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Show HN: Lag – Know Before You Go (lag.app)
129 points by joeblau 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 52 comments

I moved recently from the UK, where my home and office both had fiber, to live in a tiny picturesque village in the Istrian hills in Croatia.

Initially, my 4g router was getting a signal strength of -110 to -120db, corresponding to two bars and zoom video not working. Spent €90 on an outdoor aerial. Plugged it into the router. Signal now averages -85, four to five bars on the router, zero issues with video calls.

My point being: there’s more than one way to skin a cat and you can often improve your mobile signal if you want to.

Exactly! I purchased a 4G router[1] with an external antenna to ensure a sufficiently good connection for four people on a small Croatian island. After three months, I am positive that most people would be perfectly fine (or even better off) with just a 4G antenna on their roof. Our speeds were around 50-120/10-20Mbps with a 60-100ms latency to Zoom's closest server, depending on the weather.

1. Teltonika RUTX11: https://teltonika-networks.com/product/rutx11/

One problem - there is only so much bandwidth available in a certain portion of radio spectrum. If everyone started doing what you are doing then “most people” would be seeing pretty bad performance.

Wired is always better; especially in higher density environments. If you are in a rural or low density area then this is obviously less of an issue - but everyone moving to wireless would be an utter disaster where most people live.

I dont get why these 4g routers are so expensive. I can get a phone with snapdragon processor, lte chip, display, battery and everything for around 1/2 the price of a decent 4g router, its insane. Market theory sucks for the consumer.

Part of it is certainly an issue of volume, but in the consumer space low-cost (or "free" subsidized-by-plan) 3G/LTE mobile hotspots have long been available. Those models are basically the modems and radios of a mid- to high-end smartphone in a cheap plastic enclosure with a battery.

If you want metal enclosures (i.e. actual thermal design for prolonged operation), multiple ethernet ports, better routing support, no limits on number of connected devices, wide input voltages, automotive-grade components, etc, that's a much smaller market.

Are any carriers still subsidizing phones? I have only seen buy one get one free with a new line. ATT just has a payment plan but you still pay full price.

I don't get how this works. Isn't someone down the line earning more profits than they would be in the smartphone industry?

Like Obviously, the sheer resources required to create a router are minuscule compared to a phone, so then who exactly will be pocketing these extra resources that I'm paying for, and why?

Probably lack of volume and competition?

Would appreciate a link to your researched aerial and router. I'm sitting in the country with my phone in a metal kitchen bowl (DIY aerial) for maximum signal, and think I could benefit from some technology!

Take a look at the Teltonika RUTX11[1] with a MIMO LTE antenna from Poynting[2]. Not cheap, but certainly got good results with it. I used Cellmapper[3] to check where the closest tower was.

I have heard that the Huawei ones that accept external antennas are also decent, be it with a much smaller featureset.

[1] https://teltonika-networks.com/product/rutx11/ [2] https://poynting.tech/antenna-category/antennas/urban-rural-... [3] https://www.cellmapper.net/map

These are really expensive in India, any suggestions for us plebs?

I am having good luck with a ZTE MF279 on our farm in California.

An omni-directional "Poynting 4G-XPOL-A0001": https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00C1DGFPS

They make lots of different types: https://poynting.tech/antenna-category/antennas/

How are you running the outdoor cable to the router? I find the hardest part of this setup actually getting the cable from outside the house to inside the house.

It's similar to installing an outdoor power outlet: https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-add-an-outdoor...

My TV aerial is in the attic space, and it works very well (although I do have a line of sight to the transmitter). The cable runs down the wall.

I wonder if a 4G aerial would work as well in this kind of environment? The roof is wooden rafters with a slate covering.

Yup, definitely a head scratcher! So far I've been able to thread through an open window but when the weather turns I'll need to drill a hole somewhere at some point :)

I like this idea, but I see two potential problems:

1. It might route too many people to where the network is fast, thus making the network not fast anymore and wasting a lot of people's time as they "go."

2. It might also route a bunch of "digital nomads" to my local art café where they will hog the tables, like Waze did with commuter traffic to my residential street.

How do you avoid those two problems? Or at least the first one, which is a problem for your target users?

Make your internet slow at #2. Presumably you don't want an army of people all on the Internet at your art cafe anyway.

As for #1, there are physical capacity limits you are likely to first exhaust. Only so many people will fit.

Actually two of my cafés have a "no computers in the evening" rule, one also has a "no computers on the terrace" rule. Now that I think about it more, with fast mobile data I don't think network speed is going to be much of a factor for places like that.

For #1, if you have ten people all on Zoom meetings at the same time, isn't that going to kill your fast-for-a-café bandwidth?

> For #1, if you have ten people all on Zoom meetings at the same time, isn't that going to kill your fast-for-a-café bandwidth?

Not unless they all start at the same time. If they start a little staggered from each other, there will be time to boot the first person out for trying to do a video call in a cafe around other humans before the next one starts.

Working in a cafe is completely reasonable, and wouldn't disturb other people. Taking a call is ridiculous.

Eh, from a noise level there’s no difference with having an in-person meeting at a cafe, which happens all the time and is not bothersome (depending on the cafe).

There's a noticeable difference between an in-person meeting and a call. Most people are a lot louder in the latter.

Even on sub-par infrastructure, a business-class connection should never be slower than 100/100mbps, and 10 people on zoom wouldn't be a problem. So the question becomes whether the infrastructure is garbage.

This depends heavily on type of connection. 100/100 should be bare minimum, yes, but for example Comcast coaxial business-class is still like 5-10mbit up.

And that's garbage.

They need to replace some filters and other pieces so that more frequencies can be allocated to upload.

Ten people can be handled by symmetric 20 Mbps. That's not that high. And you're not going to have ten people on video calls in a space that can only get 20 Mbps.

For the 1st, a critical mass has to be reached in order for it to become a problem. Even if it does and slows it down, then the places where the speeds are fast will become attractive for the same people. This is just a hypothesis, it will be interesting to see the dynamics created by such service.

W.r.t 2nd, Yep!

"support local businesses but don't give them business"

One more issue when going somewhere: not all places have useful 4G offerings.

In France, Germany and Italy for instance I couldn't find a monthly prepaid 4G offer with unlimited data, especially in France you frequently even need a local bank account and in Germany 4G is so bad in many places that it wouldn't make a difference how much data is in the plan. Other places like Austria offer monthly prepaid as low as EUR 20, though speed may be limited to 25-40Mbps, which should suffice for 1:1 video calls.

My solution for now is to at least have my workstation connected somewhere with a fast connection and someone who could reboot it if needed, connect to that from where I am and have that do all the heavy lifting. Doesn't solve the video conference issue though.

Having flexible and reasonably quick connectivity, or an EU wide subscription, would really lift the value of locations outside of cities - I don't understand how badly this is done compared to other infrastructure investments (e.g. roads are pretty amazing in Western Europe and not that bad in places I've been in Eastern Europe compared to the US). I hope non government actors like Starlink manage to close this gap.

Sorry for being pedantic, but this app is measuring bandwidth, not lag (latency).

See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lag

That's a snazzy looking app, but why iOS only, and why iOS 14 only?

As for iOS-only I’d assume lack of resources.

Developing and maintaining an app on multiple platforms (and keeping the code bases in sync) is no small undertaking (hence the existence of write-once / hybrid app frameworks such as Ionic).

Regarding iOS 14 my guess is SwiftUI.

In particular, why not a webpage? This doesn't need to be an app.

Probably a side project for a full time iOS dev who wanted an excuse to mess about with SwiftUI and decided to use the tool they are most familiar with

I’m testing a bunch of SwiftUI2 features right now so it’s constrained to iOS 14 for them. If you’re on the beta, you’ll get it when iOS 14 is released.

See also: https://www.hotelwifitest.com/

Although from personal experience, data on Hotel Wifi Test is often not reliable, at least for Dubai

Implementing this idea as a web app instead of an iOS exclusive seems like the right move.

I found this service quite useful, thank you!

But please, why it should be a mobile app? Looking at the landing page animation it looks like there's nothing plain (like in "jQuery only for fancy animation") web site cannot do.

I heard of a similar idea in an Acquired episode: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/special-acquired-x-my-first... Wondering if this is somehow related, or you came up with the same idea independently

This is actually what I was listening to on Friday morning that prompted me to build this.

How long was the build time start to finish?

30 hours not including 8 hours of sleep, 1 hour bike ride, shower, eating and all of that fun stuff.

As others have mentioned the bottleneck is typically getting a good mobile plan especially if you intend to move around a larger region across borders. The EU has sort of gotten to a point where roaming costs are no more (with the right plan). E.g. I have 20GB/m I can use anywhere in Europe for 20pounds/m (Vodafone) without incurring roaming costs but once you introduce video-conferencing or video streaming that's not gonna cut it regardless of how good the signal is.

Thus I've found in the past 11 months that I've been nomadicking around Europe that you often depend on getting some good wifi which is quite the hassle (especially in rural destinations). I have high-hopes for apps like this to create a knowledge-base for areas with good broadband.

Love the app! Straightforward with no extra stuff here and there. I’d like to share some suggestions after using it for a while:

- adding an option to partially omit or edit the address would be great since not every part of the world shows the exact address accurately

- inform what datas are stored (i did wonder why they show the latitude and longitude, because privacy reasons)

- add prompts for isp/carrier provider, subscription/plan type, and other granular details so people know what to pick or expect

- minor improvements on the user interaction, like autofocusing on the input so users can instantly type, or tap an entry to view more details

Overall, looking forward to share the app to my fellow iOS 14 users!

WiFi speeds fluctuate heavily, e.g. workdays vs weekdays, lunch hours vs mornings vs nights, etc.

So as good looking as this app is, the real challenge is with the accuracy of its data and keeping it from getting stale. Not sure if the OP realizes this, but it's a 24/7 grind that also requires a sizable userbase.

It's not a bad idea in its core, but this belongs in the OS itself and it should also be On by default to manage to collect enough data to be useful and to keep it current. I doubt that an opt-in model, especially in a form of an installable app, would work well enough to produce any reasonable coverage.

What an excellent pitch! It's right there at the top, and it says exactly what the app does.

This is a refreshingly straightforward design.

Nice app, do you plan to develop an Android version ?

However, I'm not sure to agree with all your points. Since two weeks I work at my grandpa's in French countryside. 2.7Mbps download and 0.5Mbps upload. I can use Zoom (no video), watch Youtube (480p), and use Slack with no problem at all.

This seems like another "silicon valley" issue, solving problems for an elite few people in society who have the luxury to bum about for 6 months working in hostels (if you can truly say they are working as effectively as they did before they put a backpack on).

this reminds me of wifimagic[0]. This kind of community data leveraging is absolutely awesome!

0: https://wifimagic.com/

Are there any details on who's providing this app, who's running the site, and what they'll do with collected data?

The ToS and privacy policy are identical, and only refer to an app called "velo" and a company called "copilot LLC", and that their method of contact is "Joe Blau."

This seems very strange to me. (unless this is a "move fast, break things, collect GDPR fines" sort of thing)

Seems like a cool idea, but when you are testing download/upload where are you testing to? When I visit Google’s speedtest it shows me drastically slower speeds than if I go to fast.com or speed.cloudflare.com. Speeds to AWS cloudfront, fastly, cloudflare, google will always be different especially in countries /areas without PoPs

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