Posts Tagged ‘network’
Get your head in the cloud.
Even though my day job is completely centered around Information Technology I still miss changes and shifts in technology that happen practically under my nose. As much as I hear vendors speak about “The Cloud” I haven’t had much time to investigate and discover if this “new technology” is something I can put to use.
If you already know what “The Cloud” is then you can skip the following paragraph, otherwise please read on:
The easiest way to understand the cloud is to think of it as a utility, like electricity. When you plug a device into a wall outlet, electricity flows. You didn’t generate the electricity yourself. In fact, you probably have no idea where the electricity was generated. It’s just there when you want it. All you care about is that your device works. Cloud computing works on the same principle. Through an internet connection (the equivalent of an electrical outlet), you can access whatever applications, files, or data you have opted to store in the cloud–anytime, anywhere, from any device. How it gets to you and where it’s stored are not your concern (well, for most people they’re not).
There is no end to the stream of interesting projects that are being developed “in the cloud” and its hard to keep track of them all. Some projects have turned into things that we’re all familiar with; Flickr, Facebook & Twitter are a few examples. Some appear and vanish like the proverbial “Flash in the pan” and, since you generally lose access once they run out of steam, it can be disappointing if you have invested any time in those applications.
I’ve collected a few cloud based applications/services here that might be of interest to the radio amateur and/or experimenter. They look like they should stick around for a while and have already reached a fair level of maturity:
circuits.io: Described as a free circuit editor in your browser, it is actually a lot more. You can not only design practically any kind of circuit using just a web browser, you can turn that circuit into a printed circuit board and then BUY that PCB board online. Several different technologies had to come together to make this into an effective tool. This tool is fairly new but is becoming very popular. Hopefully it will stick around and continue to mature into something great.
WebSDR: While arguably not a “cloud application” it does allow you listen to software defined radios, using a web browser, from anywhere you have internet access.
There are multiple sdr receivers located across the globe using a variety of receivers and antennas. Some are tuned to the HF bands while others cover VHF & UHF bands.
This is an invaluable free service provided by institutions and individuals at their own cost.
APRS.fi: The distributed network of Automatic Packet Reporting System stations, repeaters, clients and map servers could be considered to be “of the cloud” before the cloud even existed. With an APRS equipped radio you can log your position from a GPS, over the air & through another ARPS receiver. This is then sent out (usually) across the internet to other systems which in turn can map your location or update other APRS clients or radios. APRS has also been extended to include the ability to text message which is particularly useful in locations where cell phone SMS messages or email are not possible!
Echolink: Like APRS, Echolink links the Internet to amateur radio. However Echolink links the audio and PTT (push to talk) signals from a radio or software client to a radio in another physical location. If you’re stuck in a hotel room or another location without access to a radio you can still “get on the air” using an Echolink client on your Windows, Linux, iOS or Android computer & handheld device. Most Echolink connected stations are VHF/UHF but there are HF stations connected as well. Echolink is not designed to replace radio to radio communications but instead increases the connectivity of amateur radio operators and allows hams, who otherwise would not be able to operate, the pleasure of getting on the air.
As you can see, some of these “cloud apps” pre-date the idea of cloud computing by quite a while. Just another example of amateur radio folks being ahead of the curve without even realizing it.
Ham Radio and Mesh Networks
Lately I’ve been fascinated by the capabilities of mesh networks. The ability to quickly create ad-hock computer networks could be an invaluable resource for amateur radio operators in general and particularly for emergency communications (EMCOM)
The particular device and software I have been experimenting with is the Linksys WRT54G router and HSMM-MESH firmware from http://hsmm-mesh.org/.
Installing the HSMM-MESH firmware changes the way the Linksys router functions and allows it to automatically connect to other HSMM routers in a mesh network. No special configuration is required after setting your callsign. All TCP/IP configuration is pre-configured, even down to automatically assigning addresses to connecting clients.
Mesh networks are highly fault tolerant. Every router in the network is aware of every other router and has the ability to move network packets through from one unit to another provided there is a link, or chain of linked routers, between them.
In the diagram to the right each router is represented by a numbered circle. If router number 6 were to fail then network packets that needed to move between router 1 and 7 would travel through routers 2 & 3 or 5 & 10 until 6 was repaired. All this happens automatically and quickly enough so that there is no disruption to the traffic.
Anything you can access on a normal computer network can be made to work on a mesh network. Some of the services that have been demonstrated include email, voice over IP (VOIP), video conferencing, file sharing, web servers & groupware applications.
With simple modified antennas the modest output power from the WRT54G (100 to 200mW) can be used to reach distances of many miles or tens of miles with directional antennas. Mounting the router on a mast in a sealed enclosure can reduce losses from long cable runs while running off 12V power makes them compatible with ham radio power sources including solar and wind power.
The example to the left is from NG5V located on hsmm-mesh.org and consists of an omni-directional external antenna and a lawn sprinkler controller box from a popular home improvement store.
Did you know that … Frequencies used by channels one through six of 802.11b and 802.11g fall within the 2.4 GHz amateur radio band. Licensed amateur radio operators may operate 802.11b/g devices under Part 97 of the FCC Rules and Regulations, allowing increased power output but not commercial content or encryption.
I hope to acquire a few more WRT54G routers and put together a mesh network in the Katy TX area as a resource for experimentation and education in an area not normally touched upon by regular amateur radio operators. Who knows what the future holds & it behooves us to investigate this technology and bend it to our own needs.
The Amateur is Progressive … He keeps his station abreast of science. It is well built and efficient. His operating practice is above reproach.