The WLAN Pi has undergone several changes and updates since it’s initial appearance at WLPC
Jerry Olla brings us up to speed on what he shared at #WLPC 2020 in Phoenix and what changes might still be expected this year.
Learn more at www.wlanpi.com
Watch Jerry’s presentation at #WLPC here
Follow the WLAN Pi project on Twitter here
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Wireless LAN Professionals Podcast Episode 191.
Wireless LAN professionals is a place to educate, inform, encourage and entertain those involved in wireless lands. This wireless LAN professionals podcast is an audio manifestation of these goals. Our host is a wireless land veteran consultant, designer and teacher, Keith Parsons. And now the podcast for wireless LAN professionals by wireless LAN professionals.
Jerry, welcome back to the show. How are you, sir? Thanks, Matthew. I’m doing doing great. Thanks for having me on.
Well, absolutely. So introduce yourself to those who might not know you, how you’re involved in Wi-Fi in this community.
I’ve gotten quite the reputation as being involved in this whole W LAN PI project. This has been going on for a couple of years now. But yeah, as far as who I am. I’m CWNP number to 38. So I’ve been in the Wi-Fi industry now for for a little while. I’ve been working with the CWNP project for probably the last four years now.
So give us a quick backstory. How did you stumble on this and how the W LAN Pi really ended up taking on a life of its own?
You know, it’s closely tied with WLPC the wireless LAN professionals conference because that’s kind of where it was born out of will say. The idea was pitched to Keith. If you know Keith, he likes to tinker and he likes to play with his gadgets and gizmos. So I had kind of come up with this, we’ll say kind of Raspberry Pi ish type device using a different board for different technical reasons or years or so ago, pitched that idea to him of, you know, hey, do you think this would be something useful in the industry? And, you know, I saw his eyes light up and kind of geek out about it.
In fact, that idea was a springboard which led you into helping us, was one of our very first ever deep dives.
Back then, it wasn’t even really a deep dove. It was a maker session. And then the deep dove evolved out of that. But, yeah, it was some lessons learned through that, but it was a lot of fun. And it was it was cool to see everybody assembling these things and then building something that was useful to them.
But the initial idea for the double LAN pi come about because you were trying to solve a specific problem as a wireless engineer, going out to different customer sites, needing a way to test the performance of wireless networks. That’s where this whole kind of concept spawned from. So the idea was, OK, I have a limited amount of space needed, something that could be powered, basically something that was versatile and small, lightweight, low power, you know, those kind of requirements. And that’s where this concept started and then became smaller and lower power and more features over the years.
You presented a WLPC 20/20. What were some of the focuses you had in that talk?
A big part of the talk that I gave at WLPC this year was updates on the debris LAN PI project. And one of the things I made sure to call out in the beginning of the project is even though I’m kind of known to be the Dubie LAN Pi project guy, since it was kind of my idea at the start, there’s a ton of other people behind the scenes that are involved in this project. Now it’s a very community supported project.
And it’s not just all programing either. We’ve got like the 3D printed case as an example.
Yeah, exactly. You don’t need to be a hardcore programmer to be involved in this project. You’ve got people like Mr. Potato PHY Joel Crane creating the 3D printing case. You know, he’s awesome with that kind of stuff. He’s very good at what he does. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool to see all the different ways that different people in the Wi-Fi community have contributed to the project, whether it be code or hardware type contributions, daily, LAN, pi dot com.
What do you find when you go to that Web site?
Pretty basic Web site, to be honest. That’s where my coding skills really do not shine. If you go to Dubie, LAN pi dot com, you’re going to see pretty minimal Web site. Probably the biggest thing that you’re gonna go there for is a link to the downloads of where you can get that DoubleLine PI image to put onto that hardware platform. The neo tube board that’s inside there is what we’re kind of building this all on. But there’s also some other links there to some user guide type stuff, as well as resellers where you can buy this equipment. One in particular is the wireless LAN Pro’s online store, where you can actually find the ordering link.
So tell us about some of the changes you introduced at WLPC 2020 and if anything has changed since then.
Yeah, there’s been a lot of change, not too much on the image side of things or the software side of things. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. And, you know, we can we can certainly talk about that. What I talked about specifically at WLPC is the updates. And really I looked at, you know, from 2019 to 2020. What did what what did we change? What do we add know those kinds of things. So on the hardware side, we’re supporting a lot more Wi-Fi adapters on the WLAN Pi image. Now we’ve got a ton of driver support for all sorts of different USP based Wi-Fi adapters out there from real tech to MediaTech adapters. You can pretty much plug in any adapter on there and it’s going to work in some capacity, whether it be just your typical client. Mode, or we have several adapters now that work and both the monitor mode and packet injection that we need to do a lot of the real fun stuff that the W LAN pie is is built around.
What about the device itself?
The handheld edition, you know, as news since twenty nineteen. That’s where Joel created that 3D printed case for it that encloses everything, makes it a bit more ruggedized and gives you a single piece of equipment that houses everything on the software side. We’ve really taken advantage of that old display that’s on there. You can show the version number of the W.M. Pi image and several other pieces of information on the front panel display there. And then Nigel took that to a whole nother level and actually wrote an entire menu system for that front panel display and allows you to now drill down into different functions and actually enable and disable different functions of the of the Linux operating system, of the use cases you’re hearing about for the W LAN PI.
Is there anything that has surprised you? Yeah, there’s all sorts of things that I never really thought we’d be able to do.
Jerry created a multiple utilities for the DoubleLine PI. One of them that I found extremely useful is a DP LDP Nabor detection utility that basically allows you to plug the W LAN Pi into a port on the wall or a switch port or, you know, take a network cable out of an access point, plug it into the DoubleLine pie and it’ll tell you what’s on the other end of that cable could be hundreds of feet away. And now all of a sudden, you know what? Switch that cable is plugged into all sorts of information about what’s at the other end of that cable. So I can be really helpful for troubleshooting as well as verifying configurations, that kind of thing.
Now, what makes the actual handheld addition different than just the W LAN pie itself?
Yeah, that’s a good point. I suppose I should even just back up a second. You know, fundamentalist investing isn’t familiar with the WMD pie. You know, what is a W LAN pie? I mean, at its core, it’s a it’s a it’s a full blown Linux computer. Right. And it’s a very super small Linux computer, which means that there’s a lot of versatility there. You know, when you’ve got a Linux operating system like that, you know, kind of sky’s the limit to, you know, what you’re you’re coding skills are. But, yeah, to your question about the handheld device, you know, it’s a very ideal for, you know, field use. I would say, you know, where you can take this thing out in the field and plug it in where we need it.
And what about the Wi-Fi, Nick, that is in the handheld edition?
Yes. So the Wi-Fi, Nick, that’s in there is very specific. So that’s a specific chipset that we found enables all the different functionalities.
We’ve got some very specific drivers that work with that particular chipset that allow us to have full control over that adapter for, you know, changing the channel setting monitor mode, doing pack and injection so we can do all the different functionalities, things like the profile air, for example. That’s another utility that’s on there that allows you to profile a another Wi-Fi device and see what its capabilities are. We’re leveraging all those kind of capabilities of doing that packet injection to be able to do that.
So how much of your time on a weekly basis do you spend on the W LAN PI project?
Well, usually there’s a big ramping up. Well, what as we approach WLPC that more and more of my time gets kind of wrapped up into that. And then I intentionally decompress a little bit after WLPC and try to remove myself from the project a bit, take feedback and things like that on it. But yeah, I really since WLPC haven’t spent a ton of time with it, I recently. Not that long ago started a new job. And so that’s been consuming a fair amount of my time. Still, you know, weekend projects for sure, you know, weekends or or any time. I’ve got some downtime that sees you arm focusing on it.
If people want to learn more about the WLPC project, do you recommend the Web site Twitter? Where would you direct them if they have more questions?
Twitter is a great place to start. We do have a W LAN PI Twitter handle. So yeah, if you do send a tweet or D.M. whatever your preferences there to the DoubleLine PI Twitter handle. We do also have some pretty active discussion. I would say the most active place is if you’re on the Wi-Fi prose slack, you can join the channelers at WMP Channel and there and there’s a lot of conversation and that’s where a lot of the ideas and contributions and stuff start there. We do have a separate W LAN Pi Slack team for like the people that are involved in the development side of it. So yeah, feel free to reach out on on Twitter and get you connected to any of those channels as well.
So what’s the future of the W LAN pie look like? Any changes we should expect?
Yes. So since WLPC there’s been the whole Corona virus and KOVA 19 caused some issues with the supply chains, the parts themselves actually at the time of the recording of this. You can’t order the parts themselves. Thankfully, there are some different retailers out there that we have listed on DoubleLine pie dot com, where you can buy the kits themselves. Already preassembled. So that is still readily available today. But there is some question of what the future is going to look like as far as, you know, the project and the hardware itself.
So really, as of today, we will know those answers until the world opens back up. If we’re gonna go to the same equipment or if a new version is coming out, is that correct?
Yeah. And on that note, that’s given us some time to kind of reevaluate things in the development side where so far today we’re doing all the development for the NO2 board. But seeing this has given us some some direction on the future of how we want to develop the image. And we’re looking to actually open up the image to run on other hardware platforms.
So not just the NO2 board, but since a lot of these tools will work on several other single board computers today, you may not have all the functionality like the cool, like old display with the buttons and stuff that we have with the new two. But if you just need a basic throughput testing server, you know, there’s other hardware platforms out there today that this could potentially run on. So we’re looking at kind of expanding out, you know, the build process that we use to create the image and make that more scalable to run on other platforms.
Well, very cool. Well, outside of the Dubie LAN pie, what other devices are technologies are you playing with these days?
There’s always something. Yeah. I mean, now I would say a X. So, you know, with Wi-Fi six and a X, you know, that’s definitely something I’m keeping a close eye on, which right now the the neo two, since we don’t have any all the adapters that we use for Wi-Fi related functions on the current WMD pie is all USP based. There aren’t any USP based Alemany X adapters out as it stands today, but there are some different Wi-Fi chips out there that you can buy. So I’ve been playing around with some different single board computers, more around like the Raspberry Pi size, getting Alemany X working on those types of devices. So not not the full features is like the double-blind pie and stuff has. But if you need to play on the Lebanese X, you know, that’s a fun kind of tinkering project as well.
So for someone who is on the fence or just hasn’t ever played with the W LAN pie before, why would you recommend a wireless LAN professionals get a W LAN pie?
That’s a really good question. I would say for anybody that’s looking to do network performance testing in a small package, you know, that’s really what this thing excels at. But there’s a lot of other functionality. Now, I would say if you’re just looking for something for even for like learning Wi-Fi. Right. So there’s a lot of cool things we can do when it comes to even doing like packett captures with the W LAN pie. But yeah, I would say probably the main focus for the DoubleLine pie still today is around network performance testing. So if you have an interest in measuring network performance, either, you know, like a one time test or for continuous testing, you know, the W lime pie is a great tool to have in your in your tool belt. And yeah, if you like to tinker with Linux and do packett captures those kinds of things, I think this is something that every wireless engineer should have with them.
We’ve obviously had some great deep dives that WLPC about the w LAN pie. But outside of that, do you know of anyone putting on any good tutorials or walk Theroux’s online that you might recommend if someone wanted to take their own deeper dove into the W LAN pie?
Yeah, there’s been a few different things from the community. There’s several different bloggers out there that have blogged about different things on the W LAN pie. I know Nigel at Wi-Fi, Nigella’s Twitter, Nigel Botha, and he’s done several YouTube videos now on some of the different functionalities, especially some of the stuff that he’s put together. Those have been really helpful. So, yeah, we’ve been seeing things between blogs and video tutorials being posted. There’s a couple of them also linked to on the WMD pie dot com on the video section there as well.
So I guess you’d encourage anyone who is experimenting or trying new things with their w LAN pie to create a blog or a video and share with the community.
Yeah, that’s a that’s a good point. I mean, that’s another way people can contribute, right, from a community standpoint. You’ve got the people that are actually doing the coding behind the scenes.
But then we can you always use help with the documentation piece. We we have started writing a user guide for this that still needs a good amount more work, but that’s available on the dummy like pie dot com website as well. It’s basically a kind of a separate project to the project just to document all this kind of stuff.
Absolutely. Well, Jerry, again, thank you for being here. Is there anything we missed or anything you want to had?
No, I appreciate. Appreciate you having me on. I appreciate being able to talk about this kind of stuff. WLPC and. I would. The only thing I would say is stay tuned to some exciting stuff that is in the works behind the scenes from the development side of the DoubleLine.
I am looking forward to to bringing that to light in the near future.
Well, very cool, Jerry. Thanks again. Thank you.
Thank you for joining us for another episode of the wireless LAN professionals podcast. The podcast for wireless LAN professionals by wireless LAN professionals. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Wireless Landreaux for all the latest news and updates and also connect directly with Keith on Twitter at Keith R. Parsons. Head over to w w w w LAN pro’s dot com for this episode show notes as well as the latest in all things Wi-Fi.
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