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  #1  
Old 03-28-2009
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WiFi - Onboard Internet & Networking Your Boat

This post is for discussion purposes only. I am not selling anything or advertising anything for sale. This post is for those who are interested in learning about high quality. high power, long range vessel WiFi systems, networking your boat, etc and wish to learn more about wireless Internet services in general and to share the information with others.

As far as WiFi service and internet in general, most people don't really seem to know what is going on in the industry because they (the industry) don't tell us ahead of time what is coming, well not the lay persons anyway. It's a real job just to find things out and i have found out a bunch over the years and my journeys through cyber space and equipment Hell, so here's some knowledge to share.

There are so many wierd choices out there, strange boxes, low power-high claims, cell units, "booster's", "extenders", etc. I have an Apple iPhone which is great and offers better internet capability than any other cell phone out there, but still, it's nothing compared to a laptop connected to good, strong WiFi signal access. Especially important for sending and receiving attachments, downloading pdf's, watching videos, free SKYPE calling (VoIP Phone) and what not. Satellite is WAY too expensive and "little plug-in cards" are just that, keyword "little" - because that's what you get!! Don't get me wrong though, SAT internet is great and needed for sure for bluewater crossings IF you must send and receive text only email on the way or in remote places. Still to slow for attachments and large VoIP Internet telephones, etc. Higher speed SAT dishes do a real good job but you are looking in to 10's of thousands of dollars to buy and a small fortune to use on a continuing basis.

For WiFi, Don't be fooled. There is no need to spend $1,000. $1,500, $2,000 or more on a system, and even those, are low power compared to the new PORTSIDE802 WiFi unit I have. I have blown a lot of money on bad equipment, funky cards, antennas and the such. Glad THAT'S over.

After extensive, exhausting research, I was lucky enough to come in contact with the manufacturer of these new high power WiFi transmitter/receivers through a friend of a relative and ended up a beta tester in return to offering my review and results and I can say, the search is OVER. IT'S FANTASTIC!! I used to see maybe 5 or 10 available signals with my SENAO/ENGENIOUS and now I see 50 to 100 and the SPEED is GREAT!! (depending where I am) The range is rated at 7 miles. I think these will be the new standard for many, many years to come. By the way, WiFi is here to stay for a very long time and WiFi units are as easy to install as a VHF or a GPS and the antennas are marine grade white fiberglass so they look pretty good on the boat too. These units aren't on the market yet, but they say by mid May or June 1 to start shipping. I feel the day has finally come for affordable, powerful WiFi solutions, at last, so an investment in this type of gear will work great for many, many years to come.

The bottom line is the really expensive units either don't deliver the power for the money, have strange housings, weird power needs (48VDC) 110VAC, etc. And the little built-in antenna units don't do much at all unless you go sit next to the base on shore.

ALL worldwide WiFi operates on the 802.11 b & g, 2.4Ghz carrier wave standard. THE MAX legal power for Public IP (internet protocol) WiFi transmission is 30dBm or 1,000mW; FCC (USA/CAN)/CE (Europe)/TELEC (JAPAN) IEEE 802.11 b/g standard. 802 "N" is coming in about 2 years, and will offer slightly greater distance/signal range and use the 5gHz carrier wave frequency. This will also use different boxes and antennas rated for the platform use at 5Ghz standard.

"N" will be backwards compatible to G as G is to B and N to B ,etc. All these standards are here for a very long time to come. N equipment is a ways off though. The USA is just catching on with free WiFi, (internet in general actually compared to the rest of the world) but the rest of the world has free WiFi pretty much every where you go. AND Systems in place now (worldwide), are being upgraded to higher power from 200mW to 500mW units, up to 800mW and 1000mW units as the demands of the net's ability & systems and users, dictate the need for more powerful signals and data rates (speed).

Maybe a little less confusing . . .I hope, Anyway, feel free to ask questions about signals, antennas, power ratings, brands, AP (access points), connection speeds, Hot Spot locations, etc., I have become very familiar with pretty much everything out there now and it CAN be a confusing subject. I would be happy to discuss my passed experiences and things to steer clear of. My onboard system is a long range Wifi unit (12V box) connected with Low Loss LMR400 equivalent RF cable to a 12dBi antenna (47" - stern rail mount) in to a LinkSys WG54, to 4, laptops (wireless), a portable HP printer (with the wireless option), and an iPhone - works pretty good. A note to remember, when buying gear, look at mW for dollar ratio and power supply. Long range WiFi gear and vessel network WiFi HUBs should be 12V capable. Don't worry about amps, they draw very little anyway. With a good LinkSys WG54xx, you get both wireless to the whole boat for all devices, laptops, VoIP phones, Wifi enabled cell phones, printers, etc., you also get 4 or more ethernet channels for other stuff and your onboard NAV gear.

That's it for now, Safe sail all . . . . . . . . . . hail with Q's on systems and networking if you like.

JANDY clear

Last edited by JohnRPollard; 04-06-2009 at 04:51 PM. Reason: added link to Hall of Shame
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Old 03-30-2009
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Thanks for the post Jandy. I'm looking to set myself up for a pacific cruise and would like to be able to update a website, send photos etc... I could probably do this at established ports, and not sure if WiFi would be readily available. Could I get a list of places with WiFi?
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While amplified antennas are useful and all, they're really not the best solution on a boat, since the gain from the antenna is usually eaten up by the length of the coax cable. A much better solution for boats is usually an high-gain antenna with an integrated WiFi to ethernet bridge, which has very little signal loss between the antenna and the WiFi transceiver. The better units will use POE to carry both power and data to the unit, like the Ubiqiti NanoStation, and only require a single cable for wiring.

A good primer on WiFi security and what a lot of the terms are is located here.

As for free WiFi hotspots, there is a good database of them at jiwire.com

BTW, the unit mentioned in the first post is not a great unit, given the price. You can get a NanoStation 2 and a Linksys WRT 54G together for under $200, where the new Portside unit is $500.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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Last edited by sailingdog; 03-30-2009 at 12:30 PM.
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More WiFi gab - for serious power and reception

I agree with sailingdog but only to a certain degree. The Ubiquiti 5 has less power than the PASSPORT802.ULTRA, and costs more. Also keep in mind, little devices are for close in and are not for Internet users with "serious needs" such as full, normal Internet speeds for needs like such things as large file needs, VoIP telephones (free voice over Internet telephone), WiFi telephones, SKYPE calling free worldwide and/or SKYPE FTP (direct point to point file transfer protocol - files from you to them or visa versa without email and servers in the way), Video streaming, streaming audio, gaming, etc. As far as the LinkSys WG54 at $40 to$50 with both 4 ethernet channels and WiFi networking on the boat (mine is 12V rigged too), I feel it is both fairly priced and very functional. And since their acquisition by CISCO, the quality is very good, works great for me, but there are a lot of HUB brands out there to choose from that are all very good and fairly priced.

At 500mW burst rate, for a small USB unit, the PASSPORT802.ULTRA is best thing I have seen out there - BUT - I am in need of "serious" high power, long range and high data rate to provide serious on-line connection and sometimes, at considerable distance. These little ones are OK and you can get in to a system for about $150 or so, depending on the antenna you choose (which is critical). And work OK when in the marina near the AP.

As far as antenna "boosters" They are "snake oil" This does nothing for increased dBi to enable greater reception for inbound signal. antenna element configurations are fixed, so you can add boosting to outbound, but your sensitivity is not increased, nor can it be at all. Another thing is there are different antennas out there at varied pricing. A friend of mine has been making antennas since 1970 and although they are not making digital acquisition antennas, they are a wealth of information and make REALLY good antennas, you may of heard of them, MORAD - SEATTLE

The price issue is due to mainly one thing regardless of dBi/dBm rating. That is, the cheaper ones are stainless steel elements/exciters and the more expensive ones are pure copper. Both are fiberglass or poly encased.* You can guess which is better.

"IN MY OPINION": The BEST way to go is a 12V DC powered, high power transmitter/receiver unit with a real good antenna, 12dbi is real good at 47" -* the 15dBi is a little higher gain and is 62", I have the 47" and it is GREAT. These units are not necessarily "line of sight" required, because they are very powerful transmitters and very sensitive antennas. Both of which are key ingredients to real "nice" Internet WiFi.

Signals EVERYWHERE! Anywhere in Puget Sound, and many places through the inside passage, and South East Alaska, even going up and down the Pacific Coast. Needless to say, marinas everywhere, and cities (waterfront), worldwide. Some are for pay, some are for free. In the rest of the world, it's all free. In the USA, it's hit and miss but getting better all the time. Free WiFi in the USA is coming, it's just taking a longer time than out in the rest of the world. Most people here still believe the USA is ahead of the rest of the world in everything - nothing further from the truth, especially in high tech.

These boxes run about $600 or so (depending on the antenna) to set up and are as easy to install as a VHF and you DO NOT need to go to the top of the mast. They are best on the stern rail or radar bridge. The box goes below, anywhere - 9.5" by 10.5" by 3" or so. (outdoor marine grade too)

These units use your browser application to go in to the internal computer inside the device and configure it as "Client" Mode.* You LOG IN to the box and set it up YOUR WAY.* This enables you to search for signals, or set it to be dedicated to a specific service, search enabled is best to find any signal/provider. So, you have control of the unit, no software upgrades ever, and they are as powerful as FCC, CE, TELEC IEEE 802.11 b/g allows and work worldwide.

The bottom line is, search them all. COMPARE WHAT YOU GET. Power and sensitivity for the dollar. These real powerful (overpriced) units are mostly found at over $1,000 and to many thousands, period. You will never see a signal when coastal and see seriously low data rates with the smaller "little" units. they have there place and are inexpensive, but if you want and need real power and longevity in an on-board WiFi solution, the little ones will not suffice.

Additionally, the air-dielectric foam, double-braid, hollow core copper, LOW LOSS - LMR400DB is the best interface available in the world - period. Although RG213 is OK, nothing compares to LMR - this also applies to your VHF and SSB to Tuner interface, pre-GTO. The little units are on ly RG59U or 56 or equivalent and are unable to pass the same level of data the better RF cable interfaces carry. Just is not going to happen

SERIOUS UNIT EXAMPLE: The SYXXXXS $649.00 box is 200mW, (and is huge), (the 500 is $1400 I think, not sure, I don't bother looking any more), the PORTSIDE802 is 1,000mW burst with 800mW constant minimum outbound transmission, 12V DC, PoE Injected CAT5 interface. These are rated at; 29.8 dBm (outbound) --* 30dBm is the MAX FCC (USA-CAN)/CE- EU)/TELEC(JAPAN) legal to market and use.

THE PLATFORM: The 802.11 b/g platform is here to stay. And, just as VHF Public Marine Band power is limited to 25 Watts, the FCC standard on the 802.11 b/g WiFi, is basically carved in stone, so that's what we get and that's that, for a LONG time to come.

There are NO "little" USB units, "Booster Things" or other magical solutions for cheap that will provide this long range ability-period. In physics we say - RF is RF, digital or analog, I/O power and sensitivity - is King.

You make a decision on a unit, based your need and your budget. I only post this because I have seen so much high priced junk (and purchased a lot of it) and false claims gear out there. (or no information stuff - just "buy us")

Good luck on your hunt . . . . I'll be on-line,

JANDY clear

Last edited by JohnRPollard; 04-06-2009 at 04:52 PM. Reason: added link to Hall of Shame
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JANDY—

You're beginning to sound like an advertisement for the 802 marine products, which are overpriced junk IMHO. I'm also beginning to think you don't know what you're talking about, since Ubiqiti doesn't have a product called the Ubiqiti 5 AFAIK.

A Ubiqiti PicoStation 2HP has more power and a simpler installation than the Passport 802.Ultra. The configuration is a bit more complicated, but that isn't a big deal, given the additional flexibility the device provides. A POE device, like the PicoStation 2HP is a much better idea for a boat, since it can be hoisted further aloft without issue than can any USB based device. To get the USB based device further than 15' off the deck, you'd need an amplified USB cable, where a POE device is good for at least 50' in most cases.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jandy View Post
This post is for discussion purposes only. I am not selling anything or advertising anything for sale. This post is for those who are interested in learning about high quality. high power, long range vessel WiFi systems, networking your boat, etc and wish to learn more about wireless Internet services in general and to share the information with others.

As far as WiFi service and internet in general, most people don't really seem to know what is going on in the industry because they (the industry) don't tell us ahead of time what is coming, well not the lay persons anyway. It's a real job just to find things out and i have found out a bunch over the years and my journeys through cyber space and equipment Hell, so here's some knowledge to share.

There are so many wierd choices out there, strange boxes, low power-high claims, cell units, "booster's", "extenders", etc. I have an Apple iPhone which is great and offers better internet capability than any other cell phone out there, but still, it's nothing compared to a laptop connected to good, strong WiFi signal access. Especially important for sending and receiving attachments, downloading pdf's, watching videos, free SKYPE calling (VoIP Phone) and what not. Satellite is WAY too expensive and "little plug-in cards" are just that, keyword "little" - because that's what you get!! Don't get me wrong though, SAT internet is great and needed for sure for bluewater crossings IF you must send and receive text only email on the way or in remote places. Still to slow for attachments and large VoIP Internet telephones, etc. Higher speed SAT dishes do a real good job but you are looking in to 10's of thousands of dollars to buy and a small fortune to use on a continuing basis.

For WiFi, Don't be fooled. There is no need to spend $1,000. $1,500, $2,000 or more on a system, and even those, are low power compared to the new PORTSIDE802 WiFi unit I have. I have blown a lot of money on bad equipment, funky cards, antennas and the such. Glad THAT'S over.

After extensive, exhausting research, I was lucky enough to come in contact with the manufacturer of these new high power WiFi transmitter/receivers through a friend of a relative and ended up a beta tester in return to offering my review and results and I can say, the search is OVER. IT'S FANTASTIC!! I used to see maybe 5 or 10 available signals with my SENAO/ENGENIOUS and now I see 50 to 100 and the SPEED is GREAT!! (depending where I am) The range is rated at 7 miles. I think these will be the new standard for many, many years to come. By the way, WiFi is here to stay for a very long time and WiFi units are as easy to install as a VHF or a GPS and the antennas are marine grade white fiberglass so they look pretty good on the boat too. These units aren't on the market yet, but they say by mid May or June 1 to start shipping. I feel the day has finally come for affordable, powerful WiFi solutions, at last, so an investment in this type of gear will work great for many, many years to come.

The bottom line is the really expensive units either don't deliver the power for the money, have strange housings, weird power needs (48VDC) 110VAC, etc. And the little built-in antenna units don't do much at all unless you go sit next to the base on shore.

ALL worldwide WiFi operates on the 802.11 b & g, 2.4Ghz carrier wave standard. THE MAX legal power for Public IP (internet protocol) WiFi transmission is 30dBm or 1,000mW; FCC (USA/CAN)/CE (Europe)/TELEC (JAPAN) IEEE 802.11 b/g standard. 802 "N" is coming in about 2 years, and will offer slightly greater distance/signal range and use the 5gHz carrier wave frequency. This will also use different boxes and antennas rated for the platform use at 5Ghz standard.

"N" will be backwards compatible to G as G is to B and N to B ,etc. All these standards are here for a very long time to come. N equipment is a ways off though. The USA is just catching on with free WiFi, (internet in general actually compared to the rest of the world) but the rest of the world has free WiFi pretty much every where you go. AND Systems in place now (worldwide), are being upgraded to higher power from 200mW to 500mW units, up to 800mW and 1000mW units as the demands of the net's ability & systems and users, dictate the need for more powerful signals and data rates (speed).

Maybe a little less confusing . . .I hope, Anyway, feel free to ask questions about signals, antennas, power ratings, brands, AP (access points), connection speeds, Hot Spot locations, etc., I have become very familiar with pretty much everything out there now and it CAN be a confusing subject. I would be happy to discuss my passed experiences and things to steer clear of. My onboard system is a long range Wifi unit (12V box) connected with Low Loss LMR400 equivalent RF cable to a 12dBi antenna (47" - stern rail mount) in to a LinkSys WG54, to 4, laptops (wireless), a portable HP printer (with the wireless option), and an iPhone - works pretty good. A note to remember, when buying gear, look at mW for dollar ratio and power supply. Long range WiFi gear and vessel network WiFi HUBs should be 12V capable. Don't worry about amps, they draw very little anyway. With a good LinkSys WG54xx, you get both wireless to the whole boat for all devices, laptops, VoIP phones, Wifi enabled cell phones, printers, etc., you also get 4 or more ethernet channels for other stuff and your onboard NAV gear.

That's it for now, Safe sail all . . . . . . . . . . hail with Q's on systems and networking if you like.

JANDY clear

Jandy,

You are new here and we don't know much about you. The majority of your few posts have concerned the product you discuss above.

So I need to ask: Do you have any commercial interest in or connection to these 802Marine products?
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From jandys first poste here: "I was lucky enough to come in contact with the manufacturer of these new high power WiFi transmitter/receivers through a friend of a relative and ended up a beta tester in return to offering my review and results and I can say, the search is OVER"

So does he have a commercial connection? Yes, sort of.
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Chances are someone saying they were a beta-tester is being a bit less than open about what they're relationship to the company really is. That's just the cynic in me though.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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While I take serious disagreement with some of what jandy says (four ethernet CHANNELS?? No, four PORTS.) there are indeed web sites advertising a ubiquiti 5. Dunno if it exists, but I have seen web ads for it.
But...confusion is rampant, why try to buck the tide?

Like the 802.11n standard, which has been just six months away, for the last three years.
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WiFi from the clueless aka "Yeah Right, There's Broadband in Water"

OR?? Cheapest is BEST - Right?? Oh crap, wrong Forum . . . . . I though this was for RV's . . . . . . . . .lol

TO QOUTE; "You're beginning to sound like an advertisement for the 802 marine products, which are overpriced junk IMHO. I'm also beginning to think you don't know what you're talking about, since Ubiqiti doesn't have a product called the Ubiqiti 5 AFAIK"

For sailing dog edification and everyone else's entertainment:

Sorry sailingdog, these commercial units are not on the market yet. But YOU know they are junk right? Is this true colors times??

You say "junk" Oh what's that inside?? The chip sets for both manufacturers, come from the same OEM. That would be, Atheros and the solder ball work for the mother boards, are the same OEM too. Hmmmmmm. Oh, that.

But I don't know what I am doing, just relying on stats on-line and experts words.

As "YOU" mentioned, the Ubiquiti Networks NanoStation I assumed you meant the 5, their best one not the 2) in your previous note, So, I took a look to see it on their site - and there it IS!!, little PoE thing, $79.00 Oh - and there's the 5 that does not exist and so it doesn't cost $89.00 (both available at hundreds of sites including XXXXX dot com)

And as you say only needs "one wire" and doesn't need the required 2 CAT5 ethernet cables, a PoE injector and a power supply they state in their specs. And although it does not exist, it is rated at 26dbM which is great, nice little unit. (IF it existed, as seen at their site under NaoStations)

the PASSPORT802.ULTRA's are $59.00 MSRP Which has no installation, USB plug and play. Completely different animal. Take it out of your pocket and plug it in, turn on your computer and go. 10 foot USB ext, no problem. It is not the same device or cost but does offers the ability to add an antenna via RP SMA for a little greater signal strength. These are FCC Certified; 28dBm

Maybe my math is different here but it seems that 59 is 30 less than 89.

PASSPORT802 is a 200mW is $39.99 USB plug and play, super compact, really convenient too - there are several out there like these. These are rated at FCC Certified; 23dBm

Also no set up, plug and play, USB and go anywhere IS NOT 2 ethernet cables and a PoE injector and an external power supply.

Now let's see $39.00 - $79.00, $39.00 - $79.00, $39.00 - $79.00 hmmmmm, oh well, I'll have to get back to this later - I need a calculator.

Different devices completely. So . . oh well.

I am sure these are all real good, but I have not seen anything that cheap with that power rating or convenience - thus I just thought I would talk about them. (but I don't have clue anyway)

And of course there's that Ubiquiti Networks SR71-USB WLAN !!! - at only $113.00

Let's see, I guess that's 5 times as much as the PASPORT802 ?? (lol, Sorry had to do it, just trying to imitate geo bush)

And how about that BBX gear folks?? THE GOOD STUFF!!

BBX - 500mW Client/ WLAN Bridge, ONLY $899.00, CAT5 ethernet PoE injector and the perverbial antenna extra required. 110V AC of course (now that's covenient) PoE CAT 5 cables, power supply, etc. INCLUDED!! (just a buck)

AND THE HIGH PRICE AWARD WINNER IS:

The BBX - 100mW USB unit for $89.00 !! A USB plug and play unit, nice and compact too, but really spendy for the what you get. ($40 all over the net and eBay too)

The "PORTSIDE802" I believe is marketed as a lesser cost commercial grade solution to the really expensive commercial duty boxes, not the little ones for in close in use and certainly not "hoist it up the mast" types And they have a built in router option and are AP configurable as servers. I think that's the PASSPORT units - little USB devices you should have been comparing to sailingdog. I don't see many Ubiquiti NanoStations or PicoStations pinned up on Marina roofs serving signals to hundreds of vessels or mounted on ClearWire, AT&T and SPRINT towers.

And for those who are interested, the engineers tell me the jumps between 500mW, 600mW up to 1,000mW are huge steps that require completely different chip sets for each of the incremental steps up. But what do they know. Engineers, phooey, what do they know. By the way, when I asked them about the chip sets, they said Ubiquiti products are real good stuff, just a different market and application focus and a little more expensive - but good stuff for their market. Am I promoting 802Marine stuff ?? I guess I am and let me ADD !!! FURUNO, MAXSEA, MAPTECH, ICOM, GPSNavX, XAXERO, GLOBAL MARINE NETWORKS, DIGITAL ANTENNA, MORAD, IRIDIUM, ANCOR, LINKSYS, HP, CARL ZEISS, NIKON and SONY-no bologna) !!! GOOD STUFF AND EXPENSIVE TOO. Oh yeah, PORT TOWNSEND SAILS TOO!!! THAT'S WHAT I HAVE ON MY BOAT. THAT'S WHAT I USE. I DO NOT USE GARMIN or SNOOGYLOOGY OR . . . .

BUT now, I hear mentioned a NEW previously UNMENTIONED device in the last post, the Ubiquiti PicoStation 2HP. And you just hoist it up the stick.

Now that's what I call convenient (lol)

Maybe you need to read a little closer, I did not compare or endorse or wish to "advertise" the PASSPORT802.ULTRA (but at the price, it's a great little device) BUT is not the same as the Ubiquiti 2 or 5 - as stated, different animal, different application.

I'll put it in my son's word's after he read this thread: "dude, 2 completely different products and applications . . . . . . " I will leave out the rest. Well, he's only 35 and a little wet behind the ears - but you otta see him type, pretty damn fast!

So since I don't know what I am talking about, I suggest people go to the Ubiquiti site and check out all of the products they make (that don't exist of course - good stuff for the market as far as I am told and as i can see)

As i said before: It's confusing and you need to look CLOSELY at the specs, and the prices. USB ?/ CAT 5 PoE?? external antenna, long range box or pocket take it with you when you go. Who are you and what do you need?? "I stay in the Marina", "I go out now and then", i am going coastal and inland", "I am blue water rigged, world traveling" Check em all out and config for budget and application..


As far as your (sailingdog's) weird statement "I do not know what I am talking about" i think what you mean is the manufacturers and engineers I talk to "don't know what THEY are talking about" I am just a consumer, and do not claim to an expert, just a hard core shopper with a with a boat and a high tech background in other completely unrelated passive audio electronics fields. Just a Note: I DO know this, you will find that I do not post a reply to every thread on every subject in every Forum category on the sailnet site.

Forums are cool and everything, but i am trying hard to have a life.

Oh well, I am happy, my PORTSIDE802 box works great and I have one single nice LMR400DB cable going out to the antenna just like my VHF and my DSLREPORTS DOT COM data throughput tests results are "rockin"!!! and i get signals everywhere i go up and down the greater Puget Sound region and up and down the Pacific Coast.

Safe sail all . . . .

Last edited by JohnRPollard; 04-06-2009 at 04:55 PM. Reason: added links to Hall of Shame
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