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External WIFI Antennas
Old 07-09-2010, 01:59 PM   #1
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External WIFI Antennas

There has been some discussion here on the subject of external WIFI antennas being used to enable connections to more distant WIFI signal sources, usually related to RV'ing.

Here are some examples I was looking over. Buy Wireless antenna,WiFi Antenna,2.4Ghz 5Ghz Wlan Antenna,RF connector,RF pigtail cable,Lightning Protector,802.11 a/b/g, Omni ,panel ,yagi ,Grid antenna

On the left, click on "WiFi antennna" and then "laptop antennas" from the pull-down.

Is anyone successfully using add-ons to a laptop to achieve distant WIFI reception?
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:42 PM   #2
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Yes.
I have several different setups.
One is an external high powered USB card with 5dBi antenna, good for about 1000 ft from the AP with standard antennas,
also have a 15dBi corner antenna, about 3000 ft outdoor range
and have a 24dBi very directional yagi antenna, which is good for about 2 miles, but really kind of pain to set up.
With a good pair of yagis 20 miles links are not unheard of, provided you have each other in line of sight.
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Old 07-09-2010, 05:32 PM   #3
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Thanks sailor.

Maybe you can help me clarify my understanding of something about all this. My interest is in receiving WiFi sigs from sources such as restaurants, hotels, etc at a distance. I'm not interested in expanding the coverage of my own home WiFi system which covers my house and patio fine as is. Which are you doing? Or both?

Is there any product you could recommend or at least have experience with and knowledge that it works?
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:03 PM   #4
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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).

Kramer
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:32 PM   #5
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Never needed to receive WiFi from a distance. Unless an RV park has a good WiFi signal, we prefer to use our cellular connection for internet.

Now antenna for cell signal? Yes.

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Old 07-09-2010, 09:36 PM   #6
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I'm doing both.
As a true LBYM move myself & neighbor are sharing an internet connection.
We use Wi-Fi from his house to mine (~300 ft through few walls). It also reaches community pool, just in case you'd like to surf ER boards there.
Do you need a portable setup (you said laptop) or semi-permanently mounted to the RV?
How much "fussing"/adjusting are you willing to do when looking for Wi-Fi signal?
How good is your existing laptop Wi-Fi card with internal antenna.
Did it come with a good "site survey" utility capable of showing signal & noise strength in dBs?
Is 1Mbps speed ok or you need/want higher speed?
What OS are you using? Win 7? Mac? Some version of Linux?
I have first & second hand experience with probably 20 different equipment brands of various quality (DB owns a small computer service business)
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:01 PM   #7
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Now that youbet brought up the subject. . . .

Our computers are on cables that go through a Cisco 10/100 switch which is, in turn, connected to my Qwest M100 DSL modem. The 'kids' have given us a picture gadget which requires wifi, and we just purchased a TV that touts itself as wifi-able. There is an unused USB port on the Qwest modem. Is there any way I can use that USB port for what I regard as 'dumb' (not necessarly secure) internet access ports? (FYI, we now live in a high-rise.)
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:23 PM   #8
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Brat,
is it a typo and you have M1000 Quest (Actiontec) modem?
If so, than yes, for the price of roughly $30 you can buy W1000 adapter specifically for this modem, looks like this: Amazon.com: Qwest DSL Wireless Adapter: Electronics
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:39 PM   #9
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Yes, it is a M1000. Thank you so much!

And I am working on a Amazon shopping list to boot..
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Old 07-10-2010, 01:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer View Post
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).

Kramer
Thanks Kramer. That product looks like it would be worth trying. And at the price, it's worth it even if just for the entertainment value of having a new widget to play with!

Thanks for the reminder that using a WiFi extender will shorten battery runtime.
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Old 07-10-2010, 01:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor View Post
I'm doing both.
As a true LBYM move myself & neighbor are sharing an internet connection.
We use Wi-Fi from his house to mine (~300 ft through few walls). It also reaches community pool, just in case you'd like to surf ER boards there.
I'd do that in a minute if a neighbor I trusted was willing. Unfortunately, the guy I'd trust on the north wouldn't get involved in that sort of project and the guy on the south is a young man who is a computer-holic with an "unusual" personality. Don't think I want to tie my internet life to him........
Quote:
Do you need a portable setup (you said laptop) or semi-permanently mounted to the RV?
This will be for my laptop.
Quote:
How much "fussing"/adjusting are you willing to do when looking for Wi-Fi signal?
Considerable. It sounds like a gain omni antenna for quick use supplemented by a directional, high gain antenna might be a good plan.
Quote:
How good is your existing laptop Wi-Fi card with internal antenna.
Dunno. No real comparisons. Last year at fishing camp in northern Minnesota I was able to connect to an AP that was running minus 87 dbm with my Dell Vostro 1710. When I told another guy in camp, he tried with his Sony and could see the signal, but not connect.
Quote:
Did it come with a good "site survey" utility capable of showing signal & noise strength in dBs?
yes
Quote:
Is 1Mbps speed ok or you need/want higher speed?
Not sure.
Quote:
What OS are you using? Win 7? Mac? Some version of Linux?
Windows XP Pro SP3
Quote:
I have first & second hand experience with probably 20 different equipment brands of various quality (DB owns a small computer service business)
Thanks for the help. Very useful.
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Old 07-11-2010, 08:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Thanks for the reminder that using a WiFi extender will shorten battery runtime.
Not that much on a full size laptop. Quite significant on a netbook though.
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Old 07-11-2010, 09:29 PM   #13
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As for your setup, n3 recommended by Travis is decent.
If you have a netbook try mentioned n3 (or a 1000mW Alpha), for a full size laptop I would go with a slightly longer antenna and more power.
EnGenius makes a nice adapter with 2000mW power and 5dBi antenna included: Micro Center - EnGenius Technologies Business Class Long Range 150Mbps Wireless N USB 1.1/2.0 Adapter EUB9603H (btw - this one also uses 2 USB ports)
In addition for these pesky days when the signal strength shows -88dBm (most modern receiver chipsets have sensitivity -90dBm@1Mbps) and the noise floor in the same range I would get a corner antenna, like this:
Micro Center - Hawking 2.4GHz Hi-Gain Wireless Corner Antenna HAI15SC
Frequently it's not so much straight gain from antenna (and we are already getting +10dBi when swapping), but ability to aim your antenna at AP and away from the noise.
One more thing - if you find out that your favorite web surfing place inside RV has a particularly bad reception, don't despair. You can get a USB extension cable (up to 15ft, you would need two if your card uses two USB slots) and maybe a suction cup mount for the wireless adapter (some of the Alphas do come with a suction mount included).
You can also get a longer antenna cable, but with every foot you are loosing signal strength, so it's better to use USB if possible.
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Old 07-16-2010, 04:57 PM   #14
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Sailor,

Thanks so much for the detailed info and for the links. I think I'm starting to "get it."

I like the idea of an adapter like the EnGenius with an omni antenna and also having a directional antenna when circumstances demand (and allow) it.

I think the next step is to get an order placed and try this hands on. There's a MicroCenter store that has them in stock not too far from me, so picking one up tomorrow is possible too.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-16-2010, 05:12 PM   #15
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I just got a Alfa AWUS036H from Amazon and it is working great. Our screened in porch is on the far end from the WIFI transmitter and reception has always been spotty. This pulls it in at a Very Good to Excellent strength. I'm looking forward to taking it on the road at a hotel where I frequently stay and often have poor wifi connectivity.
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Old 07-16-2010, 10:23 PM   #16
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My road warrior setup is a 20' usb cable and wifi wireless adapter..... hanging it out a hotel window or on the patio often hits the lobby wifi or nearby access point in an alternate hotel
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Old 10-02-2010, 11:25 PM   #17
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Sailor,
I like the idea of an adapter like the EnGenius with an omni antenna and also having a directional antenna when circumstances demand (and allow) it.
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Originally Posted by sailor View Post
Yes.
... and have a 24dBi very directional yagi antenna, which is good for about 2 miles...
Antennae have always been a mystery to me. So here's a naive question: Instead connecting the EnGenuis to a yagi, can I connect it to a TV rabbit ear antenna, or to my humongous attic TV antenna?
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Old 10-02-2010, 11:37 PM   #18
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Antennae have always been a mystery to me. So here's a naive question: Instead connecting the EnGenuis to a yagi, can I connect it to a TV rabbit ear antenna, or to my humongous attic TV antenna?
Wifi frequencies (2.4 GHz - 5 GHz) are a lot higher than the frequencies used for TV. I don't know if your rabbit ears would provide any "gain" (which really means "ability to focus in one direction" in this case). The antenna in your attic is probably a yagi antenna and they are highly "tuned" to specific frequencies, so if it does any good at all it would just be due to some freak occurrence.

Yes, antenna optimization is really art as much as science. Maybe they can be effectively modeled by computers now, but most of the "breakthroughs" in actual physical antennas over the have been via luck and trial and error.

If you want to build your own yagi antenna at home for use with wifi, here's a link to a site. The finished antenna is about 17" long and has a gain of about 15dB, which should let you reach out much farther than you can with a simple dipole antenna.
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Old 10-03-2010, 06:42 AM   #19
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The antenna in your attic is probably a yagi antenna and they are highly "tuned" to specific frequencies, so if it does any good at all it would just be due to some freak occurrence.
Yes, the one in the attic is a yagi, about 7 feet long and at least 15 years old. 6 or 7 years ago, when Houston began broadcasting HD TV signal over the air, I was told that I need a HD specific antenna to pull in the signal due to different frequency. Despite that, my old antenna was able to pull in all the HD signal broadcasted by the local ABC, NBC, CBS... Signal strength was (and still is) very strong. Is this another "freak occurence" you're referring too?
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Old 10-03-2010, 06:59 AM   #20
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If you want to build your own yagi antenna at home for use with wifi, here's a link to a site. The finished antenna is about 17" long and has a gain of about 15dB, which should let you reach out much farther than you can with a simple dipole antenna.
A somewhat related question: Most of today laptops have built-in wifi. Most of them lack the physical support for external antenna. Is there way to get around this limitation?
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