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Old 03-05-2015, 15:42   #1
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WiFi conundrums

While I know there are no stupid questions, I'm going to push that envelope here.

Like many people I've come to appreciate an Internet connection. I have WiFi in my home with phones, tablets, laptops, and even the bloody TV connected.

So naturally I'm interested when I see all these posts and ads for WiFi extenders to be used while sailing. But I must question how useful are they really? There are not too many unsecured WiFi routers out there including mine. If I travel even a dozen miles, who do I connect through? Would the connection be secure enough for online banking? I suspect that you now see the depth of my ignorance.

Can anyone point me towards a reference source that an elderly gent with a science degree and probably a few too many rums in his life, can comprehend? There are times when I think my gray cells are no longer on a first name basis. 😜

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Old 03-05-2015, 15:55   #2
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Re: WiFi conundrums

Rich,

There is no one solution and this side of the pond I am finding more wifi locked down or limited so you need to pay the marina. However, we have this on board which for the money boosts the range considerably. There are other much more costly options but for occasional use probably worth having on board. Is it secure, nope! you are accessing someone else's wifi so treat with caution.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ALFA-AWUS036...a+wifi+antenna

Your other option is a dongle with a sim card accessing the mobile network. This has proved to be far more useful.
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Old 03-05-2015, 15:59   #3
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Re: WiFi conundrums

While I can't point you to any web pages, I can say with absolute certainty that sailing wouldn't be the same without my wifi range extender. My 'bullet' bit the dust the other day and it really put a big damper on the sailing trip I was on. Even parked at a marina I was unable to connect to free wifi with my laptop wifi.
Unfortunately you are right, unsecured hot spots are getting quite rare. I personally provide an open hotspot at my house and my boat as it is the neighbourly thing to do. Would I do any banking that way - no. I do web browsing and I check my email. Yes my email password could be intercepted but it's not the end of the world if it is.
With the trend of businesses to provide free internet as a service, there are gradually increasing opportunities to check email again.
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Old 03-05-2015, 16:11   #4
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Re: WiFi conundrums

There's lots of past threads about that if you do a big of digging.

In the U.S., I often use a cell phone signal. In the Bahamas and BVIs, I tend to make use of the occasional bar or restaurant offering Wifi. On rare occasion I've paid for weekly internet access, but that's only helpful if I'm hanging out in the few spots they have a signal. I had an extender for a while, and it did help me grab a signal at a couple anchorages where I otherwise would not have been able to get a signal, but overall I found it to be of very limited use.

Usually, I'm somewhere there's simply no wifi signal to be had, amplified or not. Usually, I can get a cellphone signal, but that's costly. I did have a crew who just decided to pay the cellphone access fees for her iPad.

In the Bahamas anyways, it's easy enough to find a bar or coffee shop offering free wifi to guests, so occasionally hang out there for a few hours catching up. Getting Wifi thrown in kind of justifies the high beer prices - lol.

Getting a cellphone text isn't too expensive, so that helps me stay away from Wifi, knowing that if an emergency comes up, people have a way to reach me.

I think so much depends on where you want to spend your time. Being at the dock in Key West is very different than hanging on the hook in the Bahamas 30 miles or more from the nearest town.
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Old 03-05-2015, 16:25   #5
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Re: WiFi conundrums

For the past three years we've relied on the Alfa 1000 and a Verizon Jet Pack hot spot. The Alfa 1000 is a little workhorse and better then the Alfa 2000. The only caveat is that the Alfas won't work with Windows 8.1. At least I can't get mine to work with 8.1. With these two there were very few places, even in the Bahamas where we didn't have access to wifi. Most times it was free, but there were times when we paid for access. Our normal cruising grounds are the East Coast, the Keys and the Bahamas.
There are more powerful units out there, but I just couldn't justify the cost. We're talking $250-350 verses 25 bucks for the Alfa. Depending on your cruising grounds you may need something other then the Alfa.
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Old 03-05-2015, 16:38   #6
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Re: WiFi conundrums

Thank you all,
I'm beginning to get the impression that I should compile a list of bars with free WiFi. I wonder if I can deduct my "research " expenses?? Of course I would have less of a problem with the IRS than my wife!!

I shall have to ponder. But the short answer seems to be that unless one is cruising between marinas the aggravation might not be worth the cost.

Like most things too good to be true.....

Of course someday they might have a worldwide net accessible anywhere but not in my time.

Thanks again,
Rich


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Old 03-05-2015, 17:00   #7
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Re: WiFi conundrums

Quote:
Originally Posted by cabo_sailor View Post
Of course someday they might have a worldwide net accessible anywhere but not in my time.
I wouldn't be so quick to count this option out. I think it was google who have figured out a way to build balloons very cheap to bring wifi to the masses. Now granted, they will not be flying balloons over the ocean but since they would fly fairly high up, they would cover a long ways over the ocean too. I expect coastal cruising in North America will get constant wifi within two or three years ( ... and the glass is half full).
On a related note ... how the heck will they keep them geostationary ?
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Old 03-05-2015, 17:14   #8
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Re: WiFi conundrums

I was off on a number of things. Here is a link: New Zealand pilot test ? Project Loon ? Google
Turns out that the system uses LTE technology and not wifi but more importantly, the coverage of one balloon is only about a 40 km circle so I would expect it would only be feasible to fly the balloon in an area if there are enough people in that 40 km circle and obviously coverage would be concentrated on land.
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Old 03-05-2015, 18:30   #9
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Re: WiFi conundrums

Hi,

Depending upon your cruising grounds usually determines internet provider.
Some home providers also have wi-fi connects through your provider, I.E. Optimum in NY,Ct,LI.area.You won't be watching movies via streaming but is pretty good."keep alive" download connection utility apps.will not lose what you've D/Led and reconnect where broke off connection.Load one of these into your laptop/IPad.
Best bet look for very generous mobile data plans through cell providers.
In all the possible providers whether wi-fi,mi-fi,cell data....the range extender will help greatly !

BUT..... always a but- extenders only extend range up to 24 miles (curvature of earth) via line of site for broadband bandwidths. Beyond that distance SAT or SSB will give ,what,a max of 24kbps? slow but good for weatherfax and emailable.


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Old 03-05-2015, 18:43   #10
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Re: WiFi conundrums

@ Jd

A couple of small startups looking at ocean crossing jetliners as repeaters ofF SATs for some/most ocean marine coverage for semi-broadband (LOL).

The LEOSat-low earth orbit sats can never be geostationary think Iridium birds for example very spendy. I suspect one day soon ocean broadband will come with lower costs.
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Old 03-05-2015, 22:25   #11
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Re: WiFi conundrums

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Originally Posted by Arthur Garfield View Post
BUT..... always a but- extenders only extend range up to 24 miles (curvature of earth) via line of site for broadband bandwidths.
Real life data would suggest a limit of about 5 miles over water in a best case scenario if you are using omni directional antennas.
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Old 04-05-2015, 05:24   #12
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Re: WiFi conundrums

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Originally Posted by cabo_sailor View Post
I shall have to ponder. But the short answer seems to be that unless one is cruising between marinas the aggravation might not be worth the cost.

I'd say it's not just about unsecured sites and marina access. We've been in some mooring fields and larger marinas where even paid access was problematic... because of distance from the various access points.

FWIW, we just use a simple and inexpensive USB Wi-Fi adapter (Radio Lab's Wave Magnum) for that; they improve reception nicely in that kind of situation, and it's a relatively painless installation (plug-in, load driver, work).

-Chris
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Old 11-05-2015, 14:48   #13
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Re: WiFi conundrums

I've just installed a WiFi booster setup that's been working really well on our boat:

https://sailingyachtamalia.wordpress...cess-on-board/

we've been connecting to WiFi networks over 2 miles away - on a busy seafront we find that there's usually at least one cafe with free wifi that we can borrow.
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Old 23-05-2015, 09:23   #14
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Re: WiFi conundrums

In many places the easy way round is a 3g/4G/LTE wifi router: plug a sim card into the router and you have full wifi onboard. Cost about USD 10 ber Giga plus router (about USD 50, I think). Note some plain routers have 3G USB slots too today. It costs less if you are on contract with a local mobile provider.

In other places a fine set of high gain external antenna / twin antenna wifi range extender will work great too. Subject to free wifi availability and/or your willingness to patronize the nearest waterfront bar.

Where these are lacking I just walk to the nearest public city library as many offer wifi at no cost. I buy them a fine book when I sail away.

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