Mesh Networking on Wifi cards?
February 1, 2011 6:54 PM Subscribe
GeekFilter: Is it infeasible to wirelessly mesh/ad hoc network computers together a la MIT's Roofnet
using integrated/inexpensive wireless cards instead of dedicated routers?
posted by mccarty.tim to technology (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Lately, I've been thinking about mesh networking a bit due to the recent situation in Egypt, as well as talk from some friends at a college campus that's being a bit more restrictive lately with the network (understandable, as it is the school's service, and they're in the business of providing basic accommodations to dormers, not giving them a darknet). It's effectively impossible to share files across the network, and the bandwidth is very slow to the internet, similar to dial-up at peak hours, meaning people transfer large files via USB sticks and DVD burns (not saying students have a right to trade all files, but there are legitimate uses like collaborating on multimedia-intense projects).
As a result, I've been curious about user-created mesh networks and started googling around about mesh networking. There seem to be a lot of programs that run on the OpenWRT firmware, including some that require little to no configuration, and MIT has documented that they've achieved decent results (~DSL speeds) via their Roofnet project. What I can't seem to find a clear answer on is if it's feasible to create a low-to-zero configuration mesh with 802.11a/b/g/n cards, which are much cheaper and vastly outnumber routers in terms of ownership, meaning there would be many small nodes, likely overlapping well with good user density (say between rooms in a dorm, or in adjacent cubicles, or at a meeting, etc). Yes, running a mesh network complete with routing via a computer-controlled card would consume resources, but this is an era where even budget computers have multiple cores, while routers with 200mhz processors and 8MB of ram manage this trick. Is there something inherently limited about the cards? Are they harder to code for than routers? Too weak in terms of processing power/transmission?
It just seems like we have a lot of potential bandwidth lying fallow. It could be used for things like neighborhood P2P networks, or communications in times of crisis or technical difficulties.
I won't be seriously disappointed if I find out it's impossible. I just want to know why it hasn't happened.