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Old 14-09-2005, 21:27   #1
Kai Nui
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WiFi availability

Is anyone using WiFi outside the US? What is the availability? Marinas? Hot Spots near shore?
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Old 26-09-2005, 12:20   #2
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KN, in Europe using wifi aboard the boat is becoming fairly common among cruising boats. In fact, I'm seeing a shift to installing a 14"+/- hi-gain omni wifi antenna and connected via ultra-low loss coax to a hi-gain PCMCIA card in the ship's laptop. 1-2 mile arrange is usually achieved (up to 8 miles possible) with this kind of arrangement, and the cost for good hardware can run as low as $100 USD.

However, this approach isn't used nearly as much as cell phones ("mobiles" in Brit speak) thru-out Europe, either via GSM or GPRS phones. The former is quite slow and lacks bandwidth, the latter is very fast and can be breathtakingly expensive.

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Old 26-09-2005, 17:18   #3
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The sad but happy truth is you should find a lot of open networks. There are folks too dumb to encrypt the WiFi channel. That means with a directional high gain antenna you should be able to get free internet at most any marina especially if they have a lot of condos in the harbour.
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Old 26-09-2005, 19:00   #4
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Encryption, at least WEP encryption, is like a lock on your house. It keeps honest people honest. It won't stop most mid-level hackers. That being said, There are a few marinas where there appears to be little access to WiFi. The Sheraton Marina in New Bern, North Carolina for one. You'd think a hotel would have wireless@@

Oh well, I needed that DSL line anyway.

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Old 26-09-2005, 19:26   #5
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When I was working off my boat, I set up the higain antenna on the mizzen. We have a local provider set up here in the harbor, but I was curious if it was worth making the install a bit more permanent. It sounds like it is. As for the WEP encryption, As with most such things, the better the security gets, the better the hackers get. Fortunately, I just take the usual precautions, and do not keep anything to important on the online computer. I actually really appreciate the "hot spots", as the charges for WiFi at most of the encrypted servers are prohibitively expensive. It is like using a public computer to check your bank balance. Just a bad idea. To check the forum, or basic email, open WiFi is great.
Anyone know about Mexico?
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Old 26-09-2005, 19:36   #6
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A firewall will protect most of the contents of your machine VERY affectively. Just make sure you don't have any pinholes, and are aware the enabling file sharing CAN make you more vulnerable. That being said I don't worry about it much, and I used to do IT/Security/Infrastructure audits with IBM for many different customers.
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Old 26-09-2005, 20:09   #7
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It is funny how hungup people get on security. If you have sensitive enough info on your machine to warrant that level, well... but most of us just have some basic financial info at most.
The company I work for does have a lot of sensitive info on their computers as a part of doing business, but the security measures are so extreme that the computers are barely functional. I lose easily 20% in production just because of how slow the computer is in the quest for security.
Coincidentaly, I had locks and an alarm on my home, and got robbed 5 times. (remote area). I have come to the decision that insurance such as back up disks and keeping vital info in a more secure location are better than locks and alarms.
I have found the WiFi to be a great system on the boat. In this area, I am within 4 hours sailing of a fast connection anywhere in the bay. With the higain antenna, I get a good connection up to 3 miles out.
It would be great to be able to anchor off Baja, and check my email.
As for the DSL, the connection we have here is very fast, as it feeds from a DSL. We loose some speed, but it is very funtional.
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Old 27-09-2005, 05:40   #8
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KN, you might keep abreast of the content in the free monthly Latitude 38's to learn more about wifi access along Mexico's coast (I assume you mean the western side...).

Putting an antenna at a mizzen masthead would create quite a long coax run to the nav station; which coax did you use and did you find this acceptably sensitive when you left the marina environment the boat normally occupied?

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Old 27-09-2005, 18:44   #9
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The run is about 35' If I remember right, the cable is LMR 400, but I can not swear to that. Thick stuff though. The signal is a lot stronger with this antenna, then it is with the 5/8 wave mag mount set on deck, so I do not seem to be loosing much.
We live aboard, so the boat is occupied all the time. More so when I worked from the boat. No moisture problems at all. I have the coax run to a bulkhead fitting, and from the fitting to the nav station. I have rebuilt the forward berth into an office, but I have not figured out how to get the coax that far. That is the reason behind this thread, because before I go any further with this set-up, I want to make sure it will be of use. I have not used the WiFi under way, but I have used it while anchored out, about 2 miles from the the transmitter in Santa Cruz. I had a WiFi finder program, and when we first got the setup running, I got 3 miles out from the marina, and still showed a signal, but did not try to connect.
I did not know about the Latitude 38 segment. I browse through it every month, but I usually only read things that catch my eye. Tech stuff usually does not.
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Old 28-09-2005, 06:01   #10
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KN, thanks for that; pretty amazing performance. Your reception is far better than I would expect, and I suspect it's because of the signal you happen to have available at your marina (which may be directional and may be high-power). From the little I've read so far and from what I find in the fleet (in the Euro setting), you may find you need 600 coax for that length of coax run, should you be hoping to pick up library, coffee shop, etc. wifi signals. At least, that's what the reading I've done suggest so far...

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Old 28-09-2005, 22:50   #11
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Good thought on the coax. The administrator of our little network is a sailor, so he takes a real interest in making the system work for the boats here. He has transmitters set up in 3 locations in this harbor, connected to a DSL line. The 1st one is about 30-40 ft elevation, and the other 2 are 20-30' and are repeaters from the first. I am not sure how he has set up the other 2 harbors in this bay, but we have good coverage in all 3 on this network, as well as in the 2 anchorages. The technology is out there. I can always go to an internet cafe, but I have heard rumors that a lot of other marinas are setting up like ours. That is what I am really asking about. Of course, if I can find hot spots in anchorages, so much the better. A little embarressing pulling into a harbor just to check my email
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Old 29-09-2005, 05:59   #12
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The trick to better reception...

The trick to better reception in this case is an inline amplifier. The long length of coax does cause some signal loss (the longer, the more loss), so if you are not getting enough distance out of it, just add an amp.

Most people have 1 watt amps with an omni. I did see a 200 watt amp on eBay the other day, but it went up to $500! Damn, I wanted that !

I do all of my computing over this type of connection and am typing to you right now over it as well.

PS: To answer the original question... it is quite common in the Caribbean. If you have the range, you can often hook up to hotpots, internet access points, and hotels.
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Old 29-09-2005, 06:46   #13
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I would avoid running coax down the mast. And go another route. And there was a link on the net I saw a few months back, but for the life of me I can't find it. I'll keep trying to find it.

Note: Perfect!! I just found it: http://www.fantasia35.com/wifi.htm


But the route I would go, and MUCH cheaper then running coax.

Is place a Bridge/Access point in a water proof box, highest point you can at the mast, then using Cat5e. You can use 4 of the none used wires to carry power(POE-Power Over Ethernet) up to the Bridge/Access point and then other 4 for the ethernet connection. I have done this at home(for Amateur Radio), I have a AP up at 40 ft above to ground. The AP requires 5volts, but due to some loss for the 50ft run of Cat5e I have to inject 6.1Volts at the base, so that I get about 5volts at the top of the tower.

The problem with the coax is that even if you have the best quality, your always going to get some loss and since the power coming out of say a PCMCIA wireless car is so small(35mw-100mw) by the time it reaches the top of the mast you have lost alot of juice, and the same way coming down, if your in the area with a weak signal, you have less likely hood of receiving the signal down at the laptop due to the loss.

So the method of using the AP/Bridge at the top of the mast and just a few inches of run of coax from the AP to the Antenna you have next to no loss.

Hopefully this all made some sense.


This isn't the set of links I saw about mounting it on a sail but but will give you all the idea of what I was talking about:

http://www.ehomeupgrade.com/entry/89...tdoor_wireless
http://socalfreenet.org/book/print/56
http://socalfreenet.org/image/tid/20
http://www.bawug.org/howto/hacks/outdoor_intel2011/

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Old 29-09-2005, 17:01   #14
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Within the USA we can purchase PCMCIA wifi cards that are rated up to 200mW - a 100% improvement over what is legal in Europe. From what I have seen, a 200mW card is one of the critical pieces in a sensitive, long-range detection wifi system. The card we will purchase is only $60 USD or so.

Sean, the Caribbean IME is far less suitable for wifi coverage aboard boats than you stated. The tourist centers may offer wifi - there always seems to be a Starbucks where the cruise ship lands<g> - but anchorages and marinas, where boats gather, are rarely immediately adjacent to wifi-equpped tourist plazas & venues. And places like Charlotte Amalie aside, most of the Caribbean (to include the entire S rim, the entire central span, and almost all of the W rim) offer very little infrastructure that includes wifi. Or at least, that was true in 2000-2002 insofar as I could tell.

My hunch is that wifi hardware meets a need re: cruising in two generic venues: well-developed areas in First World countries & island nations, and otherwise in small tourist areas not representative of the remaining geographic area. Wish it weren't so...

Jack
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Old 29-09-2005, 21:45   #15
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Didgital, Crystal clear. I am also a HAM. This is an option, but as an old HF guy, I still like that mechanical connection/ I have the 200milliwatt card, and with the 12 db antenna, even with a 50% loss I am still pushing 300 milliwatts out the end. (in theory).
Jack and Sean, just the fact that both of you have that kind of info about the Carribean means there is an awareness, which translates to availability.
And Sean, I am also using WiFi here. Works great as long as we can keep the DSL working. Funny, the majority of the problems we encounter with our connection are in the hardline part of the system.
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