Boomershoot Mecca prep

My blogging activity has been pretty meager the last few days. First it was the guests we had for the holidays then I spent a lot of time on Boomershoot stuff. This is a post about some of the Boomershoot stuff.

I purchased an ATT Microcell to put on site so that I could have cell service at Boomershoot without switching carriers. It requires a solid high speed Internet connection with low latency. The existing connection was via satellite and it wasn’t even close to good enough. My brother Gary has a good connection a mile or so away and while I didn’t have line of sight to his place from Boomershoot I did have the ability to pick up the Wi-Fi signal from the T.V. antenna mast of the neighbors house. I spent all day Wednesday (December 28th) in the rain climbing up and down the roof of my brother’s house putting up a Nanostation 2. This was more challenging that most roofs because it was very steep and made of slick steel. Smooth steel in the cold rain. That little exercise involved parking my vehicle on the other side of the house to attach a rope to, using two ladders, and laying face down on the wet roof. I got soaking wet. In North Central Idaho. In late December. But it was going to be worth it. Right?

I first measured the signal strength with the unit attached to the top of a ladder. It was good, about -55 dBm. I need at least -75 dBm to get a semi-reliable connection. After I had it all mounted and powered it up again the signal strength was about -82 dBm. What? How could that be? It was higher than on the ladder and even though it still wasn’t high enough to get line of site to the neighbor’s house it should have been better.

I moved the vehicle back around to the other side of the house did the thing with the rope and two ladders and getting soaking wet again to tweak the position. I turned the antenna a little bit and the signal strength looked great again. I came back down. Still good. Nice.

I came back the next day (Thursday) to finish up on the inside of the house with putting an end on the Ethernet cable I pushed through the wall and routing the cable on the inside in a neat and tidy manner. I connected it all up and tried connecting to the Wi-Fi access point at Mecca two hops away. Pings were erratic. Sometimes they were 4 mS and sometimes they would time out. I measured the signal strength again. It was bouncing all over. -85 sometimes and the mid -60s at others. I rebooted units, changed antenna polarizations, and all kinds of things on both units involved. Nothing helped. The signal strength was just not dependable.

Friday (yesterday) morning I visited the only non-satellite high speed Internet provider office for that location (their office is in Moscow, where I live) to talk to them about getting a direct connection. They wanted an address.

It’s in the middle of a field:

View Larger Map

There is no “address”.

This seemed to be a bit of a problem for them. I told them it was a shipping container where I had solar charged batteries for electricity. I finally allowed them to believe it was a construction site (we construct targets there, right?). Then they wanted to know how long construction would be going on. “Several years” seemed to suck the brains right out of them because they stood there with slack faces without saying a word. I finally explained that I hold a shooting event there every year and we construct the targets for the event there. I run the event with web based software, I need a good Internet connection to run the AT&T Microcell so I could make emergency services calls if needed, and a large number of bloggers attend and they appreciate having free Wi-Fi. I go out there several times a year to check on things and do tests. I use the Internet a lot and will continue to do so.

The blank stares slowly faded and they started talking again. After about 20 minutes they agreed to send someone out “sometime soon” to do a “site survey”. I had requested one back in August or September without them following through so I wasn’t exactly convinced they were wanting my business so I pushed them pretty hard for a firm date. They told me I was about number 94 on their list and it would be a while.

It was now my turn to be speechless for a few seconds.

I then told them the site had a great view of the mountain top where their access point is and it is closer than my brother Gary who subscribes to their service. The site survey really isn’t necessary. Could they just send someone out right now, while I was going to be there, and connect me up? And I’m almost never around on weekdays since I work in Seattle… Nope. That was impossible.

More pushing for a date and they said maybe in a couple weeks. And they might even be able to do it on a weekend when I was there. They took my number and promised to get back in touch when they had a firm date.

I then went back to Mecca and confirmed my connection was flakey. From Mecca to the neighbors house I had about 15 to 20 Mbs transfer rates. From Mecca to the outside world it was about 15 Kbs—when it was connected at all. Good enough to sometimes get email to come through and some web pages to eventually load but the satellite connection was actually better.

I spent the rest of the day tidying up Mecca. I put in the RIGrunner and routed wires a little neater and more permanently (still much to be done). I unpacked all the mixing table stuff and spread it out on the tables to see how it might work with the new layout. This was potentially important to get done yesterday because Ry thought he might be bringing over a new shooter today. I wanted the place ready to produce targets with minimal time spent unpacking and getting ready to actually make targets. It turns out the new shooter backed out so it didn’t matter that much.

Here are some pictures:



The boxes would normally be folded and ready to be filled but the layout was good enough to see that it should work out.

We will probably go back out with a small crew sometime in the next couple of months and do some testing just to make sure but so far, except for the Internet connection, I’m very pleased with the new explosives production facility.


7 thoughts on “Boomershoot Mecca prep

  1. Three things – first, since you do not have line of sight, you are getting either a reflected or a refracted signal. It is quite possible that higher is worse under those circumstances. So simply parking the antenna at a lower location may very well do what you need done.

    Second, if you cannot obtain a signal greater than you need, a small parabolic antenna, even a discarded satellite TV dish on one or both ends of the circuit, may give you the extra gain that you need for a solid connection to the neighbors. Although a coffee can reflector often works almost as well. Google it for a better description.

    Third, before you do anything, recheck the signal cable. The primary source of loss is likely to be in the cable from the antenna to where ever it goes. Among other common problems are connector center pins that fail to make solid contact, poor connections from cable to pin, and of course the ever present possibility of an open piece of cable. A few nanofarads of capacity in the cable a flaky connection does make. An ohmmeter should make short work of checking those – although upside down on a roof adds to the difficulty.

    Good luck


  2. I haven’t tried a reflector but I will. Thanks for the suggestion.

    The NS2 has an internal antenna so there aren’t any connectors that I have easy access to. And these same units work well line of sight for over a kilometer so I don’t think it is a problem with the units.

    The NS2 does support an external antenna and I have a directional antenna I will bring back from the Seattle area the next time I make the trip.

  3. “It was now my turn to be speechless for a few seconds.”

    The Libertarian in me finds a lot of humor in this statement. You don’t mention the provider but obviously your area means very little to them.

    I used to do budgets for a Fortune 500 company and I can honestly say that rural areas look great until you look at them purely by the numbers. Looking at income and expenses, they cost too much to service and they bring in too little revenue.

  4. @ubu52, I understand the economics of rural services. I don’t have a problem with that. And this is a little different than bringing in electric, cable, or natural gas. It’s a wireless service and their tower is line of sight and well within range. The additional cost from a city installation would only be the travel time to do the site survey and installation.

    And they are already serving the area and have prices for their services. My brother about a mile away subscribes to their service. If they didn’t want my business or thought serving my location should be priced higher then they should either not offer the service or raise the price for my service area.

  5. Joe, I think I have a used dish (dish network dish) in my metal pile, with mount. It’s yours if you’d like it.

  6. My day job is being radio broadcast engineer, and I can tell you that paths that don’t have line of sight can have some very erratic performance, and antenna placement. Weather conditions can also do pretty interesting things, too. One of my temporary Ka band satellite internet links sounded great (it carried digital audio), except that if it started raining, it would drop out every few minutes. I’ve also had 950 MHz terrestrial analog audio links that would sound scratchy at sundown, but only for a few weeks of the year.

    I second the suggestion of using a parabolic reflector. At 2.4 GHz, they don’t have to be big to work well. A 30 dBi gain dish is only around 1.5m in diameter.

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