Slurpr Promises to Aggregate Free Wi-Fi

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Ever sat down somewhere with your Wi-Fi capable device, been greeted with a small swarm of publicly-accessible networks, and wondered which you should choose to access the Internet? Well, why not use all of them? Mark Hoekstra and his colleague Boris at Geek Technique have come up with a not-quite-tiny box dubbed the Slurpr which can attach to as many as six Wi-Fi networks and offer the combined bandwidth as a single broadband connection. The box runs Debian Linux, sports a MIPS embedded processor, wired Ethernet, 64 MB of RAM, 128 MB of onboard flash memory, 4 GB Compact Flash card, and six MiniPCI slots sporting Senao/Engenius 5354MP Wi-Fi cards using the Atheros AR5213 chipset.

The idea is that the box can transparently connect to available Wi-Fi networks and offer its user all the available bandwidth as a single connection. Of course, the connections aren’t actually bonded into a true single connection: from the description, the Slurpr seems to use a round-robin approach to connections, using different available connections for different requests. So, loading a Web page, the text may come in via one connection, a big image via another, and you could be streaming video via still another connection at the same time: it’s not same as having one giant broadband pipes, but being able to use a bunch of small pipes is still better for most things than using a single small pipe.

The problem with something like the Slurpr is that it may well violate laws in some regions—it’s becoming increasingly common for users sapping free or unprotected Wi-Fi to be arrested for theft of services. Just to make matters more complicated, the Slurpr box has all the capability it needs to break into (and utilize) Wi-Fi networks using 64 or 128-bit WEP networks—although doing so would put the Slurpr in a much greyer legal arena.

So Hoekstra is taking a poll: would potential buyers like for the Slurpr to be the most powerful wardriving, WEP-cracking, wireless access point on the planet right out of the box, or would they prefer the box only connect to publicly-accessible networks? As one might expect, the results are skewing heavily toward the wardriver crowd—of course, now that it’s been proven building this kind of box is within the reach of the technically-inclined, many may just decide to do it themselves.

Hoekstra and company are currently accepting pre-orders for the Slurpr at a price of €999—although they haven’t worked out whether customers will need to sign a waiver when (and if) they receive the product.

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