New Node Installed - Casa 23
Short version: The node is up and running and provides zippy access with great coverage! Read on for the details...
After meeting at Influx, we split into two teams - one to help Ben finish building the hardware, and me to stay at Influx to help residents. As expected on an ambitious project like this, there were lots of odds and ends to complete. Ben had done an awesome job of building a stand, getting all the solar gear, and, hardest of all, getting all the supporting hardware like a battery box, mast, wires etc. together.
We split into sub-teams. Matt and Seren went to Home Depot for a terminal block and misc fittings. Ben went to work on mounting points for the radio (Soekris) box. Bill and Jim finished mounting the solar panel. Drew ran the solar power cable and then with Mitch's help worked on the power leads to the radio box. Around 12:30-1pm, most people had to leave - just after getting all the gear up onto the roof. Fortunately this is the best roof access we've had so far - a stairway up to a nice flat roof.
Bill and Ben stayed on, re-assembling everything, and installing the terminal block, orienting the solar panel, leveling the platform, installing the batteries and, finally, monitoring the battery charge. Then they bailed for drinks and food.
About 7pm, Mike (myself) and Matt regrouped and eventually met Ben and Bill at 8:30pm for the radio install and testing. With the low cloud cover, there was plenty of reflected light from downtown San Diego, and a long extension cord and worklight took care of the rest.
We mounted the radio box, mounted the two antennas (omni and 802.11a panel) and ... hit a few glitches.
First off, we noticed the solar charger was warm, at night. After some head scratching we found a misplaced wire. Fingers crossed that the charger wasn't damaged. We figure we'll know in about 4-6 weeks - about how long it will take the batteries to discharge completely with the very light Soekris load (which we measured with an ampmeter while we were there - about 250-300mA).
Second, the 802.11a radio wasn't recognised on bootup. And yet it worked 4 days earlier. Ultimately it seems that a piece of cardboard we'd inserted as an insulator was doing too good a job. Removing the cardboard and reseating the card fixed things. Either that, or it was Matt's magical mechanical touch!
After these two minor setbacks, however, the radio came up and worked like a charm. We did some bandwidth tests and found we were getting 1.1 MB throughput - pretty good for a 1.5 DSL link. The 802.11a signal strength was around -65dBm. Not perfect, but very good. And this was without tweaking the Pink Palace 802.11a AP antenna to face more towards it (currently it points right at La Cresta).
Once it was working, Matt and Ben did a quick walkabout with Netstumbler. Coverage within the building hallways is excellent on both the first and 2nd floors, as well as a block away with line of sight.
The 3rd glitch hit today - Bill's pictures of the whole day were somehow erased by his camera, so there's no shots to show you until someone gets up there next time. Coming soon....