Personal Telco helps out with HOPE

Last Friday, we received an emailed plea from Phil Willis-Conger with the City of Portland Bureau of Housing and Community Development for help with setting up a network at an event they co-sponsored with the State of Oregon, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, among others, called the Home Ownership Preservation Event. He had asked the City’s Bureau of Technology Services for help and they had been unable to provide any, referring him instead to us.

Since the problem didn’t seem too difficult, I volunteered to help out. The event was in the exhibit hall of the Memorial Coliseum, and they had an internet connection.

I showed up for a meeting with the Coliseum’s friendly and competent facilities staff that Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. to plug in an access point that Phil had purchased. We confirmed it worked, and I left, promising to return the following morning ahead of the event.

That evening, I worked on adapting our prototype AlixCab, a small three-port router that we plan to use to replace the existing gateway devices in many of our nodes. I borrowed one of the Ruckus access points that I purchased for use at NodeFirstUnitarian, that had recently arrived.

The next morning, May 2nd, at a little after 8 a.m., I arrived at the meeting hall to plug in our gear. I was surprised to find many people arriving at the Coliseum and soon discovered that there was another event going on at the same time, some kind of mobilization ceremony for the Oregon National Guard, about the head overseas.

During setup, I encountered two difficulties. Initially, I had trouble with the wifi. There seemed to be another network (no SSID and WPA encrypted) operating on our channel. When I moved channels, the other network seemed to follow us the our new channel. While still puzzling over what that might be, the interference seemed to stop. However, I was still seeing packet loss. After some staring and some thinking and some diagnosis, I eventually concluded that the ethernet between the Alix and the access point was not functioning reliably. In order to avoid a tripping hazard, I had extended the ethernet run with a coupler. When I removed the coupler and reconnected the ethernet cable directly into the Alix, the packet loss went away. From that point on, about 11:15 a.m., the wireless network worked flawlessly, and I left around noon.

At about 6:30 p.m. that evening, I returned to find it still functioning well, and dismantled the network I had set up.

Today, I received a letter of appreciation from Phil at the City. Even though it was a little bit afield of our organization’s principal mission, it felt good to be able to help facilitate this event that helped members of our community at risk of home foreclosure.

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