Following relatively recent improvements in the Linux wireless stack and driver support it is now possible to setup a Linux machine as an access point, even if you don’t have an Atheros chipset (which was historically the case). Support is patchy but I would say there is a good chance you can do this if you have purchased a laptop with built in wireless in the last 2 years. It is even possible to set one up with a USB wireless adapter (which even Madwifi couldn’t do) if you have an Ralink chipset.
Why would you want to do this? Well, there aren’t that many reasons considering ISP’s routinely hand out wireless routers these days, but I will give you a couple:-
For the last 6 months my Samsung laptop backlight has been flickering at me randomly and indiscriminately. Having had enough if this cyber “water” torture I finally relented and decided to buy a new laptop. As my customers always have good experiences with Dell equipment I decided I should take my own advice and buy from them. Running Ubuntu and already owning a entry level SSD I decided I didn’t need anything flashy but it had to have a decent amount of memory for running a Vista Virtual machine as and when the need arose. It would also need a 17″ screen as working in lots of SSH sessions at the same time is a pain for me with anything smaller.
I basically went for the base spec Inspiron 1750 except with 4 GB of memory and I have to say it is the best Linux experience I’ve had so far with a laptop. Everything pretty much worked straight away with a minimum of fuss.