Choosing a firmware for the MP
There are two different firmware versions available for the MP. What both have in common is that they both are performing true multipoint-to-multipoint mesh networking as the underlying networking infrastructure to provide services.
Village Telco (VT) Firmware
The Villagetelco (VT) firmware is the original firmware for the Mesh Potato. It is designed with scalable VOIP telephony as primary goal. If you want to run a sizeable mesh network of up to 254 MPs in a single wireless cell in order to handle a maximum of simultaneous VOIP telephone calls, this firmware is for you. Providing Internet access to MP users via cable, using the built in Ethernet port is an option which can be implemented with this firmware, however this feature is not enabled by default. Offering Internet access to LAN clients will increase the amount of traffic, and will therefore reduce the available bandwidth for voice calls. The VT firmware uses the B.A.T.M.A.N. IP-layer mesh protocol, hence the network is based on IP-based routing. Setting up IP-based routing and defining IP subnets requires some understanding of IP. The VT firmware is more scalable, but involves more work in setup than the SECN firmware.
The latest VT firmware can be downloaded at http://download.villagetelco.org/firmware/vt/stable/
Please note, the VT firmware is no longer under active development. The SECN firmware, below, has evolved to the point where we believe it can be used for any network. The VT firmware is now maintained for historical purposes.
Small Enterprise / Campus Network (SECN) Firmware
The Small Enterprise / Campus Network (SECN) firmware is designed to allow a collection of Mesh Potato (MP) devices to provide a data and telephony network for a small business or campus. The intended use is typically for a small/medium size organisation which needs to set up a number of workpoints spread over a limited geographic area, with each workpoint being equipped with a telephone and a networked PC, and to do this wirelessly without using conventional LAN cabling.
The SECN firmware is designed to offer a maximum of features while being easy to use in a moderately sized mesh network up to the size of approximately 20 MP devices. It includes a encrypted virtual access point to provide convenient local Internet access for wireless clients and LAN clients, while also offering VOIP service. Wireless clients can roam within the coverage of the SECN mesh network. Since the wireless mesh interface and the virtual access point of each MP is using the same physical wireless interface and radio channel this solution is more limited with regards to the available bandwidth and scalability.
The meshed MP devices utilise an OSI Layer 2 protocol and simply act as one large switch, transparently connecting all the attached devices together. The SECN firmware uses the B.A.T.M.A.N.-ADV MAC-layer mesh protocol. B.A.T.M.A.N.-ADV creates a virtual Layer 2 bridge over the entire mesh. The access points and the LAN ports of the MPs are all part of the bridge. Multi-hop mesh data links are transparent for networking applications. This means that link-local networking protocols like DHCP, mDNS, Zeroconf, IPv6 router advertisements will happily work, given that the wireless links in the mesh are reliable. This firmware is less scalable but easier to use than the VT firmware. Everything is link-local, using the SECN firmware is almost as easy as plugging different computers with Ethernet cable into a switch. However, if you are familiar with the concept of IP based mesh networking you may have to get used first to the concept that the mesh is now a bridge.
To use telephony off the local mesh, individual MPs can be configured to access a SIP/VoIP Service Provider account for outgoing and incoming calls. Configuration and management of individual MP devices is possible via telephone IVR commands, web browser or terminal sessions with access to the underlying Linux operating system and OpenWRT software.
The latest stable SECN firmware can be downloaded at http://download.villagetelco.org/firmware/secn/stable/
If you are interested in participating in the development of the SECN firmware, there is an unstable version that can be downloaded from http://download.villagetelco.org/firmware/secn/unstable/ Please note that this firmware is likely to have idiosyncrasies and should not be used in production environments.