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Functional Requirements

I need a reasonably portable device that would allow people to use their laptops to connect via WiFi and navigate to a domain name I would tell them. The domain name would serve a web page that would have links to files for download that would be hosted on and served from the device.

Use-Case Requirements

My use-case is for making 1 hour presentations I would like to run like a mini-workshop so I expect to have ~25 people connected and downloading, all at the time same time.

What is the Specific Use-Case?

Basically I want give a presentation to people about how to set up an open-source local development environment for WordPress and so I need people to be able to download the required files to their computer at the start of the presentation.

Why These Requirements?

WiFi Internet tends to be slow and/or unreliable at the locations where I will be giving these presentations, and my goal is to get as many people to actually start using this local development environment I built as I possibly can so I want to ensure successful setup for as many people as possible.

Assumed Technical Requirements

Obviously the device will need to be a WiFi access point, it would need provide a web server, DNS server and DHCP server and the domain name such as downloads.lan would only be visible to them when they are connected to the device.

Non-Requirements

The device does NOT need an upstream connection to the Internet. All it really needs to do is give them a special purchase WiFi access point to connect to, download files and then disconnect.

But Nice-to-Have

However a nice-to-have would be to have the device connect to an upstream Internet connection using DHCP -- in the case such a connection is available -- then proxy the traffic to the Internet (except traffic to downloads.lan), assuming the device could handle lots of connections. But again, that would just be a nice-to-have, not a requirement.

"Failed" Attempts Thus Far

So I have tried several things thus far that either did not work or that were far from optimal.

LibraryBox on TP-Link MR3040

My first attempt at this was to buy a TP-Link MR3040 and install LibraryBox software on it. Unfortunately, it took over 10 minutes to download the necessary files with only 1 computer connected; far too long. So the device needs to be fast; i.e. have lots of bandwidth.

Apple Time Capsule

I then looked at an older Apple Time Capsule I have. But it does not support a web server so it would be more technical to access, and it is on the very heavy end of portable. This may be my fall-back, but I am hoping I can find something better.

Ubuntu + Hostapd + Lenovo IdeaCenter Q180

I then tried to set up an old Lenovo IdeaCenter Q180 I had laying around by installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Hostapd, but I had a nightmare trying to get everything configured correctly all at once.

I started with Ubuntu Server but could not get it to connect to my WiFi -- which is necessary to download and install software -- so I switched to Ubuntu Desktop which has a GUI and thus I could get WiFi connected, but I could still not figure out how to get Hostapd to work. Evidently it needs to control the WiFi and yet Ubunutu Desktop does not want to let go of the WiFi.

I feel certain this would work if I could just figure out how to configure everything. I expect maybe I need to buy another WiFi adapter for Hostapd to use like maybe the TP-LINK TL-WN722N but I don't want to go down another dead-end and I am not much more than a beginner as Linux and I may not be able to figure it out on my own.

Summary

At this point I am happy to spend money to solve the problem. I am happy to buy a different device if you can point me to something that will work. (I'd even hire someone to build it if the fee was modest!) I just want something that will work and meet my requirements, and not take 20 hours of my time to get working.

Any suggestions?

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Hostapd is hard to set up if you don't know what you are doing. I've had the same issue, I just couldn't make it work so I searched and found this beautiful script called create_ap. It can create a wifi network with a single command.

If that still doesn't work, you can buy some travel router (for example TP-LINK TL-WR710N, it is the first thing I found) and you can just connect your Lenovo with the router.

If you want to make it smaller, you can use Raspberry Pi as your storage server and in the best case scenario you can power it via USB that is on the router. Unfortunately, I can't find how much current does that USB have so I'm not sure if it will be enough for RPi and you will probably need a second power supply.

Raspberry Pi Model 3 does have wifi but using create_ap might not be that stable. I've tried create_ap on Orange Pi Zero (cheaper knockoff of RPi) and it didn't even create a wifi network. I'd rather go for router + RPi combo. That way you will have reliable wifi network with decent range.

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    Thanks for answering. Unfortunately my need was over a year. But I gave you the points for the effort. – MikeSchinkel Jul 5 '17 at 2:30

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