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[liberationtech] Mesh Networks?

Danny O'Brien DObrien at
Mon Jun 20 18:48:18 PDT 2011

On Jun 19, 2011, at 9:39 AM, Charles N Wyble wrote:

> On 06/18/2011 08:46 PM, Danny O'Brien wrote:
>> On Jun 17, 2011, at 2:27 PM, Steve Weis wrote:
>> I'm not entirely adding new information here, but I spent a fair bit 
>> of time researching WiFi mesh in 2004 when many of these technologies 
>> were being first explored.
> A lot has changed since then. Atheros chipset has won. OpenWRT has 
> greatly matured. Dozens and dozens of production mesh networks exist 
> (ranging from campus/town/enterprise deployments of 5 to 25 nodes up to 
> several thousand nodes covering large urban metro areas).

I'd love to hear more; I know about small, time-limited or commercially supported mesh, but I'd like to hear more about the support and hardware requirements of open (in the sense of non-proprietary) long-term mesh installations.

>> Effective mass hacking, I feel, comes from having a wide variety of 
>> fairly well-known and commoditised tools that can be repurposed and 
>> composed together to new ends. I think everyone wants that commodity 
>> tool to be WiFi, but I think the last few years have shown that it's 
>> by no means easy to do this.
> It's trivial. It's known. It's mature. It's boring. Mesh is here to stay.

I'm honestly not targetting you for my active disbelief, but people said that five years ago too. 

My tentative, baseline belief is that the problems associated with 2.4Ghz mesh are now well-known but that experience with dealing with them is poorly distributed; that setting up a mesh is about par with setting up any other non-standard routing network on a linux install: which is to say doable, but not something you can easily manage without some technical knowledge, held locally. And that (by definition local) RF issues are really annoyingly hard to track down.  That, together with competition from simpler network topologies and centralised data mobile networks, means that it's a real challenge to initiate meshes in places where it might be needed, hard to maintain them without constant fiddling, and difficult to sustain them in the face of simpler proposals.

I guess I would need more than just an assertion to move from that baseline belief, but really not much more than a few case studies. A pointer to an honest description of a working mesh setup, it's struggles and victories, would do a lot to move me along to something more.

This does not mean that I don't prefer decentralised networks over other systems! Indeed, my active enquiries come from a wish to  weight against my own prejudices and preferences for such a system to work well. I just believe in being honest about the challenges, and focussed in defending against them.

>> Alternatively, we may have enough practical knowledge now to build 
>> something stable and reproducible out of it, but the knowledge is 
>> badly distributed among a lot of practictioners, some of whom may 
>> already have given up, and some of whom may be trapped in attempting 
>> to provide commercial services out of what they know.
> is where a whole lot of us hang out. Come over and say 
> hey. :)
Hey :)

I'm a big fan of Steve Song and what he's doing, and the latest iteration of the mesh potato ( ) is definitely the sort of thing that moves things ahead. I also really like the look of what you're doing with

>> I'd love a frank summary from the Meraki, LocustWorld, PortlandTelco 
>> and the 802.11s folks of what's been happening in the last few years. 
>> Maybe this information is being collated somewhere: but I think it 
>> would be more rewarding to collate that past experience, than start 
>> from scratch all over again.
> Mesh has arrived. Mesh has won. Ubiquity Networks + OpenWRT enables it 
> all. We've just been moving along, quietly building out real networks. 
> Everyone else talks about it, we just sat down and did it. Over and over 
> and over. We build. We test. We tweak. We pass packets.

Awesome! You are one of those localised centers of knowledge! Point me to the collation!


> -- 
> Charles N Wyble charles at @charlesnw on twitter
> Building alternative,global scale,secure,
> cost effective bit moving platform
> for tomorrows alternate default free zone.
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