Cantennas and Better Wireless Signals
Getting a good wireless signal to your laptop in various situations is a combination of science and art that may include cantennas.
The highly useful but 'caveat emptorish' Wikipedia, as of 5:07 pm, CST, today, says a cantenna is a "directional waveguide antenna for long-range Wi-Fi used to increase the range of (or snoop on) a wireless network. Originally built using a Pringles potato chip can, a cantenna can be constructed quickly, easily, and inexpensively using readily obtained materials...The term 'Cantenna' originally referred to a product sold by Heathkit Co. in Benton Harbor, MI."
Sometimes your standard laptop wireless configuration (built-in, PC card wireless adapter or USB wireless adapter) gives you only a weak wireless connection, or possibly no connection even though there's a wifi access point in the area. That happens to be the case for my daughter who is a senior in college. She has no internet access in her apartment (long story) but she is very close to a laundromat that has a free wifi hotspot. Sometimes she gets a weak wifi signal, but it sometimes won't connect and other times cuts out after very short connection times.
Some searching was done on the net for answers to this weak wifi signal problem, and the situation was discussed with a few people. We figured out a couple kludges, but didn't come up with what seemed like a clean solution.
At the NEW NET gathering on 02 Jan 02007 we discussed cantennas and the scarcity of usb wifi adapters with external antenna connectors. After kicking around a couple ideas and looking at the Wireless Hacks book, Andy M did some online searching and came up with the perfect solution.
I called the company that sells the perfect solution, Air802 LLC, and discussed combinations of their equipment that should work well for my daughter. We ended up choosing the wireless USB Adapter 802.11b/g With External Antenna Connection #USB-ADG-1, the 2.4 GHz Yagi 10dBi Antenna #ANYA2410, and a 10' coax adapter cable with an N connector on one end to go to the antenna and an RPSMA connector to go to the USB wireless adapter. The gentleman I talked to was friendly, helpful and answered all my questions. He said he started selling the USB wireless adapters with the antenna connector because boat and RV owners kept asking for them.
Next week we'll see how well this solution works. I'll be in California visiting my daughter and will set up the equipment to try and provide her with a net connection. If for some reason it doesn't work well for her situation, we'll just experiment with the equipment for myDigitechnician purposes in Wisconsin. If it works very well, it might even make sense to recommend a similar setup for some of the myDigitechnician clients who have problems getting good wireless signals on their home networks.