Hi folks, this is my first post so go easy on me please

I work as a self employed PC repair bod in Norwich UK. Norwich is fairly well known in the UK for offering a number of free wireless access points that can be used within the city limits, providing you abide by the relevant T&C's. A few of my customers are charity organisations which make use of these wireless hotspots for email and the like, but find the bandwidth available is generally low and the connections are subject to timeouts and disconnects if not 'kept live' or if connected for over an hour continuously.

A few of these hotspots overlap and in at least one of my clients cases I can see over half a dozen 'free' wireless connections.

What I would like to do is create a load balancing firewall with failover capabilities that has multiple wireless network cards in order to connect to several of the available wireless hotspots at once. The hope is that my clients could make use of a higher, combined bandwidth and suffer fewer disconnects whilst keeping costs down (no ISP fees).

My experience with Clarkconnect community edition suggests that wireless support with that distro is virtually non-existant at this point but I do like many of it's features and find it to be a very reliable firewall and the windows file sharing aspect is immensely useful.

My experience with Linux Mint is virtually flawless from a desktop and wireless nic point of view, but I have no idea how to configure/modify it to serve as a firewall.

I'm imagining a Linux with the reliable (works out of the box) wireless support of Linux Mint, the firewall reliability of ClarkConnect and the additional load balancing and failover features I mentioned earlier. VPN isn't really a requirement since these guys are largely volunteer staff and never work from home. DMZ would be nice though since one of the networked PC's is available for use by the public.

Hardware shouldn't be too much of an issue since I'm a licensed 'waste carrier' which basically means I'm allowed (by law) to visit landfills and recycling centres and remove I.T. equipment from my area. As a result I usually have a few PC's knocking about which could be anything up to 2.6Ghz.

My current thoughts are along the following lines: Obtain a copy of CC with Multi-WAN and flexshare support and attach wireless access points to the WAN nic's. My hesitation in just doing this is the cost of the licence fee for the enterprise edition and the increased power requirements of half a dozen wireless AP's (not to mention the fact that each AP will have to be set up and managed separately).

I have found a number of distro's that do firewalling or file sharing and pfsense (not strictly Linux by my limited understanding) seems to handle the loadbalancing side of things - but nothing I have found seems capable of doing everything I want. Am I missing a secret distro that will help me with this wireless conundrum or can someone discuss building an ISO with me that could do what I need?

Any help or suggestions warmly appreciated! Just please realise that my clients are charities so budget is virtually non-existent and my experience with Linux is largely restricted to web based interfaces and Gnome/KDE GUI's (terminals scare me - I'm a 'stuck in my ways' windows geek and am finding learning Linux slow going!).


(similar question cross posted on LinuxMint and ClarkConnect forums but I've had no replies so far so I thought I would ask here too - hope you don't mind?).