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Old 15-03-2011, 17:44   #1
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Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

I got tired of manually aiming my wifi antenna every change of wind or tide, so I set it up to use a servo to rotate it. There are magnetic sensors on the antenna so it knows which way it is pointing. It automatically calibrates the bias scalefactor and cross coupling (non-ortho) factors out.


I have been using it all day with good success. I need more work on scanning (to find optimal bearing) and also triangulation using gps when the boat is underway.



I was thinking I could make a kit. Anyone interested? I need to do waterproofing.
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Old 15-03-2011, 18:13   #2
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

Wow! quite the endeavor!
I'm a get-my-internet-over-cellular kinda guy, but I like your idea. Does it seek signal on its own or do yo find it, then let it track from there on?
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Old 15-03-2011, 18:55   #3
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

That's right cool. I'm interested. Depends on cost of course.
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Old 15-03-2011, 20:34   #4
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

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Originally Posted by capngeo View Post
Wow! quite the endeavor!
I'm a get-my-internet-over-cellular kinda guy, but I like your idea. Does it seek signal on its own or do yo find it, then let it track from there on?
I am still working on the scanning algorithm. To make sure it doesn't twist wires, Eventually you will be able to initiate a low-speed initial scan. In this mode it finds start and stop angles for each ap detected. It is possible to have multiple starts and stops depending on antenna.

Next it optionally shows you a plot of signal strength vs heading. and allows you to select access points.

I need waterproof enclosure, high torque servo, arduino with 2 axis mag board, usb hub, and 4 way slip rings for usb. So do the math on cost and let me know how much. Luckily same arduino can do much more, like aim solar panels (next project) or electronically adjust windvane (to steer compass or gps course)

Also you need usb wifi device, and external antenna (duh) but you needed that anyway.

Same rig can be used for webcams. I plan on programming it to scan horizon for anomalies and signalling alarm. It is possible to detect ship lights fairly easily at night for example.

Also great way to look around outside from below. Like digital periscope.

Then triangulation, and eventually knowledge of signal strength vs time of day so it can more accurately predict (and plot) expected coverage areas. That way you might see an access point, but it is too weak, you know exactly where you can go (and possibly anchor) that it will work and at what hours. This mode requires gps and boat movement, and some learning time.
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Old 16-03-2011, 09:18   #5
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

Would it come with the toothbrush?
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Old 16-03-2011, 20:39   #6
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

I have a similar project underway, but it repurposes the old video turret I built for the Microship years ago. The camera platform and inside dimensions of the sealed shell just barely accept a small directional, which of course has less gain than a yagi but is a lot easier to manage. In mine, the turret software (FORTH) is very good at responding to angle commands, and an Arduino down in the console takes care of grabbing rate-gyro compass data off the N2K bus and telling the turret what to do (though if I actually dive back into the FORTH code, it would of course make more sense to keep the control loop local). In the current incarnation, it doesn't have the smarts to do any scanning - setup is manual, whereupon it can hold the antenna azimuth as the boat swings around.

(The photo below shows it with the original video equipment installed. At the time, about 18 years ago, good video cameras were scarce resources. A lot of effort went into this project... and now, of course, it's a lot easier to just have a lot of cameras and switch among them. So the antenna-aiming project is a way to get some value out of that man-year of engineering!)

Fun stuff....
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Old 17-03-2011, 11:32   #7
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

What the flip...how are you going to motor around now you've removed your transmission? Is that tin foil AND a brown paper bag? What's with the masking tape, did you run out of duct tape? Wow, it's all so "technical" looking. Here's a better solution.
The Wirie: Marine WiFi and RV WiFi solution or Internet Via Satellite and Phone Service for Boats from TracPhone
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Old 17-03-2011, 11:48   #8
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

Yes... if the gain of an omni "pancake" from a colinear is adequate, which it usually is, then active aiming is frivolous. I use my yagi occasionally, but now it's less relevant since I have tethering (at least on coastal US and Canada).
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Old 17-03-2011, 22:39   #9
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

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What the flip...how are you going to motor around now you've removed your transmission? Is that tin foil AND a brown paper bag? What's with the masking tape, did you run out of duct tape? Wow, it's all so "technical" looking. Here's a better solution.
The Wirie: Marine WiFi and RV WiFi solution or Internet Via Satellite and Phone Service for Boats from TracPhone

Is that a joke? I have an electric drive, no transmission so sure I can motor around in circles, and the wifi antenna spins the opposite way to maintain absolute heading.

No tin foil, but yes I have a brown paper bag to keep the sun off the electronics so they don't get hot. Not required. I have extra masking tape and I am running low on duct tape.

I don't think the above is any better (or worse) since neither of them do what I am doing which is automatically aiming directional wifi antennas!
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Old 18-03-2011, 08:09   #10
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

Wow, that is some antenna and the self tracking is very ingeneous. Could you use the servo from a "follow me" dish antenna? Just aim it manually once and clamp it down.

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Old 18-03-2011, 08:39   #11
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

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I don't think the above is any better (or worse) since neither of them do what I am doing which is automatically aiming directional wifi antennas!
The question might be, "who's wifi are you trying to capture?", when there are better ways to get internet coverage, albeit not free.
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Old 12-02-2014, 06:13   #12
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Re: Automatic WiFi 'Aimer'

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Originally Posted by boat_alexandra View Post
I got tired of manually aiming my wifi antenna every change of wind or tide, so I set it up to use a servo to rotate it. There are magnetic sensors on the antenna so it knows which way it is pointing. It automatically calibrates the bias scalefactor and cross coupling (non-ortho) factors out.


I have been using it all day with good success. I need more work on scanning (to find optimal bearing) and also triangulation using gps when the boat is underway.



I was thinking I could make a kit. Anyone interested? I need to do waterproofing.
Alexandra,

Did you ever get anywhere with this project? I am very interested in what you are doing here and would like to participate. My background is instrumentation and controls and I have been looking for an excuse to play with an Arduino or PI.

Cheers,

Rick
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