First, let’s be honest here. Fon really, really really wants you to buy a La Fonera. $20+ shipping for La Fonera 1, or $50+ shipping for La Fonera Plus, with only one LAN Ethernet jack. Fon no longer sells Linksys WRT54GL routers, and they’ve hidden the download links for the firmware necessary to “bring your own” hardware. But for the time being, that firmware is still downloadable, and so you can use your own Linksys and Buffalo brand routers.
Update: Fon has terminated their original downloads page. The links below to FonBasic and FonAdvanced still work as of 02/28/2015. The Macintosh and Ubuntu versions are now hosted by me. They’re open source products, so any take-down demands can kiss my ass. Joiku jettisoned their Fon e-partnership at the end of 2012, so that’s gone.
This firmware does not have the double-SSID feature, and other privileges might be withheld from such Fonero accounts by Fon. You may not be able to operate as a Bill Fonero (who makes money). Your hotspot contribution to Fon may not be rewarded with free roaming like everyone else. You may not be able to even register your hotspot to your Fonero account. Fon will probably continue to accept registrations of new Aliens, provide “free” trial connections, and sell wifi access at these spots. Great deal, eh?
The trick seems to lie partly in what WLAN MAC address your firmware sends back to Fon in it’s heartbeat. If it is not in the block assigned to the La Foneras which Fon sells, then you’re simply treated differently. While the formerly-official firmwares listed here are unable to clone that WLAN MAC, a little manual tweaking may fix that. There is also an encryption key which must be generated by an application installed in La Fonera firmware, but this can be provided for you by a friend.
Below are the links to download the firmware, please select the version for your router model.
FonBasic is based upon OpenWRT, and FonAdvanced is based upon DD-WRT firmware. There were also several builds of DD-WRT made with an auto-configure button in the onboard admin pages, which essentially turned it into FonAdvanced. The latest builds may still be configured for Fon by following the tutorial linked at the end of this page.
Here is the generic installation guide for the Linksys/Buffalo firmwares above: GUIDE.
There are several other options available for Foneros who are familiar with Linux or Macintosh OSX operating systems. These allow you to offer your own Fon hotspot, using an existing PC or Macintosh running an Intel processor. Each device needs both an Ethernet connection for the Internet feed, and a working WiFi adapter to transmit the Fon hotspot in peer-to-peer mode. You might also be able to tweak the system, and instead use two Ethernet adapters, with a simple WiFi AP connected to one of them. This would even make it possible to make your Fon hotspot capable of 802.11n!
To install the Linux Fonspot, follow these steps:
1) log into your Ubuntu PC via SSH as root
2) cd /tmp
Please note the above gzipped file contains a double-tarred file. It’s not corrupted! The inner tar file has no file extension. Please adjust the command on the next line as necessary. I’m leaving it unfixed so that it is the genuine file distributed by Fon.
4) tar zxvf fon_linuxspot_beta0.2_es.tar.gz -C /
5) > fonspot
You will need to either launch Linux Fonspot manually, each time you boot up, or manually add it to your startup script.
There is also FonJoikuSpot, which is a Fon-themed skin for Joiku’s JoikuSpot application which runs on a number of Samsung and Nokia phones. In original press releases, this was unwisely called “FonSpot” which re-uses the name of the Mac/Ubuntu FonSpot product above.
Let me know if any of these firmwares can no longer be downloaded, since I don’t check them often. Do I have copies of all of this software? You betcha. When Fon finally yanks their own copies down, i’ll put up rapidshare or bittorrent links.
Finally, it is realistically possible to make a fully Fon-compatible hotspot using any PC or router running Linux-type operating systems, if there is also a version of Chilispot or Coovachili which works on it. Fon’s router firmware is a stripped-down edition of OpenWRT, so any router which runs this is an excellent candidate, even if you don’t use OpenWRT itself.
For example, this tutorial will instruct you to set up a Fon hotspot on any router running the latest DD-WRT firmware, including cloning a MAC address which Fon likes, and setting up the “Fon heartbeat” so that your device appears on their maps.