Originally Posted by kramer
I think you have a choice of a more elaborate setup with an antenna attached to the outside of your RV or a simpler setup that simply connects to your laptop with a 1 or 2 meter cable.
I purchased a WiFi extender 9 months ago. I live in hotel rooms and furnished apartments and many times the signals were not strong enough (in fact, most times). It has made a tremendous difference, almost so much so that I can't believe that I traveled without one before.
A WiFi extender can rectify distance problems much better than geometry problems (e.g., obstacles). Additionally, make sure that any WiFi extender includes 802.11 n, which is roughly twice the range of 802.11 g (all those that support n will support g, also, but will only use n if the router you are connecting to supports it).
I did a lot of research for the correct WiFi extender for my netbook (I also value portability highly, maybe not as important for an RV-only user). Here is the one I bought for $40, I have been happy with it, using it at this very moment, only weights about 2 ounces and I can clip it to my netbook if I am on the go:
The n3: 802.11n Wireless-N Long Range WiFi USB for Macs & PCs
It also helps the WiFi connection to be more reliable.
Using a WiFi extender burns through battery power much faster. That is because it is transmitting at a much higher power than your native WiFi chip in your laptop. Any good one, including mine, takes 2 USB slots (although I think it still works with 1, just transmits with less power in that case).
Reporting back on results for my Rokland N3 I purchased for $40 based on advise given in the thread.
The N3 gives me about a 10db improvement over the internal card and antenna in my Dell Vostro 1710. Sometimes that 10 db is important, sometimes not..... If you have a barely detectable signal, it seems to bump it up to fully usable.
Right now DW and I are camped in northern New Hampshire doing some hiking and "leaf peeping." We're about 400 yds from the campground admin building. When I asked about WiFi at check-in, the manager suggested that I wouldn't be able to receive the signal at my campsite but was welcome to come up to the office and sit there when I wanted to access the Internet.
Once we had camp set up, I checked WiFi and found that the Dell was detecting the WiFi signal but the signal strength was described as "weak." The analysis tool showed the signal as -83 dbm. Attempts to access the the Internet failed.... My home page would attempt to load but never completed.
I disabled the Dell internal card, plugged the N3 into the usb port and hung the antenna near the ceiling of the camper. Now the WiFi signal is "normal." The analysis tool is showing the signal at -70 dbm to -74 dbm (varying over time).
I'm very pleased with the N3. This is exactly what I wanted it to do. I'm now looking at buying an extension usb cable so I can get the antenna higher. The cable that came with the N3 is only about 4 ft. I may also experiment with a directional antenna.
Thanks everyone for all the help!