Conversation began by DavidCary re: Mesh Networking.

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When I first saw the term ZergCreep, I imagined it would be some kind of wireless network (Wifi mesh or something like that), the mental image fits better: “We’re the Zerg ! We’ll take over this world ! We don’t need you cable companies; inch by inch we’ll cover the globe with our own bottom-up network, and be free ! Long live the HiveMind and the Bazaar ! Down with the Protoss pyramids !”

(Actually, I’ve almost never played Starcraft, maybe even less than your daughter :) )

Emile, have you seen “wireless mesh network” projects? In 2006, I got the impression that most so-called “wireless network” systems were one-hop wireless: You have your laptop, and it has a conversation with a wireless access point, which is directly wired to the internet. Or you have your cell phone, and it has a conversation with a cell phone tower, which is directly wired to the telephone network. Occasionally there were 2-hop wireless – when I’m talking on my cell phone to someone else on his cell phone – but all the hops in the middle are still on the wired network.

However, I’m seeing a lot of people talking about “wireless mesh networks”. In a wireless mesh network, packets may hop any number of wireless connections. Some packets may get to their destination without ever crossing a wired link. Other packets may switch to the wired network at the “periphery” of the wireless mesh (using something vaguely similar to “FreeGlobalTeleCommunication”). I’ve seen some calculations that seem to indicate that if your laptop does “extra work” by forwarding packets from other people’s laptops, it makes your battery last longer. Counterintuitive? The “extra work” forwarding other people’s packets is apparently more than counterbalanced by spending less energy sending your own packets. When you are sending and receiving your own packets, rather than spending a lot of energy trying to shout to “the” access point, you only need to spend a little energy whispering to the nearest laptop, who forwards it to the next, etc.

It is amazing to me that the OneLaptopPerChild project has some of the most advanced technology in the world in it, right now.

Each OLPC has an 802.11s network card.


What is 802.11s?!? Wikipedia:IEEE 802.11s

Wireless mesh networking!

“But wait- it says the standard isn’t finished, and that they only plan to use these in OLPC’s.”

Well, I don’t know what to say, except that I’ve held and played with a laptop that I was told had 802.11s in it, by a guy working on the projects, and telling me the stories of his coworkers and he playing with the range, chaining the laptops over distances, and so on.

My understanding is that this is quite material and functioning, even though they’re working with technology drawn up from from draft specs.

Incidentally, I think this discussion should be called MeshNetwork, or something. ZergCreep is a Python module sitting on a broken laptop in my bookshelf right now.. ;)