late in 2003 it was bugging me that I kept reading about the wi-fi revolution but there was not a single public gathering place in Charleston (WV, not SC) with wi-fi. I knew the owner of Taylor Books because she bought some artwork of mine and I'm a regular in the cafe. I asked her if she had thought about installing wi-fi but of course she didn't know what I was talking about. I told her it might be possible to install it and make a little money on it and that I would investigate the options.

Google uncovered a startup (which shall remain nameless) in the Pacific northwest that offered turnkey systems. They would sell me a Colubris WAP/Access Controller for 700 dollars. This unit would allow "the company" to accept payment and control access remotely from their office. All I had to do was to take the unit and plug it into the router from the existing broadband service in the store, sit back and wait for the money to roll in. Users would log in and input their credit card info and pay for a certain amount of time access. "The company" would then pay the credit card company their fee and split the rest with us, sending a check each month. I would take all the profits until the unit was paid for, then I'd share the money with the store. The resulting profits were, to say the least, paltry. As meager as they were, I still had trouble getting the company to send me the checks. After several months of this frustration, I contacted Colubris to find out how my very expensive access point could be configured to allow for local control. One day I turned off the remote control and never heard from "the company" again.

We decided to offer the wi-fi free to customers. The expensive Colubris unit made it easy to control access. We change the password regularly, so that we can offer the service to customers rather than the neighborhood.


oncee said...

Hi Rick,

It looks like your security is working a little too well. We just left Taylor Books for Capitol City Roasters for a WiFi connection. The people working at Taylor at the time were giving out the old password, which we couldn't get to work.

Actually the WiFi here at Capitol City Roasters isn't working either. We are sitting near First Watch and using their free wireless. A few more feet north and I could use my own home wireless network.

Rick Lee said...

Hopefully the situation is rectified. I did change the password yesterday. The people who work the counters plead with me to choose passwords which are easy to spell. For instance, when the password was "hotcocoa" hardly anybody could log on.

oncee said...

Thanks Rick,

Some of us can't spell. I bet people were typing "hotcocco".