If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it

Today was the last day of a 21-day-long trip, before flying back to Crete again …which started by joining the volunteers team of this year’s WCEU and then visiting Germany for the first time ever, but posts about these adventures will follow-up shortly! 🙂

This morning was particularly interesting because I had to complete troubleshooting on the very first long range outdoor WiFi link I ever installed; and with it I remembered a great life lesson.

It all starts in late 2010, when I had to implement a solution to network two places that I own, for the sake of simplicity point A being the remote and point B the local; around 30Km apart on a straight line.

At that point in time I only had experience with indoor WiFi solutions and hardware, so for v.1 of the implementation I investigated three options for the remote location:

  • a satellite dish and modem
  • a 3G modem, or
  • a DSL connection

Originally I went for the 3G option, which proved unstable, so then I opted for the DSL connection option …with one small detail to figure out: there was no network coverage because we’re talking about a remote rural area.

That was my introduction to outdoor WiFi equipment and the amazing products of Ubiquiti!

So, I registered for a DSL contract at a cousin’s house (where there was coverage fortunately) and bought a pair of antennas to link the roughly 600m distance from point A to my cousin’s house.

All went well, so I was able to:

  • use the Internet from point A, and
  • connect to some devices there through the Internet, by utilising the DYNDNS service and port-forwarding.

This soon proved inadequate, ha ha.

For v.2 of this project, around a year after v.1 was implemented, the goal was to link point A and point B directly.
It would be a breeze since the antennas I owned had 50Km range and I only needed to cover 30Km.
The issue this time was a hill, yes a real hill!
A problem and a solution at the same time.
How’s that you might ask.

Obviously, the main problem was that there was no line of sight.
Fortunately, this hill was really right before point B and I could use its height to link the two locations more efficiently!
Plus, while point B was located right behind that hill, fortunately I have a friend who owns a house right on top of it.

To implement v.2 of this project, the use of trigonometry, satellite imagery and specialized software came into play; and one might think the purchase of a second pair of antennas.
Taking the opportunity for experimentation, I opted to purchase only one additional antenna (for a total of three), because from my calculations it appeared to be sufficient; and it was!
A stable, nearly 30Km link, was achieved with multiple times the throughput of v.1; plus this time around it was all within a private LAN: celebration time!

This link proved to be stable and efficient for the following years.

Until sometime in the second quarter of 2016.
At that point in time v.3 was undergoing implementation.

While adding hardware to extend the networking capabilities of the backbone, and without realising the reason, the backbone connecting point A and point B became unstable and (when functioning) weak.

After trying everything in the playbook (to my knowledge) in order to resolve the issue, the answer was right in front of my eyes all the time.
Over a phone conversation with a networking wizard friend of mine, with whom we share the same name, he mentioned “Have you upgraded their firmware recently?!”

Et voila!

Lesson of the day:
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

installing an outdoor WiFi link
Completing another outdoor WiFi link installation.

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