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External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range - Mac Networking

I posted a while ago looking for advice on using a second PC-Card w/ external antenna on a PowerBook, OS X, in this article: <130520042206072550%com> Now, I have something that works. I'm sharing in case it will help anyone else. And, I have a few questions. Summary: - I have PowerBooks with internal Airport cards that work very well in my own environments. - To get extreme range for other environments, I have added: SMC2532W-B Elite Connect 802.11b PC-Card, SMCHMANT-6 directional antenna, and IOExperts 802.11 driver which all work very well. IOExperts installer and instructions were top-notch. - I have ...

  1. #1

    Default External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    I posted a while ago looking for advice on using a second PC-Card w/
    external antenna on a PowerBook, OS X, in this article:

    <130520042206072550%com>

    Now, I have something that works. I'm sharing in case it will help
    anyone else. And, I have a few questions.

    Summary:
    - I have PowerBooks with internal Airport cards that work very well in
    my own environments.
    - To get extreme range for other environments, I have added:
    SMC2532W-B Elite Connect 802.11b PC-Card, SMCHMANT-6 directional
    antenna, and IOExperts 802.11 driver which all work very well.
    IOExperts installer and instructions were top-notch.
    - I have created a "location" which uses only the SMC card; my normal
    location uses only the Apple Airport card. I can switch back and forth
    on the fly using the Apple... Location... menu.
    - IOExperts 802.11 b/g driver is excellent!
    - The SMC card with it's built-in stub antenna has better range than
    the internal airport card in a TiBook, and the external directional
    antenna is even better. I have no quantitative measures yet.

    Other comments & questions:
    - On a recent trip, my pals with Wintel laptops were able to use open
    access points that I could not use with my Aluminum PB/Airport Extreme.
    I resolved to do something about this. So I can "war-drive" on my road
    trips!
    - I want a PC-Card with an external directional antenna which I can
    use when needed, but not all the time. I saw a store display linking
    the two SMC products above. The PC-Card is "b" for 11mbps, not "g," but
    that's fine for my use. Other PC-Cards do not have an external antenna
    connector. MicroCenter doesn't seem to carry these products anymore, so
    they might be on the way out. PC Mall has a rebate on the PC Card now.
    Are there any other Card-Ext Antenna combinations?
    - How to drive the card? Some PC-Cards (e.g. Aria) work with Apple's
    Airport software, but I did not see any which have an external antenna
    connector. There appear to be two non-Apple drivers, the wireless
    driver project at SourceForge.net and IOExperts. IOExperts supports my
    card (but not all SMC cards). I ordered everything, taking a $100
    gamble.
    - IOExperts lets you try the driver (30 minutes at a time) for free so
    you know it works. Nice! The whole driver package is excellent.
    Licensing is $19.95 for each PC card (you can move the card from one PB
    to another; seems fair.)
    - Antenna connectors: There appear to be three coax connectors in use
    for wi-fi antennas: the tiny (~2mm) right-angle snap-fit connector as
    used for the Apple Airport card, the small (1/4" threaded) coax
    connector on many access points, and the larger (1/2" threaded) coax
    connector. The SMC antenna give you all the options. The one-meter cord
    has the 1/4" threaded connector, and pigtails are provided for the
    other two.
    - Installation: OS X and Unix deal with a "port" for each network
    interface. A normal PowerBook will have wired ethernet on "en0" and the
    Airport card on "en1." The IOExperts driver and SMC card add another
    port "en2." As hinted in IOExperts instructions, Apple's Network pref
    pane notices the new "en2" port on second launch and lets me create a
    "location" using that port. I did not try letting OS X decide
    automatically between the Airport and SMC wireless cards. I use the
    Location item in the Apple menu to switch.
    - Switching on the fly: No problem! Some replies to my earlier querry
    said I might have to reboot. With both cards in the machine, Ijust
    switch locations. I can insert and remove the SMC PC-Card on the fly.
    (Is switching this easy with the SourceForge driver? With Apple's
    airport software and two supported cards, e.g. an Airport card and
    Aria's PC-Card?)
    - War Driving: The IOExperts pref pane has a signal strength indicator
    (a bar, not numbers), and a pull down listing visible access points.
    This is fine for connecting in a known environment, but I would like
    something like MacStumbler to show access points & signal strength in
    real time and keep a log. Anyone know of a solution?

    -- Saly

    --
    Sally Shears (a.k.a. "Molly")
    com -or- org
    http://theWorld.com/~sshears
    Sally Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <110620041009451646%com>,
    Sally Shears <com> wrote:
     

    KisMAC (see VersionTracker.com) will display signal strength numbers
    and, when a GPS receiver is connected, plot the locations of the
    detected base stations on a downloadable map.

    --
    There are 10 kinds of people in the world:
    those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    Tom Stiller

    PGP fingerprint = 5108 DDB2 9761 EDE5 E7E3
    7BDA 71ED 6496 99C0 C7CF
    Tom Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    Following up my own... with additional data...

    In article <110620041009451646%com>, Sally Shears
    <com> wrote:
     

    The range difference with the SMC card alone is significant vs. the
    internal Airport card in a TiBook.

    One case: One room where the TiBook/Airport won't work at all, the
    TiBook/SMC-card works fine. (FWIW, a Pismo with Airport card works
    fine in this room.)

    Quantitative...
    - I set up the Airport base station in a window and walked outside
    with the TiBook. There is no screen in the window (metal screen would
    probably kill signal.) I looked for the point where the contact started
    having intermittant problems. This is at 1-2 rings in the Apple
    menu-bar display and about half-way across in the IOExperts signal
    strength. At this point, the connection was still usable, but you can
    notice the difference.
    - The TiBook/Airport card starts to get funky 17 yards from the base
    station.
    - The TiBook/SMC-card starts to get funky 60 yards from the base
    station. This is 4x the internal range!
    - The TiBook/SMC-card/SMC External Antenna starts to get funky roughly
    120 yards from the base station. Another doubling.

    Conclusion: With a TiBook, if you have Airport range problems, a
    PC-card with stub antenna will help a lot, and an external antenna will
    roughly double the stub-antenna range.

    --
    Sally Shears (a.k.a. "Molly")
    com -or- org
    http://theWorld.com/~sshears
    Sally Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    Entity Sally Shears spoke thus:
     

    I just use the Quickertek external antenna:
    http://www.quickertek.com/whip.html

    Works for a damn long ways down the road, at 67 yards I still get 420k from
    DSL.
    But my base has a Dr Bott external antenna.


    -- Gnarlie
    http://www.Gnarlodious.com/

    Gnarlodious Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <150620041043082645%com>, Sally Shears
    <com> wrote:
     
    <snip> 

    Just for grins, here is another data point. Our village in rural
    England is setting up a community 802.11b mesh because there is no ADSL
    or cable available. I stuck a 16dB external antenna on the mesh router
    to connect me to the nearest visible node about 2km away, which works a
    treat into his external omni antenna. Then I went walkies toward him
    with my 12" Powerbook. Standard built-in airport extreme. I was getting
    good-ish performance 700 meters from the antenna until I dropped over
    the hill and lost line of sight.

    Conclusion: Antenna and direct line of sight is important.

    --
    I thought I would be the last on earth to mangle my e-mail address.
    fsnospam$elliott$$
    Elliott Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <BCF47630.4D60D%invalid.>,
    Gnarlodious <invalid.> wrote:
     

    Thanks, Gnarlodious, for the quicktek.cm link. That looks like a good
    solution if you don't ever use PC cards in your TiBook, but it doesn't
    look very easy to get the cord out of the way so one can use a PC-card.

    Their FAQ claims 4x improvement of distance vs. the TiBook with Apple's
    built-into-the-case antenna. That exactly matches my experience with
    the PC-Card and stub antenna.

    -- Sally

    --
    Sally Shears (a.k.a. "Molly")
    com -or- org
    http://theWorld.com/~sshears
    Sally Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <110620041009451646%com>,
    Sally Shears <com> wrote:
     

    ANYTHING is better than the TiBook builtin antenna. Those funny little
    marks on the side of the TiBook? They are there so you get ANY kind of
    reception. I've been tempted to run an antenna wire out through the
    PCMCIA slot to improve it (since the airport is right there at the slot,
    just look in and down.) But I got a newer PowerBook instead.

    I've seen my TiBook's signal strength improve by propping open the card
    slot cover, exposing the end of the builtin antenna.
     

    Technically, Apple's original 802.11b Airport card was just a repackaged
    Lucent WaveLan card. The Lucent WaveLAN was spun off to become the
    Orinoco card line. I think Proxim owns it now. (They made the SkyLine
    cards.)

    The WaveLan card I had for my old Wallstreet had an external antenna
    connector, but it was covered by a plastic punch-out.
    --
    Walt Sellers
    Computer Engineer For Hire
    www.VirtualOutpost.com
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons; for thou art
    crunchy and good with ketchup. -unknown
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    Walt Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <150620041655406037%co.uk>, Elliott Roper
    <co.uk> wrote:
     

    I agree. Last year I was interested in just how far Airport range
    could be extended legally, so I spent a lot of time on the Internet,
    observing what other people had done along these lines.

    As I recall, several people insisted that they had low-speed Airport
    contacts from as far away as 20 miles, and high-speed contacts at
    10-miles.

    They used high gain parabolic or yagi antennas, mounted at elevated
    locations.

    As I further recall, the FCC law in the U.S. has a curious twist that
    states that if we use an extreme-gain antenna, one that would
    ordinarilly be "illegal" because of the wording of the FCC regulations,
    that then we could _still_ use that antenna, on the condition that we
    reduce the output power coming from Airport, in our computer.

    Let's assume using a 20db antenna is legal, under our laws here.

    If we had a parabolic dish antenna with a gain of 29db which might be
    considered illegal under the law, we could cut our Airport output in
    half (3db) - thereby rendering our 29db antenna "legal".

    (because of the three-to-one relationship between antenna gain and
    output power from Airport, according to FCC regulations)

    In other words, as I understand it, our Airport signal would actually
    be stronger, even though we had reduced power to stay "legal", because
    of the curious way the FCC law is written, here.

    Don't take this as gospel, and try to set up a high-speed Airport link
    over a distance of ten miles, because my recollections may be in error.

    Mark-
    Mark Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <170620041325373499%com>, Mark Conrad
    <com> wrote:
     
    >
    > I agree. Last year I was interested in just how far Airport range
    > could be extended legally, so I spent a lot of time on the Internet,
    > observing what other people had done along these lines.
    >
    > As I recall, several people insisted that they had low-speed Airport
    > contacts from as far away as 20 miles, and high-speed contacts at
    > 10-miles.
    >
    > They used high gain parabolic or yagi antennas, mounted at elevated
    > locations.
    >
    > As I further recall, the FCC law in the U.S. has a curious twist that
    > states that if we use an extreme-gain antenna, one that would
    > ordinarilly be "illegal" because of the wording of the FCC regulations,
    > that then we could _still_ use that antenna, on the condition that we
    > reduce the output power coming from Airport, in our computer.
    >
    > Let's assume using a 20db antenna is legal, under our laws here.
    >
    > If we had a parabolic dish antenna with a gain of 29db which might be
    > considered illegal under the law, we could cut our Airport output in
    > half (3db) - thereby rendering our 29db antenna "legal".
    >
    > (because of the three-to-one relationship between antenna gain and
    > output power from Airport, according to FCC regulations)
    >
    > In other words, as I understand it, our Airport signal would actually
    > be stronger, even though we had reduced power to stay "legal", because
    > of the curious way the FCC law is written, here.
    >
    > Don't take this as gospel, and try to set up a high-speed Airport link
    > over a distance of ten miles, because my recollections may be in error.[/ref]

    That might not be all that silly a law. If their intention is to limit
    unwanted RF field along the path of the signal, and have put a few
    generous margins for error on the shape of the lobes and the actual
    power input to the antenna, they can probably live with the apparent
    6db of sly gain you appear to be sneaking off with, on account of the
    advertising claims of the antenna vendor. And you won't get the signal
    much further after all ;-)

    I did consider modifying the UBD (ugly big dish) from an unwanted
    satellite receiver, but was warned that the RF police would be onto me
    like a ton of bricks if they ever saw that thing pointing at the
    village. ;-)

    --
    I thought I would be the last on earth to mangle my e-mail address.
    fsnospam$elliott$$
    Elliott Guest

  10. #10

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <180620041758453002%co.uk>, Elliott Roper
    <co.uk> wrote:
     

    Here in the states the laws are a _little_ more liberal, but not much.

    I _think_ the telephone companies here managed to get some sort of
    law on the books making it illegal to bypass their phone service with a
    l-o-n-g wireless link.

    If that is true, then their sneaky law will not stay on the books for
    long, because wireless services are spreading like wildfire here,
    cutting into the profits of the "wired" telephone companies.

    The laws here kinda favor the companies who can afford the biggest
    fleet of lawyers.<g>

    The 'phone companies are being forced to offer their own wireless
    services to customers, just to stay in business.


     

    That brings up some other interesting points.

    If wireless really spreads, and it looks like it is heading in that
    direction, then "wired" telephones might become a thing of the past.

    This could be both a good thing and a bad thing.

    Good because it makes us less vulnerable to terrorist attacks on
    centrally located telephone services.

    Bad because of proliferation of RF signals 'everywhere', possibly
    creating interference nightmares.


    (back to building my big parabolic dish with a gain of 54dbm, and
    cutting down my Airport power from 100milli-watts to 5milli-watts)

    hmm, being I live in the mountains of northern California, my
    line-of-sight here should be at least 60 miles.

    I should be able to reach the nearest Starbucks coffee shop about
    40-miles from here, and break into their wireless net. ;-) ;-)

    Mark-
    Mark Guest

  11. #11

    Default Re: External Wi-Fi Antenna on Powerbook, Extreme Airport Range

    In article <180620042107453961%com>, Mark Conrad
    <com> wrote:
     
     

    True. It is amazing how many single points of failure there are in the
    current set-up. We, and 100,000 others lost the internet and most of
    our phones for over a week a couple of months ago after a fire in a
    comms tunnel underneath Manchester. It was a cold war era exchange
    (central office to you - right?) that was designed to operate across a
    nuclear attack. It turned out that many of the 'redundant' circuits
    that supplied the nearby 'Manchester tele-city' which is the major
    peering hub for the North of UK, all went through the tunnel, as did
    the diverse routing fibers that connected exchanges as far away as
    Glasgow. So they could not completely patch around the fire.
     

    That's what the antenna gain regulations are there for. However the
    wifi technology, and the CDMA stuff for mobiles too, is so good the
    authorities are looking at the rules again. The old rules are for
    narrow band SCPC, which is very sensitive to co-channel interference.
    When we are all on CDMA and COFDM, things should be far more robust.

    Over here, the old wire monopoly (British Telecom) is fighting for its
    life. Many users are going mobile-only. Wireless meshes are springing
    up everywhere. They recently announced a program for replacing all
    their traditional switch structure with voice over IP. It leaves their
    only physical assets as the rights of way. If they don't get fiber
    through them to the end user smartish, they have had it.

    The wireless mesh business is really interesting. It means we can do
    things 'different'. It makes teleworking and village compute clusters
    possible. Helping to put life back into a place that is fast becoming a
    dormitory.

    I'm seeing Macs becoming more popular in the village as we mesh it up
    further. Everyone is seeing "They just work" on the wi-fi and iChat
    department.

    --
    I thought I would be the last on earth to mangle my e-mail address.
    fsnospam$elliott$$
    Elliott Guest

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