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Old 16-12-2010, 10:11   #1
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WiFi-Like Internet Access

I've heard of internet access for a laptop which uses cat-5 (fiber optic)cable and is supposed to be superior to a wi-fi range extender antenna. I understand it is about 2X the cost of a range extender but I can't find any more info on this setup. Can anyone help me out?
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Old 16-12-2010, 11:00   #2
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I've heard of internet access for a laptop which uses cat-5 (fiber optic) cable ...
Catagory cables (Cat 5, Cat 5E) are all copper, not fibre.
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Old 16-12-2010, 11:29   #3
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In addition to Gord's comment, anything over 100 meters with cat5 and you begin to get signal degredation so if you're talking about running it out the dock you'll have to keep that in mind. In additon you'd need UV rated cable.

Fiber optics require modems at each end that convert electrical signals to optical and back and the whole thing is quite expensive and probably not what you're looking for either.
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Old 16-12-2010, 11:50   #4
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I reread your post and wondered if you were looking for one of the antenna based amplifiers? The one I put on my boat has cat5 from the antenna to a wifi router. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the manufacter but there's a lot of similiar setups. I haven't found it terribly useful but if you search the forum for "wifi antenna" there has been a lot of chat on the subject.
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Old 16-12-2010, 12:11   #5
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Lots of information in the really looooooonnnnnnngggg discussion here on long distance WiFi. Chuck
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Old 16-12-2010, 12:49   #6
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Originally Posted by bobalpep View Post
I've heard of internet access for a laptop which uses cat-5 (fiber optic)cable and is supposed to be superior to a wi-fi range extender antenna. I understand it is about 2X the cost of a range extender but I can't find any more info on this setup. Can anyone help me out?
thanks
Bob

I'm still having trouble figuring out what you're asking for.

Basically, there are two methods of enhancing the reception of Wi-Fi signals:
  1. add an external high-gain antenna to your existing PC's Wi-Fi adapter using special low-loss antenna coax
  2. add an external Wi-Fi radio adapter, placing it up high with the antenna, and connect to it using one of three methods:
    1. USB-connected Wi-Fi modem
    2. Ethernet (Cat 5 cable) -connected Wi-Fi modem, known as a client bridge.
    3. Wi-Fi-"connected" external adapter, known as a wireless Wi-Fi client bridge
With the first method, you're keeping the WiFi radio directly attached to the computer and running a long cable to the external antenna. You suffer signal loss that way, so a low-loss coax cable is required to route the received signal to the radio. With the second method, you're putting the Wi-Fi radio out high where it's right next to the antenna and there's negligible signal loss. The WiFi radio converts the radio signals into digital bits, which are easily sent over a USB cable (16 feet normally, but that can be extended to 30-40 sometimes) or an Ethernet cable (more than 300').

You can think of the first method as putting a roof-top TV antenna on your house and running coax (or the old twinlead) back to your TV's antenna input. The second method would be somewhat analogous to installing a high-gain pre-amplifier at the base of the TV antenna to boost the received signals right at the antenna before injecting them into the lossy coax cable running back to your TV. With a better, stronger signal the chances are it won't be degraded by losses in the cable on its way to your TV tuner.

The second method usually turns out to be as cheap as the first because USB WiFi modems and PoE-powered (PoE means "Power over Ethernet") Wi-Fi client bridges are usually dirt cheap - on the order of $50-100 or less. You can easily pay that much or more for a 50' length of LMR-400 low-loss coax cable to hook up an external high-gain antenna. The drawback of the second method is that it's a bit more complicated.

My personal preference is option (2-2). I have a 12Vdc-powered media/navigation PC onboard, which is connected to my stereo, and to my helm chartplotter via both NMEA 0183 and Ethernet. The PC, in turn, is connected to a nice little home wireless Wi-Fi router from a company called Buffalo, and our laptops connect to it (we both work full-time from the boat as consultants). The Wi-Fi signal from the router is encrypted (WPA2/AES) and is for our use only.

That wireless router in a home environment would normally connect to a cable/DSL/FiOS broadband modem via an Ethernet (Cat-5) cable. But I connected it to a Ubiquiti Bullet2HP Wi-Fi client bridge with a high-gain antenna, both of which I installed up our mizzen mast. So the Wi-Fi bridge is mounted up high, so it has a clear view of any neighboring Wi-Fi access points offering Wi-Fi Internet service.

The nice thing about our setup is that we can work from anywhere on the boat with our laptops, and get access to our media server to watch videos or TV, or to backup work documents, digital photos, and music files (MP3s), or to even run navigation software from our laptops if we're too lazy to run to the PC or the helm chartplotter. At the same time, any of our laptops can access the Internet thru the "internal" Wi-Fi router's WAN port - which as I said is connected to the external Bullet Wi-Fi client bridge.

The advantage of our system is that there's security firewalls in both the internal wireless router and the external client bridge (which I've setup in router mode). It's very similar in concept to how large companies protect their networks with "layered security". And if the long-range Wi-Fi Internet signal goes down for whatever reason, we can still access the media/file server for our work and entertainment.

If all that sounds complicated, you can just get a USB Wi-Fi modem adapter and a USB extender cable (or two!), and just run the cable out a hatch and hang the modem over the boom, dodger, or bimini. And most of these do have an external antenna port, so you can connect a high-gain omnidirectional Wi-Fi antenna to it - and have the antenna permanently mounted up high on your bimini frame, or even a backstay.

There's more talk in some threads in the Electronics: Communications & Audio Visual forum if you want more information.
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Old 17-12-2010, 08:37   #7
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more specifics

What I want to accomplish is improved wi-fi internet in the Bahamas, kept simple and for a few hundred dollars.
Last year I used a 5oomw range extender with a 9db antenna attached directly to the amp and hoisted up a flag halyard with a 15' USB cable plugged into the laptop.
I talked to fellow cruisers who were getting better results with an access point (is my terminology correct?) and cat-5 to the laptop.
I only plan to use it for web weather forecasts and a little e-mail.
I think what I want is; an access point, like the ubiquiti nano station 2, and UV resistant cat-5 plugged into the Ethernet port of the laptop.
Questions:
1. do I need a power supply for the AP?
2. the increase in efficiency of placing the AP at the top of the mast vs 1/2 way up?
3. can you recommend specific brands?
4. what causes the cat-5 to have lower cable loss than the USB? (I thought, mistakenly, that the cat-5 was fiber)
Thanks for your help
Bob
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Old 17-12-2010, 08:57   #8
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We've been using this one for over a year, and Bob is a Forum Member (the support is awesome):

Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC

Here's the LONG discussion thread. It's been going on for a couple of years:

Long-Distance WiFi Device
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Old 17-12-2010, 09:49   #9
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We've been using this one for over a year, and Bob is a Forum Member (the support is awesome):

Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC
Same here. Works great. Bob at Island Time PC is a great guy and very helpful. Just buy the whole setup from him. Comes with step by step instructions. Put it together, plug it in and you'll be off to the races. It will get you the range you want, the price is right, and great support.
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Old 17-12-2010, 09:51   #10
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It's unlikely that it is the type of cabling making a difference 15 feet is within the distance (5 meters - a bit over 16 feet) that USB is rated for. The difference in length of cable usable is because of the diffence in the electrical specifications for the signal protocol. You friends more then likely have a more powerful amplifier, better antenna or cleared sightline or some other factor.

Can you upgrade some parts of your system? Maybe go to a 1 watt amp or more sensitive antenna?
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Old 09-01-2011, 12:34   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bstreep
We've been using this one for over a year, and Bob is a Forum Member (the support is awesome):

Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zydeco View Post
Same here. Works great. Bob at Island Time PC is a great guy and very helpful. Just buy the whole setup from him. Comes with step by step instructions. Put it together, plug it in and you'll be off to the races. It will get you the range you want, the price is right, and great support.
And another ringing endorsement from me. If you search my posts, you'll see I give lots more detail on what I experience; suffice to say, I've never been skunked unless there simply are no people living in the area (Jumentos, e.g.).

Get Bob's setup, and get on with 5-8 miles offshore underway, and up to 15 miles at anchor WiFi.

L8R

Skip, Lying George Town, Exuma Bahamas
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Old 09-01-2011, 14:35   #12
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Ditto for island time pc.

If you know what your are doing you can save about $50. IF you are VERY savvy about all this technology & know where to find the best deals.

Island Time was worth the small extra amount for a complete package with support
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