Thursday, June 02, 2011

Internet Shoebox V1.0

Note: This post was intended to go out back in January right after MadHackerHaus and never got finished/published

The Internet Shoebox is a collection of equipment to provide reliable WiFi Internet in a place that may not have WiFi, or assist coverage of existing venue. The Internet Shoebox is sorta like a mifi type device, but hopefully better, with less limitations. The Verizon or Sprint Mifi type devices normally support around 5 devices. When at a tech event five is a very limiting number, we almost had 5 devices connected in the mini van for the trip down to MadHackerHaus at Sector67.  The number of devices supported will be based more off upstream connection rather than a fixed limit.  The Mifi devices also have limited WiFi range and crappy battery life.  Version 1.0 of the Internet Shoebox can work great, but I was somewhat disappointed with the overall performance.

The Internet Shoebox has three main components, a Linksys WRT54G, a broken Cradlepoint MBR1000 Router and a Linksys WAP54G. The Linksys WRT-54G is running DD-WRT and used to share wifi to be used by devices and provide QOS.  The Cradlepoint is providing the wan connections.  The WAP54G can be used to connect to an upstream wifi connection.

The Cradlepoint router can load balance over up to 4 connections, for most of my use, I was using a USB Sprint card and a USB US Cellular card. With the Cradlepoint, each connection is its own path to the Internet so the router does not bundle connections up into once fast connection.  This means that any connection is only as fast as the connection that the data is router over.  Now with more than one connection things will speed up but load balancing on the Cradlepoint seems to suck.  It seems to preference one of the connections over the other.  The router also doesn't do any quality of service, or speed tests on the connections.  At any point it might be picking the slower connection or one that hardly has service.  While mobile we had bad packet loss on the upstream USB connections at some points durning the drive.

I still need to do more testing to determine ways to improve the setup and see what I can to to improve, I would also like to make custom housing to hold all the devices and add a fan to aid in cooling all three devices that tend to get fairly warm while being used.  Also each device has its own power brick at the moment and all of them are 12volts so I plan to combine them all down to one power brick to make it easier to plug in.  I also want to setup a power cord for use in the car to make mobile use easier.

If you want to see a picture, you can visit Internet Shoebox project page on the DHMN wiki.

Update: The Internet Shoebox was used on the road trip to the Milwaukee Makerspace Open house in April, but didn't get as much testing, and only had one USB card that day because that was all I could borrow for the day.