Meraki’s are in the house

A while back I blogged about these cool mesh network devices called Meraki’s. Well last week I finally got my act together and purchased a few, unfortunately I had to keep the value under $1000 to vale on import duty so there will be another order.

These cool little devices arrived yesterday afternoon!

So first thing I did was take pictures to make everyone jealous :-).

Next I finished work as quickly as possible and raced home to set them up. First mistake, golden rule with toys if you race then it wont work.

I unpacked a Meraki Mini (they are very cute) and plugged into the power & my router, second mistake. Router decided it did not like the new device so it crashed, yes crashed. I unplugged the mini, rebooted the router and read the manual. To be honest the manual is not very good.

Here are a list of tip and hints, also covering things I did not find in the manual or knowledge base. Well they might of been I was just too rushed to find them.

  • Yes Meraki’s have DCHP, but only within their subnet 10.x, initially I though my router was borking cause it had 2 DCHP servers, not the case.
  • Once you book the Meraki it takes about 2 – 3 minutes for it to sort itself out, during which time the SID will change from meraki-scanning, to meraki. Log onto the first and you will be disconnected very quickly.
  • You don’t need to disable the existing Wireless on your router, instead you can use the Wireless as an Uplink service to the internet.
  • Having your network within the same subnet as the Meraki’s is not a good idea, go for 192.x.
  • You need to connect to each Meraki via an Ethernet cable to ensure it gets added to your network, just adding the device via the Meraki dashboard is not enough!
  • Have patience with your network, IP can take a few minutes to reconfigure itself, don’t rush
  • Don’t, and I mean don’t forget to turn off MAC address filtering on your existing Wireless network if you want to use the Wireless uplink service. This cost me at least 45 minutes of complete confusion!
  • Try not to have to set these up on a corporate PC that does not allow you to have wired & wireless networks running at the same time, just makes things difficult!
  • Once you are up and running make sure you setup your dashboard properly & limit the bandwidth your neighbours can suck otherwise you might run out of usage allowances before the end of your billing cycle.
  • Provide a nice welcoming message on your splash screen to encourage people to use your service.
  • Finally if you are in Australia, make sure you add yourself to I Can Haz Meraki to advertise your network. (More about the service here).

So now if you are in Elwood on Ormond Rd, look for a SID of free-the-net and you might be have some free Wireless love. Next step is to work on getting some more in the area.

15 thoughts on “Meraki’s are in the house

  1. Q’s – my Router is 10.x by default, does that mean that I can’t put Meraki’s on my network?
    Can you explain what Wireless Uplink is and the diff between general wireless and Meraki wireless – I understand they would clash but you still want your wireless to use in your house so you can use ALL the bandwidth you haven’t shared out.
    Do you add the Meraki via the ethernet, then unplug it and just plug into power at it’s new location?
    What is MAC address filtering? Why does it stuff the Meraki up?
    Why do you need wired and wireless networks working off the same PC at once – my desktop doesn’t have wireless – does that mean it’s not going to work?

    Sorry for the stupid questions…

  2. Jodie let me try and answer, but I might not be the best but I will try 🙂
    * As long as your 10x wireless router has spare ethernet ports no worries the Meraki’s create their own subnet behind your existing network. This means your 10x’s should work without issue. I still have my existing wireless network running with the Meraki also running, just using different SID.
    * Wireless Uplink allows you to connect your meraki network to the interest via Wireless vs Wired. I could be very wrong here, as I broke things a couple of times playing with this feature. Now if you use the wireless uplink your 10x’s router will need to understand standard 802.11b/g, which is should.
    * Yes you need to add the Meraki’s via wired ethernet, & your gateway (a meraki that controls the rest of them) then needs to the be connected to internet preferable via wired ethernet.
    * MAC address filtering allows you to limit who connects to the wireless network based on their physical network card address (called a MAC address). This gives you high security cause you have the physically sight every device before it can use your network. Basically I think my router won’t let the Meraki’s communicate on the network cause their MAC addresses were not registered, no proof just turned off filtering. I know not very scientific.
    * You need to have a wireless PC just to test out that things are working. My laptop does allow me to have both wireless & wired going at once & my other PC was off so I have to plug & unplug the wired ethernet on my laptop, wait for it to find the wireless then test.

    Hope this hasn’t confused things too much 🙂

  3. Thanks Michael, yes some more confusion and some clarification. I think this is a post to come back to as a reference once I have some Meraki goodness for myself…

  4. Congratulations on the new Meraki’s Michael!

    A couple of notes that differ from your own on the couple of networks that I have setup.

    1. You don’t actually need to have the Merakis plugged in to ethernet to configure them – you just need to make sure ONE is – they will automatically mesh, but as you say, it may take a couple of minutes.

    2. You will a direct connection to configure them (proxy servers won’t work) – the Merakis phone back to base for all configuration

    3. The Merakis won’t attach themselves to an existing non-meraki wireless network – so if you leave your exsiting wireless up, you will have two (maybe three) access points – you original, the public Meraki and your private Meraki network (if you configured it).

    4. The subnet that the Merakis run on is actually a huge virtual network that runs on the 10.x.x.x network – every Meraki in the world is part of this network, so you may IP clash issues if your internal network is in the 10.x.x.x network (Not sure – all of mine have been 192.168.x.x).

  5. Myles, interesting you found the others automatically meshed, my outdoor Meraki would not appear active on my Dashboard until I configured it directly via ethernet.

    They will allow you to use an existing wireless network as their connection to the internet, which is what I have done. But you are right they won’t join an existing network.

    The whole subnet thing caught me off guard, management of IP subnets are a black magic in my books. Initially I was not clear that I could leave my 192.x subnet.

    BTW I can haz Meraki is a great site, any plans for additional features?

  6. Hey Michael, nice setup. Did you have to get an AU/US power adapter for your outdoor setup? I noticed on their web-site that they only have US/EU adapters.

  7. Stuart the outdoor ships with a US power adapter, but the nice folks at Meraki actually also sent an adapter so I could immediately plug in it to an AU power supply :-).

  8. I thought I better put my notes on the Meraki Outdoor now that I have given it a go. I changed over the aerial on my outdoor to a 10dBi antenna (a bigger version of the one on a wireless router) and then placed the device ontop of the aerial on the roof of the house. This is about 6m above the natural ground and the topography around the house is pretty typical for suburbia being flat, and full of houses and trees gardens and that sort of thing. I then used Netstumber and a laptop in the car to go on a bit of a “wardive” around the neighbour hood to see its performance. The outcome was the Meraki device pretty much maxed out at 600m and it was readily interffered with when it came to trees houses and other structures. So whilst it is good I am not sure if its really a viable alternative unless you can get super density and up the antenna to 15dBi and possibly a booster to add more power to the signal (I believe 4 watts is the maximum for home useage). I think the >1km range stated by Meraki would have been using a directional antenna which would limit the spread of the signal. The best means of spreading the signal is therefore through mass saturation. A run with Netstumber through your neighbour hood and then conversion of the files using knsgem to get them into Google Earth will give you a good idea as to the level of penetration in your neighbourhood of wireless routers (it should also indicated that 25% are not secured). Looking at Meraki as a business option for Australia I have the following comments.1) you need to get licensed with the ACMA if you plan to operate more than a single wifi location 2) Wimax is coming to Regional Australia and 3) Wireless broadband is coming down in price which means the Meraki infrastructure will be very expensive as the hardware costs will be high compared to the systems that will be used by the big end of town. My thoughts are that Meraki will have a niche in the wifi hotspot market for units and holiday spots, and also potentially in new housing estate where the cable installed by Telstra limits you to Telstra or wireless services, but before all the trees grown up between the houses which blocks the signal.

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. Hi,

    I thought I improve on the information supplied on the Meraki Outdoor previously.

    The following information was obtained with the Outdoor Meraki fitted with a 10dBi antenna (a supersised version of the one on most wireless routers indoor). The Outdoor Meraki was fitted on the roof and powered via the ethernet power option.

    Anyways here are the technical results:

    Channel : 6
    Encryption : WEP
    Signal : -25
    MaxRate : 54
    Altitude of transmitter: 830.38000m (but 6m above ground level).
    MaxRange : 1000.9 meters
    AvgRange : 246.1 meters

    So theoretically the Meraki Outdoor with the 10dBi antenna could make 1000m. Keep in mind that obstacles such as buildings trees and everything else in Suburbia causes problems. The test area as mentioned is reasonbly flat.

    The average distance of 241m but it is important to have a look at the image I hope Michael will place on this site in conjunction with this posting will show that the 241 is anything but an even spread. A quick look at the image will show that it is certainly not circular in shape.

    Please also be aware that the pattern does not indicate that the signal reaches all the areas with the perimeter. This coverage area is interpreted – there would be many areas (like inside the houses) where the signal is not present.

    The testing I undertook was done with the laptop sitting on the passenger seat of the car as I drove “war drived” some of the local streets. The signal inside a persons home would be substantially weaker as the signal will need to penerate through the window glass or the buidlings walls.

    To get a reliable Meraki signal in your dwelling I am guessing that each Meraki would need its own receiver. This is a problem as it adds an extra hop between the ADSL connection and the user.

    If you would like to do your own testing it is certainly not hard to do.

    My guess is that with a 15dBi omni-antenna you might get 1500m maximum from the 2.4GHz signal without amplyfing the power above 200mW.

    I also had a good look at powering these units using solar power myself and had a chat to a auto electrician that manages alot of field based farming telemetry gear that is solar powered. To get a reliable result in the NW of NSW (where I am and one of the better places for solar power) I would need a 20W 12V solar system (24V is apparently more efficient than 12V in solar – perhaps Meraki might take advantage of this with their solar systems and up the transmission power from 200mW at the same time).

    The panel would cost around ($AUD) $180, regulator about $40, and a good qualify gel gel battery around $180-$220, and then a case to put it all in and a pole to mount it. Keep in mind the battery would require replacement every two year so you have running and maintenance costs to keep in mind. For person in not so sunny climates their costs would go up considerably to ensure 24hr power for the winter period

  10. Andrew some really good insights here.

    I have been researching the AMCA license side of things and what is not clear is how they treat mesh networks. Does a mesh network fail the single location test, Imean if the base stations I own are all in a single location then it might not, hard to tell. Further as long as it remains non-commercial then no license will be required. But this is the hard part, to operate a network on a non-commercial basis.

    If a community networks does require a license the whole AMCA process seems overly complex & prohibitive expensive to community base networks. $2500 application fee, plus annual license fees which while I have not found how much they would be I’m sure higher than the “avg joe” could afford.

  11. I have the same opinion as Andrew, once you start to charge for access it becomes a grey area where you *may* need to get a license from the government.If you were providing a service to the surrounding community, surely they would overlook it.

    I have had a similar experience with a Meraki Outdoor, with the shipped antenna it was next to useless although once I connected a home made Yagi to it there was approx a 1km directional coverage area. Word of advice, if you are using one, change the default antenna! 🙂

    There is a new tech forum that has started up discussing Meraki’s, Open-Mesh etc at http://www.merakeye.com which may interest your readers. Most importantly – FreeTheNet!!

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