Tinfoil hat (for EVDO)

July 28th, 2010

The things you’ll do when you’re sitting around the house…

The other day I built a parabolic reflector out of cardboard and some foil tape I had lying about. I was researching various homemade antenna designs I want to tinker with and stumbled on one that I actually had all the parts for on hand. As we are so close to the edge of EVDO reception here that moving down the hill a few feet would kill the signal, it seemed like it would be worth a shot. After all, it cost maybe fifty cents for the foil tape I used and the cardboard was free.

Parabolic EVDO Antenna.

Now, this is hardly a good mobile solution as it’s fairly directional, but after spending twenty minutes or so on the roof pointing the reflector and testing bandwidth, I got pretty good results. The SNR increase doesn’t even register on the cradlepoint’s web interface, which is fairly lackluster, so I had to result to ping flooding our upstream router to detect a better signal. No, I didn’t DoS it, I kept the packet count to 100 at a time while aligning and 1000 packets for bandwidth testing.

I didn’t record all the numbers, but to give you an idea of the improvement: without the reflector, we were seeing 10-30% packet loss and average roundtrip times that ranged from 5 seconds to 9.5 seconds. Even at that, the connection was usable. Once the reflector was aligned, packet loss dropped to 0-1% and average roundtrip times stayed about 2.5 seconds. This equates to a 100-300% increase in bandwidth plus the bandwidth recovered from dropped packets.

The connection is hardly blazing fast, but it’s quite a bit more usable than previously. For our normal usage patterns, it’s actually quite acceptable. Bear in mind that our average roundtrip times are similar to 380ms. The previously stated times are for icmp packets being sent out as fast as possible and saturating the connection.

With that sort of improvement, I’m much more determined to build a waveguide antenna for times when we’re having trouble hitting a tower. Bonus points if I can fit both the wifi and 3g spectrums into the same antenna and use it for a wifi repeater as well.

Slab City or bust!

April 6th, 2009

Internut - Slab City Library

After we left Quartzsite, our next ‘destination’ was Slab City, just outside of Niland, CA. First though, we really had to do some shopping before I broke into the emergency can of baked beans. So, we hit Brawley, which is about twenty miles south of the Slabs. As long as we were in town, Jenn wanted to get some work done on the freecampsites website, so we endured horribly slow internet for a night, under the assumption that we’d have no internet at all once we hit Slab City.

Go figure. Slab City had the best EVDO connection we’d seen since we left Phoenix. In fact, it’s so good they have an internut connection in the lending library. Speaking of the library, I was really impressed with the selection of books available and found my share very quickly. I rather wish I’d spent more time in the library as I could have dug around for a few gems instead of grabbing the first half dozen titles that looked interesting.

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Dear Brent,

November 7th, 2008

On 2008/10/25 at 12:11 PM, Brent wrote:

Hey guys,

Currently working my way through your all your postings. My wife and I are in the “can we really do this” stage of making the same change that you two have. Very much enjoying reading through your process.

Much like you two, we both work in technology and are somewhat dependent on the Internet. Add to that, the need for research / blogging / and potentially some work while traveling and connectivity gets to be one of our important decisions. So I’m curious, how are you feeling about the cell network decision versus satellite? Working out as you had planned?

Brent

Well, Brent, I’d have to say I don’t like any of the choices available. I’m pretty happy with the performance of EVDO, but I’m extremely upset with Sprint changing the contract midstream so that it no longer remotely resembles the class of service that we originally purchased. I have already ranted about this particular event once, so I’ll try and stay on subject…

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Tech Specs

July 23rd, 2008

Edited 10/20/2012. Blame Blars.

The Van:

2003 GMC Savana 2500

  • AWD. When we get stuck, we’ll be really stuck.
  • Positraction. I mean REALLY stuck.
  • Pro package. Next best thing to a tent, but with lights!

The Truck:

2001 Ford F-350 Lariat

  • Dual rear wheels
  • Crew cab
  • 4×4
  • 7.3L Diesel (International)
  • Timbrens
  • Front and rear receivers

The Camper:

2008 Arctic Fox 1140 (poorly constructed, no… really poorly)

  • Wet bath
  • Couch seating
  • Full-wall cabover wardrobe
  • 9k BTU Air conditioner
  • No oven or microwave (more storage!)
  • Thermal pane windows
  • For sale. Cheap.

The Bikes:

  • Trek RST 3700
  • Roketa MC-17-50T (Sicily) RIPieces!
  • Custom, ancient and venerable road bike. Because we spend our time on dirt roads?

The Internet: Ubiquitous

Sprint EVDO service (for now you greedy bastards!)

  • Novatel U727 EVDO card Fancy mini sd to USB storage adaptor with potential for alien technology. For sale.
  • Cradlepoint CT350 Wifi router
  • Dual-band Omni-directional external antenna
  • Wilson. 3 Watt Bi-Directional Dual-Band EVDO amplifier. How cool would this be if we were using alien technology? For sale.
  • Unix on a phone. Verizon. Google. Hey, almost time for a new wifi only camera/storage/gps/pocket gadget! Penny phones!

The Network:

  • Fujitsu Lifebook 1510
  • Dell Vostro 1500 Jenn smashed it lots of ways. I recommend bondo. For sale. Some parts still good!
  • Asus 1005pe. I love Moore’s Law. I still do all the really important stuff on the console. I mean, I have more spare crunch time on my old router than it takes to run a fair sized company. This is so much more CPU and memory than I really need. I bought it for the battery. 14ish hours. Very solar friendly.
  • Asus 1215B. Jenn can do some fancy graphics with this. I don’t understand her alien technology, but she seems to be happy.
  • ReadyNAS 600 (700GB RAID5)Massive power requirements for more performance than we need. Outdated drives. New drives and firmware would make it even more overpowered for us. Runs linux and is massively hackable. Might still have a wifi card stuck in it. Used this for storing captured video from MythTV network. Might be for sale if it can still be found. Firmware is modified stock. Warranty voided professionally.
  • 2 Cowon A2’s for random movie/music access. Still use these daily! I wish these were more hackable.
  • One of the most hackable linksys routers. Currently acting as a hotspot hijacker and repeater with automated p2p file sharing. Rarely use this, but just too many knobs on it to let the aliens have it. Would trade for even more unobtainable linksys router with an external antenna jack and at least 1 USB port.
  • Toshiba external drives. 2 x 1TB.
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Mommy, where does the Internet come from?

June 17th, 2008

hummer01

It turns out that our new campsite wasn’t quite as deserted as we had hoped. Every couple of hours this Hummer drives by with a tour group. Since they never come back down past us, I assume they’re just driving a loop through the national forest. A few other folks drive by on occasion, but for the most part, they don’t slow down and point.

As we hadn’t been out for a hike in a while, we decided to hike up one of the less improved roads to the top of the mountain. We were keeping an eye out for a new campsite, hazards we might have trouble crossing with the camper and halfway hoping we were on the right road to reach the lookout tower.

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