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Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA]

Established: January, 1958  an ARRL Affiliated Club since 1961

"Whiskey 8 Quack Quack Quack"

Meets at: James P. Capitan Center, Lower Level; 149 E. Corunna Ave.; Corunna, MI 48817

Club station located in the James P. Capitan Center - Lower Level.
Grid Square EN72wx   Latitude: 42.9819 N   Longitude: -84.1164 W   Alitude: 760 ft.



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Converting a Router to BBHN ~ Information

Router to Broadband-Hamnet BBHN Instructions:

Kevin Middleton, K8MID (was KD8OUF); Mike Rothe, AB8VS; and Don Warner, WB8GUS each obtained two (or more) of the correct version of WRT54G routers (2013). This allowed us to setup small independent MESH networks (multiple nodes) and then together, we were using the six units (plus) on a mesh working network, all at one time. Later additional nodes were brought online using Ubiquiti equipment. If you want your own small Mesh network, you will need to get at least a pair of compatible routers ~ LinkSys or Ubiquiti. Also, you will need two or more computers to use the network. In June, 2016, we increased the node numbers and have a mix of Linksys WRT54G, Raspberry Pi and Ubiquiti units in Mesh operation. The Broadband-Hamnet (was HSMM-MESH) web site has information on which hardware versions of the routers are compatible with BBHN. We continue to use the nodes for each station at the Field Day operation site for coordinateed logging software interconnects in 'real time' (2018+).

IMPORTANT: You must have the correct router HARDWARE version(s) to get it working. If it is not on the 'supported hardware' list, do not even try to use it. See the BBHN hardware list of supported hardware do this before making your purchases. You must have the correct hardware and matching software for that specific hardware for the 'network' to work. {Use the link at the top of their page: "Supported Hardware"}.

  1. Step 1: Browse to the broadband-hamnet.org software download page and downloaded the latest "Broadband-Hamnet" software image "for your specific router" that you wish to convert. Be sure to get the proper software to match to your hardware, the software sets are NOT interchanageable to other router hardware. The broadband-hamnet site has good instructions for installing the firm ware: Broadband-Hamnet Firmware Instalation Instructions

    • It is reccommended you print these instructions for later use.
    • In BBHN's Step 1 of instructions, click software download page.
    • Download the latest BBHN-MESH firmware for your router(s), it depends on the specific router model number - again they MUST be paired with the correct versions. Ensure that the file name(s) you get end with the bin extension and remember, or write down, exactly where they are located on your computer. Not a good time to just use your memory. Things are complex and to not stay static on your system.
    • Just follow the steps (very carefully) and you will have the Mesh Network working soon.

Step 2: Turn off the wireless link on your computer and connect the computer's network cable to one of the router's LAN ports with a ethernet cable. Your computer should have no other network connections, wired or wireless, just the the cable going to the BBHN-MESH router. Please read that again, it is important!

We initially followed the instructions for "routers with factory firmware".

    1. in a Web browser go to http://192.168.1.1 ...this is the router's factory setup web page (from LinkSys or Ubiquiti).
    2. user = admin ...assumes no one has changed value.
    3. password = admin ...this assumes no one has changed value. If it was changed, search the internet for how to reset to the factory settings on your router.
    4. click Administration
    5. click Firmware Upgrade
    6. click Browse and select the file(s) you need to downloaded, I used bbhn-1.0.0-wrt54g.bin for my Linksys units.
    7. click Upgrade then be patient.

Step 3: Wait for the router to reboot and blink its LEDs as described in the printed instructions. Unplug the network cable and plug it in again this causes the computer to reset its network connection. (You could go thru an 'ipconfig' release and renew process in a DOS command window, but the unplug and replug the cable seems easier for most.)

Step 4: In the printed instructions, it is important to understand that you will be using the "Node Name" for each router later in configuring your network. Take the time to keep a complete list of the routers you work on (computer or handwriten is fine). The next step in these instructions sets up these names. Also, the username, 'root', and the password (for our area we suggest "scmesh", see our Shiawassee Mesh Standards for node names and password suggestions {scmesh = Shiawassee County MESH}, at least use somethong simple initially). You may come back and modify for more security later.

Step 5: Follow the MESH instructions to store a callsign as part of the router's name (part of legal ID requirements for ham stations). As the control operator, this final step is required before using the routers. We use different callsign names for our routers, a hyphen, then NODE,AP,BRIDGE, or NODE as a router type, a hyphen, then a three digit number. My initial two were WB8GUS-NODE-101 and WB8GUS-NODE-102.

As listed our router's list initially had:

  • Username        PW          Hostname/Node Name
  •   root           WB8GUS         WB8GUS-NODE-101
  •   root           WB8GUS         WB8GUS-NODE-102
  •   root           KD8OUF          KD8OUF-NODE-101
  •   root           KD8OUF          KD8OUF-NODE-901-GATEWAY
  •   root           AB8VS            AB8VS-NODE-101
  •   root           AB8VS            AB8VS-NODE-102

After transforming your routers into Broadband-Hamnet-v1 nodes and installing two (or more) different computers (one computer per router) to the router's cabled ethernet LAN ports. Power up both of the routers and both of the computers. Start a web browser on each of the computers and type

http://localnode:8080

into the 'address bar' on each. This will take you to the router's internal setup web page(s). Ask for the mesh network's status, and the web page should list what is connected. Mine had that WB8GUS-NODE-101 can see node WB8GUS-NODE-102 and vice versa (Your node names from your list are what you want to see!)

On one of the computers, click Node Status and then click the second routers node name link. You should be connected to the second routers node status screen, if not, you have missed something and you will need to correct the misstep. If things are well here, you are done with the basic router setup. Disconnect one ethernet cable/computer, You no longer need the computer. We will use the wireless connection from one router to work on the second one's setup. Get a web browser up and sign in using the localnode:8080 procedure and start exploring your network from the router/computer still connected. If you have problems getting the localnode:8080 to bring up the router's web page, you probably have an error in the DNS server/network settings on that computer, you will need to correct that condition for the mesh to work properly later.

The OLSR Status should be available for you to review. Look through the information provided, as it will show the various network links, addresses, etc. Become familiar with what is connected on your router. {Note: 24-Aug-2014 A reported bug seems to efffect networks with 15+ nodes in the OSLR operation. Watch for new firmware to correct this.}

If you select "Setup", you will be asked for a username and password. Initially the username is 'root'. The initial password is 'hsmm' ... the first time in you will be required to change the password. To start I suggest you use a regional password, we use 'scmesh' as the password. Thus, my user name was 'root' and PW was 'scmesh'. You will need these in the future each time you access the router page, do not lose them. Later you can change them for higher security, always make it something you will be able to remember, or you will be locked out of your system. You will need this information many times when you are starting out, so we suggest something simple. Also, for configuring multiple nodes, it is best to have all you nodes using the same setup details.

We suggest you first select "Help" from the home MESH page and print a copy. It is not to large and has lots of information to assist getting the your routers, nodes, and network operating. It was rewritten with the change from HSMM-MESH to Broadband-Hamnet. An internet search list can be used for more information on what is going on. Again, I like Wikipedia for doing these initial searches. Usually I get information on what I was initially searching for and some additional links with much more detail (at the bottom of the first topic page). This feature is what makes that site very valuable to me. I do an annual contribution to them because they are important to me. {Great work and thanks for these guys/gals!}

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Network Information ~ HSMM/BBHN is "Networking"

If you need to learn about TCP/IP and Subnet Masking on networking systems, we suggest you start by using a "Eli, the computer guy" You-Tube video. Then get busy searching the internet for further information. It gives a good introduction to TCP/IP which is required for meshing operations and takes about an hour (get your coffee/tea before starting it).

You will want to be familiar with some DOS commands (there are similar commands in Linux): ipconfig; tracert; ping; nslookup; & netstat. You will want to look at all the various switches and filters for these commands. HINT: At a DOS prompt, enter the command label followed by a /? which gives you the help screen for the command. Use this to review all those switches and filters {I cannot remember them all either!} These will tell you the IP address for your devices; subnet mask, default gateway, DNS [Domain Name Server], DHCP [Dynamic Host Control Protocol ~ Static and Dynamic Addressing] & Network Address Translation. Knowing this information is the real key to understanding and setting up today's networks (you will become the 'networking expert' among your friends). Take your time and gain a good understanding of this area and the control of a system network becomes much more simple to manage. Oh, if you want a start on those DOS commands try DOS Network Tools - You Tube.

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What's Next?

So that's how we got started with HSMM-MESH networking. Initially we had six nodes all operating at the same time with good status on each. This was to support our first Field Day MESH setup in June, 2013 (these were HSMM-MESH levels). We did it again for 2014 FD with BBHN software (much easier with no port forwarding setup or issues). If you want to get started yourself, we suggest that you obtain a pair of routers per the hardware list and get going. The setup is long and detailed, but not really difficult. Take your time and things will be good. We have used the MESH network for each Field Day since and utilize N3FJP logging software for keeping at radio setups organized. Super Hint: DO NOT wait till Field Day to setup your network system, get it done much earlier. FD is busy enough that you do not want to be struggling with network issues on the day of.

Please, go online to get some further tips about Broadband-Hamnet / HSMM-MESH, read up on IP protocols, networking, IP addressing, etc. and have fun learning about MESHing. We are still looking and learning with our local efforts. We make it a club sub-activity on it's own merits, similar to repeater and D-Star activities. Some members control the details and many club members are the users and benefit from the expertise of our sub-group. We are looking at web cameras, VOIP network phones and email along with some 'drop off' solar powered expansion nodes for quick deployments. Our group would like county wide coverage for emergency situations in the near future.

When the change to BBHN (from HSMM) was made, the BBHN development team (Texas +) changed the network addressing so that "port forwarding" details were no longer required for simple Field Day Logging. Additionally, N3FJP changed all his programs to 'C language' and network supporting features moved into the base programs (was different programs for network vs non-network application in the 'early days'). These were very nice improvements. It helps in getting network operations configured easily. Now (2014 onward) you just need to plug and play the hardware. Setup one of the computers to use a 'shared drive' for the network logging data and then set the remote nodes to use this shared file location. We used Uninterruptable Power Supplies for this computer/router location (stay alive for generator off periods). It played very well for W8QQQ FD logging (SARA club). Messaging (chat) and logging status were shown on all computers correctly and eased the FD operation of four stations at the site. We have used it each year since, through 2018 and waiting for 2019 efforts.

Plans continue to expand for Web cameras and internet phone networks. We wish to expand across our entire county with the network, but efforts seem to be moving slowy. We have started looking at Raspberry Pi for mesh support. Check our RPi page for mesh with raspberries !

Note: The group developing BBHN - Mesh Hamnet dropped working on the WRT54G units in early 2015. This means that future changes will probably be slow or nonexsisent for the Linksys WRT45G. It does NOT mean that the units will not contuinue to work for the future. They will try to make future software compatible with the units, but you need to read carefully as changes come about to insure that your units stay operational. Ubiquiti has been supported, but some of the newer units have issues when trying to prgram. Keep informed and good luck. Also, we suggest you retain active backups for your node software (search the internet).

 

Wishing you a Fun and Productive MESH Networking Future.. 73

 

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