Here’s the thing about deleting your FaceBook account

When you finally reach the breaking point, you’re sick of all of the infighting and bickering, all of the people requiring that you look at things from their perspective, but refuse to see it from yours. When you have an opinion about politics that’s a bit too middle of the road for your left or right friends. When your family, your extended family, and/or your friends of your family engage in the kind of ‘behind the keyboard’ backstabbing, opinion tossing, open slandering of people that you care about – all because there are no repercussions – all under the guise of ‘I know someone better than you do’. When you’ve finally had enough and you go to delete your FaceBook account, you want to tell people. You want to educate them that the mire they’re drowning in, contributing to, addicted to – the social infighting, the ‘I’m better than you and here’s why’. Unfortunately when you compose a lengthy, well worded thought out op-ed piece on why you’ve finally given up on all of them, then delete your account – that post goes along with it. For those that actually reach the breaking point, then follow through with their account deletion, there is a narrow window of time between you saying goodbye to the world and that post being deleted for no one else to ever see. Fortunately for me, I have a blog and other social media accounts that for some reason have stayed clear of the close and personal infighting that’s the impetus for this post. I’ll be cross posting this blog post here (on since it is technology related by way of it’s social media commentary – which has an odd tie to the technology I’m passionate about.

When my childhood friend decided today to make very public a private conversation with my older brother, people did what people do – decided to make assumptions about my brother’s intentions and decided they were going to turn into social commentators. Sadly, my friend did nothing to assuage the beratement that ensued, even encouraging it with comments about how recent holiday visits had been ‘awkward’. Couple that with his mother (and my mothers ‘best friend’) participating in the debasing spectacle assuming my brother was looking for ‘glee’.

Needless to say, it’s been far too long since I’ve made a stand. I’ve kept my political affiliation to myself (there is one person in the world that *knows* who I voted for, and I sleep next to her every night). You, dear reader, can make all the assumptions you want around who I support and why I support but I was raised that your political decisions are yours and yours alone. I try to keep a level head around the extreme on either side of the fence, trying to understand both perspectives, but the shameful display that occurred today, only has a single silver lining. That my sister in law had a chance to stand up for her husband. I’m ashamed to not have taken a stand before (I missed the last go ‘round) but it’s time to rectify that now. Clearly the longtime bond between our families has turned out to be just a sham.

Now, I’m getting ready to bring my second child into this world. I’ll protect them and my firstborn from the bullshit faux friends and infighting that’s ultimately the cancer that will cripple us all. You will not know about my child. You will not know if they’re boy or girl. You will not see pictures of them unless you text me (or I text you). This is not a challenge to repost, like, or otherwise solicit a response from you. It is merely a good bye. Your infighting has broken me. I’m done and it’s time I take a page out of my younger’s brothers book and say goodbye to FaceBook for good. In the narrow window between me posting this and deleting my account, if you happen to read it – please know – when you challenge my family, they will always wins out over you. It’s up to you how you support whom but when you call into question the goodness of a public servant – then expect that person to come rescue your ass when your house is burning down around you, you should know that despite the fact that you were an asshole to him, he’ll still help you.

The E is for Easy

I’ve been struggling to put into words just how straightforward configuring the ePMP 1000 from Cambium Networks is. While that may sound like something completely boring to write about, I assure you, once you’ve tried to administer or even out of the box configure Point to Point links from the likes of most anyone else, you really come to appreciate the simplicity and readiness of the out of the box experience that Cambium has so clearly focused on. The ePMP 1000 unit is part of the broader Cambium Backhaul and Access portfolio and can be used in a variety of roles depending on your network layout and your overall throughput and performance needs. Architecture and design topics aside, the biggest challenge I had with the evaluation units I received was making sure they had the latest firmware on them. Starting there (and that was even really straightforward), I applied the latest firmware to both units then cleared their configs. I took the remote side (Subscriber Module) and put it in the other room with local power applied to it. I then powered up the close unit and changed it to ‘Access Point’ then rebooted it. From this point forward, all of the other settings were optional including changing my hostnames, IP addresses, NTP servers, SNMP strings, etc. The point being, when they say ‘Quick Start’, they mean quick!

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.25.36 AM

The SM (Subscriber Module) joined the AP (Access Point) as close to ‘automatically’ as I could envision a product being. Of course, just because they came up rapidly doesn’t mean they’re short on features or configurable options – there’s no need to stick to the default security settings, management settings, or any of the radio specific performance settings – all seem to be highly customizable and well worth exploring.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.38.55 AM

Easy to understand SM link info

One other ‘nice feature’ is of course the SNMP polling you’d expect from a good piece of network gear. While it may seem like a simple feature, the ability to setup MRTG at point it at a radio interface for downlink SNR was very easy to do. Here is the snippet I used from MRTG after changing my SNMP community strings:

Title[ePMPdownSNR]: ePMP1000 downlink SNR
MaxBytes[ePMPdownSNR]: 100
Options[ePMPdownSNR]: gauge,growright,nopercent
PageTop[ePMPdownSNR]: <H1>ePMP1000 downlink SNR</H1>
ShortLegend[ePMPdownSNR]: SNR
YLegend[ePMPdownSNR]: SNR
LegendI[ePMPdownSNR]: SNR
LegendO[ePMPdownSNR]: SNR

and here’s what the resultant charts look like:

cambium daily

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.51.42 AM

All in all, if you’re in the market for a new point to point solution, I’d advocate you go check out the ePMP and other Cambium products. They’re priced right and have the features that make sense.

Full disclosure: as a Wireless Field Day 8 delagate, Cambium Networks provided me a pair of ePMP 1000 units for personal use with no obligation to write about them. The above article is done at no cost or commitment to either the Tech Field Day organization or Cambium Networks.



As requested, here are some pictures of the gear itself.




Outdoor 802.11ac – doing it right.

When you talk about seeing the proliferation of 802.11ac devices, most often it’s with regard to indoor devices or at least ‘under roof’ devices. Until recently, there have been very few options for putting 802.11ac outdoors. One of the very good reasons for this wasn’t because of environmentals (you can put an indoor 802.11ac Access Point in a protective enclosure), it was about getting enough signal to and from your clients to be able to see any actual performance benefits. Cisco just launched their 1572 outdoor 802.11ac Access Point and as you’d expect, it sports many features that make it ‘a cut above the rest’.

I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a unit for the past several weeks and there are two of these features that I’d like to highlight:

Feature 1) Radio performance: These things are loud. I think the phrase ‘hella loud’ is more akin to what is reality. At 30dBm transmit power in UNII-3 (here in the states, FCC), it’s significantly more than what you’d be able to get out of a typical indoor Access Point (usually caps at about 20dBm). This means that more power out gets a cleaner RF signal to your client which means better modulation, which means faster speeds. That’s only half of the story though. What stands out is that Cisco went the extra mile and dramatically improved the receive sensitivity of these radios. This means that the AP can hear the signal coming from the client more cleanly which improves the clients ability to talk faster and get off of the air sooner. In mobile clients, this is the end-game for improving battery life. When you couple both of these things with high-gain antennas, you get significantly larger cell sizes outdoors with the awesome byproduct of actually being able to *use* the AP from a distance.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.25.15 PMFor comparison, you can see a sampling of the receive sensitivity values from a competitors outdoor AP. All values represented in dBm. Don’t forget that 3dBm is twice the power so each 3dBm is the equivalent of doubling your receive sensitivity!

Feature 2) PoE out. This is one of the most commonly asked feature that I find lacking in other solutions and it’s a simple one. The ability to hang a PoE powered surveillance camera off of an outdoor AP or even a PoE powered switch gives you the flexibility to take greater advantage of the investment you’re expending on the installation anyway. In short, if you’re going to run power, make it more useful to your infrastructure and business needs than ‘just to support an AP’.

If you couple these features with the other general awesomeness of the AP including ruggidization, real spectrum intelligence, 4×4 transmitters and receivers for 3 spatial streams, Fiber and cable uplink options, and field upgradability makes this the outdoor 802.11ac Access Point that you wish you had.

Bridging networks on a VM

So, you’ve got your shiny new Mac and you’re in that ‘in-between’ time where you’re running a VM to support all of your Windows needs. You decide that your VM needs to be connected to the same Layer 3 network as your physical box so you decide to change your VM network settings from ‘NAT’ to ‘Bridged’. This seemingly simple configuration change has some pretty significant ramifications in the Cisco wireless world however so you may be shocked to find out when you take your beloved Mac back to work that your VM stops getting an IP address! As it turns out, there is a feature enabled by default on a Cisco lightweight wireless infrastructure that is spelled out thusly:

In the controller software Release 5.2 or later releases, the controller enforces strict IP address-to-MAC address binding in client packets. The controller checks the IP address and MAC address in a packet, compares them to the addresses that are registered with the controller, and forwards the packet only if they both match. 

Since your Mac(intosh) uses a single adapter (your WLAN adapter) for the connection to the network, the controller only sees a single MAC address. This means that it will only let a single IP address talk on the network since it’s expecting a 1:1 mapping of MAC address to IP address. The quickest way around this is the following global command on your WLC:

config network ip-mac-binding disable

Which will remove this 1:1 mapping expectation. Don’t forget to save your config and you should be good to go with IP addresses issued via DHCP to both your real machine and the Virtual Machines living behind the bridged VM network!

It should also be noted that many ‘security appliances’ serving as your DHCP server will refuse to issue multiple IP addresses to a single MAC address, effectively recreating identical symptoms (a VM that get’s no IP address). As far as I know, there is no workaround aside from not using a security appliance for your DHCP server. This is believed to afflict both Palo Altos as well as ASAs and is likely to impact anything else under the guise of a ‘security appliance’. Your best bet is to try and put DHCP services on a real server (Windows DHCP or Linux ISC-DHCPD) or try running it in IOS on your next hop Catalyst switch. You *do* have a next-hop Catalyst switch, right? 🙂

Hands on with the Metageek Wi-Spy DBx

MetaGeek’s Wi-Spy DBx is a small form factor spectrum analyzer which gives you visibility into the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrums allowing you to readily identify sources of interference that may be present. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Ryan Woodings and Trent Cutler from MetaGeek while at the Wireless Tech Field day recently and they gave us the grand tour of their product lineup – hardware and software! Those of you familiar with WiFi technologies (802.11a/b/g/n) know that the frequencies they run in are unlicensed by regulatory bodies (here in the US, that means the FCC). This means that anyone can do anything there and they commonly do! People running non-WiFi devices in the 2.4 and 5GHz spaces can often cause interference for wireless networks causing poor performance, intermittent connectivity, or outright failures of wireless networks – especially in the very crowded 2.4Ghz range. Moving beyond the insight provided by such tools as inSSIDer which can only tell you about WiFi specific data, the Wi-Spy DBx allows you to visualize and identify non-wifi signals such as bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, analog video cameras, and other such obnoxious or potentially damaging signals.
MetaGeek offers a few devices and knowing what you’re looking for in what frequencies is important to selecting the right one. The Wi-Spy 900 is targeted at those looking for devices in the 900MHz range which is not useful to those of us living in the WiFi space (2.4 and 5GHz). Most readers won’t be interested in this but it’s included for completeness. The other three devices that are relevant to our WiFi space are the WiSpy 2.4i, WiSpy 2.4x and the WiSpy DBx. The two 2.4 units are fixed frequency (2.4GHz only). The 2.4i model comes with integrated antennas and the 2.4x comes with a detachable antenna (more on this feature shortly). Both of these units are appropriate for people looking at devices that only support 802.11b/g/n(2.4). The WiSpy DBx allows us to look into the same 2.4GHz spectrum as the i/x models, but also includes visibility into the 5GHz range for those of us looking at 802.11a/b/g/n across the board. With the prevalence of 802.11a devices in many ‘business grade’ laptops and with many 802.11n deices supporting the cleaner 5Ghz frequency, the DBx allows us much greater flexibility and insight into those spaces. Being a very small USB-connected device, it’s about the size of 2 AA batteries, includes an external RP-SMA connector, and a dipole antenna for instant ‘out of the box’ usability. The RP-SMA connector and antenna configuration allows you to remove the included antenna and attach an optional directional ‘device finder’ antenna. The intention here is that if you’re trying to track down an obnoxious source of interference, you can use the external panel antenna to sweep back and forth in an area to see where the signal gets stronger or weaker. Using this method, you can get much closer to ferreting out anything that avails you! 
MetaGeek offers 4 main applications for using their WiSpy devices, the main Chanalyzer application, and Lite, Pro, and Lab versions allowing for a diverse lineup for most any need. The Lite application is for the 2.4i hardware and is otherwise not a part of this review. The main Chanalyzer application is currently at version 4 and is included with the 2.4x and DBx hardware. The bundled application gives you a jumping off point for getting started with spectrum analysis and gives you the familiar ‘squiggly line’ interface as well as some pretty nice approaches to displaying data. The Max/Min and Current display views give you a one-stop glance and utilization in your spectrum for easy to digest and understand information. Chanalyzer also gives you the ability to record data for future review (or submittal back to MetaGeek!) is a feature that allows you to take a snapshot of where you’re at and review it later offline or take it to a friend that may be more fluent in spectrum analysis. With a database of silhouettes to overlay ontop of your view, you basically mix and match patterns of what is live in your environment against known or common interferes. This gives you a pretty straightforward way to identify the type of devices you’re looking for so you can narrow down if you should be hunting high for video cameras or low for microwaves.
The Chanalyzer Pro application gives you richer insight into your environment with the addition of a waterfall view along the left pane of the application. You use this to navigate through time as a running tally over the length of a capture. The addition of the new duty cycle view gives you a straightforward view of ‘consumed airspace’ and several other features such as device finding (recommend using the device finder antenna attachment for this!) as well as a very flexible report builder round out this application for those looking to ‘step up’ from the default Chanalyzer application. At $499, those looking to start offering ‘commercial grade’ reports and services to customers, this is right up your alley. As an additional incentive, MetaGeek offers a $99 savings when purchased with the DBx hardware so if you’re thinking this is where you’re going to end up, and you can stomach the extra $300, keep that in mind.
Those of you looking for the geek-out application will be interested to know that MetaGeek is also offering Chanalyzer Lab which allows you to fidget with the hardware knobs inside the analyzer hardware. This application isn’t for everyone but is indispensable for those looking for much more granularity into frequency and amplitude data. MetaGeek has made this application quite affordable at $99 so those of you looking for an environment rich in tweaking and tuning, or if you’re simply more interested in how RF works and want to dig deeper into frequency analysis, this application is compatible with the 900x, 2.4x and DBx hardware.
All three applications I tested (Chanalyzer, Pro, and Lab) required no obnoxious considerations and were very straightforward to install. There were no special drivers required on my Windows 7 VM running in Fusion on a MacBook Pro. In this configuration, the Windows OS has no direct access to the wireless card in my MacBook so I was unable to retrieve local WiFi data while using the product. Those using BootCamp to natively run Windows on your MacBook shouldn’t run into this problem but us Fusion/Parallels users are out of luck on this particular featureset until we get an OS X native version of the Chanalyzer applications. Those familiar with auto-device classification found in higher end PC based spectrum analyzers will find this particular feature missing from the Chanalyzer lineup. This ability to ‘set it and forget it’ to gather a running tally of interferes is one of the most significant features missing from an otherwise fairly complete product lineup. Given that these other analyzers typically range into the $2-3k+ range, it’s entirely plausible to find compromise for users looking for spectrum analyzers and can be flexible with their requirements.
In all, the DBx is an excellent product for the vast majority of those people looking to get data about their 2.4 and 5GHz spectrums. The flexible application approach give users the ability to make a minor investment upfront in the hardware and grow as they can justify it. While the Wi-Spy may not be appropriate for those few outstanding enterprise environments that require additional integration or those looking to automatically classify sources of interference, it is a perfect tool for those environments that don’t have newer infrastructure devices that can give them insight into their spectrum but don’t want to break the bank on some of the ‘big-boy’ analyzers. The folks at MetaGeek have done a graceful job of putting some very powerful tools well within the reach of those that are looking to jump into the wireless game or are looking to augment their personal toolkit with gear that does something that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Full disclosure: I was a delegate for the first ever Wireless Tech Field Day event organized by Stephen Foskett and GestaltIT This event was sponsored by Meta-Geek as well as other presenters including payment of accommodations for all delegates. Evaluation product was distributed to delegates for hands-on exposure for this review. Professionally, I work for a VAR which provides services for industry leading technology manufacturers. The views expressed on this blog are my personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect opinions my employer.

Who said 5GHz was ‘clean’? :)

Here I am at home today being a good survey engineer and making sure all of my tools are in proper working order prior to going out and having to rely on them for the week when all of a sudden, I’m presented with the following anomaly when I’m exercising my trusty Spectrum Analyzer:

Those of you that are familiar with Spectrum Analysis in general usually expect to see something this bad (high duty cycle) in the 2.4GHz spectrum but not the mid-5GHz spectrum! Having just reloaded my laptop with Windows 7 and installed Service Pack 1, I was in the ‘let’s test it all’ mode to make sure nothing unexpected happens. At this point, I was pretty blindsided by the obnoxious noise happening and the ‘Generic – Fixed Frequency’ tag wasn’t helping me any. At a loss for what this could be since I live an acre away from my nearest neighbor and several miles from the nearest airport, I pinged a few of my friends. They suggested the usual suspects – MRI machine, TDWR, neighbors, etc all of which I explained away by location. Being that TDWR is in the 5470-5725 frequency, I changed my card over to 5.725 – 5.850 and after some time got this equally disturbing read:

At this point, I started to suspect my Spectrum Analyzer since I was using a non-Cisco branded Spectrum Analyzer card with the Cisco Spectrum Expert software (the card I was using had the Cognio components that Cisco purchased and re-branded as their own). So I grabbed a copy of the card manufacturers software to rule out in compatibility and I got the same results.

At the end of the day, I was able to swap in a Cisco branded SA card and my results normalized. Clearly I have a flakey (old) SA card that was giving me improper readings. Lessons learned:

  • Always test your tools and keep them in good working order
  • Don’t assume that your tools are telling you the truth. If you see something suspect, dig into it and validate against another source
Now I’m sure that I have a good card in hand I can go confidently into my week and knock this survey out of the park!

New survey rig!

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve been out on a survey proper (not sure if that’s good or bad) and a while back I got some new components in for my rig. I was debating on retrofitting my trusty black Pelican 1510 case with new foam or getting a new one. Never one to spend needlessly, I trickle-down upgraded someone else with my old case and opted for a shiny new tan colored case – As far as I know, I’ll be the only one on our survey teams for the foreseeable future with a tan case so it should make it easier to tell mine apart. 🙂 So, a new Pelican case, a new battery for my Terrawave survey pack, a shiny new Cisco 1142, and some various other bits an pieces all get massaged into the pick-and-pluck foam of the kit. Revisiting the way I hang my AP during the survey was something I’ve been meaning to address for quite a while. I opted for the 2x 90 degree painter pole arms and a drywall finishing brush (sans bristles) and some good old fashioned drilling to assemble a pretty graceful looking mount:

The intermediary piece attached to the factory mount bracket is the brush head that I picked up from The Home Depot in their drywall finishing section:

Home Depot – Drywall Stippling Brush

After ripping out the bristles, a choice few holes later and my mount was ready! Next to place the battery and AP + mount in the bottom of the Pelican case and outline the pick-and-pluck:

Here is what the bottom of the Pelican looks like with the components nestled in – I coiled my CAT5 network cable around the mount and laid in the two 90 degree arms:

Add a top layer with some space for my spare laptop batteries, the AC adapter and some survey cards and call it just about done:

Now I’m off for a week of surveying!