laptop mini pci alternative antennae?

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I've got several laptops with internal mini-PCI wifi cards (various brands).

I'm wondering if anyone's made some sort of switcher that'd allow selecting
between the internal antenna and on attached externally?  I realize this
would be a hack, to say the least, since the plastics on most laptops aren't
setup to allow adding something like this.  But given that the gauge of coax
used is so eff'ing tiny it's not something I'd want to cobble together
myself.

It'd be useful in situations where connectivity is found to be marginal
using the internal, so plugging in an external alternative might help.  But
for the vast majority of other situations it'd be burdensome to have to use
the external antenna all the time.  Not to mention other things needing to
use the PCMCIA slots.

Anything like that out there?

-Bill Kearney


Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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I've got exactly that problem with my newish HP/Compaq v5000z.  The
internal radio is good enough for around the house and back yard, but
on a recent car-camping trip across the southwest it had a hard time
hitting far-off public hotspots from the picnic tables.  Screwing
around with the sub-miniature u.fl connectors scares me.  I just can't
imagine they have that many plug/unplug cycles in them.  (How the heck
do the assemply line folks plug those in, under a microscope???)

My solution was to get a top-end cardbus card that takes an mmcx
antenna.  At least mmcx is meant to take a few plug/unplug cycles and
I can do that without tweezers and microscope.  True to my motto,
"Anything worth doing is worth overdoing" I got a card that listed the
RX sensitivity at -96dbm (Ubiquiti SRC).  I'm not sure how much of
that number is advertising hype and how much is fact, but the card
sure is sensitive.  The card also advertises a higher power
transmitter, but one can of course turn down the tx power to anything
one wants.  I certainly don't plan to run it in hight power mode when
on batteries.

For an antenna I have a 6" tall 5dbi "wire" antenna with a 1" magnetic
base for general use and an 18" long stamped steel lightweight yagi
with a claimed 15dbi gain.  The yagi comes with a standard tripod
thread on the bottom of it.  It will be interesting to see how easy it
is to point it and lock it onto a signal.  Certainly a tripod is an
ideal device for aiming something precisely.  I'm still waiting on a
pigtail so I can test this though.

-wolfgang
--
Wolfgang S. Rupprecht                http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang /

Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On Fri, 23 Jun 2006 07:18:39 -0400, "Bill Kearney"

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I think a much better solution is to simply get something like the
Hawking HWU8DD
<http://www.hawkingtech.com/products/productlist.php?CatID=32&FamID=60&ProdID=280

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


Hi, John, and group,

John Navas wrote:
(clip)
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<http://www.hawkingtech.com/products/productlist.php?CatID=32&FamID=60&ProdID=280

Agreed.  Its little brother, without the look of the satellite dish,
but otherwise very similar, is what I use to successfully connect,
browse, etc.;googlegroups, mail, etc,.  all the stuff I am doing on the
boat.

In my case, I have it connected via active USB cable (no loss; XP sees
it as a "USB hub"), run the cable behind my seat, out the door
(companionway hatch for maniners), and suspended under cover (dodger,
ibid), aimed at my preferred AP.

Cheap, effective, if wired and klutzy, for a fixed location.  Now for a
*wireless*! solution...

L8R

Skip


Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On 28 Jun 2006 12:34:56 -0700, "Skip - Working on the boat"

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Please, please, watch your terminology -- there's no such thing as an
"active" USB cables -- there are just USB cables (with different specs
and types of connectors).  Yes a USB cable is different from a coax
antenna cable, but that doesn't make it "active".

As for what your (unnamed!) product looks like to Windows XP, unless
it's a separately configured wireless client bridge with USB networking
(unlike the HWU8DD, and I've never heard of such a beast), it should
appear as a Network Adapter, not a USB "hub".

Confusion from incorrect terminology can be a *big* problem!  Please,
please use the correct terms.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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Maybe a google search for active usb cable would be illuminating.

http://shop4.outpost.com/product/4063812?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG
I bought mine at Fry's, but I recall it being around $15.

--
---
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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



dold@XReXXlapto.usenet.us.com writes:
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Sounds like a one-port hub.  Hmm, I wonder if this would solve the
problem with my keyboards that are on extender cables always acting
flaky.

-wolfgang
--
Wolfgang S. Rupprecht                http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang /

Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On Wed, 28 Jun 2006 15:38:42 -0700, "Wolfgang S. Rupprecht"

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Yep.  A kludge.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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You have to admit it is a clever hack to get around the really short
cable limit of usb-1 when run in the really slow mode that mice and
keyboards use.

-wolfgang
--
Wolfgang S. Rupprecht                http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang /

Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On Wed, 28 Jun 2006 22:02:55 -0700, "Wolfgang S. Rupprecht"

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It is modestly clever packaging, but the same result can of course be
obtained with a standard cable and mini hub, which can be less
problematic -- if, for example, a separate hub is connected to a
"repeater" cable, then the embedded one port hub and its associated
power consumption is wasted.  I've also seen cases where cascaded hubs
have resulted in problems.  I frankly think it's a solution in search of
a problem.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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If all you want to do is put a single device at the other end of a
longer-than-15' cable then it's a fine idea.  Provided the device at the
other end can put up with being behind a hub, and that the OS driver will
see it properly.  They work pretty well.  They work a lot better than using
an cable, plugging in a hub and then using another cable to the device. All
those extra connections are just more things to get pulled loose.  And they
add bulk to whatever you'd be carrying around in the laptop bag.

When what you want to do is get a USB device connected and carry as little
as possible something like one of these 'active cables' is a pretty good
solution.

It does, however, nothing to address the original question.  Carrying along
a simple duckie or similar antenna is a heckuva lot smaller than a bunch of
USB cables, hubs and a dongle.

Seeing as how the current driver for the 1300 card supports changing the
antenna port I'll probably go the route of putting a jack into the case.
I'll lose the second internal antenna but I'm not all that sure they help me
that much now.  Getting the option of using an external antenna will
certainly be an improvement.  Something like an MMCX bulkhead connector
might be ideal.  It'd be quick-release and I could use other
adapters/pigtails to use other styles of antenna.

-Bill Kearney


Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On Thu, 29 Jun 2006 12:37:42 -0400, "Bill Kearney"

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The cable still can't be longer than 5 meters, so either you have two
cables plugged together, only one of which needs to be a "repeater"
cable, or a real kludge of two or more 5 meter cables permanently joined
by embedded one port hub(s).  I personally avoid cascaded hubs if
possible, since they can be a source of grief.

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Reasonable points, but mini hubs aren't much bigger than the ends of
these cables, and I personally prefer the simplicity and flexibility of
a mini hub.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

Another option with greater and simpler cable range is to use a Wi-Fi
client bridge with Power over Ethernet.  I'd personally prefer that to
the use of "repeater" USB cables.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


Wolfgang S. Rupprecht wrote:

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It's a lot cleaner than hanging a four port passive hub somewhere,
though no cheaper. Belkin seems to come out with a lot of these type of
clever accessories. It's not really a kludge or a hack, it's just what
it claims to be.

They probably could do a USB 2.0 version that would work under most
circumstances, if the end device was less than 500mA.

Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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Passive?  The last technology to use passive hubs was ARCNET.  

All USB hubs have active devices (i.e. integrated circuits) of some
form inside.  I think you mean't non-powered USB hub.  That would
limit the total current to ALL the devices plugged in to 500ma.  If
you add the power supply, the limit is 500ma per port.

This is a serious problem with wireless USB adapters as many come VERY
close to the 500ma limit.  See:
  http://www.digi.com/pdf/prd_usb_wavespeedlan.pdf
which says 480ma in xmit and 350ma in receive.

Plugged into a non-powered USB hub, there's very little else that can
coexist with such a power hog.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


Jeff Liebermann wrote:
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Yeah, yeah, I meant powered versus non-powered.

I worked at a company that built Arcnet cards. Those were the days when
we sold an ISA Arcnet card for $895!
"http://www.shustek.com/nestar/planibmpc.jpg"

Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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Right.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?



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There are no "passive" USB hubs.  All are active and powered, either by
the USB bus or an external power supply.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On Wed, 28 Jun 2006 21:41:57 +0000 (UTC), dold@XReXXlapto.usenet.us.com

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Again, there's no such thing as an "active" USB cable, this marketing
fluff notwithstanding.

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


Hi, John,

John Navas wrote:
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As ignorant as I've been proven to be, I rely on manufacturers and
vendors' labeling and descriptions.

While not the product I use, it's electrically identical to this:
http://sewelldirect.com/usb2extensioncable.asp?semt_adcatid=1140&semt_keywords=active%20usb%20cable&semt_match=Exact&semt_search=search&gclid=CKu27ov_6YUCFR00VAodxhdNvA

Which shows as its label

"USB 2.0 Active Extension Cable, 16 foot

Part No. SW-1202
Mfg. Part No. BF-3000 "

And which description includes

"The specification for USB states that the maximum length of a USB
cable is 5 meters (16 feet). As a result, you cannot extend the
distance of your USB device more than 16 feet without using a USB
"active" extension cable (also known as a USB repeater cable). This
cable contains active electronics which boost the USB signal for
maximum reliability and performance over extended distances."

So, perhaps I need to refer to this as a USB Repeater Cable?

This, of course, is compared to
http://sewelldirect.com/USB2PassiveExtensionCable6Foot.asp

Which is

"USB 2.0 Passive Extension Cable, 6 foot

Part No. SW-1204-06
Mfg. Part No. CU156-06 "

and which description and commentary includes
"Our premium USB 2.0 passive extension cables come in lengths of 3, 6
and 10 feet. You can use them to extend the length of any USB device.

If you need to extend beyond 16 feet, you will need a USB 2.0 Active
Extension Cable.

The USB 2.0 passive extension cable allows for speeds of up to 480
Mbps. The device is compatible with older USB 1.1 devices, but will
work at the slower USB 1.1 speed (12 Mbps)."


When I connect my (whatever it is) cable, XP sez it's found a USB hub.
I don't argue, even when it tells me that I could get better speed if I
were to connect it to a higher speed USB port - but there are only 2.0
ports on this machine.  I just say "ok" and go on.

Meanwhile, the Hawking unit comes on line when I plug it into the
(whatever it is) cable, or, if in a situation where i don't need the
(whatever it is) cable, directly to one of my USB portts, and if I've
not selected their configuration utility, the WZC does the job
seamlessly.

So, whatever Windoze sees this Hawking unit [HWU36D] as, it effectively
passes data to my computer from the AP I select, (the AP) assigning me
an address in the process.  It's how I do this post, googletalk with my
son in Ireland, skype free call my wife in GA, and do web searches all
at the same time over about a 2mps connection download, 500k up.

I do get to see it in the configuration utility and it's a network
adapter, despite that it no longer shows as Hawking, for whatever
reason, in the Hawking configuration utility.  Instead it is XPC
802.11b/g Wireless Kit #3 - but, whatever it is,it works, unlike all
the other exercises I have had to do with something else.

As in another post, I, the babe in the woods, will continue to regard
all vendors as wolves, as obviously they are misleading me into unwise
purchases.

Twenty lashes with a wet sheet (rope to landlubbers) for me...

Still all wet,

L8R

Skip

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Re: laptop mini pci alternative antennae?


On 28 Jun 2006 16:05:25 -0700, "Skip - Working on the boat"

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Unfortunately, that's often a source of confusion.

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Looks like a standard cable with a one-port hub built-in at the end.

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Is that what you have?

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Not surprising.


Something is wrong -- that shouldn't happen with a 2.0 port.

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