Category Archives: Farm

More Rural Internet

A late entrant into the rural home internet game: T-Mobile Home Internet.

Looks good in theory: $50 a month, “truly” unlimited, up to 50 Mbit/sec. It’s GPS locked to your address so you can’t use it as a mobile hotspot.

So far it’s not living up to the promise. There’s a T-Mobile tower under 4 miles from me with a clear line of sight. But the signal strength is poor; only two bars from my office and four for a good signal in the front of the house.

I’m getting about 12 Mbit/sec with the good signal and about 4 Mbit/sec with the poor. A lot of ping jitter and evidence of traffic deprioritization due to network congestion.

There’s no external antenna connector on it either, so I’m stuck with whatever signal I can get inside the house.

I installed the modem in the dining room at the front of the house and hooked up a TP-Link power line adapter to run an ethernet connection back to my office area where I hooked it up to a Google WiFi base station.

It works, but the quality of the connection is variable. During the weekday it’s not too bad; I can get nearly 20 Mbit/sec. But after 5PM – and on weekends – it drops off sharply. And ping times are all over the place; ranging from 35ms to a high of 530ms.

Rural Internet

One of the joys of living out in the rural hither lands is a lack of broadband internet.

We have a satellite connection with Viasat, and while it’s fine for casual surfing it’s not usable for work stuff — with it connecting to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit (about 10% the distance to the moon; light takes a noticeable bit of time to go that far and back) the latency is way too high for video conferencing or VPN.

Until SpaceX gets their Starlink system released (which uses satellites in low-earth orbit so the latency is much reduced) I’m stuck with cellular internet.

I was using the system I had in the RV, but my yearly plan ran out and AT&T decided a price increase of 3000% was appropriate during a pandemic. So that’s out. But I did find a service that provides a suitable unlimited data plan for a bit over $100 a month on cellular networks. Which is nice since I use about 10GB a day for normal work stuff — it adds up over the month.

One problem is that I’m about 5 miles away from my local cell tower and we have a lot of trees and hills in the way so my signal strength is low and my connection isn’t reliable.

But the other day I was out on the deck with a telescope and noticed I had a line of sight to this tower if I looked though a gap in our trees and at the right location I can see the very top of the cell tower peeking over the distant ridge. That’ll work with the proper equipment.

So Amazon delivered some goodies. I got several log periodic dipole array (LPDA) antenna. These are highly directional wide bandwidth antenna tuned to 4G LTE frequencies. The trick with these is the installation — these work best in something called 2×2 MIMO to establish two data streams with the tower. They’re on the same frequency so for the spatial multiplexing to be effective the antennas must be isolated and configured to provide a low correlation coefficient. The easiest way to do this in a 2×2 system is to use orthogonal polarization; i.e. each antenna is rotated 90-degree from the other along a parallel axis pointing toward the distant tower. Then the antennas need to be between .5 and 2 λ (wavelength) apart so they don’t interfere with each other.

I’ll have to determine what band I’m using on the tower and do some math to get that measurement, but that’s not too hard and should around a foot or so.

After getting it hooked up and the antenna mounted it was time to do a little testing.

Measuring the signal, the RSRP (signal strength) went from -106 dBm to -86 dBm (marginal to excellent) and the RSRQ (signal quality) went from -16 dBm to -10 dBm (poor to excellent). My actual internet speeds didn’t change much (being around 4 Mbps up and down; good enough for out here) but the ping times are down and the connection should be more stable.

I couldn’t figure out a good way to get the thick cables inside the house without doing a lot of drilling, so I just ran the antenna leads under the deck and into a rubbermaid container out on the deck right outside from my office. In the container I put the LTE modem, a wifi router, a battery packup, and a Raspberry Pi for monitoring. There was already an electrical outlet on the deck for power and even though it’s all outside, my desk is close enough I get a full-strength wifi signal and I didn’t have to make any permanent alterations to the house. I hope I’ll only need this for a year or so until SpaceX gets Starlink operational as that should be a better fit for my internet needs.

Zero Turn

The accident that cost me a finger happened when I was converting our tractor from mowing mode to regular tractor mode by removing the mow deck and putting the backhoe and loader back on. Since we have a tractor why not use it for everything to save some money on not having a dedicated mower?

Ok, that ended up not really saving us anything.

So today John Deere delivered our new zero turn mower. We also got a fork set for the loader on the tractor to help us move stuff around the farm. Looks like taking the bucket off the loader to put the forks on will be a lot safer than taking the backhoe on and off so hopefully my remains digits will stay that way.

I’ve not had a zero turn mower before — it’s a lot harder to control than I anticipated, more so since we don’t have a lot of flat ground and you often have to bias one side a bit to keep it tracking straight. Looks like I’ll need some time to practice — luckily we have a lot of land to practice on. Unfortunately since my accident I’ve not done any mowing and the grass is about 2-feet high at the moment; which is a bit more than this residential class mower is comfortable with. Originally I wanted a diesel zero turn, but $20k to just mow grass wasn’t an option.

Update on Finger Injury

Ok, now that’s it a bit in the past I can talk a little more about that finger injury.

It wasn’t a perfectly clean amputation; the doctor had to do some trimming to clean it up.

To do that the doctor used a familiar tool. I’m not sure what the medical term for it is, but I have one very similar.

I call it a “bolt cutter”.

One of the nurses brings this in and says it’s all they have. The doctor picks up this comically large pair of stainless steel bolt cutters and says it’ll do.

Now I’m drugged up and have a nerve blocker so I can’t feel anything. And I’m not watching the procedure but I’m fully aware.

Several more nurses come in to observe. So there’s three trauma ER nurses and the doctor. One of the nurses moves over a bit and suggests — with a quiet and nervous laugh — the others follow so they don’t get hit by debris.

The doctor takes a snip and it sounds just like using bolt cutters on an actual bolt. There’s a ping as a bit of bone strikes the wall and bounces around; just like cutting a bolt. The nurses are cringing, but I don’t feel a thing. Quite a bit of blood is splurging around at this point, too.

A few more snips and some stitches and the doctor has it done. Over the next hour we have some issues with bleeding but the doctor eventually gets it stopped and all is well.

A month on and the healing is going well.

During a visit this week we discovered a bit of stitching that got left in. The nurse pulled several inches of it out but the pain was a bit intense so he stopped to consult with the doctor.

The doctor came in to check it out and said he thought the healing is going well and we’ll leave the stitch in until it heals a bit more. I’ll need at least one more procedure to remove the nail matrix on that finger; there’s just enough left to grow a little bit of finger nail which is causing some problems and isn’t useful. And we can remove the rest of the stitch at that time.

Night at the ER

I spent most of last night in the ER and we didn’t get home until 2 AM.

Yesterday I was working on our tractor attaching the backhoe when the implement shifted and caught the end of my glove and pulled the middle finger of my right hand into the hole for the attachment pin and sheared my finger off at the first knuckle.

Julie called 911 and an ambulance got here quickly and hauled me to a trauma center in Independence. Shock and adrenaline are amazing things and there was very little pain the whole time. The IV in my wrist was actually more painful than the finger injury.

The “leftovers” were too smushed to be reattached so they cleaned up the wound best they could and sutured it down. We had some issues with bleeding but the ER doc eventually got it stopped.

I’m now home with some heavy-duty pain meds and anti-biotics. Monday morning I need to see an orthopedic surgeon for next steps.

Everyone from the EMTs to the nurses and Doctors at the trauma center were amazing even in the midst of COVID-19.

This is the most serious injury I’ve ever had. Last night I got my first IV and first stitches. As you can imagine typing is going to be an issue, especially since I’m a touch typist and I essentially type for a living. Oh, and I need to program a new fingerprint into Touch ID on my Mac; the one I used to use is gone.