510pen: Creating a Community Wireless Mesh Network

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Facilitated by Mark Burdett, 510pen

510pen is building an east bay community wireless mesh network. Mark will demonstrate the technology, and discuss the underlying technology as well as the innovations and challenges in bringing such a project to completion. Mark will also explain both the firmware and management dashboard, which are both open-source.

Session Notes


INCEPTION // HISTORY // USES invented for military use

 urban environments
 comm doesn't have to go thru central command
 gps: track locations of other units

idirium satellite constellation

 figures out what satellite is in range

oil refineries

 thousands or millions of sensors being meshed to monitor systems
 low power reqs
 designed to sleep, mostly

exo laptop

 one laptop per child
 every laptop is a router
 open source project with closed source mesh

510net playing with mesh routers with big antennas

 very powerful in a small package
 optimizing link state routing (OLSR) -- open source standard
 802.11s -- draft for new mesh networking standard
   everyone has their own implementation
   might be the future when everything is compatible
 work bidirectionally
   can switch if internet access goes dead, technical issues

batman -- better approach to mobile ad hoc networking robin -- routing batman inside

 firmware based on OpenWRT

(drawing of mesh network shown)

can have a private network if you want


 compatible to 15-20 routers off the shelf (open mesh routers $40/$25)
 huge antenna is an add on
 can expand # of compatible routers by using custom firmware
   source code written in C
 can have multiple gateways -- will use fewest hops and link quality
   mathmatically deciding the best network and topology
     can use matlab or octave to help plan a mesh network
 can throttle connections
 wouldn't recommend doing qos / traffic shaping
   could use some kinf firewall device or linux box
 updated OTA

bound by limits of wifi

 usually around 200 feet for a non omni directional antenna
 can use directional antenna (up to 1mi range)
 can go 10's of km's easily with the right hardware
 line of sight / potential interference
 2 radios
   one for the backbone / backhauling traffic to the internet
   one for local wireless coverage
 strong signal in one plane
   they tried to build a mesh network in santa rosa
   used meraki, who encourages people to charge, and then they skim off the top


 open source
 info about MAC addresses and bandwidth
 potential privacy issues
 hands out config data to the mesh routers
   firewall rules
   SSH password for root
 510pen building their own dashboard (built on Kohana)
   another called OrangeMesh
 AGPL software
   can't have a private fork unless you have a private dashboard
   if you provide a community network you must adhere to AGPL


 trying to build a backbone on a freely available frequency
 middle class areas have wifi in each house which creates interference
 residential internet providers typically only allows for a household, not a shared service
   sonic.net doesn't care
 legal issues: kiddie porn, "terrorist" activities, other illicit activity
   can setup to require accounts
   community ISP, so theoretically legally protected
 using too much bandwidth
   scripts to knock them off for X amount of time
 security concerns
   SSH password for root from dashboard to router
     use SSL certs

underserved areas

 can share one connection for a block, building, etc


 applied for broadband stimulus funding with Zero Divide
   30 billion in proposals right now for 4 billion in funding
   "sustainable broadband adoption"
   telcos can respond to the proposals, but not to these proposals
   telcos are vehemently opposing proposals by smaller companies trying to provide broadband services
 supports models that the commuity comes up with
   one model: anchor node with a tip jar gateway or more structured payments
 focusing on really low income neighborhood in east oakland
 map online
   piedmont ave
   downtown oakland (19th and franklin)
 each owner has full admin control of their node
 building fully customized settings for each node

can be faster and cheaper than traditional setup

sign up at https://510pen.org/user buy hardware yourself (perhaps at openmesh.org, or others)