How to setup OpenVPN on a RaspberryPi

Just last week I was setting up IP cameras at home and connecting the irrigation controller to the network and I was opening my network up to the internet WAY to much. (I was port forwarding all kinds of ports.) So to mitigate opening up to the internet so much I decided to setup a VPN tunnel that I could easily connect to which would allow me access into my local network. In a nutshell, instead of opening numerous ports on my router for every device I wanted remote access from, I opened the 1 port for the VPN and used openVPN software on my phone to connect back. Once connected it behaves as if I was at home and connected locally.

This post will go through the basics of setting up a simple VPN server on a cheap raspberry pi. This examples uses the older RPi2, which is more then sufficient for accessing a few IP cameras and other devices remotely.


The Hardware you will need to gather

  • RPi 2 or 3.
  • Ethernet cable
  • HDMI Cable

  • Keyboard/Mouse
  • 8Gb SD Card


The Software titles you may want to download


PREREQUISITE SETUP - Because we need to get ourselves ready!

The first step is to prepare the SD card for the PI. A 4 or 8Gb SD card will be suitable for the PiVPN installation.

You will first need to download the latest Raspian Lite image (We do not require the GUI for PiVPN) and a copy of Etcher. Etcher will allow you to install and prepare your SD card. It is super easy to use.

Select Image > Select SD card (Make sure you select Correct Drive) > Click Flash.

  1. Select your copy of Raspbian Lite

2. Select the correct drive you want to install the image on. Be sure it is the correct drive as all data will be formatted first.

3. Select Flash – You may get a windows prompt to elevate permissions to administrator.

4. Assuming no errors were found, you can now take the SD card and insert it into the Pi.

How to setup SSH for remote access from our PC

We have chosen to run the Lite version of Raspbian because we do not require the additional overheads of the GUI. The VPN server will sit hidden away and we will connect to is via SSH if we need to. The problem is that SSH is not enabled by default. Thus we require the HDMI cable, a monitor and keyboard to change this first.

Insert the SD card we just made into the Pi and connect the HDMI cable to your monitor. We now need to power up the Pi. You should see the Pi initialize and on first run it may reboot once. The first thing you will have to do is log into the Pi. The default login is:

  • Username: pi
  • Password: raspberry

Viewing the Pi via the HDMI cable and using the connected keyboard and mouse in a PITA, This is why we are setting up SSH, so we can go back to our computer and do all the configuration from the comfort of our home PC.

At this stage we need to enable SSH. To do this type:

Sudo raspi-config

  1. Select “P2 SSH”

2. Select “YES” to enable SSH

3. You will get a confirmation saying SSH is enabled. From this point. All our configuration will be done via Putty. Putty is a SSH/Telnet Client that allows us to connect to the Pi via the SSH protocol. This is common for accessing linux machines. You can get Putty here: http://www.putty.org/

How to find the IP address of our Pi so that we can SSH to it

You should still be logged into the Pi, go back to the command line and type:

ifconfig

We need this IP address so that we can log into the Pi via SSH. Look for eth0 and browse across until you see ‘inet’ This is the IP address we require. In this case the Pi IP address is: 192.168.1.154 – Write this down or remember it.

Open Putty and SSH into the Pi

Enter the IP address of the Pi from the ‘ifconfig’ command. Then Click OPEN. You may be asked to accept some authentication keys. You only need to do this once. You will now be greeted with a similar login screen to previous.

Login as per usual.

Username: pi

Password: raspberry

If you find that some of your keyboard strokes are not the same as mine, you may need to go back into Raspi-Config and change the localization settings or Keyboard options. It also can not hurt to Extend the size of the file system. This will allow the Raspbian build to utilize the full size of the SD card.


PiVPN INSTALL - Now that we are setup, it's time to install and setup!

Now to installing PiVPN. If you are looking at installing PiVPN, then you have probably already been to the website. I just want to make mention that installing software like this could be dangerous if it is not from a trusted source. Basically we are telling the pi to run a heap of commands that are located on the internet. Be sure to check the source first to ensure it is reputable.

The command we are going to run is:

curl -L https://install.pivpn.io | bash

If you have not run an “apt-get” update today the first thing that the software will do is run this for you. This ensures all packages are up to date before installing. After the install process you will see the following configuration screens:

  1. This will install OpenVPN

2. At this stage you should be thinking about making the address the Pi was given static. Or logging into your router and “binding” the DCHP address it was given to the MAC address of the Pi. This will allow the Pi to hold the lease and never change.

3. This will change the address. Remembering when it commits the change, your SSH session will drop and you will have to re-establish the session on the new IP address. For now I am going to leave it as 192.168.1.154 as I have bound that IP to the MAC of the Pi on my router.

4. Indicating that you could get IP conflicts if you dont either bind your IP to MAC or exclude that IP from DHCP.

5. This screen is asking you to choose a user to hold your ovpn configs.

6. If you had other users setup then you would be able to select them here. It is generally good practice to Change the users away from the default username and password. For now we will stick with the default.

7. Because this is our only open facing port, we really should keep all software up to date including security patches. Why not do this automatically? Unless you have some configs that you don’t want messed with. Automatic patches can have a tendency to mess with the compatibility of software at times.

8. As per the last screen. Do it! or make sure you keep on top of it manually.

9. UDP will suffice unless you have any additional configs that require TCP.

10. If you don’t want anyone sniffing your VPN out on the default port, feel free to change this default port. However be sure to port forward the new one on your router so that the VPN can be accessed from outside your network. Also remember this port for any config changes that may need to be made.

11. A second confirmation.

12. Choose the encryption type for your server. 2048bit encryption will suffice in most instances.

13. The This screen if indicating the types of keys that will now be generated.

14. Because the Pi has very little processing power it can take 30-45 minutes for it to create the 2048 bit certificate/key. Go get a coffee! If you had of chose 4096 encryption then you would get the option to download some assistance files from the internet. Otherwise generating a 4096bit key on a Pi would take a VERY long time.

15. This screen allows you to set your WAN IP address or set a DDNS account. These can be changed after the fact via the config files however because we have a static address at home, I can leave it as the WAN IP. (I have blanked out some of the IP on purpose.)

16. Here we can set the DNS for our VPN, if you are unsure, just set it to the Google DNS address. (8.8.8.8 Primary, 8.8.4.4 Alternate)

18. Everyone loves a good reboot! No time like the present.

19. Just in case you were not sure from the previous screen. Remembering that your SSH session will drop during the reboot. Simply Re-connect to the same IP address after a few minutes.

At this stage it can’t hurt to upgrade the Raspbian image. Run this command:

Sudo apt-get upgrade

This is one of those administration tasks that should be done regularly to keep the Pi image in good working order. Unless obviously you are against keeping software up to date, or you have something specific happening in which you cannot afford for it to be affected by updates.


CREATE A USER - This is how we add clients/ Users to OpenVPN

We now need to configure the server to accept connections from the client devices or computers. To do this we setup a client openvpn configuration file. (.opvn file to be exact) This client file is loaded onto the device that wants to connect to the VPN tunnel. It stores the config and encryption keys to access the VPN.

  1. If you run the command:

pivpn help

You will be greeted with the list of commands that we can now run on the Pi to configure the clients and do other administration tasks.

2. Run the command:

pivpn add

This will start the process of creating a client configuration file. You will need to set a password at this point. Ensure you do not forget it, as you will be required to add it on the Client VPN software when we try to connect.

3. That is it for creating the .opvn client config file. It can now be found as indicated at: /home/pi/ovpns


MOVING THE CLIENT CONFIG - we need to move this config file to our device

In this example we are going to move the configuration file to a windows PC that we want to be able to access the VPN and the local network. We must now use some of the additional software to move or grab this config we just created. In this case we decided to use Filezilla as the Pi image already has SFTP enabled by default.

  1. Open Filezilla FTP client. The configuration details that you need to enter in the top for “Quickconnect” are:

Host: 192.168.1.154 (or put sftp:// it will do this automatically when we select port 22 later)

Username: Pi

Password: raspberry

Port: 22 (SFTP default port)

2. When you hit “Quickconnect” you should see a successful directory listing in the right hand navigation pane. Navigate your way to the ovpns folder (Located in the Home directory, if for some reason it did not default to that) Then identify the client1.ovpn config file that was created earlier. Download this file to your desktop by clicking on it and dragging it to the left pane. Ensure you identify the area you are dragging it to as that is your local computer.


CLIENT CONFIG - We need to setup our client now using that file!

We now have a copy of the OpenVPN config file transferred to our client computer. We will need to go ahead and install the OpenVPN client software located here: https://openvpn.net/index.php/open-source/downloads.html

Step through the standard hoops for installing a windows application.

  1. After the OpenVPN software has been installed the Client1.opvn config file needs to be copied to the OpenVPN config folder located here: C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config (For Windows)

2. Run the OpenVPN software. Most likely is will open to your taskbar.

3. Right-Click the icon in the task bar and select “Connect”

Enter your password that we set when we added the client to the Pi VPN server.

4. Once connected you should see the OpenVPN client taskbar icon turn green and the status screen should look like the above.

The VPN server should have setup your routing tables now so that you can access anything inside your local network automatically.

Give it a shot, shoot a ping through to your local router.

What you may also notice is that the VPN tunnel has been assigned a 10.0.8.# address. The VPN server runs its own network for the tunnel with its own DHCP. When another client connects they are allocated another address on this same range. The server looks after the bridging of this network to your own local network.


Building RGB LED Marquee Letters

Tara and I got married this month and whilst doing the prep work for the wedding I came across some large marquee lettering that were up for hire. After talking with the hire company and being given a quote that was absolutely ridiculous, I told Tara that I was going to build our own. Much to her dismay, I did build them, and they were a hit!

Saying that, If you were to build your own, these are the the two biggest questions I would have you ask yourself. 1. Where will you put them? (If you want to place them in front of a table, do not make them 1 meter high like I did.) 2. Cost of materials – Depending where you get the MDF, you may actually be better off hiring them. Time vs Materials.


Materials Required

  • MDF - Approx 18mm Thick
  • Plywood - 3mm or 5mm Ply (3mm Bends easier)
  • Small Tacks and Nails (For attaching Ply to side of MDF)
  • Sanding Sheets
  • CNC Router or Jigsaw (Jigsaw for Hand cuts)

  • White Gloss Paint (Rollers/Brushes etc etc)
  • Fairy light fake bulbs (You can use the lights also)
  • OPTIONAL - Pixel Pusher
  • OPTIONAL - WS2801 RGB LED strings (If you want to control light)
  • OPTIONAL - 5v PSU and travel router to control RGB lights from phone)




Cutting the Letters

Draw up the letters in your favorite CAD/CAM program. I used Aspires Vetric for this. Mostly its a CAM software but still has some good tools for drawings. Another alternative would be to draw it in illustrator and convert to DXF. If you plan to cut the shapes manually, you will need to come up with a template. For smaller letters this could be achieved in Microsoft word and printing the outlines. However for 1 meter tall lettering, your best off cutting on a CNC router.

Ensure the holes for the lighting are spaced evenly. I used a 150mm gap between each light, however you can extend this to not use so many lights, or bring them closer together for more lighting.

Bending and Attaching the Ply

It is actually very surprising how flexible Ply is. Especially 3mm thick ply. Obviously the smaller your lettering the tighter the corners will be. You may even have to wet your ply with water to make that bend. However with these letters I did not have to wet any of it down. The tightest angle was on the inside of the heart shape and the 5mm ply that I used just made it. I could hear some slight cracks, but nothing visual.

The ply is measured and cut to length, I tried to make the seams join at the apex of the cuts. However it does not matter too much where the ply joins as you can hide any irregularities prior to painting. Attach the ply with some overhang at the rear of the letters. This will help to hide any unsightly cabling/wiring later.

We used some black tacks to tack the wood on. Every few centimeters I tacked the ply on. This has held well to date. If you use nails, be careful not to split the MDF.

Painting (The Not so fun part!)

What I will say here is that you should really spend some time sanding. As with all wood projects, any imperfections will be seen if you do not deal with them now. However, knowing that these things are always turned in a dimly lit room may entice you to do a half job here. Also you may want to punch the tacks down below the surface of the wood and use some filler to cover it over. Ok so get painting! we used a gloss, feel free to change it up here.

OPTIONAL - The Electronics

This section is totally optional. I initially used the ‘Christmas’ like lights in the bulbs but found it to be boring. Thus I took it a bit further and installed the WS2801 RGB LED string lights. I acquired these from Aliexpress at a good price. I also used one of the many Pixelpushers I had lying about to drive the RGBs. Using the Pixelpusher for this kind of install is massively overkill however its what I had lying around. The bonus to this is that I could use the LEDlab App and control the lights from my phone. Let me know if you want more info on this setup.


How Do Crypto Fees Work?

Fees are basically broken down into two parts. The first are the Fees that you pay at an exchange to purchase or send crypto currency. The second are fees that are charged as part of the blockchain that are charged when moving crypto between wallets. At the lowest level, we convert our local currency by sending it to the exchange. (A fee will apply) We then purchase some crypto currency ie Bitcoin, NEO, IOTA etc etc. (A fee will apply) We then send the crypto to a wallet. (Another fee will apply). The first Fee is most likely for the service to move your fiat currency to the exchange, the second is for the exchange and the third is the fee that the blockchain/crypto itself will chew up.

So I hear you saying, if there are so many fees what is the benefit of Crypto Currency… Well at present, there is not a lot of incentive to use it. Most of those holding crypto is for investment purposes. The end goal will be to pay with items directly using your crypto of choice. Thus cutting out the middle-men. We will start to see more of this into the future. However for now this is where we are at. I hope to look back on this blog post in 2-3 years and see that we are making progress towards a system that is easy to access and easy to use.


Check, Double Check and Triple Check your Fees

  • Decide on your payment method and Check Fees.
  • Polipay $3.30 each time is not bad
  • Bpay 2% on some exchanges
  • Check wallet fees and ensure you send enough
  • IOTA = No Fees on transactions

  • Check Exchange fees
  • Coinspot 2% - 3% fee for Transactions
  • BTC Markets 0.85% for Transactions
  • Ensure the value sent is what will be received
  • Triple Check Senders Address



Transferring Fiat Currency to Crypto


Buying a Crypto Miner

In a nutshell ‘Mining’ Crypto Currency is basically verifying transactions on the network or blockchain. This happens to ensure the system remains safe, secure and reliable. The Miners are basically computers that solve a problem to verify that the correct data (or Transaction) has been sent between peers.

There are two ways to get Crypto Currency. One is to ‘Mine’ it. (Using some Mining Hardware) and the other is to purchase it directly. (Using an exchange.) When looking to mine Crypto there are a few variables to take into account. The first is the Crypto Type that you want to mine. Bitcoin for example uses a SHA-256 algorithm and is best mined with ASIC based miners (We will go into ASIC chips later!) Where as the Coin ‘Ethereum’ uses Ethash which is a modified version of SHA and some other protocols to make it ASIC-resistant and easier to verify transactions. In other words you can use your computers Graphics card to mine this coin.

The ASIC miners for Bitcoin and GPU miners for Ethereum are only just the tip of the iceberg, new technologies are coming out all the time which will change how you mine crypto and which hardware you select. Below if a few comparisons to help you make up your mind if ‘mining’ crypto is for you.


Things to consider when purchasing a miner

  • What Crypto am I going to Mine? (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin)
  • What type of hardware do I require to mine said coin?
  • Is there a calculator to determine my earnings?
  • How much maintenance does a miner require?
  • Do I need an internet connection?

  • Where shall I store the hardware?
  • How much heat will my hardware produce?
  • How noisy is the hardware?
  • How much power will my mining rig use?



Where to Start

First you need to determine the Crypto coin you want to mine. Check and make sure it is ‘mineable’ also. Not all Crypto can be mined. For example, NEO (Chinese Crypto) it is not able to be mined, but has other benefits that is outside the scope of this post. (Google it, very interesting read!) In my case, the first miner I purchased was an ASIC based miner suitable for Bitcoin (SHA-256 capable). I decided upon this because Bitcoin is the most well known of the crypto currencies and I felt at the time that no matter the initial investement amount on the hardware, the price of Bitcoin will still go up relatively quickly.

Power Consumption

We should really hit on the power consumption debate firstly as this is easily the most debated topic when mining crypto. Most of the hardware require a fair bit of power to run. The key is to figure out how much you are paying for power and to weigh this up with the rewards you get from mining your crypto. In some cases (Especially in Australia!) the price of power may not allow you to make mining profitable.

Easily the best Crypto Profitability calculator going around is this one. It will allow you to incorporate your power consumption to give you a more accurate understanding of the potential returns you could make.

Noise and Heat

As with all computer hardware, they generally produce a fair bit of Noise and Heat. Any device that is using upwards of 1000W of power is going to produce heat. A byproduct of this is the use of fans to cool the hardware, which in turn produces noise. Taking this into account you will need to store your mining rig in a suitable location so that you do not over heat the device, and that the constant drone of the fans are not annoying. Checkout the video below. This is an Ebit E9, the first miner that I purchased. Noisy AF!

Where to buy?

Generally purchasing direct from the manufacturer is always a good Idea. My first stop would be to check the Bitmain website to see what is available. They have some of the best ASIC and Litecoin miners going. At present you can’t really beat the Antminer S9 if you want o mine Bitcoin. They sell all the equipment in batches. Thus you may find them to be out-of-stock on a regular basis. Keep checking in periodically to get a good deal.

With regards to GPU miners, All these parts are available at local computer shops. See below for a small spreadsheet outlining some items you could use:

As with all tech, at the time of this post, the prices listed for the gear were pretty competitive. Once this post is 3-4 months old, you will see that other tech has come out which is better spec and a better price.


Crypto: Coinspot.com.au

Ever since 2012 I have been interested in the Crypto Currency market (Yes Bitcoin fascinated me!) however, as like many of us we thought it was a bit of a pipe dream and did not invest in it. I did not even think about putting a cheeky $50 down. In hindsight that was a bit of a mistake. The value of Bitcoin has since gone to the moon! 2010 saw prices sitting below $1, now a single coin is worth approx $7k AUD!

So of course its at this time I decided to do what I should have done years ago! Buy some Bitcoin! or At least some Crypto anyhow.  After joining the Crypto Australia group on Facebook and reading through some posts it became clear to me that Coinspot was the most user friendly exchange to get started with. Coinspot is an Australian company operated out of Melbourne Victoria. (That was a win for me, Aussie based company for starters)

For those of you who just skim the page, see below a list of Pro’s and Cons. This will help making up your mind. What I will say quickly though is that this exchange is perfect for the mum and dad investors looking to get a foot in the door!


Coinspot.com.au Pros and Cons

  • Ease of Use
  • Suitable for First Time Buyer
  • User Friendly Interface
  • Crypto Delivered Almost instantly

  • Built In Wallet to Hold your Crypto
  • PoliPay, Bpay and Cash Deposit
  • Secure 2Factor Authentication
  • Identity Validation Completed quickly

  • High Fees (2% for Crypto Transactions)
  • Limited Selection of Coins (However getting better!)
  • Charting is basic (Good for first timers)



A more in Depth look at Coinspot

So you have decided to take the plunge into the Crypto world and you have decided to use Coinspot for your first exchange of Fiat currency into Crypto Currency. See below some more in depth info to help you get started.

Sign Up and Verification

The first step is to sign up for an account on coinspot and go through the verification process. Some might be hesitant to hand over a lot of personal information, however I do believe this added step in security only benefits the members and the community. It makes it just that little bit harder for the scammers and crims to also be involved. Some of the verification steps will require you to scan and send your drivers license, a verification photo holding a handwritten sign, and a copy of a utility bill to confirm address. This is all completed and sent to Coinspot via the secure portal they provide. I submitted my verification on a Sunday morning and it was verified that night. They even gave me a phone call to confirm that I had not given them an incorrect phone number. Once verified you are good to go to buy your first crypto.

TIP - Enable two-factor authentication on your account and get the google Authentication App on your phone. It adds an extra layer of security to your account. When dealing in Crypto and $$ you should go to this effort. It may save you later on. Especially if your portfolio grows.

Buying your first Coin

You will now be required to make a deposit into your account. Coinspot has 3 methods. PoliPay, Bpay and Cash Deposit. Polipay has the lowest Fees at $0, Bpay @ 2% and Cash Deposits at 3%. Cash Deposits are via BlueShyft which you can complete at many Newsagents around the country. At first you will be limited to $2000AUD per day. However once you have gained some “purchase experience” the cap will be raised to $10,000AUD.

No matter how you get your AUD into the exchange it will then show up as a Balance that you can use to purchase Crypto.

Now that You have a Balance in the exchange you can purchase your first Crypto. Click on the “Buy” button in the top menu, and select how much you want to purchase. Either the Crypto amount or how much you want to spend of your Balance. Click buy and you will be greeted with a summary page. This will list the fees for your transaction. Take note of the 2% fee. Once purchased it will take a few minutes, but you will see the balance pop up in the wallet of the coin you purchased.


The Scott Bonnar 45 Project

Have you ever just wanted to get the boys (and girls) away from the PS4 for a while? well I think I found the solution… My son and I decided to give the whole “reel mower restoration” thing a go. After a bit of searching I decided upon the ever popular Scott Bonnar/Rover Model 45. It seems you can still find many parts for these suckers as well as plenty of donor mowers also if required.

We searched the ever faithful GumTree for a semi cheap donor mower and came across an old chap down the road selling the exact one we were after. A 17″ reel mower with the Scott Bonnar 45 stickers all over it. The nice, but old green paint job and oil stained Briggs and Stratton engine has us in awe. I gave it a quick test cut on the lawns and we purchased it on the spot.

Without looking too close, we probably should have checked it a bit more thoroughly. It seems that these mowers have a bit of a problem with the horizontal supports for the engines. Over time the engine mount holes get cracks in them and this can spell disaster for any home restoration project. The good news for us however that after a complete strip of the engine we had zero cracks and the restoration was good to go.


Some History on the mower

Thanks to ‘Bonnar Bloke’ from the Outdoorking.com forums we were able to get this little piece of history on this particular model of Scott Bonnar 45 mower.

“Well that’s one of the early made “Eagle Farm” Scott Bonnar’s after Rover closed the Holland Street Thebarton Factory in Adelaide the previous year. Your mower was assembled in early (March) 1984 with the Engine being made on the 6th of December 1983 over in the US of A.”

“It’s a rather interesting example as the ID plate is of the first batch of green metal plates that doesn’t refer to Brisbane as the city of manufacture. The later ones do, before they changed to silver foil style ID stickers. Also this mower shows evidence that they had not commissioned their new state of the art “Powder Coating line” yet which introduced the Kermit Green coloured Rovers. So the Eagle Farm factory was still shooting Hammertone Enamel paint which was now a different colour than what was used in Adelaide (Apple Green)even though the 1984 Range of mowers brochure still showed the Apple Green colour as being current.”


Getting rid of the paint

So apparently back in the day powder coating was not a thing and the SB’s were painted with a Hammer-tone enamel paint. I can tell you that it is truly very stubborn to remove. Initially I used a sandblaster with the course garnet and it got rid of all the rust and crap. But the paint that was still good quality would not budge.

I then switched to the grinder with sanding pads, which worked pretty well. However all the small grooves proved to be a hassle with the grinder. The third method was to then use those wire brush attachments for the drill and after some time was able to bring the mower back to bare metal.


A new motor

The original Briggs and Stratton engine that came with the mower still runs, however it has seen its best days and I decided a retro fit was in order. Would you believe that you can get a direct replacement “Chonda” or Chinese Honda for $144 delivered? well you can’t really beat this and even if I get 5-6 years out of it I will be happy. The process of removing and replacing the engine is pretty straight forward. 4 mounting bolts, a throttle cable and thats about it.


Work in progress

This post is a bit of a work in progress. I’ll keep updating it as we go with the resto. Wish us luck!


TapDoc (BETA)

After playing with NFC and RFID a bit in the last year I realized that the technology is really hamstrung to only a few use cases. Primarily Access Control systems and payment systems. No one has really used the technology for much more. Maybe some active tracking solutions, but really the use cases for NFC are pretty scarce.

The problem with NFC/RFID is that the tags themselves cannot really store too much usable information and storing off site can sometimes be an expensive exercise. The idea of TapDoc is to leverage consumer devices and common cloud platforms to make the technology more usable and accessible.


TapDoc

From here we did a bit of brainstorming to see what we could come up with to utilize the technology a bit differently. Thus TapDoc was born. (I have this feeling though I may need a new name….) In its basic form, TapDoc allows a user to associate files/documents to a NFC tag and place the tag onto an item or in a designated area. In its more advanced form, TapDoc allows a user to create “Pathways” These pathways are a predetermined order of basic tags. Once a pathway is created a user must scan the NFC tags in the order that was set. If your still confused, check out the info below.


TapDoc Apk

Obviously TapDoc is in its very infancy, however if you would like to give it a try feel free. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


Third-world countries have better internet then me!

We moved into a brand new home about 3 months ago. Most people would have checked out the comms infrastructure in the area prior to buying. Silly me however assumed that being only 20km from the center of Perth city we would be able to achieve decent DSL speeds. Well… I can tell you that no matter how close you are to the city, it is always wise to check out the telephone exchange in your suburb. After moving in and being sold “ADSL2+” we were very disappointed with the speeds and began looking for alternatives. This is my journey…


"ADSL2+"

After moving in I contacted our Telecom company as you do, and requested ADSL2+ be installed. After a few days sure enough we had been setup with ADSL2+ and a 1000Gb Monthly data plan. I was pretty excited that the service had been setup so quickly, however the joy was short lived after I ran a speedtest… 1.6Mbps … consistently.

To keep the story short, I went back and forward with the telecom company tech support to see if it was a fault or just the standard. As it turns out they could not offer any better speeds into my residence. The company ended up refunding everything because it was not even possible to use the data in a month with speeds like that.

We all have “that mate” who boasts about his internet speed, and it just so happens my mate has up to 100Mbps and is only 900m away. (Yes….devastating I know…). So I hit him up to see if we could pipe some traffic over to mine. But first I needed to see if we had “Line of sight” (LOS) between the two houses. This is what we had to work with.

~900m shot, one house elevated above the other, a few parks in the way. Easy you say! well….it seems the trees are the limiting factor here. We have large pockets of trees in the way.

What I will say about the Airgrids though is that they are super simple to assemble. (Tool-Less design) and really fast to get up and running. With the Airgrid having the radio inside the feed-horn, all you require is a piece of cat5 and the POE injector and your in business. I foresee the Airgrids being used in rural environments with direct LOS to the target. I would probably look elsewhere if I was trying to push further then 10-15km though.


5Ghz (Make note to self: 5Ghz does not like trees!)

My first attempt at setting up the link failed miserably. Now 5Ghz obviously gives us the most throughput. But with the gear I had, I was unable to even achieve a link.

I purchased the Airgrids for an economical $99ea. Hopeful I may achieve even half the 80Mbps suggest on the ubiquiti planner. The Airgrids are a single channel radio operating in the 5Ghz unlicensed band. For the price and output they appeared to be a good bet. Me being a bit of a novice though didn’t take into account the “tree” effect on 5Ghz. It seems that there is a substantial difference in punching power between 5Ghz and say 900Mhz. (Which I ended up with!)


2.4Ghz (Success - But only just! Not our final solution)

Since 5Ghz for me was a total failure, I decided to give 2.4Ghz Unlicensed a crack. The first thing I want to say is that I did not use rockets with rocket-dish antennas. Everyone has told me, “you would be surprised how much better the good gear works” and I agree, however with a $1200+ outlay I decided to try single channel radios first. I could get my hands on some Ubiquti bullets and some cheap 28dBi grid antennas to test the link first.

I did have initial success getting the links up and running, however no matter what I did I was unable to improve the signal strength. I tried to get as much elevation as I could on each roof mount, I tried lowering the channel widths etc etc. At times I would get a solid 5Mbps of internet traffic but most of the time I would equal my 1.6Mbps that I had with DSL.

Maybe I could double the throughput with Ubiquti MIMO Rockets and dishes, but I was still weary to spend money on the gear only to experience the same “flutter” that I was on single channel gear.


900Mhz (Winner Winner! For this link anyways.)

A mate of mine suggested I give 900Mhz radios a go to see how that went. I was starting to see that as we stepped down the frequency range the “punching” power through the trees was indeed getting better. However using the 900Mhz band in Australia is a little bit tricky and you have to be careful with your setup so that you do not break the law. From what I can tell, 922Mhz is the only frequency you are allowed to use and can use up to 10Mhz channel width on this frequency. Thus the throughput is lowered significantly. However If I can still achieve 20Mbps of actual throughput then I’m still winning.

The other consideration is the power levels. You really need to drop the power (Most 900Mhz Ubiquti radios that come out of Australia are limited by firmware so you cannot push the limits anyhow.) From what I can tell some of the 3G mobile services sit on the 900Mhz range and the ACMA does not want unlicensed users to interfere. Which makes sense.

With all that in mind, if you have another radio sitting on 900Mhz close by you could be in trouble because you cannot move from 922Mhz.

So our initial testing saw us setup 2 x 900 Rockets with the MIMO 16dBi Yagi. We had it sitting on the roof and it already had a link. Not very good but was in. Once we got it up the mast and semi aligned we could see straight away that a lot of the “flutter” had disappeared and the signal strength was sitting solid. A quick speed test saw us get a solid 10mbps on a 5Mhz channel width. This put a smile on my face.


Some Unreal Footage

Just recently I managed to find some time to head down to my mates place in Fingal, NSW. To most Fingal seems like a bit of a trek, but what I have noticed recently is that the Gold Coast has pretty much all merged all the way down the coast and now it just doesn’t seem that far to get to Fingal. It was a nice winters day with little to no wind. Checkout the video of the Phantom 4 performing flawlessly.


Watch in HD!


Choppy Preview Playback in Adobe Premier Pro

Over the last couple of weeks I have been playing with Adobe Premiere Pro with varying results. The biggest problem I have run into is the preview of a sequence becoming choppy after a few seconds of playback. After reading MULTIPLE forum posts and articles on this matter I still have not found a complete solution. What I plan to do is take note here what I have tried and what has been suggested to me. Feel free to comment with any further tips. On a Side note, I am working with Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014.


1. Changing Playback Preview Settings

If you click on the sequence you are using then navigate to the top “Sequence” Menu item, select “Sequence Settings” and navigate down to “Video Previews”. You will notice that it is stuck on “I-Frame” and is greyed out. You need to change the “Editing Mode” to “Custom” and then you can select anything other than I-Frame. What you also need to do is change the resolution down low to something like 640×360.

This technique has been reported to work, however I am still having a few issues with it. After you have set these settings you may still need to delete any previews that have been generated and delete the cache.


2. Change Renderer to Software only

In case your GFX/GPU is not upto task, you can try using “Software” only as the Renderer. Go to “File”, “Project Settings”, “General” and select the “Video Rendering and Playback” drop down. Switch to “Mercury Playback Engine Software Only” Click the image to see the exact settings.


3. Render the Sequence

After a bit of reading it seems that those with inadequate hardware (me included) will need to render the clips that you have inserted into your sequence. From what I can tell this “rendering” process pulls all your clips together and brings them down in size/resolution etc etc and makes the preview playable. If anyone wants to enlighten us further as to exactly what is happening here then please feel free.

To get this done you will need to use the “in” and “out” markers. (Shortcut keys ‘I” and “O” funnily enough) Once you have selected the section of your sequence to be rendered using the markers, you then can press “Enter” and the process will begin. I had a few issues with pressing enter as it was just playing that section of the sequence for me. So instead I go to “Sequence” on the top ribbon bar and click “Render In and Out”. This will begin to render your sequence between the markers you set.

You will then notice that the line above the clips turns green and you should then get much better playback in the preview window. This does not effect your final export or rendering of the clips.


4. If editing from a laptop, disconnect your dock or USB 3.0 Display Link Cable

So, I think I may have solved one of my problems. Today I decided to do a bit of editing on the couch and noticed a massive improvement in the preview window. But how can this be? I have not made any changes to the settings. I decided to head back to my desk and plug into my port extender which uses ‘USB 3.0 Display Link’ to connect the monitor….(Massive Light bulb moment!) I decided to then change my monitor properties to “Clone” mode instead of “Extend”. I noticed straight away that the choppiness still appeared on my larger monitor through the USB 3.0 display link, but it was not nearly as bad on the laptop screen. Of course I had been using the larger external screen the whole time with premiere pro. Saying all of this, it has not fixed it perfectly yet, but we are getting closer to complete resolution.