Wireless Range Extender for Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Wireless Networks' started by Doug White, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. Doug White

    Doug White Guest

    My 93 year old mother lives about 2000 miles away, so I don't have a lot
    of access to the setup for experiments. She is on dial-up, and doing
    anything but text based email is painful, if not impossible. I can read
    my web-mail faster by driving 5 miles to the library and back.

    She has some wonderful neighbors, who have offered the use of their
    wireless network IF we can get a decent signal. The Mac Mini she has
    contains another piece of Apple's crap antenna engineering, and it can't
    see a thing. My cheapo netbook can get one & sometimes 2 bars in the
    same room. The room the Mac lives in is on the side of the house facing
    the neighbors, and there is a window out of which you can see their
    house, maybe 60 feet away.

    So, the plan is to get a range extender or its functional equivalent. I
    figure the best bet is to get a dual antenna box (for multipath
    mitigation) with removable antennas. That way if the box won't do it by
    itself, we can upgrade the antennas for more gain.

    The info I've found from a cursory search is pretty vague. From a
    theoretical standpoint, I can see two options:

    1) Get what amounts to a wireless adapter that I can plug into the Mac
    with a long enough cable to get across the room to the window. That
    would have to be Mac compatible.

    2) Get a box that communicates on one channel with the neighbor's
    wireless system, and then talks to the Mac on another channel. That's
    what I would consider a "repeater", and presumably it wouldn't require
    anything Mac specific to get it up & running.

    The two brands I've found with upgradable dual antennas so far are the
    Amped R10000, which as gotten a lot of good reviews on Amazon, and the
    Hawking HWREN2, which has a lot fewer reviews, several of which are
    pretty scathing.

    There is also an upgradeable single antenna box specifically for Macs:

    http://store.bearextender.com/products/bearextender-mini

    It connects via USB, and is presumably just a highpower wireless adapter.

    Can anyone clarify exactly what is meant by a "range extender" (i.e. are
    they all basically just repeaters?)?

    Any specific suggestions about good boxes to get or avoid would also be
    appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Doug White
     
    Doug White, Feb 28, 2013
    #1
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  2. [snip... regarding a Mac Mini that's missing hitting
    an access point by "that much"]

    If both houses are fed by the same transformer,
    a poweline adapter set might be a good option.

    For some reason there's a heavy amount of resistance
    to using them, but they do often work.

    Another suggestion that you did mention was using
    an external WiFi unit. THat is, in fact, what
    I was doing in a similar situation. I have a
    Hawking, something or another, about the size
    of two cigarettes wrapped together, that plugs
    into a USB port on my Mac. I then have a 15 foot
    USB cable which lets me stick the Hawking over
    by my window.

    So yes, those can succeed. But... you won't really
    know until you try it.
     
    danny burstein, Feb 28, 2013
    #2
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  3. 60ft is quite close and well within range of wireless. However, the
    internal wireless and antenna in the Mac Mini (which flavor??) may be
    too small to even make it out of the room. Therefore, an external
    wireless client would be required. It could be a "wireless ethernet
    client bridge" but could also just be a USB wireless client.
    Range extenders and store and forward repeaters suck. Avoid if
    possible.
    Nope.

    Put your money in the antenna not the radio. You don't need a high
    power xmitter for 60ft. Instead I suggest a simple USB radio with an
    external antenna connector, such as:
    <http://www.ebay.com/itm/281031883606>
    Toss the small antenna, and attach it to a real antenna such as:
    <http://www.ebay.com/itm/321046735473>
    You'll also need at least 5 meters of USB extension cable. Officially,
    5 meters is the limit, but you can probably go another few meters
    without difficulties as long as the radio doesn't draw too much power.

    Also, 60ft is well within the limits of WIRED ethernet. It would
    probably be much easier, faster, and better to run 60+ft of buriable
    and waterproof CAT5 between her Mac Mini and the neighbors router.
    <http://www.ebay.com/itm/160979087594>
     
    Jeff Liebermann, Feb 28, 2013
    #3
  4. Doug White

    DevilsPGD Guest

    The resistance is usually just due to their inherent unreliability, plus
    the fact that you never really know if they'll work until you invest.

    For example, if your house is fed by two 120V circuits on different
    phases (designed to offer 240V to specific appliances), it will only
    work on half of a single house, and half of your neighbour's house,
    despite being fed from the same transformer.

    That's not to say they're an inherently bad solution, it's just less
    than ideal.
     
    DevilsPGD, Mar 1, 2013
    #4
  5. Doug White

    Doug White Guest

    I actually used to have a powerline system in my house to get from my
    office to the basement. The basement has an "expanded metal lath" &
    plaster ceiling, which makes it like a Faraday cage for wireless. The
    hardware I got was a Homeplug 2 system from Netgear. It was a pain to
    get working, and the hardware was unreliable. After having 3 pieces die
    (only one in warranty), I said to heck with it & snaked an ethernet cable
    up into the attic, across the house & down a utility chase into the
    basement.

    Between the variability cited about powerline phases between two houses,
    and the flaky hardware, I never gave it any thought for my Mom's problem.
    I suppose another brand's hardware might work more reliably, but the USB
    wireless adapter sounds like the way to go.

    Doug White
     
    Doug White, Mar 2, 2013
    #5
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