My Meraki Home Network

Cisco Meraki MR18
Cisco Meraki MR18

If you have ever wanted to use WiFi reliably in your own home, most homelabbers and computer enthusiasts will eventually learn that using consumer equipment to achieve fast speeds and low ping can be a route that many take in vain, whilst mesh networking appliances look promising for home applications, the ever vast expanding market of power-line networking adapters and WiFi range extenders have lead consumers astray and often leave them unhappy with their network performance due to patchy and inconsistent behavior caused by devices looking for the ‘strongest’ signal despite it not necessarily being the fastest or most optimal.

Having an ISP issued router has never put me off fiddling before, having being issued a Netgear WNR3500L V2 it wasn’t long before I decided to flash Tomato on it and leave Netgear Genie hopefully forever.

Having moved on with my life I quickly became unhappy with the performance of the WiFi and decided it needed sprucing up a little bit, running two routers on two sides of the house were becoming tiresome due to patchiness and being connected to one side of the house while at the other requiring manual adjustment. It was time to buy something enterprise to set-and-forget. Alas enterprise comes with a hefty price tag.

Rather than going mainstream and buying something like Ubiquiti or MikroTiK, popular routers with the home lab community. I decided to take a different approach to save a buck. Having flashed firmware on many devices in the past, such as Arduino, ESP8266s or even other routers I decided to get my hands on the enterprise CISCO Meraki MR18, a subscription model router with a hefty price tag at the current time of £308.38 for a three-year license. Would I be paying that? Absolutely not.

I picked one up off eBay for a fairly high market price of £17.99 which came with a wall bracket and no plug or license. Why so cheap compared to the £308.38 price tag? Well, it turns out Meraki are giving them away free to anyone who sits through their webinar, and once the license runs out it’s my understanding that they essentially become paperweights. Once it arrived I fired it up just to see what it used to be called and see if I could get a hit on WiGLE’s database to see where this thing came from, unfortunately, 0 hits means my best guess is that it came from somewhere around Aylesbury, UK. The location of the Ebay E-Recycler the SSID was generic “Guest Access” and “Staff Internet”.

Once I cleaned up the router it looked brand new, the power cable I got from my drawer of many cables and began to study the thing, the brushed aluminum backing had the screws hidden behind rubber feet, an easy adversary I had the thing open in no time.

Meraki MR18 opened
Big RF Shields 🙂

I particularly like the bendy lightpipe for the RGB leds.

Bendy Light Pipe

The UART pins were neatly placed and populated with pins at the top of the AP and easy to flash with.

I decided to opt for flashing OpenWRT on to it, basically because at the time they were the only ones supporting this particular device and it would only really be acting as an Access Point, with my Tomato router doing all the hard work.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy this picture of my neighbors cat.

Tabitha the cat

Transitioning from Google Map Editor to OpenStreetMap

After using Google Maps for quite a while, I enjoyed areas that had buildings populated on the map, Google does a very good job of this, however since Google Map Maker closed, I felt somewhat disenfranchised with their mapping system, It became a lot harder to edit their maps and the experience is just not as good as Map Maker was.

screenshot showing local shops and residential estate on google maps
A Google Maps screen capture of my neighborhood.

Then one day I discovered OpenStreetMaps and the simplicity of their map editor filled the hole in my heart that Map Maker left. I found that Open Street Maps iD editor was both friendly to use and better than Map Maker, the iD editor had a much more intuitive interface and the wiki made the transition generally easy and enjoyable.

screenshot showing local shops and residential estate on open street map
An Open Street Maps screen capture of my neighborhood.

As with any change, there was a little bit of a learning curve but the wiki was informative and allowed me to transition from my amateur interest in the topic of cartography into a full-blown contributor to the eco-system. I also have started using the JOSM editor a little and have found that its tools have made contributing much easier for bulk operations and mainly use the iD editor for tidy-up or casual map corrections or contributions.


Why Open Street Map?

Contributing to a closed system like Google maps was never really a problem for me using my local knowledge to correct open times and add photos to locations, but once I discovered Open Street Maps, I sort of feel like there’s no going back. There are a lot of reasons I like Open Street Map,

  • Its Open, the maps can be used in any application, the license only requires that OSM is credited when your application is public. (Copyleft Attribution-Share-Alike)
  • Its used in a lot of applications that I use already, updating the map on OSM will improve those applications too.  🙂
  • Editing polygons seem to be a lot easier than Google Map Editor.
  • Using an Open system would be preferable over something that in the future could potentially become a closed source or paid for.

I intend to update my local area, as Open Street Maps relies on community contributions it is apparent that it has not been updated in a while. Watch this space.

Woodmansy, Beverley UK Weather Current Temperature and Humidity

Hey Thanks for checking out my project, or discovering it organically!

Whats the weather?

This page shows the output of my outdoor box DHT22 Temperature sensor, powered by two 100w solar panels it can sometimes run out of power, especially late at night on miserable days. The data is updated in 15-minute intervals based on three samples. The data is monitored and transmitted from an esp8266 to my web-server, which is then logged in a google spreadsheet and then published here, only the last 500 entries are kept in the chart, which makes the whole chart 15 hours long.

The data on this chart can be better viewed here -> Link

The data on this chart can be better viewed here -> Link

If you would like historical data, please contact me.

The Cheap Raspberry Pi Security Camera

One of the great things about the Raspberry Pi is the community that works to create really great projects. I have setup a Raspberry Pi B looking out my windows. It faces the front door so can see anyone coming down the street and toward the door. I had a couple cheap $2 webcams lying around so I set them up looking out the windows. The total cost of the entire setup is about $10, minus the cost of the Pi itself, I also think that the Pi is a little underpowered for the task as occasionally the thing will stop working after several weeks, the camera still records the video, but the web-interface has to be reloaded in order to get the thing working again.

Capture

IMG_20160418_181953

Overall, I’d say that this project was ineffective for its purpose because unfortunately, the cameras would not record movement accurately enough, and sometimes would record several hours of minimal movement. An IP camera would likely be more cost-effective and better suited for the task, the Pi I used was simply underpowered to monitor two webcams and crashed after about 2 weeks of working continuously. Viewing the files showed that although it captured movement and video, some were corrupt, glitch or only captured about 3 usable frames. It did, however, show a good live view of what was going on outside the house, with about a 4-second delay.

Overall I would say that a Raspberry Pi as a webcam security camera on the cheap is not a good idea, the main contributing factor being that it was not able to keep the program running and often would save garbage to the SD card. If I were to do this again I would not use two for definite as it simply did not work effectively enough to actually increase security, It would often record trees moving for hours and sometimes one camera would freeze up entirely.