A HotSpot that was but is no more.
This hotspot is no longer in operation and I have left the webpage active as reference for others who may want to set up a hotspot and as a useful reference for those looking for ways to make their internet connection/computers more secure. The decision to end this project was not an easy one, but it came down to finances. The computer that I was using to make this work died and I could not afford to replace it or purchase the required hardware to fix it, so I decided to abandon the project.
What The Heck is A HotSpot(Wi-Fi)?
If you don't know, click here for a good definition and background information on Internet Wireless HotSpots.
Why I created this Public WifiZone or HotSpot.
This Project was made possible by ZoneCD and is truly historical. I believe that LakeShore Park II is the first if not one of the few Condominiums in Winnipeg that has access to a free wireless internet HotSpot. It's like a Internet Cafe for a Condominium. Only difference is that you have to supply your own coffee. There are 3 main reasons why I created this HotSpot
(1) Those who cannot afford to pay for a internet connection have access to a basic wireless internet connection. All they require is a laptop and wireless network card, wi-fi enabled PDA, or wi-fi enabled pocket pc.
(2) Condominium owners with existing high speed internet accounts would no longer be restricted to a wireless internet connection that is only accessible while they are in their own units. Owners can now access wireless internet with their laptops from the 3030 Pembina Hwy Condominium Foyer or even further away depending on the type of wireless internet card/antenna that they are using.
(3) The creation of this Hotspot adds to the value and appeal of the LakeShore Park II Condominium in general. When owners selling their Condominiums advise prospective buyers of the availability of free wireless internet, it indirectly increases the resale value of the Condominiums and adds to the appeal of the condominiums.
*****Please be advised that connecting requires some effort on your part and the instructions for connecting are posted HERE
This is a free voluntary service for residents of 3030 Pembina Hwy and I have incurred and absorbed all costs of equipment and time in setting it up. It is not funded by condominium fees or financial support from the Condominium Corporation. I don't make any guarantees that connection will be trouble free 100% of the time as your ability to connect may be effected by many factors outside my control, including but not limited to: the type of network card that you are using, whether you carefully followed the INSTRUCTIONS for connecting (sorry, it does not work if you don't do this) your distance from the hotspot, the fact that the building is concrete reinforced so connection is largely restricted to the main floor waiting area(foyer of the 3030 building), and the fact that the service is attached to my Internet Service Provider account, which means if my Internet Service Provider is down, you will be unable to connect. I ran numerous tests on this before implementing it and I can assure residents that if you live in 3030 Pembina Hwy and follow the posted instructions on how to connect, you should have no problem connecting from the main floor foyer(waiting area of the building). For more information on Hotspot Connection Problems, scroll down and review the section under "WHY CANNOT I CONNECT TO THE HOTSPOT?" Using this hotspot is a voluntary choice and you are not paying for it. Use if if you want and don't use it if you are not happy. Also connecting to the internet through this HotSpot, any other HotSpot, or a regular wireless or straight cable connection without antivirus or antispyware connection is the equivalent of having unprotected sex with multiple partners. I cannot take responsiblity if you choose not to protect yourself with antispyware or antivirus protection and end up with computer problems due to an infection. I strongly advise you to follow the suggestions outlined on this web page to protect your computer against viruses and spyware and for surfing safely using wireless before connecting. Also, please be sure to familiarize yourself with the TERMS OF USAGE before using this HotSpot. I cannot assume any responsiblity for any computer hardware problems that you coincidentally experience while trying to connect to or using this HotSpot as this the HotSpot operates independently of your operating system, software, and hardware, and those problems have nothing to do with using this HotSpot. Thank you.*****
Is This Safe?
NO IT ISN'T!! Whether you connect to this HotSpot or any other HotSpot anywhere in the world, 100% security is not guaranteed as unencrypted wireless internet connections are inherently unsecure, which means data transmissions can be intercepted very easily. The only thing that I can assure you is the fact that this is not a "Rogue Access Point." That is a HotSpot purposely set up by the me to intercept users' personal and confidential information. While I am not in the practice of advertising my personal information on the Internet due to dangers of identity theft, I have advised Condominium Board members of my this service and they are fully aware of my identity. I have nothing to hide and would have no problem(s) fully cooperating with authorities in any investigation involving this HotSpot. If you still have doubts about the security and legitmacy of this HotSpot, please disconnect and consider a wired internet connection.
The following are some precautions that you can take to increase security if using this or any other HotSpot. Note: You will not be able to directly download any programs listed below as downloading of files has been disabled. You should get a friend to download these programs for you and burn them to a CD for you. You should install these programs before accessing this HotSpot.
(1) Don't use this HotSpot or any other HotSpot to conduct personal financial transactions, involving exchange of sensitive information like passwords and credit card information.
(2) If you plan to use HotSpots to check your E-Mail, consider setting up a free Web Based secure E-Mail account to protect against snooping eyes. Safe-Mail, Gmail, and HushMail are excellent options.
(3) Regularly run the latest WIndows XP updates to protect your computer from the latest vulnerabilities.
(4) Whether you use a wireless or wired internet connection. It is never a good idea to store sensitive or personally identifying information on your hard drive. This would include such things as: personal/family photos, credit card information, information containing your name, address, phone number, etc., Social Insurance Number/Old Age Security Number, registration keys or serial numbers for newly purchased software, passwords, etc., This is the type of information, some hackers like to fish for. A USB Flash drive like this can hold up to 44 floppies of information and is a relatively secure and inexpensive way to store confidential and sensitive information. If you absolutely must store sensitive and confidential information on your hard drive at least consider encrypting it using one of may freely available file encryption utilities like axcrypt.
(5) Using your wireless network adapter configuration utility or via network connections in Windows XP control panel, configure your computer for infrastructure mode instead of ad-hoc(peer-to-peer) mode. This will prevent a hacker from connecting to your laptop without your knowledge.
(8) Use a Anti-Virus Program. You only need to install one. Don't install more than one as they will conflict with one another and you will have problems with your computer. Excellent free antivirus programs include AVG Free and Avast Free.
(9) Install, update and regularly run anti-spyware programs like SpyBot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware Personal, SpywareBlaster, and A-Squared Free. You need to install, regularly update, and run all four of these programs. Here is an excellent step by step guide for creating your own free Security Suite. And here is another useful article on what you can do to protect your computer. Markus Jannson's Web Privacy and Security Page Provides An Excellent Step by Step Tutorial On Protecting Your Computer.
(10) Consider replacing/modifying your hosts file to block unwanted parasites.
(11) If using WIndows XP disable simple file sharing and printer and file sharing. Also, enable the Windows XP default firewall. Click Here For A Step By Step On How To Do This.
(12) Windows XP by it's very nature is highly vulnerable and exploitable and heavily targeted by hackers. Many of the hacking programs out there are coded to exploit never ending Windows XP flaws. Many viruses, trojans, worms and spyware are coded to work with WIndows XP. Therefore, you should consider installing and using Linux in conjuction with Windows XP. Besides just better security, there are several other reasons why Linux is just better. You don't need to abandon Windows XP for Linux. You can create a dual boot system and use Linux to surf the net while using Windows XP for wordprocessing and other things. This step by step shows you how to create a dual boot system with Windows XP and Puppy Linux(one of the most user friendly Linux Distros). You can also use Suse or Ubantu which are also extremely user friendly Linux Distros. If Linux does not appeal to you consider switching to a Macintosh system.
(13) If you still prefer to stick to WindowsXP, use a VPN(Virtual Private Network) connection service to protect yourself when you connect to any HotSpot. You will have to enable the service everytime you connect to a HotSpot and before you begin surfing the net. Two such excellent VPN Service programs include: HotSpot Shield(freeware/ad-driven) or JiWire Hot-Spot Helper($24.95 U.S/year)
Equipment and Setup
This setup was pieced together using a Pentium 3 500 MHZ computer, 2 ethernet cards, 64 MB USB flash drive, existing High Speed Cable Modem connection, 2 wireless routers, floopy drive, 2 Gig Hard Drive(not necessary for this to work), 52 speed CD Rom, and 384 Mg Memory(but this can work with a minimum 128 Mg Memory). The entire Wifi or HotSpot Gateway runs off the "Live" Zone CD and can accomodate a maximum of 100 users at the same time. The diagram below, taken from the ZoneCD website summarizes the setup. If you are looking for a more detailed step by step, please go to the ZoneCD website by clicking here.
Is This Legal?
Several individuals were convinced that this kind of setup was illegal and that I would get in trouble. I contacted my Interent Service provider to clarify whether such a setup would violate my Terms Of Service Agreement. I was advised by my Internet Service Provider that such a set-up would not. I also thoroughly reviewed the Terms of Service Agreement for my Internet Account, and noticed nothing that would prohibit such a setup. Finally, I contacted Industry Canada to inquire about whether there were any licensing laws or legislation prohibiting such a set up. I was told no. The bottom line is that such a hotspot setup is legal and in no way violates my Internet Service Provider Terms of Service Agreement, nor does it violate any federal, provincial, or municipal licensing by-laws, legislation, or regulation.
Hours Of Operation.
This HotSpot will be in operation 24/7 Monday-Sunday . For security reasons, I was going to restrict hours initially, but decided against that as the setup needs to be on 24/7 for testing purposes. Also, I wanted to accomodate as many users as possible. If allowing 24/7 access causes problems, I may end up restricting hours or pulling the plug on the HotSpot.
What's The Catch?
The only catch is that you read and fully comply with the Terms Of Usage Policy. Otherwise, use this Hot if you want and don't if you don't want to. I could always turn this into a paid service and begin billing people to access it. I would prefer not to. At the same time, this is open wireless service so I cannot guarantee anyone who decides to access this HotSpot 100% security. As stated before, anytime you use a unencrypted wireless connection, there is a much higher risk that your sensitive data will be intercepted. If you want to be totally safe, stick with a wired connection and ensure that you have a good firewall, anti-virus program, and anti-spyware program installed. Use this HotSpot at your own risk. Personally, I would have no problem using wireless hotspots to surf the net for research purposes or to check out the latest news. I would not use any wireless hotspot to conduct personal financial transactions, use the wireless hotspot to send or receive E-mail via popmail, or access any sites where a password or login would be required.
Why cannot I connect to the HotSpot?
For a step by step guide on how to connect to LakeshorePark-Public HotSpot, click here. The HotSpot that you are connecting to is known as "LakeshorePark-Public Hotspot" and is associated with a wireless access point. The most common reason for not being able to connect is related to your proximity from my access point. In plain English if you are too far away from my router and and the signal is too weak for your wireless internet card to connect to, the connection will likely time out and you will not be able to connect. And this is where it gets really tricky. ZoneCD(the program that makes this possible) was designed to be used in small scale settings like Coffee Shops, Restaurants, etc., with all customers being relatively close to the wireless access point and where signal strength or quality was not an issue. I am trying to use ZoneCd to pipe out a wireless signal in a building(s) that is encompassed by reinforced concrete and where residents are quite far from each other and from the access point in all directions. There is no software fix to compensate for this, but there may be a hardware solution. This is a work in progress. Over the next little while, I will research ways that I can amplify my wireless signal strength so people further away can more easily connect. In the meantime, I suggest that you consider purchasing a wireless network card, specifically made to maximize connectivity with open wireless networks. From all the wireless network cards that I tested with this HotSpot, I found this USB Cantenna to have the strongest range and best connectivity. You cannot go wrong with a card like this one, but it is quite costly and likely not worth it unless you travel a lot and connect to open wireless networks. You can make your own Cantenna if you feel up to the task and can locally find all the components. Here are instructions on how to do that. However, keep in mind that the size of a cantenna(the size of a bean can) can may make it impractical for most people to lug around. An alternative that will have sufficient range to work would be a card like, this or like this. When in doubt about the type of network your computer can accept, take your computer into any computer shop and ask them if your laptop can accomodate a wireless 802.11g network compatible pcmcia or usb wireless card. It really is a two way street, if you want to minimize any connectivity problems with the HotSpot, you will likely have to invest in a good wireless card. At my end, I can only do so much to amplify the access point signal associated with the HotSpot. Another thing that you can do is take your laptop into the 3030 Pembina Highway Condominium Foyer/waiting area just after the front entrance. The HotSpot wireless signal appears fairly strong in this area, allowing you to connect more easily to the access point. In theory, if a unit owner on each floor of each building were to set up a hotspot and be willing to absorb the minimal cost of the equipment, all residents on each floor without a internet would be able to access the Hotspot(s) with minimal connection problems. Aside from this, the only way to create 100% trouble free signal strength and reception throughout both buildings is through extensive internal/external rewiring and use of external antennas. This would cost thousands of dollars and would not likely be in the best financial interests of all unit owners. The set up used by me was cost neutral and did not involve any rewiring either in my own unit, other units, externally, or in any of the hallways.
What You Won't Be Able To Do Via This HotSpot
You won't be able to download files(this is disabled to prevent bandwith theft and abuse and prevent downloads of illegal or offensive material) and you won't be able to access porn sites and other offensive sites. If your try, the content filter will kick in and you will be greeted by a message like this one(click on the image once, then click on the susequent image for a magnified view of the image):
This is due to the simple fact that I am allowing you to access the Internet via my Internet connection. From a legal standpoint, if you use this to access offensive material, including child porn, I could be held legally liable and also I don't believe in letting my Internet connection act as a gateway for people who get off on this kind of stuff. Please carefully read and review the Terms Of Service Usage that govern all users who choose to use the HotSpot. Failure to abide by the Terms of Service Usage may result in you incurring criminal or civil charges.
I can as easily deactivate this Public HotSpot as easily as I activated it. I plan to closely monitor this service and will be looking for abuse of any kind. If I find that people are heavily abusing this site or it becomes the target of hackers, spammers, and others malicious individuals, I will have little choice but to pull the plug on this service. Another option would be to create "closed" access, which would entail monitoring every Mac Address and IP address that accesses this HotSpot and restricting access to those that abuse the service. The problem with this is that it would be akin to babysitting users, something that I don't want to do or have the time to do. When I started this service, I wanted to make it so that users' privacy was respected to the max. Creating a closed system and babysitting users to screen out abusers would result in maximum infringement of the privacy of all users. I would sooner just pull the plug on the service all together than spend time babysitting users. My greatest fear is that this service could become recruited into a botnet and taken over by a botnet operator. If that were to happen, the service could become a cyberzombie used in the spread of spam, spyware, viruses, trojans, worms, and to attack other networks and websites globally. I couldn't in good conscious allow this to continue and would have little choice but to put this zombie out of its misery.
If you have any further questions about this HotSpot, feel free to E-Mail me, but if you do E-Mail me, please use a Web Based self-expiring E-Mail address like mail expire instead of your pop3 mail client or address. Why?? Spammers are notorious for honing in on wireless and unsecure networks to harvest E-Mail addresses. And apparently, E-Mail addresses can be sold for profit. Mail Expire will let you create disposable alias E-Mail addresses that you can set a expiry date/time on. Your real E-Mail address is not shared and if spammers get wind of this address, it does them little good cause you can terminate it any time. Safer yet, it is best to post your comments and suggestions in my guest book. On a somewhat unrelated point, I have noticed individuals who have wireless access in the neighbourhood using WEP encryption to secure their wireless connection. The FBI demonstrated that a WEP key can be hacked in 3 minutes using free software easily available on the internet.
I urge those individuals if they are concerned about wireless internet security to immediately change your encryption from WEP to WPA, preferably WPA2 eas vs WPA TKIP but WPA TKIP is still a heck of a lot more secure than WEP.
Additional Useful and Informative Articles About HotSpot and Wireless Internet Security.
Why BotNets May Be The Greatest and Most Dangerous Cyberthreat (Note: if you follow many of the anti-spyware, anti-virus, and on-line security measures outlined on this web page you will greatly minimize the risk of your computer's assimilation into the BotNet Collective).
Excellent Firewall, Anti-Virus, and Anti-Spam Resources.
Resources For Testing Your Firewall(note: if you run these tests while connected to a HotSpot, you may get inaccurate readings/false positives). Also Note, .exe, .dll, and zip files are disabled for security reasons, so you may not be able to run many of these on-line tests. You may want to consider running some of these on-line test through a wired internet connection. Also, many of the on-line scanner programs listed require the use of Microsoft Internet Explorer; the scans will not work with Mozilla Firefox.
Resources For Dealing With Spammers.
Miscellanous Security Resources.Jason Levine's Browser Security Tests
HotSpot ResourcesFast Fixes to Wi-Fi Problems
Do It Yourself WI-FI Projects
Other Cool DIY Projects
Want a Mac Computer but cannot afford one?? You can build a Hackintosh Computer For Under $800, or if that is too expensive, you can build a Hackintosh for $350. If you embark on something like this, keep in mind that a Hackintosh is not without problems vs regular Macintoshes as this former user of both Hackintosh and Macintosh discusses in this article.
Using Wireless Internet To Make Free/Inexpensive National/International Phone Calls.
One of the major benefits of Wireless/Wired Internet is the ability to use Internet Wireless to make free phone calls from PC to PC or inexpensive, and even free(depending on the provider) PC to landline/mobile phones. The technology behind this is known as VoIp(Voice Over Ip) If you are interested in using wireless internet to save on your phone bill, you may want to check out the list of VoIp providers below. Just a word of caution. Some critics state that VoIp may pose a security risk for computer users.Here is an interesting article on Security Issues in VoIP.
*****Use VoIP Services at your own risk.*****
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