Friday, April 25, 2014

Well... We Didn't Get Far

As mentioned in the last post from Sarasota, our intentions, weather permitting, were to stop at Legacy Harbour in downtown Ft Myers before heading east to Jupiter and home.
It turns out, upon leaving Marina Jack's we got a call from Eric at Legacy and he wanted me to stop and give a formal proposal and presentation for the management team.

I did and we haven't left yet.

onSpot wifi is installing another Better Marina WiFI Hotspot at Legacy Harbour in Ft. Myers.

It's going well.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Farewell to Sarasota

It's been fun, Sarasota is a nice town, but it's time to go.

We said goodbye to all yesterday. Then our old buddy Travers stopped by for a beer before we called it a day.

I know the boyz are gonna miss the parks and the freedom they enjoyed while walking around untethered. We'll miss the warm hospitality of Marina Jack's and the cultural vibe and energy of Sarasota. Sarasota is fairly unique in Florida.
Gotta feeling we'll be back sooner rather than later.

So now it's time to start heading south... Ft Myers is the plan but the weather's being weird so who knows.



P.S. Please excuse the typos and bad grammar. I usually write these posts very early in the AM while having that first cup of coffee. I fix 'em later after the brain has warmed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Turning On Marina Jack's

As posted earlier, Istaboa's in Sarasota, (I like saying that), hosting a trio of wireless internet gearheads while providing the perfect venue for the testing of all sorts of wireless mojo.

The first order of business was to completely remove the former WiFi provider's gear and replace it with onSpot's new Smart Access Points. These new Ruckus™ APs give us the ability to tune out the ugly overpowering radio frequencies and drive a strong clean internet signal directly into our customer's boats.
Today's boaters don't just want high-speed internet, they need it. It's an essential utility that supplies us with critical data such as sea and weather conditions, research on the next leg of a journey, the speed to download the latest charts, and the ability to quickly receive real time crowd sourced information.
In short, it's a must. And, yeah...  we do like to stream the latest episode of Game of Thrones and binge watch Breaking Bad when we're finished doing all that important stuff.

A boat load of WiFi gear that's being returned to it's owner. Out with the old.

After decommissioning the old hotspot, we went to work on our installation. Much research, planning, and design went into this hotspot and we're anxious to see our new network fly for the first time.

Will and Craig, the onSpot smart guys, assembling and configuring the Ruckus™APs before we mount them.

Since we've arrived at Marina Jack's, everyone here, from employees to boaters, has told us, "It'll never work." We disagree, but they just smile and say, "You'll see, that's what they all say.".
Undeterred by the skeptics, we continue on with confidence and a bit of reserved excitement; we know we're about to prove them wrong. The marina and their customers are going to love us.

This nice clean little box is magical.

As we're mounting the new gear, the local boaters and marina staff are watching us warily, a few ask questions, but most just continue to shake their heads while repeating the same mantra, "It'll never work."

It doesn't take long and the network is mounted neatly on light posts and high atop the roof of the marina building. No more big clunky boxes with large antennas protruding from all four corners, theses little APs are so small most folks don't even notice them. One fellow said, " You think those little things are gonna work? This is a big marina.". 
Yep, we do.

So now we adjourn to Istaboa and start the real work. 
Will has done most of the configuring and programming from the salon of Istaboa while I was running the boat across the state. He and Craig put the finishing touches on the gear then we waited on Comcast to show up and turn on our connection. 

The next morning Comcast showed up on time (?!!) and we had bandwith. 
Now's the moment we find out if our new hotspot is what we'd designed it to be.

The first blink of bandwidth and the APs lit up and I mean, they lit up. Almost immediately we had a very fast network, but we'd not done any fine tuning yet. We were very happy with the output after some tweaking. A few hours later, faces down in laptops and many scans of, we knew we had it. 
We've truly cracked the code of marina wifi. We're seeing speeds in excess of 15Mbps and even faster on newer computers with 5G capability. That's very fast in this RF ridden environment.

I walk over to the office to brief Sam Chavers, the marina manager, who has already walked around to check things out. Still reserved with his opinion, he agrees it's pretty fast, but he's still worried if it'll continue after we leave.

This is my part of the gig.

I let Sam know that I'll stick around for a week or so and do my best to break the network while I work with the boaters to help them acclimate to the new system. I promise him I won't leave until he thinks it's stable. (I know, it's a tough job and Sarasota's such a rough place.)

Mel finally returns home after her tour of duty in Memphis and we finally have a chance to hang out in Sarasota as Crew Istaboa. She's been gone for 3 weeks, the boyz were missing her badly and so was I. We haven't been apart for such a long time in 30 years.

Update: It's been a week now, the staff and customers are getting used to the idea that onSPot wifi's hotspot is working well and will continue to work well. I even tried to place a wager with one employee...  $500 we're still working a year from now... he wouldn't take the bet.

Sarasota Bay

So at the end of the day, actually the end of the week, we've done what we set out to do.
We're fast, reliable, and we're truly a Better Marina WiFi Hotspot.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Where In The World Is Istaboa?

Well, it has a nice ring to it — Istaboa's in Sarasota.

Marina Jack's in Sarasota to be exact.

Haven't been posting much on the blog as of late, we've been pretty busy spreading wireless internet around marinas. onSpot wifi has gotten pretty good at this and there are some who say we're really good. That's our intent.

Wanting to get a quick start on our newest hotspot, Will and I took off from Jupiter on a Saturday morning and made way for Sarasota. We were hoping to get across Lake Okeechobee, but a storm turned us back. So a night at River Forest in Stuart made for short run, but rather safe than sorry, the boyz and I enjoyed a quiet night with a beautiful thunderstorm streaking across the horizon.
We made it to River Forest Marina on the west side and were barely able to find a place to tie up. The marina was full of boats waiting to be pulled out and put into storage for the summer.
Again, the next day started early for the short run to Ft. Myers and Legacy Harbour.

Ran into our old friends, 'Broulee', at both River Forests. Nice catching up with them.

Idling into the Caloosahatchee River as the sun starts up.

We easily made it to Ft Myers and tied up at Legacy as planned. We had talked to Eric the Dockmaster and he said he was interested in improving his WiFi hotspot at the marina,
So we woke early and motored down the Caloosahatchee, across Pine Island Sound, and headed for Boca Grande Cut to run out to the Gulf of Mexico. Istaboa hasn't been on the Gulf for years; it was an unusually nice day.
We ran in the shallow water of the Gulf till we made Venice inlet then turned in and headed north on the GICW. After negotiating a few bridges and dodging a multitude of tourists on rented pontoon boats we spotted Marina Jacks and Sarasota.

What a nice marina! What a nice town! Why have Mel and I always passed by Sarasota and never stopped? It's a cool little city full of seemingly nice folks. Too soon to tell, but it may be our new favorite town in FL.
Lots of culture, art, diversity, we never found a bad restaurant, and music was everywhere we turned.

So here we are, all nice and snug, tied up on a T-Head at Marina Jack's.
It's nice to be able to take Istaboa to these marinas and do our work while aboard. It's working from home, but home's the job site. It also provides us the same environment our customers must contend with.
Blasting WiFi through the fiberglass walls of a boat is a difficult task to do successfully. Istaboa's very thick walls make for a great test bed. We turn on everything that uses radio frequencies, causing as much interference as possible, then go to work on our access points, tuning them to cut through the RF muck. Our next challenge is harnessing that refined signal and making it usable under these conditions all the time, 24/7/365. We do it. We've cracked the code. We're not kidding.

So the work started immediately. No rest for the weary. Craig drove over from Ft Lauderdale and the team was assembled. Will, Craig, and I started building a Better Marina WiFi Hotspot. The boaters at Marina jack's are going to love this internet experience.

More on the project later, and Mel returns after a, too long, stint in Memphis caring for her mother.