Affordable Wireless Bridge with Unlicensed Frequencies

I am a big advocate of not using wireless whenever possible for many reasons; security, interference, reliability, scale-ability, etc.  However the alternative can be extremely pricey, and just out of the question.  Our work has a building about 1400 Ft away from our primary building.  Its current network usage is nonexistent and although some feel our usage will be minimal.  I believe once we have Internet access out there we will see a much larger demand.  I am one who believes in doing it right the first time so it doesn’t have to be done again. Overbuilding is the key for longevity.  I am a big fan of Cisco equipment but in this build-out we will not be using Cisco.  They do offer some enterprise grade bridges but their cost is a little out of our budget on this project.

I played around with how to get the most amount of throughput on this, considered building two Linux boxes with directional antenna’s, priced out equipment, and came the conclusion that if we wanted a reliable connection we should go with equipment designed for what we are trying to do.  Kirk referred me to Ubiquiti We ended up purchasing the Ubiquiti Powerbridge M5 for $250 a radio (or $500 a pair).  This provides a 100Mb link on the 5.8 GHz spectrum which provides 23 non-overlapping channels compared to 2.4 GHz which only has 3.  These specific antennas are also ISP/carrier grade with a supposed distance of 20 kilometer range (don’t worry we turn the transmit power down 😛 ).

Once they arrived I went back to maintenance and grabbed some black pipe and a some scrap 3/4 In plywood.  In no time I whipped together a quick stand for testing.  I wanted something heavy on the bottom, the right size to screw into rafters when we finalized our testing, and cheap.  I also wanted to design it so I could set it on my counter top and not have to worry about scratching it up.  I was happy with the results, and the price… FREE

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We did some testing and found what we had predicted.  These antennas were WAY OVERKILL when it comes to range and current needed throughput… and that means that they were perfect!

They come with a built in spectrum analyzer to detect interference.  Due to our location we did not have any issues with that.  Kirk or I will post some more on the ubiquiti spectrum analyzer software at a later time.  My only complaint with that software is that it only runs on windows… and Linux is my primary OS…

Screenshot-[Concession-Bridge-MCHS] - Main - Chromium

Here is a screenshot of our current setup.  SSID, MAC Addresses, IP’s are all blacked out for obvious reasons.  This is the current link seen below.  This link is about 1400 feet.

Screenshot-Google Earth

2012-10-12 15.14.53-scaled

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These are outdoor rated antennas however I feel much safer having them under the protective roof.  I know that under an asphalt roof such as this that we will have greater signal loss, that partially why we purchased the antennas we did, to help compensate for that.

Since we have done this we are now streaming video games live to the Internet.  Our usage will be growing more and more with the quality of the video being sent to the Internet.  More and more people will want access, which is why we went with something like this rather than a 54Mb 802.11g connection.

The cost to pull this off with Cisco Aironet devises would have easily been closer to 3 times the cost.  We get a Cisco AP for about $600.  We would need 2 AP’s, plus cables, plus antennas.  We pulled this off at about $500, with a faster link.  Reliability will be determined later.  Currently we have been up for 60 days without problems.

With the success of this link and demand growing to all edges of our sports fields, we plan on building a redundant wireless network of our outbuildings for a minimal cost.

Screenshot-Google Earth-1

We will be putting Cisco AP’s out there to provide edge security/connectivity.

And just because they are rated for 20 kilometer does not mean you can shoot them through trees….  I couldn’t get them do go .5 mile through some trees.

NOTE:  Awesome Android app to help aim this equipment is “true bearing”.  With my minimal experience with some of the longer range equipment this could be very helpful IMHO.

Lazy Spammers…

There was once a time when reading my spam folder was actually entertaining.  I got to sift through wild stories about Nigerian royalty, deceased relatives I never knew I had, and relatives claiming to be stranded in faraway lands like Spain and England, mugged, and without their passports.

But lately, I’ve been looking for humorous spam emails like these, and I’ve been very disappointed by the lack of effort put forth by today’s spammers.

airline-spam

Interesting… I can’t say that I remember scheduling a flight into New York, but who am I to argue with a legitimate airline like Badoo?

 

hp-scanner-spam

This might be more convincing if I actually knew VERNELL, or had an HP scanner.  It’s kind of amusing that they originated the email from my own domain name.

 

linkedin-spam

Thank you very much BERYL for my LinkedIn invoice…

 

unfamiliar-bill-spam

I have no idea who you are, JENELLE MOSELEY, but I will certainly do everything in my power to help you with this bill.  Were you recently hired in at my company as a book keeper and I wasn’t told?

 

twitter-online-banking-spam

I am always relieved to know that my Twitter Online Banking account is secure.  I would certainly want to look into this…

 

hello-user-me-sales-spam

You’re right, every day is a gift, so I shouldn’t waste it reading your poorly worded spam…

 

myspace-changelog-slade-spamchangelog-stoner-spamchangelog-walls-spam

I don’t know why everyone thinks I want changelogs.  Thank you Mr. Walls, Mr. Slade, and Mr. uh, Stoner…

 

In my entire Junk folder, the only email I found with any effort put forth was this fake order confirmation from Intuit.

intuit-spam

Sometimes, I yearn for the days of Nigerian royalty.

1.87Mbps (What Gives, AT&T?)

As we all know, AT&T has a history of trying to gouge its unlimited data customers.  AT&T discontinued unlimited wireless data plans a few years ago, and would undoubtedly enjoy having the remaining grandfathered unlimited users become tiered data customers.

Despite this general attitude, AT&T has made surprising decisions, like the decision to allow the transfer of unlimited data plans to the new LTE iPads.  At the time the news was reported, it was stated that the iPad unlimited users would remain unthrottled for the time being.  There were no guarantees made regarding the future of their unthrottled status, but it put iPad customers in a better position than iPhone customers, who are actively being throttled after 5GB of LTE usage.

Since I got my iPad 3, I’ve been enjoying my unlimited data privilege, reminding myself periodically that it is a privilege which AT&T feels like they can take away from me at some unspecified future date.  I regularly use anywhere between 6GB and 12GB of data in a billing cycle, and I had yet to be subject to any throttling on LTE or HSDPA+ 4G.

That is, until last night.  Last night, I received a video Skype call from a friend while connected to HSDPA+ 4G.   I answered with my front facing webcam, generating what was probably a rather sizable stream of data in the download and upload direction.   I was on the video call for about an hour, which is longer than I’ve ever been on a video call while on my cellular data.  Afterwards, on a whim, I decided to run a speed test.

att-steady

My result was not particularly fast… it was 1.87Mbps.  I can typically get anywhere from 6-10Mbps on my HSDPA+ connection.  So, on a whim, I ran another speed test… 1.87Mbps again.  Hmm, that’s strange.

att-1.87mbit

I am still not sure what caused this phenomenon, but it definitely looks like some kind of throttling to me.

1.87Mbps is 1914.88Kbps… so I suspect it’s possible that a cap somewhere set to 2000Kbps could cause this speed test result.

I decided to power cycle my cellular radio in my iPad.  Upon reconnecting to the AT&T network, I found that my speeds had returned to normal.

att-7.47mbit

 

att-8.46mbit

 

So, if this is a bandwidth throttle from AT&T, why was it activated?  I decided to take a look at my data usage.

att-data-usage

It was eerily close to 5GB of usage.  But then why was the throttle reset when I power cycled my cellular radio?  This may be a mystery I will never have an answer to.  I suppose it’s possible that a glitch on my specific cell tower could have caused the phenomenon in the first place, and power cycling created a new data session, or connected me to a different cell tower.

I would be interested to learn if other AT&T users have ever seen a 1.87Mbps throttle.   AT&T has a page explaining their data usage policies for unlimited smartphone customers, but at the time of this writing, the page does not discuss tablet customers, and does not mention specific throttle speeds.

For now, I will continue using my data normally, and continue keeping my eye out for throttling.

 

Newly found DVD limit…

Apparently DVD’s hold insane amounts of storage now. While burning a typical linux distro DVD, I may have found a glitch…

Screenshot - 11282012 - 06:30:54 PM

My DVD burner can now burn 18.4 EB DVD’s.

 

Linux Amazingly Runs Great on Faulty Hardware

We recently switched over from Windows to Ubuntu on a lot of our computers (about 400 computers) for many reasons I won’t get into now. One thing I can say is that our ancient 8-10 year old computers run [b]so[/b] much better than they did with Windows. We would frequently run into hardware related issues where Windows would randomly blue screen.

The same computers with Linux on them run just fine. Have for quite some time now. We notice that computers with failing hardware seem to run fine with Linux… see some of the amazing pictures below on functioning Linux computers.

ASCII Printer Status
CUPS Print menu…

Corruption ifconfig
Ifconfig, at least we got our IP of the computer.

903_2012-12-07+12.38.44
That ASCII is supposed to be the computer name.

We have been amazed on the faulty hardware that Linux will just work with…