Gateways and relays

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Althea Mesh It Up! Episode 1, Extended cut
153 views•Sep 21, 2020

Althea
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The extended version of Episode 1 is even more point-to-point, short range meshed links, and resilient network infrastructure.

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through a lot of you know testing and
trial and error and such i’ve come up
with
what you think is a formula that works
pretty well for uh
building out networks especially at the
early stages
um when you don’t necessarily have a lot
of people on it
but you need to get kind of your your
core infrastructure in place so that you
can start adding a lot of a lot of
endpoints
so um the the network i have here in
napa
um so currently i have 26 active routers
and that’s including the gateway
and of those the operators tools or ops
tools
considers 13 of them to be relays and
ops tools considers
anything to be a relay if it has more
than one neighbor right
so i have things kind of categorized
into
what i consider to be relays also
meshed endpoints and i’ll talk a bit
more about that later
but the point i wanted to make here is
that roughly 50
of my network is meshed in meaning about
50 percent of the routers on my network
have more than one neighbor
that they can communicate with which is
quite a bit higher than i think most
networks using
the same design so for comparison in
klatsk and i
um the network that they have there that
has been running longer it’s been
running about a year
or more they currently have 111 active
routers
and of those 28 are considered relays so
for them it’s about
25 are are meshed right so
just comparing you know these two
networks um my network is
about twice as meshed as the classical
ni network
and uh the reason for that is because of
all these
uh challenges and with hills and trees
and obstacles and stuff
i’m finding that i really have to make a
lot of
messiness in my network so that there’s
proper failover
and so that people are just generally
getting good experience right
the other benefit of having kind of this
high mesh ratio
is that it gives you a lot of
opportunities to
to test things to upgrade things to fix
things like you can work on the network
without kicking a lot of people offline
right so i have a lot of antennas where
i can go out and i can fully upgrade the
antenna
um you know say like i’m upgrading from
a light beam to a power beam something
like that
i can upgrade that antenna do all of
that work without
warning anybody because while i’ve taken
that link down there’s another failover
that’s still operating so people are
still online the internet might be a bit
slower
and also technically it’s probably a bit
more expensive because they’re not
having to go through more hops to get to
the internet
but it’s a temporary thing you know i’ve
working on this for 30 minutes or
whatever it’s just not a big deal
so i really really value that amount of
flexibility and
the the ability to just kind of go work
on things and try new things
without having to like kick everybody
offline so that’s nice
so i’ve started using a couple of
standardized terms to classify
um the different nodes in my network so
first of all every network’s gonna have
a gateway and that’s where
your fiber is or whatever is your main
backbone right
and you can’t have more than one gateway
in a network but chances are when you’re
starting out you’re just going to have
one and that’s what i have is a single
fiber drop
as my my gateway and then from there
i branch out to what i consider to be
major relays
and then sub relays so the difference
being that
a major relay um it’s chances are
it’s connected directly to the gateway
so it’s one hop deep or possibly it’s
two or three hops deep if my network’s
getting really
really deep but for the most part it’s
relatively close to the nate
to the gateway in terms of the number of
hops you have to go right
so ideally it’s connected directly to
the gateway
and uh it’s serving probably something
like
10 to 20 or more downstream
routers right so the single major relay
is covering a big percentage
of the network versus a sub relay
that’s something where it’s deeper in
the network so chances are it’s you know
two hops deep three hops deep even four
five six like you can get pretty deep in
there
and it’s only supplying internet to
maybe
five uh it you could really stretch it
and get up to like seven or ten clients
but
it’s going to be a small number right
and so for these different
kind of relay classifications i have
different equipment that i’ve
i’ve used and i’ve found kind of these
pairings of equipment that work well
together
so i’m just going to kind of go over
that
so for a major relay i’d
say probably the most important thing is
you want to have that incoming signal
from the gateway or wherever you’re
getting your connection from to be
really really strong
and the best way i found to do that is
to use the ubiquity power beams
and so i have two power beams as a point
to point so they’re just pointed
directly at each other so like one on
the gateway
one on my major relay for example and
um you want to use 80 megahertz channel
width
for that p2p if possible now um
since i’m in a rural area and there’s
not a lot of radio interference around i
can use 80 megahertz
pretty much anywhere i want um now if
you’re in a
more urban area or a suburban area you
may not be able to do that because
the wider your channel width the more
you’re opening yourself up
for radio interference right so you’re
just going to have to kind of look at
the spectrum available in your area
which the ubiquity
dashboard has a nice visual
representation of that there’s that uh
big wide line showing the spectrum the
the deeper blue it is
the better it is meaning there’s less
interference and the more it turns to
kind of like yellow
then or green kind of the worse it is
right
so um and red is really really bad if
you see red on the spectrum definitely
avoid that part
as much as you can so uh anyway so
again for a major relay i’ve got a power
beam point-to-point incoming
i’m using 80 megahertz channel width as
much as possible
which the power beams claim they can do
600 plus megabits per second
with that type of connection so you also
want to have really good signal strength
for your your
point to points the ideal number is 55
when you see that number of decibels
there
right so if you get it to 55 that’s
great um
anywhere between 40 and 55 is also good
right so
several of mine are like 48 or something
that’s totally fine
um if you’re into the 30s or below
that’s too loud it’s not going to work
well
um even right at 40 you’ll see sometimes
it’ll dip between like
40 and 39 like it’s your borderline so
i’d say to be safe
try to aim for like 45 to 55 that range
that’s going to be a really nice strong
signal
high 50s to 60 it starts to get weaker
so like if you’re if you can’t get
anything better somewhere in you know
say between
58 and 63 like you can get away with
that
it’ll probably still work well enough
but if you’re into kind of the mid to
high 60s or 70s or 80s
it’s probably just not strong enough to
be a big
core link right that’s going to be fine
for just a small little endpoint but
again we’re trying to push a lot of
traffic through this big link so you
want it
to be as good as you can so the other
thing i’ve found for these major relays
is if you have a long cable run
and by long i mean more than 100 feet or
so
you want to use cat6 cable and of course
you still want to use the
the outdoor rated you know uv resistant
shielded
direct burial like all you want all
those ratings as well
but what i found is that when the cable
length is more than about 100 feet
using cat6 cable really makes can make a
very big difference i’ve seen
a difference of you know over 20
megabits per second just
upgrading from cat5e to cat6 so it’s
pretty significant and you want every
little bit you can get right
and when the cable runs pretty short say
below 100 feet or so
then i found cat5e and cat6 are pretty
much identical i don’t see any
performance differences
now that’s a particular thing that i
would love to really
game out more this hundred feet number
is kind of an arbitrary thing that i’ve
just made up that’s kind of an intuition
um i haven’t really hard to that so if
any of you have the opportunity to test
and figure out where exactly that
threshold is
where you should justify upgrading from
cat5e to cat6 i’d love to know that
number
i don’t know exactly but as a ballpark
100 feet seems to be about right
and um and of course you need to also
respect the maximum
distance which technically i think is
330 feet but we consider it to be more
like
280 to 300 is like really the upper end
of
in terms of good experience right so
keep your cable
length as short as possible
a major relay since it’s handling a lot
of downstream clients you’re also going
to want a strong
outgoing antenna so most of the time
this is going to be a big sector meaning
a point to multi-point antenna
and i primarily use the prism stations
for that again another ubiquity antenna
so the prism stations are you know good
performance um good coverage
they uh and they’re relatively
affordable now they only do 90 degree
spread which is not that wide so in some
certain circumstances you may need more
than one prism station to cover
a whole neighborhood right so it kind of
just depends on what you’re trying to
hit
but the prism stations have pretty good
performance
you know compared to the other things
that i’ve i’ve tested with
the other option again depending on what
you’re connecting to is you might also
want to have point-to-points outgoing
from your major relay
so um i it just really depends on like
how many people you’re trying to connect
and what what the topography is
so on one of my major relays here i have
a prism station that’s covering
most of the clients but then i also have
i think one or two point-to-points
that are going to particular sub-relays
and then those spread out to more
clients
so you get this branching kind of effect
right so you can have
a strong incoming signal from your power
beam point to point
and then you can have a sector going out
just covering
clients and then you can also have a
couple point to points going to other
relays
right you want those to be nice and
strong because they have more clients
past them
so the other thing that i found is very
important for these major relays is
always use the uh the
32x router right so that’s the upgraded
you know
200 router and this is very important
um i’ve i’ve seen speed differences
between
uh like with the basic router um about
100 megabits per second
and with this upgraded 32x router about
200 megabits per second so literally
twice as fast it’s a huge jump
when you upgrade to that that bigger
router and of course it’s more expensive
um but for these core relays it’s
absolutely worth it
so definitely use the 32x router
and then um a note on speed tests here
like obviously when you build things
you’re going to want to be running speed
tests at each
at each hop right at each node in the
network to make sure that the speeds are
staying
staying as high as possible what i found
like i have this 10 year old computer
that
i take you know up onto rooftops and
stuff like that like if i break it it’s
not the end of the world right so it’s
good for installs um
but the the wi-fi card in it and even
the ethernet card in it
is not really that great and so when i
run speed tests through that 10 year old
computer i
generally get lower numbers versus when
i use um
a different computer or actually what i
found is my phone
when i use my phone to run speed tests
especially on the five gigahertz wifi
networks
i get much much faster results so just
keep in mind that when you’re testing
the speed on these things
one of the factors is the speed of the
network card in your
your phone or tablet or laptop or
whatever you’re using
so it’s a good idea to have kind of a
cheap laptop for
field work but you may want to either
rely on your phone
or on a fancier laptop with a better
network card in order to do these speed
tests
and of course you also want to do both
hardwired ethernet speed tests as well
as wi-fi speed tests
vast majority clients are going to use
wi-fi so you want to make sure that
that’s good
as well and if you’re having any trouble
if you’re finding a significant
difference between the hardwire and the
wi-fi
check the wi-fi channels so there’s a
free app
on android that i use for this um
it’s called net analyzer
and it will just show you kind of this
uh it’ll show you the different channels
for 2.4 and 5 gigahertz wi-fi
and you can see if there’s a lot of
things stacked up on one channel
then that’s bad you want to avoid that
right so and that’s generally just going
to be interference from
neighboring wi-fi networks and things
like that
moving on to sub relays so a subrelay
is um something that i would consider
it’ll handle
something like five to ten downstream
clients
um and really 10 is pushing it i would
say
i try to keep it at five wherever
possible um i might let it
you know grow up to seven or eight or
something clients but
you really want to keep it a small
number um and the reason for that
is because i use the uh the light ap
sectors as the outgoing on a sub relay
and the light aps i’m using the basic
model not the gps one
so the basic model um you know they’re
pretty cheap um
and the performance is not that great
they have a really wide spectrum that
they put out they say it’s 120 degrees
but i mean it’s
closer to 180 degrees it’s really wide
and we call them dirty radios because
they’re
they’re pretty dirty they can they cause
a lot of interference to anything around
them
so with the light aps you really have to
be careful to choose the spectrum
that you’re using so for all these
antennas throughout the network you
should definitely be manually choosing
your spectrum for all of them
don’t rely on the auto channel or the
auto whatever the auto thing doesn’t
work that well from what we’ve seen
so just manually specify your spectrum
in the most case i’m just breaking up
the spectrum into three big chunks
high medium and low um you know meaning
high being like the 5.8 or
mediums being like around 5.5 and low
being around 5.1
something like that um and so
for a sub relay chances are you’re going
to have your incoming antenna
and your outgoing light ap on the same
pole right that’s usually the simplest
way to install it
which means that there’s a lot of
potential for that light ap to interfere
with your incoming connection
right so you want to make sure they’re
set at opposite ends of the spectrum
so for that kind of thing i would do for
example the incoming
at 5.8 and the outgoing at 5.1 is like
totally opposite end of the spectrum
or reverse those it doesn’t matter as
long as they’re spaced out that’s fine
and now if you’re in an area with a lot
of interference a lot of other signals
around
they may have to be closer together but
you just want to make them as far
apart as possible is what i found to
work well
so for a sub relay um chances are i’m
using a light ap is my outgoing
sector for the incoming now i’m still
going to prefer
a power beam point to point for that
incoming if it’s feasible to do that
that’s what i’d rather do and in some
cases i also have
a power beam for the incoming connected
to a prism station
on the outgoing of a major relay okay so
we’ll spell that out a little more so
for my major relay had power being
point-to-point incoming
and a prism station outgoing right now
for a sub-relay i might have a power
beam
incoming but that power beam is
connected to the prism
right and then and then it’s now has a
smaller light ap outgoing
and that’s been working pretty well but
definitely if you have the option
and you can afford it um do that
subrelate incoming as a power beam point
to point as well it’s just definitely
going to be better
the main reason being well a couple
there’s a couple reasons for that
one of them is that um the sectors this
is true for the light aps
and the prism stations all of them they
only do 40 megahertz channel width
which is you know half of 80 which means
that they can only ever be at their peak
performance they can only ever be about
half as fast as a power beam point to
point
at 80 megahertz um so we’re talking
300 ish megahertz or sorry 300-ish
megabits per second throughput compared
to 600-ish
and in most cases that may not be a huge
deal um but again you just want to make
every link as strong and fast as
possible
right and um so that’s that’s a good
reason to
make sub relays incoming coming via
power beam point to point
and also you can kind of make some
judgment calls based on the clients
that are going to be downstream of this
like if i’m setting up a sub relay
that i know is primarily providing
internet for
you know a lot of retirees and
i know that they’re not really using the
network very heavily
then in that case i might be able to get
away with just the light beam
point-to-point
or you know a light beam to a prism
station or something like that
like so you can kind of make some
judgment calls like if this little wing
of your network is going to be
low data use then you can probably get
away with cheaper equipment right
but if you’ve got families with kids
especially you know
all the teenagers doing video games and
stuff like that people
working from home that kind of thing
like you definitely want to have it be
strong
um so the uh
yeah so power beam incoming light ap
outgoing that’s my general formula for a
sub
relay but you can make some judgment
calls there too
and then also for the outgoing depending
on where you’re sending the signal you
may also want to have a couple point
points
outgoing right so you might have a
situation where you’ve got a light ap
outgoing that’s handling
you know say three to five clients that
are just right there across the street
but then also you’ve got one or two
light beams outgoing that are handling
you know clients that are
far away and that would be like a light
being point to point
and that’s fine you can do that again be
careful to separate the spectrum as much
as you can so you’re not getting a lot
of crosstalk and interference
but you can you can definitely do that
and make those judgment calls as needed
and those clients that are off of the
point to points they’re definitely going
to have a better connection than the
people off the light ap
the light eps again they we kind of have
to use them because they’re cheap
but they’re just they’re not that good
in terms of performance they’re okay
the other thing with a sub relay like
let’s say i started getting more clients
in that immediate neighborhood
and so i was growing from you know five
clients to seven
to ten that kind of thing once i’m in
that range of like nine or ten clients
that’s where i’m going to start thinking
about okay i need to
upgrade this from being a sub relay to
being a major relay
and what that means is i want to make
sure i have a power
beam incoming and i might make that a
point to point
right i’m going to make sure i my
outgoing
i’m going to probably upgrade that light
ap to become a prism station
all right because a single prism station
can handle 15 to 20 clients
with good performance so probably i’m
going to upgrade that outgoing
antenna as well and the router again for
a regular sub relay if it’s relatively
low
data usage you know retired couples that
kind of thing
probably you’ll find the basic router
for your subrelay
but when you’re getting into more
clients seven to ten
plus clients then i’m also going to
upgrade that router to be the 32x
because it just handles traffic better
so
pretty much everything i’m going to
upgrade if if needed
and so that’s an that’s also an area
where when i’m
designing um a relay i’m trying to
kind of make the call in advance like do
i see this relay has the potential
to grow to be say 15 or 20 clients
or is this kind of always going to be
just three to five people
if it’s always going to be three to five
i’m going to use the cheaper stuff and
just
let it be as it is but if i think it has
the potential to grow
then probably what i’m going to do is
make the incoming link
strong from the get-go and the outgoing
i’ll
upgrade it in time when it makes sense
to do so that kind of thing
um so because it’s always a gamble like
i’ve definitely had somewhere
i kind of put all my eggs in this basket
you know spent a lot of money on this
relay to make it
strong and then a couple months later
other people just haven’t really signed
up
and i don’t really want to go back and
downgrade it really i mean you can but
that’s kind of i don’t know it doesn’t
feel right to do that so
um so it’s a gamble like that’s why it
financially kind of makes sense to start
with the cheaper equipment and upgrade
over time
but also keep in mind that you’re then
duplicating labor you know um
if you’re doing it yourself and you’re
kind of not charging yourself for labor
maybe that’s not a big deal
but you know if you’re paying a
contractor for labor or or
you won’t actually be paid for your time
then it may be cheaper just to use the
expensive stuff
at the get-go so you don’t have to
upgrade it later right so things to
consider there
so now let’s talk about failovers and
meshing
so with failover what i mean
is that if one link goes down like let’s
say i’ve got a power beam point to point
that’s processing a bunch of traffic and
something happens and it stops working
one of the antennas just locks up or
whatever
or you know the wind comes and skews one
of the antennas so it’s not aimed right
anymore or something like that
if that link goes down for any reason
you still want your network to run you
want it to do something still
so the main way i’ve been doing that is
i’ve been using light beam point to
points
as a failover so let’s say this is a
major relay i’m coming from my gateway
to a major relay and i’ve got you know
15 20 something downstream clients off
of that
so i’m going to have a power beam point
to point 80 megahertz channel width
and that’s going to be my primary length
that’s handling most of that traffic
but on the same poles uh i might have
two
light beam point to points right so i’ve
got two point two points facing each
other like that
and now the light beams if i can get
away with them being 80 megahertz then i
will
um and again separate the spectrum so
they’re not interfering with each other
but if the if the spectrum is kind of
busy there
you don’t have the space for it the
light beams could be 40 megahertz
and that’s okay so basically you’ve got
like a 600ish megabit per second
primary link but if it fails it fails
over to this
i want to do my middle finger it fails
over to this um
uh 40 megahertz um channel width
300 megabits per second ish
secondary link right so effectively in
that failover situation
your network has gotten half as fast
right so you’ve lost half the speed
which is a bad thing but at least you’re
still online
and that’s the most important thing
right so
again if you can two light beams point
to point can do 80 megahertz channel
width
and they still claim to be able to
process 600 megabits per second i’m not
convinced that they actually can handle
that amount of traffic but you know
it’s potentially there so if you can get
away with doing 80 for both your primary
and your failover great do it if you
can’t
then do 80 for the primary and 40 for
the failover and that’s okay too
um and then for the signal strength i
think i mentioned before the
you want it to be kind of in the 40s to
mid 50s right 55
is ideal anywhere in the 45 to 55 range
is great
it’s going to work really well try to
aim for that if at all possible
you also definitely need to look at the
delta the modulation you’ll see that
little
triangle stands for delta you see that
delta and then a number right
ideal is delta zero that’s perfect
so if you get it to be zero and like
stable at zero
great um if it’s you know one two or
three
that’s okay if it starts swinging into
the four or five
or plus you know higher numbers that’s
bad
and um so since i’m doing these a lot of
these shots
uh where there’s some tree obstruction
so like i’m
i’m not shooting through the center of
the trees or the center of a forest
because it just won’t work
but in a lot of these shots i’m shooting
through kind of the fringe edge of a
tree right like a couple limbs of a tree
that kind of thing
and what you’ll find there is that the
delta or the modulation will kind of
fluctuate it’ll swing up and down a bit
and you can tell if it’s a bit of a
windy day as the wind picks up you’ll
see that delta swing more
and this just because the tree branches
are blowing around through the middle of
your signal
sometimes that’s just unavoidable you
have to deal with it um
and the generally you know i’m just
i’m gonna get it as best as i possibly
can the other thing i found is i have a
couple links where i’m shooting
from a building rooftop to another
building rooftop that i’m shooting
over a highway and most of the time that
link
is good i’ll get like a delta you know
zero one or two something like that
but then every time a semi-truck drives
by it’ll swing up to like delta five
delta six delta eight something like
that right
because a semi truck is just a big piece
of sheet metal right that is blocking
the signal
and even though the center of my beam
you know say it’s
15 feet up and that’s it’s above the
roof of the semi truck well the fresnel
part of the beam the fat part of it
um that is uh is being blocked
partially by that semi truck as it
drives by and
in some cases this is just unavoidable
you can’t necessarily get the antennas
high enough in the air to not have that
be a problem um and so what i’ve found
in those cases
is like it’s generally still fine it’s
not that big a deal
the you know it’s going to depend on the
amount of traffic on that road
so if i have to shoot across like more
of a residential road
and i see a little bit of modulation as
cars drive by it’s not great
but probably it’s going to be okay but
if it’s like a busy highway or freeway
where it’s just constant traffic
then it’s probably going to be it could
be an issue right
and what that results in when you see
those modulation swings the delta is
going up and down it’s for someone who’s
actually using the internet
basically what that means is that their
latency or their ping time is going up
and down
and so if someone’s just browsing the
web or checking email they’re not even
going to notice right
but if you’re doing uh something like
gaming or
voip calls video chats that kind of
thing synchronous type of activities
you probably will notice and you’ll get
this kind of laggy experience where like
it’s good it’s fast for a bit
and then there’s this bit of lag and
then it catches up again right we’re all
used to that kind of thing so that’s
those modulation swings those delta
swings those are going to cause that
kind of glitchy or laggy
performance right so you definitely want
to avoid that if you can you want your
delta to be
steady and even if you’re forced to have
a link with not an ideal delta like
let’s say you’re a delta iv
it’s not ideal but it’s okay if it’s
steady at four
that’s better than it fluctuating you
know one where it’s like it fluctuates
between two and five
that fluctuating is probably going to be
worse right um
because you’d rather have an internet
connection that’s a little bit slower
but
consistent versus one that’s like kind
of variable fast and slow fast and slow
right
so um definitely be aiming for low
deltas and
steady consistent deltas whenever you
can sometimes it’s unavoidable but just
do the best you can