Repeater mode testing

So I want to test out a repeater mode in a controlled environment. Here’s what I want to set up:

Node 1 ——— Repeater ——— Node 2

My plan is to install -30dB attenuators in the antenna path for Node 1 and 2 as well as reduce the RF power (can the value be negative numbers, ie -10 (to represent -10dBm)) then separate them enough so more 1 & 2 can’t “see” each other - only the repeater between them. This way I can start playing with the system - all in the confines of my yard (easily able to make changes to the repeater and such) as it will be on solar (also testing solar system as well) prior to final deployment.

When I send the —nodes command, does that show all nodes within the system or only the nodes that can be seen by the unit the command is sent to? In other words, if I send the command to node 1 will it show only the repeater node, or repeater and node 2 in the listing?

Also my plan (for the repeater) is to have an 18650 battery installed as well as a primary solar battery system. The solar battery will be charged by the solar panels and if/when the battery drops below X vdc then it will be switched off (using a series P channel mosfet). When the repeater sees the main power drop out it will gracefully shut down the system using the 18650 battery. The solar battery will remain off until sufficiently charged (the 18650 is strictly for graceful shutdown). That’s assuming that I understand the graceful shutdown part of the manual.

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At the beginning, nodes will start sharing their NodeInfo with each other. When the repeater discovers Node 2, it will also inform Node 1 about it, so the --nodes command on Node 1 should show the repeater and Node 2.
Depending on the kind of things you want to play with, you might also find the simulator interesting: GitHub - GUVWAF/Meshtasticator: Discrete-event and interactive simulator for Meshtastic.

I would like to point you to the solar-power channel in the Meshtastic Discord for all your solar power questions, there are quite some people with good knowledge there.

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So how do I know if the packets are going thru the repeater and not node-to-node direct packet transfer?

Because of the limited bandwidth, the devices do not keep track of the route a message takes. I think the only thing you can check is whether the hop limit of the packet Node 2 receives has decremented from default 3 to 2. For this you would need to check the serial log of the receiving node or the Debug Panel in the Android app. Maybe the Apple apps have something similar, but that I don’t know.

By the way, every Meshtastic node has the repeater behavior you describe, see also: Mesh Broadcast Algorithm | Meshtastic