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Old 07-07-2006, 05:31   #1
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WIFI Adapter Recommendations

I have an old IBM 600 laptop that we use on our boat (Win XP, 40 GB HD, Pent. II, etc.) and want recommendations for either a PC WIFI card or a USB-II WIFI adapter (I would think a USB unit would be best for boat use as it would allow the antenna to be placed for optimum reception). Yes, I know the Pent.II is a bit outdated, but the laptop still works great and tied to the GPS, autopilot and radar, amounts to a pretty nice nav system. Recommendations on brand name and model will be helpful.
Thanks,

Tom
S/V SHEARWATER
Kinsale, VA
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Old 07-07-2006, 15:14   #2
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Dont know about the wifi specifically, but TDK are well respected for this sort of stuff. (theirs was the best bluetooth system when I was buying one.
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Old 07-07-2006, 19:38   #3
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I had good success with SMC 2532W with an external antenna. This is a PCMCIA adapter. It has the built in antenna that sticks out the end of the computer, but you can pull it off and attach an external antenna.

By "external" I mean not built in to the card, not outside the boat. The antenna has a magnet in the bottom, and I sit it on an Altoids box. It needs something to stick to; otherwise, it tends to fall over easily.

Even inside the boat, I had pretty good communication with the access point about 100 meters away. In fact, I would intermittently see several other networks, presumably from lower power APs in the townhouses near the marina.

I bought the card and antenna from Port Networks in Baltimore. http://www.portnetworks.com On their web site, this is the "SMC High-Power Wi-Fi Card". I chose this particular card because it also works on Linux, though Port Networks (like just about all vendors) will only support Windows.

More recently, they have been advertising a "wifi repeater" for boat use. On their web site, it looks like it sits on deck in a waterproof case and connects to your PC with ethernet. (i.e. not pcmcia and not usb, but a standard network) I have no experience with that device.
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Old 08-07-2006, 16:28   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomj
I have an old IBM 600 laptop that we use on our boat (Win XP, 40 GB HD, Pent. II, etc.) and want recommendations for either a PC WIFI card or a USB-II WIFI adapter (I would think a USB unit would be best for boat use as it would allow the antenna to be placed for optimum reception). Yes, I know the Pent.II is a bit outdated, but the laptop still works great and tied to the GPS, autopilot and radar, amounts to a pretty nice nav system. Recommendations on brand name and model will be helpful.
Thanks,

Tom
S/V SHEARWATER
Kinsale, VA
I'm thinking that USB is probably the best way to go for you if you have USB ports on your machine. A Pentium II with a 40 gig hard drive is going to be an old enough laptop that your PCMCIA slots may not be Cardbus compatible and might require an older 16-bit PCMCIA WiFi card to work...

Going USB will eliminate the possibility of this incompatibility.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:46   #5
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Just bought a Radio Labs Marine Wifi unit ($200 shipped to FL). It is a small antenna with a 15' USB cable, Plug and play, powered from USB port. We went from seeing the wifi lan of a boat 20 feet away to seeing 15 nearby nets (two of which provide free internet access). Nice solution from a value and ease of use stand point.
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Old 05-11-2006, 12:15   #6
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Randy,

seriously thinking of geting one of these. Where were you when you tested the antenna? Wifi any better in the Bahamas this year?
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Old 05-11-2006, 15:45   #7
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Tom, check out www.seattlewireless.org for their reviews and specs of WiFi cards and adapters including power ratings.

One thing to consider as a "make or break" decision, the adapter MUST be able to run WAP or a later encryption protocol. The older WEP encryption has long been cracked and is semi-useless.

I know, with a "public" WiFi point you may be using nothing at all...but at least allow yourself the equipment which can and will use good encryption when it is available.

If you don't need this right away, you might put off the purchase for a while. The new WiMax and 802.11n and other standards are deploying this winter, at least in the US.
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Old 05-11-2006, 17:39   #8
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Hmm.... I'm unsure as to why anyone would want encryption on a WiFi client on a boat. I have been on WiFi with this boat for a year and a half now and haven't had the occasion to need to encrypt any of my sessions, other than those encrypted via HTTPS. For good old fashioned range and compatibility, the latest thing isn't always the best... stick with 802.11b/g and you'll have more range as well as more networks to choose from. Nearly all public access networks are 802.11b, including all of Beacon WiFi, a marina-based ISP on the East Coast.
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Old 05-11-2006, 19:05   #9
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802.11b has been obsolete for some time now, the .g equipment simply has much more range for the same price. Similarly, the new stuff deploying is going to be about the same price that .g deployed at, but again, way more range/speed. What's "way more"...<G>. Depends.

The .n may have 10x the speed and twice the range, which is a good plus for dropping $75 on a new router.

WiMax or Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) may have speeds somewhere in between the two--but cover an area from 5-30 miles in diameter. So, if a coastal town decides to install one to replace the local free internet access, or to attract tourist trade? You could conceivably have wireless access from your boat, anywhere along ten miles of coast. Think of coming into Newport RI harbor, and having high speed wireless anywhere in the harbor. That's something to look forward to, even if that's not going to happen as quickly as 802.11n does. And .n is probably going to simply replace the .g equipment this year, as the manufacturers simply stop making .g, the same way they stopped making 300 baud modems.

On encryption? Well, if your connection is fully encrypted, protected by any sort of key, it makes spoofing and hacking of anything on the network that much harder, even without a firewall. Pretty much every public access point which doesn't use encryption is being trolled by hackers using a sniffer in "verbose" mode to capture traffic.

They could, for example, capture your password and log in to web forums like this one, pretending to be you and selling your boat. Not as bad as capturing your banking information or intercepting your email...and in all your web connections are using https, that's doing encrypting anyway. But unless you are terribly careful about where you go and what you do on the web...there's no telling what mischief they will get into. And without a firewall (or even with one, if your browser allows any of the active script technologies) you may find ghoulies on your computer after using those access points.
It's only paranoia IF you have run malware detectors, plural, for six months and still never found a ghoulie.<G> The bad guys have just been doing a really really great job this year, and some of the protection software simply hasn't.
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Old 06-11-2006, 05:48   #10
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Hello.... absolutely wrong about B vs G. The G standard has far LESS range than B. G is faster, but you must be used close by to achieve the speed. Also, I already *do* have free internet access anywhere in Newport's anchorage. Not an issue. WiFi providers at marinas and local public access spots use 802.11b because it's got the best range. The new WiMax might be better - I don't know - but it's not out yet in the real world.

There are also no hackers out there actively targeting you. Hackers are interested in real targets, not some Joe Schmoe in a boat in a harbor. They want money or glory, not to see some guy posting on the Cruiser's Forum. Plus, bank transactions or any sites you visit are HTTPS encrypted anyway, so sniffing a wireless network isn't going to get you anyone's bank info anyway - unless you have the encryption key from the HTTPS session, which you wouldn't.

To further prove the case that you don't need encryption specifically for WiFi, all of the same info you are so worried about encrypting wirelessly can be just as easily accessed on a *wired* network. Yup... it's simple. You can use the principle of inductance to tap into a wired cable. You can also simply splice in. No data transmitted on the internet is safe, unless it's encrypted by the HTTPS protocols. If I was your neighbor, I could get your Cruiser's Forum password even through a wired network.

Ghoulies are welcome to hit up my machine. There' s nothing interesting on it at all.

As someone doing a Java development project now, having a BS in Physics and having had WiFi since Y2K, please do take this post seriously.
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