Monday, July 31, 2006

The limited abilities of the Prism chipset

I've come to the conclusion that the Intersil Prism chipset is only good for the purposes it was originally manufactured for. That is a simple wireless client and maybe a very basic wireless access point. Use it for anything else and it 'might' work but generally it won't.

But even then it has its issues as I have discovered. When used within a Mikrotik RouterOS system it has issues with connecting to Access Points with WEP enabled. For example I attempted to connect to a Netgear DSL modem/router/AP and it would work fine for about 10min and then just stop responding even tho it is still associated. I managed to overcome this issue by using a seperate Senao Access Point, even then it didn't work 100% as it didn't want to talk to its wireless client neighbours, only the AP and the router behind it.

For now on I will be using CM9's and SR5/9 miniPCI cards, which are all Atheros based.

I wish there were more wireless chipset vendors that catered for this particular market - but I guess we can't have everything and consolidation was bound to occur.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mikrotik RouterOS + Netgear WG102AU

A good combination for a hotspot + repeater setup on a reasonable budget.

As you know I have been working on setting up hotspots in a bunch of local caravan parks. A couple of these parks are spread over a large area with quite a few trees in and around potential client locations. Therefore a repeater will be necessary for full coverage of these locations.

Wireless Distribution System is a method for allowing APs to repeat of one another. Its not certified by the WiFi Alliance so it can be 'hit and miss' when getting two different Access Points talking to each other using this system. The Netgear WG102 works with the Mikrotik RouterOS 2.9.27 using a Senao 2511 (200mW) card.

The configurations are as follows.

/ interface wireless set hotspot name="hotspot" ssid="hotspot" wds-mode=dynamic wds-default-bridge=wds_bridge
/ interface bridge add name="wds_bridge"

/ interface bridge port add interface=hotspot bridge=wds_bridge priority=128 path-cost=10 comment="" disabled=no

The mac address of the RouterOS hotspot interface is: 00:02:6F:39:58:4E

This is using the dynamic WDS mode - meaning that RouterOS will automatically add APs that wish to participate in a WDS style connection. It will also automatically add the dynamic WDS interfaces to a bridge interface to share with the physical wireless interface.

Under Security click Security Profile Settings. Select the first profile and click edit.
Set the Profile Name to repeater or whatever you like and then set the SSID to hotspot.
You can opt to have Wireless client Security Seperation if you do not wish to have clients talking to each other.

Within the Advanced group in the main menu on the left side, click Access Point Settings.
Check the box for Enable Wireless Bridging and Repeating on Security Profile 1.
Choose Repeater with Wireless Client Association and enter the above 'hotspot' mac address in the Parent AP MAC Address fields.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Three sites up, three to go

So far the Mooloolaba (Parkyn Pde), Sea Breeze and Cotton Tree parks are up and going. Five people have actually signed up and paid for the service. Ten others have signed up and not paid. So 5 out of 15 signups isn't bad considering the service has only been in existence for a matter of weeks and NO promotion has been done.

Support overheads seem quite good in these early stages. I expected at least one call for each signup to get people connected, basically teaching them how to use wireless and the particulars of the service and the Internet. However I was pleasantly surprised to see people connecting and signing up without having to contact us, which is fantastic!

I definitely need marketing materials for each site. The park manages do find it difficult to explain the service to people on top of the rest of what they have to tell guests. The council should have met us halfway with this and worked with us on some material that was deemed suitable by their standards. I think I will take an active role in this side of things and get something out the door.

The wireless coverage of the Cotton Tree park is less than I had originally hoped. It is the largest park and I am only covering the western half. Its bad only partially covering a given location - it creates disparity and people in the non-covered areas become hostile towards the service. I will push forward our plans to install a repeater within the western side of the park. This means rapidly sourcing and testing a compatible Access Point.

Mudjimba and Coolum Parks are troublesome. Coolum requires a bit of fancy wireless work to get DSL distributed to the Hotspot. Mudjimba has a problem where getting DSL to the site is difficult - it may need to be sourced outside the park and beamed in wirelessly.