From the archives – Evolution of a network guy part 3

One night I am sitting in my office wondering what is next for MTIN and I get a call from Steve Narducci in Anderson, Indiana.  Steve has this idea he wants to start an ISP.  I call up one of my good friends Chris Orr.  Chris and I had become good friends out of a chance meeting of him stopping by the office for some thermal Paste.  I instantly knew Chris was of the same kind of mold I was.  Chris had been hanging out at the office and helping with MTIN for sometime now.  Chris is the best *NIX engineer I have ever seen.  So I call Chris and ask if he wants to make a little money and so something enjoyable.  I think it took Chris awhile to realize I don’t let much hold me back and life is all about going for opportunities or creating ones.

Early one Saturday morning in 2006 Chris, Amber, and I head to Anderson Indiana to hang the first Access Points for what would become ndwave.com.  We had been prepping for this for months.  T1 line had been ordered, servers built, and equipment ordered and delivered.  Little did any of us know we were on the verge of something great.   Through a small team we were able to grow to over 1,000 customers under 2 years.  Working with NDWave was one of the first times I had the complete package.  I had the freedom to shape a growing network and the financial backing to do it. I was as unrestricted as I could get.  I felt like I had finally arrived into what I was supposed to be doing.  We were working hard and long hours, but it was fun.  There is an old saying that goes something like “If you find a profession you truly love, you will never have to work another day in your life”.

During this time I really was able to get to Know Rick Harnish.  Rick is the Marlon Brando of the the Wireless ISP world.  Rick was eager to share what he knew and help everyone around him grow.  Having someone like Rick to have conversations with was a huge asset.  He was a major pipeline to the innovation and direction other WISPs were going.  Plus Rick is just a plain cool guy.

NDWave really established my credibility in the ISP world. I had been looking for that recognition for quite awhile. Folks like Michael Pelsor,  & Debbie Seal would be added to the “family”.  These are folks who I consider friends to this day.  It was like TCTC all over again.  We were on the leading edge of this Wireless ISP wave.  The technology was becoming easier to use and more affordable.  This meant the average person could now afford reliable service delivered via Wireless.   We were growing into areas where there was no broadband.  It was kind of like the Wild West gold rush.  There were weeks NDWave was putting up 3-4 towers.  I was getting to work with Mikrotik, Cisco, Tranzeo, and some other manufacturers.  Life was good.  We had a fiber feed, rack space at a Premier data center, and got to play with other cool toys.

Then Omnicity comes along and things change yet again….

From the archives – Evolution of a network guy part 2

Being hired as a tech support tech at tctc.com would forever change my life.  It was like being shown who was behind the curtain.  All of a sudden this world of T1 lines, modem banks, and DNS servers was before me.  I couldn’t soak up enough of it.  It was here I met some of the best people I have known in my life.  Guys like Robg, Robr, John “Land”, and Jimbo.  We became a sort of dysfunctional family.  We were at the head of the wave as the Internet and personal computing exploded. We were truly among a very small group of people doing technical support for an ever-growing ISP.  During that time businesses did not have I.T. departments, there were very few consultants, and very few people had done any of this before.  We were being looked to because we were the closest anyone had to experts.   This caused us to be on the leading edge of the World Wide Web boom.  Our close-knit group became close because no one else knew what we were talking about.  All of us looked at what we were doing as more than a job.  It was a lifestyle.   Like anything in life, things change.  The small telephone company was sold to TDS Telecom and I saw the writing on the wall.  The culture we had developed was coming to an end.

Shortly after leaving TCTC.com I stated my own dial-up ISP on a shoestring budget.  My dad was one of my biggest supporters in this venture.  Without him I never would have been able to do it.    Sadly I lost my father in 2001.  This meant we needed the extra income to survive.  I applied for a job at Lafayette School Corporation as a Macintosh Specialist.  Here I meant some people such as Eric Thiel.  Eric is the Zen Master of the computer world.  From Eric I learned the ability to relax when it came to solving technology problems.  My term at LSC was similar to the culture at TCTC.  We were a small group on the cutting edge of integrating technology into the day to day operations of the teachers.  Things others take for granted were new at that time.  Using PDAs with wireless cards to take attendance, implementing Gigabit Ethernet, and PC automation were some of the fun things we were doing.   It was during this time I learned a lot on how I wanted my professional life to be.  I was working for a Boss who had serious issues.  He would what I would consider your “typical I.T. stereotype”. He made my life miserable.  Part of it was me seeing the wasted potential in myself. It was here I knew the ISP business was my true calling.

At the same time I was at LSC, my ISP business (MTIN.NET), was branching out into being one of the first Wireless Internet Service Providers in the area.  We hung our first piece of wireless gear around 2003.  I never had enough money to truly expand like I wanted to.  During this time I met Amber.  Amber was the best thing to ever happen to me. Quickly she became a true partner in everything we were doing.  She was spending her weekends helping me keep everything together.  Our typical weekend would be me on a grain leg installing or trying to keep equipment up with her at the bottom plugging in stuff.  We were both working full-time jobs and trying to make a go of the ISP.  Many days I would get home from my 9-5 job and be working on MTIN things until 11 or 12.  The next day would be a full repeat of that.  MTIN did computer repair as well as the ISP thing.  The computer repair business kept the lights on, but also further showed me the ISP side of things is what my true calling was.

When another WISP came into the area it was time for myself and MTIN to morph yet again.  That’s where meeting Steve Narducci changed it all….

 

Continued in Part 3

From the Archives – Evolution of a network guy Part 1

I published this several years ago, and was lost on a previous blog.  I found it while archiving things tonight and figured it was time to re-post and update in the end.

My buddy Greg Sowell recently wrote an article on his Blog about the “evolution of an I.T. guy.  It was on of the best articles I have read in a long time.  It inspired me to write this article. I am thinking this will probably be a 3 or 4 part article on my history in the computer/I.T. field.

My mom bought me my first computer, a Texas Instruments TI-994a when I was about 7 years old.  We had very little money but she managed to get her hands on one. I had a game called Parsec which I would play for hours on a small black and white tv screen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZgFAgmJkiE .  Her and I would spend hours taking turns on this game.  Those times are one of my most cherished memories I have.

From there I graduated to a Commodore 64.  My best Friend Shawn Hackett and I would spend hours drooling over the newest games at Hills department store.  We would also spend hours copying games from other people and users groups.  During that time 5 ¼” floppy disks would be passed around user groups to trade games between the members.  Games like Druid, Wasteland, Whirlybird, and Jet Set Willy would have an immense influence on our young lives.  To this day they were so much a part we still joke about the humor and enjoyment we received from the games.

The commodore would stick with us until around 1992-93.  This is the time I received my driver’s license.  One night I was on Purdue campus just exploring around and came across a computer lab.  No one questioned my being there so I just sat down at an Apple Macintosh. On the desktop was an icon labeled Netscape Navigator 1.0beta.  Little did I know clicking on that icon was a life changing experience.  In front of me popped up something called a search engine.  I started typing in things I was interested in.  Anything from Star Trek to weapons to cars.  I remember sitting there that first night for hours seeing all this information at my fingertips.  I would spend all my free time going to that computer lab. I would spend my time printing off tons of things and taking them home to read.  This was one of those moments in life where you reach a higher level of consciousness.  When I actually enrolled at Purdue I was able to gain several “shell accounts”.  This opened up the doors to things like ytalk, html coding,  and shell scripts.  All of my free time was still spent in the ever-changing computer labs in the basements of various buildings.

It was during this time my dad helped me buy my first Apple Performa.  It was running Macintosh OS 7.0 and had a 14.4 baud modem.  I immediately signed up for tctc.com dial-up Internet.  I was one of their first Macintosh users which expanded my understanding because I had to do things very few others were doing.  It was during this time I found the world of IRC.  This chat system spawned many long lasting friendships I still have to this today.

One day I saw a posting for a job opening at TCTC.  Little did I know this was about to change my entire life…

Stay Tuned for Part 2

The new age of case studies

After the recent filing of Ubiquiti vs Cambium, Winncom, and BLIP networks the question of case studies has come up.  One of the pieces of complaints is a case study Blip Networks did on Cambium Elevate.

What changes do you think will be forthcoming in future case studies? Should end users who do the case study require more terms from the manufacturer they are doing the case study to protect themselves? Are we going to see actual legal documents for any case studies to be done? Or are companies just not going to want to do case studies for fear of opening themselves up for retaliation?

I am interested to know your thoughts.

ALG Antenna test vs Jirous dishes

The following are results from a series of tests of AGLcom’s parabolic dish antennas on an existing link that is 5.7 miles long. The link typically passes 80-90Mbs with a TX capacity of 140 Mbs and radios used are Ubiquiti AF5X operating at 5218 Mhz.  A full PDF with better Readability can be downloaded here..

The tests were taken in stages:

  1. 1)  The normal performance of the link was recorded.
  2. 2)  The 2′ dish at one end, B, was replaced with the AGLcom, C, dish and the link reestablished.The link performance was recorded.
  3. 3)  The 2′ dish at the other end, A, was replaced with the AGLcom, D, dish and the link reestablished. The link performance was recorded.
  4. 4)  The setting on the AF5xs were adjusted to optimize the link performance with data recorded.
  5. 5)  The 2′ dish, B was put back in the link and the performance was recorded.
  6. 6)  The ACLcom C was put back into place.

The tables below do not follow the test order as the third line of data was actually the last test performed.

Antennas:

A-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO
B-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO C-AGLcom – PS-6100-30-06-DP D-AGLcom – PS-6100-29-06-DP-UHP

Results:

Table 1 is the signal strength results of the various dishes on the link. The first line, A-B, is the original Jirous to Jirous. A is the first two columns of the link and are the A side and the last two columns are the B side on the link. What is of interest is that exchanging B to C in the second line brought the signal deviation between the channels to only 1db and 0 db as seen in Table 2. The third line was a result of replacing the horn on the A dish and optimizing the setting on the AF5X radios. This changed the signal by around 7db and improved the link capacity, Table 3. Clearly, the A dish had a problem with the original horn.

In the fourth line, D-B, the signal strength improved as well at the signal deviation on the two channels, Table 2 first two columns. This link was not optimized. The fifth line, D-C is both AGLcom dishes which improved the bandwidth, Table 3, and the signal deviations, Table 2. The final line, D-C, was the previous line optimized. The signal strengths moved closer together and the bandwidth improved.

Link Ch0 Ch1 Ch0 Ch1

  1. A-B  -73 -76
  2. A-C  -73 -74

A*-C -64 -66

  1. D-B  -63 -62
  2. D-C  -62 -62

D*-C -60 -60

-70 -74 -71 -71 -65 -66 -59 -59 -58 -58 -61 -61

Signal Strength (* optimized data) Table 1

Table 2 has four data columns, the first two being the measured results and the latter two being the measured difference from theory. The Jirous and AF5X calculators were used for the theory signals. Clearly the signal approached the theoritical limit with the optimization and with the change of dishes. The optimization improved the signal by ~9db for the link that we replaced the horn on the Jirous and by ~2db for the AGLcom link.

Link dSig dSig A-B 3 4 A-C 1 0 A*-C 2 1 D-B -1 0 D-C 0 0 D*-C 0 0

dSig dSig -16.5 -17.4 -17.0 -15.0 -8.0 -9.0 -13.3 -5.3 -7.0 -4.3 -5.0 -6.0

Signal strength variation from theory Table 2

The band width improvement was more obvious, Table 3, from 22 Mbs to 39 Mbs for the RX and 144 Mbs to 141 Mbs TX for the link with the horn replacement. The bandwidth improvement for the optimization of the AGLcom link was from 61Mbs to 66Mbs RX and from 211Mbs to 267Mbs for TX.

The bandwidth improvement from the original, optimized link to the AGLcom link is from 61Mbs RX to 67Mbs and from 210Mbs TX to 267Mbs. There is a clear improvement for the AGLcom link over the Jirous link.

Link BW-RX

  1. A-B  22.5
  2. A-C  39.0

A*-C 60.9

  1. D-B  61.4
  2. D-C  60.6

D*-C 66.6

BW-TX 144.6 141.4 210.0 211.0 215.0 267.6

Table 3

Conclusions:

The data supports a measurable improvement in both signal strength and bandwidth with the use of the AGLcom dishes. However, it is difficult to quantify the improvement. The Jirous dishes were identical whereas the AGLcom dishes were not. One of the jirous dishes was under performing initially but was repaired for the last tests. Additional testing is needed to provide accurate data analysis and performance comparison. The best performance tests would involve identical AGLcom dishes, ideally two links, one each of both types of dishes.

The importance of phone numbers in a WISP

One of the things I see startup wisps do wrong is their use of phone numbers.  This is one of those details that is often overlooked but is critical. It’s critical not only for tracking but also for the sanity of everyone involved.  Let’s identify where many WISPs go wrong.

The typical startup wisp is a type A go-getter. This is what Entrepreneurs are by default.  Once they have a plan they jump head over heels in. Many may start with a simple phone number, but when they call a customer if they are on their way to do an install or something they end up using their phone number.  The problem is customers keep this cell phone.  If the office is closed they start texting or calling any number they have.  Some customers will be respectful of boundaries, but many will not.  If they are getting packet loss at 3 am they are calling and texting.  This problem compounds as you grow and you have multiple installers involved. You want customer issues tracked in some sort of ticket/CRM system. You also don’t want your employees ahev to answer customer texts or calls after hours if they aren’t being paid.  It’s one of the quickest ways for employees to get burnt out or say the incorrect things.

So how do you solve this? The simple buzzword answer is unified communications.  One of the easiest and cheapest is Google Voice. With Google Voice and others, you have a primary number. This is the number you give out to clients. They call this and it rings another phone or phones.  This can be an extension on the VOIP system it is a part of, another number, and/or cell phones.  Depending on the level of sophistication it can ring all the programmed numbers at once, or ring one, and move on to the next one. If no one answers it drops the caller into voice mail. With Google voice, the programmed numbers are all rang at once.

The inbound ringing is pretty standard.  The “trick” for the WISP is the outgoing calling. You want to be able to call a customer and have it come up as the main number’s caller ID, not your cell phone. Most PBX systems can be set up to do this with the extensions attached to them.  Cell phone calls are a little more complicated.  The way Google Voice solves this is through the use of forwarding numbers, You bring up the app, enter a number and it actually calls a different number.  Behind the scenes, it is using this forwarding number to “spoof” your number to the person you are calling.   Your phone is not calling the other party directly. Your phone calls this forwarding number behind the scenes and works it all out on the backend.

Other vendors have Apps which do similar functions. Asterisk has their DISA function.  Once you have these functions setup it boils down to training and processes.  Your installers need to remember to use the app or the function when calling customers.  As the company grows, a way to help this situation is for employees to not use personal cell phones.  If a company provides a cell phone the employee can customize voicemail, or even forward no answers to the help desk should a customer get the cell phone.

Hope this helps one of the glaring issues a startup faces.

Cambium Roadshow 2018 Morning Session

Recently I attended the Cambium Roadshow 2018. Some notes.

-Epmp 3000 expected to be here in September.  4×4 Mimo product. Early marketing should be coming in the next couple of weeks.
-820C pricing is getting aggressive.
-Mikrotik Open beta Elevate is out.  Ability to elevate Mikrotik units.

Force 300
-second radio can be used as management access or a realtime spectrum analyzer
-No more java client for the analyzer
-65k packets per second
-About 10% throughput at the sector in a legacy network.  Future software updates can lessen this.
-Dynamic spectrum capability
-Future vision is to have CNMaestro be aware of spectrum. This opens up the ability to view channels and interference on a network level.

450 Product Line
-Channel sizes have increased to 30 and 40mhz
-450b radios Integrated (17dBi for $299) and high gain (24dBi for $349)
-New processor
-4.9-5.925 GHZ
-Single gigabit port
-30 volt power supply, polarity Agnostic
-450 3.65 will be SaS compliant

cnArcher
-iPhone app should be here soon.
-Ability to push configs from the App

450M
-8×8 mimo due to physical size. 12×12 or 16×16 would mean a very large product
-Integrated 90 degree sector
-Direct DC power
-SFP port
-Current SMs will connect

 


MTIN Family of web-sites
www.mtin.net
www.j2sw.com
www.indycolo.net
www.startawisp.info

Winbox brute Force

You really should not have your winbox port open to anything but a management network, but if you need a script to help with brute force on the Mikrotik.
add action=drop chain=input comment="drop winbox brute forcers" dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp src-address-list=winbox_blacklist
add action=add-src-to-address-list address-list=winbox_blacklist \
address-list-timeout=1w3d chain=input connection-state=new dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp src-address-list=winbox_stage3
add action=add-src-to-address-list address-list=winbox_stage3 \
address-list-timeout=1m chain=input connection-state=new dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp src-address-list=winbox_stage2
add action=add-src-to-address-list address-list=winbox_stage2 \
address-list-timeout=1m chain=input connection-state=new dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp src-address-list=winbox_stage1
add action=add-src-to-address-list address-list=winbox_stage1 \
address-list-timeout=1m chain=input connection-state=new dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp
add action=drop chain=forward comment="drop WINBOX brute downstream" dst-port=8291 \
protocol=tcp src-address-list=winbox_blacklist

Of course changing your Winbox port number and disallowing access from anything but trusted Ip addresses is one of the best ways.