Urbana, Illinois


#1

My wife and I are interested in promoting community wireless communications. Urbana has a long history of supporting such efforts going back to CUWIN and its early experiments with delivering the internet wirelessly as far back as 2000.

While the goTenna Mesh concentrates on doing SMS text only, it does this superbly and simply in an accessible manner. We’ve established what appears to be the first stationary relay in CU about 4 blocks east of Lincoln Square and downtown Urbana along Green St. It provides 24/7 secure relaying of goTenna messages reaching it.

We’re not the only relay node in town. There are about another half dozen or so area nodes located here right now, but none of these others appears to operate fulltime as a stationary node. We encourage you to consider upgrading your relay node to full stationary relay mode by simply making sure the node you already have up is powered on 24/7 and is in a relatively elevated position. With many nodes already near each other in east Urbana we are very close to have a strong community mesh network with an extended reach out from downtown.

I am working on getting a relay node right in downtown which we hope can pick up bounces for here at our home. Past our home node we hope to support extending the network to other east Urbana locations.

Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough. Anyone else out there who’d like to join us in promoting this vital community service? Please reply and we’ll work together for a meshed future.


#2

Go Chambana ! The prairie needs you.


#3

I’m happy to announce that we reached agreement with the next host for a stationary relay node. While installation is pending weather, we hope to have it up soon and pinned on the map as soon as we do.

The location for this relay will be around the intersection of East Washington and South Lynn Streets in southeast Urbana near Philo Road.

There are several area nodes listed nearby (on East Michigan and near the intersection of Patton Place and Eastern Drive.) Further south there are three more area nodes listed between Eliot Dr. and E. McHenry. These may be within range of linking into the soon-to-be mesh. If these users are able to consider putting one goTenna up as a stationary relay node, it could further expand the network. There’s the possibility that a goTenna could be supplied to them for this dedicated purpose if they’re not able to do that with the goTennas they have on hand, but we just haven’t gotten that far yet.

I will also be meeting with my potential downtown Urbana location contact this afternoon. If that pans out, we may soon have a network running from downtown Urbana to around Florida and Philo Road.

Eventually, it would be good to have a meetup or other way to facilitate F2F contact. If someone wants to pick up that ball, I’d participate and encourage others to do so. Once I run down the rest of my contacts, I’ll consider working on that if no one else has proposed a time/date/place yet. Weather is going to slow implementation in the near future, but spring is coming.:sunglasses:

Better weather will also facilitate some testing using a drone to loft a stationary relay node. That will be announced here well in advance so anyone wanting to participate can do so,


#4

Awesome!! :slight_smile: keep us posted


#5

I’m happy to announce we also have a preliminary agreement to establish a stationary relay node in downtown Urbana after a meeting this afternoon, The host will be a well-established local organization that is a longtime proponent of decentralized autonomous organizing in various flavors. The goTenna is a great fit philosophically for their program and will offer several ways for them to increase their effectiveness as well as the ability to use it in coordinating building management. It will be easy to place it at about ~30’ AGL. There’s another hoop or two to jump through before it’s finalized, but I feel good about it’s potential at a key location to build this local network’s effectiveness.

To help power our remote nodes, our first Voltaic V15 battery pack and 2W solar panel also arrive tomorrow. After that it’ a matter of rigging them in/to a waterproof enclosure (checking out Harbor Freight’s Apache containers: https://www.harborfreight.com/1800-watertight-protective-case-9-316-in-63518.html) at a accessible location.


#6

A brief (its almost 4am!) but exciting update. Looks like we have a new stationary relay serving the southern-most group of mapped goTennas in Urbana. Welcome to the map Mesh Believer, yub3piqr3v !

They are far enough south that it will most likely require the added node-hopping capabilities (> than 2) everyone is hoping for in the next firmware update for them to link as far as downtown Urbana. I think that’s a realistic medium term goal, though, especially is we are able to rely on getting a max of 6 to 8 hops from a relay. That would rock, but we’ll have to be patient and see. With that sort of hop-ability it should be possible to cover much of a small city like Urbana, making goTenna immediately and widely useful for reesidents, visitors, and travelers.

After an initial charge from the wall, the Voltaic V15 lasted about 48 hours powering the goTenna without the 2 W solar panel attached (it was cloudy anyway). Voltaic actually recommends using their 3.5 W panel with the V15, but IIRC previous discussion here suggested to me was that the 2 W sufficed to top up the V15 most days for use with a goTenna Mesh in climes about as sunny as the Midwest. We’ll be testing this power combination as the sun comes out (might not be tomorrow, though :frowning: ) Of course, this is somewhat site-dependent, so the next solar panel may well be a 3.5 W Voltaic.

Also plan to pick up some waterproof cases to house stationary nodes in , so maybe some pics here soon? These won’t be MOAN’s by a long shot, but simple enclosures that can reliably house stationary nodes in the urban environment at minimal cost.


#7

A couple of bits as the world turns snowy outside…

Since I’m in the process of testing daily use of my personal goTenna Mesh at a project I’m working on during the week, I decided to list this site as an area node, sj39arlkzhp. It’s a couple of blocks from 2 other area nodes and about six blocks east of another area node on Michigan. I keep it on during the day and give out a test shout from time to time, but it goes home with me at night. If you’re around the area when the sun is shining (up above the clouds anyway) during the workweek, you might hear me. Say hi:grin:

This site is only a temporary node home until my work on this project is done. We have friends a block over who we hope to persuade to host a stationary node, though, in part because that’s the highest place in that spot of town.

The prototype node shack rolled off the assembly line late today. It is a Harbor Freight Apache 1800 waterproof case (painted whte) and has a Voltaic 2 W solar panel.

Housed inside is a Voltaic V15 battery pack and a goTenna Mesh in relay mode…

For now I’m leaving the foam inside in place, with cutouts to hold things in place. Not much heat generated inside, I suspect, so the foam may help moderate temps on all but the hottest days, but it will be s few months before that gets tested, don’t ya know?


#8

Was out meshing it up in southeast Urbana this afternoon…

They sometimes say if there aren’t pics, it didn’t happen. Well it did:grin:

Yes, these things are working from just east of Lincoln Square down to south of Philo Road & Washington. It’s only two nodes and the south one bears some easy improvements I hope to make shortly. First, a public service announcement…

Mike’s First Rule of Building Mesh
Always confirm that your base stationary relay node is powered and in relay mode.

Things work a lot better. Somehow, I fumbled the first one up in the shed after I initially set it up and tested it. I thought about checking those (I did have power) before heading out to install the first node (pictured above) near Washington and Lynn. Decided to do “easy to get to” since this is still in the testing and learning phase. It is now on the imeshyou map as rgtfqqazjj .

After bungeeing the node to the roof, I tested and was satisfied to see that my message earned confirmed reception – but with just ONE node.:construction: ???

Because I was expecting two. The new one on the roof to the south where I was and one at home in the shop attic. It turned out the new node was going direct to my Test Article goTenna and phone in the basement at home from roughly 6+ blocks away! Wow! That’s great:sunglasses:

In fact, that it was getting all the way home on just one node was a indicator the home node wasn’t pulling its weight. Sure enough, checking it revealed it wasn’t in relay mode, but did have power.

Further testing revealed a corridor about 4 to 5 blocks wide extended between the stationary nodes, with them apparently able to see each other despite the lame low initial mount. The way it is now also attenuates signals to and from exactly where I needed to go as the entire house is in between the antenna and the Target. I’ve been promised access to a nearby roof that is higher but not as scary as the main house (which is nonetheless very desirable as it will eventually trade access difficulty for better reception.)

So goTenna folks should be checking if they can send messages via the mesh around this area of Urbana. We’re already at the current max number of hops with just two connections, but the results show how powerful a tool goTenna will be once the next firmware update increase the max number of hops.

Here’s a pic of the next node up, this one with a 3.5 W Voltaic solar panel.

If I can get permission, I think I’m going to put it up further south, hoping it may provide connectivity into the current mesh for the cluster of goTenna users down that way, then I’ll figure out getting another one for the downtown Urbana node site. Will keep you updated as the Urbana mesh continues to grow, but please report if you find it useful. Thanks!


#9

Added another node to the mesh Sunday afternoon, as well as enhanced effectiveness of the middle node by relocating it to a better, higher location. In the interests of simplicity, I updated the names of all three, to UMESH1, UMESH2, and UMESH3, north to south. The UMESH1 to 2 link is reliable and proven.

The UMESH 2 to 3 link remains to be tested, but will do that Monday. UMESH3 sits on a substantial rise (for this part of the country) and is almost exactly the same distance from 2 and 2 is from 1.

I did have time for a quick test of end-to-end functionality and couldn’t raise my Test Article at the far end. We’re up against the current limits of the protocol in the firmware, I suspect, with it’s two hop limit. I’ll confirm that the southern nodes work together ; with the northern link already proven, failure to pass the message on by the middle node suggests this can most likely be attributed to the 2-hop limit.

For now, what we have up still proves to be a very useful. End-to-end capacity will depend a great deal on the new options the firmware update offers, so it wll very much be eagerly awaited here in Urbana.

.


#10

Limit is 4 hops right now. That will change very shortly :slight_smile:


#11

Four hops with end-points included?

I guess what I meant was that a max of two relays, plus the two end points? Or maybe I still need to reposition my two more southern nodes for a better “look” at each other…

Will be out testing this morning, so an update around noonish Ccentral Time.

Regardless, more hops is going to be great! One of the hosts for the southern-most nde works downtown, so theoretically will soon be able to chat between home and work. Both our spouses walk to work on the U. of Illinois campus, so with a node downtown and one or two more nodes along Green St. west of there, there will be full coverage enroute.

More hops = Better use cases for potential consumers


#12

Uh-oh, I suspect UMESH2 has gone dead. It was showing half-full on the LED gauge when we moved it late afternoon yesterday and it’s been gloomy all today. Seems to not be willing to help us this morning. Will check further.

UMESH3 is confirmed as working, but more often than not when I expect to need its help to get back to my Test Article, I get it direct, which is impressive. Then there’s times when I expect to get through, but nada.

Checking Test Article afterwards, I found the lack of reception confirmation was accurate in all but one case.

So still a lot to learn on my end. If you’d like to contact me on the UMESH, my UID is 9229 0810 5651 83


#13

Yes. For clarity: point-to-point counts as 1 hop. :slight_smile:


Does the length of message affect the distance or chances for message to get through?
#14

Unfortunately, I can confirm that UMESH2 node is currently off the air; I’ve noted this in the imeshyou.com entry for it. The extended lack of sunshine finally broke with a bit of nice sun in late afternoon, but by then UMESH2 had gone down due to lack of power. With nothing pressing to get it back up, I’ll be patient for a few days until we do get enough sun to recharge the Voltaic V15. Then when I cycle the power back on, it should be good to go.

I’d hoped that the Voltaic 2 W solar panel would provide enough charging capacity to power the node. It probably does so long as there aren’t several days running with limited sunshine. I suspect/hope that the 3.5 W panel provides enough charging under marginal conditions to avoid a shutdown.

The issue is one that sounds like it will be corrected soon. The power button, once it loses, then regains power, defaults to the OFF position. Previous discussion suggests that a firmware mod will change the default behavior on voltage restoration/restart so that it resumes operation in the mode it was in before the power went down, i.e. if it was ON, it will come back in the ON state.

When enough sunshine has come along to juice the battery up, we’'ll climb back up there and cycle the power so it fires back up. No point in that right away, as it needs more hours in the sun before that happens.

Meanwhile, I brought UMESH1 out of the shop attic and encased it a plastic Pelican-clone box modded so the power lead can drop down and into the attic to plug in there out of the weather. I then hung it from the mast of one of my VHF antennas. This removes the attenuation of the structure’s wood, steel, etc while raising this goTenna relay node about 2’ higher. This can’t make up for UMESH2 being down, but will increase connectivity and reliability otherwise.

ADDITIONAL TESTING TIP: Using a vehicle to get around during testing facilitates things, but can be problematic because they tend to shield the signal from getting out. For max sensitivity, roll down your window and lay the goTenna on top while you transmit. Just don’t forget to grab it before you put the car in Drive again!

A safer location provides pretty good reception, too. Putting the goTenna on top of the dashboard tends to mitigate the shielding effects of the auto body. The windshield glass is largely RF transparent, unless it has a metallic coating of some sort on it. This generally worked well for informal testing.


#15

I believe our long spell of gloomy days in Central Illinois has now claimed UMESH3. I’ve not been able to get any bounces off it for the last 48 hours. Like UMESH2, it’s on a roof that requires me to drag out the extension ladder to reach it. It’s 3.5 W solar panel should be able to keep the battery pack charged per Voltaic on most days with at least a little sunshine.

Obviously, one could go bigger and sink further investment into bigger solar panels and battery packs in hope of gaining enough stored charge to carry things thru most sunless spells.

On the other hand, some down periods due to lack of power are tolerable in many cases. That’s certainly the case here. The firmware mod to allow a gTM to resume the same power state prior to loss of power would not only be more convenient in terms of avoiding unplanned trips to the roof, but in limiting the size and cost of the supporting power supply for stationary nodes.


#16

As of about an hour ago, UMESH2 and UMESH3 in southeast Urbana are both up and operational. I have yet t do any significant testing this afternoon. I welcome reports of success or difficulties in using the, I can be contacted via mesh at my UID: 9229 0810 5651 83


#17

Ok, you’ve gotta look into becoming the gotenna Mayor (under the new program) for Urbana!


#18

Going to have to do some more testing tomorrow on the south end. UMESH2 may not be online despite plenty of power and what I believed to be a good location. I may have fat-fingered unpairing the fully charged goTenna I subbed in for the drained one there. Just not sure, as I double-checked everything…

The northernmost node, UMESH1, is working fine. Testing showed it reached west to Lincoln Square, north to the Walgreens at Five Points and nearly as far south as UMESH2. Have not had a chance to do anything more extensive yet with 2 and 3, but will tomorrow when I’m down that way.

We may have another good location for a stationary node tracked down about halfway between UMESH 1 and 2. Since this has been a link that seems just a little too long to be reliable, this may help.


#19

GoTenna Ambassador might sound less worrisome:smirk:


#20

I’m very happy to report that after further testing all three nodes seem to be up and operational. They form the first thre nodes that make up UMESH (Urbana Mesh Network), a decentralized community resource formed and operated through cooperative initiative. We welcome the efforts of others, in cooperation or independently, to grow the mesh in Urbana and throughout Champaign County.

The mesh runs from the east side of Lincoln Square, north to Five Points, east to about Cottage Grove, then south along it and Philo Road to roughly Colorado, turning west to Anderson, then north to Washington, west to Maple, then back to Lincoln Square. This is approximate coverage. YMMV. We’ll try to keep it on because we like its usefulness.

Currently, due to firmware limitations, meshing is limited to four hops, but the upcoming firmware update promises to allow messages to travel the full length of our network and beyond.

One feature that proved especially useful in determining coverage can be found in the location sharing menu accessed via the crosshair icon just to the left of the text entry box in the app. You can turn it on temporarily (I used 1 minute reporting intervals for 15 minutes), then drive. and the resulting list will provide a pretty accurate guide to reception.

A pic of e at Harbor Freight.

And here’s the install underway at the hands of one of our experienced second-story operatives