Trails End Computer Club                                     Lesson 12 - - Trails End WiFi
Make an effort to understand the works of our WiFi system and what you can do to improve your connection and speed.

There are 3 challenges to using a satisfactory WiFi connection and there are many things you can do to improve it.

1. Signal Strength: With the upgrades of towers, radios, antennas and internet connection, the park has provided  a premium and up to date system to work with. The towers are well spaced out for optimum coverage. The 4 radios installed on each tower are not only powerful but also use the latest technology for best connection. There are 4 antennas on each tower and are panel type with directional transmit and receive. Each radio/antenna combination beams a signal in the direction of a few homes.
Then where are the weak points:
A. The radio in our computers. Our radios typically have 28 mw of power, (1/40th of a watt). This is fine for what our computers were designed for (WiFi in the home, office, coffee shop, restaurant, library or airport), all indoors without our challenges.
B. Technology for WiFi has changed over the last few years. Many of us do not have the newest (802.11N) built into our radios. Being that the channels overlap, only 3 channels are typically used, 1,6,&11.
C. Large trees with a lot of moisture in their leaves will absorb a lot of radio energy if they are located between your computer and the antenna on the nearby tower.
D. The signal will not penetrate metal surfaces including siding and roof as well as cement fiber siding as found on some newer mobile homes, although it may penetrate windows. It may be possible to place the radio or a repeater or an antenna on a window sill and receive good reception throughout the home.

2. Interference: Interference coming from our very powerful microwave ovens, portable telephones, light fixtures and many other devices we use every day.

3. Speed: The FCC has recently set a benchmark of 10 Mbps (10 Million Bits Per Second). Goal being that end users could download data at 4 Mbps and to upload  at 1 Mbps. They are now working on gigabits per second.
Trails End has turned on the Fiber Optics connection in October 2014. Prior to that, our park used Time Warner cable and dividing that bandwidth among the WiFi users. I've experienced from 3 to 7 million bits per second with the new system. Fiber Optics is capable of 100,000,000 giga bits per second. That is far more than we can expect. Each person in the park is scheduled to receive no more than about 3 Mbps.

What can we do to upgrade our computers to the standards now available at Trails End?

alfaIf your computer came with Windows 8 or is less than 3 years old, you probably have a radio using 802.11N. Any older computer, you probably have an older radio. Regardless of what radio your computer contains, the following device will most likely improve your WiFi connection dramatically.
The Alfa 802.11G USB wireless long range radio is available in several models from 1000 to 5000 mw of power which makes the transmitter between 40 and 200 times more powerful than the radio in your computer. Mostly in the range of $30.00 to $40.00 at various on line stores including Amazon.
Just make sure you are getting a model with an (N) at the end as 802.11N. As long as the N is at the end it will work with the latest technology as well as being backward compatible to work on older WiFi systems.
To my knowledge, this is the simplest item to improve WiFi connection and speed.
You may attach an outdoor antenna to the Alfa radio above. The Hawking corner antenna is directional, may be pointed towards the WiFi source.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_5_9?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=alfa%20wifi%20usb%20adapter&sprefix=alfa+wifi%2Caps%2C288


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Netgear 300
Netgear N300 Range Extender Model EX2700. This unit can be placed on a window sill or plugged in a wall receptical where the WiFi signal is strong from the nearby tower. To set it up use a web browser and type into the address bar "www.mywifiext.net" enter "admin' and in the enter "password" then you will be connected to the N300 range extender. From here you can select the strongest signal from the park towers.
You can use most any device to do the above including a laptop, tablet, smart phone etc.
Use your WiFi network manager on the device to connect to the newly created WiFi network. It will be "Trails End ??_EXT". All your devices will be able to use this.


http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122616
http://www.amazon.com/NETGEAR-Extender-Essentials-Edition-EX2700/dp/B00L0YLRUW


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Rootenna
The Rootenna antenna enclosuer for a router to fit inside is a premium setup requiring some assembly and installation. Total cost can be over $200.00 but it works well. Complete instructions are available at  http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/images/hsmm_docs/Rootenna-W5MAE.pdf . With this setup, the antenna and router is mounted on a pole outside your home and network wires run into your home.



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A router may be placed in a Tupperware container and placed outside. Power and data wire must be run to the router. I have seen this work well.
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USB


This unit is inexpensive and simple to use. It looks to me that it could be the best solution. It mounts outdoors, has a 30 ft. USB cable. I have not tried or seen this unit. Going by reviews of this item, it should work well. http://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-150Mbps-Wireless-Adapter-Antenna/dp/B00DJ23D3W/ref=pd_sim_e_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=09YT4PNSPRTHQWTSDYGK




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Toast speed test

What you want to end up with is a dependable, fast as possible WiFi connection. There are several speed tests available. I prefer http://performance.toast.net/ . It is quick to give you an answer. As stated above, we can expect up to 3 Mbps. I often get 5 and more Mbps using only the Alfa radio listed above with my laptop computer.





Harold  Buechly,  First published 8/28/14, Updated 11/11/14, Updated 12/2/14