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Voluntarily cast upon the waves of outrageous fortune, this lowly geek flops from peak to peak of the technological ocean. Linux, Windows, C, Ruby, Python and embedded systems all attempt to pull our stalwart hero down. Will he survive alone or will the lifeboat of corporate servitude be too tempting.

Meraki

Posted by Diarmuid on April 27, 2007

My set up at home is as follows.
Main House has the ADSL modem/router/wifi Netopia unit. The office computers are all attached directly using cable to the 4 port router. I have the laptop, the Ubuntu workstation, and at various times network attached micro controllers Fox Board and Max Port. The Cottage (where I live) is 30 meters away. There I have a Mini Mac with a Dlink USB WIFI adapter. The link is intermittent and I have tried various enhancers and extra antennas with no permanent improvment. There is an apple tree in the line of sight and when it rains the signal falls off. Also now that spring is in full swing, the tree is filling up nicely so that can’t be helping. I looked around for a booster and came across Meraki nodes. These allow anybody to easy extend the range of their existing network. They work by acting as re-broadcast units to allow users to daisy chain their way back to the internet access point. They will automatically set up a mesh network. So it seemed that these would do the job.

I bought 4 of the $49 nodes. They arrived in West Cork, Ireland in 2 days with UPS. Amazing. Anyway, they come with no documentation at all. Contents of each box is

  • 1 Meraki node
    1 crappy small antenna.
    1 rubber gromet to cover the antenna socket
    2 rubber suckers for sticking to the window
    2 sticky backed thingies for sticking to a wall
    1 US wall adaptor
    And (very impressive) an Irish 3 pin wall adaptor.
  • I checked the website documentation and there was no getting started guide. I was at a loss to know what to do, so I plugged in one of the nodes to power and tried to browse for it. Nothing. I thought it would find my existing wireless and extend that. Apparently no. I went to the Dasboard.Meraki.net and added the node. Still nothing. So I plugged one into the ADSL router and added it to Dashboard to see what would happen. After a minute or so it appeared on the WIFI network list.

    My setup on Dashboard showed that the two nodes were connected. But the Dlink unit would not consistently find the Meraki in the cottage, even when they were only a few feet apart. So now I have 2 Meraki nodes and the signal is still less than that put out by the Netopia unit. I think it may be the Dlink as it has not behaved itself before. I bet it is dodgy on OS X. (update, It is the crappy dlink. My XP laptop was rock solid on meraki).

    The antennas are all the same, except the Meraki ones are translucent, so that you can see that the actual antenna inside only takes up half the length of the plastic. I had a look at the antennas that came with my Maxstream Zigbee nodes and they are the same. Some factory in China is doing well.

    The Dashboard is a super looking piece of (what looks like) Rails inspired frugality. It is white, neat, simple, AJAX’d and clever. I am developing a system at the moment to remotely control network attached devices. I have developed most of it in TurboGearsand it looks similar, but I would love to know how they get the remote ping to work, without the router having to be modified to use IP pass through or NAT.

    Keep posted for more.

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    13 Responses to “Meraki”

    1. G$ said

      I would ditch the Dlink USB WIFI adapter at the cottage and plug your mac mini directly into the Meraki Mini located there. Check the signal strength between the two nodes (visit my.meraki.net from the Meraki that is not directly connected to the Internet and click the “advanced setup” link) and make sure it’s a good signal. If they don’t have a good signal, place a 3rd Meraki Mini in between the first two. You may also want to consider disabling the wifi in the netopia router, it may be causing interference with your Meraki wifi network. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions. I have a lot of experience with Meraki Minis. I’m part of a community wireless network in the Dallas, TX, USA area that is deploying the Meraki hardware. http://www.dfwfreenet.org if you’d like to take a look.

    2. dwrenne said

      Hi
      Thanks for the advice. How would I attach the mac directly to the Meraki. I would need a router there as well. The signal strength is 13 db between the two and throughput is 500 KB/sec. Is that any good. Seems Ok to me. I tried with my XP laptop afterwards and the stability is fine. I have heard bad things about the dlink, but so few wifi adapters I see around are OS X compatible.
      Your web site looks great. I want to do something similar for my home town here.
      Actually, the school here was looking to deploy ethernet in every classroom, but was put off by the cost. I am suggesting a Meraki setup. Would that be suitable?
      Cheers
      Diarmuid

    3. G$ said

      You can attach the Mac directly to the Meraki via Ethernet. This is actually the preferred way for clients to connect, since it leaves more bandwidth available for mesh routing. 13 dBm is a little on the low side for a reliable connection, above 18 dBm is what I shoot for. Using higher gain antennas on both sides would help, a 9 dBi antenna (versus the stock 2dBi antenna) is about $15. Yes, a Meraki setup would be very suitable for a school network and the cost of deployment would be pretty low. There are several ways it could be done, mainly depending on how clients will connect to the network. If the clients are wireless, you may be able to get away with one Meraki for every 2 or 3 classrooms (depending on building construction, local interference, etc.) If the clients are wired (such as existing desktops) then one Meraki per classroom could be used, with the Meraki connected to a switch that all the desktop computers connect to.

    4. Diarmuid said

      G$,
      Connecting the Mac Mini to the Meraki node directly worked perfectly.

      Thanks

      Diarmuid

    5. GuyJ said

      Hi Diarmuid,

      I’ve been using and playing with half a dozen meraki mini since March and have recently reflashed with the open-mesh.com batman/robin code

      I gave up on meraki when they tripled the price back in october 😦

      cheers,

      Guy

    6. Billy said

      “crappy small antenna” – get rid of this and get yourself a well made antenna for your setup. You’ll be amazed the difference it makes over the distance you are trying to cover.

      Billy.
      http://www.merakeye.com

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