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Hawaii Wi-Fi 146

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wish-i-lived-on-an-island dept.
wyldchild37 writes "Through all the hype about 802.11b, I haven't seen too many real applications being talked about. Now that's starting to change. Here's a story on a guy who has set up a wireless network covering a good chunk of the Big Island of Hawaii. His network includes base stations wherever he can place them, along with an assortment of amplifiers, antennas, and other gear."
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Hawaii Wi-Fi

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  • I would wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jinky (565098)
    ...what type of security he'd have implemented on something such as this network. Would anyone with a wireless NIC be able to access it? If it connects to his own network at home, are those boxes secure there?
    • Mutual authentication, secure key derivation, dynamic WEP keys, Reauthentication policies, and initialization vector changes. These are all implemented by hi.net [hi.net] and no doubt will be used by any other ISP wishing for a reasonable amount of security.

      Read about more about them. [cisco.com]

      • But not everyone does this :) I can drive around with a wireless NIC in my lappy in downtown Toronto, sooner or later can get on to someone's network that they have set up. Pretty sad security measures.
    • He doesn't need any security -- there's nothing to secure. The point of his project is to offer full broadband Internet access to anyone who has the equipment to access it. The wireless network behind the access point only contains the Internet gateway, so there's really not much to protect.

      Anyhow, if anybody wants to secure a wireless network, it's not that hard. You limit the 802.11 portion to VPN tunnels only and use one of various types of backend authentication methods to allow select users. It is also possible to limit many access points to accept connections from certain MAC addresses. If you start stringing MAC filtering, VPN, backend authentication, backend firewalls, and good server hardening and administration, you have a network that is very, very hard to crack (though certainly not impossible!).
  • Aloha Net (Score:5, Informative)

    by spotter (5662) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:35AM (#3161375)
    This is somewhat interesting, as a lot of the research that went into what became ethernet was originally developed at the university of hawaii, as a wireless network, called Aloha http://www.nightflight.com/foldoc-bin/foldoc.cgi?A loha

    Bob Metcalf (of xerox parc, later founding 3com) went on and basically took the protocol's and put them on a wire (instead of wireless), and this led to what we know of ethernet today.

    what 802.11 adds to ethernet (that aloha didn't have) is the request to send/clear to send protocol which prevents the "hidden sender" problem from appearing. This problem is, wireless cards only have a certian range, card "a" might want to send data to card "b", and card "c" might want to send data to card "b", but "a" and "c" can't see each other, so their can be collisions which they will never know about because they can't see the collision. (unlike in ethernet, or in aloha, where all the hosts are assumed to be able to see each other)
    • Yeap, every comp sci student who takes a class on networking is forced to learn about ALOHA. Personally, I think smoke signals are a much better way to communicate from island to island. :)
      • Re:Aloha Net (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AndroidCat (229562)
        Really? Damn, I was forced to learn about it by reading _Packet Radio_ by Robert Rouleau VE2PY and Ian Hodgson VE2BEN, and hanging around the university amateur radio station, VE2CUA.

        Of course there was no packet radio at the time in the U.S. because they didn't allow the modulation type.

        Bob and Norm later went on to form a company (PacketData?) to do their hobby commercially, and NASA bought some of their units for the Mars Rover to base station links.

        Meanwhile what I learned about packets helped wonders on a number of projects. However my CDC-6600 assembler course hasn't gotten me any jobs at all. Go figure!

    • > This problem is, wireless cards only have a certian range, card "a" might want to send data to card "b", and card "c" might want to send data to card "b", but "a" and "c" can't see each other, so their can be collisions which they will never know about because they can't see the collision.

      This is called the "hidden terminal" problem. Google for it if you'd like to know more about it (and how to solve it)

  • Yes but.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by JoeLinux (20366) <joelinux.gmail@com> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:36AM (#3161380) Homepage
    Do you really want to go to Hawaii to be geek'd up? Isn't the purpose of Hawaii to have a place where Geeks' take their wives so they will stop complaining? ("I want a week without you in front of a screen, where we will actually sit and talk" "Can I PLEASE just take my palmpilot? I won't even take the charger. Promise") Where a geek might actually see the daystar?

    JoeLinux
    • Spent a week on Maui just over a year ago. Took the wife and kids - stayed in the Sheraton Black Rock. Very nice. Relaxing. And, yes, I spent some time in the hotel's business center. While there I noticed they rented laptops - but the only Internet connectivity was through ethernet which didn't help at the beach. I enlightened the proprietor about 802.11b and Access Points. I wonder if they're set up by now? Anyone been there lately?

      To be honest, there's enough down-time on vacations to enjoy a little work. I guess you just gotta like what you do - or be obsessive-compulsive... //* Pops another Paxil *//

      • While there I noticed they rented laptops - but the only Internet connectivity was through ethernet which didn't help at the beach.

        That's probably exactly the reason why they don't have wireless. Y'a know, it gets kinda expensive if you have to clean or replace the laptops each week because of sand in the drives...

        • It's not true - they wanted to provide beachside access. Understand that this hotel is pretty swanky ($400+/room/night 14 months ago) and has cabanas with chairs on the beach. It's not a typical beach setting.
      • the only Internet connectivity was through ethernet which didn't help at the beach. I enlightened the proprietor about 802.11b and Access Points. I wonder if they're set up by now?

        You want access at the beach?! Umm wasn't the reason your wife took you there to get away from the monitor for a minute?

        • Yes but, what paid for the trip was my sitting in front of that little monitor and she's not done making purchases, so.... ;-)

          Really - out of a week spending 3 to 5 hours (total) checking logs, email, noodling co-workers...it's part of the relaxation.

      • Thanks for 'enlightening' them. Another place we will not be able to escape the madness!

        ---
    • Geeks have wives?
  • by backlonthethird (470424) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:38AM (#3161386)
    Hawaii Wi-Fi-OH?
  • laser links (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ndevice (304743)
    The article doesn't mention laser/optical links, but it seems to me that that would be an alternative to the DSL and T1 lines they have connecting base sites already. With the optical link method, potentially, you can connect up lots more base sites without laying down more wiring.

    Of course, everything might get out of alignment when they have an earthquake...
    • Laser/Optical links also fail after very short distances due to water, dust, etc in the atmosphere(hell, there is a VOLCANO on the island) and are extremely expensive not to mention line-of-sight only.
      • usually the dust-in-the-air problem is solved by using more than one link. you set up parallel lasers, separated by a hundred feet, say. if one gets blocked, the other takes over for a bit.

        i seem to recall that people are cobbling together laser transmitters using dirt cheap red lasers from CD-ROM drives. The cost issue may not be as important as you may think at first.

        big point: lasers aren't regulated the way radio is. if big telecom companies start feeling threatened (and believe me, they will), they will lobby for, and receive, severe restrictions on the use of private radio links for networking. at that point, 802.11 would become low-powered and deployed surreptitiously, and lasers could be used to undetectably connect the 802.11 LANs.
    • Laser is not really cost effective for this type of thing. There are a number of other products that will do the job cheaper and more reliably. What this guy did was use really cheap equipment, but you can get OC3 radio links that span large distances. I'm interviewing with a company that does this. They recently set up a wireless point-to-point link that spans 50 miles and gives DS3 speeds; they also did this in a very rainy climate, similar to Hawaii (rain interferes with the high-frequency radio these things typically use (you can also use lower frequency radio (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, etc), but you have a lot less play in this range)).

      This really is an expanding industry. You can set up point-to-point links to rural areas where it would be prohibitively expensive to draw cable. You can put antennas (or antannae :) on a few tall buildings in urban areas and start providing high bandwidth commercial and residential service, completely bypassing the local telco (which means your network's reliability depends less on the (in)competence of Ameritech or ATT). The big telcos pretty much failed at this a few years ago as the cost of the CPE (the consumer-end hardware) was prohibitively expensive at the time. Now, the consumer-end hardware is becoming less and less expensive (and a lot of wireless ISPs are developing their own hardware to give clients). You can figure that if the client radio costs $200, you only have four months of service before you make back your investment (unlike a lot of the defunct DSL providers who would have to hold a client for over a year to cover the cost of the DSL modem they gave away).

      Another interesting product is Karlnet (use google) which is firmware for lucent 802.11b hardware. It provides a different protocol which is better-suited for outdoor environments (there are a lot of reasons that 802.11 doesn't scale outdoors, such as the hidden node problem, etc). It's really interesting how this protocol (called Turbocell) is designed completely differently from 802.11 to work in a completely different environment. The guy in the article could have used this to improve range, reliability and scalability. Idea is you give your client a radio and recover the cost after a few months of service. You can use the same cheap hardware for the base station, except that you hook it up to a big antenna and mount it on a tower somewhere. It's nice how the guy in the article set up his network with very little money, but you can do a much more professional job with a little more money.

      Anyway, interesting stuff.
  • Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EricKrout.com (559698)
    wyldchild37 writes "Through all the hype about 802.11b, I haven't seen too many real applications being talked about."

    Huh? Yeah, no one's talking about using wireless because EVERYONE'S ALREADY USING IT. Christ, there's an article from 2000 [wired.com] that talks about how popular wireless on college campuses was getting two years ago. These days, it's almost the norm. There've been numerous articles posted to Slashdot about particular colleges using wireless and loving it.

    Aside from 802.11b on college campuses, there are plenty of other applications. I hope I don't sound like I'm scolding you or something, it's just that you seem to be a bit out of the loop, which is fine :-)

    MONOLINUX :: The Safe-Haven For Linux Power Users [monolinux.com]

    • They might have been talking about it for a while, but that doesn't mean they've been doing it. I am currently at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison and we barely have any wireless access. Aside from parts of the Union, the CS building, and about 10% of the libraries, wireless is just hype. Personally, any major chunk of property covered by wireless is a great acheivement compare to the majority of Universities. To that end, I'm currently involved in a project to cover downtown Madison, WI. We should be starting the implementation in less than one month. I only hope we get as big as the one in Hawaii
      • I'm fairly interested in setting up some sort of development project for a small college community (where broadband is rare). It is located in the mountains which makes it difficult to find a point-to-point location (besides the towers on each mountain).

        I was wondering if there was any documentation you could point me to so I could do some research; right now I'm blindly searching (although I'm trying to read some on ham radio).

        What type of equipment (AP's, antennas, power) would be most appropriate while staying under a $500 limit for each part, and what all would be necessary?

        I am currently looking at an ORiNOCO AP (http://www.hyperlinktech.com/web/orinoco_ap500.ht ml) and a 15dB omnidirectional antenna. For each receiving node, what type of antenna (parabolic possibly) would be most useful (if point-to-point line was being used to a 3-5 miles radio tower)?

        Any help would be great; I do know a good deal about networking/routing, so thats not the biggest issue.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Informative)

      by the_greywolf (311406)
      beyond that, this month's issue of Wired magazine (in the Infoporn section, of course), proudly displays a map of the continental US showing the locations of major Wi-Fi networks.

      unfortunately, it fails to show the WAN that a local ISP just rolled out. last i checked, it was doing quite well.... and this is way out in the desert boonies in southern Idaho!
  • Wi-Fi like the I-net (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dooguls (110485)
    IMHO the most interesting part of the article was the mention of the growth of Wi-Fi for free as a parallel for the growth of the Internet as a medium to freely share ideas and disperse knowledge and understanding. I hope the author's dream does come true. I'd love to see wireless access to the I-net as prevelant as cell phone access is or better for that matter.
  • Scalability issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WTC Survivor (566347) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:42AM (#3161400) Homepage
    Things may have changed in recent years, but I recall reading a while back that there is a frightningly small amount of bandwidth between the continental U.S. and Hawaii. Although this guy may be able to share his little T1 with about 30-40 people, I can attest (from personal experience) that 1) he is going to need to start installing more lines to go past that, and 2) the more lines he needs, the higher the marginal cost will get, because the wired links between the U.S. and Hawaii max out at about 36Mbps. That 36Mbps needs to be split amongst all of the 1337 wireless jockeys on the island, as well as all other voice and data telephone traffic. When the population (about 650,000 as of the last census) is taken into account, that doesn't leave a lot of room left for his project to grow. Which is, IMHO, unfortunate.

    That leaves the residents of the island who hunger for faster speeds two options: 1) put up with 4.5sec latencies and use satellites to move data between Hawaii and the rest of the world, or 2) beg their sugar daddies in D.C. for a few million dollars to upgrade the island's aging hardwired links. Or 3) route low-latency traffic (games, ssh, etc.) over the T1, and route downloads over the satellite.

    • 2) beg their sugar daddies in D.C. for a few million dollars to upgrade the island's aging hardwired links.

      Considering Sens Akaka and Inouye are frighteningly senior, this might not be such a bad idea...

    • That leaves the residents of the island who hunger for faster speeds two options:

      Actually there appear to be at least 17 named islands. Hawai'i is the biggest, Molokini the smallest. The former is getting larger, due to active volcanism, the latter smaller due to errosion.

      : 1) put up with 4.5sec latencies and use satellites to move data between Hawaii and the rest of the world, or 2) beg their sugar daddies in D.C. for a few million dollars to upgrade the island's aging hardwired links. Or 3) route low-latency traffic (games, ssh, etc.) over the T1, and route downloads over the satellite.

      Wonder if the islands' legitimate government would have been short sighted enough to not bother with communications links to the west...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Nope, we got lines going to Japan too.
      • And in like 10,000 years there will be a new island, dont remember the name that was choosen, but it starts with and L if i remember that much correctly.
    • Once the community network become big enough, external connectivity become less and less an issue, because more and more content can be served from inside the network.
      Do you remember that internet is a mean to communicate inter networks. ? It is not destined to be the one and unique network.

      .
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can't speak for the Big Island (perhaps that's what you meant by 'Hawaii') but I know the state of Hawaii (in particular, Oahu) has a *lot* more bandwidth than 36Mbps. Witness pihana [pihana.com], which has a colocation facility in Honolulu with up to OC192 connectivity.
    • You should have done some research before you posted...

      http://www.att.com/press/1290/901205.csb.html
      I t is not too late:
      http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stor ies/200 1/03/19/focus2.html
      http://www.att.com/press/0993 /930901.cia.html

      Check out the dates, Hawaii got some pretty good bandwidth as long ago as 1993...
    • by rumwrks (8435)
      There is lots of bandwidth in HI. I have multiple megabits at work, other people in the building have at least 3Mb, some have more, the people down the street have access to an OC3 to the mainland, and we're on one of the "outer" islands (read not oahu). It does cost a wee bit more here than on the mainland, but not much.

      UH has boatloads of connectivity, check out thier traffic grpahs, hardly even used
      http://thundarr.its.hawaii.edu/traffic/index.html [hawaii.edu]

    • Who cares about the bandwidth between the US and some foreign country? The US doesn't go out of its way to establish more bandwidth to Cuba, so why Hawaii?
    • Actually Hawaii has some of the best fiber connection in the world, with 3 new DS-3 lines coming on line in the last few months. This also drives the price down. Glad you liked tha article. aloha Bill bill@damien.edu
  • Heh, there's a classic example of human creativity for you.

    "Hey, Coronado, what's all this maze surrounding that city look like you?"
    In an appropriately poetic air, "It is truly the city of gold..."
    So what do they name it? El Dorado and we get an unfunny animated movie from it...

    On the other extreme you have explorers like so:

    Explorer to other explorers: "Then we got taken to the Bigger Island by the natives..."
    "What did they call it?"
    "Er... Big Island!"
    "Does this have anything to do with that, um, what's it called... Long Island place?"
    "Of course not! There's a whole new continent between there!"

    Sort of like Dave Barry said once: They sent ten people to survey New Yorkers on their geography skills. Ten reported back, but unfortunately two of the survey givers fell into the Ohio river getting there and drowned...

    Or something like that.
  • This will be great! nice to see it done... what happens when the lava flows shift and melt the towers to the ground thoe? :)
  • Other rollouts (Score:2, Informative)

    The University of Hawaii is also rolling out its own [hawaii.edu] campus wide 802.11b system.

    Looks like the pricing is only going to be 24.95 a month [hi.net] for ISDN speeds up to $99.99 for 1 Mb. Doesn't seem like all that bad a deal.

    • I am a student at UH, the wireless is pretty good, but still has some problems. I wasn't able to use it, I think it was due to the encyption. Also the building where the ICS labs are on the 3rd floor there is also wirless thanks to ANCL [hawaii.edu] See UH isnt just good for cloning mice
  • .... and all free! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by icejai (214906)
    Wiecking has built his network through a coalition of educators, researchers, and nonprofit organizations; with the right equipment and passwords, anyone who wants to tap in can do so, at no charge.


    Wow, what this guy is doing is pretty amazing. Everyone can benefit from a little generosity and ambition, if everyone gives a little.

    Conventional 802.11 networks have a range of no more than 300 feet, but by using a hodgepodge of cheap amplifiers, antennas, and other gear, Wiecking has been able to stoke up the range of some of his base stations to more than 26 miles.


    26 miles?? This is pretty impressive. Have any ISP's in any city considered doing this as an option of giving broadband internet access?

    Also, I bet if 802.11 were implemented into cell phones, or RIM blackberry devices, wireless plan rates would drop like a stone.
    Here in Toronto, for $25/month (cdn dollars) and a RIM blackberry, you're only allowed to send or receive 75Kbytes a month. I bet this crazy monthly rate would drop like crazy if Bell Canada did something in Toronto like what this guy is doing in Hawaii (heck... we can even use the CN Tower to transmit!).

    Of course there is a problem of sniffing the packets right out of the air, but that can be solved if pgp were used.

    Good stuff... good stuff...
    I like what this guy is doing... and support his vision.

    • by Sokie (60732)
      26 miles?? This is pretty impressive. Have any ISP's in any city considered doing this as an option of giving broadband internet access?

      This one [pocketinet.com] is going about 10 miles as the crow flies, although they are just a local outfit, but you can see from this map [topozone.com] how far they are going with 802.11b equipment, most likely amplified.
    • I live in the US Virgin Islands, our local ISP http://www.viaccess.net has a system called WDSL http://www.wdsl.net its been up for almost three years, for those with friends that work there, :) it gets you 1-3 Mbit depending on how much you give them $79 - $200 respectively and its synch i have a local FTP server i use for file transfers and get good speeds.. sometimes we get a few bandwitdh issues since our stateside connection is shared between three islands, four ISPs and the phone company but that problem is being solved soon .. upgrade in the fiber system.. anyway it works without any major problems their's about 200 customers on it as of now and whene they get the bandwidth problems worked out they'll start selling it again..imagine that an ISP that doesn't over sell a product..till they have the available bandwidth...
    • by rumwrks (8435)
      Its easy to be generous when you are getting free bandwidth from a university and state funds. I can't prove that this is the case from an external point of view, but I know that this is the case.
    • Hi I'm working on an FAQ to answer some of the questions I've seen on the list. Should be up at http://wireless.damien.net in a bit. Glad you liked the article. aloha Bill bill@damien.edu
  • I mean, security is an issue with wireless-- couldn't anyone just tap in? How could such tapping be pervented?

    Don't hurt the freshthing, I'm just wondering if I'm missing something.
    • We use Hardware addressing on secure connections, and SSH2 tunneling on the really secure connections. We've tested it with Airsnort and airopeek, and there are issues, but we have a pretty benign environment here. I should have an FAQ out soon on the wecurity issues. aloha Bill Wiecking bill@damien.edu
  • No applications? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Joe Decker (3806)
    Through all the hype about 802.11b, I haven't seen too many real applications being talked about...

    I disagree. I believe that being able to answer email during the dead bits of meetings, being able to wander into someones office at work and being able to immediately work with them, being able to telecommute, read my mail or just surf the TV listings from my couch without having to be tied to a cord are all pretty solid applications of the technology.

    I'm not the only person who thinks so. A coworker recently ran an 802.11b networking finding program on his laptop on his drive to work, and counted 175 distinct networks, all probably within 100 yards of his car during his commute... There're a lot of 802.11b networks going up.

    --Joe

    • Not only that but the relief from not having to drop miles of cat.5 or what ever flavour of network cabling all around the building beyond the backbone is both a time and cost saver + you don't get some ID10T from HSE bitching about the trailing cables everywhere...
  • Also on Maui (Score:3, Informative)

    by Overcoat (522810) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:52AM (#3161429)
    Wiecking's project to bring wireless net to the island Hawaii has gotten a lot of support from the University of Hawaii and the Maui High Performance Computing Center, which is also working to impelment wireless on Maui. The MHPCC has a site here [mhpcc.edu] with some nice info pages [mhpcc.edu], including some helpful coverage maps [mhpcc.edu]. A lot of the areas the MHPCC's project covers are way out in the 'boonies (Honokaa, Kohala), so any geeks who are interested in doing the whole hermit-in-paradise thing might want to take note.
    • Dude, this is cool. I always was checking out what it would take to get better-than-modem access around Maui, where i'm from. DSL is almost double the cost of it in NYC.

      I noticed that you can get coverage up to the top edge of Haleakala. Must be for those researchers!
  • Come to Hawaii a surfer's paradise. Oh and we still have waves too.

  • by hyrdra (260687) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @02:57AM (#3161437) Homepage Journal
    What this guy has accomplished here would really be a no-brainer for most on Slashdot. The only thing I can see stopping one is the financial aspect -- an even that's not high. $1000 will create a 256 user, 5 mile 802.11b omnidirectional network or a 25 mile PtP. Myself and three others are setting up a public network in Athens, Ohio. You would be amazed at how many cities will allow you to co-locate antennas on public service towers and buildings when you bill the service as non-profit and for the community.

    Here is a low-down of the basic equipment needed for a high-range, omnidirectional base station:

    - 15 dB 80" Omnidirectional Antenna
    - 1W AGC Amplifier
    - Linksys WAP11 (or your favorite AP here)
    - N to N male Connector (amplifier to antenna)
    - BNC to N male Connector (AP to amplifier)

    All of the above cost under $800, and when situated in an area with good radio horizon, you can expect 11 Mbps for at least a mile, and 2 Mbps up to 10 (in some cases). Please note that it's against FCC regulations to operate a 2.4 GHz link at 1W with a 15 dB antenna. I doubt anything would come of it since it's not a huge increase over the limit in this area of the spectrum, however for the paranoid you should use an automatic gain control amp that adjusts power automatically to keep you legal.

    Other than that it just depends on how much money you have to invest in these base stations to provide wireless roaming. What we have found is that two stations located near enough each other that they overlap tends to increase the power somewhat and allow more users on the system.

    This is really the future. Once enough cities grow their own public wireless networks and the technology gets up in the 100 Mbps range (802.11a is not applicable as the range is very limited) at the current distance and power, we can say goodbye to the telecommunications giants for most things.
    • 15 db omni directional antenna? Am I missing something here? In all my years an Amateur radio I've never seen an omni directional antenna that could do 15 db.

      I think the reason why the fcc limits it to I think 6db is the effective radiated power for a higher gain antenna is in some cases (not if you're losing most it over the feedline, or that right angle adapter for the connector or whatever) exponential or in other words 1 watt becomes 10. You're probably losing a lot of gain on these cheap access points anyhow - just out of the way they are manufactured. But also 2.4 ghz is resonant with water and can make you blind or affect your eyesight at a high enough gain/power - and unlike amateur radio no-one makes you take a test to know that.
      • by hyrdra (260687)
        Here is a link to one of the many 15 dB omni's available for the 2.4 GHz spectrum:

        http://www.hyperlinktech.com/web/hg2415u.html

        Yes, it really does 15 dB. I've tested it.

      • http://fab-corp.com/ :-)

        Only $169, too!
    • Maybe a good discussion would be: "what can you do for society, knowing what you know"

      After all, even though it seems many of us have the knowledge to implement and/or push such simple standards to help change the world for the better, very few of us seem willing to spend their time in such noble persuits.

      Have geeks become so godlike with technology that we forget help the less techno-literate around us?

      ...and if so, Is that a bad thing, or simply the way things go?

      Frankly, I say that what this guy has done is great IMHO, and I wish that I could get myself off my lazy ass to be as useful as he is, with what minute knowledge I do have
    • you should use an automatic gain control amp that adjusts power automatically to keep you legal.

      How does using automatic gain control keep you legal? The maximum power output still exceeds the legal limits, right?

      Note that I know embarassingly little about radio; this is a question, not a criticism.

      • Automatic Gain Control (AGC) does two things really:

        1) In situations where a connected antenna has low enough gain, it makes sure the amplifier outputs at the spec power rating (1W for example). Normally, amplifiers have huge tolerances as far as their output power, some common quotes are 500 mW to 1W.

        2) It senses the gain of the antenna it is connected to, and if the gain of the anstenna and the amplified signal exceeds a specific threshold, it lowers the amplification power. This keeps the emmited signal at the maximum legal limit -- nothing more, nothing less.

        This can be good in #1, but often times can result in using only a fraction of the amplifier's power when connected to an already high gain antenna. This is why I would specify it only for the paranoid.

        For those who wouldn't mind, they can exploit a non-AGC amplifier by using it with a slighly higher rated DC injector, thus gaining even more power than the rated 1W. Of course, this has other life time implications, but I have been doing it and I find I can get an additional 200 mW out of a 1W amp without much widening. This is considerable, because a regular WAP11's output (hacked or not) is well below 200 mW, in the 120 range.

        I doubt the FCC cracks down on over limited 2.4 GHz networks, at least now anyway. They're too busy chasing pirate radio and HAM's who blast their signal ten times over legal limit. But that comes to the fact the FCC isn't who usually reports you. Cell phone companies may use this frequency for something (900 MHz is what they normally use, but you never know since they're in the pro-RF field), and when they find your signal they may have some corporate policy on reporting you.

        So I would be careful and selective at where I put my gear. In our setup, we use stuff we can afford to loose (relativly) and make sure it's hidden so the unaided eye can't see it (read: if you're someone trying to spot an antenna after you have triangulated it). This isn't really for the FCC, but for people who would like to get in on our $200 antenna and $300 amp.
    • How is 802.11a's range limited? From what I've read it seems that at any given distance, 802.11a outperforms 802.11b. Is that not correct? Of course, that's up to the maximum distance you can send it (within legal power limits). Any idea where I could get more info on the topic?
    • Myself and three others are setting up a public network in Athens, Ohio....
      Known as "radio-free Athens" when I was there; in a valley (especially the university's South Green), a perfect market for cable radio.

      --PSRC (B.S. Physics, HTC, 1978; M.S. Mathematics, 1979)

      P.S.: Surf the Hocking!-)
    • The Linksys WAP11 has a maximum user limit of 64 i believe. But even at that level sharing a measly 11Mb is quite an ask.. A better way to do it, although mose expensive, is by using 2 or 3 AP's (Linksys's) each with rather than one Omni Antenna a sector antenna, giving either 120deg or 180deg depending on how many. This also gives you more speed (well less shared bandwith) to play with as each ap is connected togethere by a switch / hub.
  • I have a question. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Latent IT (121513)
    If he can get a 26 mile range out of 802.11, well, how? I can understand that that's the top range with an amazing directional antenna, and if you amplify it, maybe it doesn't have to be directional. But how does the signal from the laptop (and the amazingly sissy antenna) reach the 26 mile ranged base station?

    Flame away, if you want. I'm actually curious now. =)
    • i dont think a laptop wireless nic can go that far, i think the 26 mile range is only to another base station with a directional antenna.
    • by hyrdra (260687)
      The 26 mile quote in the article was probably regarding a directional antenna on a base station. Of course, Hawaii doesn't have the buildings and urban sprawl of most other places in the US (or world for that matter), so it may be resonable to assume an amplified antenna on a high peak or mountain would receive such omnidirectional range. At least I would suspect Hawaii would have better range than in the states where there is a lot more RF in the air.

      Or it could just be that the news article had it's wording wrong, and that he's actually operating 26 miles from his T1 land line via an array of 802.11b base stations.
    • Actually, my range to a "naked" laptop is 11 miles, using an amplified (1 W AGC) 24 dB dish antenna. We had a reliable 5 mb/s signal. 26 miles is our common link at 11 mb/s using amplified 24 dB dishes on each end. aloha Bill Wiecking bill@damien.edu
  • Beautiful beaches, women, and weather... and a wifi network to boot! This is just another of the thousands of reasons that I need to move to Hawaii.
  • I'm not exactly an expert on wireless internet, but where does the bandwidth to connect this network to the rest of the internet come from? I was under the impression almost all broadband providors don't take kindly to a wireless link providing free access for all to their network. Do these projects just have a very generous ISP behind them, or is it done without their knowledge, or what? I'm curious how this was pulled off at this end of the connection.
  • by ameoba (173803)
    I could see this really pissing me off if I wanted my own -private- 802.11 network running inside of my house/busines. Perhaps I am just naive as to the realities of 802.11, but wouldn't any 802.11 set up in the range covered by this guys network be forced to compete with it for bandwidth, or even worse, be borged into joining it?
    • Pick a different channel, and run at a different frequency. Your not longer competing with him for bandwidth as you have your own bandwidth slice.

      Also, use WEP (infact, don't use WEP, use IPsec, but anyway), and no one will see your data :)

      D.
  • by SONET (20808) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @05:08AM (#3161598) Homepage
    This guy has a neat idea, but he sure didn't pick a very good place to implement it.

    I spent a few months out of every year on the Big Island when I was growing up (my dad lives there) and still visit once or twice a year. For those of you that haven't been there, the terrain is not by any means well-suited for wireless communications. There are hills and valleys everywhere. Cell phone companies have a hell of a time providing decent service there (try being in a car and riding down the road a few miles while on the phone, you often get disconnected). My brother provided the land for a big AT&T tower on his ranch, and the tower more or less covers the northern part of the island. It seems about the only place to get decent reception on the nothern part of the island is on the ranch itself. Taking this into consideration, I would guess this guy is going to need lots of people participating to get this working very well.

    I have to point out the that the reporter made an incorrect statement about broadband availability on the island. My dad has had a cable modem for years (so have his friends all over the island), and it seems to work better than mine does in California. And DSL was available to him even before it was at my house or office in Orange County. The only problem is, as others have mentioned, the island chain isn't connected up very well with the rest of the world. But the pipes don't seem to be saturated just yet... he gets good ping times to the mainland and he usually has more bandwidth to different sites around the world than I do (yes I realize there are other variables heh). Whatever the case, I wish reporters could get their facts straight. I guess it sounded better for him to say that nothing else was available there. It may be an island, but it is no longer the boonies (unfortunately) - it is pretty developed there and the place is growing at a very fast rate.

    Anyway, still a cool idea... I look forward to checking it out on my next trip over there. Maybe I missed it (I'm in need of some sleep!), but where is he getting the Internet connection to share with everyone? If each base station was contributing... wouldn't that mean that some of these people had broadband in their homes to begin with in order for them to contribute?

    --SONET
    • try being in a car and riding down the road a few miles while on the phone, you often get disconnected

      Hell, I have this problem standing in one place around here, the cellco's don't need any help from the hills/valleys.
      • try being in a car and riding down the road a few miles while on the phone, you often get disconnected

        Hell, I have this problem standing in one place around here, the cellco's don't need any help from the hills/valleys.
        Heh, I was just about to say the same thing. The most memorable occasions:

        I was driving through one of the few remaining agricultural areas around here. I left the largest street in the area, and didn't make it more than 1/4 mile (going uphill, BTW) down the smaller street before I got SIGNAL FADED.

        Another time I got the SIGNAL FADED while standing underneath one of the repeater towers...

        By contrast, I once had a full strength signal while on a sailboat 5 miles out into the ocean; I thought that was well beyond PCS' range. Go figure.

  • by DiSKiLLeR (17651)
    Who wants to do this in Adelaide, Australia? If so, please contact me :)

    Okay, i know theres www.adelaide.air.net.au (and www.air.net.au !) and www.airnet.com.au...

    Broadband prices here suck, and we want to give fast internet access to the masses.

    D.
  • In Haiti, Internet is ALL wireless. Wish I could find a link for you but I can't :(
  • Hawaii has a long history of being radio central. From the developement of by TCP by HAMs to NAVCAM, one of the few elf stations in the world. I shot a 1435mhz LOS link 310 miles from Pu Ki Ki on the big island to Mount Kahala on Oahu at 3 watts @ 4608kbs data rate. The water does some amazing things for RF propogation there.
  • I recall hearing that other wireless technologies like cell phone towers, are driving certain birds away, amongst other nature-related problems.

    Does anyone know if wireless networks are perpetuating the same issues?

    I'd be especially concerned in an area like Hawaii -- where to me, it all seems so unnecessary.
  • Alright, all I know is this: If either telephone or cable providers simply placed wireless base stations every place needed along their cable route they'd be no more need for wires to your house (well, except for power of course).

    Your phone, your digital TV, and your Internet service could all come over the air, not only making them low maitenence and high quality, but PORTABLE to wherever you go! Wouldn't this be awsome? Even your car would become easily Internet-ready. Need directions anyone?

    Of course, security would become an issue, and I'm sure there would be heavy subscriber fees, plus there would be encryption preventing you from leaving your "local service area" without extra charges, and who knows how big that will be (in fees and/or radius). You could be traced back to your phone, computer, or car quite easily and some geek at the Service Provider's main office would know exactly where on I-90 you decided to click on "Debbie does Dallas 2000".

    Nevermind, maybe I'll stick to my land lines. It'd be a great idea if businesses didn't exist to suck me dry...

  • It's working and spreading in Oahu also, for those who failed geography, thats the most populated island where Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and Waikiki are. Hurricane Internet [hi.net] is running it there [hi.net]. Great company that has been on the island for years. Linux is used anywhere possible throughout the business and they even freely supported the local LUG's mailing list and archives for years.
  • because the packets are all carried locally so no one has to pay for the connectivity to the rest of the Internet. The article talks about cool things like live cams on beaches and as long as few people are interested in sending packets anywhere else, this free system will (mostly) work.

    However, in my experience most users want 'Net access and from reading most posts on /. most users want lots of access for free. What this article barely touches on is who provides the connectivity to the mainland or Asia? Who provides the IP space? Unless you NAT, the IP addresses for a large network like this might grow into would cost a lot of money. Who pays for the email server? For that matter, who pays for the $800 access points?

    Do the people using this system expect the founder to maintain it forever for no money? What happens when he no longer can (or want to)?

    DSL and other broadband companies are going bankrupt all over the country because they cannot afford to provide a t1 to every user for $35 a month and still pay for their outbound traffic and maintenance. How the hell will this completely free system support its infrastructure?
    • Well, we have to mow our lawns and shovel snow from the driveway... maintaining antennas is just another civic duty.

      That sort of thing, public duty, has kind of evaporated, I know. If there's no profit in it, it shouldn't be done, most people think.

      Well, since the pipe providers say they can't provide access at a profit, then there's no choice anymore. We build our own internet.

      "roll-your-own" was how the internet started, anyway. Now that Business has arrived, nothing seems possible anymore without massive outlays of cash. Except Wi-Fi.

      I agree totally with your comment that this only works on the LAN level. Thing is, we can make a pretty big LAN... and that LAN can connect with other LAN's... and someday, perhaps, a critical mass will be achieved, and the "Internet" is born again, this time without corporate control.

      I do think that perhaps the key is NOT to gateway to the corporate Internet. New domains, like .radio, or .backbone, or .school, or .homepage, could be created, and an alternative DNS created.

      Security? New World Order types keep stating that we have no privacy anymore, no freedom of speech anymore -- get over it.

      Well, there really isn't such a thing as security, either - get over it. The Internet was designed to be a system of trusted computers, and that seems to be where the Pringlenet is going. If this makes it insecure for businesses, then businesses should stay away and play on the Internet they now own.

  • What we use (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoshuaDFranklin (147726) <joshuadfranklin.NOSPAMNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @11:07AM (#3162411) Homepage
    We've got a wireless network set up in two small towns here. We just hooked up a guy about 6mi. outside of town. It look a 40ft. antenna, but I digress.

    We use antennas and amplifiers from Fleeman Anderson & Bird Corp [fab-corp.com].

    We use antenna masts from Radio Shack [radioshack.com].

    We've found that the most reliable access points are Cisco Aironets, 340s or 350s. They can cost $1000-1500, though, so go with Linksys/SMC/Netgear if you're not that worried.

    Also make sure you tie up cables on masts with something, like guy wire or metal cable ties, that doesn't disentigrate in a couple months. Always tape up the ends of the cables with electrical tape or use that rubbery stuff for protection from the weather.

    And have fun!

  • I live on the Big Island of Hawaii -- on the side of the volcano. This is both very exciting as well as very difficult to pull off.

    The Big Island has 5 mountain ranges - two of which go up over 13,000 ft and separate the island in half. Furthermore, major portions of the island have no phone or power service - thus getting the signal to the entire island will be nearly impossible. (Even our cell phones only work in very selected areas of this island -- and when I used my cell phone from the top of Mauna Loa (13,400 ft) it was picked up by a cell tower on the NEXT ISLAND OVER - Maui).

    But kudo's to him!! Anyone know how to get ahold of him? (I'll try today to find his contact info) --- I'll be more than happy to put an antenna at my house!

    • Hi Our network is based in Waimea (Kamuela to off islanders), and we have base stations in Waikoloa, Kona, Puako, Honokaa, and several in the boonies on the slopes of Mauna Kea. We have 300 sq. miles covered, from mile 30 on the upper road (190) to Kona, around the coast to Mahukona (past Kawaihae) and to Honokaa towards Hilo. We also have projects underway in Pahoa, Kohala town, South Kona, and maybe even Hakalau. Remember, this project is driven by a need to enable educators to access web based resources while in the field, so the commercial aspects I see comments on are really not what we started this for. Bill Wiecking Waimea, Hawaii bill@damien.edu
  • I think this is awesome, as I am actually going to the big island (island of Hawaii). So I might even try out this wireless network (if I am in an area that is covered).
  • Great comments, folks. I'm glad you liked the article, I'm looking forward to seeing some of the photos in the print version. I'm working on an FAQ to answer many of the questions I've received so far. It should be up soon. If you need to contact me, try bill@damien.edu bill@waimea.damien.net aloha Bill Wiecking Kamuela, Hawaii
  • Robert X. Cringely wrote an interesting article about doing the same thing in Northern California. http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20020207. html

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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