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  #1  
Old 03-28-2014
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Thumbs up Long-Range Wifi Installation

This video shows how we installed a long-range wifi system on our 39' Beneteau.

Video tutorial on how to install a long range WIFI system aboard a boat | Knotty Boaters
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Old 04-17-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

Glad to get a good look at the install process of a bullet rig. Thanks.
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Old 08-06-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

thanks
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Old 08-07-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

Seriously not impressed with the video. Unfortunately some people will buy off their lists and end up with a system more complex than it needs to be that they may not be able to get working.

First let me be clear that the Ubiquiti Bullet and the similar Microtek Groove is the basis of the best, most effective WiFi range extenders I have encountered.

Things go downhill from there in the video. In more or less chronological order my issues are as follows:

The POE injector is huge and expensive. Commodity units are barely bigger than a spliced cable and run $5 or $6US at retail.

Oh - I've never heard Ethernet pronounced like that. Ethernet noun - pronunciation of Ethernet noun by Cambridge Dictionaries Online Geez.

Vocabulary is inconsistent and often wrong. In my opinion one should use proper vocabulary when teaching something without getting all wound up in it if students get it wrong.

The Bullet isn't a repeater - it is either a bridge or a router. The default configuration is as a bridge but if you buy from people like IslandTime or RogueWave it will come pre-configured as a router which is what you want for a range extender. There is no definition of an IP address block (there is no such thing as an IP 'neighborhood') so people have no choice but to blindly duplicate the numbers used. Cat 5 is a perfectly acceptable Ethernet cable aboard but 5e is better and 6 is better yet; there is nothing to indicate any alternative to Cat 5. 'ACK' is pronounced as a word (short for acknowledgement) not spelled out - tech support will be rolling on the floor if you need to call them.

There is no description of what is going on with 'change' and 'apply.' In my experience people have a great deal of trouble with this. 'Change' takes the information from the web page you fill out and transfers it to the web server inside the Bullet. Some error checking is done there to make sure all the data is allowable (whether it is what you intended or not is different, but at least it is allowable). 'Apply' transfers the data from the web server inside the Bullet to the operational part of the Bullet so it will actually take effect.

Blindly maxing out the power on the Bullet is not necessarily going to yield the best performance. If you are close to the shore-side access point (AP) you are trying to connect to lower power levels are likely to be better for you AND better for those around you trying to connect to other APs.

Configuring an internal (to the boat) WiFi router can often be more tricky than the Bullet depending on make and model but the video says "follow the directions." Not very helpful. I've found that the getting the internal WiFi router right is critical to user satisfaction. Simple things like picking an appropriate SSID (the label that identifies the internal WiFi router), setting encryption, and choosing a password are important element.

The D-Link WiFi router listed in the linked blog entry is not a good choice for a boat. You have to either power it from a wall wart to AC power (which means an inverter, generator, or shore power) or purchase an additional 12VDC to 5VDC converter. There are lots of WiFi routers (I usually use a Linksys WRT54GL) that can be run directly off 12VDC.

I'm sure the folks at eBoatListing.com were well-intentioned at sponsoring the video but it is inaccurate and misleading.

I do a lot of installations of this equipment. One of the best services I can give to my clients is to point them to kits like those offered by Bob Stewart at IslandTimePC. I used to put my own pieces together but I simply couldn't compete with Bob's prices so I just buy them from him. He even has a special antenna and mounting bracket for me! I highly recommend http://IslandTimePC.com/ .
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Last edited by SVAuspicious; 08-07-2014 at 02:23 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-07-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

While I afree that technically there are a few hickups, I think it is better to have a video than not have a video. Yes you can get into more detail about cables to use, output power etc etc but where do you stop? Before you know it you have a 2 hour video or longer ....
One minor niggle (personal preference) - it would have been nice if the video had mentioned the possibility of leaving the boat router/hot spot unprotected so that other boaters that are not blessed with a bullet can also check their emails. I depend on open hot spots for my connectivity and I think it's good manners to stay open yourself.
A big thumbs up to Islandtimepc.com as well ... this is where I bought my bullet and Bob was extremely helpful when I had a problem! He even ended up sending me another bullet when I couldn't work out my issues! Sure you can shave a few dollars off the price by going with other suppliers but don't expect hand holding like you get from Bob .... I am not new to network and wireless setups and yet I decided to go with Islandtimepc and glad I did.
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Old 08-07-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post
One minor niggle (personal preference) - it would have been nice if the video had mentioned the possibility of leaving the boat router/hot spot unprotected so that other boaters that are not blessed with a bullet can also check their emails. I depend on open hot spots for my connectivity and I think it's good manners to stay open yourself.
Most of the time when I connect to WiFi it is to some variety of paid service. Sometimes it is a subscription like Out Island Internet in the Bahamas or AnnapolisWireless on the Chesapeake. Sometimes it is based on payment for services like buying dinner at a restaurant or paying for services (dinghy dockage, laundry, etc) at a marina. I am not going to violate the terms of service of my agreement with the service provider by rebroadcasting their signal. Encryption on internal WiFi is appropriate.
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Old 08-08-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

Oh man, SVAuspicious nailed it; He made some very good points, but also missed a few things: the video and audio quality were horrible, the editing was bad, and that poor girl in the video had a black eye - she was probably beaten for mispronouncing Ethernet (a cardinal sin - let's hope her geek card was revoked for that.)

There's actually a good story behind this video. We filmed this while sailing in the Caribbean after being asked by several other sailors and friends if we could explain our setup. We didn't sell the video (as SVAuspicious pointed out, who would pay for this level of quality), nor have we made any money from parts. It was simply put together to help others out per their request. We hobbled our system together, while sailing, from parts that friends brought down. Jessica was beaten up by our top loading fridge when a wave knocked the boat around and the door corner hit her square under the eye as she pulled away. It was a good shiner and lasted for weeks - which we captured nicely on video for posterity.

At the time, all we had was a 5v router. We didn't have a voltage regulator so I took apart a cell phone charger, got out the soldering iron, and made a make-shift regulator (I'm not recommending this as the first one melted due to lack of power output. Two in parallel did the trick. We didn't have access to Radio Shack while in the Carib – so we made what we had work.) Buying a router that will run directly off of 12 volts will save parts and time - and is a great recommendation.
As for the PEO (Power over Ethernet - make sure you pronounce it correctly!) there are lots of options. The one we used was about $15 and measured a few inches by a few inches in size. For the benefit of the community I'd love to see a new parts list compiled (since ours is over two years old and clearly lacking). Maybe SVAuspicious can help us out with his recommendations. We spent about $120 for our setup. The bullet was around $80 and the antenna was $20ish. We already had the router and Cat 5. The POE was $15, and I built the voltage regulator from parts on board.

At the time (and this still may be the case) the bullet didn't come with any instructions. The firmware for the bullet is crude and slightly un-user friendly. Configuration of the bullet could be a whole topic in itself. The hardware installation is fairly simple and can be done in less than an hour if all goes well. When we put ours together, there just wasn't a lot of info on this topic. So if SVAuspicious is up to the challenge, here's what I would love to hear more about:

1) Which db Antenna would you recommend and why? 12db worked well for us, but perhaps there's a better choice? As the db increases so does the range, but at the loss of reception radius. Since boats rock and swing, a compromise must be met.

2) What's the ideal mounting height? Some recommend the mast, but the higher you go, the more swing you introduce into the antenna. It's also easier to maintain from lower, so we mounted ours on the bimini top.

3) Which parts would you recommend on your setup? Specific items listed are nice for people. Many people will make their own selections based on what you recommend. But others will want an easy to follow list and follow it exactly.

I think this is a great topic that should be updated and explored. More and more cruisers are looking for solutions to pick up internet aboard their vessels and the options out there can be confusing.

As for the video being on eBoat Listings, well they didn't pay for the video. We built and launched eBoat Listings as a passion and to meet the need we found while searching for our boat - which was a need for better search tools. We took the input from others sailors we met along our trip and combined that with what we wanted to see in a site (and we'd love to hear input from any boaters out there that wouldn't mind sending us their opinions on how to make things better!).

After we launched eBoatlistings officially this year, we moved the video from our personal sailing blog to our site blog. We're hoping one day we'll be able to buy another boat and sail off into the sunset again - this time running our business from the boat using our long range Wi-Fi that SVAuspicious is going to help us setup correctly. No pressure
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Old 08-08-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

Holla!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
the video and audio quality were horrible, the editing was bad, and that poor girl in the video had a black eye
If the content was perfect I might have made comments on the cinematography. In this case it would have been piling on.

I hope Jessica's black eye healed nicely. I actually didn't notice that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
There's actually a good story behind this video.
As I noted, I fully expected that your intentions were only the best.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
At the time, all we had was a 5v router. We didn't have a voltage regulator so I took apart a cell phone charger, got out the soldering iron, and made a make-shift regulator (I'm not recommending this as the first one melted due to lack of power output. Two in parallel did the trick. We didn't have access to Radio Shack while in the Carib – so we made what we had work.)
Someday we'll have to share soldering stories. Skipping the top of the mast ones, some of my favorites are at bars. Seriously. I carry a piece of ceramic to solder on and have soldered all kinds of things on bar tops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
As for the PEO (Power over Ethernet - make sure you pronounce it correctly!) there are lots of options.
The unit linked to from your blog is going for around $26 the last I looked. The one on my boat and many customers is the size of a match box and ran about $5. What I use now is the one Bob Stewart at IslandTimePC uses (see his website at Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC , click on WiFi, and scroll down to the picture of the bits). It is tiny.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
We spent about $120 for our setup.
That's pretty good. Adding up all the pieces for mounting, thru-deck clams, cable, connectors, and such I haven't been able to do much better than Bob's current $209.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
At the time (and this still may be the case) the bullet didn't come with any instructions. The firmware for the bullet is crude and slightly un-user friendly.
I don't think the Bullet web page is crude. It is up to those of us who understand it to make it accessible to others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
So if SVAuspicious is up to the challenge, here's what I would love to hear more about:
Ha! You don't know me very well. *grin*

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
1) Which db Antenna would you recommend and why? 12db worked well for us, but perhaps there's a better choice? As the db increases so does the range, but at the loss of reception radius. Since boats rock and swing, a compromise must be met.
8 to 12 dB is the sweet spot, mostly because of boat motion as you suggest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
2) What's the ideal mounting height? Some recommend the mast, but the higher you go, the more swing you introduce into the antenna. It's also easier to maintain from lower, so we mounted ours on the bimini top.
I like to see the center of the antenna 10 to 20 feet above the water. Part of my reason is your point that the antenna swings around more as you get higher (although the angles are the same) but mostly because when you are closer to the shore-side access point (AP) you can run into issues where the AP is pointing down below the antenna pattern of your antenna on the boat. Your choice of location is a good one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
3) Which parts would you recommend on your setup? Specific items listed are nice for people. Many people will make their own selections based on what you recommend. But others will want an easy to follow list and follow it exactly.
I agree. By no means do I claim to have all the answers. In my experience the biggest issues are mounting hardware and pulling cable.

I like the Air802 12dBi antenna but I have used a number of 8dBi units for size, access, and cruising patterns. I really like the Bullet but the Groove is starting to look pretty good. I like Cat 5e for additional RFI resistance but regardless shielded. I've had great experience with the Linksys WRT54GL routers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ufdiver View Post
I think this is a great topic that should be updated and explored. More and more cruisers are looking for solutions to pick up internet aboard their vessels and the options out there can be confusing.
I agree. Would you like to work together to update your video? Jessica is certainly more presentable than I am. I'd be happy to work on a s c r i p t (SailNet doesn't like that word) and screen captures on my end. We can coordinate on the story line and make sure neither of us is being sloppy on the technical side of things.

I've done dozens of these installations and perhaps some of the lessons I've learned will have value to you and the audience.

If you are interested in a collaboration send me a PM with your e-mail address and I'll get back to you. Things have been rough here lately but I have some more time for a while.
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Last edited by SVAuspicious; 08-08-2014 at 06:02 PM.
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Old 08-09-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

You can buy a range extender that does the same thing for $30. All this mount it high stuff is just silliness. I used a $30 on sale dlink wireless extended, and I am picking up signals 3/4 a mile away. I just stick it in the window, and wala, perfect wireless.
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Old 08-09-2014
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Re: Long-Range Wifi Installation

My system is not permanently mounted. The antenna and Mikrotik wireless router are on a bracket that fits around a shroud and that can be run up to spreader height. I do that using the spinnaker halyard and a downhaul as a retrieval line. I didn't want to mount it on the mast and have dead weight mounted up high, that's just bad for sailing.

I used a TrendNet 8db antenna because it is long enough to get great signal, short enough to make storage easy.

This is a photo of the external part of the system:


The loops on the white plastic bracket are what the spinnaker halyard and downhaul attach to.

I'm using an ASUS WL-330NUL wifi router inside the boat. These are cheap (about $30), USB powered, and tiny.

UnionPacific is correct that there are lower budget options for a single computer that will work almost as well. These systems do give you better range and better signal to noise ratios. They also can get multiple devices online at once, which can be handy if you are traveling with others.

Since I'm on a smaller boat (28') I'm often located on the farthest docks in marinas and this system has made marina wifi a lot more useable. The Mirkotik Groove is not user friendly, but I have a lot of networking experience that made it easier. The Bullet looks a little more user friendly (especially for joining password protected networks). I'm using the POE adapter that came with the Groove.
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