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HotSpot Features

Since it really isn't a general-purpose wireless router, the real reason you'd buy the B-4000 is for its "hotspot" features. Once you enable authentication on the B-4000 (it's disabled by default), all attempts to access the Internet - by both wireless and wired clients - are forced to an authentication page like the one shown in Figure 7.

ZyXEL B-4000: Authentication login

Figure 7: Authentication login - customized version
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

You can choose a standard or customized login page, page redirection, or login frame. The customized version lets you control pretty much everything you see in Figure 7, including the background and text color.

You set up accounts by first using the Accounting page (Figure 8) to set the times, access charge and other info needed for the Account generation interface (Figure 9) and Account receipt (Figure 10).

ZyXEL B-4000: Accounting page

Figure 8: Accounting setup
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

After some experimentation, I found that 999 days is the longest account time that can be set. So if you have regular users that you don't want to charge, at least you won't have to keep generating new login information for them!

ZyXEL B-4000: Account generator

Figure 9: Account generator

The Account Generator has its own login that allows access only to the panel and Account list. All that person needs to do is collect the money from the customer and click the appropriate button on the Account Generator. This will pop up the window shown in Figure 10 with all the required login information that can be printed out and given to the customer.

ZyXEL B-4000: Account receipt

Figure 10: Account receipt

If the Account Generator Printer that comes bundled with the B-4000 is attached, the cashier doesn't even need to be running a web browser. The button on the printer will print out a receipt for whatever time and amount is entered in the Accounting page's Button 1 entries.

This is a simple little system and should be easy to manage for its intended audience. But I'd like to see the option for entering account username and passwords directly vs. just the random assignment method currently supported. I'd also like the ability to control the virtual LAN features so that at least wired users could file and printer share while remaining separated from wireless users.

An important security feature is that there's no simultaneous account sharing. So if customers think they can buy one ticket and share the wealth, it won't work. But it they discover the "super" account username and password, they'll have free access that can be shared by multiple simultaneous users. So be sure to change the default information for that and the admin, account, and supervisor accounts when you first set up the B-4000 if you don't want to give away the store!

Three other features of note are Walled Garden, Advertisement and SMTP redirection. The first lets you enter up to 10 URLs that appear as links on the login screen. Users will have free access to any pages on those sites as long as the root URL (i.e. www.thesite.com) stays the same. Note that sites like Yahoo that use many different servers and subdomains (news.yahoo.com, etc.) aren't good Walled Garden candidates.

The Advertisement feature supposedly sends the user to one of ten user-settable URLs either right after authentication or on a user-programmable interval. The after-authentication mode worked fine, but the timed mode didn't seem to pay attention to the 1 minute interval that I set. It eventually opened another browser window for the "advertisement" site, but on its own schedule, which seemed like at least 10 minutes or so.

SMTP redirection is a handy feature that lets authenticated users send mail through your ISP's SMTP server without having to change their email client's SMTP server entry. I didn't test this feature, but ZyXEL's manual says that it not only sends the mail, but modifies the email header into so that the recipient "sees the message as if you sent it from your local Internet Service Provider".

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