The 1997 Saturn has enough Wi-Fi equipment installed on its bumper and rooftop to create a 150-foot wireless network, said Oh, who helps run a free wireless network covering two Boston city blocks and is one of hundreds of so-called publicoperators who believe Wi-Fi networks and the Internet access they offer should remain free.
The war car's first sortie was nine days ago to a Starbucks cafe, where Wi-Fi access isby the minute.
Oh parked the car outside the cafe and fired up the network. Because the vehicle was close enough to the shop, laptop users inside the Starbucks--which charges up to $2.50 for 15 minutes of access--could use his free network. "A couple of people logged on," he said.
Supporters of free Web access were among the first to set up the 300-foot zones of wireless access that Wi-Fi created in the mid 1990s, primarily in large cities like New York.
Companies such as T-Mobile and EarthLink founder Sky Dayton's Boingo Wireless began selling access to their own Wi-Fi networks about two years ago. They charge for monthly, weekly or daily access.
But why pay for it, Oh said, when it's readily available elsewhere for free?
A Starbucks representative could not be reached Friday for comment. A representative at Wireless carrier T-Mobile, which supplies Starbucks with the access, declined to comment.
The war car uses a new technology developed by Oh and others at Tech Superpower, a Boston-based consultant specializing in products made by Apple Computer.
The car is fed broadband Internet access that arrives wirelessly from Tech Superpowers' offices, coming via an access point--which creates the wireless zones--sitting on top of the car's roof, Oh said. The car can roam about 1,500 feet from the offices' antenna. Normally, Wi-Fi access points need to be connected to the Internet, whether using a DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem; and most are plugged in using wires.