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Old 12-02-2010, 20:30   #1
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A Simple, Inexpensive WiFi System that Works

After seemingly endless experiments, we have finally found a simple, inexpensive, and easily installed WiFi system that provides excellent signal strength and throughput.


The booster we use is Hawking Tech. HSB2 Wireless Signal Booster. It's on sale at Price Grabber for $58.00. Our booster is mounted out of sight in the nav station, and is powered by 12v.

The antenna and cable can be found at Digital Antenna 2.4 GHz WiFi Marine Antennas - 10dB Gain, Omni Directional, for 802.11b/g, LAN, Bluetooth, Multi-Point Radio It's the 814-WLW. Then you need the cable - probably the PowerMax DA240, in the 30' length. Here's the problem: Digital Antenna is not a retail outlet. You will need to call the West Marine store in Ft. Lauderdale (or wherever is closest to you) and special order the antenna. The special orders desk at the WM in Ft. Lauderdale is very familiar with this process, and knew at once what I wanted. You can order the cable direct from Digital Antenna - no problem - just not the antenna!? Then the issue becomes connecting the antenna to the booster, since they have different style fittings; you may be able to request that Digital Antenna puts an RM-SMA type fitting on the cable end going to the booster. Otherwise, you will get a Mini-UHF fitting. Best to buy a RM-SMA (RM stands for reverse male) fitting, and have the Mini-UHF fitting professionally replaced – otherwise you will need an adapter (or two) to connect the cable to the booster. Also, the SMA type fitting is smaller than the Mini-UHF fitting, and will be much easier to pass through the tight spots when you pull the cable through your boat to the nav station.

Last thing is the Wi-Fi USB adapter. We have the Versa USB WiFi Adapter II. Buy it at C-Crane: C. Crane Company - Versa WiFi USB Adapter II - Toll Free (800) 522-8863 The beauty of this unit is that it can also be used by itself as a traveling wi-fi booster. It works great either with its own antenna, or with the big antenna and booster. Ok, last thing - you still need a pigtail adapter to connect the output side of the booster to the USB adapter. Both ends of the pigtail need to be RM-SMA fittings. You can buy pigtails online (try Radio Labs website) - just get one long enough to reach from wherever you mount the booster to the laptop ; 2-3 feet of pigtail should be OK.
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Old 12-02-2010, 21:23   #2
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Barbara: I'm happy that you are happy with your setup... we have had a similar one from Hyperlink which cost a fortune at the time but worked great too. Now, my coax is shot and I need to replace it.

However, the latest and greatest style is to use the "bullet" from Ubiquiti. That way you have no coax at all because it attaches directly to the antenna! The cable to your computer is a standard Ethernet cable which also brings the 12V power to the bullet using a special power injector.

You can buy these kits everywhere now. IslandTime PC and Wi-Fi for Boats are two places I know that sell the complete kits.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 12-02-2010, 22:12   #3
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If you need a bit more power the G-Sky High Power 1000mW 802.11b/g USB Adapter / GS-28USB-70 or the fixed mount High Power Outdoor USB Client-GS-30USB-P12 / GS-30USB-P12
See the website:
GSKY
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Old 13-02-2010, 09:17   #4
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Great info, very timely for us. We're getting the Furuno Max Explorer nav software, Furuno MFD at the helm station, and a new laptop to run the nav software down below at the nav station. I'd like to use the laptop to run my business and get weather also, so am looking at Wifi alternatives.

Nick, does the Ubiquity need any special software? Our laptop will come with Windows XP, which is what the Nav software calls for.

Thanks, John
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Old 13-02-2010, 22:22   #5
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The ubiquiti delivers wired Ethernet to your computer so you need no software at all!

What is Furuno Max Explorer??? You should buy Furuno MaxSea Timezero, which will completely integrate with you MFD, incl. radar. It will also share charts with the MFD and do radar overlay on chart on your laptop. The big thing is that you can connect a simple wifi router to the Furuno ethernet, and stream all data, like GPS, wind, log, depth, charts & radar to a wireless laptop!!!

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 15-02-2010, 12:58   #6
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That's what I meant to say, and thanks, Nick. We're getting Max Sea Time Zero Explorer software.
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Old 25-02-2010, 10:55   #7
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Hawking Technology makes the wifi 802.11b/g signal booster ($60), external omnidirectional antenna ($90), and 30' cable to run the antenna up the mast ($30). All of it can be found on the shelf at Fry's electronics in California. All adapters and pigtails for most applications are included, as is the 'ground' adapter.

You supply the router or whatever you're hooking up the antenna to. It's always best to keep as much of the electronics protected and inside the cabin, and not up the mast like the 'bullet'.
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Old 25-02-2010, 12:37   #8
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NotSure,

After 30' of antenna cable, you are left with just a tiny part of the antenna signal. The losses in the cable are enormous. Also, coax cable is more vulnerable to the environment than a bullet.

When you would take a 1000mW amplifier and connect it to the antenna using 30' of coax and maybe some adapters and/or pigtails, you end up with what, 20% of the signal so 200mW fed into the antenna. The Bullet2hp delivers the full 1000mW right into the antenna. For receive it's worse.

In the days where the amps were popular, they were installed outside, very close to the antenna. That way, the pre-amp can have a decent signal input from the antenna and amplify that for the big-loss path down the long coax.

Today, all new hotspot setups use the radio right at the antenna, with very short pigtails or no coax at all.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 25-02-2010, 14:11   #9
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i've been using an alpha awus036h with a 9db antenna on a 6ft lead. been working very good for me and cost a total of about $70 if i recall. it requires two usb slots to get the power it needs to operate but thats not a problem for me.

in fact, i'm on line right now 'borrowing' an unsecure wifi connection that has to be at least half a mile away - thats how close the nearest house it.
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Old 25-02-2010, 15:52   #10
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Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
NotSure,

After 30' of antenna cable, you are left with just a tiny part of the antenna signal. The losses in the cable are enormous. Also, coax cable is more vulnerable to the environment than a bullet.

When you would take a 1000mW amplifier and connect it to the antenna using 30' of coax and maybe some adapters and/or pigtails, you end up with what, 20% of the signal so 200mW fed into the antenna. The Bullet2hp delivers the full 1000mW right into the antenna. For receive it's worse.

In the days where the amps were popular, they were installed outside, very close to the antenna. That way, the pre-amp can have a decent signal input from the antenna and amplify that for the big-loss path down the long coax.

Today, all new hotspot setups use the radio right at the antenna, with very short pigtails or no coax at all.

cheers,
Nick.
The coax cable sold by Hawking is RG -213U, and if you don't like that you could use LMR-400. I've had setups such as that out in the weather for years and years with no ill effect and no water intrusion. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how long until the 'bullets' go kaput out in the weather. I wouldn't think that they'd last much more than a year or 2 before they begin to fail.

It's always a tradeoff...electronics outside for better signal/viewing, or inside where they last longer but are harder to view or suffer from signal loss. I keep my 'waterproof' depthfinder inside too, so its a personal choice/gamble.
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Old 25-02-2010, 17:21   #11
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Listen to Nick.

Coax is bad. Very bad. USB adapters are cumbersome. Many "marine wifi solutions" are expensive. I've tried almost all of them and now have more experience here than most everyone I meet out cruising who tell me of their wiz-bang system.

Go to Islandtimepc.com or wififorboats.com and get their system. It works. For miles. I pieced together the identical system myself before these were widely available and have 2 years experience of using it right next to Engenius, Alfa, 5milewifi, Port Networks, homebrew amplifier systems, and others. No contest, I am connected when everyone else is not. Not only that, I get use my connection wirelessly inside my boat and share it if I care to.

I have no affiliation with these companies and have never bought anything from them. However, I am using the same system that they sell. You can save yourself $50 by piecing the system together yourself ($50 is islandtimepc's profit margin - wififorboats is $100 more), but you will not get any product support and IMO the extra time spent ordering and installing is not worth the savings.

Reread what Nick said above. Most people miss the technical details of how these work and are led by marketing words. Coax is bad. Transmit power is not very important.

Mark
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Old 25-02-2010, 19:19   #12
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A USB wifi stick, with a big ext antena. Disconnect the antena and get a strong unit or a directional one (if in the marina). Run co-ax from the big antena on your mast to the wi-fi USB stick. Plug the stick into your laptop. Cost about 20USD for the stick, some 5 for the cable and a couple of bucks for a strong external antena (ours was approx. 50 USD).

b.
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Old 25-02-2010, 22:27   #13
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It's amazing how some take innovation ;-) Guys, the UBNT bullets are carrier-grade radios, not consumer grade. They have been in use for years all over the world in all sorts of professional installations. Look at the photo, you can clearly see the bullet radio's under the antenna's, where a coax cable would have connected with the old tech method. Those days are behind us. Think like radar: it's just an Ethernet coming out the scanner, no waveguides or coax anymore. Same for cell-phone towers, the radio's are right up there.

cheers,
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Old 25-02-2010, 22:44   #14
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Wow, I liked that photo myself ;-) So, here's some more, find the Bullets!








Ciao!
Nick.
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Old 27-02-2010, 21:23   #15
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Listen to Nick.

Coax is bad. Very bad................Go to Islandtimepc.com or wififorboats.com and get their system..................I have no affiliation with these companies and have never bought anything from them. However, I am using the same system that they sell. You can save yourself $50 by piecing the system together yourself ($50 is islandtimepc's profit margin - wififorboats is $100 more), but you will not get any product support and IMO the extra time spent ordering and installing is not worth the savings..............Mark
I agree, if you are not into learning all of the ins and outs and just want to get a system and be on line spend the extra $50. I like to learn as much as I can, but I have way more than $50 worth of time at a couple bucks an hour getting the system figured out and ordering the parts. Going my route is probably not what 90% of the people out there want to go through to get WiFi. If you are not a computer nut/electronics nut then do yourself a favor and get hold of one of these two companies.

Like Mark I haven't dealt with either myself as I like banging my head on things . If you aren't into this spend the extra $50,

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