Broadband-Hamnet™ Forum :: General
Welcome Guest   [Register]  [Login]
 Subject :Discussion: Philospohy and the future of the mesh..... 2015-02-16- 13:35:41 
Joined: 2014-08-02- 20:59:51
Posts: 67

Philosophy and the future of the mesh...


I know that the developers and guys who started it all probably already had this discussion, but I wasn't around then. I came to the party late and am catching up as fast as I can. Part of my joy of this discovery is sharing with others...


I had a conversation with a fellow ham (AKA fellow old fart) recently, talking about how much our hobby has evolved over the years. We grew up building Heathkit kits. Radio Shack was a regular Saturday afternoon adventure when we were kids. Both of us have been around since vacuum tubes – back when REAL radios glowed in the dark! We saw the transition to transistors, then to microchips and then to VLSI and then to “I couldn't solder that if I wanted to!”


A lot has changed... But we still use radio waves to talk to one another.


We got to talking about RTTY and AMTOR and Packet. We got to talking about the coming wave of Mesh networking and how it could change the game for some folks. We also got to talking about how new technology can be and will be used. And how it dies.


I was a satellite chaser for years. Not many people did that. I was one of a group of guys who flew balloons with electronic payloads to the edge of space. Not too many people did that. I got into digital modes and amateur television. Not to many people did that either. But, as we discussed, the question was laughingly posed - “How many hams DONT have a computer now days?!?”


Every one I know does... It's like the radios and computers go together anyway – most of them just don't hook them up together. And if they do, they are down on HF trying to get some DX... They use websites to find the hot spots...


Packet sort of died. It was too slow to be useful for most people. Except for the die hard APRS guys, I don't know too many people that fiddle with packet anymore. It's there. But it isn't the adventure it once was!


ATV sort of up and died... With the switch over to digital TV, and the death of the NTSC standard, most hams went and spent their energies elsewhere. Besides, there's only so many times you can see the inside of one guys shack before it becomes boring...


The satellites have all but disappeared but for some LEO's that don't last very long. There's some broken decrepit hardware still limping along far past its expected lifetime up there. It's a crap shoot as to whether you can work it this pass or the next. You would think by 2015 we would have a geostationary sat up there with people doing data and voice through it all the time! But no... we have cube sats the size of a rubicks cube that last for months and then burn up coming down.


But everybody has a computer... And the internet... And some antenna space...


I see some real potential for HamNet. But its success or failure will be in the philosophy of its implementation...


I know a lot of emergency services guys see all sorts of potential. I see some hobbyists salivating. I see propeller head engineers and software nerds perk up with anticipation. It's not scary – it's Linux...


But as our conversation wore on, we kept coming back to “it aint gonna be a success unless it is FUN!” If it isn't fun to explore, it will probably die like AMTOR and Packet and ATV and Satellite chasing. This new stuff needs to be FUN in order to get other people involved that ARE NOT tech-types!


How do you get young folks interested in Ham radio? Give them something to relate to. My own son yawns when I get to talking about ham radio. But when I start talking about WiFi his ears perk up. That's one of the ways to sucker them into learning about the hobby. Most kids and young people I know today are pretty well versed in computers and the web.


Kids and young people are much more “Monkey see – Monkey do” than other demographics. If they see people doing something interesting, they may want to join in. If you can't show them a network or other people doing something FUN, they probably will just go back to their X-box.


I know I would! Have you SEEN these games these kids are playing now?!? LOL


I know my interest is piqued about HamNet! This is what packet SHOULD have been... But if the only thing I could go out there and see and explore was a rasberry pi phone system for emergency drills in upper Montana... Or a webcam you can't get into because you don't know the super secret pass word. OR a web server that shows the club meeting times for a club in the middle of the frozen tundra of Alaska in February. I probably wouldn't spend much time or energy in playing with this facet of the hobby... Would you?


Content and philosophy of what you put out there becomes an issue... It's what will hook people into thinking this might be something FUN to do. Without it, it is only an exercise to build something that may never be used in an emergency.


My fellow old fart kind of agreed that if this new HamNet thing is going to succeed, it needs to be fun, something exciting to explore and worth poking around and wasting some time on.


He said - “Once the temple is built – we need some dancing girls to draw the crowd in... :)”


Not quite the same thing as Ham radio – but yeah... yeah... I had to agree to the point.


Unless you can show that there is an actual network of people out there doing the same thing, few people will want to try it out. If you don't make it FUN, few people will stick around after trying it. Without interesting content and capabilities, it is just a waste of time for most people...


The philosophy of it all brings about some interesting possible scenarios.


If it is over run with the Emergency Services guys – it will become “Stand by for emergency Traffic!” that never comes... Or when it does, everyone will be more busy trying not to be drowned by the flood than worry about their computer network. If you live in Tornado alley, cowering in the storm shelter is probably more important than erecting an emergency node when the siren in town goes off... After the storm, it could be a useful tool – but what about the 99.9% of the rest of the time?


If it is over run with techno nerds – the non techie-types will not stick around to make things interesting. I showed a friend a map of nodes all over Texas – and his comment was “How do you know what anybody has online?” When I showed him and he asked “How do you search for content?” I told him I had no idea, the network hasn't grown to the point of needing such a thing – but it's coming, just plant that idea in some programmers mind and it will come about!


If there is nothing out there but emergency test beds, web cams that you can't get into and IP phones – why on earth would anyone waste their time in playing with this stuff? I don't want to ring somebody's emergency response line at 3 in the morning just to see if it works...


It becomes apparent that a lot of things will shake out over time. Apps will be written and functionality will evolve, just like the web did. The limit is only the imaginations of those who use it... The future programmers of this mesh we probably haven't met yet. But they are coming – if we get them interested enough!


I think its success or failure will rest upon the philosophy of how it is used... Whether it is FUN or not kind of depends on people like you and I...


I wanna give good content... :)


What do YOU guys think?  Give me some input here... :)  I LIKE corrupting people!


Bill – N5MBM

IP Logged
 Subject :Re:Discussion: Philospohy and the future of the mesh..... 2015-02-16- 15:54:13 
Joined: 2010-10-06- 23:04:25
Posts: 54

It all seems to stem from the ARRL HSMM working group from a number of years ago. Despite that group falling apart, independently amateurs all over the place have embraced the technology. It's great in my opinion.

As interest in voice repeaters continues to wane, multi-media networks do make perfect sense. These more modern types of networks have the potential to draw new blood into the hobby. New hams who have software skills that can help the community with software defined radio and so forth.

Outside ham radio, as consumers were now live in a world where to keep thing interesting and new we have a flexible application space. Be that apps on our phones, software on our PCs, and even firmware updates to our more hardware like devices. That has been notable absent in ham radio. I.e. What it is when you buy it, is what it will be 5 years from now unless you want to totally replace it for the tune of several hundred dollars.

Ham radio used to be a good starting place for many who later entered broadcast and electronics careers. Today those positions are few and far between due to disposable electronics and consolidation of engineers with mega broadcast groups. What is the most notable/abundant "tech" career today is IT (information technology) work. Ironically today wireless is all around us as consumers. 3 and 4G, bluetooth, proximity sensors etc.

In my humble and simple opinion: These types of networks are long over due, and I am glad they are continuing to grow. It helps ham radio stay relevant. And ham radio provides a platform for those who want to learn about wireless technology by experimenting.

IP Logged
Last Edited On: 2015-02-16- 15:55:52 By kb9mwr for the Reason
 Subject :Re:Discussion: Philospohy and the future of the mesh..... 2015-02-16- 18:10:46 
Joined: 2013-12-02- 19:52:05
Posts: 516

A little bit of context goes a long way too.

The way I look at this its "High Speed Packet"  

One may call packet slow, but also must remember when it came out in the 80's even a hard line modem was slow, the fact it was done over wireless was amazing in and of itself.  I'm sure the same thing will happen with these networks some day in the future as technology continues to evolve.

Though we have an advantage, everything is standardized protocols above the control layer.  IP stacks are meant to talk with everyone and they run independent of the lower level stack (This means as RF modems change the network itself should be able to continue to grow out.  I actually heard of someone using an ID-1 the other day as an Access client to a central node)

The network is only what you make of it, what users put on it and choose to use.  That will all come down to what your local designers do.

As one of the programmers writing code I see my job to make the network systems work,  that is my responsibility because if I fail at that level nothing can work.  At the end of the day it doesn't concern me what happens above me as I'm dealing OSI layers 1-3  and applications are up at layer 7.

A lot of what I look at goes into from the emergency communications focused because ultimately that's where our licensed permission comes from to operate these networks long term, and they are the users who will gain some of the best benefit from these robust networks as when the disasters strike we won't have the internet to fall back on in many cases. However the two are not mutually exclusive, what may not be obvious at first glance is the requirements of what is needed for an EMCOMM network (reliability, stability, and ease of use) are actually what are needed by a hobby network, the only difference is when you think EMCOMM you usually will plan for those items as core mandatory instead of second look items.

Another forum thread said it well either today or yesterday that you are "only limited to your imagination" (and law of course.)

What we are designing is the network layer, it really is up to those who wish to use it how they use it.  The "mesh" isn't the programs that run on top of it, it is a data pipe, nothing more nothing less and it sure isn't an internet replacement.  We as HAM's have different needs than the internet, if we didn't we wouldn't design these networks in the first place we would just use the internet.

The fact we are not the internet is probably the biggest area to think around because for the younger generation like myself the general answer will be "oh well I can do that on the internet" and they are right, these networks bring in an ability to deal with systems when the internet is down or not available and that's where one will find a lot less people (in my experience) think of the situation.

BTW: "standby for emergency traffic" is the worst way to use ANY system in my opinion,  you design it to handle the emergency traffic, but it should be regularly exercised and pushed to its limits. We saw this when we had the major power blackout, lots of backup generators failed due to overheating (got to love 15 minute max test run time regulations) so yes local users need to use it.

** The opinions above are my own and do not represent the official opinions or policies of the BBHNDev team **

IP Logged
Note: Most posts submitted from iPhone
 Subject :Re:Discussion: Philospohy and the future of the mesh..... 2015-02-17- 07:08:09 
Joined: 2012-03-05- 10:47:45
Posts: 181
Location: San Diego, CA

Boy, you guys have gotten long-winded ;-)

I see three types of mesh users:

  • Those who are toying with it and perhaps build it to do cool things with.  We see a lot of guys building neighborhood networks to do fun things with.  They attract others to the hobby because it affords them the ability to participate.  These are the guys who use primarily Linksys devices because they're cheap and well suited for their purposes.
  • Those who weren't looking for it, but have found it and are now applying it to fill a particular need.   These are the Field Day loggers, the Ultra Run support crews, the remote surveillance cameras, the guy who extends Internet-access to his ham shack, etc.
  • Those who have longed for this technology... see it as a game-changer in their particular space and are now exploiting it for that purpose.  This includes the Emcomm guys that are purposefully building a mesh infrastructure network with backbone and mid-mile nodes. 

All three are legitimate and justified in the adoption of this technology.  But obviously not all have the same motivation.  So depending on which group you are in, you will have different opinions on what's important, different requests for features, and different support needs.  Most of us in the BBHNDev group are in the third category... including myself.

We can all agree though, that mesh is just a network.  You need to put services on it for it to become fun or useful. And you need to use those services routinely if you expect them to be there when you want or need them.

Enough of this philosophy... now turning control back over to my left brain.

Andre, K6AH

IP Logged
Last Edited On: 2015-02-17- 08:01:27 By K6AH for the Reason
Member of:
Beta Test Team
San Diego Mesh Working Group
Running 3.0.1
 Subject :Re:Discussion: Philospohy and the future of the mesh..... 2015-03-06- 18:11:15 
Joined: 2014-08-02- 20:59:51
Posts: 67

Thanks for your comments guys!

I kind of wanted to hear what they guys on the ground floor envisioned for all of this...  I see a lot of possibilities. But I don't want my enthusiasm to over ride what people originally wanted to do with it.

I have a habit of getting excited about something like this and jumping in with both feet!  You want proof?  Just look at my node list down below! LOL  I put all the stuff from my website on the mesh too!

I see this as what packet should have been.  A different kind of web.  A "ham" web!  A whole lot of guys with stuff idling away in their shack, making it available for other people to play with...  I don't mind sharing my toys!  Besides, exploring stuff out there is kind of fun!

But I also see a need for some "Best Operating Practices and Standards" coming together...  And the longer I play with this stuff, and the more people come online with tunneling, the more important it will become.  Naming conventions, node list info pages, MORE resources to explore and play with and standardized user accounts and passwords on peoples web cams...  It IS coming together!

I stuck "MyNodeListInformation" html files in the www directories of some of my nodes explaining what the resources were, how to access them and their passwords - it helps newbies!  If anyone wants info on how to do this, drop me a line.

Now, I want to not only see more nodes in my list - I want to see MORE resources to explore! :)

Thanks for the comments!  And continue the discussion - where do YOU see this going in the next few years?!?  :)

Bill - N5MBM

IP Logged
Page # 

Powered by ccBoard