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The Internet

Cringely's Bank Shot 272

Michael A. Lowry writes: "You may remember how Robert Cringely used a couple of directional antennas to get an 802.11b link up across a 10.5 km wide valley. The original Slashdot discussion is here. Well Cringely has done it again. This time, he has set up a passive repeater in an oak tree on a nearby mountaintop to bounce a 2 Mb/s signal around a hill that lies between his house and the acces point in Santa Rosa. Read about it here. Details about the homemade hardware he used can be found here. There's going to be a lot more of this in the near future."
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Cringely's Bank Shot

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  • by esw ( 247639 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:41PM (#2976756)
    ...nothing but net.
    :-)

    ~Eric
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:41PM (#2976759)
    Let's say thousands of people do this in some general area to save a buck or two on broadband. Even with directional antennas, the noise floor could get pretty high. How much bandwidth will any one person have left?
    • Then more access points can be put up. But yes, in heavily dense areas, there will be a lot of 2.4Ghz going on.
    • by Anixamander ( 448308 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:48PM (#2976799) Journal
      I can't see folks going to this extent on a widespread basis. If thousands of people in one area do start doing this, it will no doubt become the new Silicon Valley, because it would mean there is a critical mass of sophisticated geeks there.

      Make that sophisticated, motivated geeks. I'm sophisticated, but that is way too mch work for me.
    • Sir, we've made contact with itelligent life...The radio telescope is picking up all sorts of information...Wait a sec, that college kid is bouncing a wireless lan connection of our dish to an access point in China! Damn you Boy.



      I remeber reading something about the radio free "Dark Areas" in the US are almost extinct. This is important to those Radio Telescope operators and the super senstive listening device the gov't uses. If you are thinking of experimenting with your wireless equipment be aware of the FCC regulations about interfernce and protected feq. Ingorance of these laws and regulations is not a defence when you get fined thousands of dollars for screwing up local broadcast signals for emergency vechicles. Just don't your know neighbors your responsiable for the weird static they get on cordless phones.
    • It will be considered theft I expect. If you run a large coil in your field under a high current power line you can steal energy passing overhead. This is very similar and would be treated the same way. In fact i expect the judgments to be harsher because you have to transmit as well.
      • That would be like saying your stealing water from the clouds with the rain that falls on your lawn.

        Your only stealing if there is an actual loss from your efforts.

        Humm, I could see a counter argument thou.

        This is like the software industry saying they lost zillion dollars from pirated warez. The priates wouldnt buy the software in the first place.
        • Your only stealing if there is an actual loss from your efforts.

          If you use a coil to pick up electricity from a high power line, you are in fact stealing power. Otherwise, there would be an energy conservation problem.
          • I wouldn't call using a coil stealing. After all, this is normal loss that's otherwise just bled off into the atmosphere. If the sun was a commodity, would using a solar panel be considered stealing as well? If the gas company had a serious leak nearby and you patched into the leak, it follows the same theory. Kind of a gray area I'd say.
          • No, you are not "in fact stealing power."

            You are only "in fact stealing power" if the land does not "in fact" belong to you.

            On the other hand, if you own the land, it is entirely possible that what you're 'stealing' is the current that someone volunteered to put over your property. Which might not be stealing at all.

      • If I recall correctly, this has been done and actually went to the Supreme Court (here in the US) and was not, in fact, ruled theft.

        Granted, the owner of the coil also owned the land over which the high-tension lines passed.

        -Knots
    • How much bandwidth will any one person have left?
      Heh, a lot more than they have now.
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @06:23PM (#2977281)
      Rather than competing, all you have to do is co-operate.

      http://www.freenetworks.org/

      The more the merrier. :)

  • Wireless is good. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity@NoSpaM.yahoo.com> on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:42PM (#2976763) Homepage
    I live in an area where if you are outside of a very small boundary, you cannot get high speed bandwidth regarless of what you're willing to pay. Some get satellite, the rest(majority) are forced to suffer with dialup.

    This would be a big boon for us. I hope a clever company picks up the ball and runs with this.
  • What I see (Score:4, Interesting)

    by talonyx ( 125221 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:51PM (#2976814)
    People want wireless access ANYWHERE.

    I want it while I sit on the bus commuting to university. I want it when I'm relaxing at my friend's house. I want it when I'm sitting in my bathroom dumping core.

    And no company is going to give this to us.

    I want it unmetered. I don't mind paying a flat rate but I'm not going to sit in the dark ages of per minute cell phone charges. That would be useless.

    And no company is going to do that, either.

    So we all have to be like Cringely....

    I already have a WAP in my house, albeit a low power one. Come summertime I might buy an antenna for it so I can get a decent connection when outside in my large property.

    Imagine if everybody did this. Imagine if half the houses on your street had a WAP with the SSID set to something like "freewire" or something, seamlessly providing wireless access wherever you go via people's boradband links.

    NAN - neighbourhood area network.

    Now if only I didn't live in outer suburbia where my neighbours have never heard of the Internet and houses are too far apart to make this worthwhile...
    • I want it unmetered. I don't mind paying a flat rate but I'm not going to sit in the dark ages of per minute cell phone charges. That would be useless.
      Well, yeah, I would never make much use of any system that had me constantly thinking, "can I afford to stay on another 10 minutes"? Back when CompuServe worked that way, I'd get an acid stomach every time I signed on.

      But face it, the all-you-can-eat model doesn't work. Bandwidth aint free, and if you give people unlimited access to it, they'll take advantage of you.

      That's why ISPs have started capping bandwith. They have to pay for it. If they can't recover their bandwidth costs from you in connect-time charges, then they just have to find ways to limit the amount of bandwidth they provide.

      Which is why Cringley will probably will probably get a stern warning from his wireless provider. They're charging him on the assumption that he's an occasional user, not somebody pumping megabits up and down all day.

      What would be ideal is a scheme where the connect-time is flat-rate, but every packet past your pre-paid allotment costs. People (like Cringely) who have greater needs would end up negotiating slightly higher monthly fees with a higher allotment. Casual users would get off cheaper. And the ISPs could forget about all the weird rules designed to root out re-sellers and heavy users.

      • By that you mean I would have some kind of limit, say 300 megabytes per month download?

        I could deal with that, but it's still kind of lame. Why is bandwidth so expensive anyway?
        • Why is bandwidth expensive :

          A) Because the fiber cost several hundred million dollars to lay down. The ownser of the companies that laid the fiber would like to recoup their investment (and eventually make a profit) before they die.

          B) Bandwidth is a limited commodity. There are only so many bits that can travel at any given moment. Most of the time we are not at maximum capacity on a large scale, but occasionally it happens (9/11 when everyone in the world was going to cnn every 30 seconds). However locally, or regionally you can get a bottleneck quite often.

          Supply is exceeded by demand, so the price goes up until people dont want to pay anymore.
          • by mcramer ( 7010 )
            Bandwidth is a limited commodity. There are only so many bits that can travel at any given moment.

            But, like airplane seats and hotel rooms, unsold bandwidth is a 100% loss. Bandwidth that went unsold yesterday can not be sold tomorrow. The trick is always selling all of the inventory at as good a price as you can get for it.

            Supply is exceeded by demand, so the price goes up until people dont want to pay anymore.

            But not all the time. There are plenty of hours every week in which huge amounts of bandwidth lays idle. That's money down the drain. Sure, giving away bandwidth for next to nothing is stupid on a Thursday afternoon. That's prime-net-time. But really, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to plop down in Starbucks on Saturday night at 7:30 and surf to my heart's content. It's not like anyone ELSE is using it. I'm not saying I should be able to steal it, but I shouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg for it either.

            • But, like airplane seats and hotel rooms, unsold bandwidth is a 100% loss. Bandwidth that went unsold yesterday can not be sold tomorrow. The trick is always selling all of the inventory at as good a price as you can get for it.

              Exactly, that's why I'm a big fan of paying the big bucks for guaranteed bandwidth, and flat rateing all the rest. Of corse I don't know any ISPs that really do that...

        • You already have that kind of limit. If your ISP doesn't have official caps, they're certainly keeping an eye on heavy users. I'm talking about paying by the packet. A base allotment just expresses the fact that bandwidth is cheaper if buy it in bulk, instead of a packet at a time.

          Bandwidth isn't expensive, but it's not free either. It's a commodity, like vegetables. Imagine how long produce vendors would stay in business if they charged people by consumption/month instead of by radishes consumed.

      • Well not sure about broadband but dialup makes quite a bit for the providers. When we were looking at a dialup solution for our lage company (35K+ ppl) to replace our 800 service (@6 cents a minute) we went with another dialup @2.5 cents a minute because multiplying our total avg minutes used per month times that was way less than even $10/month * number of accounts.
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @06:25PM (#2977289)
      http://www.freenetworks.org/

    • I want it while I sit on the bus commuting to university. I want it when I'm relaxing at my friend's house. I want it when I'm sitting in my bathroom dumping core.

      I want it unmetered. I don't mind paying a flat rate but I'm not going to sit in the dark ages of per minute cell phone charges. That would be useless.

      Step 1: Buy a cell phone. Step 2: buy a handheld device. Step 3: buy an extra phone line. Step 4: sign up for Nextel's unlimited incoming calls cell phone service. Step 5: have your computer's modem call your cell phone which is hooked up to your handheld device. 5 easy steps (and about $100/month) for unlimited 19.2 "anywhere".

  • Grain elevators (Score:3, Informative)

    by client32 ( 316110 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:51PM (#2976815)
    I know this isn't the same, but where I live there is a company getting wireless broadband to rural towns by putting atennas and transmitters on the top of grain elevators. This works out pretty good since the terrane is flat and you can see another elevator from the top of your current one. I don't know how much area they cover, but it seems to be an interesting solution.
  • The house my friends and I live in is in a multi-media deadzone.

    No cable because we're too isolated and far up a hill.
    No satellite access because the house is surrounded by trees and blocks the signal.
    DSL doesn't reach out here.
    Cell phone coverage exists but is fairly crappy.

    I consider it a minor miracle the house gets a phone line.

    We don't live in some rural area; we live in a suburb outside Seattle that's fairly dense. Everyone around us gets this stuff but we can't.
  • I always saw directional IEEE 802 as very cool. Since you are keeping the same wattage on the emission, are you clear legally (as far as the FCC goes)? It makes sense that you wouldn't be violating anything; rather than radiating it out weakly in all directions, you're focusing that same energy on a tiny spot in the distance. In either case, you're not upsetting the airwaves in general for other people.

    Anyone know?

    -me
    • Re:Emissions? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know about this specific case, but in general there are FCC restrictions on gain antennas in various services.

      For example, with FRS radios it is specifically forbidden to replace the supplied antenna at all, and the supplied antenna cannot be of a gain type. I'm pretty sure that there are similar restrictions on cordless phone antennas.

    • Re:Emissions? (Score:3, Informative)

      by afidel ( 530433 )
      For the unliscensed use of the ISM band at 2.4Ghz you are not allowed to exceed 1W radiated power. This means that a 100mW radio connected directly to a 24Dbi dish antenna is actually too powerfull. This is ok because most people who use a dish with that kind of gain put it up on a pole. Using even really freaking expensive cable you lose a couple Dbi per meter of cabling.
      • Re:Emissions? (Score:2, Informative)

        "a couble Dbi per meter" ??? mabye if you use RG-174
        Normal LMR-400 only loses 6.6 dB/100'
        2 inch heliax (around $1/ft) would lose less then 1.5dB/100'
        Please do some research before posting!
      • Re:Emissions? (Score:2, Informative)

        by bcomisky ( 47607 )
        Actually when using a directional antenna, the FCC says you can go over 1 watt EIRP. If the antenna is over 6dBi you have to lower the "maximum peak output power of the intentional radiator" by 1dB for every dB your antenna is over 6dBi. Further, for a fixed point to point link, this is reduced to 1dB for every 3dB your antenna is over 6dBi.

        You do need to know the cable loss between your radio and your antenna. With your 24 dBi example and 2dB of loss through the cable, and 1 watt EIRP == 30 dBm:

        directional antenna over 6dBi (have to reduce output power by (24-6) or 18 dB):
        30dBm + 24dBi - 2dB - (24dBi - 6dBi) = 34dBm (== 2.5W EIRP)

        same scenario for a fixed point-to-point link (have to reduce power by (24-6)/3 or 6 dBm):
        30dBm + 24dBi - 2dB - (24dBi - 6dBi)/3 = 46dBm ( == 40W EIRP!)

        A good summary of this info is found here:
        The FCC's Part15 Rules and Regulation and 802.11b emissions in the ISM 2.4GHz Band [lns.com]

        check it out and double check my math!
      • Actually, if both ends are using directional antennas and fixed point to point you can get quite a lot more power through the sustem. The rule for fixed p-p is that you need to lower input 1 db for each 3 db gain over 6db


        Example:
        two systems interconnected with a 21 db dish at each point


        Your total radiated power at each end would be 30dbm+(21db-(21db-6db/3)) or 46dbm which is aprox. 39.8 watts Eirp (on each side)


        This is not ment to imply that you can break out that old russian amp and crank it up to 40 W of output (that would be putting out WAY to much power{around }) your output after amp should be a bit over 250mW


        ps: 30 dbm = 1 W
        pps: I know someone posted something close to this but I need to get octave to compile to do the proper calcs (on a 150 mhz laptop (8h))

    • Re:Emissions? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zarquon ( 1778 )
      [gpo.gov]
      FCC Rules part 15.247 is the reference here. The reason we use DSSS encoding is that FHSS is limited to 0.125 watts in the 2.4 ghz band. 15.246(b)(2). The 5.725 ghz band allows 1 watt in most spread spectrum modes (802.11a/g?)

      15.247 (b)(3)(i) allows high-gain directional point-point links. For every 3 db above 6 db gain, you have to reduce your peak output power by 1 db.

      Of course, if you get a basic ham license, you can increase this quite a bit. However, you then cannot encrypt your traffic, IIRC.
  • Violation of TOS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:52PM (#2976821) Journal
    Cringely mentions that he is indeed violating the DSL provider's TOS but doesn't think that he can be caught. What is to stop the DSL provider from TCP/IP fingerprinting his router and terminating service?
    • Hell, what's to stop the DSL provider from reading the article? ;)
    • Re:Violation of TOS (Score:4, Informative)

      by rick446 ( 162903 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:57PM (#2976862) Homepage
      Because Cringely doesn't have DSL service. He's piggybacking on someone else's service. So there's no traceability to Cringely unless his middleman says something.
      • by interiot ( 50685 )
        Cringely could probably be identified if someone wanted to try badly enough. For instance, he probably connects to *.pbs.org fairly often, trailed closely by slashdot.org and internet searches for ultra-wide-band related things.

        Granted, that'd take a lot of work, but given the extent to which Cringely is encouraging others to emulate him and cause ISP's everywhere (and his ISP in particular, perhaps maybe even) grief, there might be people who would invest the time.

      • I can think of one way the ISP could track him:

        1) send emails to his pbs.org mail address that will generate a reply (ether by nasty scripting tricks, or simply asking him to respond...)
        2) Look at the IP address of the reply.

        If he does it from his home, they have the IP of his buddy. End game.

        Second trick - look around in the specified neighborhood for a transmitter at 2.6GHz. Sniff with Snort.

        It reminds me of an old saying: "If you are breaking the the rules, be QUIET about it."
    • Tell him to get a new DSL provider. Some, like Speakeasy, don't mind this sort of thing at all.

      Schwab

    • I believe the LinkSys cable/DSL routers have offered the capability to change the hardware MAC address on the WAN port through their configuration software. I once heard this was done as a workaround for cable companies that stopped service to costumers using the routhers because they didn't want their users hooking up multiple computers to their cable modems without paying the extra $10 per computer per month. Changing the MAC address would potentially allow you to hop back on their network shortly after shutting you down - you could probably even write a script to access the Linksys's configuration page do it for you.

      I'd say at this point that the only way the ISP could really do anything about it would be to require different authentication levels on their network depending on each user's connection (which could be a pain to do) or contact the owners of the mountain to have the repeater removed from the tree. If I were Cringely, I wouldn't have mentioned the specifics of the location, because it wouldn't be very difficult to find, nor to figure out where he lives.

      On a slightly unrelated note, considering the potential effects of excessive EM radiation on the body, how safe is this? I know that in this case, all Cringely is doing is repeating a signal, but I'm not so sure that this idea of beaming directional 802.11b radio streams at unaware people sitting in coffee bars is going to be good for people in the long run. I was a physics major in college, but I honestly don't know enough about 802.11 radio waves at 2.4GHz to make any sort of scientific judgement. Can anyone elaborate or speculate?

      First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Ghandi

  • by dstone ( 191334 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:53PM (#2976829) Homepage
    ...in my book for that stunt. Yeah, he's full of wind and lofty opinions and predictions. But it takes a proper hacker to roll up the sleeves, climb a mountain and a big tree, simply to install a wireless hack.

    He da man.
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:53PM (#2976835)
    When construction begins in a populated area, utility companies, including telco and cable operators, are responsible for coming out and flagging their under-ground wires, pipes, conduits, repeaters, and switch boxes.

    A lot of amature 802.11b hackers are building a utility infrastructure, wether they think they are or not and even if it's for their own private use.

    In the VERY near future, wireless devices like this are going to have to become *very* durable to stand up to long-term outdoor use... and I don't mean having a water-tight battery compartment. A lot of the stuff out there... Pringle Can antennas, anyone?... is homerolled hacks.

    Things like wireless routers and repeaters, however, need to be designed with things like natural disaster, wild animals, and vandalism in mind.

    Ever wonder why public utility stuff is so bulky and hard to get into?
    • Have you ever seen BreezeCom (now alvarion) radios? They are built like a tank. I dropped one off a tower once (~20ft) onto concrete and it was fine.

      The other solution is just to put all your stuff inside an enclosure with whatever NEMA rating your environment requires. Add a heat exchanger and UPS in there and you have a nice sealed up shielded box that's good to contain about any piece of computing equipment you want.
      • I worked there for awhile, those radios are awesome. All 2.4 / 5.7 ghz stuff. They really know how to make a bridge and amp system. IF you need to link 2 spots and you can get a LOS, then they are the way to go. You can go miles and miles with their stuff.

        You could do it yourself, but why?
    • In the VERY near future, wireless devices like this are going to have to become *very* durable to stand up to long-term outdoor use... and I don't mean having a water-tight battery compartment. A lot of the stuff out there... Pringle Can antennas, anyone?... is homerolled hacks.

      Did you even read the article before posting? This is a passive repeater. There is no battery compartment. It's just some threaded rod, washers, and some PVC pipe to wrap it all in. He also claims that he's going back to his DSL service until he can find out who "owns that oak tree" and ask permission. He also admits that it may not work as well once the tree starts producing leaves again in the spring.

      Although I will admit that now he's told us it's in a tree somewhere near the USGS marker on the top of a specific hill, the chance that it will be "visited" is much higher. Sounds like a future geocaching [slashdot.org] location to me...

  • What is sweet is that this is on PBS. I love public TV and I love it more that we get to see free cool stuff like this.

    I bet that he isn't the first to do this either. I have a friend who lives accross the street from his ISP and has tried multiple times to get a strand of fiber run to the main switch (he is friends with the owner). Before I moved and lost contact with him he was working on a radio based method of getting 100Mbps using multiplexing and directional antennas. At less than 300 feet it seemed feasible. This was of course before 802.11x and I am sure he has looked into this. The company we worked for there has a few wireless net connections but the microwave setup we were looking at for 100Mbs and even OC-3 speeds was big bucks! About $10,000 for a single site. Are there any cheaper solutions for that kind of speed?
    • 802.11a in 2x mode is ~108Mbps wire speed, effective data speed will be about half that. Of course afaik this currently only works at close range (30m or less). I am sure that if he waits a little while someone will have an outdoor product that can do it at more reasonable lengths. This is especially true because the fixed point to point spec for 5.7Ghz allows a much higher max power.
  • by pridefinger ( 549632 ) <freckledpenguin@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 08, 2002 @04:54PM (#2976843)
    I work for a company that will be hosting an access point for an isp. In return we get a reduced rate on the bandwidth that we purchased (DS3). I live not too far from work/the access point and will be given free service (not relevant, but cool anyway :)).

    The reason this company's solution just might work is this: They are installing multiple access points at businesses in my area. Each tranceiver (yes, everyone's antennae both receives and transmits the network signal, widening the effective range) that is brought online is assigned to a specific access point. As bandwidth starts to saturate a given access point, a new access point is to be brought online by splitting the cost with a business that will play host. That just may be what is needed to make wireless work, instead of becoming a choked alternative to 56k.

    Just maybe it will make high bandwidth available to the poor saps (myself included) that can't get dsl or cable.

    -Pride
  • Here's a fine example of someone going out and doing something positive and high profile that takes back the term Hacker and makes it praise instead of critique.

    Mo' power, Cringe.

  • What about taking 802.11 everywhere a bit further, and putting websites, FTP servers, P2P, etc on the 802.11 hubs? By doing that(within reason), you're not worried about metered access since there's no ISP involved.

  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:03PM (#2976896) Homepage Journal
    Later this month Bob will connect into NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System [nasa.gov] using a "Amana Radar Range [ucsb.edu]" microwave oven and 100 meters of Cat 5 cable.

    On "This Old Geek hosted by McGyver" Feb 29th (not availiable on all PBS stations, ask your parents for permission first.)

  • by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:06PM (#2976915) Journal
    We'd like a Cringely icon, please, to go along with his own section.

    You can perform a simple search [slashdot.org] to see just how many times his material has been posted as a new story on the front of Slashdot.

    He's not a God, but he's damn close. His articles are almost always interesting and sometimes he even manages to produce original ideas that are quite captivating.

    I don't think I'm the first one to suggest this, either...
  • Doesn't work (Score:4, Informative)

    by SiriusBlack ( 313236 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:09PM (#2976932) Homepage
    Has Cringely read this article [maokhian.com] which basically says the hack he's using to increase his Linksys WAP11 power output DOES NOT WORK?
    • So you are either saying that he's lying (about his success with the Linksys) or he's just a complete moron. Which is it?
  • by gnatware ( 138810 ) <peter.zingg@name> on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:14PM (#2976954)
    In the 70's it was Cap'n Crunch, now it's Pringles. Odds are P&G will soon be modifying the design of their "snack" packaging to make sure that 2.4 GHz waves can't use 'em.

    • In the 70's it was Cap'n Crunch, now it's Pringles. Odds are P&G will soon be modifying the design of their "snack" packaging to make sure that 2.4 GHz waves can't use 'em.

      I've been stockpiling the $1.19 WiFi antennas, but am running out of room for the dozens of little wave-shaped shipping protection cushions that I find in each can.

      The cashier told me you're supposed to eat them, but I think he's just out to get me after I 'accidentally' tried to pay with the copper slugs leftover from waveguide construction. Hey, at 6AM after a long night of wardriving, it's an easy mistake to make.

  • There's going to be a lot more of this in the near future.

    Not once the bureaucrats find out about what he's up to.

    And I must say that in this case they would probably be correct. Can't have everyone walking around polluting the EM spectrum.

    • And I must say that in this case they would probably be correct. Can't have everyone walking around polluting the EM spectrum.
      The beaurcrats have already given this technology their blessing: anyone is free to use the 2.4GHz spectrum block in any way they see fit, so long as they do not radiate more than 1 Watt of power. Cringley's setup is well under the 1W cap, and is therefore perfectly legal. The fact that he's using directional antennas actually decreases the chance that he's going to cause interference with anyone else.
  • by blackdropbear ( 554444 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:22PM (#2976994)
    Now all I have to do is grow the tree to bounce the signal off.
  • (this is from somebody that emailed Cringe)

    I set one up this morning. I put a two year-old two Mbps AP with an 18dBi directional antenna on top of our downtown San Jose WiPoP, and pointed it at the Starbucks, Rock 'N Tacos, Spiedo restaurant, and the Campbell Cigar shop below. It works great. I got 1.2 Mbps inside these places with my WiFi card. I didn't have to ask Starbucks, nor offer to pay them anything!"

    Does anyone else smell the start of a new type of stupid law, one that says you can't beam otherwise permitted radio waves into buildings?

  • by Mr. Neutron ( 3115 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:47PM (#2977108) Homepage Journal
    Ultimately the Internet is going to become useless, taken over by AOL/Time-Warner and a handful of other major providers, all in control of Big Media. At that time, we'll need to set up our own nationwide, underground, wireless IP network. And it's ideas like this that are going to make it work. Here's how:

    We start with neighborhood wireless LANs. A few WAPs on the block, and forthcoming wireless technology will allow the WAPs to uplink to one another. It's not all that different from the old BBS, except that it's over the airwaves, rather than over the phone, the bandwidth is about 1000x better, and it's completely public.

    Then we get some Cringely-esque techniques in place to route between different neighborhood LANs. Set an IP router in front of several microwave links to other IP routers, each in a nearby town/neighborhood. This would be like a wireless version of the old FidoNet.

    If we can get the whole nation connected, we can then have P2P-paradise that the Media companies can't touch. Well, except that bandwidth would suck, and it would be able to scale for anything. Only, I'm looking at 5 or 10 years down the road, after technology has taken a few leaps forward.

    And, you could have access to this network virtually anywhere you can take an 802.11 device. And don't get me started on the Voice-over-IP possibilities.

    That would *rule*.
    • Alright, wireless anarchy is very very cool to talk about, but raises some serious problems.

      1) Routing tables could potentially grow HUGE to handle loops within the system.

      2) I think (am I wrong?) that a system would require point-to-multipoint or at least WAP-to-WAP, which IIRC 802.11b was bad at.

      2.1) Either that or we need two or more 802.11b repeaters on anybody's internal network. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's more complicated, since one (or more) would have to be able to touch somebody else's WAP. Is there some combination of AdHoc and AP modes that the 802.11 system can operate in?

      3) How do you assign an IP address? No DHCP servers, can't be static... messy, no?

      4) Suddenly route-advertising and route-discovery would have to become standard features on all WAPs.

      That said... it sounds really cool and I'm thinking of solar-powered UPS-backed PC/104 with PCMCIA 802.11 cards being put up around a community ("For $small we can all share internet access and be online anywhere in {area}"). Maybe just a dream.

      -Knots
      • Knowing what little I do about IP, I can try to address some of the problems:

        Q1) Routing tables could potentially grow HUGE to handle loops within the system.

        A1)We would probably need to develop some sort of massively hierarchical routing scheme. Several levels of domains, subdomains, sub-subdomains, and so forth. Using IPv6 wouldn't hurt. Make the domains geographically-oriented. Incorporate AI into route calculations.

        2) I think (am I wrong?) that a system would require point-to-multipoint or at least WAP-to-WAP, which IIRC 802.11b was bad at.

        Q2.1) Either that or we need two or more 802.11b repeaters on anybody's internal network. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's more complicated, since one (or more) would have to be able to touch somebody else's WAP. Is there some combination of AdHoc and AP modes that the 802.11 system can operate in?

        A2) Since I know even less about MAC-level networking, I'm not sure I have a better answer than "technology will improve."

        Q3) How do you assign an IP address? No DHCP servers, can't be static... messy, no?

        A3) WAPs can serve as perfectly good DHCP servers. The DHCP servers know what IPv6 address block to use from their sub-subdomain info, which would be culled from the IPv6 router in the LAN (see A1).

        Q4) Suddenly route-advertising and route-discovery would have to become standard features on all WAPs.

        A4) No, just on the level-3 routers. The WAPs are only concerned with MAC-level connectivity, whereas each (multi-WAP) LAN would contain one IPv6 router to the greater network (for now, let's call it the "CringelyNet.") It would be like in my apartment, where I have multiple 100bT hubs, uplinked to one another, but only one router to the outside world. The hubs don't know anything about IP routing, but as long as there is MAC-level connectivity to the *router*, everyone in the LAN can get to the outside.

    • I had the same thought when I first read Cringely's article, but you're missing something here. The hold the media companies have on us isn't through hardware, it's through Congress.

      As long laws like the DMCA (or the future SSSCA) are around, there are no "safe" alternatives. Illegal is illegal, and anything large scale will be shut down.

      The thing is, if we had the clout to get rid of the DMCA, we wouldn't *need* to build an alternative way.

      If we want free networks, the infrastructure we really need to hack is Congress.
  • by d-ude ( 106541 ) <sch740@yahoo . c om> on Friday February 08, 2002 @05:51PM (#2977142)
    ...when your co-workers are installing 802.11b equipment above you. Here's a link to a page I put up that has a video clip of what almost happened to us when a wrench was dropped from 150ft. on a tower.

    The Unwired [1st.net]
  • So, having proved the concept, I am going to go back to my slightly less offensive bootleg DSL connection until I can find out who owns that oak tree and make my new installation legit.

    I was going to suggest getting a plat book from the Sonoma county extension office. But I called them, and they don't do plat books... (Maybe plat books are just a midwestern thing. I'm used to most every farmer having a plat book that shows who owns which acreage.)

    So it looks like for Cringely to find out who owns that part of Bennett Mountain he's going to have to go to the Recorder or Assessor's office and find it on a map there.
  • by j3110 ( 193209 ) <samterrellNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 08, 2002 @06:25PM (#2977287) Homepage
    I've done some work myself on making a passive repeater for other purposes. I've found that even duct-taping a copper circle of one wave length onto my usb wireless adapter for my laptop will improve link quality more than 10% when you go through a few obstacles. I've been lazy, but if you want to do something pretty cool build a directional antenna (any with good gain) and run the cable to a copper circle of length 11.168cm(Ch 6) (don't connect the ends to each other, just to the coaxial cable). This should give you much better gain and distance on your laptop :) you could build the double quad antenna (double the wave length in length, looks like and you connect the coax to the center such that it ends up being two stacked quads), and it would give you at least 3db gain more than a single quad and be omnidirectional so you can move your laptop around :) There are lots of documentation on how to build these antenna's. Build a couple and connect them to each other and viola, you've got a passive repeater.
  • by Ledge ( 24267 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @06:29PM (#2977308)
    How bout /. gets some negotiations going to swap Katz for Cringely with PBS. Sounds like a hell of a trade. At least I can get through an entire Cringely article without getting the dry heaves.
  • by CRC'99 ( 96526 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @07:10PM (#2977442) Homepage
    I'm part of the crew at www.wireless.org.au - and we've been doing some distance testing on standard 11Mbps 802.11 equipment.

    We successfully negotiated a link at 11Mbps over 14.6km and are trying to go for 36.5km when time allows.

    check out the quick post at http://www.wireless.org.au/stories.php?story=02/02 /07/4863496 regarding this.
  • by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Friday February 08, 2002 @09:44PM (#2977842) Homepage Journal
    A free cookie to whoever finds the aerial, steals it, takes pictures of it and sends a ransom note to Cringley. Come on, you know you want to. A great project for a bored geek in his area.. FAME AND FORTUNE AWAIT!
  • ...the PBS site goes down? It usually takes a week after he writes something new before I can see it. Is it because www.pbs.org is some dinky old server that takes a week to get up again after a slashdotting? Lately Slashdot's been linking to every article he writes, so of course, everyone's gonna try to look at it. This behavior has been consisten since I started reading Cringely's articles regularly last year.

  • by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Saturday February 09, 2002 @12:50AM (#2978278)
    I myself live in a bandwidth black hole which I just happen to be in the center of. So, I actually started researching and buying gear to hook into work's T1, which is about 4.8 miles away. The gear I decided on was two Orinoco [wavelan.com] (or WaveLAN as they used to be called) cards with Linux boxes to match to keep costs down (besides, Linux makes for a great wireless router). My antennas are 24dBi gain Hyperlink [hyperlinktech.com] parabolic grid antennas. I already have the cards working in my Linux installations and am ready to hook up the antennas soon. The only tricky part is that my path to work is slightly obscured so I'm hoping I have enough power and gain to be able to punch though. Hopefully the bandwidth gods will look favorably upon me. I've never had a high speed connect at home (and probably never will if this doesn't work :/)

    One of the coolest projects I found while researching this was the HPWREN [ucsd.edu] project at UCSD. Check out their pictures, it's hella cool. In a nutshell they are running a 45Mbps (802.11a) wireless backbone across the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve using mostly off-the-shelf equipment, for the purpose of hooking together the facilities strewn across it. They even have remote cameras hooked in that can be remotely controlled through the network, and other testing stations that send data back to them in realtime.
    I dropped an email to the project lead and I asked him what kind of gear they used. He said they used a Western Multiplex Tsunami for their backend, Hyperlink for their antennas and WaveLAN and Cisco Aironet for their PCMCIA cards (you can now see how I constructed my parts list :)) I also asked how he got around mountains and such.
    Well, in certain places they have powered relay stations. Naturally I wondered how they were powered, and he said some of them they could get electricity to, but others they actually have solar panels powering the relays. Damn. For you real hackers he mentioned there was a parts list for the solar power array somewhere on the website, but I never bothered to try and find it.

    I've noticed some arguments regarding amplifying 802.11, and thought I'd help clear it up. FCC Part 15.247 governs the unlicensed ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band, and dictates that you can amplify the signal up to 1 watt (1000mw) This gets tricky when you start using directional antennas >6dBi gain though. You may find more detailed info here. [lns.com].
  • by damieng ( 230610 ) on Saturday February 09, 2002 @04:15AM (#2978629) Homepage Journal
    Infoworld's "I Cringely" column has been written by different people under that pseudonym. Do we know who is actually doing this?

    One of the previous columnists - Mark Stephens - has been using the names for books (Accidental Empires) and tv (Nerds series). There have been at least two more Bob Cringely's since him in Infoworld.

    More info at: http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/summer96/0088.htm l

    [)amien

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