please help: some questions about Wireless (wifi) networks,Linksys products, range extension

Discussion in 'Wireless Internet' started by Mike Levin, Jul 4, 2003.

  1. Mike Levin

    Mike Levin Guest

    Hi all -

    I know this general issue has probably been discussed to death; I have
    some specific questions which I'm hoping to get good advice about. I've done
    a lot of on-line research on this topic and am now bewildered by the
    General background: I have an old Victorian house, with some tin
    ceilings and god-knows what else in the walls. My office is on the 2nd
    floor, and this is where the cable (broadband internet) comes into the
    house. That's where I have a cable modem and a Linksys Wireless router (the
    kind with four ethernet ports also). Downstairs, right under the office, I
    have three devices with wireless cards (wife's computer etc.) - that works
    ok. I also have a Macintosh laptop (older Titanium) with an Airport card,
    which works fine in my office and downstairs; however I do a lot of writing
    at night and would like to be able to use the laptop to be on-line in the
    back yard or on the porch (across the whole house). The wireless signal I
    get in those locations is miserable and it's too hard to work that way. So,
    from my reading, these are the options I can think of:

    1) move the wireless router to the middle of the house. This one is tough
    because it requires relocating the cable hole in the side of the house. It
    might be doable, but the problem is that I can't try it to see if it helps
    before actually going through with it. Also I would *really* like to be able
    to help my problem without involving the cable company, taking a day off
    work to wait for the guy to show up, extra holes drilled in the house, etc.

    2) get a newer wireless router. Mine is a Linksys and has no version number
    (it's one of the earliest ones made). Now I see v2 and even v3 on their
    website. Do the newer ones have better range? Is there any difference
    between v2 and v3 (if I see v2 in the store, should I get it or can I get a
    v3 on-line somewhere)?

    3) get a booster. I just bought a Linksys wireless booster, and attached it
    to the router I have. I noticed no difference whatsoever, despite the
    excellent reviews this thing got on-line. Any ideas why? I called the
    Linksys tech support and they said to try different channels. Do the
    channels really affect the range? And, are there better booster/amplifier
    devices out there that people can recommend?

    4) get a repeater. Is it possible to get a device which would just plug into
    the wall (for electricity) and have no other wired connections, and would
    extend my range by repeating outward whatever weak signal it got? This
    sounds ideal - I could stick it somewhere on the 1st floor. Would this work?
    Are there any down-sides (does it slow everything down by a lot, etc.)? What
    products would you recommend? I see that the newer Linksys routers can be
    used in "repeater" mode. How does this work? Is there a document on-line
    which describes how to set it up that way (what channels to use, how to do
    the setup, etc.)? And, can my old (v.0?) device do this? If I buy a new one,
    I'm probably better off making it the primary access point (connected to the
    cablemodem) and making my old one the repeater, right? Can the old one do
    this (maybe a firmware upgrade is needed)?

    5) get antennas. I tried buying two non-directional antennas about twice the
    size of the ones which were on the unit. It hasn't made much of a
    difference. If I get a directional one, does it have to be outside? If so
    (people say to stick it out the window), I'll need a cable of some sort, but
    I've also read that antenna cables sap range. I'm not up to making my own
    antenna; can anyone recommend a decent directional antenna or reflector
    which would be good?

    6) maybe the problem is with the laptop. So, I tried my wife's laptop with
    an Orinoco PCMCIA wireless card in it. Indeed it works much better on the
    porch than the Mac. I've read that the early Macs have their antennas inside
    the metal case which reduces range. I've tried the Orinoco card in my Mac
    and it's somewhat better (although weirdly, not as good as it was when it
    was in the PC!). But now I have this thing sticking out the side of my
    laptop and it no longer fits into my laptop case. Pulling it out
    necessitates a reboot (the driver I found apparently sucks) - a pain in the
    ass. Does anyone know of anything I can do to my laptop to improve its
    receptivity using the built-in airport card (add-on antennas or anything
    like that)?

    7) does 802.11g help? I don't need to go any faster; does the new .g
    standard increase the range at all?

    Any help on these issues would be greatly appreciated. If possible, please
    cc: replies to . Thank you in advance!

    Mike Levin
    Mike Levin, Jul 4, 2003
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  2. Mike Levin

    Bob Harris Guest

    You do not need to mess with the cable company.

    But you might consider running an ethernet cable (your own) from your
    current linksys router to another part of the house. Use the attic,
    closets etc... to keep the wire out of site.

    At the other end, attach a 2nd Wireless Access Point device. Set the
    SSID to match the first device. Set the WEP encryption key to the same
    as the first device. _BUT_ use a different channel for the 2nd device
    so that the first and 2nd devices to not conflict. Tell the 2nd
    wireless access point to use the Linksys as its router. Do _NOT_ set up
    the 2nd access point as a DHCP server. All you want is for it forward
    traffic to your linksys.

    This 2nd device could be in the basement, attic, or anywhere you can
    snake the ethernet cable and you have power.

    I have done this. I have DSL and the DSL modem is in the dining room.
    I also have a router and an Airport Base Station in the dining room (the
    room is actually used as my wife's office). But this location makes it
    difficult to connect from the back porch. So I have a 2nd SMC wireless
    unit in an upstairs bedroom which is on the opposite side of the house.

    The ethernet cable goes down the wall (foot and a half) into the
    basement. Across the basement under a linin closet. Through the floor
    into the linin closet up the wall into a linin closet just above it on
    the 2nd floor, through the linin closet wall into the back bedroom
    closet where it attaches to the SMC wireless unit.

    I have very good whole house coverage in any room and outside.
    Just changing the wireless access point most likely will not help much.
    Some units may broadcast better than others, but with all the walls you
    have to go through and the TiBook having bad WiFi reception, I don't
    think it will really help.

    But if you can return the unit without costing you anything, you could
    give this a try.
    I suspect that unless you change the location, the basic problem of your
    house and the TiBook will not get much better.
    I'm fairly sure that some of the newer Airport Base Stations can forward
    traffic via WiFi so that you can have an extended network. But verify
    before you buy. The same may be true for other WiFi vendors. Do some
    investigating on their web sites (linksys, d-link, SMC, Netgear, etc...).
    There has been much discussion about the TiBook and its short WiFi range.

    Bob Harris
    Bob Harris, Jul 4, 2003
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  3. As I mentioned in a prior post, this sounds very similar to my house in
    which I have installed a similar wireless network.


    Sure you can (and should) first try it without actually relocating your
    cable modem. If you unplug your cable modem and move your router to the
    middle of the house, you will not have Internet access but you will
    nonetheless be able to use your network to transfer files, which will let
    you determine how well this works. In fact, this could well be your best
    plan of all so that you are certain where to relocate the cable modem.

    Although I have the wireless network now working well in my house, I
    probably spent 2-3 hours experimenting with various locations for the
    wireless router until deciding on a permanent location. It is sensitive
    enough that there is literally only one half of one bedroom in which I could
    place the router and signal booster to provide coverage throughout the whole
    house. And although I can now get 500kbps or greater Internet access
    reliably anywhere in the house, it is also true that in some locations in
    the house this reliable fast access nonetheless is received with a signal
    strength of "poor." But its performance is excellent nonetheless so I am
    not complaining.

    Also, are you absolutely commited to using a cable modem? If DSL is
    avaialble, the router could be anywhere you have a phone line. But of
    course that could be a significant commitment of time and expense to switch
    from a cable modem to DSL.

    Yes, I have found that a PCMCIA wireless card works better than a
    built-inWi-Fi antenna. In fact, although my personal laptop works very well
    throughout my house with its built-in Wi-Fi antenna, another IDENTICAL
    laptop computer (a Presario 2100) will not pick up the Wi-Fi signal in the
    far reaches of the house with its buil-in Wi-Fi antenna but does just fine
    with a Linksys Ver 3 PCMCIA card. If that is what it takes to make it work,
    I do not think it is a big deal to take out the PCMCIA card when traveling
    with the laptop.
    Richard Kaplan, Jul 4, 2003
  4. Mike Levin

    Mike Levin Guest

    Sure you can (and should) first try it without actually relocating your
    good idea! I'll give it a shot.
    pulling the card out is not a big deal. The problem is that the driver is
    crappy and requires a reboot every time the card is taken out and
    re-inserted (the machine does not see it until you restart).

    Mike Levin, Jul 5, 2003

  5. Can the laptop handle Windows XP? Windows XP is pretty graceful at handling
    hot removal/insertion of PCMCIA cards, much better than Win 95 or Win 98.
    Richard Kaplan, Jul 5, 2003
  6. Mike Levin

    Mike Levin Guest

    Nope - it's a Macintosh laptop; a very nice machine which works great with
    the built-in Airport card. The Orinoco card needs special drivers which I
    think aren't optimal...

    Mike Levin, Jul 5, 2003
  7. Mike Levin

    Tom Carter Guest

    Tom Carter, Jul 7, 2003
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