It seems to have been a month or so since I have posted any updates, and there are a few reasons for that.
First off, a couple of storms back managed to damage the plastic toolbox that served as the electronics cabinet, thus a few parts of the system got wet from rain and have heavy oxidizing on their boards, and as such, they will need replacing somewhere down the road. They are not to be considered reliable components anymore.
Second, the battery that was being used to keep the system alive and going, has failed due to an internally shorted cell. I don’t have the resources at the moment to replace this part because other projects are stressing my budget.
Lastly, I got back into ham radio. HF digital operation to be precise, and that has been eating away at my free time. No shame about it, it happens.
At some point, I will get this project back online and working again. But it will probably just end up operating out of my backyard with some help from the neighbour to do testing. I loaned the kiddo a PC and AP. So, I do need to get the system fixed so that he can use it. Sadly, I don’t think the local township had much of an interest in a public research network….
We got our hands on some old self supporting TV antenna towers and have migrated the field node’s electronics to a small twenty foot tall tower. This tower has been screwed to an old piece of plastic tunneling, which was filled with sand bags to hold the tower upright. This keeps the tower mobile and allows us to use it at different sites if we choose.
We still need to figure out how to add the solar powered part of the project, as doing so will require some form of framing to be built to secure the panels to the tower. Also, a better battery bank needs to be put together. The current battery is starting to show signs of failure, which would be from both age and the type of use we put on it. (car batteries are meant for constant loads like this)
We have also added a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ to the tower. This SBC is currently setup to serve webpages, host a chat server and act as an FTP server. We tried running asterisk/freepbx on the SBC, but it proved to be a little too much of a task for it.
I reached out to the various people who wanted to be on the board for this project and have gotten little to no response back about the website as it currently stands.
That being said, I have reached out to one of the folks who we host photos for. Hopefully they will read over the documentation and policies, and get back to me with what needs to be edited.
Also, since the current board members and project staff aren’t really helping out, a few members will be dropped off the roster and removed from paperwork going forward with this project.
So, one of the things that we are talking about adding to the project is an FTP server for file and data storage, along with an asterisk PBX (SIP Phone) server to allow people to make calls across the network to other users. Both of these features will require manual registration from users and will be slowly rolled out after we finally get our hands on a good raspberrypi to run on the tower.
Of course, these new service will each come with their own policies which will be written up and reviewed by our project staff later on down the road. One of the core things to know, is that with the SIP phone server, all calls will be recorded and to avoid network congestion, all calls will be limited to twenty minutes per call. But that is all still to be written up.
The main thing that is holding up this part of the project is getting our hands on a raspberrypi or orangepi board that has an ethernet connection and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to ship to canada….
Our website will be going through a content freeze for a few days while our PR officer and secretary review the website content. During this time no new content will be uploaded outside of the gallery.
So far, all of the content written on the websitw has been written on an as needed basis by one person and needs to be reviewed for any changes that may be needed due to wording or other reasoning.
This freeze is in place to keep the work load from changing or growing. We expect to be back to regular operations by Sunday.
We did some testing of the system in a real world scenario. Took the field node to the lookout and drove around town with the mobile node. While we did not get close to our expected speeds of at least 65Mbps, we did have a few places that reached 30Mbps, which is more than enough to make for a usable network if constructed correctly.
From the lookout to the fresh parking lot, the system held just under 32Mbps. With more nodes, this speed could be brought up. Live video at 1080p, however, was not an issue at all during testing. (The bigger problem was people going out of their way to be in the camera’s field of view…..even with a paper that says please don’t do this…people, read please.)
Have decided to do some more work on the field node this morning. I have added a wireless access point to the system, starting with a cheap one just to see how things pan out. The access point would allow users without their own radios to visit a tower location and play around on the network using just a smartphone or laptop.
Second thing that we are toying with is the idea of a network contained IP phone system using Asterisk. Such a system would allow local events and groups in town to connect up (after registering with our PBX) and make calls between members or locations for free, as long as they are in range of our network resources. The only thing that is required is a network connection and some form of supported SIP software on an android phone or laptop.
Well, my old marine battery had a cell that failed and shorted out the battery, thus removing power from the system. Well, I took that old battery to walmart and got a cheap lawn tractor battery to replace it since the project doesn’t use that much power…well, the lawn tractor battery was DOA and would not take a charge. So back it went. I’m going to be running the battery from an SLA that I know can’t run it for long, but hopefully long enough to get pictures to upload to the gallery.
I am going to keep an eye out for a high reserve capacity battery from CT or MAP to get the project back going again. Lot of R&D setbacks are starting to crop up now that we are trying to run the field tower nonstop.
We have posted some started information on the wiki. It isn’t much, but it should grow over time.
Well, I noticed the field radio and camera went off. When I rebuild circuits for 12 volts, I normally use a DC jack with a diode across it to provide some level of reverse polarity protection in case things goes wrong.
Well, about five AM this morning, the radio went offline and I decided to go check things out, first I noticed the battery was down to six volts, way too low to run the radio anyway. When plugging in a spare battery, the radio still did not come online. So I opened the electrical panel and noticed the casing on my refitted POE injector was melted and the panel smelled like a campfire. Now, this is my fault, I do not have a fuse inline with the test bench. Mainly because CT wants $9 for a glass fuse holder…something I will just had to deal with when making the final version of the tower.
Here is the weird part, there has never been a reverse polarity incident with this setup. The only thing that I can think of is that is that when I removed the battery before disconnecting the solar panel, the system voltage might have gone over 16 volts and the diode bit the dust but the panel doesn’t have the output on a cloudy day to smoke the diode. So…when I plugged in the spare battery, that cooked the broken diode.
Anyway, lesson here is to include a fuse between the battery and system when I do the redesign in a few days……..you would figure a radio guy who plays with electronics would think of these things. (Where is my project staff that is supposed to go over the check list with me..eh eh???)