Free At Last!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll apologize in advance for any injuries that may occur if visitors fall asleep while reading this post. I probably should have added a “Geeky Content” warning to the title. If you feel drowsy or experience partial paralysis of facial muscles as you wade through this material, try giving yourself a quick, hard slap and move on to something less stupefying before you fall from your chair and do yourself harm.

Today’s subject is freedom. I’m drawn back to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech in which he quoted an old spiritual song containing words something like, “Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

My strategic plan all along in my War Against TELIKOM has been to connect to the Internet without any ghost of signals passing through any of its antiquated, poorly maintained and evil equipment. I feel that victory is rapidly approaching. I expect that, by this weekend, I shall be able to sit in my house and connect any time that I please for as long as I please and download as much as I please with never a fear that I will face an exorbitant fee or lose my connection every five minutes.

How can this be? Well, unless your uncle is Daddy Warbucks, you have to have some help. The first battle was won when our organisation purchased a third-party Internet satellite dish, called a VSAT, if you care. I’m trying to avoid too much geek-speak, as it bores the life from me. We’ve had the satellite Internet connection for about a year now, and it’s perking along nicely. We lose it only when it rains torrentially.

So, the question became, how can I tap into that gush of free bytes? Friends come in very handy here. I happened to have one who is the most renowned guru in the land and a geek among geeks.

Well, I can see already that I must shorten this story. I’m beginning to feel sleepy myslef.

Anyway, Mark came up with the idea of connecting to my house by wireless signals. The rub is that these pesky little beams refuse to penetrate anything but air, at least if you plan to go further than a few tens of metres.

Climbing to the top of this old amateur radio tower at the back of our office, I was disappointed to find that I could not see our house:

So, the problem became:  what can  I see from there which I can also see from my house?

I’ll digress a moment to refresh myself by showing you the pile of junk that is typically required to get all of this working;

It’s mostly on the top shelf. You can see, from left to right, a satellite modem which talks to the gizmo up in space and a “router” which splits the signals up somehow and distributes them to the correct computers. These are the essentials, except for the actual wireless gear, which is coming up next. The black box is a “hub” which simply lets you plug a whole bunch of computers into a network and sorts out the torrents of information that flows through it. Below is a UPS which prevents the evil PNG Power from devastating our investments and an old computer which I use to keep tabs on what is going where.

Here is a picture of the front and back of the long-range wireless units. They include a gadget which sends and receives wireless signals and a highly directional antenna which concentrates the beam and allows it to travel much farther between units:

A clever bit is that there is a little doohicky which you plug into the wall to provide power through the cable which also carries the network signals. Therefore you need only one cable going to this unit. It’s called Power Over Ethernet, but the very sound of that causes my eyelids to sag.

Here is a Google Earth shot of Madang showing the plan to get the web from our office to our house:

One unit goes on the ham radio tower at our office. Two units go on the security camera pole at the coconut oil refinery. They talk to each other, to keep the signal going, through a short piece of network cable. The green lines represent the wireless radio beams doing the magic.

So, having gotten from the office to the coconut refinery, we shoot the second beam way across the harbour to the front of our house. Here is a view of town from our veranda taken with my mighty Olympus SP-590UZ furiously gathering photons at its maximum of 26x optical zoom:

You’re looking almost a half-kilometre at that little pole in the middle of the frame. It’s got security cameras mounted on it already. From that pole I can see the tower at the office and my veranda.

Therefore, I mounted the last unit beside the front door of our house and ran the POE cable to the bedroom wherein lie our thirsty computers:

I didn’t realise until I saw this picture how much our house needs a coat of paint.

Tomorrow will be the magic day, if it doesn’t rain, when the hop units will be installed on the security camera pole. Everything else is installed and powered up.

This weekend I hope to enjoy TELIKOM-free browsing. If it works, it will be magic. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

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