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Old 09-18-2008, 06:49 PM   #1
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Hi Maties!

This WiFi antenna looks like the answer but before shelling out the $400, does anyone here have one of these and is it as good as it appears?

http://myboatsgear.com/featured_prod...ile%20wifi.asp

Thank you in advance.
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Old 09-23-2008, 11:42 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manor View Post
This WiFi antenna looks like the answer but before shelling out the $400, does anyone here have one of these and is it as good as it appears?
Quite surprising ... for a product that's supposed to be that good, I'm unable to find a single owner review.

I, too, would really like to know if it's as good as it's made out to be.

Cheers.
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Old 09-25-2008, 02:35 AM   #3
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Well I can't speak from any experience with that particular kit, but I do have a lot of experience with custom WiFi gear as I've got a 11Km link and a couple of 5Km link's operating around my farm. The number's that they're talking 1,000mW and a 9DB antenna would theoretically just do a 5 mile link (e.g. my 11Km link uses a 200mW card and a 19dB antenna, and given that every 3Db's doubles the power that's approcimately equivalent).

But, my setups use less than one meter of cable, and it's low loss LMR400 cable, not the coax that is pictured. That looks like it's probably RG58 and and 25 foot run of that would loose about 6dB. That cuts the signal down to 1/4 the power. Now that's not a problem for the transmissions as there's a 1000mW coming out of the USB "box", but remember that the WiFi access point at the marina is only transmiting at 30-200mW and that signal needs to be picked up by the antenna, and get fed down the same lossy 25 foot of cable *before* being amplified. And if the signal can't be heard over the noise floor the amp will not help at all.

To give you a case in point, I have a transmitter on a hill out of town pointing at town with a parabolic dish antenna and a 200mW card. If I open my laptop in the park I can see the transmitter fine with the built in radio, but I cannot associate to it because the weak signals from the laptop cannot be distinguished over the noise by the radio 5Km away.

I'm not saying it won't work, but I would be surprised if you get 5 miles without having the same kit at the marina, i.e. a powerful transmitting kit. It would certainly help while at the marina, or moored nearby, and it would certainly allow you to use your laptop in the cabin rather than up on deck which would be nice in inclement weather.

Personally I would use a Seneao 200mW PC card with a short pigtail and either a omni, or a semi directional antenna e.g. a patch type antenna that is stuck to the laptop screen and I'd sit out on deck and point it in the direction of the WiFi AP. This is basically what I do when I'm on my boat, but then I only live aboard for 3-4 days at a time, and don't really need internet for extended sessions.

L&K Cain

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Originally Posted by vmps View Post
Quite surprising ... for a product that's supposed to be that good, I'm unable to find a single owner review.

I, too, would really like to know if it's as good as it's made out to be.

Cheers.
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Old 09-25-2008, 02:56 AM   #4
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Check the sites here in this LINK

There are a few that can do a pretty job for a few dollars
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Old 09-26-2008, 03:45 AM   #5
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Hi Cain,

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopwood View Post
Well I can't speak from any experience with that particular kit, but I do have a lot of experience with custom WiFi gear as I've got a 11Km link and a couple of 5Km link's operating around my farm. The number's that they're talking 1,000mW and a 9DB

<snip>

Personally I would use a Seneao 200mW PC card with a short pigtail and either a omni, or a semi directional antenna e.g. a patch type antenna that is stuck to the laptop screen and I'd sit out on deck and point it in the direction of the WiFi AP.
Thanks for your views Cain. Do appreciate it.

Could you post some details on your current setup - in terms of the antenna you are using with your laptop?

Thanks again.

- MP
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Old 09-26-2008, 06:50 AM   #6
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Btw guys,

What are your views on this ---

http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/24/buffalo...osts-range-210/

Sounds quite cost effective.

Cheers.

- MP
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Old 09-27-2008, 11:00 PM   #7
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Hi Guys,

Here in Australia the wireless network ( mobile phone ) is quite extensive with towers along the coastline except the very remote areas.

I have fitted an antenna recommended for rural remote reception which offers a 9db gain.

The antenna is attached to my stern rail and aprox 1 metre long, the cable connects to my mobile phone which is then plugged into the laptop USB for broadband reception. Haven't tested it much yet but it definitely worked when we were well over 5 miles out on the NSW coast. Cost $149 for antenna.
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Old 09-29-2008, 01:50 AM   #8
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Sure, I built a biquad (bow tie) antenna myself from plans like the ones on this site http://flakey.info/antenna/biquad/ It's very easy, all you need is basic soldering skills and some reasonable levels of dexterity with measuring/bending wire. The most expensive component was the bulkhead N Type socket, which was I think about 8$AU. I used a PCB board for the reflector and the total antenna cost would not have been more than about $12.

I've heard of people using tupperware boxes to house these in (for permanent external mounting, or just to protect the bow tie from being bent) You can see from the back of mine it would only take a hole in the lid for the N Type socket, and some silicone to seal it. I just clip mine to the laptop screen, or hold it. I usually use this for testing connections, or for when I can't get a good connection with the inbuilt card.

I've made a 5KM connection (hilltop to hilltop with perfect line of sight) to a 19dB parabolic dish installation. It has about 9-12dB of gain and theoretically produces a signal cone of about 70 degrees wide which make it easy to aim and tolerant of some movement. but it's not goign to be a set and forget thing.

I've paired this antenna with a number of cards, but lately I've been using the senao 200mW card, That cost me about $80AU on special from one of the Aussie wireless sites, the matching pigtail was about $20. I've attached a couple of photo's of the kit.

Here's a couple of photo's of the antenna.



The business end showign the bow tie.



The Back of the antenna.

L&K Cain

Quote:
Originally Posted by vmps View Post
Hi Cain,

Thanks for your views Cain. Do appreciate it.

Could you post some details on your current setup - in terms of the antenna you are using with your laptop?

Thanks again.

- MP
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Old 09-29-2008, 02:34 AM   #9
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This looks really cool, and as you say very cost effective. And, if it's USB2.0 then you can probably add a standard USB extension cable to it and get it up to 5M away. The problem with wireless is that cable loss always kills you, but only on the radio side. This solution pushes power and data along USB and removes the need for any RF cables. And, by chaining a couple of hubs together you could get this box up to 25M from your PC.

I would imagine that this is an omni antenna, If I was installing this on my boat i'd probably put it in a weather proof box, and bolt it to the back rail, or the dinghy davit (yet to be installed). 5M would probably be enough to get it to the Nav station in the rear cabin. If not I could probably put a small 12v powered hub somewhere in the back cabin and then run a short lead to the nav station and another 5M into the front cabin.

It's kind of similar to what I've done with my land based installations. In those I use a small SBC (Single Board Computer) with a wireless card and antenna and place it up a mast, or on a roof, and run power over ethernet to both power the box, and connect it into the network. The only difference is that SBC's don't cost 38 Euro's!

If you wanted to boost it's range even further you could try putting it at the focal point of a 2D parabolic reflector. Something like this http://www.electronicsinfoline.com/Top_Pic...c_antenna.shtml I've heard of people doing this with household access points where the AP is at one end of the house. You might get a couple of dB out of that at the expense of omni directionality.

Ultimately if you want the kind of punch talked about in the original post, and still want the convienience of a fixed installation. I would probably build/buy a co-linear antenna. The original article on these is http://wireless.gumph.org/articles/homemadeomni.html and is a bit fiddly. Recently I noticed a much simpler design http://martybugs.net/wireless/collinear.cgi. Regardless of the construction you're going to get a whip antenna form and 1.2M of length should give 12dB of gain. You could probably live with 5M of cable and a 200mW card, but if you wanted a lot of power and a long cable run you'd need a $500 mastead amp (and good luck finding one suitable for marine conditions).

Frankly, if the buffalo thing works, just getting it up on the cabin top is going to give you a lot more signal, and would allow you and your laptop to say nice and dry in the cabin. I probably wouldn't put it out in the rain, but you could probably suction it to the hatch or base of the mast and run a USB extension cable down into the cabin to start with. If that works, then consider a weatherproof enclosure, and a hub for a more permanent installation.

L&K Cain

Quote:
Originally Posted by vmps View Post
Btw guys,

What are your views on this ---

http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/24/buffalo...osts-range-210/

Sounds quite cost effective.

Cheers.

- MP
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:19 AM   #10
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Hi Cain,

Many thanks for the pictures & detailed explanation. Like you say, it's quite easy to build. I think I might give it a shot.

I really do appreciate your detailed input.

Cheers

- MP
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:27 AM   #11
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Hi Cain,

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopwood View Post
This looks really cool, and as you say very cost effective.
Actually, the more I see the portability of this product, the more I like it. OK, it's not exactly visually appealing. But that doesn't bother me. If this can give me even a bit more range sitting above decks, I think it may be worth it. On the net I see it's under $40, not a bad deal.

I'm probably going to buy this anyway & see what it can do. Will post a report shortly.

Thanks again.

- MP
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Old 10-06-2008, 03:01 PM   #12
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I've found this a really interesting topic with some good information but I have one question that so far remains unanswered - I'm sure someone can answer it.

The discussion has been about rigging additional antenna via an additional card or USB setup - is there any way to improve a laptop's wifi signal strength without any add-ons of this type i.e.to just add an antenna that is better than the built in one. I could for example improve the antenna on my router quite easily but that's no good when the laptop is on a boat and all I want to do is improve it's sensitivity which is pretty poor at the best of times.

My laptop is fitted with a wireless LAN Mini PCI card and I can't see how a replacement card could be fitted as described

Grateful any pearls of wisdom
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsailing View Post
I've found this a really interesting topic with some good information but I have one question that so far remains unanswered - I'm sure someone can answer it.

The discussion has been about rigging additional antenna via an additional card or USB setup - is there any way to improve a laptop's wifi signal strength without any add-ons of this type i.e.to just add an antenna that is better than the built in one. I could for example improve the antenna on my router quite easily but that's no good when the laptop is on a boat and all I want to do is improve it's sensitivity which is pretty poor at the best of times.

My laptop is fitted with a wireless LAN Mini PCI card and I can't see how a replacement card could be fitted as described

Grateful any pearls of wisdom
Since posting this I've done some more research into USB setups - one link is below

http://www.netkrom.com/prod_airnet_5...b_adapter.html

Only problem is nothing available in the UK!
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Old 10-07-2008, 05:23 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsailing View Post
I've found this a really interesting topic with some good information but I have one question that so far remains unanswered - I'm sure someone can answer it.

The discussion has been about rigging additional antenna via an additional card or USB setup - is there any way to improve a laptop's wifi signal strength without any add-ons of this type i.e.to just add an antenna that is better than the built in one. I could for example improve the antenna on my router quite easily but that's no good when the laptop is on a boat and all I want to do is improve it's sensitivity which is pretty poor at the best of times.

My laptop is fitted with a wireless LAN Mini PCI card and I can't see how a replacement card could be fitted as described

Grateful any pearls of wisdom
You can get pigtails for miniPCI cards. I did one installation back in Cork where we needed 3 radio's in one SBC so we used the mini PCI slot with a mini PCI version of the 200mW senao cards. It was a *really* small connector though and a short very fine cable really only designed for internal use. We has to solder it to the N Type bulkhead connector ourselves.

Space inside laptops is pretty tight, but I suppose if you had a 9 pin RS232 socket or parallel printer socket that you were willing to sacrifice, you could theoretically remove it, and replace it with a N Type epoxied in place and connected to the pigtail.

You would want to open up the laptop and check the exact make and model of the card and see if it's got an appropriate socket first. Then go hunting online for the pigtail. But if won't be cheap, I seem to remember paying about $20 for the cable and plug, so you'll be up for about $28 just for parts. It doesn't really seem worth the effort when for $40 you can go with a more plug and play USB/PCMCIA solution that does not include any risk of bricking your laptop.

L&K Cain
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