Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Started with AREDN

This is a work in progress....some pictures still need to be added. Let me know your feedback!

You've read enough of the documentation about AREDN that you're ready to give amateur radio mesh networking a shot! Well welcome aboard! This guide will give you some basic information about getting your first nodes up and running. There are a number of links in the contents below. Please read them all...they are all important!

1. Overview of a basic system
2. Which equipment to use
3. Loading the firmware
4. Testing your first mesh
5. Connecting to on-mesh services
6. Connecting to off-mesh services

1. Overview of a basic system

To have a mesh, you need at least two nodes. Of course, most mesh networks contain many more nodes than that. As you get started, you'll want at least to nodes for testing. Each node consists of a Ubiquity device, a power over ethernet injector, an ethernet cable from the injector to the device, and an ethernet cable from the injector to a computer, hub, or switch. Additionally, depending on the Ubiquity device, you may have an external antenna.

<pictures here????>

If you plan to connect to off-mesh services, such as internet access or tunneling to another mesh, you'll need an ethernet switch capable of handling VLANs. We'll cover this in depth in the last section of this guide.

2. Which equipment to use

You've got a lot of equipment choices when it comes to using AREDN. First, you need to decide what bands you're going to use. You've got three bands to choose from:

900 MHz (M9)
  • Penetrates trees and some obstacles
  • Usually higher noise levels
  • 6dB propagation advantage vs. 2.4 GHz
  • Limited available spectrum – limit to 5 MHz bandwidth channels
2.4 GHz (M2)
  • Only two non-overlapping 20MHz channels (1, 6)
  • Crowded and noisy band, interference from cordless phones, wireless routers and WIFI clients
5.8 GHz (M5)
  • Relatively large amounts of spectrum available, easier to co-locate nearby devices
  • Typically much quieter than 2.4 GHz
  • 6dB propagation penalty vs. 2.4 GHz
For a given gain, the higher the band, the smaller an antenna’s physical size needs to be.  Therefore the propagation penalties of utilizing the higher bands are usually offset by the higher gain of similar sized antennas.

The M2 and M5 devices are available at a lower cost than the M9 equipment.

Now that you've picked which band you're going to use, you need to pick which equipment you want. Here is the supported equipment list. ***BUT BEWARE*** see the current operational notes due to a board change that took place in 2014; some models may not work!

Bullet Titanium
NanoStation Loco

If you're looking for a basic starter device, grab two M2 NanoStation loco devices. They retail for about $50 a piece. The Bullet gear is used for a single external antenna, and the Rocket is used with multiple antennas or a single antenna with different polarities. 

3. Loading the firmware

Now that you've acquired at least two devices, let's get started by loading the AREDN firmware.

4. Configuring your first mesh

After you've loaded the software on your two devices, you need to configure them. You may have already completed that step if you followed along at the end of the Loading the firmware post! If so, congrats! If not, here is how you configure your first mesh.

With both nodes configured and in range of each other, you should see a solid red light on each node's led panel. That light indicates that the node is connected to one or more other nodes. Yay! You've got a mesh!

With a computer plugged into the LAN port on one of the node's power injectors, you should be able to go to http://localnode.local.mesh:8080 and see the node status page. Click on the mesh status page, and you should see a link to your other node!

If you can't get to the the status page, you probably have your computer set to the wrong IP. Troubleshoot that first. If the local node does not appear to be running, start troubleshooting using the lights on the LED panel.

5. Connecting to on-mesh services

If you're like me, creating your first mesh was pretty fun. A little design work, a small amount of money, a good afternoon working with firmware and configs and you're up and running! Now what are you going to do with your mesh? If this is to connect only between devices that will be physically connected to a node, you're all set. You might need to add a local switch or hub to have more local ports. You DO NEED TO MAKE SURE that any device connected to the mesh has a unique name. So you don't want two Raspberry Pi web servers with the same name at different points on the mesh! Come up with a naming standard; maybe one that includes your callsign.

AREDN has a built-in DNS system. A computer on the LAN at nodeA should be able to connect to another computer on the LAN at nodeB just by using the remote computer's name.

<picture showing computer A, node A, mesh, node B, computer B>

6. Connecting to off-mesh services

<picture showing computer A, node A, mesh, node B, switch B, internet or other network, and computer B>

If you want to connect to devices that are not on the local LAN of a mesh node, you're wanting to connect to "off-mesh" services. To do that, you'll need a switch that is capable of doing VLANs - virtual LANs. Don't worry, this isn't that expensive! Netgear makes a 5 port switch called the GS105E that will do VLANs. You connect the single port from the Ubiquity device, the internet, and then any other local devices into this switch. Using the configuration in the instructions below you'll be able to "share" your off-mesh services with the rest of the mesh. 

Remember that the AREDN is not a substitute for your internet provider, and FCC Part 97 rules (or the equivalent in your country) must be followed!

The network you connect to the mesh needs to hand out an IP address to the WAN port (via the VLAN) to the Ubiquity device, or you must configure the Ubiquity device manually. You should not use any addresses in the 10.x.x.x address space to avoid conflicting with the mesh IP address space. 

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