Niall’s virtual diary archives – Saturday 26 Aug 2023

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Saturday 26 August 2023: 23:24. Weirdly it doesn’t feel like much has happened since my last post on my future house build, yet there has been. For sure, there has been zero movement on the mortgage or getting mains electricity turned on. But progress on those is outside my personal control, so there is nothing more I can do with those other than send nagging reminders.

I did drive around that six tonne digger three weeks ago. My normal hire place was booked out, so I had to get the digger from their main competitor who is a lot more expensive. On the other hand, their main competitor has much newer kit, my digger this time was a JCB with a mere 170 hours on the clock. The difference in terms of ‘freshness’ on the hydraulic power was most noticeable over the tired diggers from my normal hire place. This didn’t entirely undo the price being a third more than normal, but it did make lifting blocks very high much easier (as you will see shortly).

Last post I had a photo of the temporary blocks installation. Here’s the finished blocks installation all on a levelled foundation of tamped earth and tamped crushed rock so it should now be long term stable:

As you can see, there is a little back room in there now. This will gain at a future point a roof to keep the rain off, and inside will be pumps and other noisy electricals. The L-shape is there to retain a 2.2m metre high 3.5m deep earthern wall to be created out of the soil to be dug out from the foundations of the house. At some very future point when I get a lot more time and money, a water feature is intended in front of that earthern mound, and hence that little back room. Until then, it’ll still be useful for storing things like lawnmowers or wheelbarrows, stuff which doesn’t need to be absolutely kept dry nor indoors but does benefit greatly from not being left completely exposed to the elements.

You will note two blocks on the fourth level – those are temporary and are intended to help me install the rear security camera. They will be taken down next time I rent the digger for a long weekend, probably around Halloween. Speaking of said cameras, I got both raised only today, here is the rear and front cameras each with 22,000 lumen floodlight:

The rear is two metres higher than the front camera as it has an extra pole section in it. One might think that would enable it to see further (as indeed the neighbours thought when they came round to express concern about me being able to see into their bedrooms!), but that isn’t how cameras without zoom work – you basically get the first 20 metres in high fidelity, so if you raise the camera higher you actually lose range of high fidelity. I took a quick grab of the rear camera view:

Note how anything past the earthern region becomes a fuzzy mess, this is about twenty metres from the camera. You won’t recognise faces after this point, and you certainly won’t pick up things like licence plates on cars (look at my own after all, indecipherable!)

So why raise it higher if it damages the fidelity? Simple reason: potential robbers see it more easily, and thus get dissuaded from doing actual theft. It’s pure security theatre – you actively hurt your ability to catch them in order to put them off in the first place.

Now, undoubtedly I will be able to extract a bit more more fidelity – the camera is at unoptimised settings, it’s a 4k camera at maximum CBR h.264 bitrate, they do support h.265 however my laptop does not which is why live view in h.265 is unusable. However basic physics is inescapable here, a 4k sensor with a 90 degree field of view is incapable of resolving much detail past two dozen metres or so. You need far more expensive cameras than these to get face recognition at the fences which are thirty to fifty metres away, as an example.

Obviously the cameras aren’t hugely useful without an internet connection via which I can be notified of people entering my property. I thus needed broadband. Despite Banteer being fibre to the cabinet broadband enabled and despite that there is a vDSL broadband service throughout the village, my neighbours tell me that 40 - 60 Mbps is as good as it gets in my estate. This is due to when the estate was built (around year 2000) during which our national telephony monopoly was famous for using copper clad aluminium wire instead of pure copper in new installs. Hence 40 - 60 Mbps instead of 100 Mbps despite being two minutes walk from the cabinet.

Setting aside the crap bandwidth, there is a further problem: the village cabinet is horribly oversubscribed. As in, physically speaking, they have jury rigged in far more vDSL links than the fibre link is capable of. As a result, they have marked broadband as new capacity required, which means getting a new broadband connection requires going to the regulator and undergoing the appeals process. My neighbour said this took him about nine months, just to get a service which dies a death every evening.

Considering all this, I bit the bullet and installed Starlink instead. Starlink has a very high upfront cost for the satellite dish (~ €500), but after that (at least within the Euro zone) the monthly rental is not outrageous at €65 inc VAT per month. Broadband over vDSL is about €45 per month from the cheapest provider, but then they tap you for the line rental at about €18 per month, so the total cost is around €63 inc VAT per month, not much of a saving over Starlink.

And unlike fixed broadband, getting up and running on Starlink simply involves me purchasing the dish, installing the dish, undergo commissioning with the app, done. I had it up and running within a few hours. Not weeks nor months, hours. And here is the speed test I got from my phone:

That is rather the upper bound – in reality speeds bounce between 40 and 230 Mbps down, though usually over 100 Mbps for south west Ireland. Even the worst case is no worse than fixed broadband in my area, so until the government get round to upgrading my village with Fibre to the Home, I think Starlink is as good as it gets for now.

To serve access to the internet and cameras I finally got round to deploying the Wifi 6 custom boxes I’d been working on since last year. They are based on the Banana Pi R3 platform which including case and aerials comes to about €140 inc VAT delivered.

And my oh my what a wifi box for that money! There is 2 Gb of RAM, four ARM Cortex A53s running at 2 Ghz, and a 4x4 Wifi 6 both in 5 Ghz and 2.4 Ghz bands. They have 2x SFP cages and four gigabit ethernet ports. Their SFP cages max out at 2.5 Gbps, and for which I bought cheap 2.5 Gbps fibre optic 2.5 km transceivers to act as inter-wifi-cluster backhaul. They have first tier OpenWRT support, amongst alternatives, but I only care about the OpenWRT support specifically.

I knew these would be pretty good before deploying them on site having tested them at home, but once deployed, good god were they capable. I walked 160 metres away as far away as I could physically get, and I still got a rock solid Wifi connection on 5 Ghz. Certainly not at a high bitrate, but very connected it was. That’s absolutely immense, earlier Wifi standards on 5 Ghz couldn’t get much past 50 metres with obstructions, trebling that is very impressive.

Finally, I got various other odds and ends done. I installed LED strip lighting for the garden shed:

I completed the 57v DC wiring in the mid services box including surge protector to detect accidental connection of the DC wiring to AC and direct everything to earth:

I got the hybrid inverter installed with everything except input from mains:

I still disconnect everything and put it inside safe end of each day. It’s not so much the cost of replacement if it got robbed, it’s the time to replace which concerns me.

Tomorrow I expect to complete installation of the front and rear cameras and properly tune and configure them. I therefore hope to have more shots of their view next time I add an entry here.


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