Oct 262014
 
Internet Antenna

The Internet Antenna, installed

1.5 Mpbs was a great broadband speed, back in 2002. CenturyLink’s refusal to upgrade the DSL speed in our neighborhood, and their lousy/incompetent customer service combined with their general hostility towards 3rd party Internet Service Providers (ISPs) made me start to look for other internet connectivity options. As of this weekend, after months of tinkering on the roof and tweaking radio frequency settings, the Passiflora Farm has officially cut the cable and this webpage is now being served through the new internet antenna. The internet antenna operates in the 5.8 GHz ISM band and uses a dish antenna pointed towards an access point located on a building on Capitol Hill. It took several months of tinkering and about $150 in hardware, but now I am enjoying 10 Mbps dedicated speed internet (both upload and download) while bypassing any of the two or three large broadband providers that everyone else in Seattle is forced to use.

Cortland Communications has been my ISP Since 1998, and they are great small locally-owned company. Before the internet antenna, my connection to Cortland was via a DSL Line provided by USWest/Qwest/CenturyLink; with Cortland acting as a 3rd party ISP. Cortland also provides internet connections to selected locations via point-to-multipoint microwave broadband wireless connections.

On a whim I contacted Mike Levy, the owner of Cortland, to see about getting a wireless broadband connection to the house. Unobstructed line of sight would be required to one of Cortland’s two transmitter sites; one of which is in West Seattle and the other on Capitol Hill. The West Seattle location was out of the question due to that pesky Beacon Hill, but Capitol Hill was a possibility thanks to the fortunate orientation of Rainier Valley. I climbed up on the roof to see if I could see the Council House, the building that hosts Cortland’s transmitters. Not quite; some trees on the foothills of Mt. Baker Ridge seemed to be in the way, but only barely. Then I attached a camera to a 10′ pole and hoisted that up on the roof. Using the self-timer I snapped a photo that showed the top of the Council House barely peeking out above the trees.

The only way to know for sure if this would work would be to get some equipment and try it out. Mike is rather busy, running the whole ISP business himself, and I am a rather small-potatoes residential customer, so if I wanted to try this out then I would have to pretty much do all of the setup myself. Seemed like a fun project. Mike invited me to come over to his shop on Delridge and he gave me some equipment and mounting hardware and walked me through the configuration steps. I would need to build a tower on the roof of the house to get the enough height for the necessary line of sight; this seemed like a bit of a daunting task.

Access Point

The view from the access point

The other issue was that Cortland didn’t have an access point currently pointed in the direction of Rainier Valley. So Mike and I set up a time to go up on the roof of the Council House and get a new access point set up. Then I started thinking about how I would construct a tower on my roof. The tower design I came up with uses two 3/4” EMT conduits coupled together, one 10′ long and the other about 3′ long. At the coupling, three guy wires are attached that hold the pole in place. I stopped by Puget Sound Solar’s shop and got some clamps that attach to our new metal roof, the same ones they used to attach our solar panels, and used those to anchor the guy wires. A dish antenna is clamped onto the very top of the pole, and the “subscriber unit” is attached to the pole below the antenna. An ethernet cable runs from the subscriber unit to the basement and connects to a power injector that provides power to the radio via power-over-ethernet.

When I first powered on the internet antenna, it successfully associated with the access point, but the connection was not very reliable. I spent some time trying some different frequencies but nothing worked satisfactorily. I had to make a return visit to the Council House to find a higher mounting location for the access point, and I had to convert the polarization of the roof antenna from vertical to horizontal by taking down the pole and rotating the dish 90-degrees, then more frequency tweaking. After all that, I finally got a stable connection at 5768 MHz and it has been working great for several weeks. A third visit to the Council House was required to run a new ethernet cable to the access point after my hastily patched-together cable blew apart on a windy October evening.

The final step was to get static IP addresses assigned to the internet antenna and move the kehoe.org server over to one of those IPs. This happened on Saturday, and this means that the Passiflora Farm house is now completely off the DSL and connected to the interwebs via the internet antenna.

I was a little woried about the antenna during the windstorm last night. The connection did get knocked offline for a while, but the antenna was still standing. The wind rotated the whole pole so that the dish was pointed towards somewhere like Kirkland. A brief visit onto the roof this morning to point the dish back towards Capitol Hill was all that was needed to get back online.

Nov 302013
 

The current location page on my web portal is now functional again. It was originally powered by Google Latitude, until Google rudely discontinued Latitude last August. Since then, I have found a nice simple Android App that provides similar functionality, called Public Badge.

As a reminder, this page is only accessible to those possessing the proper credentials. Upon accessing this page, you will be asked two questions. The user is the name of my cat, in all lowercase. The password is the name of the aforementioned cat’s favorite herb, also in lowercase. If you are successful in your answers to these two questions, then you may proceed on your quest to determine where I am at.

Mar 142013
 

Hey, today is my Birthday; I’m 35. I am anticipating that 35 is going to be a momentous year for me, for reasons that some of you may already know. (If you don’t, check back here in mid-June)

I celebrated my birthday by taking the day off work and doing not much at all. Actually, there is one thing that I accomplished today, I got “friendly permalinks” working on my WordPress blog. This means that the URL of my blog post pages follow a more-logical and easier to remember structure. This required figuring out how to load the rewrite module into the Apache web server, and updating the Apache configuration to add the “AllowOverride All” parameter into the appropriate location. After a bit of tinkering and consulting The Google, this seems to be working. I chose to use the format of year/month/day for the permalink structure since this blog is chronological in nature, and I never write more than one post per day.

Jan 272013
 

Portal Logo
A long-overdue overhaul of my main web site (Owen’s Portal) is mostly complete. New features include:

  1. A site map to diagram the site’s content and help the user navigate. The sitemap is touch-screen friendy. I drew up the map using an open-source program called Dia and converted it to a clickable image map using KImageMapEditor.
  2. Formating now based on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS); I started my own CSS file from scratch and took a learn-as-I-go approach.
  3. Content is spread into more pages that are smaller in size, to make it more readable and interactive.
  4. A smattering of new content.
  5. More consistent formatting between Blog and Portal, although not perfect. As much as I like WordPress as a blog engine, it is a complex beast that can be difficult to make do simple things. For example, inserting my site map into the footer (arg!).

A few of the main pages remain to be completed and I am still tweaking the formatting. Things may change over the next few weeks, but go ahead and take a look. If you find any errors or broken links, please let me know.

Oct 202012
 

No, we haven’t physically moved, but the kehoe.org server now resides on a new IP address. Good old 209.162.142.62, which has been the home of kehoe.org since 1998, has been repossessed and reallocated by my Internet Service Provider (ISP) Cortland Communications. The new home is located at 199.254.229.35. It was a minor annoyance to convert the server and all of its associated domains over to the new IP (I might secretly divulge that it was kind of fun), but I really do like the DSL service I get from Cortland. What other ISP’s give you as many static IPs as you “need” (I have four), will cheerfully map a reverse DNS name of your choice to your IP so that you can operate a proper mail server, will return your tech support calls at 11:00pm (personally by the owner of the company), and all for the price of standard residential broadband? They made the transition really smooth by letting me use both old and new IP blocks simultaneously for a while so I could make the changeover at my leisure, therefore I have no complaints. I’d recommend Cortland to others looking for a DSL provider, but their circuits are full and they are not currently accepting new DSL customers.

The server is now only listening on the new IP, so if you can read this, then the transition was successful!

Jan 162012
 

Attention: The 0K Blog is currently undergoing a theme overhaul. Since I am too lazy to copy the blog over to a development server, I’ll just tinker directly with the live site. During this process, you may experience symptoms including: ugliness, unreadability, missing text, navigation difficulties, nausea and/or death.

Jan 282011
 

I have finally succumbed to current consensus social networking format and created a Facebook profile. In order for this to be an effective and satisfactory arrangement, I need to link my existing WordPress blog to Facebook. After a little research, I discovered the “Simple Facebook Connect” plugin for WordPress and promptly installed it onto my server. With a few settings inputted, it will now supposedly update my Facebook profile with my new WordPress posts. This post serves as a test of this feature. Let’s see what happens…

Dec 222010
 

The server jezzubu.kehoe.org, which runs my email, website, and blog, has been moved into a new less-obsolete machine. You may notice that my webpages and blog now load faster! The new machine was found by Amie in a pile destined for recycling, before she salvaged it for my use. It boasts a 2.4 GHz processor, 1 gig RAM, and appears to draw less power than the old machine.

Transitioning to the new machine was a breeze with Ubuntu Linux, I simply moved the two hard drives into the new box, turned it on, and was almost ready to go. The only thing I had to do manually was update the network configuration file where the static IP address is defined. For some reason the network adapter in the new machine was identified as “eth1” whereas in the old machine it was “eth0”. With that minor change of a 0 to a 1, jezzubu was back in business.

Oct 052010
 

The OK blog has been revamped. Behold!

Version 2.0 is powered by the WordPress Content Management System. New features include the ability to add comments to my posts (I reserve full totalitarian right to edit/reject comments as I see fit), category tags, search function, automatic display of the most recent posts as opposed to me creating a new page three times a year, and easy access via an app for my Android phone. Hopefully this new setup will make it easier for me to post more often.

WordPress is used to power many news and blog sites, such as one of my favorites, the Seattle Transit Blog. I’m still figuring out how the formatting and theming features work, so expect to see changes in the way this thing looks as I tinker around with it.

The old version of the 0K Blog, including posts up until today, is available [here].