[CWN-Summit] Seeking advice on low-cost mesh node wifi in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Ramon Roca ramon.roca at guifi.net
Tue Nov 18 14:02:58 CST 2008

When I said platform, I mean that we do use a suite of tools, not only a 
firmware family, routing protocol or so (which imho cuwin is about, my 
apologies if I'm wrong), we trend to support many, as well as 
provisioning other features.
The platform is about sevelal things like a module for drupal which 
includes GIS tools, network and backbone planning, ip provisioning, 
bandwith/latency monitorizing, up to the self-configuration of the 
network devices for many firmwares/hardware (RouterOS, dd-wrt, 
openwrt....) and some other pieces. Since also includes a CMS, also 
provides a collaboration space (news, wiki, forums...). That is the 
"standard" things to provide user oriented tools "web 2.0 alike", plus 
extending the same concept to the communications infrastructure.

Since is technology agnostic, doesn't rely on a single technology, is 
your choice if you want to play with experimental things or deploy a 
stable mesh combining infrastructure mode.

The platform have been developed to meet our local needs, but last year 
have been reworked to allow support for any deployment worldwide and a 
distributed architecture. We're in the hope that by combining such kind 
of platforms with all the emerging technology and wider community 
support, that would revert in enhancing the platform itself.

It can run either hosted by reusing our already parametrized servers 
(much easier - fast start) or take the software and setup a new LAMP 
server to run it, which could mean that you need some previous training 
since is about setting up an application, or build the server later on....

As an example, my node with the map, connections, real time information, 
At the devices list, the "unsolclic" column gives you the configuration 
of the firmware used at the node, etc, etc...

A wider view of the network over a map:

En/na Stelios Valavanis ha escrit:
> wow what are you using? cuwin? how many backhaul connections for 5000 nodes?
> On Tuesday 18 November 2008 12:54:43 pm Ramon Roca wrote:
>> The platform we've built at guifi.net is addressed to many of the things
>> what you are asking for, which is about combining several features (wide
>> hardware/firmware support, oriented to coommunity/self-managed but
>> reliable open networks including residential access, monitored,
>> scalable, provisioning for proxys, open source, etc...).
>> We're running it here for a +5,000 nodes / +6,000 kms.
>> We can talk deeper if you are interested.
>> En/na Ben West ha escrit:
>>> Hello all,
>>> I should first apologize if I am posing an oft-asked question, but I
>>> find myself at an impasse, even after 2+ years of casual research and
>>> spectatorship in the Mesh Node Wifi movement (not to mention twice
>>> attending the CWN conference).  The diversity of participants in Mesh
>>> Node Wifi is awesome, but it can make feasibility research difficult.
>>> I work/volunteer at an activist community center (CAMP, stlcamp.org)
>>> in south St. Louis, and a local foundation just put out an open call
>>> for proposals for investing a substantial sum into community
>>> revitalization projects in the neighborhood.
>>> These 2 articles about an $8500 deployment of Meraki devices along a
>>> 2mile corridor in Kentucky motivated me to pitch a similar idea for
>>> this St. Louis neighborhood:
>>> http://www.govtech.com/gt/377232?topic=117699
>>> http://www.wireless-nets.com/resources/tutorials/low-cost_mesh_hotzone.ht
>>> ml
>>> However, further research in Meraki has yielded some unpopular
>>> business decisions they made just this year:
>>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meraki#Criticism
>>> http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/24/1318226
>>> http://www.dailywireless.org/2008/11/05/meraki-diy-munifi-for-10kmile/
>>> I certainly understand Meraki's motivation to protect their market,
>>> but my impression is that decisions to lock down hardware make their
>>> products less viable in areas where wifi groups may face direct
>>> competition from established ISPs.  (I.e. can't hack routers to
>>> support QoS or customized captive portals).  The latter is actually
>>> directly relevant to my proposal, since I'm aiming for a captive
>>> portal hosting local ads to provide some operating revenue.
>>> So, assuming you have a $10-$15k start-up budget (including equipment
>>> purchase. deployment, AND marketing) for installing wifi along a
>>> ~2mile corridor with lots of 3story rooftops, what suggestions are out
>>> there?
>>> Meraki, and take your lumps?
>>> Open-mesh.com, which is appealing since OpenWRT can be deployed to
>>> legacy devices like residents' existing Linksys routers?
>>> OpenWRT + Kamikaze + OLSRd (i.e. roll your own)?
>>> Freifunk.net?
>>> WifiDog for the captive portal + OpenWRT?
>>> The basic, 1st order requirements for the Mesh network are such:
>>> - Robust & stable (this will be a funded deployment, and sadly not a
>>> dev project)
>>> - Low-cost equipment (population density of this neighborhood makes
>>> antenna strength 2nd order)
>>> - Capacity for centralized admin console
>>> - MAC tracking and auth (i.e. how many unique wifi clients have
>>> connected) - Quality of Service (we anticipate lots of folks trying to
>>> run file sharing, whether sanctioned or not)
>>> - Customizable captive portal
>>> - Ability to route to multiple DSL connections from different ISPs w/in
>>> the mesh
>>> 2nd order requirements
>>> - Support for legacy routers (e.g. able to flash old Linksys products)
>>> - Good transceiver strength
>>> - Integration with PayPal-like subscription payments
>>> 3rd order requirements
>>> - Mechanism to control per MAC access based on # bytes downloaded,
>>> e.g. "We see you've downloaded 3GB this month w/o paying for your
>>> access..."  This would be a very appealing way to provide limited free
>>> access, i.e. make the service more competitive, but then enforce fair
>>> cost sharing in case folks opt for sustained freeloading.
>>> - Ability to dynamically divert sessions away from congested DSL
>>> uplinks.  (I hope that having multiple DSL connections in the mesh
>>> will give us composite reserve bandwidth we can actively allocate to
>>> handle sporadic traffic peaks.)  Do conventional Mesh Node
>>> implementations already support this?
>>> - Ability for wifi clients to connect to each other (Meraki does not
>>> support this)
>>> 4th order hopes and dreams
>>> - Support for integrating a centralized squid-like HTTP caching
>>> server.  I.e. commonly surfed traffic gets cached within the mesh.
>>> I consciously anticipate this mesh node deployment to be a temporary
>>> thing.  The goal is to establish a wifi-savvy neighborhood presence
>>> that can use its collective buying power in the next few years to
>>> transition to new technologies, White Space devices in particular.
>>> Any suggestions would be gladly welcome.
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