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Wireless Networking Networking The Internet Technology

Stanford Team Tries For Better Wi-Fi In Crowded Buildings 43

alphadogg writes "Having lots of Wi-Fi networks packed into a condominium or apartment building can hurt everyone's wireless performance, but Stanford University researchers say they've found a way to turn crowding into an advantage. In a dorm on the Stanford campus, they're building a single, dense Wi-Fi infrastructure that each resident can use and manage like their own private network. That means the shared system, called BeHop, can be centrally managed for maximum performance and efficiency while users still assign their own SSIDs, passwords and other settings. The Stanford project is making this happen with inexpensive, consumer-grade access points and SDN (software-defined networking)."
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Stanford Team Tries For Better Wi-Fi In Crowded Buildings

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  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @11:13PM (#46425467)

    also what about stuff like file shearing and other stuff that the cops only look at the IP and not that real end user.

    • by Vesvvi ( 1501135 )

      I assume this is something like Ubiquiti's "zero-handoff" system, where the wireless APs coordinate to form an virtual network that spans across all the APs. I'm not a networking pro, but I guess you could say it's like the opposite of a VLAN? Although based on the article, it sounds like there are effectively VLANs running on their mesh to partition it into per-user virtualized segments. In that situation, there is nothing that prevents you from having a static or even public IP.

    • also what about stuff like file shearing...

      Well, typically, you start by grabbing the file by its strings, give 'em a twist and get it on its back. Then you lift the tail[*] such that all the loose bits run off onto the floor as you make your first pass. Some prefer Occam's Razor when shearing data, but I find Hanlon's Razor works, too.

      [*] I find that tail -n 100 is enough to get a decent grip, but it really depends on the size of the RAM....

    • On a university network, every networked device is usually registered by its MAC address, which is tied to that student's school-wide login for tracking purposes. The university already knows everything you do. I assume the same would be true over this public WiFi architecture.

      I tried to get around this one time by spoofing my MAC with one from a library computer. THAT didn't go over so well. Since I was using the personal WiFi in my dorm room (stupid, I know), they knew exactly which network spigot it w
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I've set up static IPs (or reserved DHCP) across hundreds of APs in multiple buildings. Roam all you want from floor to floor, and building to building, and keep your single IP. Oh, and send out another SSID for your neighbor, and he can be on a whole different network, and roam across all the same APs and keep his IP. Hell, it's possible to have one SSID per person, with hundreds of individual people/SSIDs on a single AP, and have all those SSIDs available on all APs in the cluster.

      You are thinking sma
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's actually the perfect defence against speculative copyright infringement claims. "We don't have that information."

  • Doesn't this just mean that all of the networks have to be put under the control of a singe entity, and then redistributed amont those living in the condo?
    • Comcast would love that and yes online Sunday ticket does eat up a big part of your cap and don't even think about installing an dish.

    • by khasim ( 1285 )

      All of the WiFi routers (access points) would be under central control for things like assigning them to specific channels.

      But the "owner" (student) of the router will get to set things like SSID and QoS and such.

    • by LiENUS ( 207736 )

      not at all. you would plug your router that is compatible with this system into your cable modem and into a seperate port for the building network or whatever and the software defined network would route all of your vlan traffic back to your own router for it to travel out your cable modem, any traffic going to your router but for a different vlan would hit the building network and go to whoevers home router it was for.

  • VPN called. It wants its acronym back.

  • Let's say you live in an apartment building and you can see 16 different SSIDs. Is it slow because there's a lot of data in total being transferred, or does CSMA just collapse (gridlock) so hardly anybody is getting anything? It seems like back when ethernet was actually used as a shared medium (hubs) throughput was good up to about 85% and then it would just die.
    • by khasim ( 1285 )

      Is it slow because there's a lot of data in total being transferred, or does CSMA just collapse (gridlock) so hardly anybody is getting anything?

      Usually it is because of data. But not necessarily that simple.

      You can see 16 SSID's but if no one is transmitting traffic right then then there shouldn't be a problem.

      If someone else is transmitting data then it depends whether he is on the same channel as you (or one that overlaps yours). With the 2.4GHz range there are only 3 channels that don't conflict/overla

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @01:24AM (#46425813)

      2.4ghz is still usable with 16 networks in the same area, but it's not a great experience. There are only three non-overlapping bands in the 2.4 GHz band, so you can see how there can be a rather lot of congestion.

      The 5.8 GHz band, on the other hand, wouldn't have nearly as much of an issue. 802.11n in the 5.8GHz band devices can use 8 non-overlapping channels, significantly reducing the amount of interference.

      802.11ac is kind of in a wierd spot. It's really 40MHz per channel minimum (twice the minimum for 802.11g or 802.11n), but many devices also support a whole whack of new frequencies that require the use of DFS to avoid interfering with radar (basically if the router detects radar on the channel, it blacklists the channel for a set amount of time and switches to another channel). That brings the total up to a possible 12 channels, even though they're twice as wide...

      802.11ac also supports beam forming, which enables multiple simultaneous transmissions to happen on the same frequency at the same time without interfering. I believe that's more targeted at handling more users on a single network rather than letting multiple networks co-exist, though.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        2 networks on the same channel can be unusable if one is saturating it (big download, BitTorrent etc.). If you are lucky the two will at least share the channel and both will get some bandwidth, but in the event that the one being saturation can't hear the other but is still interfering with it you are SOL. Typically it looks like this:


        A and B are the access points, u is the user in the middle. A and B are too far apart to hear each other, but if A is transmitting it will interfere with tran

    • Let's say you live in an apartment building and you can see 16 different SSIDs. Is it slow because .....snip...

      Someone needs to make a reference to the Aloha Protocol (
      Multiple routers and multiple end points sharing a limited bandwidth shared commons
      is just darn difficult.

      I do hope Stanford makes this work because dense living just happens.

      More and more work places are getting to be "dorm living" on caffeine.
      Old folks homes and retirement communities are just around the corner
      for lots of us and the bandwidth needed for Gramps and Gma to browse
      all the photos and videos of kids

    • Let's say you live in an apartment building and you can see 16 different SSIDs. Is it slow because there's a lot of data in total being transferred, or does CSMA just collapse (gridlock) so hardly anybody is getting anything?

      Unfortunately, the way 802.11b/g were made, they're essentially FDMA. You assign channels to certain frequencies. If two routers happen to use the same frequency, they stomp over each other. (n and ac may do the same thing, I haven't read up on those yet.)

      If they'd gone with som

      • I am really glad this came up, because my WiFi at my house hasn't been working as well lately, and it gives me something to try... maybe manually placing it on a different channel will help.
  • It's a shame the kids these days can't be bothered to plug a computer into the Ethernet drops that were installed in their rooms 20 years ago.

    • It's a shame the kids these days can't be bothered to plug a computer into the Ethernet drops that were installed in their rooms 20 years ago.

      To be fair, plenty of the anorexic laptops being sold these days have shed the ethernet port (obnoxiously, most of the sub-$500 laptops only have 10/100 NICs...), and phones and tablets are wi-fi or cellular only; wired isn't even an option for them.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @01:01AM (#46425771) Homepage

    "Software Defined Networking", as Stanford uses the term, means a centrally controlled virtual circuit switching system. Every time someone makes a "call" (a new IP/port IP/port tuple), the first packet is routed to Master Control, which decides if they get to make the call, logs the call, decides whether the call gets wiretapped or filtered, and chooses the priority given to the call. All the routers involved are then issued instructions from Master Control on how to route that call.

    (Yeah, they don't use the term "call". But that's what it is, really.) Goodbye, "net neutrality". Goodbye, flat rate billing. Goodbye, distributed control. This puts everything you do on the Internet under central control and makes it billable.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your upstream provider can already do all of those things to you. They don't control where your packet goes upstream from you, but if your local ISP chooses to shut you out, the upstream folks will never see your packet in the first place. (The only difficult one is choosing the priority of the packet. Your local ISP can't raise the priority of your packet, but you bet they can lower it as much as they want by simply not sending it.)

      The fact that ISPs don't do that is based on tradition and the threats of c

    • by cdwiegand ( 2267 )

      Sounds just like any firewall, so what's the diff?

  • Isn't there some way they could create pCells [] around each device, so nobody would interfere with anyone else?

    The next question is, could that be done in each individual's router(s), or does it require the collective network described here?

  • Love how this article gives so much detail. It was easy to form an opinion on the usefulness of... this... thing... whatever it is.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine