Summer 2006 Issue
The Hinternet and VPN Projects
By John Champa,* K8OCL
|Figure 1. The HSMM Virtual Private Network test system.|
One of the stated objectives of the ARRL HSMM Working Group is the creation of the “Hinternet,” an amateur-radio-run network that has capabilities similar to those of the internet and can operate as an alternative to it. This aim harks back to the original ideas of the creators of ampr.net in the early to mid ’70s The general guiding principle in this effort is the pervasive use of radio as the “physical layer” of the network. This is, after all, an amateur radio pursuit.
The current work of the HSMM Working Group has
some very distinct implications when considered against the goal of
spanning the globe. As an example, the most common network technology
under evaluation, 802.11b, is practically useful inside a quarter mile
unless using high towers and directional antennas, which extend the range
to less than 15 miles, or maybe up to 30 miles with very carefully applied
antenna work and a bit of luck.
The bottom line is that these methods
currently being pursued are locally reliable, but over long distances they
are spotty at best. To practically extend a network around the world, some
other type of link is required—at least until a good long-distance RF
method arrives that provides fat bandwidth around the planet, for example
an AMSAT Phase III or Phase IV satellite. That link is secure, easy-to-use
tunnels through the internet. Such connectivity would tie our various
experimental efforts into one big, planet-spanning network, which we could
begin to use for things such as message passing, digital group chats,
voice/video conferencing, emergency communications, and other possible
uses as we come up with them.
Affordable—Should use cheap (but good) hardware, or “already have it” hardware. Should, where possible, leverage free software.
Dynamic—Should be able to adapt to a constantly changing network, with parts of it going online and offline. Realistically we are not carrier-grade NOCs. We are hobbyists. We won’t have SLAs on our networks or HA setups that are always there.
Interoperable—Where possible, we should support most (if not all) of radio amateurs’ favorite platforms. Practically, this would be Windows®, MacOS®, and Linux. If done correctly (i.e., simple bootable CDs or USB keys), this requirement virtually disappears, and the connecting system becomes just another “rig.”
Secure—We should be able to leverage quality crypto to keep the tunnel part of our network scrambled and protected while traversing the public internet, and it should be done easily.
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