By Aaron Weiss
February 27, 2008
The open source hotspot: ChilliSpot
ChilliSpot is a hotspot that provides more user authentication and management options than simple NoCatSplash. However, it is also more complicated to setup.
ChilliSpot requires a client and a server. The client is what you configure through DD-WRT. On the server side, you need both a Web server and a RADIUS authentication server.
You can create a ChilliSpot hotspot for free by installing ChilliSpot, plus a free Web server, like Apache, and a free RADIUS server, like the aptly named FreeRADIUS. These software packages run on all major platforms including Linux, Windows, and OS X, but setting up such a server is well beyond the scope of this article.
The alternative to setting up your own free ChilliSpot backend is to use a third-party hosted ChilliSpot provider. One such provider is WorldSpot.net, which offers a feature-limited free ChilliSpot service, along with more feature-filled paid ChilliSpot hosting.
For this tutorial we will setup free ChilliSpot hosting through WorldSpot, but note that there are other competing providers and this is not an endorsement for any one.
1. Sign up for an account at http://worldspot.net/wk/Register.
2. Once your account is confirmed, you can log into WorldSpot. Under “Manage my Hotspot”, click on Hotspots, Display config info. You will see a page with all the fields you need to enter in DD-WRT.
3. Open a browser to your router’s DD-WRT administration page, default address http://192.168.1.1 unless you’ve configured a different LAN IP.
4. Click to Administration, Hotspot to open the Hotspot configuration page.
5. Click Enable for Chillispot.
6. Click Enable for “Separate Wifi from the LAN Bridge.” This will isolate your wireless clients from any wired clients.
7. Enter all the info exactly as provided on the WorldSpot config info page. You will need your ISP’s DNS address, which you may be able to find on the DD-WRT Status page.
8. Click Save at the bottom of the configuration page, and then Reboot the router.
When you reconnect to the Internet through your router, your browser will be redirected to the Worldspot site. Log in and, under “Manage my Hotspot,” click on Hotspots, Configure Hotspot.
On this page, you set up the basic policies and landing page for your hotspot. There are limitations on the policies you can select using a free account. Refer to WorldSpot’s help page for the details of their configuration choices.
At the bottom of the page, you must click the link to setup access profiles. Without an access profile, your visitors will not get an authorization button to click.
Your access profile lets you further define usage restrictions, such as session duration, and traffic quotas. At the very bottom of the access profile page, be sure to click “Select which hotspots this profile applies on” to activate the profile for your hotspot.
Now you can connect open a new browser to the web. Like your visitors, you will be directed to the WorldSpot-hosted landing page you’ve just configured. You can click through to authorize yourself for access.
As the hotspot owner, you can log in to your WorldSpot account and view visitor activity by clicking on Hotspots, Display session history.
To setup a billing system for your hotspot visitors using WorldSpot, you must upgrade to a fee-based account, in which you will be charged to use advanced ChilliSpot features. If billing is an important part of your hotspot business model, it may make sense to setup your own ChilliSpot server as described earlier.
The commercial hotspot: Sputnik
Much like ChilliSpot, Sputnik provides hotspot owners with a full slate of user management, authentication, billing, and logging features. Sputnik sells its services in a variety of bundles, including wireless hardware, subscription access to their web-based hotspot management, and software for installation on local servers.
DD-WRT users already have a Sputnik-capable wireless router. The company also offers a slimmed-down free hotspot management service called SputnikNet Express. Like WorldSpot’s free ChilliSpot hotspot, SputnikNet Express offers an easy way to create a customizable landing page with limited user management.
Enabling SputnikNet Express in DD-WRT is a simple point and click affair. Virtually everything is handled by the step-by-step walkthrough on the Sputnik server.
1. Open a browser to your router’s DD-WRT administration page, default address http://192.168.1.1 unless you’ve configured a different LAN IP.
2. Click to Administration, Hotspot to open the Hotspot configuration page.
3. Click Enable for Sputnik Agent.
4. Click Use SputnikNet Express for Sputnik Server ID. If you don’t see this option, save the settings from Step 3 and reboot the router.Alternatively, you can click Use Sputnik Instant Setup to setup a paid subscription account with Sputnik.
5. Click Save at the bottom of the configuration page, and then Reboot the router.
When you reboot and connect to a web site through your router, the browser will be redirected to Sputnik’s web-based setup wizard. From there you can configure your free or paid hotspot account.
For the future
Although DD-WRT V24 does not always work reliably with NoCatSplash and ChilliSpot, the developers have added support for Wifidog, another open source captive portal. Like ChilliSpot, it requires some software to be installed on an external server, but may be easier to setup than ChilliSpot.
Unless you want to experiment with Wifidog as an alternative hotspot to those discussed here, it would be prudent to stick with V23 SP2 until V24 is released as stable.
For more on DD-WRT, read “DD-WRT Tutorial 1: Static DHCP,” “DD-WRT Tutorial 2: Extend Range with WDS,” “DD-WRT Tutorial 3: Building a Wireless Bridge,” or search our archives for “DD-WRT” to discover dozens of other helpful articles.