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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a subject that has been beaten to death many times but,...

This year I will be doing more work from the boat, this requires more internet access than I have been able to get at any marina. I will be working only when anchored or at marinas and with a few exceptions with good cell phone service.

So, I have Verizon and can upgrade to add a hotspot.

I will be reviewing and editing in autocad and sketchup.

A Verizon hotspot is my simplest option, I welcome suggestions including more complicated options.
 

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For most people in most places a small combination of solutions ends up being most successful.

Two factors will drive your needs: what are your planned cruising grounds and how much data are you moving back and forth?

The first is pretty straightforward.

For the second, there is a big difference between moving a dataset back and forth once or twice a day by FTP or e-mail on one hand, and connecting to a remote hard-drive and dealing with regular auto-save read/writes.

A cellular connection (either a tethered phone, a phone hotspot, a data stick, or a MiFi type device) is usually a component of most solutions. You have to have a good handle on your average data transfer needs to get the right data plan.

In the US, in most cruising areas, Verizon coverage is still slightly better than AT&T although the gap has been narrowing in recent years. The industry giggle is that every cow pie in America has a Verizon tower on it. When AT&T coverage is available it is generally noticeably faster than Verizon. If the Bahamas, Mexico, or the Caribbean are in your immediate plans a GSM phone (AT&T) makes more sense.

In addition to a cellular connection most cruisers have a fixed WiFi range extender. While there are alternatives, a Ubiquiti Bullet based system like those from IslandTimePC is the gold standard.

You can get a router from companies like Cradlepoint that will allow you to switch between long range WiFi and cellular easily.

Some workaboards end up with both AT&T and Verizon (and sometimes a third or fourth connection depending on cruising grounds) access.

Without more information about your needs, I'd start with whatever cellular company you use now and add a Bullet. See how things go for a month or three and then re-evaluate. In the meantime, start measuring your actual data usage so you can pick the right cellular plan. Don't sign any long-term contracts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thank you for the information. A lot to think about

I may start with a prepaid hotspot, then see how well that works and re-evaluate. The wifi connections at marinas, even on a bench outside their office has been too slow for some of the downloads and most of the uploads I have needed.

This year I still need to be a few days from the office which means marinas and towns with good public transit not to far, to a major transit hub. So NJ, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay.
 

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This year I still need to be a few days from the office which means marinas and towns with good public transit not to far, to a major transit hub. So NJ, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay.
You won't be the first person whose cruising is bounded by access to major airports (LGA, JFK, EWR, PHL, BWI, DCA, NOR, New Bern, MIA, FLL, ...) and trains.
 

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Colin,

I get real strong signal from Golden Point Marina. It overwhelms the Anchorage Marina signal. Do you know anyone there who has the WPA key for it? If so, please pass it on. ;)

For when you're out of WiFi range, check to see if your phone will do a tethered hotspot - many of them do, especially unlocked Androids purchased directly from Google. And I bet that with some Google searching you could figure out how to add it to your current phone. Your cell plan may or may not include it already. My T-mobile plan isn't supposed to include tethering, but they let me get away with up to 100MB/month. That's not much, but enough for when I can't find Wifi. But your AutoCAD would probably chew through 100MB pretty fast.

WiFi access was discussed pretty thoroughly here, and usually performs better than any 3G or 4G connection. Many marina issues can be solved with an amplified antenna. My $28 Alfa Amplified Wifi Adapter turns the Anchorage signal from unusable to very strong, but the driver has a Chinese look about it, and I'm not sure how well it works on post-XP versions of Windows. It's what I have, so I'll continue using it. Maybe there's something newer out there that's less costly than the Bullet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Golden Point may have their router in the pavilion, Anchorage has its router in the office. MY home wifi router has a poor signal outside after passing through thick stone walls but signal strength is good for streaming movies inside.

My desire for 2015 is to use real time file sharing over our cloud. As an option when signal strength is not optimal I can exchange .pdf's by email, or download files from the cloud when possible, edit then return to the cloud.
I could do this by email on the boat at Chesapeake City after 9:00 PM and before 7:00 AM but not at Delaware City at any time unless I was near the office.
 

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You want to read the material on this subject on ActiveCaptain, it'll tell you more than you want to know.

Based on that advice, last summer I installed a powered antenna (a Mikrotik Groove from IslandTime) which gives us a good wifi signal when at or near a marina. When not near wifi, I used my Verizon Android phone as a hotspot which worked fine for general apps like email, large files are slow and you need to remember your data plan. But very easy to use.
 

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Golden Point may have their router in the pavilion, Anchorage has its router in the office...
Actually, Anchorage moved their router to the fuel shed at the end of A dock a couple years ago. But I pick up Golden Point's router much stronger than Anchorage, even though at C dock I am twice as far away from GP. However, the WiFi antenna that I linked totally makes up for the weakness and gets a reliable signal from Anchorage.

It also enables me to get signal from the transient dock at Delaware City.

You're welcome to borrow my WiFi antenna to try it out. I won't be using it at all this winter, and probably not even before Memorial day (unless I do the May cruise with you). You should take it down to Cape May, Delaware City, or wherever else you're working and see if it picks up a signal. They have even stronger models now that you might want to consider, including this waterproof marine model:

Amazon.com: Alfa 2000mw 2W Waterproof Marine high power Long Range Outdoor 802.11 B, G, N, USB wireless network Wifi Adaptor with Integrated 12dBi Antenna - Up to 150mps: Computers & [email protected]@[email protected]@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/[email protected]@[email protected]@31jrNcbSFTL

I said that I was uncertain whether the drivers would install on post-XP systems, because I mistakenly believed that it was discontinued. However, they're still selling them and show all sort of recent reviews on Amazon. They also have a wireless router that the antenna (or 3G/4G USB hotspot) plugs into, and you can then get online with multiple devices (PC, smartphone, tablet) and without having to install their funky looking drivers on your PC. Just use WiFi to connect your computer to their router, and the router connects to Internet through their antenna (or your ISP's hotspot):

Amazon.com: Alfa R36 802.11 b, g N, Repeater and Range Extender for AWUS036H can also be used as a 3G Router - Enables you to Extend to Signal that is picked up by the AWUS036H and distribute the internet to multiple Users (Desktops, Laptops, tablets, iPods or iPad) - AWUS036H is Not Included: Computers & [email protected]@[email protected]@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/[email protected]@[email protected]@41OFdjcBV4L

But first things first, I'd suggest you test the antenna with your PC first before buying the more expensive router. Let me know if you're interested.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Rick
I may take you up on that offer.

First I will replace my phone. I am currently using an old flip phone that I reactivated after my smartphone was damage by a near lightning strike near Marcus Hook. I should probably replace my computer which was also damage but recovered.

The Garmin 76 recovered after removing and reinstalling the batteries, but I had to go through the settings menu to get the Standard Horizon VHF to work again.
 

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I've been using the Alpha high gain USB antenna for the past three years, and for the most part I have fair connectivity to unsecured WIFI for distances of 3 to 7 miles, depending on the location and weather conditions. The speed has never been a problem and I've been able to stream videos from various sources using nothing more than an old laptop. I watched the Super Bowl doing this in Marathon, where the only WIFI came from inside the marina building, which blocked most standard laptops that did not have the USB external antenna.

Something to think about,

Gary :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Good information Gary, thanks.

So what I am contemplating;

Alfa long range usb wifi network adapter, for when a a wifi signal is available.
Retire my old flip phone again, and go back to a new smartphone with hotspot function, for when no wifi signal available.

And for when neither wifi or cell signal available, relax and enjoy being disconnected.
 
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