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Ricochet Bounces Back, Cautiously 162

SimHacker writes: "An article in reports that the Ricochet wireless network will be bouncing back from the dead! Aerie Networks, who purchased Metricom's Ricochet network for $8.25 million, is going to offer the service in markets where it was popular, like Southern California and the Bay Area. They're also planning to lower the price of the modem from $300 to $100, and lower the monthly flat rate fee from $80 to $50. Ricochet is hardly the perfect wireless network, but it's much faster and more reliable than CDPD, so I'm really looking forward to signing back up."
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Ricochet Bounces Back, Cautiously

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  • My ricochet modem was worthless!!

    I live in LA and I have got to say, I really liked the service for the 3 months I had it. This is great stuff -- i remember updating my website from my car when I was early to a meeting.

  • From the article: "Aerie will market the service more to homes and businesses looking for an alternative to the high-speed Internet access available through cable modems and digital subscriber lines" I don't see how they plan to compete with wired broadband in areas like Southern CA and the Bay area, which, AFAIK, are quite wired already. If I remember the Ricochet specs, the modems top out at 128kb/s (actual speeds were significantly less). How do they plan to convert people who are paying the same, or only $5 or $10 more for a much faster connection?
    • "actual speeds were significantly less"
      I remember getting 128k reliably and sometimes getting as much as 256k. When they said 128k, they meant it.
      • Not around here in the SF Bay Area they did not.
        I had one thru the City of Martinez for quite some time. Performance was poor, support and service worse. They went under and tried to reclaim their receivers from the city buildings while defaulting on the contracts for all the users. Needless to say their repair truck was ticketed and towed and for some reason the keys to the roof went missing every time the A-holes tried to show up.
        • When they turn it back on, go down to Sunnyvale.

          Expect 25KBs+ downloads while in downtown.
        • Actually, yes they did. At least, I was quite happy with the speed and service I got here in Palo Alto.

        • I used it in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, San Ramon and Pleasanton and LOVED it! Now we live in Wisconsin but if I lived in the Bay Area again, I'd use Ricochet. My Ricochet connection was ALWAYS up. Can't say that for my cable connection.

          Ricochet was never really for the desktop. I went out by the pool and worked while my kids went swimming. I worked while at the hospital and chatted with my friends while I was waiting for my prescription. There's nothing wrong with Ricochet. Maybe it's the area you live in.


        • Martinez is out where Jesus lost his shoes, of course the reception is substandard. At least the city IT department knows how to handle a recalcitrant vendor, did anyone get LARTed ?
        • >I had one thru the City of Martinez for quite
          >some time. Performance was poor, support and
          >service worse.

          Now *this* is true. Wireless Web Connect, the ISP that Metricom farmed out it's tech and customer support too was simply awful, and IMHO, contributed to Ricochet not being more widely adopted. You were truly alone if you had problem, but luckily I worked them out myself, and when I did, my speeds were very fast.

          I'm assuming Aeri are going to take care of the service and support tasks themselves. If they throw it back to WWC forget it.

    • It definitly doesn't top out at 128, I used to pull more than 200kbps through it. When it was connected, it was more like 128 was the minimum, and it would start to drop the connection at lower speeds. I'm not sure what the actual max speed is, but from personal experience, it's at least 256kbps.
    • They are profitable b/c they work with the local gov't and give them free service for right of way on towers. The police dept in my burg is doing this with Aerie right now (my pop works there) and then with those they plan to offer service to people with laptops that would like to be able to surf the web any damn where they please. I'd pay for it, there is in fact one of their boxes 20 ft from my apartment.
    • I don't see how they plan to compete with wired broadband in areas like Southern CA...which, AFAIK, are quite wired already.

      You wouldn't say that if you were like many of us and went through the covand and rythmes madness...and haven't been able to get dsl since.
      • I did it, and I eventually wound up with Pacific Bell. It's not great service - it's been down a few times, and support is pretty clueless. But at least it's better than nothing.

        Ricochet is actually a little bit cheaper than what I'm paying, but I have five dedicated IP addresses.

        Ricochet might be worth $50 a month if I could go out to Malibu or some similar scenic place and get a change of scene in the computing world.

    • The major benefit I see in Ricochet is its ability to serve a MOBILE customer. Most wireless broadband is fixed, installed at one location and never moved. Ricochet allows you to use it at home, at work, at a friends house, in the park, or while driving up 101 (assuming someone else is watching the road :-)
      • Too bad it doesn't work well on CalTrain in the bay area. It would have totally been worth it if I could have checked my email on the way to work with it. But instead I had to pray there was a seat available in the middle of the upper level, east facing side of the train car, and even then I spent more time waiting for things to connect than I did actually reading email.

        And as far as using it at home, it didn't work there either, that would have been when the power went out.

        Overall I'd give Ricochet a C- when it was up.
    • I live in Silicon Valley and I'd buy it. There are still a number of spots in the valley that can't get DSL/Cable Modem/etc, for instance here in Campbell. A friend in Santa Clara was able to get broadband only about a year ago.
    • Simple.. a lot of areas still dont have broadband.

      Where I live, there are ZERO options outside of dialup. I live in Laguna Niguel... a fairly nice area of orange county.

      However I guess due to the area (we are in a foothill type area.. lots of hills... my apt is on the side of a hill... the street goes through a vally... etc etc) we are very limited to well.. everything. Our cable company figures it is cheapest to provide cable to us via shared satalite dish. (So for the entire 20 unit building... we have a single dish)...

      so cable is obviously out of the question.

      We are too far from our phone provider (pacbell) to make use of anything worth while... too far for dsl.. and I still refuse to pay for ISDN... (its not much of an improvement anyways)

      So what options are left?

      There is satalite... its actually decently cheep but the cost to entry is too high... Not to mention I am in a hotel like apt building ... which makes it a bit hard to set something like that up.

      So while there is that... I dont think I want to go through the trouble actually getting it setup just to have a really poor latency. (sucks for games *grin*)

      So... whats left... something like wireless broadband would be great (prob microwave) but due to the area... nobody seems to be able to provide it... most likely due to all the hills in the way.. (No line of sight)

      So ricochet was REALLY cool... sure a bit pricy but it was worth it....

      I was getting downloads of around 27-35KB/s so...

      still that beans the crap out of dialup :)
    • >I remember the Ricochet specs, the modems top
      >out at 128kb/s (actual speeds were significantly

      Au contrare. I was a die-hard Los Angeles Ricochet user before they shut it down.

      I never saw speeds as low as 128Kbps. With my Aircard 400, I had consistent speeds of 200-300Kbps, with bursts on long downloads to around 320Kbps.

      That's about double the speed of ISDN ... wirelessly. It beats the hell out of any other mobile solution you get right now, which is what? Sharing the minutes on your mobile phone for 19.2K throughput?

      Sure, it's not cable or DSL, but with a couple of batteries in your laptop, and a Ricochet modem, you have a completely untethered near-broadband connection anywhere you go.

      It's a great product, and it's faster than 128K. I'm not sure why they market it at that speed.

  • Richochet is cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @08:07PM (#3067995) Homepage
    Roichochet makes CPCD look like a joke. It's based on packet radio technology and the infrastructire design is closer to a military setup than anything you can do with cellular. You can communicate modem to modem directly WITHOUT paying for service, and if you pay then you can connect MODEM to MODEM through the Richochet network.

    It's really cool.. My forst wireless network was a pair of their 19.2 modems... with mods to the base station I set up I could get about 3000-5000 feet range.
    • Re:Richochet is cool (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Lumpy, you're a know-nothing tool. The P2P connection ability was removed from the hardware of the newer modems. Your old 19.2s will work, but not the newer jobs.
      • Re:Richochet is cool (Score:2, Interesting)

        by noweb4u ( 52880 )
        Bah, not true. I have a GS and a GT, both of which can talk to each other just fine, even where poletops are not visible.

        I'm doing some work in my living room right now or i'd get out the modems and do an ats300? for ya. Still can if you don't believe me.
        • In some way, you're both right. Metricom disabled P2P connectivity over the network at some point during the death-spiral. So you could connect to a peer you could directly see, but you couldn't do a radio-nameserver lookup.

          I think. By the time that happened, I only had one radio. (a Merlin)

          • It's my understanding they made peer to peer via poletops a pay service for things like industrial monitoring, etc.
            • Paul! I didn't know you bothered posting to /.. Hell, I just saw the headline and looked to see if Myself was posting here... And sho' enuf, there he is, lamenting the dismal prospects of resurrecting the Detroit network. Well, if Aerie isn't gonna do it, it's time to get the climbing gear and screwdrivers (only for use after climbing - don't climb drunk).
              • :-) I've been known to from time to time. I used to karma whore back in 1999-2000 (but I wasn't good at it :-) ) and lately I've just checked here from time to time.

                Climbing gear would be too suspicious, plus we want to leave all the gear on the poles, we just want to find out how to make them respond to us and become under our control - then you write a script to do it, and get a cherry picker and run the script on all the poletops to assume control of the network, then it's open and available for public use. :-)

                Granted there may be things that make this impractical (not counting the number of nodes you potentially might have to do this on (sayy... Pontiac to Madison Heights and Southfield for example) but in the end it might be worth it if we get the affirmative word that they're not gonna light up DTW again. :-)
  • ...but not in Pennsylvania like it used to be available! I was looking at getting a Laptop and using wireless broadband, and that same week Ricochet went under. Now, they're back but not offerring the service.

    Life just isn't fair :'(
  • Has anyone been able to use the old wireless gear to do anything cool?
  • Ricochet Bounces Back


    My name's Timothy, I'll be posting stories all week! Don't forget to tip your waitress.
  • It is one of the best internet deals around. When I used to live in the bay area, there was a great little pub (Scruffy's in Sunnyvale) that had a pole pretty close.

    You could sit in the back of the pub, and download at around 25KBs-35KBs. I would gladly pay $100 to get that service again, and I just hope they migrate it up to Portland soon.

    I used this as a substitute for DSL because of where I was living down there (apartment complex screwed the phone trunk) and it really worked beautifully. I had a few system outages that never went more than an hour, and it was reliable and fast. Latency was much less than I expected.

    It's a fabulous device when you are out on the go, I remember one time looking at real estate in the bay area having a friend drive me around while I surfed the net to find directions and maps, and new houses in the area. It really is great technology.

    K, I'll stop being metricoms whore.
    • It may be great, but there is one question: If the first company couldn't do it, what is the chance that the second company to try it won't eventually die? Excite and @Home merged, which looks pretty similar to this situation (profitable and un-profitable companies merging).

      Also, if you have to go to a pub to make downloading fast enough to be bearable, you might as well get ISDN, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and some [optional] lubriderm. At least this way, you get to simulate sex with all the chicks you see rather than have to fantasize about it when you get home.

      • Simple, over a billion dollars in infastructure and R&D that Metricom had to pay for.

        Downloading at home was still well over 10KBs, but considering I have an affinity for shepards pie the pub was the best place to go. It was about 2 miles from work, not out of my way, and was a great place to hang out.

        Working outside of the office in a place where when you want a break can provide a lot of fun and interested distractions is wonderful. If we had ricochet up here I would try to work remote more often, but I figure there is no difference between my house and the office, except the drive.
      • Yeah dude seriously IMHO, getting a 1.3billion dollar buildout for what, 7 million, is a fscking DEAL as far as I'm concerned.

        they get all the patents, the customers with cards who liked the service (that's me!) and zero debt.

    • It is one of the best internet deals around. When I used to live in the bay area, there was a great little pub (Scruffy's in Sunnyvale) that had a pole pretty close.

      Personally, I go to the pub to talk to people and drink beer but hey, whatever turns you on, right?

    • I too live in Portland, OR and emailed the Ricochet people, begging them to bring their service to Portland area. They died before letting me use their service. Bastards!
      • A friend told me they had access up here, so when I moved I assumed it would work. I moved up here a few months before they died and was stuck with no wireless. Good thing they have pioneer place. :)
    • Dude, your comment about the apartment complex screwing the phone trunk has sparked a similar issue that I am suffering. Please, if you have any information concnering this, I'm all ears... I am close enough to the CO to get 1.5Mbit DSL but for some reason our complex phone system is screwing things up for delivering DSL to my humble home.


      PS. I too once had Ricochet in the Seattle area, and yes it ROX!!
      • In a nutshell, you are screwed. I'll give you the details about what was wrong with our phone system though.

        They routed all phone lines in through a switch, so they could patch in the secure-access line. What happened, is their switch had a filter to reduce noise. Side effect: kill DSL signal.

        Short of wiring a straight line in from the outside no DSL signal was coming through there. Worst part about it, the 5 people that paid to get the DSL installed before realizing why the signal would drop every 30s and never really sync up. It would have been cheaper for me to run a t1 into my apartment than to get DSL.
  • I heard about it a couple of days ago. Its kind of ironic that I saw a banner ad from Aerie about this (on a site that may or may not have been slashdot). Hehehe. Funny.

    Anyway, I'm not terribly familiar with the limitations of wireless. Can anyone provide a link to some good info about its capabilities, pros/cons, etc? In these parts, there is really no other hope for broadband, and I'm wondering if wireless could eventually flourish in rural areas.
  • *sigh* (Score:2, Informative)

    by curunir ( 98273 )
    this [] was posted a couple of days ago...
  • How's the latency? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @08:30PM (#3068098) Homepage Journal
    Do I have a decent chance of using telnet, ssh, or playing Counterstrike with this wireless network?

    I know for satellites, you can't realistically do any of the above -- hopefully, with the transmitters on the ground and not in geosynchronous orbit, it will be better.
    • I regularly telnet and ssh over my satellite connection. It just takes some getting used to. If you are good with vi and bash, it's not too bad.
    • I used one a long time ago (~1996, back then the max speed was 56K). Telnet sessions had a noticable latency, but were usable.
    • by VPN3000 ( 561717 )

      It's not very bad at all. I used to be a beta tester for these guys when they first deployed the network in Atlanta, GA. I use ssh a lot to access servers where I work and found the latency was minimal, much better than a modem and not quite as good as DSL. There were occasional pauses where the modem would lose a few packets back to the tower, but it was very reliable and stable. So much so, I could keep AIM and ssh sessions open for 6-7 hours without having to reconnect.

      The Bandwidth was quite nice too. You can easily stream 128k/bit mp3's off shoutcast and other radio sites. When I had this service, I would stream mp3's off my DSL machine at home on my laptop while sitting at the park doing work or while at a friend's place (just for the uber-geek factor).

      Their network also was accessible from 90% of the places I tried to use it from around town. There were countless times work would call and I would be out to dinner, instead of having to drive home and fix things, I could walk back out to the car for a few minutes and ssh in via the laptop. Well worth the money if you are in an on-call position where you are the only contact point.

      The only drawback is that their network does not support a moving connection. If you are in a car, the modem loses sync at about 30mph. That's probably good since you do not want to be fiddling with your computer while operating a vehicle.

      • The only drawback is that their network does not support a moving connection. If you are in a car, the modem loses sync at about 30mph. That's probably good since you do not want to be fiddling with your computer while operating a vehicle.

        Real life experience told me otherwise. I had a friend drive me around while looking at houses, and I was looking at maps while we drove (and IRC'ing) and did not experience any problems with it.
        • by VPN3000 ( 561717 )
          I am sure that depends on how far you are from a transponder.

          The closer you get, you pass between the towers antenea quicker and lose sync (which will land you a new IP in most cases). If you are pretty far from one (few places in my town), you stay in one antenea's focus and can travel faster/further without a momentary blackout.

          This is less noticable when you are browsing web pages, but I dare you to go mobile with ssh or telnet sessions open. They'll be reset ever few moments as you are being logged out and logged in quickly as you travel.

          The one lacking side of their modems I forgot to mention in my previous post was the lack of support for Linux. I typically run FreeBSD (Yeah, mod me down!) and installed Linux on the box with the hopes of tinkering the card into working with it. No such luck. Let's hope the new Ricochet bounces onto the scene with some Linux support. The monetary gains from that choice wouldn't be huge, but the geeks would love them for it.

          • I had no difficulties in getting the Riccochet GS working in either Linux or OpenBSD (2.8) via USB. Admittedly though, it was a little more work in Linux (it just worked right out of the box in OBSD with the GENERIC kernel, once PPPD was set to use the right device).

            I needed USB support in my kernel (2.4, or later 2.2), and I needed to make sure that ACM modem support was compiled in. Once that was done, I had to make sure that a couple of device nodes got created, modprobe, and away I went. Couldn't give you exact instructions at this point, but Google is your friend -- There's at least one page out there with some pretty comprehensive instructions (you might start here [])
          • I used mine with linux exclusively, and had no issues with it whatsoever. I run FreeBSD on my non-mobile box, and linux on my laptop which it was always connected to. Were you using the modem or the card?
        • I agree. Like the commercials flaunted, I'd surf while going 70 mph down the freeway (okay, I let someone else drive). Well, it was good up to about 50-55, much more and I'd start to get lag/burst spurts.
    • Latency with Ricochet (at least the 128k version) was pretty low - I typically got 200-300msec, sometimes a little lower, occasionally a lot higher. This is fine for ssh connections (and I used ssh constantly with mine), but Counterstrike is right out. (Believe me, I tried! Latency goes up when you're transmitting a lot of packets in both directions.)

      However, it worked great for tetrinet, which I was hooked on at the time.

      I used the service in the Bay Area, Phoenix, New York, and DC, and the performance stayed within the same ranges across all cities (the main determinant of speed and latency was how many repeater hops one had from one's location, but I found the service generally delivered 128k as promised and 256k+ on occasion.


    • Telnet or ssh? Well, I can tell you that telnet works just fine over 2400 baud dialup, and quite nicely over 9600 baud GSM.

      I can't wait to get Ricochet so I can replace this ISDN that's sucking a few hundred out of my pockets every month.

      (yeah, I live in the middle of Boston and no Cable Modem and no DSL. Thanks Verizon.)
    • Do I have a decent chance of using telnet, ssh, or playing Counterstrike with this wireless network?

      Yes, Yes, No
    • I live in the Marshall Islands, and our only internet access is via satelites. I work for Raytheon (U.S. army contractor, we more or less run the entire base) in the IT department.

      Our best case scenario is aproxamatly 600ms pings just to the far side of the satelite. Add to that 5-10%+ average unavalability, and common 15%+ packetloss and you have a pretty sucky network connection.

      I don't pretend to know how the mini-dishes perform. We have 2 different networks routed over seperate circuits and different satelites (irionically the public ISP is routed over the military satelite, and the military network is over a public bird).

      Telnet/SSH has about a .5-1.5 second delay, not that bad, unless things are really laggy, in which case it gets really painfull. Web surfing is mostly fine, Everquest is doable, but Quake and any other FPS are out the window.

      Not sure how wireless ISP's do lag wise.
    • For satellite based networks the latency is probably about 500-800 msecs. However, terestrial wireless networks are a lot different then satellites orbiting at say 200,000 miles above the earth. Distance is the main cause of latency on wireless links. On a properly configured network, even metricom's. You should see ping times from 20-150 msecs (depending on your speed, interferrence, etc)
    • I was one of the 4 sys admins for Ricochet and used it regularly on the road to and from work, as well as from home and in the office (it was faster than our corporate LAN most days, and certainly came in handy when someone cut the fiber between Houston and Dallas and/or San Jose). I was able to VPN into our corporate net w/ no appreciable different in speed and monitor the network from home. It sure was handy when I got calls in the middle of the night from the NOC, since I was an hour's drive away from the office. I usually kept my laptop up on the drive to and from work w/ the realtime traffic map displayed so I knew which route to take to work.

      I just wish we had never gone BK -- it's a cool technology and there's still nothing out there that works like it did.
    • latency is roughly 220ms. which means there is a noticable difference when typing over telnet/ssh. if you type fast it buffers up 10 characters or so. its weird watching your keystrokes after you've typed out bunch of sentences. i used to be able to type including backspaces without any screen feedback.

      there would be no way that you can play quake/ut/counterstrike or somthing. you would have atleast 220ms added to your ping.
  • i give them props for trying this again - but they should really know better than to try this - it obviously didn't catch on the first time and even though it will be $50 instead of $80 - it should be $20 or its almost worthless.
  • What they need to do is tiny PDA modem. USB visor
    or compach flash form factor. I would love to use this service with my PDA.

  • by arberya ( 176464 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @08:47PM (#3068165)
    The proliferation of public access WLAN's could possibly push servcies, such as Ricochet's to the wall. Sure, public access WLAN's are very scattered at the moment, but with the cost of setting up an AP with a decent range is only a few hundred dollars. More and more people seem to be setting up AP's, and have authorization to set up antennae on radio masts and providing a very good service. The community seems to be thriving, connecting zones together over the inernet using VPN software, and setting up full routing infrastructures to handle Internet access.
    Sure, there wont be any real SLA's in place, but with so many AP's connected to different ISP's, then network redundancy wouldn't be much of an issue.
  • waiting........


    i used to have ricochet, and i'll tell ya, there's nothing cooler than streaming real audio christmas songs while driving down the freeway, or getting a map from when you're lost.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @08:57PM (#3068196) Homepage Journal
    I came into the company at a time when the .com boom was just starting to happen. I was young and didn't quite understand business politics yet, so I thought it was right to point out when things are outright ripping off the customer or in the very least preventing the company from dominating the market. My "self rightousness" cost me my job.

    You see my freinds, the ricochet development cycle really ended after the first modem was introduced. Sure it got smaller and faster, or so you think. The ricochet was allways capable of 128kbps speed. There was a s register that could change the modem speed to that maximum rate, but unless you were transferring from ricochet to ricochet at a distance of 100 feet or less, you would never see 128kbps from their network. This is because the poletops were set at 9600baud.

    Now to understand how you can get 28.8 from poletops set at 9600 you have to understand how the ricochet network works. Basically you are surrounded by these poletops, all shooting out bits at 9600 baud, they are multiplexed together by your modem and combined to get the desired bandwidth. Thus 9600 from 3 poletops would give you 28.8. Internally people who knew about this and thought it was wrong were fired over the years. There was a lot of them trust me.

    Whenever a new modem standard like 33.6 or 56k came out, metricom would release a new "Modem software upgrade" that "contained new code!" that would magically turn your 33.6 ricochet into a 28.8 one. All it did was change the default setting of that S Register, maybe some new stuff was added, but thats about it. Nothing really magical or fancy, they fired all the real engineers that created the modem in the first place long ago. All that was left was a skeletal crew that could never really improve the internal electronics design.

    When they were "Upgrading the Ricochet Network!" this was nothing more than more smoke up the ass of ricochet users. The poletops speed was simply set from 9600 to anything higher. Just a stupid S register that was allways there.

    I think Ricochet's real downfall wasn't the technology, when it was introduced allmost 5 years ago, it was capable of delivering 128kbps service. So the failure can only be found in the strategy used by the marketdroids. $20@month for 128kbps wireless internet service vs $20@month for a standard 28.8 isp would have sold a lot more modems than the $40@mo ricochet $20@mo standard ISP model that they took.

    They did do an amazing job creating the network, just a shame that they never put that same effort into people that acually understood the internet market. People have allways gone with the cheaper ISP simply because they want to save money. Anyways I hope no heads roll from my comment.

    Oh in case you're wondering what the magic s-register was, its ats304=115200. The reason they made it so slow in the beginning is back then most motherboards were using a 8250 UART, which was limited to 14.4 speeds.
    • the conventional way to get higher bitrate than your baudrate is to use a modulation capable of handling more informatation. ie take a 9600 and 14,400 bps modem, both operating at 2400 baud. one needs to modulate 4 bits per baud, and the other 6 bits per baud. How is this accomplished? not 4 modems multiplexed to get 4 2400 baud units (aka, your poletop methodology). 4 bits gives you 16 possible values, so you pick 16 unique values and transmit one of them 2400 times a second. thats 9600 bps out of 2400 baud. for 14.4 you need 64 unique values sent 2400 times a second. each 1/2400th of a second you get one of these values, and it turns into 6 bits of information.
    • Hm.. this doesnt seem to correspond with what the people who have hacked ricochet have said, i.e. the older units can run at up to 100kbit/sec raw, and the new ones can run at 256kbit/sec raw
      I have used the older units extensivly, in regular pole-top mode, in point-to-point mode, and in starmode.
      Also, the ATS304 register sets the _serial_ speed, either 0 (auto-detect up to 57600) or anything else.
      (yes, IHBT, IWHAND..)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:48PM (#3068360)
      Partially true, I worked for Metricom in the engineering department for two years before they went kaputz. The S-register you refer to 304 was actually the data terminal speed. This register controlled the speed at which the radio talked to the computer it was connected to. Setting this speed at a maximum, as most of you old school BBS freaks know is always recommended. setting the S 304 register to 0 would let it autodetect the data terminal speed up to 57.6kbps. I personally set it to 115200 to get the maximum possible throughput even though it really didn't matter with the Gen 1 radios. This is not the same as the speed at which the radios talk to each other however. The poletops for the Gen 1 network (33.6 or 28.8 or whatever you want to call it) were entirely different animals than the 128k radios. The 128k poletops could talk to the Gen 1 radios, but you could not get Gen 1 poletops to talk to 128k radios at 128k speed. This is also why it is recommended to use the USB cable when using the 128k radios. The maximum a serial connection would let you download at is about 10k because of the 115200 limitation. Most people don't have high speed serial ports, don't know they have em, or whatnot, so even though the 128k radios work with a high speed serial (about 460kpbs IIRC) it was a big hastle. I can remember trying to get test setups in the lab to work with high speed serial but there were too many cabling attenuation/interference problems to get it to work that fast all the time. Serial cables are simply not designed to handle that kind of signaling speed. USB was better suited for the fast transfer rates and is why you should use it whenever you can. Trust me, they had to roll out completely new poletops in the entire Bay Area when they upgraded systems. I remember taking a "Woody" radio home and using it on the 28.8k network until they turned on the new poletops. I am afraid you are misunderstood about the 304 register and hopefully this cleared things up a little. If anyone out there can add more to this, I'd be glad; it's been a while since I worked at Metricom.
      • Then riddle me this smart guy.

        Why is it whenever I would dial into a poletop and check the setting it would ALLWAYS be set at 9600 baud? Remember, I worked there too, had access to the "special" version of the modem software that allowed me to do this. How the hell do you deliver 56kbps when all your poletops when they are set at 9600 baud?

        Hey when did you work there? I worked in tech support when they made us live next to the storage area in the original building. Not sure of the year, my name should explain why :P

        • by n6mod ( 17734 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:11PM (#3068625) Homepage
          Because the serial ports on the poletops were always set to 9600 baud. Changing 304 on a poletop would do exactly zip to throughput through that poletop.

          Your understanding of the entire system is bascially flawed. 304 is the DCE speed ONLY. Nothing to do with the radio. The original "28.8" Ricochet had an over-the-air rate of 100kbps. The original system also used the same protocol and frequencies between the portable and poletop as it did between poletops (and therefore poletop to WAP).

          If you RDest'ed into a poletop, there was another S-register (one of the 800's, it's been years) that contained the actual radio speed: 100000. Change that and you just bricked the poletop. ;)

          Saying that MCOM was ripping off the customer based on this bogus analysis of the system might have had a bit more to do with your longevity there. ;)

          As to the "Autobahn" system, development certainly did continue after the first Phase 1 shipped. Autobahn (the 128k system) was a massive re-engineering, using higher speed (256k? Faster? Anyone know?) 900MHz links to the portables, and 2.3GHz (WCS) and 2.4GHz (Part 15) links from WAP to poletop and poletop-to-poletop. Going to WCS helped bound the latency, which was always an issue with the original network.

          Yes, you could get 100kbps from the old radios in Starmode. (Check out /dev/st0, boys and girls!)Yes, Starmode was initially supported in the Autobahn system, but sadly went the way of peer-to-peer connections under the brain-dead Dreisbach administration. Perhaps Aaronson will remember the glory days of the early network and lift that restriction.

          And, to get back to the original subject line, what killed Ricochet the first time was overpriced modems and service (which Aaronson seems to have corrected), horrible marketing, and serious overextension, trying to build out too many cities too fast. There were other brain-dead decisions along the way, going all the way back to announcing Autobahn in '97 and not delivering it until '00, killing Starmode and P2P, &c.

          Oh, and "next to the storage area" described the location of tech support for most of the time I was there, even though that was a couple of different locations. Tech Support was next to the doors from the small parking lot when I was there.

          Ricochet Tech Support 2/95-5/97

    • by isaac ( 2852 )
      I still think you have an incomplete understanding of the Ricochet network. ATS=304 sets the DTE rate between the radio and the computer. The 128k poletops were not the same as the old poletops. Hence, network upgrade.

      I'm sorry you feel you have an axe to grind with Ricochet - I do too, being a former customer who lost service (though I no longer live in a service area). I also think they should have gone for volume with their pricing model, instead of catering to the overpaid-techie set.

      Last time I questioned your assertion that the 128k upgrade was no more than "changing an S register on the poletops", you corrected me on a few points - namely that the old modems used frequency hopping to avoid collisions with the old poletops. I haven't tested this, but let's stipulate it.

      You did not address my (correct) assertion that the newer poletops did use a different band for backhaul (2.3 GHz WCS/2.4GHz ISM), where the old poletops used the same 900 MHz band as the modems. (This information came not from "marketing drivvel" [sic] but from a paper []presented at interop by Metricom engineers). (As to my other assertion - that the 128k modems used 4FSK vs. FSK, I admit that I don't remember where I read that.) So why do you claim that the new service was no different than the old?

      No, I didn't work for Metricom. You worked tech support for Metricom. Based on my experience with Metricom's tech support, this explains alot about your attitude and (mis)understanding of the network. The upgrade was more than just "changing an S register on the poletop." Why do you insist on claiming otherwise?


      • FWIW, both old and new systems use Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum. It's not "to avoid collisions", it's the nature of the system. This gives you good frequency reuse, and as the orignial form of spread spectrum allows you to run meaningful amounts of power as a Part 15 device.

        The 900MHz links are certainly FHSS, the 2.4GHz links probably are, and the WCS links most likely are not.

        FHSS is (or at least was) very much a part of the engineering "religion" at MCOM. Rightly so, Direct Sequence systems don't do well in the face of many kinds of interference, and it's not the best approach for unlicensed wireless systems. (Which is why your 2.4GHz phone has such an effect on your 802.11b card.)
      • Lol Hi Issac,

        Well tech support mainly dealt with stupid user questions, unlike n6mod who I think is a REAL technician. The kind of guy they would tell "Go hunt down this stolen laptop with these special scanners and antenna's!" Really big difference between what we do. You guys are right, I have absolutely no understanding about the network on the level you two do with all your shortwave experience.

        I got a +5 on this comment the last time I posted it.

        It's sort of a slap in the face to /. that this kind of shit happens here. The moderation system truly does not work, obviously n6mod deserves some moderation points too, yet the moderators don't bother browsing above 2.

        It's making me think of starting a new kind of troll to overthrow the system. *DEVILISH LOOK* You two are smart enough, here's how you can help.

        The current troll purposefully tries to go against the slash moderation system to achieve their goal. They use disgusting links to nefarious sites, act like children really.

        What I propose is the karma troll. The karma troll must be smarter than the average troll, because they would have to catalog and sort high modded comments for later "recycling" to recieve karma.

        Yes I know it sounds silly, but I think I've figured out the TRUE psychology of slashdot, time to go dig and catalog all those +5 comments :P
        • Well tech support mainly dealt with stupid user questions, unlike n6mod who I think is a REAL technician. The kind of guy they would tell "Go hunt down this stolen laptop with these special scanners and antenna's!"

          Actually, I did sniff out a stolen laptop (actually a stolen van) using the Ricochet Network. If you search for my posts on previous Ricochet topics, you'll find that the owner of that van posted, and I replied.

          And yeah, when the early adopters went away, and all I was doing was explaining to people that even though it was a wireless modem, you still had to a) plug it into the wall to charge the battery, and b) plug it into the serial port, I left TS. Did a short stint in SQA before I was laid off (as a direct result of announcing Autobahn. Classic Osborne Effect).

          • all I was doing was explaining to people that even though it was a wireless modem, you still had to a) plug it into the wall to charge the battery, and b) plug it into the serial port,

            To which they would allways reply, "But It says wireless on the box!"

            For some reason, I allways pictured the ricochet's next upgrade to be a few plutonium fuel rods.

            So I guess you probably worked with John Chiponis, I liked that guy while I worked with him. There was some dead weight while I worked there, i've been sorta curious what happened to them. 2 names, Jaqueline Schumann and Rick Ried come to mind. Any info on where they went? I know Chiponis went on to become like tech support leader or something, not sure what happened to kaitlin (note kaitlin Imes if you're reading this, thanks for teaching me how the internet works, I went on to have a nice carreer after MCOM)


            • So yeah, I know where some of these folks are, but there's no reason to reminisce in public.

              Email me: n6mod at milewski dot org
              • Saying that MCOM was ripping off the customer based on this bogus analysis of the system might have had a bit more to do with your longevity there. ;)

                Actually, my first statement does hold true, why did MCOM set the 304 register to 28.8kbps, sell the service at 28.8 speeds when, as you said, over the air speed was 100kbps. MCOM did this for years.

                It wasn't the techies fault that marketing did this to the company. Ricochet honestly could have been a real contender to ISDN which was new at the time, but someone, somewhere decided it would be better to slowly throttle the modem up to keep in step with whatever the current POTS modem technology was.

                I retract what I said, i'm right you sir are wrong. They could have just introduced the high speed in the beginning and cornered the market. Instead they tried to milk the customers. That was a fucked up management decision.
                • Your statements regarding S304 are so far off-base as to be funny.

                  For several reasons. Since you seem insistent on pressing this point, here goes:

                  You don't have any idea how the system works. This magical 304 register that you keep talking about has nothing to do with the speed of the system. The 304 register controlled the serial port speed and the serial port speed ONLY. If the 304 register was set to 28.8, then there would be very, very few computers that would even communicate the modem. You see, 28.8 is not a legal speed for a serial port. Don't believe me? Open Hyperterminal and try to set your serial port to 28800. You can't. 19200 or 38400, but not 28800 or 33600 or any other marketing-driven speed.

                  You're correct that the 28.8 and 33.6 numbers were driven by the state of the art for POTS modems, but that didn't have anything at all to do with S304, or for that matter system performance. When I was in tech support, I told people to expect 19200, because I believe in underpromising and overdelivering. Marketing didn't like it, but it's not like there was ever any real presence in marketing after Sandy left.

                  IIRC, the 304 register in the portables was set to ZERO by default. That's right, ZERO. But the modem still worked. Why? Because 304 doesn't have anything to do with the speed of the modem. And, (and you should remember this) if you set that register to 0, it would automatically set the DTE speed to match your computer. Nearly every serial modem sold to consumers does this, and Ricochet was no exception.

                  The over the air speed was 100kbps. The effective throughput of the system was around 20-30kbps. This was not because of the 304 register.

                  Besides, if you're correct, the system could never go faster than 9600, because that's what 304 in the poletops was set to. And don't give me the garbage about multiple poletops sending data to a single subscriber. The system would do that under some circumstances if it was running 200 or 201 code, but the 210 code forced all the traffic through the best node. This was done mostly to bound latency; the latency of the network was variable enough that TCP would behave badly, and 210 included a bunch of protocol changes to improve that. (And if you were there prior to 210, you'd know who I am)

                  So, why was throughput only 30% of the over the air rate? Because that's the nature of half-duplex packet-switched networks. Do you have an 802.11b card? Do you get 11Mb/s out of it? Lucent/DLink/Linksys/whomever must be trying to rip you off! Think back just a bit to 10Mb/s ethernet (10Base-T or 10Base-2). Did you ever get 10Mb/s out of it? Same with 100Base-TX, though things get dramatically better with full duplex and switches. Why is this? Because when you receive a packet, you need to acknowledge it. And in a half-duplex system, you can't be transmitting while you're receiving. And there's turnaround time in the radio. Add to this that latency really was variable over a pretty good range, so the TCP window size was flapping all over the place.

                  Amazing that Katin let you out of the training room...

                  You know, the more I think about this, the more I think we had to overlap at MCOM. Were you hired on Newton's watch? You knew Rick and Jax, who bailed out shortly after I left. You knew Chiponis, who started while I was still in TS, and you knew K10, who punched out for SLOtown around that same time. Did you know Noya? Or Kelly? Did you ever work across the street, or in San Jose?

            • So I just reread this, and it sure looks like you were saying that Jax and Rick were dead weight.

              Nothing could be farther from the truth.

              And if you were there in '96, we certainly worked together.

    • " The reason they made it so slow in the beginning is back then most motherboards were using a 8250 UART, which was limited to 14.4 speeds."

      Are you sure? My 1995 computer (Compaq Presario CDS 750) had 2 16550 UARTs on the serial ports. Anything more modern than 1993 and which wasn't totally cheap did.
  • Ricochet vs. CDPD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:07PM (#3068226) Journal
    My exposure to Ricochet was the "slow" version offered here in Washington, DC. It was most useful for remote use in areas where you knew the coverage was good. It could be good in one place, and horrible just down the block. I saw a lot of them in use in Congressional hearing rooms.

    However, on the "reliability" side, CDPD ruled. Verizon CDPD has much better coverage, and you can depend on it almost everywhere. For my particular application, a mobile webcam in a car, CDPD was much more reliable than Ricochet. AT&T CDPD seems pretty good too, but I only used that for OmniSky with my Palm on Amtrak.

    CDPD is a bit slower than the "slow" Ricochet. But of course, there is no Ricochet now, only CDPD...

    I'd love to see how the "fast" Ricochet compares. There is a poletop unit at the end of my street, and I used to be able to get Ricochet in the bedroom with a window that faces that direction.

    he goes into a couple of wireless technologies and discusses the ricochet modems
  • One year ago, when I had just got Sprint wireless web (a $10/mo option on my Sprint PCS service) and I was looking at getting cable in my apartment, Ricochet at $80/mo looked irrelevant.

    Now, with my phone line proven to be so poor that I can't get dialup to go faster than 28K (nevermind DSL), and Sprint has proven itself incapable of maintaining a call longer than 2 minutes, and my landlord has forbidden the cable company to dig up 20 ft of driveway to lay cable to me, this looks like the only way I'm _ever_ going to get more than 30Kb!

    128Kb/sec, and it's _mobile_, too, for under $50? WOO HOO!!!!!!

  • Are there any other ISP's that offer REAL wireless access? Not the pseudo-wireless for PDA's and cellphones. I mean like what ricochet offers. (I had ricochet in NYC when my job gave it to me. I loved it!)
  • My experience with Ricochet was entirely positive. Sure, my DSL line can pull down webpages two seconds faster, but with Ricochet I can access the internet from the corner bookstore. In Detroit, the coverage was actually quite good (at least up in Troy and Rochester where I lived and worked), and the 128K speed was fine because it was mobile. There was a network started in Salt Lake City (never officially launched), and I was able to use it for about a month before it was shutdown. I really, REALLY hope SLC will have Ricochet service again soon. I would gladly pay the same price I did before they shutdown.

    BTW, the Olympics were a riot (no pun intended)! Most fun I've had in quite a while.
  • I've seen little rectangular boxes with small antennas dangling from streetlights appear in my area (Mercer County-Hamilton, NJ).

    Are these the antenna's that Ricochet uses?

  • by Myself ( 57572 ) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:41PM (#3068713) Journal
    In hopes of avoiding the financial trouble that ruined Metricom, Aerie Networks will limit the Ricochet service to markets where the company can sign up enough customers to cover costs, executives said. The service proved particularly popular in the tech-driven Bay Area, where Ricochet had 25,000 subscribers.
    This means, my friends, that we will NEVER see the service revived in Detroit. I wonder if it'd be possible for a community group to acquire the remaining poletops and infrastructure, and activate a grassroots wireless network?

    At the very least, I'd like to put the poletops into a friendly mode where they'll pass packets for any customer modem that asks. Even if there's no route out to the internet, some wide-area data service would be great.
  • Back when the network was owned by Ricochet I was this close to subscribing because at the time my apartment's phone lines were snafu and I couldn't get a 24k dial-up connection let alone get DSL service. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't go with it because I'd be out a few hundred bucks and stuck with the modem. However as the service might pick back up I'm going to weigh the option again.

    The sort of stuff that would entice me to be a customer wouild be support for more than just Windows. Office Mac support and maybe unofficial Linux support at the least I would think. Far too often I'm SOL because I have a Powerbook. No one seems to want to support MacOS which seems odd for wireless networking equipment considering you'd figure Powerbook/iBook users would be a pretty big market considering the sort of people who buy them. I've been looking for a means to connect my Samsung 3500 phone to my Powerbook but my only option is a mess of cables and converter boxes that would cost as much as the wireless modem that I don't want to get suckered into buying since I can't figure if the Mac support is shitty or non-existant. Linux support at least on slashdot seems pretty obvious. I think the sort of people who'd pay 50$/mo for wireless internet service are the same types who'd also jam Linux on their laptop. They'd also need to move service into areas who'd actually use it. In their Southern California coverage area Ricochet covered the cities I would have deemed least likely to need or want wireless internet. The most likely parts of Orange, LA, and Riverside counties didn't have coverage at all or in some cases had sparse slow coverage. Maybe it is just a regional thing but down here we're wary as can be if we're toting electronics, in the Bay Area people have got LCD screens and antennas up the wazoo.
  • this would rule if they got it back up... and it was available to me. but i'm probably too far from the major metropolis to be reached. I live out in the boonies far enuff (about 30 miles north of detroit) that the only internet available to me right now is satellite. And that's too expensive for me still... if this was available, it would be a great alternative to my current dial-up :)

    Can't tell from their map on the web site if I'm w/in the coverage area though. Probably not...

System checkpoint complete.