Saturday, December 31, 2016

Snowpocalypse and RV WiFi

I was more than a little surprised that Apple consider "snowpocalypse" to be a real enough word that it didn't try and autocorrect to something else. I guess if it's on Wikipedia it must be a real word. There have been predictions of doom and gloom going around Alaska from the Bering Sea into the interior. Blizzard conditions. The snow is easy to deal with but if it gets really windy, a lot of the shallow rooted trees may topple and take out power lines (and Internet cable!). The plastic straight edge on the deck rail, in the cat tree view, is about 16" long and they are predicting another 8" or so for this afternoon and evening. The plow on the truck made pretty quick work of our driveway but I kind of wish that I had put tire chains on yesterday. The subdivision road hasn't been plowed yet but we are probably pretty far down the list.

As you can see in this map from the Alaska Dispatch, Fairbanks is really on the edge of the storm. It hasn't really snowed much around here since this morning. Some places near the Bering Sea got really hit pretty hard with freezing rain on top of snow. This combined with strong winds. So far, we haven't seen the strong winds that everyone was afraid of around here.

7:15pm: The NWS is reporting that the "main event" will show up tonight by 8pm.

8:02pm: Now revised to 9pm.

1:40am: 25 mph winds. No snow on the trees anymore. Hopefully the wind will die down soon...

5:30am: Still some occasional gusts.


Lots of power outages overnight. 


Wi-Fi Repeater

So what do you do when sitting inside on a snowy day. I chose to revisit the configuration of the Ubiquity devices that I had picked up from Amazon a few months ago. These devices will be used to extend campground or other "free Wifi" into the RV. The "Router" configuration option was missing from the NanoStation LocoM2. I downloaded and installed the newest v6.0 firmware and the missing option is now magically available. I configured the NanoStation as a router (not SohoRouter which was there before) and I could now select the wireless side as the WAN interface which is what faces the Internet. I then started the DHCP server service which supplies IP addresses to the wired side. The "2" in the name refers to the frequency that the radio operates. I.e. 2.4 GHz only so it is 8.2.11B/G only. But that is sort of the lowest common denominator as far as open WiFi.

From the antenna sensitivity plot off of the Ubiquity website, you can see that the antenna is nominally directional so the front just needs to be roughly aimed towards the base station antenna. A common mounting point is on the fold down TV antenna that most RVs seem to have. When the previous owner replaced the roof, he didn't bother reinstalling the antenna since it was for the old analog frequencies. Since the folding antenna also rotates, it would've been a convenient place to install the NanoStation. Maybe I'll attach it to the rear roof ladder with some sort of easy way to rotate it. Or maybe just reinstall the base and fold down mechanism of the old TV antenna.

The next piece to be setup is the wireless bridge, the Ubiquity AirGateway. I had never even heard of this option until Dom mentioned it. There is also a model with an small antenna attached for more range for your internal WiFi. This device snaps onto the NanoStation PoE (Power over Ethernet) power supply and is essentially a tiny WiFi router. On the picture, it is attached to the power supply and makes up the right third with the Ethernet cables attached. Before I had set up the AirGateway as a router and the NanoStation could only be set up as a bridge which, to me, was not optimal. The AirGateway is now set up as a bridge and the IP address of both devices are on the same subnet. The NanoStation will be placed on the roof of the RV somewhere with an outdoor rated Ethernet cable run into the rig to the AirGateway. When inside the RV, your devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) would always be configured to access the SSID of the AirGateway and not the campground WiFi.

Upon arrival at a campground, you connect to the NanoStation management interface and select the "Wireless" tab. Click on the "Select" button and a window will open showing all of the 2.4 GHz networks that it can see along with the signal level. If the campground has multiple access points, you just select the one with the most signal.

If there is a WiFi password, you enter it in in the Wireless Security portion of the same page. You then click the Change button which is the same as save/commit/restart. The NanoStation will then restart and should be ready to go in about a minute or so. This is not as plug-and-play as some of the commercial products such as a Wifi Ranger which have a lot of additional features but this is about ⅛ the cost. I'll deal with the additional hassle. Plus, I have a lot of experience with Ubiquity products from the Barrow project. Also note that this is for WiFi only and not cellular data. Different equipment would be needed to boost cellular data. I haven't decided whether I need access to cellular data

11 comments:

SonjaM said...

More snowy days like this, and your RV will be high tech central.

redlegsrides said...

Using the Ubiquity Nano M2 setup tonight here in Dalhart, TX where we're overnighting on our way back to Denver.

Still trying to get the hang of sites that require a login. Sometimes putting the password via the router gui works, but most times I have to launch a browser and log onto the wifi that way before things that working as expected.

RichardM said...

Hopefully, that snowfall is behind us. There was quite a bit of wind last night. We just don't get conditions like that very often. When it does happen, trees fall over since many have really shallow root systems.

RichardM said...

I had a lot of problems using the gui on the NanoStation Loco M2 until I was able to configure it as a router. Before with the AirGateway configured as a router and the Nano as a bridge, I had to configure the ethernet port on the AirGateway in a new bridge group with the WAN port as opposed to the NAT'd WiFi SSID. Functional but far from optimal. Maybe the Nano I got was sitting on the shelf for a while since it had a really old version of firmware. But now it works great. This post was done on the setup while connected to another SSID about 1/4 mile away.

RichardM said...

With the original firmware on the Nano, the only network options were bridge and Soho Router. With Soho Router, the WAN port was the ethernet port and the Wireless was the internal net. Backwards from what I wanted. Once I loaded the new firmware, "Router" was now an option.

VStar Lady said...

You are taking glamping to a whole other level. Happy New Year to you both.

Trobairitz said...

Wow, that snow does not look enjoyable. I think kitty has the right idea, just nap and look at it out the window occasionally.

All that snow and Fairbanks probably doesn't miss a beat. We are supposed to see maybe (strong maybe) an inch or less and I am sure Corvallis will be shut down, lol.

RichardM said...

Actually, this storm had quite a few people concerned though not due to the snow but the predicted high winds. The last time there was strong wind and snow, a lot of trees came down. Many times on power lines. So Fred Meyer had a run on things like milk and bottled water...

The cat spends much of the day looking out the window.

RichardM said...

A good friend has mobile Internet, router and WiFi hot spot installed in the top box of the bike. After all, you need to stay connected while on the road.

CCjon said...

Richard, you need to develop and sell an easy to use wifi signal grabber / booster/ connecter thingamabob. I can't get a strong wifi on the other side of our house.
Glad to know there are people who actually understand all that stuff. Also glad to hear you are riding again.

RichardM said...

I've heard that the new mesh wifi systems may be just what you are looking for. Eero, Ubiquity and I think Google just came out with one. They all work peer to peer repeating your wifi through your home or business. Each one just needs some place to plug in the power brick.