WIFI help for a beginner

Discussion in 'Computing and Networks' started by SOJOURNER, Jun 27, 2011.

  1. SOJOURNER

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    6
    0
    This is my first posting in this forum. Being the new owner of my first laptop PC, I’m having a harder than expected time of coming up to speed with wireless technology and the many available wireless options.

    SITUATION: I live directly across the street from a wifi coffee shop. Their wifi signal is too weak to watch a NETFLIX movie anywhere in the apartment except right at the window where their signal comes through. On the other hand, it’s strong enough to tempt me to look into various USB antenna adapters, extenders, repeaters, client bridge-wireless router configurations, etc. All I’ve really learned about this equipment, so far, are their names, and a vague understanding of what they do.

    DISCLAIMER/S: Before I continue, I would like to assure anyone who might be concerned about the ethicality or legality of the activity I’m describing, here, that I did contact the coffee shop in question. They assured me that, although they would prefer it if I came in to order coffee when I used their wifi, I was as entitled to use their wifi signal as their paying customers are. In terms of my references to ‘NETFLIX’ or any other proprietary internet subscription services, understand that I’m referring to accounts and services which I belong to and pay for.

    MY TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE: At the risk of trying everyone’s patience with me, I would like to describe my understanding of the following wifi equipment, to give your feedback an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions I may have picked up, so far.

    WIFI REPEATERS AND WIFI EXTENDERS: It’s my understanding that these are synonymous terms used interchangeably to refer to the same equipment, and that they are, functionally speaking, a receiving antenna/circuit and a transmitting antenna/circuit combined in one package, and serve to, in a manner of speaking, “bend” a wifi signal in a different direction that is otherwise blocked to the line of sight.

    CLIENT BRIDGES AND WIRELESS ROUTERS: It’s my understanding that a client bridge has a receiving antenna/circuit with which it receives wifi signals, but instead of a “transmitting side”, it offers the functionality of coming with one or more Ethernet ports with which a wireless router may be connected to provide wifi connectivity to the internet. It would be my assumption that a client bridge-wireless router configuration would have an advantage over a wifi repeater or extender in providing flexibility of stationing the client bridge for optimal reception and stationing the wireless router for optimal coverage.

    MY QUESTION: I know the basic difference between directional and omni directional antennas. What I would like to know is if the receiving antenna part of repeaters, extenders and client bridges is directional or omni directional in nature, or if they are available in both “versions”, because when I get to the point where I’m ready to make a purchase, I’d like to know exactly what to ask for as well as what I’m getting.

    Also, all the information I’ve encountered, so far, indicates that this equipment does not amplify the wifi signal received, only passes it on. This really puzzles me. It’s true that I don’t know anything about electronics or the physics of radio frequency. But, on the basis of the general state of technology that we live in, it’s difficult for me to imagine very much which is not technically possible. Thank you everyone.
     
  2. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
    1,328
    Welcome to AAC, sojourner!

    I was once in the EXACT same predicament, before I got my own hi-speed internet. I ended up buying one of these at a flea market for $10. You could probably get one for fairly cheap off ebay, if you don't have any flea markets nearby.
    Anyway, it worked the way it was, but the signal was still fairly low. I took a cylindrical plastic container and cut it in half (vertically). This gave me a sort of 'U' shape that would work as a reflector. I lined the inside with aluminum foil and set my usb wifi receiver inside it at the focus of the reflector. I was able to raise my reception by 1-2 bars, which was enough for me to watch TV and movies online.
    I hope this is what you were looking for.
    Good luck!
    Der Strom
     
  3. SOJOURNER

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    6
    0
    Thanks for your input, Der Strom. I enjoy experimenting with projects and will give it a try.
    However, I was hoping that my question was precise enough to get some precise feedback, with respect to the question I posted.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  4. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,766
    2,536
    Problem is, there is not a simple answer. You are going to have to use a trial and error approach, which is the same as one of us would have to do.

    Any device with an antenna can use both types, a omni or a directional. The type of connector in question is a type N, which is a microwave style connector. The antenna's specs will depend entirely on the antenna, and will be posted on the side of the box.

    The extenders recieve the signal, process it, and retransmit it both ways, it is not really a straight through shot such as you are thinking of. While I am not certain I believe there will be a slight delay in this processing time, which for a fast streaming application is not good. Again, I don't know this for certain.

    The reason a directional antenna would likely work better is it has an internal gain (all antenna do), and this gain is equivalent to an amplifier.

    You are likely going to have to put an extender with a directional antenna to retransmit this signal locally.

    Router - Usually recieves a wired internet signal, and converts it to wirelss. Not sure what a client bridge is, but a router is pretty defined. Most of them are computers in their own right, complete with web pages built in. They can be used as a firewall.

    Access point, takes a computer that is getting internet (usually wired) and allows other computers to piggy back off it for their internet. Usually slows the network to the other computers.

    I'm not an expert, but I've had a house network longer than anyone else I know. The internet came after my local network.

    One side thought, signals like this are the least secure I can think of. To an expert hacker if you are on such a setup your computer is a open book, there is nothing they can not access once you are connected. You might notice some slowdown on your machine, but they could back up your hard disk if they so chose.
     
  5. mbxs3

    Active Member

    Oct 14, 2009
    141
    3
  6. SOJOURNER

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    6
    0
    MY QUESTION: I know the basic difference between directional and omni directional antennas. What I would like to know is if the receiving antenna part of wifi repeaters, extenders and client bridges is directional or omni directional in nature, or if they are available in both “versions”, because when I get to the point where I’m ready to make a purchase, I’d like to know exactly what to ask for as well as what I’m getting.

    Also, all the information I’ve encountered, so far, indicates that this equipment does not amplify the wifi signal received, only passes it on. This really puzzles me. It’s true that I don’t know anything about electronics or the physics of radio frequency. But, on the basis of the general state of technology that we live in, it’s difficult for me to imagine very much which is not technically possible.

    SITUATION: I live directly across the street from a wifi coffee shop. Their wifi signal is too weak to watch a NETFLIX movie anywhere in the apartment except right at the window where their signal comes through. On the other hand, it’s strong enough to tempt me to look into various USB antenna adapters, extenders, repeaters, client bridge-wireless router configurations, etc. All I’ve really learned about this equipment, so far, are their names, and a vague understanding of what they do.

    DISCLAIMER/S: Before I continue, I would like to assure anyone who might be concerned about the ethicality or legality of the activity I’m describing, here, that I did contact the coffee shop in question. They assured me that, although they would prefer it if I came in to order coffee when I used their wifi, I was as entitled to use their wifi signal as their paying customers are. In terms of my references to ‘NETFLIX’ or any other proprietary internet subscription services, understand that I’m referring to accounts and services which I belong to and pay for.

    MY TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE: At the risk of trying everyone’s patience with me, I would like to describe my understanding of the following wifi equipment, to give your feedback an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions I may have picked up, so far.

    WIFI REPEATERS AND WIFI EXTENDERS: It’s my understanding that these are synonymous terms used interchangeably to refer to the same equipment, and that they are, functionally speaking, a receiving antenna/circuit and a transmitting antenna/circuit combined in one package, and serve to, in a manner of speaking, “bend” a wifi signal in a different direction that is otherwise blocked to the line of sight.

    CLIENT BRIDGES AND WIRELESS ROUTERS: It’s my understanding that a client bridge has a receiving antenna/circuit with which it receives wifi signals, but instead of a “transmitting side”, it offers the functionality of coming with one or more Ethernet ports with which a wireless router may be connected to provide wifi connectivity to the internet. It would be my assumption that a client bridge-wireless router configuration would have an advantage over a wifi repeater or extender in providing flexibility of stationing the client bridge for optimal reception and stationing the wireless router for optimal coverage.
    I would appreciate any feedback from professionals and experts in this specialty, because this is not my area of knowledge, at all. Thank You.
     
  7. SOJOURNER

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    6
    0
    I would like to ask you a couple of follow-up questions to your reply, if I may.

    After following your, "these" link, the picture I saw looks like an external USB adapter similar to what I'm currently using. It's a Hawking model 150N and the only difference is that it has a small, adjustable, detachable antenna.

    From what I gather, it seems that you were doing something similar to what I'm doing now: I plug my usb wifi adapter into a usb hub that has a long cable that I plug into the laptop's usb port, then I velcroed the hub onto the window sill so the antenna is right in the window facing the wifi coffee shop. It made a dramatic improvement. The only problem is that my laptop is still tethered to a cable.

    Because my command of syntax in this field is somewhat lacking, I'd like to clarify a couple of more things if I may. I presumed that your reference to your "usb wifi receiver" refers to the equivalent of what I described, above, as my usb antenna adapter. Please correct me if you are referring to an additional piece of receiving equipment.

    Now, your description of the reflector you crafted sounds fascinating. Two questions: 1. does using the aluminum foil with the "shiny" side facing outward versus the "dull" side facing outward have an influence on any properties? 2. how do you determine where the focus of the reflector is? Thanks, again for your time.
     
  8. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
    1,328
    Yes, the USB wifi receiver is what you described above. I guess I failed to mention that it still requires a cable between the receiver and the computer. They do make wireless usb-usb adapters, but I'm guessing that's a bit more costly than you'd like.

    The direction of the aluminum foil on the reflector is not critical. It should work just as well either way.

    The focus of the reflector is basically just the center, provided that the shape is half a circle (viewed from the top). Putting the USB wifi adapter here will optimize your reception.

    Ideally, a parabolic reflector would be used, but it is more difficult to make with household materials, and somewhat expensive to buy. On the other hand, some Chinese cooking pans have a parabolic shape, and are readily available. Perhaps the Poor Man's WI-FI will give you some inspiration and/or ideas. You may also be able to find some old satellite dishes at scrap yards or recycling centers. If they still have the "arm" on them, you'll know about where the focus is. However, these are probably a bit bigger than you would like to have in your home. I would stick with old soda bottles or Asian cookware, personally ;)

    I hope this helps!
    Der Strom
     
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