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how to access wireless signal from a ship in port


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#1
jomac

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My son is a cadet with merchant navy. He is away for 5 months & has his wifi enabled laptop with him. He cannot use this at sea as the ship uses satellite communication but he had hoped that he could use it when in port (only 24 hrs every 2 weeks) to access a signal from the the nearby buildings (his shipping company's offices). He is only getting 1 or maybe 2 bars - not enough to get fully on the net or to use Skype. His laptop is a dell inspiron 6400 using Vista. He comes into port in San Diego and Japan. Is there anything I can buy here in UK or order from USA that would boost his signal to allow him to get online. The local computer stores all give me conflicting information. Please help
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#2
Major Payne

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Hi:

If he has a PCMCIA card that allows use of an external wireless antenna, he can connect one and see how it works. I take it that he is trying his best to get outside to use the wireless as inside an all metal ship is not going to work too well no matter what he does.

An external antenna installation will, of course, require permission of his CO I'm sure, but an antenna that is portable shouldn't be a problem.

Here's some links that may help:

10 tips for improving your wireless network10 tips for improving your wireless network
High-gain Antennas
What is the best WiFi antenna for me?
Do It Yourself Wireless Antenna
World's Most Popular Wireless Booster Antenna

I have not tried nor used any of these so can not guaranteed how well they work, but an external antenna is better than a built in one.

Ron

More from companies I have dealt with:

NewEgg.com
TigerDirect.com

Edited by Major Payne, 04 May 2008 - 03:36 PM.

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#3
jomac

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MAny thanks for the quick reply. I've emailed some of the companies you suggested to see what they suggest. Will let you know
thanks again
Joy
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#4
Major Payne

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Hi Joy:

You're welcome. They may have a problem recommending anything right now as they need the info on what your son has in the way of wireless hookup. Can you get the information from him as to what he is using for a wireless setup on the laptop? I just took it that it was the standard PCMCIA card that he was using.

Ron


PC Card Primer
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#5
jomac

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Hi Ron
Can't get to him right now but it will be the standard PC Card which came with the laptop that he will be using. I found the laptop spec & it says Wireless Local Networking Dell Wireless 1390 802.11b/g Mini-PCI Card (for Celeron Processors. Is that of any help? He hasn't been off ship to buy anything & all his luggage is still sitting in Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport as British Airways lost it all. You can see why he wants to be able to make contact!!
joy
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#6
Major Payne

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Hi:

I found this: Dell Wireless 1390

I thought it was this: Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN 802.11g ExpressCard which is the Express card.

I'm not familiar with the Dell Wireless 1390, but if it takes an external antenna, then he'll be good to go with a high-gain wireless antenna.

Good luck.

Ron
Ex-Navy man :)
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#7
jomac

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I've just e-mailed him so once I get the details I'll go ahead & order. Many thanks once again for all your help. I see you are ex-Navy so you'll have an idea how he feels from a "just starting out" point of view!
Hopefully we'll be able to get him on-line soon
Joy
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#8
Major Payne

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Sounds good to me. Let me know how it goes and don't let them sell you something you don't really need. :)

Ron
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#9
jomac

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Still haven't managed to get intouch with him but I belive he will be in Japan tomorrow so hopefully will speak to him then. Meantime I have had 1 answer form a company called Radiolabs who suggest their Wave Magnum (high powered USB Wireless adaptor. 1/2 Watt output).
Then I am told by someone that nothing I buy will be of an use as the signal strength comes from the wireless router not the PC card (which I did know!) therefore if he connects to a public network using a booster wont help as it will be their router that produces the signal
I thought that a booster would increase his chances of picking up a signal from one of the buildings.
HELP
Joy
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#10
Major Payne

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Seems they all don't know what they are talking about. :) The PC Card and Routers may have different range coverages depending on what you want to pay for them. Both can be of the same signal strength (other conditions being equal), but usually the wireless service is set to cover the larger area in transmitting the signal. It can receive within its transmitting range provided the laptops and other wireless users transmit a decent signal. Even so, this can be hindered by obstructions or directivity (polarization) of the transmitting and receiving antenna systems.

My router and wireless card specs are for 700 feet coverage.

If a wireless card has a spec for only covering 200 feet or so, then certain actions must be taken to improve connectivity if the signal is too weak. Use of a high-gain directional antenna is one way. Using a directional antenna has its disadvantages though as you need to set it in the direction of the wireless system by monitoring the received signal strength. A reasonable high-gain omni-directional antenna allows an easier setup in most cases.

A booster, as Radiolabs seems to be talking about, is a wireless transmitter/receiver setup. A half-watt at the frequency of wireless isn't too bad, but the received signal strength is more of a concern. If he get an improve received signal strength that he can use, then his transmitting strength will more than likely be just fine. That's why a good high-gain wireless antenna would be okay. Now I'm assuming he will be outside the ship when trying to use wireless and may have to move around or orientate the external antenna for best reception.

The Wave Magnum's transmit power is just great for making sure his signal is received. The receive sensitivity specs seem pretty good too. It still depends on how far he will still be from the transmitting wireless antenna(s). Hopefully, they will be transmittingat reasonable power too or have one heck of a good antenna system set up to cover a large area. It will still be a trial and error thing.

I've been an amateur radio operator since I was 13 and hold an amateur radio and first class FCC radio license so have a lot of experience with this stuff. Wish I could be there to help out on it. :)

Ron

Edited by Major Payne, 10 May 2008 - 04:12 AM.

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