Wifi eats babies!

Filed under: life — jaydublu @ 3:36 pm

I have it under good authority (thanks Mat) that http://www.wellingtongrey.net/miscellanea/ could be a challenger for the crown currently held by http://www.xkcd.com/

I look forward to figuring it out for myself.

Given my fun with long distance wifi links the truth about wifi certainly made me chortle.

Webcam working

Filed under: Happisburgh,tinkering,webcam — jaydublu @ 7:12 pm

I couldn’t bring myself to blog last week I was so cross – things were definitely not going my way and despite having top notch kit, a lovely day, plenty of time, and no excuses I couldn’t get the naffing new webcam to work up the Lighthouse.

Everything worked perfectly at home, I got all the external stuff mounted, all the wires routed and clipped. I turn it on and then run into problem after problem. The camera doesn’t seem to be working, I forgot to turn the new wireless rig in my roof on so I had to run back home to do that but still the Access Point couldn’t see any signal. All in all I was up and down those blasted stairs at least 10 times.

For a break then I take the old camera down to Cliff House and mount it in one of the front windows – at least something works. So I return to the Lighthouse and start eliminate issues one by one.

As the day was drawing in and it was starting to get dark – I had a breakthrough and discovered what was wrong – for 2 feet I had the network cable to the camera cable tied to the wifi coax running to the external antenna – there was only one route from inside the lantern to outside and all cables were using it.

If I turned the camera off, the access pooint started picking up signals, and vice-versa – I was suffering from cross-talk.

That discovery having been made I didn’t have enough time to fix the job but could I bodge it enough to work until my next opportunity to play? Almost – I made a silly mistake on network addressing for the camera that I didn’t notice until I got home, and trying to adjust subnets remotely I made another mistake and locked myself out of the repeater up the lighthouse.

Anyway, I get the key this afternoon and go up there all tooled up and feeling confident. Despite initial problems where nothing seemed to want to be playing ball, I worked through it methodically and suddenly I’d started getting pictures posted to the website – success! So I’m a happy bunny now.

For reference, the camera is now an Axis 211 in the Verso external housing kit (very tidy, but quite a costly setup) with a Linksys WAP54G access point at either end of the wireless link, each with external antennae (an 8dB Omni on the house and a 12dB directional up the Lighthouse). It appears I’ve got a good strong link between the two – fingers crossed it stays that way.

Happisburgh Webcam

Filed under: Happisburgh,tinkering,webcam — jaydublu @ 7:30 pm

I set up a webcam over a year ago mounted on Happisburgh Lighthouse looking at the end of Beach Road – it was a bit tricky because of the exposed location, and that there was no local Internet connection.

I bought a D-Link Wireless IP camera on eBay, put it in a cheap external housing with an external wifi antenna to make the 1 mile jump back to my house. I’m running a homebrew access point aounr an old Pentium II box, a Netgear 802.11b PCI card, and a stripped down OS called pebble with an extension to allow meshing – the original idea was to build a wireless network around the village to share a Satellite link before the days when we realised we would get Broadband.

So the setup works, but it’s a bit poor. Now something’s finally getting done at Happisburgh I thought I’d try and improve things, but I’ve got several hundred quid’s worth of gear invested already, without all the time I’ve had to put in, so I put an appeal out on the Happisburgh site for sponsors.

At this point I have to thank John Opie from www.woodstoves.co.uk and www.woodfuels.co.uk and Robert Ferguson for answering that appeal and giving me a budget for some proper gear. But life’s not that simple – it may be old gear but it’s a complex setup and it’s stable. I’ve got the entire new system working at home, but when I tried to start upgrading bits everything fell over.

Somehow, I’ve got to upgrade the whole lot in one go – and that’s going to take a bit of doing for one person. When you’re in controlled circumstances and you can tweak one variable at a time it’s quite easy to get things working. However, it’s a pain in the derrier to drive from home to the lighthouse, park, unlock, climb all the way to the top, tweak, find I need to tweak something at home so climb in and down, lock up, drive home …

If it was easy, would it be as much fun though?

Window Shopping

Filed under: opinion,tinkering — jaydublu @ 7:24 pm

I’m a geek. So I should love playing with toys?

I’ve been maintaining a webcam for over a year now, and it probably took me that long to put it together in the first place. Why? because I’m trying to do something slightly out of the ordinary – my vantage point is up a lighthouse which is probably half a mile away from what I want to view, and the lighthouse has no Internet connectivity – hell it’s not even got a phone line. So I thought of using my Internet connection at home, where I have a wifi aerial on the roof so I can connect on a Sunday morning.

So I’m after an external camera, with slightly less than a wide angle lens, that can connect wirelessly, and can use an external antenna (and I mean external)

And since it’s for the community / charity I’m paying for it myself, so I’m doing it on a shoestring, which means trying to buy just what I need. For reference the current solution is a DLink DCS-2100 wireless IP camera I got on eBay, a cheap 12mm lens, mounted in a cheap external housing, and an external 12dB directional antenna. All in about £200 so far.

It works, but only just, and I’ve since spent hours and hours (and hours) researching something I’d risk hard earned cash on to improve things because I’m a bit disappointed with results, I think my current best option is an Axis 211 IP camera with an external housing, but I’m not sure. I need to be comfortable about the field of view that I can get with the standard lens or one that I can add, and that’ I’ll get a better picture. And this camera isn’t wireless, so I’ll need a wireless bridge but will this fit in the housing? And it’s like £600 before you start fiddling!

Why do product pages talk about what the product does, rather that what it can do for you?

Acceptance criteria

We’re working on a rebuild for a big client’s site at the moment and it’s a conversation we’ve been having – don’t talk about the product specs, talk about what it means. It’s a bit radical for us die-hards, but I’ve just proposed the idea?

I’ve been reading up on Project Management methodologies, and one of the first things to do is to identify how you’ll identify that the project is finished and achieved its goals – also known as Acceptance Criteria. Same thing here. How do I know if the thing I’m about to shell out on will do what I want it to?

And it’s Sunday, right? Clarkson still rocks!

Back to normal

Filed under: life,mobile,review,tinkering — jaydublu @ 8:36 am

It surprised me how relieved I was last night when I took my SIM card out of the smartphone I had on loan and fired up my usual phone – normality returned, and there was almost a sigh of satisfaction.

It’s hard to pin the blame on any one aspect of the newcomer – it was a bit too big, it wasn’t a very good phone (usability of that side was terrible) nor was it a very good PDA (screen res was only a quarter of the Loox – 240×320 instead of 480×640). The 3G GPRS was impressive, but even though I wasn’t paying the bandwidth I still felt guilty and longed for guiltfree WiFi.

Having said that I feel the experiment was a success – I now know I’m happier with a phone being a good phone, and a seperate PDA.

Now who did I lend the Loox to?

New Toy – Palm Treo 750v

Filed under: mobile,review,tinkering — jaydublu @ 11:57 am

It’s only on loan, but I’ve got a Palm Treo 750v to play with for a week or so – it’s a smartphone running Windows Mobile – the immediate difference from my PDA is that it’s also a phone – 3G GPRS can be used for connectivity. It’s a smaller screen, and has a ‘real’ qwerty keyboard. Oh, and no WIFI, which means I feel guilty using up any transfer.

Even if I had the chance I don’t know if I’d want to keep it – it doesn’t sit as well in my trouser pocket as my K750i, and not as nice to use as a PDA as the Loox. And now I’ve fifured out how to get the phone to provide GPRS connectivity to the PDA – I didn’t blog that did I? Use *99***1# as a number for the ‘modem’ to dial and it uses GPRS – I get the best of each role, but with two devices.

I wonder if I could get hold of a Qtek 910?