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Old 10-20-2009
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Marine Wireless Internet Help Please...!

Hi All !

I was wondering if anyone had some sound technical advise for me as far as dockside internet access is concerned?

I currently connect through a marina wireless internet provider using a WaveRV (Radiolabs) USB antenna connected to my desktop computer. It has the hardware built in to the antenna itself and has a 15' USB cord with the related software installed and running on my computer.

Typically my connection speed is on average 10Mb/sec download and 0.8-0.9Mb/sec upload speed using the "Speedtest" website as an indicator.

I want to be able to run a wireless signal throughout my boat in order to give me more flexibility in where I can place my desktop as well as to get rid of the direct USB connection to it. I also plan on using other wireless devices (AppleTV, Skype, etc) so I want to ensure the best possible signal quality. I require internet access ONLY while at dock and I am currently about 300' from the provider signal on shore.

I see a lot of other systems with external non-usb antennas, bridges, routers, PoE, etc and this really seems like overkill if I don't need internet access while away.

So it seems my best remaining options are:

1. Keep the usb antenna, purchase a small notebook computer running WinXp, install the antenna on that and then bridge this connection to my Apple Airport Express wireless access router using the Local Area Connection adapter on the notebook.

2. Buy a high power wireless router. Should this in itself provide a good enough connection to the ISP connection point if the router was mounted inside my boat? This would eliminate both the USB antenna and the Airport Express from the scenario entirely.

I'm not entirely sure why a bridge would be needed for my particular application. I am of the understanding that a bridge is needed in stand-alone systems that use an external antenna to connect to the chosen router that will be used? So in essence in scenario #1 above the notebook would be acting as the "bridge" between the usb antenna and the Airport Express router?

Am I at least heading in the right direction here? I apologize for my ignorance here.

Thoughts, comment or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers!
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Old 10-20-2009
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I'd really recommend you read this post, which I wrote addressing this exact issue.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 10-20-2009 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 10-20-2009
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I'm not sure what the etiquette is here, so mods - delete my post if it's inappropriate.

The problem you mention is a big issue with boaters - how do you easily get shore based wireless access while also getting wireless access inside your boat. The answer to the question is that there are a few very expensive ($1,500+) devices which offer both access point capabilities inside the boat, and connectivity to shore. The alternative is to buy something like an Engenius for shore based access, hook it up to a wireless router on the inside of the boat (which are USUALLY, but not always AC powered) and that will give you what you want. You still have to deal with a big thick cable going up the mast for your antenna, or hanging something off your halyard. You will usually get signal loss if you have to run a long cable.

Anyway (and here's the part the mods may have to delete) - a friend of mine and I (we both own IT companies and met cruising) got sick of having lots of cables, high power draw, signal loss, multiple devices, etc. for the problem you describe. Instead of complaining, we're in the process of building a product. It's not available yet (we expect in 2-3 months it will be ready), but it will be a small, low power device that combines the access point and the shore system in one unit and lets you create a wireless cone of access on your boat that's always on. This will allow us to support phase two, which will be NMEA integration and an iPhone/Touch application for things like an anchor alarm, instruments, etc. Phase two is a ways down the road. Anyway - no product announcement yet, and when we have it we'll look at the costs of sponsoring Sailnet and doing things the right way.

In the meantime - mods (if you're listening) - would it be OK to post a thread asking people what they want to see in a wireless device? It's an opportunity for us to build it in to this unit and make something pretty cool for the cruising community. Or, if you need to, delete this post

Chris
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Old 10-21-2009
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Labatt-

The equipment and setup I describe in my post have the advantage of being DC-powered, low power draw, with very little in the way of signal loss or cabling.
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Thank you both labatt and sailingdog for your replies.

I suppose my main area of confusion lies in the difference/function between a bridge and a router; especially with regards to my particular application.

On say a standard wireless router at home for example it creates a wireless link between a "cabled" modem and the users computer. Could the home modem itself be considered the "bridge" in this instance? Is this essentially what a home modem is?

Since there is already a wireless internet signal being broadcast by the marina ISP would a standard wireless router not only transmit between both itself and the ISP as well as itself and my computer thereby creating a usable internet connection link?

Would my first scenario with regards to the USB antenna, a notebook and my current Apple router not work with the 2 devices "bridged" in the Win XP networking configuration?

Again, this is to achieve a wireless network within my boat and while only at dock with no more than 400' between my vessel and the ISP signal on shore.

I'm essentially trying to make this as uncomplicated as I can while using my existing equipment.

Cheers!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thadius123 View Post
Thank you both labatt and sailingdog for your replies.

I suppose my main area of confusion lies in the difference/function between a bridge and a router; especially with regards to my particular application.

On say a standard wireless router at home for example it creates a wireless link between a "cabled" modem and the users computer. Could the home modem itself be considered the "bridge" in this instance? Is this essentially what a home modem is?
No.

Quote:
Since there is already a wireless internet signal being broadcast by the marina ISP would a standard wireless router not only transmit between both itself and the ISP as well as itself and my computer thereby creating a usable internet connection link?
No. Your wireless router has a wireless ethernet cloud but it is not using wireless to get "out", it is using a wired connection. You would need a router and a bridge if you wanted to use this router, the router to set up your own cloud and the bridge to make the connection from your router to the other wireless network.

Quote:
Would my first scenario with regards to the USB antenna, a notebook and my current Apple router not work with the 2 devices "bridged" in the Win XP networking configuration?

Again, this is to achieve a wireless network within my boat and while only at dock with no more than 400' between my vessel and the ISP signal on shore.

I'm essentially trying to make this as uncomplicated as I can while using my existing equipment.

Cheers!
The core of your question is whether you need your own router or if you can just bridge your network to another network and use their router. And the answer to that is yes. Either way will usually work. When you are bridging you essentially become part of their segment, so you have to request a DHCP address from their router, for example. If you set up your own router then your router becomes a device on their segment (using a bridge as above) and then your own network is behind your router on your own segment with your own IP address range and your DHCP requests go to your own router instead of theirs. Either way will work.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wind_magic View Post
The core of your question is whether you need your own router or if you can just bridge your network to another network and use their router. And the answer to that is yes. Either way will usually work. When you are bridging you essentially become part of their segment, so you have to request a DHCP address from their router, for example. If you set up your own router then your router becomes a device on their segment (using a bridge as above) and then your own network is behind your router on your own segment with your own IP address range and your DHCP requests go to your own router instead of theirs. Either way will work.
Thanks for the information. Rather than purchase a bridge I would rather just keep my existing USB antenna and effect the bridge between that and the router with the notebook. Obviously my existing USB antenna (built-in hardware) would be incompatible with any bridge I would purchase and necessitate the need to also acquire an external stand-alone antenna.

With regards to the actual bridging in the network configuration control panel are there any potential hardware conflicts that I should be aware of?

Would I expect to see any sort of signal or quality degradation with respect to my average speeds I reported earlier with such a network setup?

Thanks for the reply as it was very informative.

Cheers!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thadius123 View Post
Thanks for the information. Rather than purchase a bridge I would rather just keep my existing USB antenna and effect the bridge between that and the router with the notebook. Obviously my existing USB antenna (built-in hardware) would be incompatible with any bridge I would purchase and necessitate the need to also acquire an external stand-alone antenna.

With regards to the actual bridging in the network configuration control panel are there any potential hardware conflicts that I should be aware of?

Would I expect to see any sort of signal or quality degradation with respect to my average speeds I reported earlier with such a network setup?

Thanks for the reply as it was very informative.

Cheers!
I just went back and read your original post and it sounds like what you are trying to do is to use an existing computer to create a bridge/router using an existing USB card/antenna combination device. That will work, but you have to figure out how to configure your specific computer to do things like packet forwarding, set up your route tables, set up a DHCP server if you want one, a firewall, and whatever else you want to do with it. You are essentially creating a router. As to what specific settings you have to enable to get that to work that varies depending on the operating system you are using.

Once you have that set up as a bridge and/or router, then yes you could hook that to another wireless router and go about your business. But you don't even have to do that, you could install a second wireless card in the device you are turning into a router and it can use one of the wireless interfaces to connect to the access point, and use the other one to act as an access point for devices on your boat. To do that requires some research, it can be done with Linux but I don't know how you'd do it with another operating system.

I would not expect your network speeds to change much.
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Thad,

Were I in your situation I would get a POS old/free laptop and install Linux on it. Assuming you can get your USB wireless device working under Linux then the solution is essentially free.

Edit - you'd have to make a cross-over cable to connect your router to the a Linux laptop.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wind_magic View Post
But you don't even have to do that, you could install a second wireless card in the device you are turning into a router and it can use one of the wireless interfaces to connect to the access point, and use the other one to act as an access point for devices on your boat. To do that requires some research, it can be done with Linux but I don't know how you'd do it with another operating system.
In that scenario would I even require a second wireless card? The external USB antenna/hardware combo is in effect the interface that connects to the external ISP access point. After installation of the antenna software on the "notebook" it shows itself as an active wireless hardware device under the network control settings along with the existing Local Area Connection and Wireless Network Connection adapters already built into the notebook.

Could I not "bridge" both the new antenna hardware device (which has now actively connected to the shore ISP) and the notebook's built-in wireless card as it shows itself in the Network Connections page? I understand this is achieved by highlighting both devices one wants to bridge, right clicking on them and then using the "Bridge Connections" option that comes up.

Shouldn't the netbook's built-in wireless card now act as a wireless internet access point thereby allowing me to connect to it with any other wifi device aboard my boat (computer or otherwise)?
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