Adding WiFi to Your Whole Farm

Eventually the day finally comes. You’ve known it would come, but you aren’t quite ready for it. The day someone finally gets their new invoice from DTN satellite service and caves. When they total up their quarterly invoice to find out just how much per year they are spending and still not getting all of the market bids they want. That’s when you get the question “What would it take to hook me up to the Internet?”

The situation here is a similar, yet different, from a lot of farm situations. I have an office building on site where I already have HughesNet Internet service. Nearly everyone who lives on a farm knows you cannot afford dial up service. Almost every phone call is long distance and the speed sucks. Since we have another dish up for television service, why get yet another subscription?

My first thought was to just trench CAT 5 cable over to his house to get a good connection, then I measured the distance. Add to that the power, water, and lines I would have to cross it would be quite an ordeal. Second thoughts are sometimes your best. I was going to be faced with getting Internet service into my house once I got done restoring it, so why not provide Internet access to the entire farm? Spending some time on eBay allowed me to acquire all of the components I would need for under $300.

What you need:

Linksys WRT54G wireless router

Linksys WAP54G wireless access point

Linksys 5 port Hub

Outdoor 18dBI Antenna

Some pre-made CAT 5 cables of various lengths.

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what is listed on the box for the product name of the antenna.

When it comes to the CAT 5 cables, just choose where you want everything and eyeball the distance. Cables come in two lengths, too long and too short. Visit your local office supply store (or Target or Kmart for that matter) and choose some that are close to the length you think you need.

As to a computer for him, I had an old AMD 1.8Ghz machine I wasn’t using. A quick trip to the Linux store on-line got a fresh CD with Ubuntu Gutsy distribution on it. When it comes to an end user, Ubuntu is probably the cleanest and easiest to set up OS out there. The CD cost about $17 to have mailed to me. Ubuntu is freely distributable and comes with most everything you would need: OpenOffice word processor/spreadhsheet, Mozilla Web browser, Evolution email, even some games.

The handiest thing you can have or borrow is a notebook computer when you are setting up WiFi for farm access. This allows you to connect to the router, then wander around your farm testing the signal strength.

Mounting for the antenna was simple. It came with a pole mount bracket set. For a pole I found a 10 foot hunk of old water well drop pipe and drove about 3 feet of it in the ground with a fence post driver. The antenna came with 9 feet of lead cable so it was a quick thing to hook up. You need an adapter cable to hook the antenna to one of the antenna ports on the back of the router. This particular router comes with RP-TNC connector and the antenna came with the new standard RP-SMA. You can either order the adapter, get a cable with the correct connector, or do what I did, steal one out of an indoor antenna kit I had from CompUSA.

Please note: the Linksys router and wireless access point both have a reset button on them. You have to actually hold that reset button for about 30 seconds if you need to reset a router back to firmware load conditions.

I downloaded the firmware for both devices before connecting my notebook directly to the router. The following link has some pretty good information about the setup and configuration of this router.

The basic gist is you have to manually set your wired connection to 192.168.1.5 (any final digit other than 1) with a subnet of 255.255.255.0. Open your Web browser and key in 192.168.1.1 (which is the factory default address for the router.) Upload your firmware update as prompted, then wait for the router to reboot. After it reboots you can again go to that address and you will be presented with the configuration menu. There is no username and the password is “admin” (all lowercase without the quotes).

Each time you tell the router to “ save settings” it will take a few seconds for it to reboot. The first settings you want to change are the wireless settings. Ensure you are using channel 6 and supporting mixed mode communications. Save those settings. Connect again and set your router IP address and turn on DHCP on your main page. I run a network of 192.168.2.x so I set my router to 192.168.2.1. Be sure to set your timezone as well.

Turn your router over and write down the MAC address. You will need this later.

Plug the router into your satellite and your external antenna. Make sure everything is turned on.

Now you are ready to configure your access point.

Plug your notebook into the only port on the back of the WAP54G after you have held the reset button the correct length of time. The AP address will be 198.168.1.245, if you still have the manually set up 192.168.1.5 address on your notebook you should be able to open your Web browser and key in the AP address. Upload the firmware and wait for it to reset. Be sure you have the correct version of firmware. There are 4 or 5 different versions of the firmware. The Linksys web site has a lot of instructions about how to identify your version.

You want this access point to work as a range extender, not an access point. One of the options on the Web menu you are presented with is “mode”. Clicking it will bring up a screen with various modes. Chose the range extender or repeater mode. Find the piece of paper you wrote down the MAC address of the router on, and enter the MAC address into the field provided. It will get formatted with colons, so don’t worry if they appear while you are typing, or after you finish.

Save the settings.

Once it reboots, use your browser to connect again. The one critical piece of information missing from the documentation is that you cannot have a static (manually entered) IP address for the AP if you are working in repeater mode. You must let the address be set via DHCP. Choose DHCP assigned address from the main screen. This time when the router reboots you won’t be able to connect to it because it will have a new address. Don’t worry about it, you don’t need to.

Plug your AP into a port on the Hub. Make certain you do NOT plug the cable into one of the Uplink ports. Plug your computer into the hub and set your wired IP connection to use DHCP configuration. Depending upon what OS you are using you may need to reboot your computer after doing this.

Open your Web browser and try to connect to the Internet. Your favorite Web page should appear.

The reason you need to plug into a Hub is that you may want to get a networked printer later on, or an additional computer. Might as well set it up correctly the first time.

With this type of WiFi configuration and an old notebook computer, you will be able to look up technical specs or repair manuals while working in your shop. No need to put a computer out there permanently and no need to run into the house, look something up, then try to remember it while walking back out to the shop.

Grade 8 Bolt Syndrome

No matter how long you work in this industry, you will never cease to be amazed at the Grade 8 Bolt Syndrome. What is this syndrome you ask? It is the ability of management to view everything a company spends money on as Grade 8 bolts. Every vendor’s product is considered the same, and therefore, non-unique. Then they try to shove all of these “similar” vendors into a vendor management system where the lowest bid automatically wins.

Each and every proponent of this system is brain dead. There is no other excuse. They don’t watch the news and they don’t read any magazine articles about the tragedy surrounding them. Those rose colored glasses are firmly in place because only “ they” can see the big picture.

To start with, they should spend a little time watching the History Channel when it runs the “Engineering Disasters” series. They need to understand just how many vendors of Grade 8 bolts provide substandard steel products hoping nobody notices. Assuming they are near any major metropolis, they should contact the head of the building inspectors and request just how many code violations had to be fixed in the office building they are standing in.

Substandard materials is a tried and true MBA method of turning a profit. If you could compile a list of all the times a supplier substituted cheaper bolts and rivets during building construction you would have one massive stack of paper. This is a lesson the Chinese MBA’s seem to have learned well. Simply look back to the news stories of “tainted toothpaste”. Why pay for disposal of automotive antifreeze when you can simply blend it in with the toothpaste and sell it?

Of course, once you have your vendors on a management list, your next step as an MBA is to get them to enter a “bidding war”. Not a bidding war where the price goes up, but to get them to continually slash costs. Of course, they always try to squeeze in something far below standard during this process. The mindless little MBA’s think they are so smart getting this bidding war to happen. They don’t have the knowledge to actually inspect anything when it arrives. Buildings fall down and people die, but not before they get a quarterly bonus.

Now we see the same thing happening with consulting. The slash the rate war has taken on a new perspective. With the crummy phone lines and lack of visual, you now do a “team” interview when interviewing these supposedly qualified off-shore candidates. I’ve sat in on too many of them, and every off-shore company does it. After each question is asked you can hear the “mute” button activated on the other end. When sound comes back you hear a shuffling of people moving around and the “candidate” gives you an answer. What is happening is they have a team of people in the room. You are always on speaker so everybody in the room can hear the question. Then they mute it and you get an answer a few minutes later. The person actually answering the questions isn’t the person being hired.

They get away with this using the excuse that the rep or manager for the person wants to listen in on the interview to appraise how it goes or some such bother. It’s all a lie. You are interviewing an entire team, but hiring the least qualified individual in the room. Once you have sunk thousands of dollars into bringing them over on an H1-B visa you find out you might as well have hired a stone. They constantly have to call back home for information, and it takes them months to get done what a qualified person can get done over a weekend. Since management will never, you are stuck with this person until their contract runs out. You get less than a tenth of what was assigned to your group done, and you will be the one taking the fall for it at review time. Management will award itself another quarterly bonus for having saved the company so much money.

Welcome to the Grade 8 Bolt Syndrome.

Disposable Management

In the days of old, in order to get into upper management you had to start off at the bottom of the company and work your way up to the top. Companies hired individuals straight out of high school (sometimes before they graduated) and started them off at the bottom. For companies with large office buildings, this was usually in the mail room. When the company was construction or heavy manufacturing it was which ever job was deemed the dirtiest and most disgusting.

There was a philosophy and a wisdom to this methodology. Nobody wanted to stay at the bottom. They would try and work their way up. The wisdom was even brighter when it came to the most disgusting job. The company was getting a fresh perspective on the job, and would perhaps obtain several useful ideas about how to fix that process from a fresh perspective.

Today’s management goes through cookie cutter MBA programs at Harvard, Yale, or mail order. Sometimes they simply buy their degree on-line. They start out in management and have absolutely no idea what the company does or how it does it. They think a degree in management means they can manage anything. In truth, they have become disposable. We can safely off-shore each one of these jobs to countries where wages are $10/day and have only a positive impact on the bottom line. We can even pay those people $20/day if we want, saving hundreds of millions for the share holders. No more back dated stock options scams. Hundreds of millions will be saved for asset acquisition and paying of people who have real skills which are needed to make the company work. Heck, for that $20/day, we might even hire people who have ethics. Won’t that be a novel concept for mahogany row?

Simply try to envision just how much better off the country will be when we don’t hand out 360 million dollar golden parachutes to a smile and a hair cut that sat at a desk for 6 months waiting for another smile and a hair cut to replace them.

Ethics, I remember them fondly.

Quote from “The Myths of Innovation”

Many innovations, for all their progress, leave a sailboat of forgotten goodness behind. And in our race to innovate, we instinctively reject people who hold on to the past. We can’t know that they don’t have a point. Perhaps they’ve pointed out something timeless that we didn’t think about. Is there an innovation that can replace a hug from your mom? Ice cream on a summer day? Is a strip mall a worthy substitute for an open meadow, or the latest Gehry office tower for the Chrysler Building? The passion of creation leaves us partially blind; we’re focused so intently on what we’re making that we forget the good things already here, or that our innovations might leave behind.

ISBN-13    9781449389628

Every person working in technology needs to read this book at least twice, several years apart. Innovation isn’t what you think it is. Read what happens when innovation goes bad.

The Mythical IT Shortage

It seems you cannot turn on a newscast or read a business magazine these days without hearing about this mythical IT shortage. I’ve been hearing about it for years. The truth is, there is a glut of IT talent on the market. While the industry rags have been quoting the lowest unemployment for IT professionals in ages, they strategically waited until enough had been on unemployment so long they fell off. It is legal fraud, but fraud none-the-less.

Quite simply the industry marketing…err…I mean analyst firms are getting paid a lot of money to say anything which will justify boosting the cap for $10.00/day employees. There hasn’t been a shortage of IT talent since prior to 1990. If the country keeps up its trend of off-shoring there will be a devastating shortage of home grown IT skills in less than 8 years. That will be about the time we see Enron type trials happening for the companies which have been hiding off-shore failures in the books. We have been seeing a lot of claims about off-shoring success, but we haven’t seen any actual success. The difference between a claimed success and an actual success is quite simply, the claim. When you have a new system or enhancement which is an actual success, you don’t have to tell anyone. The business simply works better and it is obvious to all who do business with it.

The Truth

The truth about how well the off-shore thing has been working is now apparent in the trade press for those who know how to read it. Multi-million dollar contract cancellations. Lots of new off-shore contracts running significantly less than 2 years in length. In the past these deals were running 5+ years in length. That just doesn’t happen anymore. You can only hide so much in the books before the auditors uncover it.

Here is a simple test you can all perform. Go to a contracting Web site like Dice.com or some other site you frequent. Pick a skill set which is not widely available. Scan the contracts and keep a log of them. Return every month and scan again. What you will see is the same requirement moving from pimp to pimp to pimp not getting filled. The reason isn’t a shortage of skills, but a shortage of business ethics.

Evidence of the Mythical IT Shortage

A while back I was contacted about an OpenVMS FORTRAN gig by a recruiter who couldn’t speak English. I recognized the requirements and the general location enough to know what the billing rate was there two years ago. It used to pay up to $90.00/hr to the consultant. The pimp which called me was looking to pay under $40.00/hr. If there really was a shortage of IT people that contract would be offering $110-150/hr. I followed the listing for a few months, watching it move from pimp to pimp, then lost interest. I don’t think it ever got filled. I’m pretty sure management used it as a justification for going off-shore or for violating a student visa.

For anyone willing to look at the details it is easy to see there is no IT skills shortage. Contracting rates have not climbed into the deep three digit per hour range and starting salaries for employees have not sky rocketed. No, my friends, this is just a new spin on an old scam.

I’m old enough to remember when there was a shortage of IT professionals. In those days, you didn’t post your resume anywhere, but you got at least three phone calls per week from recruiters offering up jobs paying more than your current job. Normally you held out until you got either a really great position, or doubled your money. People generally stayed places less than two years and doubled their salary at least every 4 years. Now, the salary you get hired at is pretty much the salary you will die with unless you move into management.

There is no shortage of IT people, only a shortage of ethics.