QFI / Queensland Wifi aka The Meshnet Project^TM

This is more of a sub-cause at the moment but it’s something I’m pretty interested in. I want to take over the reins organising this project now that Ben has moved interstate. A bit about me: I’ve been interested/reading up on meshnets for almost 10 years but never had the techspertise to take the jump into building my own first node. Hopefully my comms and organisational skills are enough to bring people together to get the project off the ground :slight_smile:

I’ve been talking to various groups and individuals over the last couple of months, here is the highlights of what I’ve got so far:

  • A member of local government is extremely keen on helping the project (to be announced once he confirms his public involvement).
  • Several businesses have expressed interest to me or other members of the project. Some may be willing to host nodes (with sponsorship only extending as far as the electricity costs) but one software company is very interested and may contribute resources/time (identity also TBA).
  • Several QFI members are interested with necessary hardware and expertise for the prototype phase of the network.
  • I’m in touch with various community groups who may be able to provide “unskilled” volunteers to assist with gruntwork.
  • Ben Cooper has a plan for the network backend.

Potential HSBNE considerations for forming QFI as an official cause:

  • Some space may be needed to store excess/unused hardware depending on how much funding/grants/sponsorship we get.
  • We’ll need to mount hardware on the roof which will have ongoing (low) power costs.
  • We may eventually request a portion of HSBNE bandwidth for 24/7 internet <-> mesh uplink depending on the terms of use agreement and network functionality we seek to implement.
  • Regularly monthly general meetings at HSBNE. Additional weekly/fortnightly meetings (some offsite) to manage specific aspects such as neighborhood rollouts, community consultations, sponsorship negotiations/PR/outreach etc
  • At this early stage we may request a modest budget (roughly $150 per node… say once every few months) to cover hardware costs as a sweetener to get critical early nodes in place.
  • Possible long term goal: form QFI as a registered non profit with an ABN as a community ISP. This will necessitate moving the project offsite from HSBNE.
  • I’ll take “What are reporting forms for 500?” please @execs

The first meeting will be this coming Tuesday 3rd (next week) at 7.30pm. At this early stage a lot of discussion and planning is still on the #qfi channel on Slack but we’ll go to meatspace hopefully fortnightly to discuss timetables and deliverables etc. Hopefully a secret VIP will be attending as well :slight_smile: If you are interested in attending but unable to, post here and I will be trying to organise some kind of audio stream or meeting minutes.

1 Like

One thing to watch with regards to the Internet over these networks is this:

In short, throwing an Ethernet cable over the fence to your neighbour is fine… but once you start providing services more than 500m from your property boundary, you’re defined as service provider and have to start paying attention to the obligations of those service providers.

It’s also worth noting that when you sign up to an ISP… there’s a contract there that states the terms of use. The signer of that contract is vouching that them, and all people they share that Internet connection with, will abide by that contract. It is the signer of that contract which is held responsible if someone uses their network to send spam/malware, violate copyright or send/receive child exploitation material.

I would suggest that providing a public Internet service is a risky business.

1 Like

Yeah legal considerations will be a major point to go over. There are several avenues we can look into which should still mean the project is viable. I’ve now confirmed with both VIPs for the meeting tomorrow night at 7.30 which I’ll introduce for anyone coming along. Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys there.

Well, it was good to meet up with everyone. I think there’s some common ground for us to work from…

I myself was involved with Brisbane Mesh some years back, did have a node and still have most of the equipment from it. It isn’t up now as aside from Brisbane Mesh more or less imploding, I also realised the impracticality of me hosting any kind of node from my location due to my poor line-of-sight. From the roof, I don’t see much! 430MHz is enough of a struggle, let alone 2.4GHz. The Gap is more-or-less surrounded by hills, and our roof is about level with the Settlement Road/Kaloma Road intersection. Short of a node on the northern side of Mt. Coot-tha, I can forget direct access.

As I recall, some of the discussions tonight were familiar topics on the BrisMesh mailing list… there were people who believed that the network should be purely for non-commercial use, others wanted to be able to do some commerce over it. Internet and encryption were also issues over which many clashed.

Years ago, I had set up the node with the hope that I could hop via the nodes from my grandmother’s place at Tarragindi (where I was regularly one night a week) or Griffith Uni Nathan campus (where I was studying at the time)… all the way to my home node and run a OpenVPN tunnel via that to get an Internet service. That was 2003 when WAP was fairly new. This would definitely have gotten some noses of the old guard out-of-joint.

Today, I think our needs are different now. 3G services are ubiquitous and are very cheap compared with the early days of Brisbane Mesh. Thus I feel that first up, this absolutely should not be the focus. I think focusing on a purely isolated L3 packet network is the better approach. Provide the pipes through which data can be funnelled.

A community area network. We start small with a group of people to prove the concept, then expand it, open it up.

There are potential minefields with regards to bridging traffic (stored or otherwise) to the Internet or P2P sharing of copyrighted content, but I doubt too many would complain about half a dozen people having a “LAN” gaming session over the mesh. It’s also a venue in which people can experiment with running servers for hosting some personal space, exploring applications for mesh networking, etc.

Long term, this may include Internet… perhaps a local ISP may come to the party and help us out with that, but this is moot if the network doesn’t exist.

In fact, I’ll bet someone does this, if the network is open, I’ll bet someone will try sharing their Internet over it.

In a bona-fide emergency, it is likely such a network would indeed be providing access to at least subsets of the Internet, and/or providing VoIP-based telephony, the Village Telco concept.

I’ve been in The Gap for 33 years… and while storms like the one we had in 2008 don’t feature much in that period, I still remember the days being filled with a symphony of chainsaws, and my Nokia 3310 occasionally getting the odd SMS off a tower at Red Hill, Keperra or Bardon, but not having the transmit power to send a reply. Our weather patterns are changing however, and so now would not be a good time to get complacent about whether such an event might repeat itself.

As for possible locations… you might want to try talking to the people who run/own the cafe up the top of Mt. Gravatt… as that has a pretty good view of much of Brisbane and would possibly see HSBNE. The alternatives to that of course are to talk to the likes of Energex, Powerlink, etc and try to get some tower space ($$$$).

Mt. Coot-tha is good, but beware of the RF noise. One of the WICEN people comment about the RF being so thick up there you can cut it with a knife. Make the mistake of extending your multimeter probes out like a dipole, and you’ll probably release magic smoke! Mt. Coot-tha would be useful to get around terrain, but I’d forget running an omni-directional service from there.

Brisbane WICEN has some that way due to pre-existing arrangements that go back a couple of decades (originally done by Queensland Digital Group), but being fairly highly sought-after sites, they’ll want to charge commercial rates and will require qualified (for tower work) people to do the equipment installation… you’ll be budgeting 4-figure sums per site unless you’re really friendly with someone suitably qualified.

Anyway, I wish the project well. I’m not sure how much I can get involved further, as my expertise in the microwaves is limited and my location is not conducive to participation in the network at this time, but I’ll try to help out where I can.

1 Like

Thanks Stuart it was great you came tonight. Like I said on Slack although we didn’t cover much productive ground that wasn’t the aim of tonight, it was instead just to get a bunch of people in a room and on vaguely the same page even if we disagreed about some things like goals or intended usage. I’m with Jamyn that for now I just want to build something cool that works. You’ve got a good point Stuart, and Josh pointed this out tonight as well that the needs and uses of a meshnet has changed since BrishMesh in 2004.

My plan for the prototype is this: we connect Porthack with Jono’s office in Woolloongabba then get some kind of text chat working. For bonus points maybe throw in multimedia streaming and file sharing but at least setting up a basic PHP instance.

For now we should avoid internet uplink until a clearer plan forms of whether anyone wants that and how they would use it. Providing initial content will attract initial users, which may be all that is needed to gain self sustainability.

oh wow, I picked the wrong week to go away and miss all the action. I’m in. I have a bunch of gear that may be of use. If you can connect Porthack to Wooloongabba then my place at West End is a next logical node. I even have a ‘pirate’ radio station set up to stream over wifi - currently just my house but I’d love to extend the reach.

1 Like

It’s alright, all you missed is the shouting :slight_smile: join #qfi on slack for planning. You’ll probably be best connected to Jamyn in Dutton Park, so we can coordinate that and check for LOS on there

Ok we get signal between Jamyn and Mt Cootha lookout (main screen turn on!). Next step is confirming signal between Alex and Jamyn, or doing some tests at Mt Gravatt. We’ve got a nice little warchest of volunteered gear from people stepping forward, but we could definitely still use some strategic nodes in the suburbs directly around the city. So if you’re in one of that middle ring of suburbs immediately outside the CBD and are interested in getting involved, please step forward.