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Solar Powered Wi-Fi

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the wireless-anywhere dept.

Power 119

inkslinger77 writes "A small US startup has announced it has created a system for running Wi-Fi routers in remote places using only the power of the sun. Among the first round of products from Solis Energy is the Solar Power Plant, touted as being capable of supplying 12, 24 and 48 Volts DC for use in stand-alone applications such as surveillance cameras and outdoor Wi-Fi."

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Bright idea (4, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408779)

Its always illuminating to see developers take a lateral step towards problems.

Here in the UK we use the tiny amount of light to power calculators but I think you would need a panel at least 3km square.

Re:Bright idea (1, Informative)

hauntingthunder (985246) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408839)


this is news ? they have been doing this for ages loads of equipment thats installed along side roads have been using solar and windpower for years in the uk

Re:Bright idea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409209)

So do we in the U.S. ... what we don't have is Slashdot editors who actually know anything about technology to determine whether an article is newsworthy. ;)

Re:Bright idea (2, Informative)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408963)

Solar panels don't need high temperatures/direct sunlight to work, they just need light and they work perfectly well in the UK.

Re:Bright idea (2, Interesting)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410609)

> Solar panels don't need high temperatures/direct sunlight to work
> they just need light and they work perfectly well in the UK.

No they don't. They can *just* provide enough power to power a calculator if you're sat near a window. In the UK, photo-voltaic solar panels are almost never used for anything commercial because it just doesn't lack of direct sunlight we have over the winter months. If you go to sunny countries, you'll see solar panels powering phone masts, traffic flow monitors, road sign lighting and even traffic lights.

Re:Bright idea (2, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410735)

Solar powered calculators work perfectly well indoors in the UK - the ambient light is enough to power them. I have one sat on my desk here..

PV cells are used for lots of stuff in the UK including some of the the things you list above.

Re:Bright idea (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 7 years ago | (#20412749)

I have an uncle who built his own solar panels (basically just lots of thin water pipes under glass) on his roof to heat the water for the house, and the water actually got too hot at times. (and we are in Scotland).

Re:Bright idea (2, Interesting)

ppc_digger (961188) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413979)

Here, in Israel, about 95% of all houses have such systems, as they are required by law.

Re:Bright idea (2, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409089)

So.... how were they planning to connect the wireless routers? Using another wireless router that is connected to yet another wireless router that connects to... well, you get the drill.

Re:Bright idea (3, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409167)

You are talking about a mesh network [wikipedia.org] . Should go fine. Maybe add a directional aerial to connect to it's peers over slightly longer distances, saves a 100% overlapping network.

Re:Bright idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409539)

Mesh networks are (currently) only viable for small-scale networks though, so it limits the usefulness of this a little.

Re:Bright idea (1)

Soruk (225361) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409967)

Nothing to stop them use this or something similar to power point-to-point microwave links to provide uplinks for the wi-fi access points.

Re:Bright idea (5, Interesting)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409251)

Yeah. Why not ? A mesh-network is ideal in many parts of the world with poor infrastructure. Sure, the mesh needs to connect to the internet at *some* point, if internet-access is desired, but it's sufficient for a small portion of the nodes in the mesh to have internet-connection that can then be shared with the others.

Re:Bright idea (2, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409435)

Dye-Sensitized solar cells [wikipedia.org] will solve that; They have no PN junction and thus no recombination problem at lower light levels.

Re:Bright idea (1)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409653)

We tried to do this in southern England. Worked great till October. Then we had to send our technician every couple of days to replace the accumulator.

Strange thing that accumulator seemed to be 100% full all the time during the summer, so we thought that it would be able to survive at least the fall if not the winter.

Re:Bright idea (2)

Soruk (225361) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409987)

That just sounds like the solar panel (and perhaps the accumulator) were hopelessly underspecified. Assuming we're talking the good old lead acid battery, those things really do not take kindly to being run down completely.

Re:Bright idea (1)

hostyle (773991) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410161)

That was me! I've been stealing your accumulators, replacing them with faulty ones - and will use them to take over the sun!

Re:Bright idea (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20411943)

Here in the UK we use the tiny amount of light to power calculators but I think you would need a panel at least 3km square.

Not at all- ThinkGeek [thinkgeek.com] has a $99, 216 cm^2 panel that can be used to recharge your cell phone while using it; your average Wifi router doesn't use more than that. The next thing we need is for Cisco to come out with a mesh router- A Wifi Router that takes a standard 5v or 12v input, but has two radios- a Mesh Mode radio and an Infrastructure Mode radio, so that you can put a forest of Wifi routers and poles in a public place, providing a cloud of coverage with no other wiring.

Re:Bright idea (2, Interesting)

BillyBob23 (1149813) | more than 7 years ago | (#20412385)

There is a company called MikroTik(mikrotik.com) that produces incredible long/short range 802.11 equipment, and they have been using solar powered stuff for quite some time(I think it might be third party, but the community has been embracing it for a while). If any of you are looking for some cheap and very powerful linux platform wifi solutions, I suggest you give them a good hard look as my expierence with them has been bliss.

Re:Bright idea (2, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413575)

Don't worry, they are working on a rain powered version for the UK.

WTFA? (0, Offtopic)

yotto (590067) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408783)

For once, I tried to read the article, but there's no link to it.

I think it's a great idea, assuming they can charge a battery to run all night.

I'd have read the article, but there isn't one.

Re:WTFA? (0, Offtopic)

yotto (590067) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408791)

I swear, that link wasn't there 10 seconds ago.

Re:WTFA? (-1, Offtopic)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409425)

I swear, that link wasn't there 10 seconds ago.
--
There was a cloud above your solar-powered mesh network.

Covering up... (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408787)

for use in stand-alone applications such as surveillance cameras and outdoor Wi-Fi
Perhaps this is a whole new reason for bank robbers to throw their masks over the cameras...

Re:Covering up... (1)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410457)

Forget bank robbers - now the little hacker kid next door, in addition to stealing your bandwidth, can actually just steal your router right off your rooftop.

Struggling... (2, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408793)

I'm struggling to see what's newsworthy or innovative about what will essentially be a silicon solar cell, battery, and DC-DC converter. I've had a similar home-made system on my shed roof for a while now. No doubt it'll come with a confetti like stream of patents :/

Simpleton (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408821)

I'm struggling to see what's newsworthy or innovative about what will essentially be a silicon solar cell, battery, and DC-DC converter.


AND WIFI!!!
or didn't you get that part?

Re:Struggling... (1)

Loligo (12021) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408883)


My previous response got lost somewhere, so I'll try again:

I agree. I can attach a solar cell to a UPS and a $50 Netgear WAP.

Where's MY check?

  -l

Nothing really. They just do it all for you. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408973)

It's just a set of products. Nifty, but not revolutionary, well to those with a reliable electricity supply anyway. The nice thing is you can plonk it down literally anywhere in the world.
 

Exactly (time investment) (5, Insightful)

choseph (1024971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409049)

And that is the key -- it is a pre-built set of products.

I could also create something for my shed if i want to look into manufacturers for quality and price, choose the individual components, ensure I knew how they all went together (safely), and mount it on the shed. Just like I don't have the time or interest in building computers from scratch anymore, I don't have the interest in investing all this time into building a custom solution. If they can give a warantee that covers their whole package, they can test the configurations and crazy outdoor conditions, and they can build thousands of them in the time it takes me to assemble one, then super. They aren't stopping you from creating your own custom product for your shed.

I wish someone would make some entry level package like this for homes -- a solar cell, simple cables (as easy as a power cord you can plug into each side), and a battery. Then give me some ways to go battery-out to random appliances and I think it would be a good way to let people try solar without the 10K+ investment and installation knowledge. Even if I only get enough juice to charge my laptop, it is at least a way to get started/interested.

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409157)

Also I can imagine these being chained up to form a larger network of routers and gateways. I wonder exactly how big a network like that could get?

This could be a cheap way to build a campus wide or even city wide network.

Re:Exactly (time investment) (0, Offtopic)

PurPaBOO (604533) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409297)

warantee? Is that like a waranty?

Re:Exactly (time investment) (0, Offtopic)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409369)

More likely a warranty.

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

broggyr (924379) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413199)

Is that warranty guaranteed?

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409389)

I don't think there will ever be a turn key consumer level solar system for regular consumers. For one, the voltages are still strong enough to cause damage to you or your home so there is a need for a competent home owner or an electrician. Two, running the DC supplies means that a lot of appliances would need to be swapped out from Ac to DC or even more complexed would be running on both. Then you have the problem of inverters that waisted a lot of energy converting to AC in order for most devices to convert back to DC.

Put all that together in some shape or form and you end up with something that isn't near as efficient as a custom designed setup professionally installed. I'm thinking the cost of the installation would be less then the decreased efficiency and likely turn the cost up. The cost is already more expensive in most/some cases then regular AC from the power company. In some markets you can make a savings, But I don't think it is anything to brag about.

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409839)

Fifty years ago my parents ran their house on 12 volts DC. It's never been a difficult problem to solve - there are a wide variety of appliances designed for that. Companies that sell appliances to fit into ship, boats, trucks and caravans can give you the answer. You don't really think refridgerated trucks run on 240 Volts do you? As for computers, swap out the power supply or the transformer brick for a laptop - no big deal since you don't need more than 12 volts.

The two problems are cost for the different appliances and having enough current to run what you need. An anecdote from a 20 year old solar village in Australia from a kid that grew up there was they could do the washing or watch TV but not both at once. Easy to solve but the extra money was not worth it for a little extra convenience.

Back to the topic - a self powered router on a stake you can hammer in anywhere could be very useful. There's a lot of places where you have to depend on very slow data transmision via GPRS, CDMA or whatever using a phone as a modem and getting charged a fortune for the privelege.

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409851)

OK - so you need more than 12 volts for some laptops (19 volts - nasty non standard expensive things to get that users alway lose just when they need them for a trip - I hates them precioussss).

Re:Exactly (time investment) (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409935)

You don't really think refridgerated trucks run on 240 Volts do you?

They do when they're on "ground power". Most of the time when they're mobile, a small diesel engine drives the compressor.

Very very small units on refridgerated vans can run off 12V, but they typically can only cool to fridge temperatures (0C-4C) rather than freezer temperatures (-18C).

just google around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20410175)

They exist, I have seen them for sale. Just google around some solar sale links, there are a lot out there now, tons of different solar dealers and stuff, from under a grand to whatever you want to spend. At the low end I have seen a single panel mounted on a little cart with integrated battery, etc. About as easy as it gets there. I saw another one a friend of mine had for his cabin, more expensive though, six medium sized panels mounted on a frame, said frame on wheels. A separate large box on wheels with charge controller and inverter with normal wall plug/outlets and three gel cell storage batteries went inside the cabin. A 75 foot plug lead connected the two. Took us a grand total of maybe 10-15 minutes to unload the two components and cable from his pickup, arrange the panels aimed south, roll the battery pack part (that was the heaviest from them durn heavy batteries, had to ramp it down off the pickup with some stout boards) inside and store it under a little stairwell, drill one hole in the floor in the cabin to snake the plug up inside, then plug it in. That was it, up and running, plugged in his appliances inside the cabin, he had lights, window fans, plugged in his TV, etc. He had a generator previous to that but didn't have to use it after he got the solar panel setup, for all his weekend visits with his wife and two kids. I've also seen similar rigs that are mounted on trailers. Running the generator was just constant noise to him, he liked the solar a lot better.

Bottom line is, if you really want to "tryout" some solar, get your Credit card out and you'll have something shipped to you quickly, just go google around and pick something out and go for it. This is common ordinary tech now and the price ranges are quite varied. If you want someone to hunt up the links for you, that ain't happening. You might try "solar dealers, entry level", along those lines or "integrated solar packages". It's like shopping for anything else, you have to actually just go look then pick out what you want, because I know what you are looking for exists.

Re:Struggling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409259)

Their system is intended for large-area roll-outs for municipal WiFi and businesses, while your single home-made one is on top of your shed?

The whole benefit of it kinda disappears when you have access to power a few feet away like in your case....

Obvious (-1, Flamebait)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408803)

I skimmed TFA but couldn't find the inventive step that makes this news worthy.

Re:Obvious (2, Funny)

Eddi3 (1046882) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408953)

1. Attach a Solar Cell to a battery.
2. Attach the battery to a wireless router.
3. ???
4. Profit!!!

I'm sure it's one of those.

Re:Obvious (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409413)

I guess somewhere in there should be the ability for me to buy it off the shelf or with relative ease pre-assembled and actually use it. Something that I don't think was available before this. I might be wrong though.

Re:Obvious (0, Troll)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409393)

Like any other short-living snake oil startup, their marketing focus on the blogosphere instead of real potential consumers?

Seriously, it's been decades that solar pannels are used to provide electricity in remote places, and usualy with far larger needs (a few examples: sismic/weather monitoring stations, wells, entire third world villages...).

And this is 'news'? (4, Informative)

chris_sawtell (10326) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408841)

Here's a link for an historical perspective.

http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/news/article.php/144812 1 [wi-fiplanet.com]

Note 2002, FIVE years ago.

Re:And this is 'news'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20408949)

I agree this isn't a new idea - possibly this post was just an advirtisment for this guys startup?

FFS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20408957)

No offense but a lot of people, including myself, have been running similar gear on solar for years. How is the subject of this article somehow something "new"?

solar powered hovering wireless routers (3, Insightful)

egumtow (410320) | more than 7 years ago | (#20408975)

The issue of power has always been a problem for wireless technology. Even though the signal can, in theory, go anywhere, in practice the lack of available - or affordable - power can often stymie installation.

I disagree.

At least for outdoor municipal wifi, the routers are usually mounted on utility poles. There's no shortage of cheap power on utility poles!

You can make the argument that it might not be mounted on a utility pole. Like somewhere indoors. But then that renders the solar aspect pretty useless.

What we really need are solar powered wireless wifi routers that can autonomously position and hover themselves at a fixed location. Now that'd be cool, and useful.

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409229)

And then you'd just get bored kids trying to shoot it down as target practice just because it hovers.

It would be cool to see it hover, but given the power needed to make it actually hover then I think the solar energy they'll be getting at the moment is probably best used on the WiFi for now.

The idea is good, but it's not as if it'd actually work for a whole day solid here in the UK for a good proportion of the year!

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (1)

salec (791463) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409623)

Solar-powered hovering device? No problem... solar heated hot-air baloon! (there is also a prior art out there, in some kids' TV show)

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20411685)

I'd have thought they might have had a problem with floating off. Either that or you tether them to something, at which point people will pull it in by the tether or else you're tethering it to something tall like a utility post, which you might as well have stuck it on top of in the first place ;)

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409267)

The Silverlit X-UFOhttp://www.tkqlhce.com/click-2584369-9325056/ [tkqlhce.com] might work for that

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409725)

Nice joke - but some people live outside of cities so a wireless router that does not have to connect to mains is useful for them. Temporary situations like sporting events would be other uses.

The funny think is I saw a solar powered microwave repeater over a decade ago - the difference here I think is that they are talking about a consumer product. It would be nice to have freely accessable wireless routers on the sides of major highways in the middle of nowhere - we could call them belltrees if you want an obscure SF reference.

Re:solar powered hovering wireless routers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20412993)

he power links into utility power poles give juice..... but at sometimes scary prices.

One power utility's making a charge of about $15/pole*/month for supporting a WiFi node; payback for a solar solution seems pretty peppy at that rate.... current WiFi clouds have more nodes than I had zits when a tender lad.

Then again, that whole survivability if the main power tanks has something to say for it as well.

*not sure what they'd charge for a Czech

application (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409011)

It's a great idea for remote small communities. It makes the world - again - much smaller.

Internet Connection (1)

Ramble (940291) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409013)

I may be missing what's revolutionary about this, but wouldn't the router need an ethernet cable to access the internet in the first place? Wouldn't it just be more prudent to create a router than powers itself from the ethernet cable?

Re:Internet Connection (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409211)

Not strictly, the access point could linked using its own transmitter to another router that does provide internet. I do this at home using 3rd party software on a few different linksys routers. It affects throughput a little, but not so significantly that it matters for just a few users. Commercial WiFi gear is far more versatile, the technology already exists to do this on a much larger scale.

Re:Internet Connection (1)

Ramble (940291) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409361)

I did consider that possibility, but for a remote area tens of miles away from the nearest exchange it would be prohibitely expensive to buy all those routers and the solar equipment just to provide internet access to a small community, not to mention the awful lag and speed you'd get after going through all those routers, plus they only have a few hundred yards of range. It's probably cheaper just to lay a normal line.

Depends on the kit and the layout (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409487)

Depends on the kit and the layout - you can get 10 miles no problem with 5.Ghz kit and there are projects reaching over that in Nepal / India with 2.4Ghz kit. Plus depends on what's in the middle - if you're hopping from small community to small community then they might want to pick up some of the costs. Point taken about reduction in bandwidth due to setting up a mesh network but again depends on purpose - is it for email/ web browsing or streaming video/ playing games which need tiny lag?

that's incredible news (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409053)

thanks so much for posting it.

This is old old old (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409125)

We have been doing this in ham radio for better than 20 years! There are several repeaters in the porltand area that run only on wind and solar, one entire repeater network (AB7F) runs only on wind and solar. Even more impressive when you consider the fact the transmit power can range from 20 to 100watts. They also usually have computers and RF based internet links at these sites to provide IRLP access, which is used to connect repeaters via voip. If anyone thinks this technology is new, and cutting edge, they should have the shit slapped out of them!

Ben 'Polyhead' Smith
KE7GAL

But not to my living room... (3, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409129)

City-wide or country-wide WiFi sounds very cool to me. But - walls are a serious problem for WiFi. This in contrast to GSM signals, however in the concrete jungle called Hong Kong (with like 6 or 8 networks), even GSM is not everywhere available, particularly indoors.

I've wireless at home. It has a problem sometimes penetrating the two concrete walls between my living room (where the access point is) and my bedroom (where I sometimes use my laptop as well). I live on the 16th floor, a wireless access point on the ground level will never reach my living room. The penetration is too poor, and the distance is too long. So for city-wide WiFi, are there better solutions available?

In the countryside the problems are of course different - mountains are in the way and distances are often huge. Yet GSM networks are already fully covering even sparsely populated countries like Sweden and Norway. Is there a way do do so for WiFi without setting up repeaters every 500m? Is there a way to penetrate walls like GSM signals do?

The technology is nice, I love it. But at this moment for wireless networking on the go I will continue to use my mobile phone, over GPRS (yes we have UMTS available but that is mighty expensive, not worth it for me). It ain't fast, but it is virtually everywhere available, and has no problem keeping a connection when sitting in the train (try that with WiFi that is not in the train itself).

All and all I wonder, why not use the existing GSM networks? Most developed countries have UTMS available everywhere (USA is a developing country when it comes to digital technology, sad as it may be). Isn't that much more convenient, and cost efficient to use than a newly built WiFi network? There are more and more unlimited wireless plans (in Hong Kong you pay about US$80-100 per month for unlimited UTMS, add say US$200 a month for unlimited UTMS/GPRS roaming in mainland China). It's there, it's ready, and it's getting cheaper fast.

Re:But not to my living room... (3, Insightful)

Archimonde (668883) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409265)

I know it is a bit OT, but in my experience penetration of wifi signals is pathetic. I have wrt54g some time now and I had problem connecting to it from my laptop just three walls/rooms away (same house, thick walls though). After a while I decided to have a computer in the house opposite to the house mentioned previously. It is around 50m distance and 2 walls (wireless router is behind the window). Not a chance. I then had to drill a hole in the wall, put the pc's antenna outside and then eventually had a weak signal even though the router and pc's antenna were in LOS. It was working ok for a few weeks and in that time I certainly noticed degradation of signal and consequently the speed. After a week or so, I completely lost the signal. I realized it was some leaves (wtf?!) from a tree blocking the LOS. I had enough of it then, and decided to spend 10euro and stretch a cat5 cable. It works amazingly now. High speed, reliability, no 1-minute ping spikes (especially in vista, I don't use it no more though), or additional drivers.

I just have a feeling from my humble experience that wifi is overrated concerning real-world range.

Re:But not to my living room... (2, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409341)

About the tree leaves: The 2.4Ghz wifi signal is right in one of water's absorbtion bands, so if the leaves weren't dessicated I guess your WiFi was very gently microwaving them.

Anyway, I had the same experience with WiFi. My room was one wall away from the router, about 20 feet. 70-80% signal, and roughly 10mbps actual throughput (measured by scp of large files). We tried to set up a computer on the other side of the house. It got either the speed of cheap cable or just enough signal to stall out but still claim it was connected. I'm on 100mbps ethernet, other machine's still out of luck...

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410463)

And yet I get free wi-fi in my house with no problems.

My two next-door neighbours do not even own a computer.

Five doors away has wi-fi - I helped set it up - and I can see that on my Wii. Minimum of five walls. (shame it's password protected).

Someone around here has an access point and it must travel through a minimum of two walls, unless they have it mounted outside.

*shrugs*

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413005)

Just remember that all wireless access points are not created equally. The Linksys routers that can run DD-WRT and similar are typically locked under 100mW with their stock firmware and can be boosted to 270mW or so once that's gone.

If you're running DSL I'd recommend a 2Wire gateway (1800HG, 1701HG) from eBay, since you can boost the output to 400mW and it has a 3 antenna configuration (pre-mimo) to minimize throughput losses from switching antenna states.

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413941)

Interesting, but then you no longer have an FCC* type-accepted device, non? So you need to apply for a license, or find rules that allow you to use experimental devices without license at the power level you've specified.

*or whatever regulatory agency operates in your country.

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413383)

You can get about ten to twenty miles line of sight (LOS) with good antennas. In your case, I think you need better antennas, then even a tree won't block enough signal to cause trouble. To give you an idea, a couple of friends and I were able to get about five miles wifi LOS with antennas made from soup cans of appropriate dimensions. We did have troubles with trees obviously. But a lot of the time we were able to get signal.

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

Archimonde (668883) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413787)

True enough. Both antennas are omni-directional. I was looking on the web to make an antenna but I just couldn't find a good guide. Some of them were too technical, some of them were too simple (lacking information). Dunno, maybe I just were just looking on the wrong places. I did consider buying a directional antenna, but after some researching I found them to be absurdly expensive unfortunately. Then I were just pissed off and bought 50m of cable. One of my better investments in life;) Saved a lot of nerves.

Before I got into the wifi "world" (that was around 6 months ago) I considered that wifi is really mature/old enough to be widely used (or I'm just reading /. too much;). But with that los/range problems, relatively expensive hardware, problematic Windows support I just got a feeling that wifi is years behind good old lan cable connection unfortunately=S Cable "just works(tm)". Lets just wait and see what n standard will bring better to the the wlans.

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409277)

Don't be misled by GSM, it suffers from the very same problems as WiFi, not quite as bad depending upon the frequency the phone wants to use at any given moment. The reason it works so well is simply because they install their antennas directly inside buildings, subways, and just about every walkway that has high enough traffic to earn the carriers extra money. Take a look on the ceiling of just about every shopping center in Hong Kong and you'll see small domed antenna with telco logo's. This is for GSM/3G etc. I live up on the 30th-ish floor of a city building, use a couple of directional yagi antenna for *ahem* free wifi. On any given day I have over 200 AP's to chose from. The vast majority of these are open. The reason you probably don't get anything on the ground is simply because the radio environment is too noisy. Invest in a parabolic dish and that problem will go away.

GSM base stations transmit with much greater power than wifi, but still don't penetrate walls so good either.

Re:But not to my living room... (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410999)

There are four things going for cell signals that give them a big leg up on wifi:

1) The frequencies for cell signals are much lower in frequency giving them a better penetration of buildings and other objects
2) The equipment is, as I understand it, more powerful
3) The antennas are larger and directional
4) The antennas tend to be mounted higher and therefore cover more ground

Now, you could mount directional antennas for wifi on tall towers or buildings to help level the playing field for 3 and 4. You can also get amplifiers to help deal with 2, but amplification is generally bad since it amplifies noise as well. There are some pretty powerful wifi transmitters these days, so they might help. The laws of physics just won't allow you to overcome the first one.

And therein lies the problem of why wifi just isn't a great solution for trying to create a city-wide wifi network from the outside-in. You could try to put nodes on the inside of a building and blanket it with signal, but that adds quite a bit of cost and complexity to a project.

Re:But not to my living room... (0, Offtopic)

IhuntCIA (1099827) | more than 7 years ago | (#20413903)

This is probably 100% off topic.
Sure there is a way to setup WiFi network with routers spread more than 500 meters away. Just use high output WiFi PCI cards ( or access point devices with high power output chips ) and high gain directional antennas ( 15+ dB ) and you are on track to success. There are a lot of commercially available high gain antennas, however most of them working little bit lower than the specified ( usually bad SWR at the band ends ). Hint: chose antenna by radiation angle both horizontal and vertical, not only by gain. Care for polarisation.
You can google for DIY antenna projects, however, 95% of them are crap or working far worse than specified. ( paperclip antenna anyone ? )
If You like the DIY stuff visit

http://www.yu1aw.ba-karlsruhe.de/vhf_ant.htm [ba-karlsruhe.de] ( sorry no English files, but diagrams are readable ). I have made several antennas described on this site for the local wireless community

http://www.kvwireless.org/gallery/main.php?g2_item Id=168&g2_enterAlbum=1 [kvwireless.org] and they performed very well.
We are switching links for hotspots to 5.6 GHz band for the following benefits: better throughput, more free channels, less noise.

Our routers are salvaged PC-s usually more than 7 years old. Most of them are standard PC-s at 200-533 MHz stripped out of unnecessary hardware. They use roughly 25 to 100 watt depending on CPU frequency, number of wireless PCI cards onboard and workload. At that power rate relaying only on solar power can be quite expensive and bulky. For the outdoor routers, far away from the wall outlet, PV solar + wind power + back-up battery might be more suitable and cheaper.

so? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409135)

Umm, they have been doing this in Newfoundland since the early 90s. I really dont see why this would merit any attention at all.

Slashdotted? (4, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409301)

TFA is taking an age to load. Either it's slashdotted, or the sun went in...

Re:Slashdotted? (4, Funny)

ebolaZaireRules (987875) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409403)

nah - DOS attack. I'm stading in front of it.

Re:Slashdotted? (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20411615)

Ah, the old Denial of Sunlight thing... of course...

yikes! (1, Funny)

ardor (673957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409465)

What? They run on solar power? And its getting dark? Oh boy, I hope I have enough time left to finish this commen^%$#^%!.+^&[NO CARRIER]

Unwirer, anyone? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409493)

Unwirer [craphound.com] - The mini-sized mobile wifi devices described in it were the first thing I thought of when I read this story. Personally, I think it's an absolutely *fantastic* idea. Slap solar panel, battery, regulator, and WiFi in ad-hoc mode together, liberally slather with silicone sealant, and attach to roof of buildings!

But the idea of putting a solar power unit and radio together isn't new - so why is this news?

Now there's an idea (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409749)

(Not my idea, mind you)

Get a few hundred of these, sprinkle them around town, set them to autoconnect to open APs with a certain SSID and you get free volunteer-run Wi-fi for everyone. Provided enough people change their SSID when you ask them.

Websense (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409757)

That's nice, apparently Websense thinks Computerworld Australia is an "Adult" site. Stupid filters, why can't my work just trust its employees.

Great! (1)

TimeElf1 (781120) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409813)

So now even cactus can surf the internet. What's next my life as a tumbleweed on MySpace?

Anonymous reflectors (2, Interesting)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409837)

One day, very soon, it will become economical to buy a solar-powered wi-fi router, with a built-in software chip (think bit-torrent), and drop it on the ground near Starbucks (or some other open Wi-fi).

This clever, patent-pending device will act as a distributor/reflector of music and warez (does anyone use that term anymore), and will add to the misery of the mafIAA.

I can just see hoards of people willing to go spend $69 to buy one of these, and drop it into a remote location... the same people who aren't willing to license all their music.

What do you think?

(PS I'm kidding on the patent pending... you want to take this idea and run with it, go for it! I have 5000 more, that are just as bad!)

Only the power... (2, Funny)

kaleco (801384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409849)

"using only the power of the sun"

Yeah, only the power of the sun. It's such a great power source we should manufacture more.

Re:Only the power... (1)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410677)

This is a great solution, until the sun goes down.

Now there is going to be no chance for a programmer to be exposed to the Sun. They won't be able to go outside until it gets dark and the network access is down...

Cheap, low power mesh network (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409855)

Instead of trying to churn out 48 Volts which is serious overkill to run a Wifi router, it seems to make more sense to engineer it for lower power. Slashdotters may remember the articles [linuxdevices.com] announcing Meraki's [meraki.com] stuff. They built a cheap, low power autoconfiguring mesh network Wifi router. The indoor one is $50 and the outdoor is $100. They're bringing a solar product out as well, but apparently it's not ready for sale yet. Oh, and did I mention they run linux? Of course, any solar contractor could hook up a panel, inverter, and battery set to run one off solar now. The difference is the pre-engineered solution has the potential to be cheap.

THIS IS WHAT I NEED (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20409875)

This is EXACTLY what I NEED!!...A solar powered router! I have a terrible World of Warcraft addiction. This invention would limit my time online to just daylight hours! Then, maybe I can have a night life! There are more important things in life than "trying to get my mage to level 70"!

I've often thought about doing this small-scale (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#20409947)

One thing I noticed about all my LAN widgets (modem, router, Vonage box and Slingbox) is that they run on 12V DC. Since most solar panels output 12V DC that is used to charge 12V storage batteries, shouldn't it be relatively easy to get that hooked up? You wouldn't even need an inverter, just connect the 12V DC power source to the equipment.

If anybody's done this, please let me know.

Re:I've often thought about doing this small-scale (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410199)

You can just wire them up but a cheap charging controller will keep the battery in shape longer. I did something similar with a 12 supply from ac mains to make an effective UPS for my cable modem, AP and voip adapter stack since I wanted phone when the power went out and the cheap UPS's did not have the runtime I was looking for. I have about 2 amps of draw and a 100amp hour battery so I'm good for a couple days.

Re:I've often thought about doing this small-scale (1)

Soruk (225361) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410421)

You can extend this idea by using it to charge your portable gadgets too, using car charger adapters. I have a relatively small panel (15W) and suitable battery, and I can't remember the last time any of my portable gadgets (laptop aside) have seen mains electricity.

Power over Ethernet and Satellites (1)

GeekDork (194851) | more than 7 years ago | (#20412125)

PoE specifies a rather huge range of input voltages, so if you're using PoE-enabled devices like the (apparently mostly defunct) MeshCubes, you can hook it up to pretty much every power source with a minimum of filters and transformers/voltage regulation. I'd imagine that using the common "wall wart" inputs could cause problems since those may require inputs in a rather narrow range. A simple car battery with some regulation electronics may do the trick though.

The main problem I see with the scenario is that if you don't have electricity, internet access becomes a secondary (tertiary? more-ary?) issue. Get some fridges running first and get clean drinking water, care about pr0n later. But if you have that, how about a base station with combined satellite up- and downlink and WiFi mesh capabilities? That could give you a good starting point and a valid excuse for more solar-powered mesh nodes.

Meraki (1)

aunitt (121462) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410339)

This looks a similar idea to the solar wifi mesh box thingy [meraki.com] that Meraki are doing.

They are a startup, partly funded by Google, that are offering free wifi [meraki.net] in San Francisco and doing some very neat things with simple to setup wifi meshes.

So...what's new about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20410405)

It's been done for years in other contexts. See, for example, http://www.volunteer.ca/stories/eng/index.php?f=st ory&id=518 [volunteer.ca] which describes a network of Amateur Radio repeaters in the Yukon (Canada).

wow - already did it (1)

thorkyl (739500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410631)

I did this two years ago.
My 80 ft tower in my backyard has a 3 sf solar panel on
it providing power for my WiFi antenna. Then a smaller 2 sf panel
providing the point to point from the tower to my house.

We've had this for Years (1)

moylek (836939) | more than 7 years ago | (#20410803)

I'm surprised to heat this as "news". We've had a functional solar-powered mesh at McMaster University for years, the product of a research lab: http://owl.mcmaster.ca/~todd/SolarMESH/ [mcmaster.ca] Although, even then, I'm surprised to find that this is worth a "research lab" ... it seems like a pretty obvious idea requiring things you can buy at Radio Shack.

Re:We've had this for Years (1)

solakov (1084163) | more than 7 years ago | (#20412359)

Hah! I was waiting to see if anyone would mention Dr Todd's solar mesh project at McMaster! It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the headline. It's definately a "research project" if they are workign on creating new power saving methodologies, including real-time handoffs of solar/battery supplies (take a look through the publications section). I do agree though that you could build a pretty functional unit with just standard off-the-shelf products.

-- ECE 06 :)

Not news -- just effective marketing.... (1)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 7 years ago | (#20411111)

Boil the article to it's essence and you get "Hey techno geeks!! If you hook up our big honkin' solar panel to our battery, plop our inverter and nearby, plug in a 'net hookup and a Wifi router, you got a great way to do a rural or remote WIFI point."


Of course that leaves out the fact that only about 15% of rural America has broadband access to begin with. Or that even if you have broadband nearby and you get the WIFI router set up, you still have to over-pay a telco or cable company, and if your WIFI point uses more than a bit of bandwidth you get a hugely increased bill or cut off altogether....

Where something like this really fits is "Yo! small municipalities. [or even 3rd world areas] Instead of opening your community to 'Net exploitation, try this: we will sell you common components that will allow you to bring in a single fairly wide 'Net pipe and then allow you to set up access for all of the folks in your town without having to run a large amount of extra wire. These components can use your existing street light power, or when it makes sense, use our solar panel/battery backup system, or both. We'll help you design and install the system and everybody benefits...."

Or have I missed the target completely?

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