Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Technology for Travelers


Navigating a new city can be pretty stressful. After spending 9 days in Tokyo & 4 days in Manchester (by way of Heathrow LHR), I can definitively say that having fast, free wifi can make a world of difference in the experience of navigating public transportation systems.

I was able to navigate with Google Maps all over Tokyo with no problems whatsoever. The PASMO train card kiosk was easily switched to English so we could get PASMO cards. Topping up the card with more Yen throughout the week was also easily done.  Tokyo had fast, free wifi in and/or on every train we were on during our stay there.

Landing at Heathrow and attempting to find the correct kiosk to print the train tickets I purchased online was a runaround of bad directions from several different train line employees. Finally I got the tickets, got directions and went down to the Underground station. What I saw on the platform didn't line up with the directions we'd been given so I tried to connect to Google Maps and compare. No such luck. No cell coverage, and the wifi charged me £5 and then it didn't even work. Eventually we made it to the National Rail train which purported to have onboard wifi. The Speedtest app said it was 1.86 down and 10 up, but it was worthless in my experience of trying to use it.

Now that I've had time to decompress after returning home, I did some digging to find out WHY there was such a huge difference in my experience. Here are some facts about the Tokyo train system: built around 1927 or so, current daily rider numbers hover around 8.6 Million people. Tokyo has had free wifi in/around their trains since 2016. London's Underground was built around 1863 or so and currently moves around 5 Million people a day. Back during the Olympics in 2012, there was some limited (an hour a day) wifi on the platforms, concourses and escalators. Now it is all pay-as-you-go (but it doesn't work even if you pay).

Initially I was worried about my language barrier in Tokyo, but that proved to be no issue at all because I had constant Internet access from my phone and didn't have to ask anyone for directions. Comparatively, getting directions in an English speaking country proved to be much harder because of conflicting information and no Internet connectivity to verify what we'd been told was correct or not.

In short - go to Tokyo. Get on the train, use the wifi and go have an adventure wherever you've chosen for your destination. It'll be a lot easier than you might think. Word to the wise: if you've got luggage of any kind - don't use the Underground. Take a taxi or better yet, fly into Manchester instead of taking the tube/train to get there from Heathrow. Trust me on this.

I took about ten million pictures in Tokyo. Here they are.

Friday, June 7, 2019

What Is A Predictive Survey?


It would seem that somewhere along the line the rumor got started that predictive surveys are magical, mythical things that are conjured out of thin air by the power of an 'easy' button.

If I had a nickel for every time I've had to level set someone's expectations on how long a predictive survey should take, could take or will take; the stack would be pretty high.

I made an informational video explanation on what a predictive survey is and the difference in the length of time to define all of the RF obstacles when the wireless engineer has a CAD file of the floor plan vs. any other image file of the floor plan. The video is eight minutes long and has a disclaimer at the end for all the YouTube people that feel the need to tell me what I left out, or how I didn't explain it right (according to them).


This video is not intended to be an all-encompassing explanation of all of the phases of a predictive survey. The content is solely my opinion. Do not attempt to perform a predictive survey without having attended an Ekahau training class, preferably the Ekahau ECSE Design course. Any and all images used retain the copyright of the original creators.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Combating Lying While Being Civil


I recently became aware of several people in the wireless industry who have been besmirching the character of someone I care about. The things being said are fabrications, lies, character assassination and outright slander. The things that are being said are intended to undermine the character of my friend and perhaps the people spreading lies are also attempting to disrupt my friend's employment or perhaps attempting to bully my friend out of the wireless industry.


I will not stand by while friends of mine are mistreated. I definitely will not stand by while women in the wireless community are being mistreated. What you say about her, you could just as easily be saying about me and I won't support this behavior with my silence.


News flash: women are human beings, just like men - and as such, have the right to being respected as a human being. Period.


What you say about one woman in this industry, you are effectively saying about all women in this industry. I am no different than her. I am a woman and the things being said about her are lies and hurtful and would be hurtful to any woman human being.

The number of global wireless engineers is quite small. The number of wireless engineers that attend IT industry events is smaller. The number of wireless engineers who attend wireless focused IT events is even smaller still. The community that you interact with; that you do business with should not tolerate your behavior. Your comments, made when no other women are present are cowardly. Casting your aspersions on her, in the company of men speaks volumes about the nature of your character. I am disgusted that you and your coworkers would stoop to such levels to attack the character of a woman I consider a friend and a peer.

Being a woman in a male dominated industry is challenging.

We are judged for what we wear or do not wear.
We are judged for how pretty we are or are not.
We are judged for how much we drink or do not drink.
We are judged for how much we eat or do not eat.
We are judged for how much we know or do not know.

I get that "that's life". Humans are constantly judging other humans at the blink of an eye.

What I do not get is why a person would put words to a judgment of another person, knowing that their words are lies. Judging someone in your mind is one thing, spreading lies about another person is a whole other thing.

I refuse to let you and your coworkers force us to live our lives from the outside looking in. Second guessing who we choose to hang out with and for how long. Second guessing having a drink or two with friends. Second guessing what we wear. Second guessing if it is somehow our fault.

I don't need to name names. I am not the human behavior police. You know who you are. You know what you have said and continue to say. I want you to know that I see you. I see you trying to take down another woman with your lies. She could just as easily be me.

I wonder if you are lashing out from a fear of scarcity. Your behavior does not serve your best interests and will only ever cause division in our small community. I'm asking you to be up to something bigger than yourself. Come from a place of kindness, generosity and altruism for other human beings.

If you aren't sure how to begin the process of undoing the damage and hurt you have caused, begin by examining your behavior objectively (this is difficult work) and from there you will find the strength to cease your slander of another human being and possibly make amends.


I will close with a link to compassion training from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Compassion Training
Compassion is the feeling of caring for and wanting to help others who are suffering. The following audio files and scripts were created as part of a study into the effectiveness of compassion meditation conducted by Principal Investigator Helen Weng with Drew FoxAlex Shackman, Diane Stodola, Jessica Kirkland Caldwell, Matt Olson, Greg Rogers, and Richard Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Outdoor WiFi is Smaller, Sleeker and Faster #HPE #Aruba #MFD3 #AP387

 Once upon a time, I found myself doing a lot of outdoor WiFi. Not the type of outdoor WiFi you hear people talking about now (stadiums or arenas), but college campuses, outdoor mesh and point to point links.

Recently at Mobility Field Day 3, I ran across this sweet little access point by Aruba. They call it the AP-387. I call it tiny, portable and FAST. It's their new flagship 802.11ac/ad outdoor access point.

They've designed it for maximum distances between APs of 300 meters (that's ~980 feet) and that is just about perfect for most outdoor bridge links. Notice, I said most. We all know of at least one or two bridge links that are pushing a mile long or more. This AP-387 has a 60GHz and a 5GHz radio built into this tiny, outdoor rated package and it is capable of multi-gigabit link speeds. Oh, and it can handle 'rain events' that might make a 5GHz link less than useable.

It has the ability to self-acquire a link by using the electronic scanning capabilities of the 60GHz antenna. It uses existing mounting hardware from the AP-270 (AP-270-MNT-H1/H2). If the link becomes disrupted or block, the radio can scan plus or minus 40 degrees horizontal and plus or minus 10 degrees vertical to re-establish the link. It can even re-engage the link through an RF bounce off of a flat smooth surface (should one exist) between the two ends of the link.


The narrow beam-width of the 60GHz radio lends itself to being co-located within 4-5 meters of another AP-387 using the same 60GHz channel. The AP will power on with the 60GHz radios backed off by 3dB if the AP is getting 802.3af power, which is way better than it not working at all unless it gets 802.3at power. You can see the full product demonstration in this Mobility Field Day 3 video and witness the graceful failover of the link from the 60GHz to the 5GHz radio without dropping the link. Skip to the 15 minute mark to see the link demo.




All of this is bringing me to this point. Doing outdoor mesh/point-to-point site surveys just got that much easier. The AP-387 weighs a fraction of the 17 pound (7.7 kilo) Cisco 1522 I used for my last outdoor survey (circa 2010).

I'll leave you with this video I made to document the insanity of me getting that 87 pound (40 kilo) site survey kit into the back of a Volvo 240 wagon once I'd completed the survey. Times have sure changed in what feels like a short eight years!




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Meraki's LittleTable Isn't So Little Anymore #MFD3


Way, way back in 2013, I attended Wireless Field Day 4 and I heard a presentation by Sean Rhea of Meraki about their backend database LittleTable, how it was developed, how it worked and how it grew. A few highlights of Sean's presentation covered the server redundancy with data-center redundancy, service provider redundancy and location-redundancy. At that point, the scale per server was a few thousand Meraki devices (switches, wireless Access Points, MXs), hundreds of thousands of clients and hundreds of Gigs of data. The presentation was fascinating to say the least. Recently I had the opportunity to be brought up to date on the status of the Meraki LittleTable database by Jeevan Patil (PM for wireless) and I was a delegate at Mobility Field Day 3 (MFD3).

Meraki has a new (beta) feature in their dashboard called Wireless Health. It is a new feature they enabled in their dashboard that supports all of the Meraki access point models and didn't require their customers to add any additional licensing (or costs) to get this data. Approximately 750,000 networks worldwide now have the ability to see data on poorly performing client devices and access points in a single click. I powered on my older Meraki MR34 access points and added two new MR42 access points to my home (it is a 1928 Florida Faraday cage) and waited for the metrics to trickle into my dashboard.




Now I can see which of my client devices are behaving badly (authentication failures and latency issues). The LittleTable database is so efficient that over 250 billion rows written and one trillion rows queried to the database per day and millions of network devices deployed across 230,000 customers check-in to the dashboard daily. Dashboard.merkaki.com serves 800 million pages to 100 million clients who connect to the dashboard every day. The data in the dashboard is refreshed every second, this makes it extremely useful for troubleshooting. Now I know it is my iOS device is having the worst experience, which makes sense because my apple watch is often left on the charger and not on my wrist. It probably is having a hard time talking to my phone. They're rarely in the same room and my phone rarely has bluetooth enabled.





The Meraki dashboard is amazingly responsive (usually within a second of a click). The responsiveness of the dashboard is pretty amazing considering how many queries are being called every second to the backend database, all across the globe at any given time.


If you want to be brought up to date on what's happening at Meraki, I suggest you check out their video from MFD3 if you haven't already.



Cisco Meraki Mobility Updates from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Mobility Field Day 3 Approacheth #MFD3


Mobility Field Day is coming sooon. September 12-14th I will gather with 11 other MFD delegates in San Jose to take part in Mobility Field Day 3! I haven't taken part in a full length Tech Field Day event since Wireless Field Day 8 (and that was a long, long time ago!). A lot has changed since then and I'm looking forward to hearing the latest news from the participating sponsors: Arista, Aruba, Cisco, Fortinet, Mist, Netscout and Nyansa.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Düsseldorf Sights and Sounds 2017


It's been a long time since I've put words down on the Interwebs. Yes, it's true. Last year, David and I were invited to Düsseldorf by 
Düsseldorf Tourismus and Rheinische Post to see Kraftwerk play a concert in their home town and the concert coincided with the Tour de France Grand Depart.

We joined up with a press junket to tour the city, check out some shops, museums and galleries on top of the Kraftwerk concert. The members of the press group were journalists, authors, musicians and press agents. David was set up with press credentials to interview Wolfgang Flur and I was to be working the event as a freelance photographer. As such, I held off on releasing any of my photos to Flickr, Twitter or Instagram until I heard back from the magazine on which photos they wanted to use. Well, the contact I had at the magazine went on radio silence for many months, so I finally put my photos out online, but it really dampened my spirits to get no response to my query and it took me a long time to get reenergized about putting our pictures and video bits together.

I finally finished a video of the collected photos and video snippets we shot while we were in Düsseldorf. Music used in the video comes courtesy of Mike Donaldson via his site 8Dindustries.com!