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Old 27-06-2007, 17:44   #1
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Antenna for WiFi

Occasionally in the harbor I stay, there is an un-secured signal for wireless internet, but the signal is weak and drops often. Is there an external antenna that you could recomend for my Dell E1505 that would increase the signal strength??? Inquiring minds want to know.
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Old 27-06-2007, 18:19   #2
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search war driving

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Old 27-06-2007, 18:25   #3
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Thanx PV...cool site. I was looking for something that I could buy off the shelf and plug somewhere into my laptop. I'd rather not dismantle anything or modify...Aloha
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Old 27-06-2007, 18:46   #4
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Sorry I was not more specific. That was just a starting point. There are premade yagi antennas for those who don't like Pringles. Several are on the market from $59.99 and up. Maybe one of the SW radio guys can point out the right one. This may be more what you are looking for.

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
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Old 27-06-2007, 18:47   #5
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I bought a high power card with antenna for my laptop and have had good results in open harbors . The antenna I got was the small magnetic. There are many options for antennas.

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Old 27-06-2007, 22:14   #6
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These guys offer several solutions. I found them to be very knowledgeable.

BroadbandXpress - High Speed Internet for your Boat
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Old 28-06-2007, 10:05   #7
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There is usually NO provision for "just plugging in a better antenna" on a laptop with Wifi. At best, you'd typically have to open up the computer and find the internal antenna connection--not something most users would risk.

The conventional solution is an external gain antenna, an external access point, and then hooking that up to your computer the same way you'd hook up any other "cable modem" or internet router.

Not rocket science, but not a cheap quick fix for most users, either.
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Old 28-06-2007, 12:44   #8
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These folks have just the thing and just plugs into the usb port.
www.radiolabs. com
These cruisers have used one in the Carribean for over a year and love it! The Voyage of Wind-Borne III
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:02   #9
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Windrose-
What Radiolabs are selling, is NOT JUST AN ANTENNA.

It is a complete external access point AND antenna.

You can't plug "an antenna" into a USB port, a USB port is only a serial communications bus. It can't do anything with "an antenna".

How good or economical the radiolabs all-in-one solution is, is something else. I give them points for being clever about "all-in-one", but to call it "an antenna" is just totally wrong.

In many ways it is simpler to have a laptop with an external Wifi Card or USB-Wifi adapter that can have a simple antenna plugged into it. (USB adapters with external connectors are rare.) Even then...there are complications and limits as to just how much gain you can get before the antenna cable eats it up, making a booster or external access point a more powerul way to go.

The equipment makers and the ISPs prefer to pretend everything about this is magic, but it is just radios, antennas, and routers. All standard computer networking and radio equipment, often cleverly wrapped in FUD so users have to keep buying new things instead of finding simple solutions.
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:16   #10
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Have l missed the point Celestial Sailor was asking?
He wished to increase the wifi reception range on his laptop and these suggestions aparently do that.
Even with the pringle cantenna you have to connect it to the installed card.
The internal antenna, as in my Toshiba, have the internal antenna around the screen.
Just learning and wish to be enlightened.
Dave
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:28   #11
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Dave, as I read the original post, it asks if there is an external antenna he can add to his Dell, which has an internal Wifi antenna, and internal Wifi support.

That answer would be simply "no". There's no external antenna port, and hacking into the computer is not an option for the casual user.

Buying an external access point and antenna, from Radiolabs or anyone else, is neither simple nor cheap. It would have to be configured as a totally separate WiFi connection, making it close to simple--but not necessarily so.

There are ways to get a stronger Wifi connection, but not by adding an external antenna.

"Pringles" designs are directional gain antennas--unsuitable for use on a boat unless you are tied alongside, so you won't rotate, and then you scan for a source. Omnidirectional gain antennas are inexpensive--but opening the case on a laptop, determining which connector the internal WiFi minicard uses, and then matching up for it...Not recommended for the weak of heart, or those who value their warranty.
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:47   #12
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Would not the internal antenna on the laptop not be directional?
Now l am confused..what would be the purpose of the Radiolabs antennas if they do not give you a stronger reception/connection?
l do think they are very $$$$$$$$$ for what they are but l assume they must have software for compatability.??

"There are ways to get a stronger Wifi connection, but not by adding an external antenna."
Suggestions??
Thanks for the info.
Dave
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:48   #13
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Am I missing something? From checking the various websites, it seems what you need is an omnidirectional antenna (8dBi or better), cable with the correct fittings and a USB adapter. I think you can get it all for under $200. This is for a laptop that has wifi. I think you have to disable the internal wifi but I'm new at this and still working it out. My HP works better than most in anchorages but I have seen what a good external antenna can do and will be definitely getting one before I head out in November again. I can usually do email pretty good but with Skype an external antenna would really improve things.
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Old 28-06-2007, 13:52   #14
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I appreciate the input from everyone. Sounds like it would be a hassle to make an external antenna work on an internal card. If I ever replace a drive or other internal componant (and you know this is going to happen eventually), I will tap into the internal wifi card then.
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Old 28-06-2007, 15:41   #15
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Rick-
"Am I missing something? From checking the various websites, it seems what you need is an omnidirectional antenna (8dBi or better), cable with the correct fittings and a USB adapter. "
Yes and no. A PCMCIA WiFi card can be bought with a power rating up to 400mW, versus about 50mW for a USB Wifi dongle. This means that the Wifi card starts out 12db more powerful than the dongle--and that's a huge difference. (Every 3db being a doubling of power.) Even with a less expensive PCMCIA card at 200mW, you're still gaining 6db of power over the USB dongle.
Now, you add the gain from the antenna. You can get external antennas in the 6-9db gain range very easily, with up to 22db being available in omnidirectional antennas.
But then you've got the "cons", because at microwave frequencies the antenna cable itself eats up the signal. So let's say you want the antenna at the masthead, and you need 75' of cable to get it from the computer to "up there". "Really good" cable will still lose about 6db of signal per 100 feet of cable, so your cable will lose about 4.5db of the signal.
If you use a 6db gain antenna, and the cable eats 4.5db of signal, you only gain 1.5db of signal! You can actually lose 3/4 of the signal by putting the antenna 75' away from the computer, whether you use USB or a PCMCIA card.
So if you use a PCMCIA card, with a 6db gain antenna plugged right into it, you may gain 16db of signal compared to using a USB dongle and putting the same antenna up the mast. Hmmmm.

A lot depends on how serious you want to get. I'd say that if you want to get serious, the best way is to use an Access Point (aka "AP") with the antenna attached to it, and hoist those both up the mast as/if needed. The AP is essentially the same box as a "router" or "cable modem", except it is designed to connect to a Wifi signal on the input--instead of a wire. The AP has the same full power as a PCMCIA card, but since the antenna is connected right to it--there's no cable loss on the signal.

Ah, but your AP is now up the mast and your computer isn't...<G>. The two get connected by a standard ethernet cable, which can run over 200 feet without any signal losses, because it is ethernet not microwave signal cable.

Cost of the AP? $50-150. Cost of the antenna? Even a 6db gain for $30 should do, with it "up there". More as needed, easy to screw in.

The radiolabs solution (which really is a Wifi adapter mounted at the antenna base, so the two can be remoted) will still only give you the weaker USB Wifi power to begin with, ignoring the questions about unconventional driver support that may be needed. (Their web site is vague about it.)

I'd rather go with the AP and antenna aloft, and get a huge relative power gain out of it. Or, if it was legal where I was using it, I'd splurge for a one-watt inline amplifier (about $200-250) which gives a tremendous kick to the signal. That gets installed in the antenna cable--and needs an antenna which is physically able to not burn out with a whole watt of power.

"I think you can get it all for under $200." Yup, there are options well inside that range, like a $100 AP, a built-in ethernet connection, a $25 ethernet cable, and a $50 antenna.

"This is for a laptop that has wifi. I think you have to disable the internal wifi but I'm new at this and still working it out." Probably. Unless your AP allows your internal card to use it as a bridge. (Pass the aspirin?<G>)

Whatever you do with an antenna--look for the type of cable supplied with it, and look for the loss per hundred feet on that cable. You want the antenna that has the highest omnidirectional gain--but also has the lowest cable loss. The net combination of the two is what matters.
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