Meraki: Free the Net SF

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The Free the Net San Francisco is the biggest implementation of a Meraki Mesh in a city neighborhood so far. Meraki teamed up with the local communities to setup and give away the hardware (with some local agreements with DSL providers, for the internet backhaul) and mesh know-how. So, since they’ve announced the new network I’ve been following it. It has grown very quickly for the past 2 months, over 3000 people signed up but if you look closer on the Overview Map, there’s very few nodes that are actually linked to the others, to form a so-called Mesh Network. What I see is a hotspot network on S. Francisco, not a Mesh. So, for the reality check, you’ll need a lot more 60 mW nodes (not indoor ones) and big antennas to effectively start a metro-like Mesh Network. If Fon wanted to easily compete with Meraki, it just needed to take OLSR-ng, pay some development/code patches from the guys of Freifunk/B.A.T.M.A.N. and kill Meraki completely.

Meraki and a few impressions

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I’ve been working on a Wifi Mesh experiment with Meraki Gear for the last 2 months. I was looking for a better low-cost single radio mesh alternative to the OLSR/OpenWRT platform (Freifunk Firmware). So far, the experiment is going well, it has some glitches with coverage due to the low-power radios of the Meraki Mini (60 mw), but at the end, the network really works and it has some advantages over Ad-hoc madness behavior on the standard atheros/linux code. Since last month I have 4 Meraki Minis on a 4 floor apartment complex, one per floor and the gateway linked to a wireless 802.11a p2p backhaul, through the ethernet interface. The overall user experience is good, but unfortunately, since it’s a closed box you can’t modify it to integrate with your current network. Yes, it runs Linux, you can login through ssh and you have the Meraki/OpenWRT modified source available. But the SrcRR protocol Click driver is not and all the network ip address scheme is hard coded (it’s calculated from the Mac Address). The clients get an adddress from the 10.0.0.0/8 and the Mesh assigns a 6.0.0.0/8 network. Also, one of the major problems for customization is that every node has NAT configured for every client, even for intra-mesh traffic. So, a client who’s connected to node A, can’t access directly a client on node B, because all the traffic from clients is NATed from every Mini. So, you have NAT on the Gateway node connected to the internet and for every other node on the Mesh. So if you have for example a wifi camera that’s not NAT friendly, be prepared for dealing with major headaches. There’s always a way to hack the Merakis, you can install an ipkg package from OpenWRT with your software or scripts, but you only have a /storage writable partion and from time to time there’s an on-the-air firmware upgrade that you don’t know what will do. So you’ll end up playing the catch & run game. The last option for total control is to flash the Meraki with a brand new OpenWRT. But for what? The most valuable piece of software it’s the SrcRR Mesh driver and you can’t get that with a plain OpenWRT and there’s always a cheaper alternative (at least, in Europe), the Foneras.
Oh and by the way, there’s no WPA or WPA2, just plain old WEP. I checked the Merakis and saw hostapd.conf on /etc, so they’re planning in the future to implement WPA.

But if what you want is a low-cost, plug&play mesh solution for your house or neighborhood with a great dashboard control, some statistics and a simple splash page to authenticate your users, Meraki rox. Oh and by the way, if you’re living in Europe, you’ll run a bit of trouble to get this babies from euro-resellers if you want to avoid customs. If you’re desperate, drop me a note.

Do it again

Já está a rodar nas colunas o Do it again, novo single dos Chemical Brothers, que consta por aí que sairá cá para fora dia 4 de Junho. Primeira impressão: not bad, mas longe vão os tempos do big beats. Só espero que o álbum não seja todo assim.

Podem ouvir o preview via Youtube.

Ninguém fala mal do Sinhor Primeiro Ministro!, II

Foi esta a frase, que segundo Fernando Charrua, lhe valeu uma suspensão e processo disciplinar pela DREN:

«Eu disse qualquer coisa como “Epá! se precisares de me enviar o teu doutoramento manda-me por fax porque se não for por fax não tem validade”», [numa alusão ao facto de José Sócrates ter enviado os documentos académicos por fax], conta Fernando Charrua, negando ter pronunciado os insultos que vieram publicados esta quarta-feira num jornal diário.

Mas fascismo a sério, todos sabemos que é na Madeira. Cá no continente temos uma democracia, certo?

They will never understand

For those who think that us, the geeks, switched from Linux (or other OS) to Mac because we give up mainly to the shiny eye candy factor, well, I’ll give you today’s example. I’m installing a svn repository solution for a customer, and they wanted to integrate MS Visual Studio with it. I researched a bit and I’ve found a nice plugin (ankhsvn) to play with. Of course, the first thing I need is to install Visual Studio Trial on my XP box. So I went to the homepage, logged in with a Windows Live ID and downloaded the 2.6 Gb IMG DVD file (90 day trial). Great. But now, for the funny part, Microsoft Windows XP does not recognize .IMG files and so, I can’t click on it, or mount it as a virtual drive to install Microsoft Visual Studio. Yes, this is a feature, not a bug, because Microsoft recommends installing a third-party application for reading .IMG files and install Microsoft Visual Studio:

# To install the image directly from your hard drive you will need to install 3rd party software that is capable of understanding *.img file extensions. Popular software programs like Roxio’s Easy Media Creator include a Disk Image Loader application that enables you to mount disc image files in a virtual drive as if they were physical discs in a physical drive. For the example below, we will use Smart-Projects.net IsoBuster 1.8.
# Be sure to set the tool to handle long file names. The default setting for many third party tools does not handle long file names. Some tools extract using the 8.3 file convention. Visual Studio 2005 setup requires the files to be in their long filename format or else setup will fail. This feature can usually be found in the Advanced settings. If you can not find the setting, please refer to the ISO extraction tool help documentation or contact the software vendor for assistance.

It’s from Visual Studio Express Manual Installations, but it applies to other versions, as well. A company that provides software for his own operating system, recommends the luser to install a third party application just to be able to install a trial version, downloaded directly from the company’s homepage. Oh, and on a Mac OS X, mounting .img files as a virtual drive is a no brainer, it’s natively supported with the Disk Utility or DiskImageMounter. Geez, the things I do for money.

300

Os puristas já zurziram que o 300 fica a milhas do Sin City. Pois embora reconheça que esta liga é diferente, este 300 recomenda-se e bem. E querem diálogos para quê, num filme de Espartanos?

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Ninguém fala mal do Sinhor Primeiro Ministro!

O respeitinho é bonito:

Um professor de Inglês, que trabalhava há quase 20 anos na Direcção Regional de Educação do Norte (DREN), foi suspenso de funções por ter feito um comentário – que a directora regional, Margarida Moreira, apelida de insulto – à licenciatura do primeiro-ministro, José Sócrates.

A directora regional não precisa as circunstâncias do comentário, dizendo apenas que se tratou de um “insulto feito no interior da DREN, durante o horário de trabalho”. Perante aquilo que considera uma situação “extremamente grave e inaceitável”, Margarida Moreira instaurou um processo disciplinar ao professor Fernando Charrua e decretou a sua suspensão. “Os funcionários públicos, que prestam serviços públicos, têm de estar acima de muitas coisas. O sr. primeiro-ministro é o primeiro-ministro de Portugal”, disse a directora regional, que evitou pormenores por o processo se encontrar em segredo disciplinar. Numa carta enviada a diversas escolas, Fernando Charrua agradece “a compreensão, simpatia e amizade” dos profissionais com quem lidou ao longo de 19 anos de serviço na DREN (interrompidos apenas por um mandato de deputado do PSD na Assembleia da República).

Dizem que este país é uma espécie de democracia. O que disse a sra. Margarida Moreira é algo de inacreditável. Não há maneira de varrer esta nomenklatura do Ministério da Educação? Pois, fascismo é na Madeira!