Questions about hardware


#1

In the Getting Started guide, and elsewhere, there is mention of Althea running on various hardware. Given the current regulatory regimes this doesn’t seem possible moving forward.

In the consumer hardware section I see a decent list pointing out the version numbers and even that the hardware is old, and the small list shows it is limited, but no real mention of the regulatory threats that manufacturers are kowtowing to which created this situation.

On the commercial hardware side, there is talk (in Althea docs) about Ubiquiti hardware but anything with a radio has already been locked out by UBNT. I’m not familiar with their non-radio routers and switches.

I’d like to have a discussion here about the three points above, bring up alternatives and discuss their viability and applicability to Althea networks.


#2

Alternatives I’m tracking and would like to hear any input and discussion on:
LibreRouter: https://librerouter.org
MeshBox: https://meshbox.network
Ammbr: http://www.ammbr.com/

plus of course any other’s you know if, lets talk about them too.


#3

Hi @fRESH_OiL

I should note that Althea can run on any openwrt supported device with 128mb of ram and 16mb of storage or greater, the list I have is just one’s I’ve gotten my hands on and made profiles for. It takes like 30m - 2hrs to go from LEDE/OpenWRT supported device to Althea supported device.

As much as there’s a lot of fear around locking down routers proprietary wifi cards and lack of time to investigate devices seems more of an issue. This is the impression I’ve gotten as I look at OpenWRT development more closely.

Also for our supported devices list we’ve been focusing pretty carefully on trying to find a sub $100 ‘does it all’ device. So far I can’t say we really have. But I’ve been pretty happy with the Archer C7 and EdgerotuerX as go to suggested devices. We do need to find a modern medium range device.

On the high end, Althea can be installed on server or desktop gear with wireless cards.

It’s generally a bad idea to try and reprogram the radios, because their performance is often tied very closely to the firmware. Instead we configure radios in bridge mode and plug them into less locked down and easier to program switch devices. Althea is transport agnostic and will run on anything that presents itself as a Linux Ethernet interface.

I’ve reached out to the librerouter people in the past. We’ve also been in contact with Meshpoint and some other more underground people in the space.

The meshbox is kinda interesting, I think I’ve talked to their founder way back when. The indoor version is not really dramatically better for Althea than an off the shelf Turris Omnia (which is an existing, high end libre router) though, might have slightly more horsepower and storage. I’ll be interested to add support for it regardless.

The outdoor version looks much more appealing, depending on what it’s pricing works out to be.

I’ll be digging into what Ammbr is shipping whenever it materializes. Their proof of velocity stuff smells funky to me, it’s essentially ‘everyone mines, but because we have a monopoly on the asic we keep it fair’. Which I don’t like. I suppose it could work differently, they have good technical people but they don’t seem to be connected to the people writing the media. I’ll have to reserve judgement until I have something in front of me.


As a final point, there are two types of radios to have (in general) long range aimed antennas and short range omnidirectional ones. So for example you can mesh with the radios in the routers themselves, but it won’t go far and you don’t want to rely on it as the bandwidth drops off way too fast to be useful over any distance.

You need a mix to really create a usable network and in cases where you aren’t in a high density apartment building situation only long range ones are useful. For the hardware we support now (no three radio devices :frowning: ) we support splitting off the 5ghz radio for short range meshing. It’s been working fine so far.

Ammbr likes to talk about beamforming here, which will get them somewhere but not super far if they don’t put the beam forming bit on a roof or change frequencies. Walls are killer. Once again I’ll have to wait for the hardware.


#4

As much as there’s a lot of fear around locking down routers proprietary wifi cards

Its not a fear, its a reality.

and lack of time to investigate devices seems more of an issue.

What do you mean by “investigate devices”?

Thank you for the info. I get what you are saying about a mix of devices and antennas.


#5

Not saying otherwise. Maybe I just have a different perspective. I remember when getting any wifi card (or really anything) working in linux was a matter of compiling your own kernel modules and even entire kernels. Open source drivers where rare and then they usually had issues. Things have really come a long way recently and while progress has stalled or regressed some we still have far more options than we used to.

So most newer routers can be programmed, but stuff doesn’t work not necessarily because it’s locked down but because on one has taken the time to figure things out. Consumer devices change out about every 6 months and frankly that’s not enough time for the FOSS community to converge on supporting them. Some devices come with OpenWRT and typically the gpl releases reveal how to get them to work. But even translating the companies frozen repo into LEDE support takes time and effort.