It was a very busy first official week as the Urbana Neighborhood Ambassador of Mesh. After the Urbana website went live last Friday, the local 2600 chapter held its monthly meeting in the seating area around Stango Cuisine, our local Zambian restaurant, yum! Got to update everyone on UMESH happaneings during the first part of the meeting. Then we moved over to one of several places where 2600 will be using to make the presentation part of future meetings, the Collider CoLab on the second floor at 123 W. Main, an office sharing community designed to foster startups. Nice place. I will present there on the status of the UMESH project at next month’s meeting, Friday, October 5. The meeting starts at Lincoln Square at around 5:30pm and shifts to the Main St. venue sometime before 7pm. I will get the Powerpoint posted somewhere once we’re done and link to it here.
Last Saturday was a long day at football parking. I guard a barricade to allow University employees and contractors access to their work sites when the fields around them are used for game day parking, so I monitor a parking staff channel that I only rarely need to transmit on. I also monitor a number of other public safety channels so that we have situational awareness and can facilitate any access needed at my gate for emergency services. Monitoring the mesh is just a new way to help with this, as I could potentially be the first to get wind of an emergency via either the Shout or Emergency Shout features even though guests are advised to dial 911 in case of emergency as even phones without current service plans are able to do.
Another aspect of the job is answering guest questions and the mesh makes that possible even if I’m not face to face. Now that I have the FireFly BigStick available, a wider area can be monitored than before. While it’s an entirely passive activity, like how it operates oin the other devices that are part of UMESH, the relays on the truck roof and the BigStick automatically relay messages between goTenna Mesh users who happen to need an extra hop.
Sunday was a day of recovery after the 13-hour day before. Ben Parisi of In the Mesh magazine and I made arrangements to do an interview so he could create an article that looked into the prehistory of UMESH and how I got interested in this project. Ben works quickly, we did the interview on Monday and by Tuesday evening it was live on the web as goTenna Ambassador Meshing An Entire City .
I spent part of Tuesday designing, prototyping, and gathering parts to build what became the FireFly BigStick and painted the tube for the bumper mount. After a parts run or two, on Wednesday I finished construction of the Big Stick and took pics to add it to the Firefly thread where it appears here.
I also constructed a table sign with the QR code “mesh here” sticker to use when I’m tabling or otherwise presenting to the public to provide brand identity recognition.
Wednesday evening, I visited the UCIMC Makerspace to finally meet a new MS/2600 colleague. This Makerspace is located in the basement of the IMC under the massive cut stone steps on the west side of the building. While chatting together about potential synergies between the UMESH project and various Makerspace initiatives. I decided to text home to let Maiko know I would run a little later, he remarked that cellphones almost always failed to get a signal down there. I felt pretty confident that I’d make it out and I quickly got confirmation the text made it home and Maiko responded using 2 nodes. Then several of my responses connected using only a single node, so my device must’ve been hitting the IMC’s rooftop node, UMESH 4, then jumping straight to Maiko’s unit. We agreed that we’d be talking further and the impressive performance of the goTenna Mesh certainly created a positive vibe for UMESH viability as an alternative means of communication.
Thursday I posted up the Firefly BigStick build. Here’s another pic.
I then started drafting a UMESH press release on the Ambassador City project. In late afternoon I attended the monthly CU Hacks and Snacks mingle of tech project leaders and entrepreneurs. Beginning in October, the event was supposed to be moving into the mesh at a new venue in Urbana, but the last schedule I saw still listed it at the Harvest Market location in Champaign on Oct. 11. There’s always a great set of conversations at H&S with people inquiring about what the latest with the mesh is.
On Friday, I finished polishing the press release and sent it to about a half-dozen of the most likely to be interested news outlets. Doing so reminded me again of how shriveled the local news market is now compared to a decade back, yet another marker of how badly net neutrality needs to be maintained. It is difficult to argue we’re getting better news and irrefutable that local news coverage has suffered badly. I’ll keep my eyes open for ways that goTenna Mesh could help change that.
Today, I confirmed the 1st location of the second group of nodes and once materials arrive installation of UMESH 7 is pending already.
Looking ahead, the Football game is Friday this week, so I’ll be free on Saturday morning to set-up a survey/info booth at home to reach out to those headed to and from Urbana’s Farmer’s Market.