Thanks to the efforts of countless engineers, we have an open 802.11b standard. Now that hardware that adheres to this standard is in the hands of non-engineers, all sorts of interesting applications have been implemented. Thousands around the globe are pushing the capabilities of these inexpensive radios well beyond their intended limits. Standard client PCMCIA cards have been used to create point-to-point backbone links several miles apart. Discontent with tiny, private networks, people are using inexpensive access points to create public networks that can support hundreds of simultaneous users. Even the popularized security shortcomings of 802.11b are being overcome by some careful planning and the proper application of open source software. Whether the IEEE committee intended it to be so or not, 802.11b has stumbled on the magic formula that makes the ultimate platform for hardware hackery: low cost, ease of use, ease of modification, and ubiquity.
In this chapter, we'll take a look at some wireless applications that demonstrate the enormous flexibility of wireless (and some that are just really cool!). Be warned that some of these examples will certainly void warranties and may damage your equipment if you're not careful. If you are ever unsure about how to proceed, ask around. Chances are, someone else has done what you're thinking of doing, and can at least lend you their shared experience. The various wireless group mailing lists are a great resource for ideas and working out implementation details.