A Good Deed

Some years ago several friends of mine and I plotted a trip through Hong Kong, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo over a period of several weeks. The Miserly Iron Fist, as he was known, took command of arranging accommodations, finding the most affordable options on our route.

Osaka’s accommodation was one of its fine, quintessential business hotels, featuring tiny rooms no greater than 100 square feet, with single-piece, vacuformed plastic bathrooms. These things were made of one piece of plastic formed into a tub, sink, and toilet. All of this to say, it was efficient, small, cheap, and remarkable in all of those aspects.

In exchange for this stately affair, we lacked for good wireless internet access in our rooms. Doubtless most locals had phones with internet access and didn’t really need in-room WiFi, but as unwashed gaijin with incompatible phones and, even so equipped, comically expensive international data plans, we were stuck slinking down to the lobby for our daily dose of sad news and sadder attempts at humor from the world at large.

Perhaps in an attempt to add insult to injury (and possibly to prevent guests from downloading a bunch of loli stuff), we found ourselves able to connect but unable to access the internet. Technical marvels that we were, we decided, language barrier, security, morality, legality, ecumenism, spirituality, and grammar be damned; we would fix their equipment ourselves.

For the less technically literate, when your phone or laptop connects to a wireless network, an address is issued temporarily so data requested from your device can be properly routed. This customarily comes from a pool of addresses of a set size for a set period of time. In this case, our hosts hadn’t even bothered to change any of the default settings when they installed their device, which was why we quite trivially were able to access its configuration, though navigating the Japanese-language site required some creative pattern-matching and trial-and-error.

Its defaults would give out 50 addresses that lasted about a day. This meant that, in a given day, once 50 devices had connected to the network, all other devices would not receive an address and not be allowed to connect to the internet, and their desire for lolicon would simply have to wait until the next day. We changed this to a much more reasonable 250 addresses that expired once every half-hour. As people moved through the lobby, their phones would connect, get an address, then disconnect. As long as 250 devices didn’t connect within an half hour, all would be well.

We resisted the urge to leave a trace of our passing (an amusing change to the network name, perhaps?), though we did debate changing the password to something other than the default so bad actors would not take advantage in the future. Deciding against it, we slid back into the silent shadows, like ninjas, or Batman, or Ninja Batman (is that redundant? hard to say).

And that is how the WiFi in a small business hotel in Osaka suddenly improved, with the owners being none the wiser.