Panbo

NautiCloud, 2 Ubiquiti Bullets = high power WiFi contender?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 20, 2012
NautiCloud_vs_RogueWave_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpg

Getting online with WiFi is a big deal for many cruising boats these days and, since the best technologies are somewhat hard to understand and choose among, it's always a lively subject on Panbo. Normally I'd hesitate to write about the new NautiCloud system because it's still partially in development, but it's already a good illustration of what's possible in high performance marine WiFi and ties together some of our previous conversations on the subject. It also includes some good ideas that all the developers in this niche should consider (I think)...

First of all, the NautiCloud is based on the Ubiquity Bullet M2 high power WiFi radio that has arguably become the king of marine WiFi. We discussed the Bullet at length in 2010 when I tested the Rogue Wave system that's still mounted on Gizmo's fly bridge rail in the photo above. The beauty of the Bullet is that the radio fits directly to a marine antenna using Ethernet for both data and power, and thus avoiding any coax cable that might cause signal loss (high frequency WiFi and coax do not mix well). As laid out in that entry and its many comments, all sorts of marine WiFi systems are based on the Bullet now (and I later learned that the super high tech America's Cup race management, umpiring, and broadcasting systems are also highly reliant on Bullets).
   The problem with the Bullet, at least for users without IT experience, is that the regular Ubiquity software needed to set it up as a network device on your boat and pick onshore hotspots is fairly complex. What Rogue Wave did was to write its own Bullet software (screen here) that does just what a cruiser needs without flipping through numerous windows and unneeded options. Now well into my third season using the Rogue nearly daily, I still think that the faster, easier software is worth the system's extra cost (complete Rogue Wave kits are $350 at Land and Sea Wifi, though I'd consider the new $450 Pro model that's better weatherproofed and can mount on standard marine antenna bases). But my system got a little more complicated when I realized how nice it was to cable the Rogue directly to an onboard WiFi router so that all the PCs, pads, smartphones, etc. on Gizmo can share the Rogue's onshore connection without fuss. We discussed this concept when I compared the Rogue to the WirieAP last season. The latter combines a USB-based high power WiFi radio with an onboard WiFi router all in one rail-mounted Pelican case so you just need a 12v cable to set up the equivalent of Gizmo's separate router and Rogue. However, in my testing it did not get Bullet performance and its software is not Rogue easy...

Nauticloud_Offboard_software_cPanbo.jpg

Now consider the NautiCloud, a WirieAP-like Pelican case system with two Ubiquity Bullets inside. The best of both worlds? Just plug it into a 12v cigarette lighter socket, either Ram Mount the case and antenna to a rail or haul it up a halyard, and you'll have an onboard hotspot ready to find and use an onshore hotspot. In ports like Camden and Rockland I've seen over fifty hotspots via NautiCloud including some free ones as well as very strong connections to high speed paid services like redZone, and I've sometimes been able to get online from remote anchorages just like I can with the Rogue Wave. (The high-power performance is virtually the same, which makes sense as they are both Bullets.)
    The software I used with the NautiCloud is not Rogue easy but it is an improved version of Ubiquity's standard AirOS. Note, for instance, how Nauticloud developer Charlie Van Dusen has coined wonderfully simple terms for the two different radios: onboard and offboard. Moreover, he gave each one a very easy to remember IP address, as you can see at the tops of these screen shots. If you've never used an Ethernet WiFi radio (or programmed an Ethernet router), it's nice that you don't need to install any software but it's sometimes not easy to get your web browser to see the device's setup pages. I can usually get to the Rogue using "wavewifi.com" (especially if I use Internet Explorer or Safari) but sometimes I need its IP equivalent. My old brain can't seem to remember "192.168.89.1" for more than a few minutes, but 10.20.30.40 and 10.20.30.41 are easy. NautiCloud's IP addresses are a small detail, no doubt, but what a smart one!
    Van Dusen has also programmed NauticCloud so that it will search for and connect to the strongest open WiFi hotspot on its own, but as slick as that sounds, it often doesn't get you what you want. For instance, in the "offboard" screen above Wayfarer Marine does have the best un-encrypted WiFi signal in Camden Harbor, but when you try to open a web page you'll first find a Wayfarer page asking for a customer code. This is typical for commercial WiFi but the NautiCloud software can't detect the code gateway. It is neat, though, when you arrive somewhere and realize that the NautiCloud has already found you an truly open hotspot. 

Nauticloud_Onboard_software_cPanbo.jpg

In the screen above I've used the NautiCloud's "onboard" setup pages to change the name of Gizmo's hotspot and also to turn down the onboard Bullet's power level as I learned that too much power can actually slow down Internet speeds if your pad or PC is too close. Those are the sort of occasional tasks that the underlying Ubiquity software handles well, but I'm glad to report that NautiCloud will eventually have alternate apps that simplify the hotspot search process like Rogue does. So far Van Dusen has only written the Windows phone app you can see below, and while I wasn't able to test it, I like what I see. It appears that you can sort available spots by their "openess" and signal strength and then check a potential spot's actual Internet connectivity with just one tap.
   I regularly use Safari on my iPad to search hotspots on the Rogue Wave, and that works well, but a dedicated app like this looks even easier. That's important for cruisers who have no knowledge of IT and the arrival of NautiCloud Apple and Android apps may justify its premium pricing. Another issue that Van Dusen is working on is the optional ability to attach onboard Ethernet cabled devices to the onboard WiFi router in the Pelican case. Not many boats need this yet, but I now have both a Fusion 650 stereo and a Simrad NSS system wired into the onboard router in Gizmo's cabin. Neither installation is complete yet, but the former should let me remote control the Fusion with phone and pad apps and the latter should broadcast NMEA 0183 data to my phone and pad apps. This ability can added to the NautiCloud fairly easily as Van Dusen already uses marine-grade Ethernet cable for the power. And when you're not cruising, you could still get an AC cable and take your NautiCloud on vacation with you, another plus for its all-in-one design.
    So what do you think of this design and marine WiFi in general? I know that some coastal cruisers are just using cellular data these days, but at least up here WiFi is often a much faster alternative. 

Nauticloud_easy_Win_phone_software_.jpg


Comments

Ben, We have progressed from a USB Engeniuos adapter to our current Bullet set up and have years and thousands of miles of use on both. We have posted the progression and changes over the years on our blog at http://trawler-beach-house.blogspot.com/search/label/WiFi . The Nauticloud is an interesting concept on an already proven platform. My only issue with these systems are the high cost to the boaters for what basically amounts to easier to use software for the set up and connecting to access point, and a weatherproof mounting. I'm by no means an expert in any of the areas connected to getting connected on board. With my limited knowledge I have found that in a short period of time most but the very technologically challenged can figure out how to set up and use these systems for a much, much lower cost than the prepackaged units. I found the biggest challenge for the Bullet was finding a simple how-to that was written for the average individual. Once I located that, and with some regular use, it has been smooth sailing. Some of Nauticloud's website might be a bit misleading. For example, the map might lead one to think the unit will bring in signals from Marblehead to several miles away. This may or may not be the case, but I highly doubt that since wifi signals like VHF are line of site. The statement, "The range is typically 25 times greater than normal range from a typical home router" is probably closer to the truth. A home router can broadcast to a couple of blocks away or the next room. We have had measurable ranges from over 2 miles to less than a quarter of a mile in some areas with the Bullet. I suppose that for those that want nothing more than a plug and play, these prepackaged units are the perfect answer. But for a price. Chuck

Posted by: Capn. Chuck at August 20, 2012 1:20 PM | Reply

Come on Ben, if your brain can't remember your bullet's IP address, just change it to one you can remember! It is very simple - just type in the new one where the old one is. It's not really a differentiation point for the Nauticloud's almost 2x price difference.

Posted by: Mark at August 20, 2012 10:41 PM | Reply

There you go, Mark; I'm not an IT guy and I really had no idea that it was easy to change the IP address. But that's certainly not the differentiation point, just a nice detail.

I do know how to find hotspots with Ubquity's AirOS and other complex software, but I don't want to spend a big chunk of my cruising life doing it. The easy hotspot search interface is a key feature of the Rogue Wave and presumably the NautiCloud (apps pending). I'm not defending the latter's price point, which strikes me as high, but I'd drop a $100 Rogue margin (approximate) for that easy interface -- which you use a lot unless you stay in one place -- without hesitation.

I'm not saying that you or anyone else has to do the same, but you ought to try it. Though you might not want to go back to all those windows and clicks ;-)

Posted by: Ben in reply to Mark at August 20, 2012 11:19 PM | Reply

When there is a high powered Wifi transmitter on another boat nearby transmitting on the same frequency as the "onboard" wifi of your boat, is the impact on your handheld devices talking to the onboard wifi noticably impaired? Is that resolved automatically, e.g. onboard channel change?

I like the idea of connecting internal network via hardwire, then there a ipad or other device can listen to one wifi source to get both boat data and access internet.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at August 21, 2012 7:59 AM | Reply

I was getting all excited about this post, and then realized it is just a pair of radios and a simplified interface. Yawn.

The interesting stuff that would make me unhook my bullet and change things up would be a router at the boat-end of the bullet that can do mesh Ad-hoc networking to other boats in the anchorage, adding the ability to share a Wifi seen by one boat with out-of range boats at the other end. More interesting would be a local mesh Wifi zone for boats to provide a local ad-hoc community for posting information, sharing files, software, and links out to transfer messaging and weather info, etc. The pirate party already has a lunchbox prototype of this built into a router, so perhaps it just requires a user-friendliness lesson to make it available for the cruising communities to supplement the VHF nets with data.

Posted by: Devon at August 21, 2012 9:06 AM | Reply

Ben, In using the AirOS system with the Bullet for some time now while cruising a couple of thousand miles, we find that it takes less than 30 seconds to open the AirOS page, scan for access point, direct the Bullet to the one we choose and connect. It's a bit complicated to set up, but once done, finding and connecting to access points is about three clicks of the mouse. Not very time consuming. Chuck

Posted by: Capn. Chuck at August 21, 2012 10:24 AM | Reply

Right, Chuck, but haven't you often been in harbors where you end up checking a half dozen or more hotspots before you settle on the best? That's when I feel like the Rogue Wave software shines. Also for the last year or so it's had the ability to remember prioritized favorites, so when I return to Camden it knows which hotspot to look for first, second, etc.

Also the Rogue Wave software works well in Safari on an iPad, which is my favorite tool for picking hotspots because it's always on and can be anywhere I am on the boat. Safari has trouble with AirOS pop up windows (though there may be a useful iPad gesture I don't easily remember).

PS Here's a link to Devon's PirateBox if anyone wants to go deep into WiFi:

http://wiki.daviddarts.com/PirateBox_DIY_OpenWrt

Posted by: Ben in reply to Capn. Chuck at August 21, 2012 11:00 AM | Reply

The Market is covered. Anyone who needs a simple, near-plug-and-play solution can pay for it, and those who don't can chose how much sweat-equity they can or want to put into the project to save a few bucks.

But we are overlooking a hard truth. The number of unencrypted wifi sources on the East Coast and in the Islands have dropped dramatically. I found and used exactly two last winter. Almost all marinas offer wifi and give you access codes when you register. A few of these change daily.

I believe that a WAP owner who chooses to encrypt has clearly stated he does not want to share, and should not be intruded upon.

A savvy cruiser can employ a selection of cracking techniques to defeat WEP at least, but that is a clear case of electronic home invasion, as if you had picked the lock on his front door to watch his TV for a few hours.

Posted by: Sandy Daugherty at August 21, 2012 11:06 AM | Reply

Sandy, We often hear comments on how few open Wifi access points are available today. On a cruise from Houston, Texas to Beaufort, SC and Beaufort, SC to Baltimore, Md and then Baltimore, MD to Ft. Myers, FL we had a total of three stops where we did not have a wifi signal. And this included some pretty remote anchorages in the Bayous of Louisiana. We very much prefer anchoring to marinas. No software or cracking codes needed. For the rare areas where no access points are available, and I believe they would be unavailable even with the prepackaged systems, we use an unlocked USB modem with a prepaid sim card to fill the gap. We seldom ever use the USB modem. Chuck

Posted by: Capn. Chuck at August 21, 2012 11:19 AM | Reply

Were you using a Bullet, Sandy? The longer the range you have, the more likely you'll find an open hotspot. It's likely that you'll also get better throughput from commercial hotspots.

I thoroughly agree with you about the ethics of cracking encrypted hotspots and have never done it (nor do I know how ;-). In fact I'm pretty gentle about my use of hotspots that seem to be open inadvertently (hello "linksys"). And I don't normally hog, say, the open WiFi of a friendly local waterfront bistro, though I have occasionally streamed Netflix in the evening when it sounded like the customers were not head's down in their pads and phones.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Sandy Daugherty at August 21, 2012 11:23 AM | Reply

Well in NJ, NY, PA, DE (the areas are expanding) if you are a cable internet subscriber there are loads of free Hotspots to connect to while in your cruiser. The areas covered are the the barrier islands of NJ, large portions of the Delaware Bay and River. Check out Xfinity (the old Comcast Cable), Time Warner, COX Communications and others are all offering WiFi on the go for customers at no additional charge. Also most major cellular carriers are share the same network looking to offload data from their cellular network's. I often switch to WiFi even though my primary boating area is now covered by Verizon 700MHz LTE. I use a Wave EC/HP that feeds a new MBR400 Wave WiFi switch. The switch allows me to use a common 5GHz AP inside the boat to rebroadcast my Verizon LTE modem, Ericsson W35 on AT&T or my rarely used Skipper 150.
The ROGUE and the higher powered EC units are the most intuative units for the non IT user and even guys like myself that have a wife who isn't IT savy to make connections while I am out working.
Bill
MV;Wireless One

Posted by: Bill Lentz at August 21, 2012 1:48 PM | Reply

Ben-
I installed the Bullet M2 and connected it to a Netgear wireless router. Took it and our Verizon HTC Incredible 2 cell phones (that has Wifi Hotspot capability). We cruised the San Juan Islands for two weeks and chose the system that gave us the best performance overall. Sometimes the Cellphone hotspot was the way to go when only a cell signal was present (3G) and sometimes a Wifi (Open at Roche Harbor when you pay for moorage). Fired up our computer and got email or Netflix.

The AirOS thing is a bit to get used to at first but my

Posted by: DaveV at August 21, 2012 3:11 PM | Reply

We use a Bullet 2HP for the "long distance" WiFi connections. It is LAN connected to a Netgear WNDR3800 that is configured as a WiFi Access Point (WAP) and LAN Switch.
A multi-user Serial to Ethernet Server is connected to the same Switch. Combined with an Actisense NGT-1, the Server provides a gateway between NMEA 2000 and Ethernet networks.
All of the WiFi and LAN connected devices can communicate with each other and, if the Bullet to shore WAP connection exists, with the Internet.

There are several interesting issues.
To avoid the "Double NAT" problem, it is necessary to use the Bullet as a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server and to have the Bullet and the WAP/Switch on the same sub network. (DHCP is disabled on the Netgear.)
Second, the Bullet needs to be connected to an WAP that provides either a dynamic or static public IP address if the Bullet is to be reached from an Internet (client) connection.
Third, automatic connection to a DDNS host is usually necessary if the WAP provides a dynamic rather than a static public IP address.

Note that a ship to shore connection with a WAP with a pubic IP address must exist before communication can be initiated by an Internet client. This is not the case with cellular or satellite connections because the transceivers have callable, unique addresses.


Posted by: Robert Robinson at August 21, 2012 8:15 PM | Reply

I assume the second Bullet is used for the "ships" local network. I'm not clear on if it shares the antenna?

We use the commercial Bullet, but I understand the market for companies that make it easier to use. We helped a fellow cruiser with the predecessor to Rouge system, but runs the same end user software get it up and running a few weeks ago. It's much easier for the non technical types to use. And since we didn't know what we were working with, we found the tech support from Rouge outstanding.

But I think the ships portion works well with an ordinary wifi router. Especially one that can switch between 3G/4G cellular internet access and the long distance Bullet where wifi access works better. We use a TP Link router now for this. Our Cradlepoint bit the dust after about 6 months. There is no reason short of a megayacht for a second high power interface.

There is an opportunity to package this into a single product making the configuration transparent to the end user.

Posted by: Bob at August 21, 2012 8:41 PM | Reply

For anyone planning to configure a Ubiquiti BulletM2, rather than the more common but sometimes in short supply Bullet2HP, on their boat note that this devices is sold ready to be used in point-to-point network links. Using it as an Access Point (for sure), and probably as a Station (the mode you want to connect from your boat to shore) too, the following settings are required:

airMAX: Disabled
Channel Width: 20 MHz
Max TX Rate: Automatic

Last Summer my marina's WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) put in a BulletM2 for the AP and did not set the Channel Width and/or Max TX Rate parameters resulting in very odd hardware and position dependent failures. iPads worked almost anywhere, but PCs and MacBooks might work until they were moved slightly.

To make things extra fun for me, for a few weeks my Bullets appeared to the WISP to be part of their management network (why would any end user have Ubiquiti equipment?) and I could not get to the Internet (but I could see their entire network by clicking on a button on the AirOS interface).

In the past we have discussed the weatherproof aspects of the Bullets. At one point I did some research on the Ubiquiti forums and found comments from service providers with hundreds of Bullets on towers. Some had no problems at all, and others complained of equipment failures due to water infiltration. I note that my marina's WISP thoroughly wrapped the BulletM2 we use as an AP in tape. I was worried about it overheating but we made it through this hot Summer with no issues.

Ubiquiti has recently introduced the Bullet Titanium M that is supposed to be more weatherproof, but they do not seem to be readily available yet.

I moved my Bullet2HP back inside the boat for normal operation with the option to move it back to the stern rail, or hoist it into the rigging as needed. Inside the boat I can see the status lights and do not have to worry about weather, wind-induced static charge build-up, or theft.

Jon

Posted by: JonM at August 21, 2012 9:24 PM | Reply

I too will join the chorus singing praises of the Rogue Wave. We have used one for over 2 years as part of the ARGUS system (which means that we didn't have to pay for it). I realize that a bullet would be cheaper to buy, but I sure can't see myself entering the DOS like codes every time we move.

Sometimes we are in a location where we cannot connect to any hotspot, but that doesn't happen very often. I recall one night at an anchorage in Daytona Beach where we could see 35 to 40 hotspots, all password protected. But there was another anchorage in the Carolinas where we had only 4 hotspots, and we could connect to them all.

Sandy Daughtery did a good job of summarizing the ethics of connecting. If a site is password protected, we never try to "break in". If it looks like it may be a private residence, we do only the minimum, check email, and perhaps weather. We certainly would never download a netflix movie. We have a Verizon MIFI for times when we can't or don't want to use the Rogue. The Rogue speed varies a lot depending on location, but usually is faster than 3G, but not as fast as 4G, and of course connecting is usually free.

The Rogue is not perfect however. The lights on the front are impossible to see in sunshine, and sometimes the software takes two or three tries to connect to a hotspot. A better mounting bracket would be nice too, and although we have't had any problems, I wonder how long it will be until the ethernet cable contacts corrode. So maybe the Nauticloud is an improvement on an already very good system.

Posted by: Rick R at August 21, 2012 10:06 PM | Reply

Robert Robinson’s post identifies some salient factors faced in mobile (marine) WiFi Internet connectivity, which I don’t think are recognized by the rest of the discussion thread, which may be the source of some of the confusion as to what works and how. The technology and issues change based on one’s needs, which may be as follows:

1. Connect my device(s) to the Internet, where the onboard devices are connected by Ethernet to the Router (e.g., Bullet, Wisp, Rogue, Netlink, etc…) which connects to the WISP (via WiFi), for outbound traffic only (as in surfing the Internet).

2. Connect my devices as above, but where some of the onboard devices can only connect via WiFi.

3. Same as #2 above, but also need to be able to connect from the Internet back to a device on-board (e.g., view from home your onboard camera or alarm monitor).

4. Same as #2 and #3 but do it in a manner that provides some flexibility so as to use the least amount of power draw possible.

As a network engineer I must obviously overcomplicate the solutions, which I break down into the following requirements:

A. Establish a WiFi based connection from the boat to the WISP (Wireless Internet service Provider, or simply the WiFi signal from someone else’s Internet connection).

B. Translate the IP addresses and protocols between the onboard devices and the Internet (Routing and Network Address Translation (NAT)).

C. Provide basic LAN services to the onboard devices, e.g.,

a. Connectivity
i. Wired Ethernet
ii. WiFi
b. DHCP, DNS
D. Provide a reverse path (what gamers call “port mapping”) from the Internet into an onboard device and using things such as DDNS.
E. Provide flexibility, so that not all devices must be powered up all the time.

SOLUTIONS:

#1 is solved by the standard deployment of a Bullet like device. The bullet achieves “A” through its radio, “B” through its routing (AirOS) software, and [C.a.i] connectivity through the wired Ethernet port.

#2, same as above but also providing WiFi connectivity to onboard devices, is solved by introducing a second WiFi radio into the configuration. How we do this makes all the difference in what won’t work and in the ability to meet needs #3 and #4, and this is what Robert’s post refers to.

Most of the other discussions describe configurations that create a hierarchy of 3 networks. The first network is the IP network for the onboard devices (the Ethernet LAN ports and/or the WiFi radio SSID provided by the WiFi Router such as the Linksys). The second network is the intermediary IP network which connects the external side of the onboard network with the internal side of the Internet router (in our scenario the WAN port of the Linksys and the Ethernet port of the Bullet). The third network is the WiFi connection between the Bullet’s radio and the WISP radio.
Such a 3-tier network tends to work only when its function is limited to connecting onboard devices to the Internet, but tends to fail miserably when applied to connect between onboard devices that are attached on different legs (“segments”). And, when it does not work, it is beyond the skills of mortals to fix, because it exposes one to a whole new language of goblygook. Simply said, stuff gets lost in the multiple translations (as in threads are not maintained as they transition across all the layers) and certain stuff gets blocked when it must traverse across networks. As Robert mentions in his post, the goal is to create just a 2-tier network, where all the onboard devices are on a single common network (regardless of how they physically connect), connectivity to the Internet (external) is provided through the central router (e.g., Bullet), which also handles all the LAN services as well as the address translations.

One way to achieve this is to use a device with dual radios capable of concurrently supporting dual roles as well as an Ethernet port. One radio would connect to the WISP and perform the routing/NAT function; while the other radio would serve as the onboard Access Point to service the onboard SSID, which would be in the same IP address range as the Ethernet port, thus providing an onboard bridged (layer-2) connection between the wired and wireless devices.

Another way to meet this goal is to use only the LAN and WiFi elements of consumer devices such as the Linksys WiFi routers. However, there is some complexity to this as these devices were engineered for a different role so it may be difficult to customize them to this purpose.

Alternatively, it should be possible to c
onfigure 2 Bullets connected to a small 12 volt POE (power over Ethernet) Ethernet switch. One Bullet radio would be configured in router mode and serve as the external ISP connection to the WISP (it would also provide DHCP services and act as the Default Gateway). The other Bullet would be configured in station mode and serve as the onboard AP (access point), with DHCP served by the first Bullet. It should also be possible to configure the second Bullet to also serve as a DHCP server with a non-overlapping IP address scope, so that only the second Bullet would have to be powered when not connecting to the Internet. The Ethernet switch would provide both POE to both Bullets, but also Ethernet connectivity to onboard devices such as Radar, Serial to Ethernet converters, etc.

Sorry for my lack of brevity in this post.

Posted by: Andrzej at August 22, 2012 3:00 PM | Reply

Andrzej, Great post and written like a true engineer. You provide some good information, BUT. This is typically the type of information that sends a lot of boaters running for products like the NautiCloud, Wirie or Rogue. To most boaters that simply want to connect to the internet, most of what you wrote is in a foreign language. That was my biggest issue when we began to research how we would get on line while cruising. I found lots of information just like your posting and I understood none of it. I almost took the path of least resistance and bought the prepackaged unit. All I wanted was for someone to say, "Buy these pieces of equipment, plug this in to this, connect this to this, go on your computer and do this" and boom, I would be on line. But I hung in there and eventually found someone that told me just that. I have been a marine service technician for over 35 years so electronics are not a mystery to me. But I got technical overload in trying to simply get on line. I still don't know all of the science behind all of this and have found that I really don't need to. In another life, I developed national training programs for large corporations. Each training session was presented to my 11 and 12 year old niece and nephew. If they understood it, I could present it to corporate and introduce it in the field. Someone needs to present a true "WiFi for Dummies" and save us all lots of money.

My point is, he finally made it, that for these exact reasons many folks are willing to pay, $300, $400 or $500 for these prepackaged units with simplified software. It's not necessary to make it this complicated for the average guy and I have tried through my blog postings to show others that like me, any fool can do it. I'm not saying it's not worth it. To many it will be. Many pay up to $1000.00 a year for internet service to get on line. So maybe $500 for a prepackaged wifi set up is a deal. Or maybe it can be done for $100.00. Chuck

Posted by: Capn. Chuck at August 22, 2012 4:49 PM | Reply

As I write this, I am using a Bullet 2HP on my boat in Ireland, and I highly recommend it. An important point for boaters who might be traveling outside the US is that some Bullets are hard-configured to work in the US, and cannot use channels 12 and 13. In Europe, many marinas are starting to use these channels, which are legal here. If you are using a US-configured Bullet, you will not be able to change the "regulatory domain" to an EU country, and will not be able to even see these access points.

Evidently, the FCC has convinced Ubiquiti to not sell country-configurable Bullets in the US, so if you are outside the US, you need to buy one locally. If bought outside the US, they also work inside the US, as well.

Posted by: rxc at August 23, 2012 7:19 AM | Reply

That is a good point about channels 12 & 13. The last new Bullet2 that I configured (about a year ago) allowed the selection of the Country of Operation once, after that it was locked. I was honest and selected US, a possible problem since I might sometimes use that Bullet in Europe.

Also, this is a good time to point out that Bullet users should take care to keep their ERP (effective radiated power) within legal limits, especially in crowded areas where too much power could knock other users off their connections. Note that ERP is a function of both the amplifier gain setting and the antenna gain.

Jon

Posted by: JonM at August 23, 2012 8:21 AM | Reply

Where are these DOS-like commands and complicated AP choosing schemes in the bog standard AirOS operating system? I have been using it for 6 years and have yet to find them.

For those who have not used the standard OS, it is simply a webpage that contains a list of available access points. You choose one and the radio connects to it. That is it.

Can it be made simpler or more user-friendly? Maybe - particularly if one locks out the additional page tabs that let a user customize the networking environment and monitor the performance. But as is, it certainly does not require command-line work or much complication at all.

I have no problem using it in Safari - which is the only way I have ever used it.

Posted by: Mark in reply to Rick R at August 25, 2012 11:34 AM | Reply

Hi Ben,

Have you had any dealings with the Yacht Router product? its from a czech (iirc) company called locomarine.

I have a wave wifi in my yacht and we have had "ok" results.... It has worked but usually speeds are never exceptional (although I suppose it is mostly due to poor marina infrastructure in europe mostly), and now it has stopped working after a few years... (Despite being "waterproofed" I suppose it got a leak and failed...)

Anyways, it has some coax leading to the antenna although from memory not mcuh.... maybe a few yards at most? as it is inside the radar arch where the antenna is mounted... do you think this would be much better?

Back to the yacht router, any comments? We are leaning towards getting that and trying it as it would seem much easier to have on board and config etc, as we often switch between 3G, Wifi, and will not be adding Satellite as we are changing to a larger yacht... so the yachtrouter would be a platform we can have on this boat an the next... It seems quite integrated with the management touchpanel, etc... (not taking price as the major decision point, in terms of performance, have you tried it? can you comment? )

thanks so much!

PS: it may be a good idea to test it out maybe if they are willing to send one to you?

Posted by: Roy at September 5, 2012 9:11 AM | Reply

The Locomarine products look interesting... http://www.yachtrouter.com/ ...but they are not distributed in North America and I have never seen one. Frankly, I'd be more interested in trying Wave Wifi's new Marine Router; it's supported here and a demo of its software was impressive. Info here:

http://www.wavewifi.com/marine-broadband-router.html

Some people also like Cradlepoint routers and Steve Dashew recently raved about his Pepwave:

http://setsail.com/efficient-versatile-easy-to-use-communications-what-is-the-answer-for-cruisers/

But note that these are expensive routers and you still need a high power WiFi radio for the Offboard connection. Steve has two Wave Rogues connected to his Pepwave, for instance!

Incidentally, you probably have an older Wave WiFi on your boat, like the Comet, because the Ubiquiti Bullet-based products like the Rogue usually have no coax at all involved in the install.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Roy at September 5, 2012 10:22 AM | Reply

For disclosure sake, I am Mark Kilty, the owner of the company that manufactures and sells The Wirie and The WirieAP WiFi Systems.

“It also includes some good ideas that all the developers in this niche should consider (I think).”

So I will comment on what you have listed here about the Nauticloud product’s good ideas.

“The beauty of the Bullet is that the radio fits directly to a marine antenna using Ethernet for both data and power, and thus avoiding any coax cable that might cause signal loss (high frequency WiFi and coax do not mix well).”

This is the beauty of any good WiFi system, not an attribute solely of the Bullet. Other systems, including The WirieAP, also contain no coax cable.

“and its [The WirieAP] software is not Rogue easy...”

You state the same thing about Nauticloud later in the article. “The software I used with the NautiCloud is not Rogue easy”

“Note, for instance, how Nauticloud developer Charlie Van Dusen has coined wonderfully simple terms for the two different radios: onboard and offboard. Moreover, he gave each one a very easy to remember IP address, as you can see at the tops of these screen shots.”

Would it not be easier if there was only one user interface that controls both the local onboard network as well as the connection to the remote network? Then only 1 URL (or IP address) is needed. Seems that is less confusing then trying to understand 2 separate radios on-board. The WirieAP was designed this way to reduce the confusion of managing and operating 2 on-board radios. And bookmarking 10.20.30.40 or 10.100.100.1 or anything else, is all the same in the end. And, most people don’t need to use any of these IP addresses anyway, and can use specific URL’s (as you stated) to access the systems administration pages (ie. http://thewirieap or http://wavewifi.com).

“Van Dusen has also programmed NauticCloud so that it will search for and connect to the strongest open WiFi hotspot on its own, but as slick as that sounds, it often doesn't get you what you want.”

After being in this business for years, and cruising for over 5 with various WiFi equipment on-board, I can say, pretty much without a doubt, this feature does not add real functionality to a system. It is quite easy for any of us in our business to add this feature to our products (trivial really), however we (will not speak for others), made a very conscious decision to not include it. From our experience, it causes more confusion to the customer then it helps, exactly for the reasons you have stated.

“the latter should broadcast NMEA 0183 data to my phone and pad apps.”

This can be done with any on-board router (don’t need any of the systems mentioned here for this). Whether you use a Bullet and a 3rd party router, a WirieAP, a Nauticloud, or a simple home Linksys router, setting up your navigation PC (which most have these days), to broadcast your NMEA data over WiFi is trivial, and free, with software like PolarCom and NavMonPC, for many users. You don’t need to run Ethernet cables, it can all be done over WiFi, with no special hardware.

“And when you're not cruising, you could still get an AC cable and take your NautiCloud on vacation with you, another plus for its all-in-one design.”

The WirieAP supports AC use out of the box, and has since we started shipping it.

“ Another issue that Van Dusen is working on is the optional ability to attach onboard Ethernet cabled devices to the onboard WiFi router in the Pelican case”

This is confusing to me. You state there are 2 Bullets inside the box, correct? And there is a router also? How many ports? Seems like a lot of stuff to squeeze into a box that size, can you elaborate on this a bit? And if there is a router, and 2 Bullets, this doesn’t seem correct either as the 2nd Bullet would probably be duplicate functionality of the router (assuming the router supported WiFi)….. A bit confused on this point.

If your boat has a number of wired Ethernet devices (like yours does), the recommended approach would be to install a router down-below to inter-connect these devices to, and to give you WiFi access to them (exactly the system you already have on your boat). Trying to wire this router, to another router located in the Nauticloud system (or The WirieAP for that matter), seems to be counter-productive. Now you would have 2 WiFi networks on-board, and some messy configuration that would need to be done between the 2 routers to make everything place nicely. The better approach would to simply connect an Ethernet based WiFi system (like the Bullet), to the WiFi router already in place. There is no need to add another router into the boat’s system. The WirieAP was designed to simplify this installation, but if your system requires multiple Ethernet based devices all inter-connected, you would be better off going the route Ben has on-board, albeit a bit more complicated to set-up and configure. If you requirement is simply WiFi from your boat, and a local WiFi network to share the connection, stream NMEA data to iDevices, and share files and wireless printers, the router in The WirieAP (or Nauticloud), will meet these needs.

No mention of price?

The “premium price” is $649, and certainly ought to be disclosed outright in a review, and if making comparisons to other systems, stating the prices of the other products I would also think to be helpful to all interested parties.

Posted by: Mark Kilty at September 11, 2012 2:36 PM | Reply

Hi Ben.

Thanks for the response, sorry for the delay,i didnt receive the notification about the response...

our wave was the EC-HP one...its the little box the has 2 antennas, one for "marine wifi" and one for the unit itself, as well as an RJ45 (which is how we connect it to our router)...

We are looking for something a bit more automatic, thats why i liked the locomarine, i also kind of liked the touchscreen dedicated panel, which means the crew on a larger vessel can get some easy specific training and always switch internet on quickly when in port, etc....

The wave router looks nice, although the pieces are a bit more decentralized in this setup.... i came across the pepwave on steve's site, and it seems like it has a wifi also? if i recall he mentioned only hooking up a 4g modem by usb?

eitherway, i'm going to investigate the 3 a bit more and then make a decision soon...

keep up the great work!

Posted by: Roy at September 11, 2012 11:58 PM | Reply

A little help for Mac users:
http://www.macworld.com/article/2010028/troubleshoot-your-wireless-network-with-wi-fi-diagnostics.html

Duplicates the functionality of most of these products but it's free and it's built in to Mounain Lion.

Posted by: John K at September 18, 2012 12:15 PM | Reply

As Chuck pointed out, during one of his recent seminars about Bahamas cruising, the most popular question was, where can we get wifi rather than where is the best anchorage or where are the shallows.

The needs of the cruising sailor have changed and the lack of the internet is a factor in deciding whether or not to go cruising, much less how to improve signals.

From my point of view, having a program that will search out unsecured networks first and then secured would be a big help. Plug and play is nice, but on my budget, not likely.

I can't imagine this equipment fairing well atop my main and I don't have a mizzen. Hence, theft is a big issue. On the other hand, I plan to cruise for three years, this is my home and it would be nice to come as close to those comforts as possible. Hauling up the internet would be just one more thing to do.

It would be nice to have a truly wireless hotspot on the boat so I don't have to mess with the wires. That means including a router either at mounting point or inside the boat. Inside the boat would be preferable but that means a wire running from mount point into the boat (in addition to the wiring for power to the unit).

All of this is a lot of work to do considering most land based wireless routers are now encoded, not by the choice of the owner, who is usually ignorant about such things, but by the manufacturer who has decided this is the future of wireless internet.

Verizon threatened to disconnect me because they didn't like my use of their "unlimited" wireless capability. Their adsa are completely false. However, it seems this would be a better choice considering I will either have to become a hacking thief to gain access to closed systems or go without if I depend upon just wi-fi.

The real solution, and the next billionaire, will be the guy who can provide free wireless internet service over vast expanses.

Posted by: Tim Paynter at May 4, 2013 12:21 AM | Reply

I've been online, often with great speed, almost the whole way from South Carolina to Massachusetts using either Gizmo's new and higher-mounted Rogue Wave Pro or Verizon cellular. Entries here:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2013/03/gizmos_antenna_mast_2013_flir_rogue_wilson_more.html

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2013/04/verizon_lte_nirvana_can_it_last.html

Posted by: Ben at May 4, 2013 8:50 AM | Reply

Sounds like some good advice on how to be a good WiFi citizen in the ActiveCaptain newsletter:

"If you have a long range WiFi capability like a Ubiquiti or Rogue Wave and you're connecting to marina WiFi, look at the signal report of the router when you connect. If the signal is -50 dB or larger, you have to slide down the gain on your outside modem. In an informal poll on the ActiveCaptain Facebook group, no one except us is doing that
type of thing. If you're connecting at -60 dB, you're fine. But if you're seeing -45 dB, reduce the gain of that outside device because you are overdriving the marina's WiFi radios and causing signal loss
and slowdown for everyone else connected to that router."

I'm going to check into this myself though I'm rarely hanging out in marinas (except when most smarter cruisers are further south).

Full AC WiFi story here:

https://activecaptain.com/newsletters/2014-02-05.php

Posted by: Ben at February 5, 2014 2:28 PM | Reply

Thanks for posting this. I was wondering about how to change the gain on the Wave WiFi Rogue Wave. Haven't seen anything yet.

Posted by: Don Joyce in reply to Ben at February 5, 2014 11:24 PM | Reply

Leave a comment