I spent most of the yesterday evening despairing and tearing my hair, struggling with the RF24 nodes on Arduino Due. The logic analyzer gave me confusing results, the signals did not make any sense, and of course the node didn't respond, no matter how I tried. Well, in fact it did respond when I touched the MISO pin, but that wasn't the kind of response I hoped for. Those strange signals on logic analyzer turned out to be caused by slow sampling, and all worked fine when I bumped the sampling frequency to max (24MHz). Anyway, I gave up and went to bed, as I was tired and could not think straight.
Yes, you guessed that already - I made a mistake when wiring the thing. The RF24 modules have two pins named CE and CSN. I assumed that CE is SPI chip select, and CSN is something specific to RF24 module. Even when I saw that the RF24 does not respond, I still did not realize that the module is obviously not selected and there's something wrong with chip selects. Well, that will teach me a lesson for next time.
After swapping the pins, all started to work just fine. I quickly tried if I can use any pin as chip select for SPI, but that doesn't work. As I am still planning on attaching RFM12B sender, it will obviously need to be modified for software SPI... oh well, at least I can reuse the code from ENC28J60.
The plan is to have two RF24 modules. One will be running with just a basic RF24 radio stack, withouth ACK, on 250kpbs (for biggest range), with fixed packet size, and its own channel. This will be used for sensor reporting to central node, and for central node to broadcast info.
The second RF24 module will use different channel and will run the whole RF24Network stack. I am not sure what I will use it for, but if nothing else, it will multicast similar info packages, and additionally provide some services, like offering nodes to sign up for mode detailed and extended info etc.
The rest of the evening took me beautifying the code, and I'll check it into SVN. I'll change the sample RF24 node code to use just the basic radio... and hopefully it will solve that strange quick battery discharge problem. By the way - I am not sure if the voltage measurement is actually not the main cause of the problems. The node is soldered together on rather cheap paper-based PCB, and the voltage dividers use pretty high value resistors. It could be that the PCB absorbed some water that decreased the PCB resistance and messed up the whole voltage measurement.