Kisiizi IT Network Part 3 - Mast Finally Assembled

Kisiizi central wifi access pointLast Saturday I spent a tiring but pleasing day putting up the first wireless network access point, with the help of Charles and a team of Ugandan porters, one of whom clambered unflinchingly onto the roof of the admin block to assist the process.

The mast stands at about 35 feet high, with an omnidirectional antenna right at the top. I’ve been measuring signal strength around different parts of the site this week, and it seems to cover the sort of radius I had been hoping for (see the map in my first post about this. There’s direct line-of-sight to the planned location of the school’s ‘core’ access point, which is a bonus. Already, people have been commenting on an improvement in their wireless reception (or, for some, wireless reception for the first time).

As a proof-of-concept, I’ve also put a second access point (with another omnidirectional antenna) on an existing mast near the other end of the site, near our house. This provides network access for staff accommodation, the School of Nursing, and some volunteer houses (including ours), and now connects to the core mast using WDS. It’s half the height of the final mast, which means we can expect an even better connection between the access points.

The standard firmware on the Buffalo routers isn’t quite flexible enough for our requirements, so after some experimentation we’ve plumped for Tomato Firmware, an open-source alternative firmware for controlling the access points. I had intended to use DD-WRT, another firmware with more features, but the more I read about it, the more concerns I had about the implementation of some key features, including WDS which links the routers together.

Anyway, with Tomato running nicely on both routers and WDS ensuring that we are all part of the same network, it’s time to build the two additional ‘core’ masts, one on the volunteer houses near us, one on the school building.

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