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Wireless Dilemma at Newton's House? 287

netean asks: "Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire, Uk (Birth place and Family Home of Sir Isaac Newton) has an interesting problem that may also be facing many historic buildings around the world. 4 Buildings less than 100 metres/yards apart. All are built from stone or brick and they need to be networked together, somehow. Ideally wireless looks the least disruptive and best option, but it is a Grade 1 listed building and that means no external antennae or high gain aerials are allowed anywhere visible. So will any wireless solution ever work in such situations?"

"The alternative approach just seems silly:

Proposed: Add another 128k ISDN line and 2 ordinary phone lines in one building (for office use) install 2 phone lines in another building (for other use) and continue using the existing 128k line in another building (used for free public internet access) - the network option would come from using the Internet and a VPN (the 4th building wouldn't be connected in this scenario). Hard line (cabled) ethernet cannot be used as it will be both be too expensive and involve digging underground which is not allowed.

Being a charity, The National Trust (the owners) aren't going to invest in some experimental wireless kit that might not work. But surely someone out there in the Slashdot community can help to ensure that it will. It must be possible, surely?"

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Wireless Dilemma at Newton's House?

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  • DSL? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jat850 ( 589750 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:01PM (#4100595)
    If there are existing phone lines, is it not possible to set up some sort of VPN over DSL that does not require the addition of more phone lines?

    Also ... why does this historic place need to be networked? :)
    • Re:DSL? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ericman31 ( 596268 )

      I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head:

      • cams to allow Internet visitors to view the interior
      • The groundskeeper or caretaker ought to have Internet access
      • The people who give tours and such could interact with online visitors
      • A security system
      • Cause Sir Isaac would think it was really cool if he was alive today
      For a demonstration of how internet cams work in a situation like this, check out VetLinc [] from University of California at Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine.
      • Re:DSL? (Score:3, Funny)

        by Verizon Guy ( 585358 )
        Yeah, this guy [] needs internet access. Uh-huh. For what, lawn tractor upgrades?
    • i presume that this may be read by non-techy people so I repeat what alot of peoplle know that read this page sorry about that but I am trying to convince charitys in the UK to use a cost effective solution and not go wasting their money on PC's and such I would much rather they employ a gardner or handy man to keep propertys in good condition than spend money on upgrading and just use the best solution

      yes and you could do it with any modern OS (Microsoft Windows XP, Mac OS X.2 and yes linux )
      the cost to a charity would be the decideing factor

      I would use Debian [] debian or Redhat [] also look for a local Linux User Group (LUG) these people would donate their time and expertise I am sure (-:
      find UK LUG's here []

      useing a linux based solution would mean that you may not have to buy any new machines as you could use any that you already have

      in terms of presenting information (I presumne thats why you want them networked )

      THE best solution is to make a website that as well as you can publish to the world through a website you can also setup Linux box as a kiosk so that you can view nothing else except what you want (just think of the web broser area in full screen ) have a look around www. [] I am sure they have a solution I just cant remember the link (anyone help out ?)

      also remember that DSL or ISDN is a bill every month so you might want a private link to cut costs

      also if you have a grant that you can only spend on network I would recomend getting a IR link between the buildings (I have a backup link for the fiber that is between two Uni buildings and no these are not like your IR link on your PC but about 1-2Mbps which is pretty good) I cant remember the people that make it anyone got any good recomendations for IR links ?

      hope this helps please contact people in your LUG and when you have a solution up and running let slashdot know !


      John Jones

    • Great idea! I recommend these: nt/ []
    • by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @09:09PM (#4101409) Homepage Journal
      If there are existing phone lines, is it not possible to set up some sort of VPN over DSL that does not require the addition of more phone lines?


      *wipes the tears from his eye*

      DSL in Lincolnshire? You MUST be kidding right. Anyone who wants broadband in this farming hellhole has to pay $1500 to get satellite installed, and then a nice $120 per month to BT for 512kbps downstream and 256kbps upstream!

      That said, Boston, Louth and Sleaford have DSL in the town centers, but that'd be like only Dallas and Austin having DSL in Texas.

      To put it bluntly.. BT are a bunch of cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life,snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless,hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sacks of monkey shit who couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery.
      • To put it bluntly.. BT are a bunch of cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life,snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless,hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sacks of monkey shit who couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery.

        No, you could do much worse. [] Much worse, trust me.
      • DSL in Lincolnshire? You MUST be kidding right.

        Don't laugh just yet. The 'Ask Slashdot' question was how to network multiple buildings - not how to get Internet access. DSL is still very much an option for this situation.

        Take a look at this []. What you do is call the phone company and order a "dry pair" (or "alarm circuit") between the buildings you wish to connect. This should cost about $20/month. Then you get on eBay and find two DSL modems - one for each location. Finally, make the appropriate sacrifice to the networking gods. And tada - you've got cheap point-to-point DSL.

        Now I don't think this is what the original poster had in mind, as the VPN suggestion implies an untrusted network (the Internet). But just because you live in the boonies doesn't mean you can't have DSL.
      • bunch of cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life,snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless,hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sacks of monkey shit

        You all missed the blatant quote. It was said by Chevy Chase in National Lampoons' Christmas Vacation.
  • use wireless inside , and cable outside
    • That would be a really good idea. You know those fake rocks to hide ugly things. Well that would be a wireless station beside the building. Then the "fake rocks" (buildings) are tied together using cables. Within the building wireless repeaters could be used to ensure good coverage.

      This would be the cheapest and would work.
  • Lasers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:02PM (#4100601) Homepage
    T'aint cheap, but maybe a laser to laser connection [] set up between buildings. You should only have to point the access points out the window at each other.
    • Well, I'm sure that the robotic attack dogs already have laser eyes, so this might be a good idea if you could rig them up properly.
    • Or a RONJA [] system might be cheaper albeit a bit more difficult to build due to not being preassembled (or even in kit form), and a definate hack job.
    • Ronja! []
      The site seems to be down at the moment, but hopefully it'll be back soon.
      In any case, it's a 10 megabit optical link that can be built at home from readily available parts.
      Slashdot stories here [] and here [] .
  • by ajs ( 35943 )
    Don't such buildings usually have some kind of metal moulding somehwere on the outside (along the roof, etc), or a wheathervein? You could connect your antenna to that, I guess.

    Also, just putting the antenna in a window with a line-of-site to the target building might be good enough.
  • Ahh... its England... must be Yards...

    either way.. just toss a few linksys boxes in there tucked out of the way and you should be all set, depending on line of site between buildings. The spec is good to 300ft on standard gear. THough with stone walls, you may need to place the AP near a window to get enough signal through.
    • Actually 1 Metre is 1.09 yards... Close enough for a rough estimate.

      Britain (not just England) uses SI units for most things...

      Though for beer we still use pints... And not those American 16 ounce pints, but real imperial 20 ounce pints. And speed is usually in Miles per hour... and distances in miles...


  • Dry Pair DSL (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by gokubi ( 413425 )
    If you can run your own copper DSL dry pair [] should be an option.
  • Do you have Line of Site?

    Can you setup access points in the windows, disguish the antennas among the flowers?

    A good directional antenna should be able to cover 100m without too much problem...

    Now how thick is the bloody glass?

  • I know there were several companies in seattle that were working on line of sight/laser tech stuff, but couldn't you also have directed antennae that point from inside windows across the way?
  • If a half dozen cubicle walls can drop WiFi to background noise, I have _no_ _idea_ what stone walls would do.

    Can you beg borrow or steal a 2.5 Ghz cordless phone and see how well it works?

    As far as exposed antennae, 802.11 basestations get along with 6" antennae. My unit works a good 1500 feet out the back of my house (wood structure) the unit sits on top of the Fridge, and there are quite a few windows on that side of the house.

    Place the basestation on somebody's desk with a good view of the other buildings. I'll bet it'll jump the gap.

    A card is less than $100, a Basestation is less than $180(us), have some fun running aroung the campus with netstumbler, it's good for a few days exercize.
    • Get an industrial RF module that works in the 433 or 868 european unlicensed bands. These lower frequencies penetrate walls much better.

      No, they are not as fast as WiFi. Most of them are around 19200 but I've seen some that run at 1 mbps. The lower bandwidth improves sensitivity and increases the range significantly.
    • One thing about cubicle walls... alot of them have metal in them. Usually as a grounding type construction, to prevent damage to computer equipment through static build up on the carpeted exterior. A quick check with a strong magnet should tell you if your walls have these.

      I just tested my cube wall and sure enough, it's grounded. And guess what? A metal mesh or net connected to ground = faraday cage. It blocks and dissipates radio energy. I'm betting 2.4 GHz will go through brick/stone MUCH better. Most forms of earths or composite materials are somewhat transparent to radio in any decent thickness. Especially if a non-conductive mortar was used.
  • by sapped ( 208174 ) <mlangenhoven@yahoo . c om> on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:04PM (#4100620)
    When will people get it into their heads! This is a historical site.

    Use the correct solution for the problem, people!

    Strap packets to the legs of carrier pigeons and get them to transmit the information between the buildings.


    Employing incompetence: $35/h
    Fixing the resulting mistakes: $1000's
    Employing me: Priceless []
    • Be a good test for RFC1149 [] and RFC2549 []!!
    • Just think of how much it'll cost to hire the multiplex/demultiplexer's. Anyways, wouldn't an optic-al solution be more in the spirit of Sir Isaac Newton?
    • Re:Carrier Pigeons (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Technician ( 215283 )
      Actualy that's not a bad idea because it inspired a soulution. Cell phone towers have had a bad name being ugly. To hide them, many radomes (fiberglass) are made to blend in un-noticed. Beautiful country can remain beautiful if the top of the farmers silo has a new fiberglass top that looks like the original. With that in mind, a fiberglass dummy birdhouse on the end of the building would look like it belonged there (decorated to look like wood of course). A tile chimney for a coal stove (now unused) could be replaced with a fiberglass one that looks like the original. The attic vent in the peak of the building could be replaced with a fiberglass one. There are many possibilities to hide a small 2 inch antenna.
  • by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:05PM (#4100621) Journal
    This sounds like a job for RF1149 [].

    No need for antennas, just an open window.

  • How about weaving some conducting material such as thin, bare copper into the roofs, also a good antenna inside the house (even if its brick or stone should work). The best way to tell is just to see how good standard radio reception is within the structure. If its very bad, then wireless may not work, but if its ok, the buildings are most likely close enough to not need external antennas, that would only be needed if you were using line of site wireless access, but even in that case antena material could be woven into the roof to give access.
  • Have you verified that there are no locations _within_ the buildings (attics perhaps, close to a window) that would be suitable for antenna mounting?

    If not, could you set up two wireless access nodes _outside_ the building (again in some discreet location), and then run cable from each into the respective buildings?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why not use a standard antenna which can be hidden within the natural surroundings of the building.
    There are many styles of antenna that do not look like radio, or satellite.
    There is also the possibility of using a smaller directional antenna that can be placed within an office within line-of-site through a window.
  • by Astrorunner ( 316100 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:06PM (#4100635) Journal
    IP Over Apples Falling From Trees. I'd have to look up the RFC -- I don't have it handy.
  • Mount the antenna externally, but design an enclosure [] that will blend in with the exterior?
    Yes, I realize the example link is for an accent light, not an 802.11 antenna. Use some creativity.
  • silly question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:07PM (#4100642) Homepage Journal
    This is an absurd question. The person asking this question knows the answer and even nearly admits it in the question.

    The restriction against high-gain antennae is prohibiting typical aesthetic eyesores from being attached to the building. Wireless networking antennaes are nothing like digital sattelite dishes, or big tv aerials. Wireless networking antennaes are essentially invisible and wouldn't violate the restrictions mentioned. The could even be obscured from sight within faux lamposts, etc.

    • Even a high-gain antenna which would normally be visible can be completely concealed or contained within another object, as long as that object won't absorb or reflect electromagnetic waves in the microwave range. To quote Dragorn during the talk on 802.11b at H2K2, "If you put it in the microwave and it comes out hot, don't use it."
    • Yeah, our apartments are against this kind of thing too... for just 25$, you can build a table that can hold plants and is waterproof as well as recieve and transmit 2.4Ghz bands. :) As long as they don't ask about the cable going to the table, I won't put a lamp on it.
  • by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:08PM (#4100646) Journal
    Is there any way to disguise the antennae in a flowerpot, flowerbed, or in part of the facade? Are any windows available that face each other (just 2 buildings). Be creative.

    EDITORS: Can you post a picture of the buildings, diagram? A VRML or other CAD file? Notes and diagrams on existing wiring would be enormously helpful.

    Can you run fibre through the plumbing system?

    I'm sure we (as a community) can come up with something inexpensive and innovative.

  • In the rooves! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chmarr ( 18662 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:08PM (#4100649)
    On the assumption that you can't concentrate a 802.11 signal strong enough to punch through the brick walls...

    I seriously doubt the roof is made of brick, too :) Assuming that the rooves are slanted, it would be no effort to put a high-gain (directed) antennae in the roofs to point to one or two other buildings. It might even be possible to use omni-directional antenna, and cut down on the number of antennae needed.

    There are also 802.11 amplifiers available. In the US, you're allowed to pump them up to 1W before the FCC come knocking. That should be plenty, even with an omnidirectional rather than directional amtenna.
  • What if you have an external antenna, but keep it out of site? Not like the 'pine tree' cell towers, mind you, but you could put a dipole antenna under the eaves or something allong those lines. Possibly you could put it behind bushes, allong the inside of a door frame, all sorts of hidden away, but non-invasive places can be found to put a simple dipole, especially in an old building like that. Windows in rarely-used parts of the house (like an attic) work well, too. Just put the antenna allong the bottom of the panes of the window (windows are usually pretty radio transparent), and nobody will notice.
  • Sure, it sometimes has problems with walls, but for the kind of situation you're describing, and from my own anecdotal experience, a few strategically located access points may work even without additional booster antennas.

    Think of it this way. If these houses share a wall, and one access point can "see" an access point on the other side of the wall, then you could theoretically have two access points talking to each other, and then a third talking to the second, and so on. Within each of the houses, computers could access the network enabled by that point through whatever means (cable or wireless within the house) were deemed appropriate.

    Read this writer's [] own experience with multiple walls over 100 meters for some insight.

    You could also try using existing power lines to build a network. I don't know which of these tools are approved for use in the UK, but I imagine there are at least some solutions that can make use of existing cabling.

  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alpha State ( 89105 )

    and they need to be networked together, somehow.

    Why on earth would these buildings need networking? I assume they are tourist attractions, what could be needed that can't be done stand alone? I assume they don't even have phones ATM (or you could use those lines).

    • Proposed: Add another 128k ISDN line

      I imagine that while these might be historical buildings, they are housing some form of office environment. Even if they are tourist attractions, they would still almost certainly have administration, advertising, tour management, etc etc, so having a need for networking isn't all that absurd.
  • Measure the distance between the buildings. Let's just work with two buildings here in this example.

    You have house A and house B. They are 100 feet apart from each other. Now we know that the average width of a midget is about 2 feet give or take. I don't know about UK labor laws but in the US 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week is your typical.

    Soooo... we're gonna need 50 midgets to go between the buildings providing they stand shoulder to shoulder. If you want to cut down on costs have them extend their arms and hire the ones with the widest armspan. But we'll stick with 50 midgets for one shift.
    Well we need them there 24 hours a day so we'll need three shifts so 150 midgets. Then you have weekends and vacation, sick time, and other stuff so maybe hire two more shifts worth. Then you can just run straight cable through the sleeves of their shirts.

    If class A buildings aren't allowed to have midgets you can dress them up as lawn gnomes and get them taxidermied. It's cheaper that way too. You only need one shift and maybe need to replace them once a year or so.

    The best part is, people will come to see Newtons house and to see the midgets too!
  • by BlueJay465 ( 216717 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:10PM (#4100659)
    I know! I know! You know how in some major cities they use cell phone towers that are disguised as (yuk yuk) evergreen trees? why not do the same technique with bricks!

    Go get the local high school drama club to make up some mock bricks out of styrofoam that carrier waves can easily pass through. All they really require is a weekly paint job to keep them looking authentic since they would need to stand up to the elements...

    ...ok, ok I give up! stop hitting me!...

    • I am not sure why the above is modded as "funny", it is a *common* practice. There are palm-tree antenna's all over S. Calif.

      Satellite TV companies sometimes put antenna's in phony rocks for apartment dwellers so that landlords won't complain about ugliness.

      In the case of Newton home, disquise it as an apple, perhaps (the fruit, not iMacs). That way if it ever falls down, you could claim that you were only helping them discover new theories. Well, scratch that idea.

  • I have a USB based LinkSys 802.11b network adapter. The antenna is attached using a MCX (?) connector and can therefor easily be extended to move the antenna atleast a few inches closer to the outside. Also, the antenna is quite small. If you painted it and blended it in with the stonework I doubt you would actually see it from 10ft away. It can easily transmit a couple hundred yards in the open. (I think it is rated for 250Meters, but there newer stuff is about 400 meters).

    You could put it in the window as is and test 2 of them quite easily.

  • by FFON ( 266696 )
    morons.. friggen bust a brick out, open a window, put it on the ground whatever.. antanee don't need to be on the freeking top of the building....
    also try cat5. its cheep and plentifull.. why is everyone so bonerfied over 802.11b? lazy peeple who don't wanna run cable or krimp rj-45 ends...thats who likes the wirelesss

  • Can't a Pringle's can be made to look like a drainpipe?


  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Monday August 19, 2002 @06:18PM (#4100715) Homepage
    A few pictures of Woolsthorpe Manor are here []. I would propose putting the arials inside, against the windows in the attic (no tour groups go through there I would venture to guess). The 2.4Ghz signals could pass through the glass unimpeded and would not blemish the exteriors of the structures.

    -- Greg

  • I just read something on I, Cringely [] that just might do the trick. It was in one of my Slashboxes this week.

    It's a nice little technology called HomePlug [] and it might just be what you're looking for. In a nutshell, it's several tens of megabits over electrical copper and works on one side of the transformer. If the buildings are anything like a modern set of tract homes, they probably share a transformer. Simply use these babies and you get a nice little network via the already installed electrical lines.

    Good luck!

  • I live in a old (pre-Victorian) house with very thick walls. Unfortunately I have no idea how thick the walls are that we (or you) have but I haven't found walls to be a great problem with our wireless setup. The biggest problem I've found is our large metal radiators, TVs/microwaves and trying to keep access points discrete.

    Although it limits the range, in general there should be a sufficient signal strength (even a full 11MBps) to transmit directly through a wall, with a receiver/transmitter on either side (or thereabouts).

    I suggest you try borrow a Wireless PCMCIA card (and laptop, if need be) and a Wireless access point from someone, and try them on either side of a wall. If the buildings are all within line of sighs, repeaters on each building's roof should enable decent signal strength between buildings (once again a quick test with a wireless card a a base station should prove sufficient).

    It obviously depends on the size of the building, the distance from the nearest point on the building to adjacent buildings and the position of where you need the PCs to have access, as well as the distances between buildings but you might be fine with simply a repeater on each building (a ring network of sorts, positionally anyway), and access points inside. If they're strong enough through the walls, and have line of sight to each other on adjacent buildings, I don't see that you'd have any problems.

    Well, as long as nobody nearby has chalk, anyway...

  • The phone lines probably go through some conduits in the ground, so why not route the Ethernet cable through the same conduit?
  • Pardon my ignorance, but what reason do these historic buildings need to be networked together for? Are they historic office buildings?
  • You might want to check out some Alvarion gear ( or They have some nice high powered indoor units (SU-R7). Depending on walls, etc, you may be able to get by with those. They're at least worth checking out. It is not WiFi (which is both good and bad). It is FHSS.

    --derek []

  • There's already phone lines installed in all the buildings (I'm guessing), so how about using something like HomePNA []?

    I'm not sure if it'll manage 100m, and you may have to play about with the wiring at both ends so there's as little as possible in the way, but it might do the trick. Besides, it's pretty inexpensive to try out. I've played about with PNA on relatively complex networks and the obstacle is usually the number of splitters/connections and not the distance travelled. I've never tried it as far as 100m, though :)

    It sounds odd to me that you can't just pull some CAT5 through where the existing phone lines are. Or, replace a phone line with a CAT5 and use an unused pair for the phone line it replaced. I think 100m is around the maximum that ethernet will go down CAT5.

    If cost is no object, you could peg up a GPRS link using a mobile phone :)

    Me, I'd try PNA, seeing as that needs no extra messing about with cables. If that fails you seriously need to think about dragging CAT5 through where you've already got your phone lines installed. You might even be able to get ethernet down the phone cabling - I believe (UK) phone cable is still twisted pair, just not screened (or is it the other way around?). But I don't know enough about the issues there to comment more.

  • Either 1) make an extern antenna invisible,
    as for example by replacing a facade stone with
    a simulacrum with an embedded antenna, or
    2) put the antenna inside. A pair of matched directional yagis (or pringle's can, for pete's
    sake) can treat a glass window as effectively

  • Easy! (Score:2, Informative)

    by mstrebe ( 451943 )
    This is an easy problem. 2.4GHz sees through Windows like they're made of glass. Just get a pair of linksys WAP11 WAPs with the stock dual antennas, configure them in bridge mode, and place them in the windows of the various buildings such that they have a clear view of one another. These devices run about $170 in the U.S., and are trivially easy to configure. I've used them for building-building at distances >100m without external antennas and had no issues.
  • Photos of the manor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NexusTw1n ( 580394 )
    Front view []

    I fail to see why you can't cable it with fibre. For health and safety reasons they'll be bright red fire alarm boxes wired with tasteful orange cable, or covered with plastic trunking, all over the buildings already.

    All national trust buildings are required to have modern electric cabling for normal lighting, power sockets (for the cleaners) as well as emergency exit lighting (to light the fire escape routes), which will be encased in trunking skirting the walls. Fibre optic or even Cat5 can be added to that trunking easily, and has been done on other historical sites.

  • How about using an external antenna but making it invisible to the naked eye somehow? (e.g. putting it inside a stone-coloured box so that it looks like part of the building, or using an antenna that is very skinny or small)
  • Run an internal wireless system use the chimneys, and relay signal up the chimney, across to the other chimneys in other buildings and any others in the said office.

    Works great,...unless of course they still in fact use the chimneys... *LOL*
  • We had a similar problem at a historic landmark that was also a working court-house. Our solution was mounting relays on the ceiling and using IR transmitters.

    It was also only a single floor building.

    Short-story: It worked and was damn expensive -- but would be considered too slow by todays standards. I wouldn't doubt that stragically placed 802.11 repeaters/bridges and 802.11 nics would work nicely. Might even be about the same cost (once inflation is figured in)

  • ... for radio waves in GHz range. Old houses don't have metal reinforcement meshes, so one can treat anything to be "line of sight" as long as it crosses only brick walls, plaster and wood. What they have to look for is the line that is not blocked by trees/plants with leaves that have size comparable with a wavelength (poplar, maple, etc. -- I have no idea what grows in that particular place) -- those contain enough water to work as antennas, so they can block the radio waves easily.

    The whole "night not work" thing is silly -- one only needs two laptops, or laptop and AP to check if the link can be established, first with builtin antenna, then with small patch antennas, remaining indoor in those buildings.
  • How strict is the "No Digging" rule? I could understand not being able to dig an enormous ditch, but could you go in with an edger?

    We recently had some wires run throughout our yard. It took a large circular saw (an edger would do the exact same thing), and you couldn't even tell that a hole was dug unless you were right next to it. The stuff done through the grass is barely noticable now (and I'd guess that, given a few more weeks, you'll never be able to tell).

    I'd say run some Cat5 (or fiber if the runs are too long) through a hose (I'd be really hesitant to bury plain Cat5, though it might work out just fine.) I can't comment on the legality, though, but I don't see why it'd be prohibited if it's not really "digging" a big hole, but rather making a small incision...
  • People have been hiding antennae for years in situations where they are distracting or otherwise undesirable.

    Dominos farms (Ann Arbor, MI) has a tower that looks more like a bent sculpture than a cell phone/radio/microwave tower.

    I'm certian you can take a flat 802.11b antenna, put some durable rock looking material over it and place it inconspicuously on the exterier of the building. It need only stick out an inch or two.

    I would try, though, first putting a high gain directional antenna inside the buildings pointing to the other buildings. The rock will dampen the signal, but I bet you'll get more than enough to improve vastly on 128k.

    Lastly, look at using two DSL modems and the on site phone wiring. You can put most DSL modems into a peer to peer mode, and they simply go over any used or unused (phone levels) unshielded twisted pair wire. Think of it as a higher version of the venerable modem, but broadband since you aren't actually trying to transmit over the phone networks digital switched network. This might actually be better than wireless.

  • It won't go through thick brick and stone. It's also adversely affected by the plaster-on-chicken-wire construction popular in the 40s LA.
  • If they have windows and line of sight can't they use infrared? How fast does the network really have to be in a couple of houses that are hundreds of years old? what exactly do they do that they need the network for anyway?
  • Assuming the houses share pipes you can devise a hammer-mechanism that'll deliver hits (1) and silence (0) to the pipes. Piezo pickups on the other end will transduce them back to bits. Not sure what the theoretical speed limit on such a system would be, but you may want to experiment with fluids of different viscosity in the pipes to get the desired bandwidth.

    Someone taking a huge dump might disrupt the signal, so don't forget the error bits.

    Best of luck ;)

  • How about each side wear aluminum foil antenna hats.
  • I work in a ground-floor data center in an old building. My indoor 802.11b access point is across the hall and must cross through 2 foot-thick cinderblock concrete walls to reach me.

    I have good bandwidth, with a generic omnidrectional anttena on the AP. I can also access the network from the street 50+ meters way.

    A plain-vanilla 802.11b wireless network with directional antennas will work fine here. 802.11b's wavelenth lends itself to these sort of applications (802.11a, while faster for line-of-site, degrades badly in these types of situations).

    This is true even if the antennas are indoors, pointing through brick walls.

    Add directional antennas pointing through windows, and the situation will improve dramatically. Add small hidden outdoor antennas, and the picture is even better.

    A wireless tech told me that he hooked up a 50-mile 802.11b network in Africa between 2 mountaintops (one with local internet access, with other without). The wireless link was 2 'only' mbits (down from a theoretical 11 mbits), but otherwise worked fine.

    This one's easy.
  • Okay, so you can't add any wires that aren't already there. What wires do you already have?

    For instance, the existing ISDN line could be changed (note that ISDN and DSL can't share a wire pair) to run "dry pair DSL" to a telephone junction box down the road, with equipment kept in a nearby barn, or even just a splice to connect two SDSL modems in different buildings. Or at least it could, if BT weren't such fine arseholes.

    Probably the best idea is to use a mains LAN [] if there are existing electrical power lines. As long as all the important outlets are on the same side of the final transformer, they should be able to communicate.

  • Odds are in this type of environment, the buildings share a power transformer. If not, the power company may be willing to insert a bridge (capacitor).

    The equipment is inexpensive, and every outlet becomes a network connection point. See Cringely's 8/15/02 article [] on the subject.

    It's faster than 802.11b, too.

  • While you state that you can't have an external antenna, how closely can you skirt the rules, and place a small, (6-inch by 6-inch), directional antenna in an upper corner of a window, pointing from one building to the next? Then you could simply have a reciprocating pannel to catch the signal in the next building.

    3Com's Access Point 8000 would likely do what you want, or they have a point-to-point modual that's made for just this. And frankly, depending on the distance involved, you might be able to push it through the stone wall and catch it on the other side in a similar manner, then your antenna could be mounted in a closet where no one would ever see them, save the janitor and the IT guy.
  • There is a new kid in town...HomePlug (see I, Cringely). It sounds promising, if it really works - I just hope linux is quick to support it. It is the use of home wiring, something talked about for about 2 years or so but finally, and perhaps, ready for the big time. As long as the houses are on the same transformer from the power company, they should be easily networked via HomePlug.

    No changes to wiring, no rewiring, no external changes. Sounds about perfect.

  • Sorry, but what are you guys smoking? Yes, I know it is a historic site, but we are not talking about needing a 300 foot tower with a 80 meter log periodic on top of it.

    Stealth antennas are easy to build and are VERY effective. I don't know what the buildings you want to network look like, but I bet there are plenty of antenna hiding places.

    I have built antennas for years for ham radio and it is not all that hard to disguise the things so that you would even have a hard time seeing them from a foot away. This 2.4 GHz stuff is even easier to disguise since the antennas are only going to be a few inches long.

    By my caluculation, for a 1/4 wave dipole at 2.4 GHz, you are going to need a approximately 3.125 cm of wire. I think that would be next to impossible to NOT hide!

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