Category: Articles

Consumer-grade Mesh Home Wifi Experiment

I think it is safe to say that the home / retail end of the mesh wifi market is still pretty nascent. I thought I’d try something new at home, so I ventured into the Mercku ecosystem. I picked Mercku because it had a good blend of the following criteria:

  1. Minimal and discreet aesthetic
  2. Reasonable reviews for reliability and uptime
  3. A demonstrated commitment to maintaining firmware
  4. Nice origin story on Indigogo

I have 3 Queens and 6 Bees for a total of 9 nodes in the mesh. Each Queen is hardlined to the NBN router with Cat 6 ethernet cable and each Bee acts as a booster in the wifi network (i.e. is not cabled). There is a lot of bluestone in the house, so the design principle was to never have wifi needing to penetrate a bluestone wall. The ethernet cables handle the bluestone walls and the wifi (boosted by Bees) only has to handle plaster.

Mercku M@ Queen
Mercku M2 Bee

Thoughts so far:

  • Setup and configuration was incredibly simple, it literally couldn’t be any easier.
  • The admin interface is really good and would be harder to make simpler for non-technical users.
  • Firmware updates are frequent enough, although the changelog detail is probably a bit light on e.g. v 1.8.0.
  • Speed is fine, definitely could be faster but is not a problem for regular home use (streaming, gaming, etc.), it would be a problem in an office application, but it isn’t an office system so moot.
  • Bandwidth is a question mark – multiple devices (3-6) seems to drag down speed faster than they would in a non-mesh “off the shelf / cheap” wifi router bundled with an ISP connection. The bandwidth problems are probably not fatal but I’m designing a test to compare it more directly to non-mesh to try to firm up this hypothesis.
  • Reliability is a bigger question mark, every few hours the network seems to grind to a halt and then come alive after 20-30 seconds. I’m not sure if this is heat related or memory management / some other software problem. When the mesh comes back online, the Queens do not report any internet downtime (i.e. it doesn’t affect the continuous uptime diagnostics in the admin software) which indicates to me that the issue is Mercku / Mesh side, not NBN / ISP side. I’m trying to see if I can replicate the crashing to find an underlying cause and report it to Marcku with a potential solution. To Marcku’s credit, it does bring itself back online without human intervention, so for novice users this is not a fatal problem and will just present itself as a temporary internet slow down.

Overall, happy with price, aesthetic, setup, speed and the jury is out on bandwidth and reliability for now.

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Oligopolies are great for entrepreneurs

An oligopoly has various academic definitions that describe the same kind of market structure: an inefficient market with market power concentrated in a small number of firms where consumers are overpaying for the particular good or service at a given level of quality. Overpaying takes various forms including an inferior product being overcharged for, or an OK product commanding a significant price premium due to the market structure (e.g. artificially restricted supply).

Sometimes oligopolies are disguised as competitive markets, sometimes this is by accident but most of the time, this is by design of the key market actors.

In Australia, superannuation is an example of a large oligopolistic market. It spends millions of other people’s money to maintain the illusion of competition, but does not have the reality of it.

How to work out if a market is an oligopoly

  • Market share is consolidated in a small number of large firms.
  • The large firms have been in the market for a long time i.e. none of the large incumbent players are new firms (new being post-internet era).
  • Limited technology absorption and adoption by the large market participants i.e. products are not evolving with the times.
  • Market share not correlated to product or service quality or price i.e. better products don’t gain market share over time.
  • Good entrepreneurial businesses acquired quickly and shelved or drowned by regulators in uneven scrutiny.

Why is it preferred to enter oligopolies over competitive markets as a start-up?

  • Compared with competitive markets, in oligopolies incumbents have forgotten how to compete and are easier to outmanoeuvre at market-entry and going forward.
  • The people who made the oligopolist firm what it is today are generally no longer involved in the business and have been replaced with salaried bureaucratic executives, not founder executives.
  • The oligopolist will have lost its talent edge and will likely have no “zero to one” credentials to respond to you if you can hit the market with genuine innovation.
  • The market size & revenue opportunity is easy to model as you just need to sum up the current market impact of a few incumbent firms to get an accurate picture.

What are some of the challenges in fighting oligopolists?

  • The oligopolist gravy train runs deep and much deeper than you think. Do not underestimate the supply chain, distribution chain, media and regulator alignment to the status quo and mean-reversion impact that they will have against your entry. To survive, you will often have to show the ecosystem around the incumbents that there will be more gravy with you or you need a thick enough skin / capital moat to blast through them and not require their support.
  • You can accidentally invigorate the opponents & create excitement in the market which has the impact of money & talent flowing to one or more of the incumbents when they see the potential of what you’re doing, making them worthier competitors. You need to remain discreet for as long as possible, and when you do launch, strike hard and fast and manage leaks / defection risk carefully until launch.

Go Bag – Optical Additions

Humvee 10×50 Field Binocular with Galactic Bioware prototypes

The current Go bag is light on escape and tactical optics so I’ve made the following additions:

  • Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60mm Tactical Spotting Scope
  • Humvee 10×50 Field Binocular
  • FLIR Breach PTQ136 Thermal Imaging Monocular (60Hz)
  • Streamlight ProTac HL-X 1000 Lumens Flashlight Black

This all still fits in the Condor Colossus Duffle Bag (52 Litres) although it is getting cramped in there.

In the photo above I’m wearing:

  • G-Shock Digital Military Black Series, Shock Resistant GD400MB-1D
  • Humvee 10×50 Field Binocular
  • Galactic Bioware Prototype Cap
  • Galactic Bioware Prototype Tee
  • (out of shot) Galactic Bioware Prototype Tactical Pants
  • (out of shot) Merrell Moab 2 Mid Tactical Waterproof Boots Black

Optics gear sourced from TacticalGear.com.au

Updated Ride

In preparation for the new skate park which is mostly street (vs. vert), I’ve gone back to my street roots and made some changes to my rig.

Toy Machine Fists Yellow
PartPreviousNew
WheelsSpitfire Formula Four Afterburner Wheels (55mm)Darkstar Divide Wheels Red Black (51mm)
DeckGirl Mike Carroll (8.25 inch)Toy Machine Fists Yellow (7.75 inch)
BearingsBones Super RedsABEC 13 Red

Key points:

  • I reduced the size of my wheels from 55mm to 51mm for better control and feel
  • The hardness of the wheels is about the same (still at the hard end of the range – 99A on the old durometer)
  • The deck is narrower from 8.25 inches to 7.75 inches for easier flipping and technical tricks

I’ve had many Toy Machine boards, but I’ve never tried ABEC bearings or Darkstar wheels so I thought I’d give them a crack. Will report back on my findings.

See the rest of the ride here.