Thursday, August 14, 2014

The McAllen Creative Incubator gets a new Wi-Fi network!

One of the greatest things about doing what I do in the local community is that I get to go visit places that I haven't been to in a pretty long time, or that I went to as a kid and get to see them from an entirely different perspective. One of those places is the building that used to be our old local public library. Throughout the day today I've been upgrading their wireless network to introduce brand-new capacity, capability, and connectivity, not only for the guests that visit the building, but for the tenants of it as well.


Where the old library once thrived is now the McAllen Creative Incubator, a facility that encourages creativity in the arts and hosts art studios & schools, music schools, a local LPFM station, and open space for people to come and be as creative as they wish.

There's always something fascinating going on with the incubator, but up until recently they've been working off of a hacked version of a Netgear wireless router running DD–WRT. With 18 different offices inside this building and about 30 or 40 people there, teaching classes to 20 to 100 children at any given time, I felt like it was a pretty important initiative to get some new wireless connectivity in that building.



When you're trying to teach children and teenagers how to be as creative as they possibly can, the last thing you want to do is limit their capability to do things like get online and access rich content on the web. One of the tenants at the incubator, an LPFM radio station called KCYP was started by a buddy of mine named Joe Martinez. A couple of years back he got the itch to teach children about broadcasting and radio.
Now that it's been on the air for a number of years, it's great to see that they've made an impact on so many children's lives by teaching them about how to do something that they cherish, which is listing to music.

Sidenote: The RF nerd side of me wishes that I could teach some classes about RF signal propagation and different types of modulation rates so that maybe I could encourage some of these kids to grow up to be RF engineer. :) Anyhow..

One of the things that was asked of me today when I was installing this network by Joe from KCYP, was the amount of capacity available so that he could start streaming live WebCams from his studio. They currently stream all of their audio over the Internet but now he wanted to be able to show the faces behind their broadcasts online, encouraging friends and family to tune in. I think this is a great opportunity to leverage the connectivity at the incubator, however it wouldn't be possible unless there's enough wireless connectivity to support these types of endeavors.



We installed Ruckus Wireless 802.11n and 802.11ac products around the facility to serve the capacity and user-loading situations. We used 802.11n in the common areas, and 802.11ac in the specific meeting areas where there will be lots of client-to-client communication. Eventually we'll probably upgrade it all to AC, but for now this keeps the cost down while providing reliable, speedy, and well balanced throughput.


One of the key reasons we pushed AC into the meeting areas is because we are moving our CODE#RGV events over to this facility. CODE#RGV is a social hacking project where anyone who's building something .. an app, a website, a database structure, something, anything .. is welcomed to come and look for help, donate their help, and contribute to larger group projects. We've outgrown our space at IMAS and look forward to bringing more nerds out of the woodwork, and the Incubator allows us the room, schedule, and central location for it. If you can imagine 30-50 geeks parked in front of laptops pushing and pulling a ton of data, that is CODE#RGV, and that's why we need that 802.11ac capacity :)

McAllen Chamber of Commerce has been kind enough to do business with us and allowed us to help change the lives of not only the tenants of the incubator, but of all the children that they reach on the daily basis. Combined with the network we built at IMAS earlier in the year, I'm glad that we were chosen to provide the solutions for this and future community projects.


All in all I take a lot of pride in my city and a lot of pride in the projects that we get to work on down here. From my perspective, its more than just hanging APs, its providing something to people who may not even know we did it, but they'll be ecstatic that its there. :)

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