How To‎ > ‎

Connecting to the Backbone

This page describes the process for connecting to the backbone, once you reach the Playa.  Other pages in the How To section describe how to choose your equipment, set up power and line-of-sight access, etc.

Connecting to the Backbone

Step 1: Reset your uplink device to factory defaults

Reset your Uplink device (NanoBridge or NanoBeam) to factory default configuration.  You do this by powering up the device, then pressing and holding down the reset button (next to the Ethernet jack) until all the LEDs flash (about 10 seconds, usually), then releasing the button and letting it reboot.  This YouTube video shows the reset process.

Step 2: Aim your uplink device

Aim your factory-default NanoBeam/NanoBridge at the big tower at the NOC in Center Camp. You can use the LEDs on the side of the device for rough aiming, and you can fine-tune the aim with the built-in aiming tool (to fine-tune the aim of your device) by plugging your laptop into the Ethernet jack (through the PoE injector), manually setting your laptop's IP address to, and then accessing the device at (login "ubnt", password "ubnt"); the aiming tool is one of the entries on the "Tools" drop-down menu in the top-right corner of the screen.  Do not change any settings on the device; leave it in its factory-default configuration!

Step 3: Set up your laptop

Once you have your NanoBeam/NanoBridge aimed, reset your your laptop to obtain an IP address via DHCP, and wait until it obtains one.  It might take a few minutes.  During this time, your factory-default NanoBeam/NanoBridge should automatically join our autoconfig network, which will hand your laptop an IP address via DHCP.

Step 4: Access any web page

Once your laptop has received an IP address via DHCP, use your web browser to access any web site via http (not https); for example,

Step 5: Fill out registration form on captive portal

Your web access attempt will be intercepted by our captive portal (just like at a coffee shop hotspot, or something), which will redirect you to a simple form that asks a couple of questions that you need to answer for us (basically, who are you and where are you located).  After you provide that information, our autoconfig system will update the firmware on your NanoBeam/NanoBridge (if needed), generate a new config specifically for your device, download the newly-generated config to your device, and reboot your device.  This may take a few minutes.

Step 6: Reset your laptop again, and wait while autoconfig system works

Once the autoconfig system has updated, configured, and rebooted your device (it may end up being rebooted multiple times by the autoconfig process), then you'll need to reset your laptop to again obtain an IP address via DHCP (it will be a different address this time).  

Step 7: You're on the Internet!

When your laptop receives the new address via DHCP, this will mean that you're on the Internet and good to go!  You can go ahead and set up whatever LAN-side distribution network you're going to have (wired switch, local WiFi hotspot on 2.4 GHz, or whatever).

Notes on Connecting to the Backbone

The WiFi team controls and manages everyone's uplink devices (NanoBeams and NanoBridges) throughout the event; we may make other changes to their configurations during the event, as needed, to manage the overall network. There will be a read-only account for you on the device (login "guest", no password), which you can use to view settings, do troubleshooting (for example, use the aiming tool), and so forth.  After the event, you can again reset your NanoBeam/NanoBridge to factory defaults, to clear out the config that we use and return it to your own control.

We will tell you your uplink device's assigned IP address when you complete the web form during the autoconfig process; make a note of it!  If you lose it, it's not a big deal; it's the .2 address on the same subnet that your laptop will get a DHCP address on (though you have to have a working WiFi link from the NanoBridge/NanoBeam to the backbone for DHCP to work); for instance, if your laptop gets address, then your NanoBridge/NanoBeam will be  This is important to know, so that you can get into the device to use the aiming tool to make sure that your device is still well-aimed throughout the event (structures vibrate and shift, dishes get bumped, the wind moves antennas, whatever; you need to make sure your dish stays well-aimed), which matters because of the next point.

We will be monitoring the signal quality of all connected devices throughout the event.  A device with low signal quality negatively impacts every device on that channel, by needlessly tying up a lot of channel time with slow transmissions and retransmits.  For the overall health of each channel, if a given device's signal quality falls too low for too long, we'll kick that device off the network until its owner gets the signal quality fixed and re-registers it (i.e., goes through the autoconfig process again).  If we have to do this repeatedly for any given device, we'll probably just block that device altogether for the rest of the event; the WiFi team all want to attend Burning Man, too, not chase down mis-aimed dishes all over the Playa...  So, use the LEDs or the aiming tool on your device to keep an eye on the signal quality, to make sure it stays well-aimed throughout the event.