Quiet here – fixing my network

Yes, reviews (Puxing PX-973, Luiton DG-318) are about to be finalized, but I had to solve an urgent network problem first.

Too many WiFi connections
The WiFi access point of my modem/router (Siemens SX-762) couldn’t handle the load anymore — I had to reset the router a daily basis. What was connected?

  • Internet radios x 4
  • Android tablets x 3
  • Android phones x 2
  • Sony SMP N200 media player/streamer x 2
  • WD TV Live x 1
  • Notebooks x 3

To solve the problem I extended the wired network with three 8-port TP-Link switches, one for each floor. Now the Internet radios, the SMP-N200s and the WD TV Live are wired, which reduces the number of WiFi devices by 7. No WiFi suffocation occurred to date.

To take the load off the WD TV Live, which also functioned as my NAS, I ordered a Synology USB Station 2. This cheap NAS can make use of my existing 3TB USB drives instead of internal ones.

Synology seems to be the brand of all brands when it comes to NAS technology, thanks to nerd / geek IT expert Alex PA1SBM I didn’t make the wrong decision. I will have 6TB at my fingertips within a few days.

Synology 1

Synology USB Station 2. Cheap and effective.

Synology 2

Two USB disks, two USB printers, or a mix of both.

Icom IP100H WiFi hand-held transceiver

IP100HI got a few e-mails pointing out this system and wondered if I should write about it or not. After all, it’s not really ham radio related. Before I could shake off my indecisiveness, Brick beat me to it.

So, what is it? It sure looks and feels like the typical (ham radio) hand-held. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck, right? Wrong.

License-Free
The IP100H will serve as an alternative for conventional license-free radios, such as PMR (Europe) and FRS (USA). While conventional radios generally do a fine job, the bands they operate in are overcrowded. With only 8 PMR channels and 14 FRS channels interference is inevitable. Adding CTCSS or DCS will offer some relief, but can only do so much.

Instead this radio operates on 2.4 GHz and/or 5 GHz and makes use of standard WiFi channels. On one hand this will limit the range of a particular radio. It must be able to reach the nearest access point, and 100mW EIRP (NL legal limit) generally translates into 50 meters at best. On the other hand, when access points are plentiful, these radios can theoretically communicate around the globe, because roaming (seamless switching from access point to access point)  is a standard feature. Programming is done ‘over the air’ by use of a controller, the IP1000C.

ICOM IP Radio

Features from the digital world
  • SMS. The IP100H can send status and short data messages to other users. The radio will vibrate when receiving these messages.
  • Full Duplex. Half duplex at default, full duplex with optional headset.
  • Remote Monitor, Kill, Revive and Stun. If in an emergency, the IP100FS can enforce individual IP100H to transmit anything the microphone hears to identify the situation. The remote kill command disables individual IP100H, if the IP100H is used by an unauthorized person.
  • Extensive calling features. The IP100H/IP100FS can make individual call, group conference calls, ‘to all’ calls and area calls. The area call function allows you to call any user who is accessing a specified access point.
  • Mixing Function. The mixing function receives multiple user’s voices at the same time. One-to-many communication is possible and increases efficiency of information sharing.
  • Up to 100 users can be loaded on a system and all users can communicate at the same time.
  • Phone and transceiver interconnection. With a VE-PG3 RoIP gateway, the IP advanced radio system can interconnect with an IP phone, analog transceiver and IDASTM NXDNTM digital transceiver.

All in all this system could be very interesting for large companies: license-free, scalable, infinite range when configured properly, and listening secretly to their private conversations (eavesdropping) will be nearly impossible.

Any good for us hams, too? I don’t know, but wouldn’t be surprised — we have great hackers amongst us. Affordable? I seriously doubt it, this system won’t come cheap.

More information can be found at Icom UK.

EnGenius EOC-2611P, deaf as a post

Before Dirk and I can go on experimenting, I have to sort out a problem with my brand new EnGenius EOC-2611P. When compared to the TP-Link TA-WA5110G, a dirt cheap AP with comparable features, the number of SSID’s the Engenius can find is pathetic. Both systems were connected in exactly the same way: located just underneath the antenna, with power supplied by using POE.

My dealer confirmed that this problems sticks up its ugly head sometimes, and will replace it.

Only two access points found by the $160 EnGenius EOC-2611P. These were my own, with their antenna located just 2 meters from the WiFi Grid Antenna.

The $35 TP-Link TL-WA5110G finds 17 access points with ease.

Long Range Wifi: success.

Yesterday evening PA2AYX and me managed to establish our first reliable long range Wifi connection. Before we did, I replaced the 16-element Yagi by a Grid Antenna, because I had some doubts about the Chinese-made thing. In the end this proved to be unjust, but I left the Grid on my roof anyway. The advantage of a Grid instead of the Yagi is the smaller opening angle, 14 degrees instead of 23 degrees. Gain is about the same, 24dBi versus 25dBi. Some more accuracy is required when pointing the antenna to the other station though.

Measuring 100cm by 60cm, this is not a small antenna!

We agreed that my system would be set up as an access point, and Dirk’s system would be configured as a client router. The way this works is easy to understand: client means that his system is configured to pick up a host (my access point), and router means that his system will hand out IP addresses to all the connected clients.

Setup at PD0AC
Grid Antenna – EnGenius 2611P (AP mode) – Switch – Modem/Router – Internet.

Setup at PA2AYX
16-element Yagi Antenna – EnGenius 5611P (client router mode) – Switch – Clients (desktops, notebooks)

Internet speed was fine at Dirk’s end. Later in the evening Dirk upped the stakes by hooking up his D-Star repeater to the system. To our surprise, this worked without a hitch. Speaking of stealing bandwidth!

Plans for the coming days: bridging
The next step is to connect our two wired LANs by putting both EnGenius system into bridge mode. Some adjustments have to be made before we can do that. Both our networks reside in the 192.168.2.xxx range, and that isn’t going to work. After all, bridging is all about connecting two networks which can’t see each other because of incompatible IP-ranges.  I will change my network to reside in the 192.168.1.xxx range instead.

Some numbers
Both EnGenius systems generate 28dBm, which equals to 600mW. In our setup there are no cable losses to take into account. When converting this to ERP or EIRP, this is what our antennas spit out:

OK, not enough to fry a bird sitting on our antennas, but impressive nonetheless. And slightly illegal, so we keep our systems on the air as short as possible.

Abort, Retry, Fail?

My 16-element Yagi for 2.4GHz, 25dBi gain.

The answer is: Fail. We won’t abort though, but retry. When we were setting up our long range WiFi network, we ran into some problems. At PA2AYX’s side, everything is fine. At my end it’s not. The 16-element Yagi, bought on eBay for less than $15, is fine. My access point (TP-Link TL-WA5110G) is fine. Power output is fine. The coax cable between the AP and the Yagi is not. Far from it, to be exact.

Scam, scam, scam
When I ordered the 10 meter long cable, it was advertised as “low loss cable for 2.4 GHz’. When the cable arrived, I quickly realized that I got scammed. The cable proved to be ordinary RG-58, a cable I would only use for HF, nothing else. So here we are, most of the Yagi’s gain is eaten up by a poor cable. 10 meters of RG-58 @ 2.4GHz equals a loss of at least 10 dB, probably more. 10dB is a lot – both RX sensitivity as well as TX power are divided by a factor of 10. LMR-400, the cable I expected to get, loses only 0.22 dB per meter. This means 2.2dB cable loss, which is more or less acceptable. Better numbers, sure, but dangerously close to 3dB, a factor of 2. Here is a list of cable losses, at 2.4GHz:

  • RG 58: 1 dB per meter.
  • RG 213:  0.6 dB per meter.
  • RG 174: 2 dB per meter.
  • Aircom: 0.21 dB per meter.
  • Aircell 7: 0.38 dB per meter.
  • LMR-400: 0.22 dB per meter.

Learning curve
In spite of the crappy setup at my side, my signal came through. The distance between our two stations is a little bit more than 1 Km, and we don’t have a completely free line of sight. There are some trees in the way, plus a sporting complex. All in all not bad, but not good enough. My setup will be changed completely. I don’t want to calculate cable losses at all, so I ordered an access point which can be mounted directly under my Yagi. These nifty devices are made by EnGenius and other companies. The power output varies from brand to brand, but the options are more or less the same across the board: AP, repeater, and bridge. Power is supplied by POE (Power over Ethernet), the only cable going down into my shack is an ordinary Ethernet cable.

The EnGenius EOC-2611P.

Long range WiFi networks: what not to do
If you own a low power access point, don’t buy so-called ‘boosters’. Apart from the fact that they’re often very unreliable, these things won’t solve your problem. Invest in a hi gain outdoor antenna and low loss cable instead. If possible, replace your ordinary AP by something like the EnGenius EOC-2611P, and put it high up in the air.

Within a week or 2 we will be able to report failure or success. I expect the latter.