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Open Mesh Picks Up Where Meraki Left Off
As in, dirt cheap mesh networking gear for communities
by Karl Bode 03:20PM Tuesday Mar 11 2008
A new mesh-networking project by the co-founder of NetEquality and the developer of mesh-networking management software might give Meraki a run for their money. Well perhaps not, but at least they're taking aim at the low-cost Wi-Fi market Meraki targeted before recent business decisions threw their original promise off course.

Mountain View, California-based startup Meraki captured the industry's attention with promises of last mile connectivity on the cheap. The group developed a mesh networking system with inexpensive Wi-Fi hardware and software based on MIT’s Roofnet project, and initially seemed as interested in bandwidth philanthropy as they were technology.


Meraki initially offered robustly featured indoor and outdoor nodes (which act as routers or repeaters) for $50 and $100. The plan was to allow people to become "micro" service providers in regions where cost is an issue or where broadband connections are scarce. The gear appealed to everyone from low-income housing to ISPs looking to add Wi-Fi as an added value service. Meraki quickly became a tech media and blog darling.

Then last October the company suddenly unveiled a new three-tier pricing system that jacked up the price of hardware as much as three times for some users. The move bumped some of the functionality users were getting on the cheap (user authentication, billing) into higher tiers. The move annoyed users with deployed networks in the Meraki forums -- who say they were blindsided by the changes.

Daily Wireless now directs our attention to a new project named Open Mesh that picks up where Meraki left off. Completely open source and built on top of the OpenWRT firmware, the outfit offers Open-Mesh Wi-Fi repeaters for $49 each (or $39.95 in groups of 20). There's no ads, you can flash the firmware, and the user decides exactly what kind of software they use.
quote:
"We’re not trying to get rich", said Michael Burmeister-Brown in a phone conversation with DailyWireless this morning. “We hope other companies and manufacturers will pick up on the open source ROBIN sofware and include it in their hardware”, explained Burmeister-Brown. The mission of Open-Mesh is to support community wireless, education, and the developing world using open source WiFi mesh networking. Simple. Cheap. Ad free. Do it yourself.
There's a ton more information on the company's how to page. Obviously users interested in creating these kinds of networks should make sure their ISP doesn't mind -- many ISPs prohibit this kind of bandwidth sharing in their terms of service.

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odog
Cable Centric Vendor Biased
Premium,VIP
join:2001-08-05
Atlanta, GA
kudos:14

I like the sound of it...

But proof is in the pudding lets see if they can survive... and more importantly succeed.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: I like the sound of it...

It's an open source project so anyone should realistically be able to continue the project if selling the hardware fails as a business model.

furlonium
Shut up baby, I know it

join:2002-05-08
Allentown, PA

Article edit?

From the front page, you see the topic "Open Mesh Picks Up Where Meraki Left Off", and then 3 paragraphs all about Meraki, and nothing about Open Mesh until you actually open the article.
theeinstein
Premium
join:2003-07-31
Fernandina Beach, FL

1 recommendation

Re: Article edit?

Nothing wrong with that... Meraki needs some negitive press.. I was highly active on the forums when all this was happening....They are non responsive to the forums and seem to care little about the customer.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Article edit?

That's what happens when money gets involved and investors demand ROI. The "geeks" were forced to grow up.

John Galt
Forward, March
Premium
join:2004-09-30
Happy Camp
kudos:8

Re: Article edit?

said by openbox9:

The "geeks" were forced to grow up.
Shocking...simply shocking...!
--
A is A
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Article edit?

I know there were many (including the WISP forum here) that prognosticated something like this happening to Meraki. Google isn't going to throw in millions without getting something back.
theeinstein
Premium
join:2003-07-31
Fernandina Beach, FL

Re: Article edit?

Yea heaven forbid they actually SERVE the customer.... Not SCREW the customer...

Hopefully open source will be the death of them..
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Article edit?

said by theeinstein:

Yea heaven forbid they actually SERVE the customer.... Not SCREW the customer...
A good business model/plan has a balance between serving and screwing. Meraki's fell too far in one direction.
amigo_boy

join:2005-07-22
That stood out to me too (also, the other day with another article). Intuitively you expect the initial paragraph or two to be about the headline, and then open it for more background. It stands out when it's opposite and you have to open it to get a summary about the headline.

Not complaining. It just isn't intuitive.
Done_Posting
Shoot to kill
Premium
join:2003-08-22
Toledo, OH

Awesome!

It's really cool to see a project I'm a member of get some front page lovin' from one of my favorite news outlets. I'm really excited about ROBIN & Open-mesh; the software has been wonderful to work with, and the arrival of the new Accton Mini is just what the doctor ordered.

I've said it before but I'll say it again -- GOODBYE MERAKI!

- Tate

--
Happiness is an OC-768 in your basement...
qworster

join:2001-11-25
Bryn Mawr, PA

Now they need an outdoor unit....

Once they have an outdoor unit, they'll REALLY take off!
I for one will buy several of them....
qworster

join:2001-11-25
Bryn Mawr, PA
Reviews:
·Comcast
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1 edit

Hmmmm....

I wonder if the Robin firmware can be used on Airlink 101 AR430 routers? These are frequently available for 20 dollars at Fry's. They use the Atheros chip set.
It would be GREAT if it could be, as thrse units have 4 port switches and they are less than half the cost of the dedicated nodes.
Done_Posting
Shoot to kill
Premium
join:2003-08-22
Toledo, OH

Re: Hmmmm....

said by qworster:

I wonder if the Robin firmware can be used on Airlink 101 AR430 routers? These are frequently available for 20 dollars at Fry's. They use thw Atheros chip set.
It would be GREAT if it could be, as thrse units have 4 port switches and they are less than half the cost of the dedicated nodes.
ROBIN runs on just about anything... the trick is adapting it. One of the guys on our board is currently working to port it over to x86 so it can be run on any old PC you have laying around.

The sky is the limit!

- Tate

--
Happiness is an OC-768 in your basement...

funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

Re: Hmmmm....

said by Done_Posting:

One of the guys on our board is currently working to port it over to x86 so it can be run on any old PC you have laying around.
I spent an evening trying to find code to see if I liked the whole Mesh concept before buying the hardware. I could find bits and pieces, but all the options were rather painful.

Playing with an x86 version friendly to a common wireless chip might excite me enough to buy dedicated hardware.

It's too bad whatever caused the earlier project to stall for the past couple of years.
--
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- Hillsboro, Oregon
"We don't throttle any traffic," -Charlie Douglas, Comcast spokesman, on this report.

sucksbigtime

@vodafone.com.au

i've got three merakis can I reflash them

i bought three merakis as a test and when they put the prices up I realized I had lost control of what I wanted to do. This new idea sounds great but i would like to reflash my merakis or its off to ebay to dump them but who wants to pay a surcharge on these to use them.

can they be re-flashed anyone know.
Done_Posting
Shoot to kill
Premium
join:2003-08-22
Toledo, OH

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

said by sucksbigtime :

i bought three merakis as a test and when they put the prices up I realized I had lost control of what I wanted to do. This new idea sounds great but i would like to reflash my merakis or its off to ebay to dump them but who wants to pay a surcharge on these to use them.

can they be re-flashed anyone know.
Yep! I have five Meraki Mini's running ROBIN already!

- Tate
--
Happiness is an OC-768 in your basement...

superdog
I Need A Drink
Premium,MVM
join:2001-07-13
Lebanon, PA

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

said by Done_Posting:

Yep! I have five Meraki Mini's running ROBIN already!

- Tate
HEY!!!, You can't do that! Meraki says so!. I'm gonna tell, LOL!.
--
»www.wavecrazy.net Join WISPA today! »www.wispa.org/
Done_Posting
Shoot to kill
Premium
join:2003-08-22
Toledo, OH

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

A) Screw Meraki, and 2) I bought the nodes prior to the ridiculous EULA update. If they want to come after me, they're welcome to try.

- Tate

--
Happiness is an OC-768 in your basement...

outdoor device

@chaska.net

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

How can Meraki enforce their EULA? There is no precedent. EULA is for software. But if you buy their hardware product and not use their software, how are you violating their EULA?

It's just really an embarrassment on their part. Google is actually behind these guys?

Does anyone know of ANY hardware vendor that can attach an EULA and enforce it? Yes, if you don't use a particular device the way it is recommended, you void their warranty, and so you can't go cry to them if it doesn't work...

But for what it's worth, I'm sure they can refuse your order if they know that you are purchasing 1,000 of these and you are not deploying on their network?

...anyway, I do need an outdoor device w/ POE, and that is what I am hoping to contribute to the Open-Mesh project.

wruckman
Ruckman.net

join:2007-10-25
Northwood, OH

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

Actually, all they will do is void your warranty. But, who cares? You plan on voiding it anyways if you do this.

Now, if you were a major reseller, and you were re-flashing their units, they may go after you.

I don't like anything that is out of my realm of control anyways.
--
William Ruckman
»ruckman.net
joni00

join:2008-04-09
3067
hi Tate,

do you wanna share to us how you did it? thx
Done_Posting
Shoot to kill
Premium
join:2003-08-22
Toledo, OH

Re: i've got three merakis can I reflash them

said by joni00:

hi Tate,

do you wanna share to us how you did it? thx
Sure thing! My good friend Bill Ruckman has a handy walkthrough for beginners on his site.

Check it out:

»ruckman.net/tech/2008/03/03/guid···nfonero/

When you're done there, slide on over to the ROBIN forums to get more great info:

»robin.forumup.it/index.php?mforum=robin

Enjoy!

- Tate

--
Happiness is an OC-768 in your basement...

FONero

@charter.com

FON project + Open-Mesh = worldwide WiFi

I could see Open-Mesh combining with something like the International Fon.com project, to create a ubiquitous WiFi system to rival any cellular provider.

Manaafee

@ipplanet.net

Hmmmmm

Great idea!!, but who knows if your company will not do the same thing as Meraki did to its customers. Meraki promised so many things but at last their hardware is not good.So many problems with the hardware and there is absolutely no support from them when you need help.

Well lets see what you guys have for us. Any I am interested in the changing of the firmware on the hardware.It sounds good.

Grazie

schaps
Premium
join:2004-01-15
Saint Paul, MN

open-mesh in a school?

Any opinions about me getting 20 of these units to deploy in a school? I can't find much info on how much traffic they can handle, though I 'assume' that the meshing capability distributes the load. We use laptop carts, and we occasionally have three carts (~75 laptops) in one small area, and the current wireless system chokes, crawls and drops when that happens.

Nearly all of my deployed units can be gateways, that is, connected to the network by wire, not just acting as a repeater. Not having to worry about channels and interference from adjacent base stations would be a dream. Being able to drop in an additional self-configuring unit to an area when I think it might need it on a given day would be great.

But I am concerned that the amount of traffic generated by our laptop use will overwhelm the mesh - we're talking network-authenticated users with home folders and using streaming video. I am actually OK with slow-downs, they are much preferable to full network dropouts that we currently get.

So, anyone with experience and an opinion?

Thx
--
--------------------------

"The most effective firewall has no windows or gates"
jschnip

join:2008-05-20

Re: open-mesh in a school?

If you are looking for a school solution - with lots of large groups of users, and you don't want to worry about channel planning - you should look at Meru Networks. Meru doesn't use a mesh, but offers single channel, high density, flexible re-configuration options. If you have more questions, we'd be glad to answer them or get you a demo, contact available at ovationnetworks.com

As far as Meraki/Open-Mesh - we're not aware of anyone who's tested such a dense environment - we also have not tested the load balancing capability, however we are working on a solution using them, and may have some test results once that is complete. Its a great, cost effective solution - however I am not expecting to see the same performance (throughput, density, seamless roaming, and load balancing) that we get from our Meru based networks.