Where there's a will there's a wifi

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Every post is an opportunity for another bad pun.

Google Maps satellite image showing a distance of 1.05mi from the farmhouse to the treehouse

I have fiber internet here at the farmhouse, but the treehouse itself is just a smidgeon over 1 mile away. Assuming there aren’t too many trees between the two points, we should be able to easily span that distance with some directional wifi units.

I had two spare Mikrotik SXT Lite2s (discontinued) which haven’t been in use for a while. Originally I used them to share internet with my buddy AJ who lived across the street from me (way overkill for crossing the street). I’m pretty sure these were each about $60 when I purchased them years ago.

Mikrotik has faster models now that would likely provide better speed, but this should be more than enough for testing. If I ever find an employer that’s willing to pay me maybe I’ll upgrade to some newer hardware.

If you haven’t heard of Mikrotik before I can’t recommend them enough. The learning curve is a bit steep since they’re not really meant for consumer use, but they’re priced like consumer grade hardware and I’m very fond of that part. They can do pretty much anything.

For the initial test I put one SXT in the windowsill of the east bedroom in the farmhouse. Then I strapped the other SXT to a curtain rod (I call this my tik-stick) and brought that down to the treehouse. I was easily able to get a couple bars of signal without lining anything up particularly well, so I felt pretty confident about making brackets at this point and just going for it.

Tik on a stick; my tik-stick

The SXTs are powered via PoE which significantly simplifies installation. This means we only need to run one Ethernet cable to the installation point.

Simple bracket I made

I welded up a simple bracket for the house side. We considered mounting the SXT on the old unused windmill tower but it’s a little spooky to get up there, also we’d have to span the gap between the house and the windmill tower with Ethernet which sounded irritating. Instead we opted to mount it at the apex of the house roof.

MikroTik SXT mounted at the top peak of the house

After attaching the one unit to house, I made another little bracket (this time I made it needlessly fancy). I wanted a bracket that I could easily adjust up and down, so I put a little screw thing on the bottom side and it worked pretty well.

Needlessly fancy bracket with adjustable butt end

Dad drills a hole into the cabin where the conduit will go through

For the permanent installation on the treehouse end, we decided to drill a small hole in the cabin and run a length of conduit up to the crow’s nest where the other SXT would be mounted.

Conduit comes out of the cabin in the corner

Conduit exits in the corner of the cabin and goes up to the crow’s nest.

Conduit goes up to the loft

The little “table” we had built into the crow’s nest corner serves well as a little roof to keep some weather off the SXT, although they’re designed for outdoor use, but hopefully it will extend the life slightly.

In the next post I’ll focus on configuration and we’ll see what these things can do.