Free Muni or other hotspot access from a sailboat??

So, the world is migrating to free internet access. Even the NYTimes, today, has an article on the subject, saying, in effect, "It's not coming, it's here!" (The first paragraph, in part: "No fewer than 300 cities and towns around the nation have taken wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi, to the people. San Francisco's aim is to make the entire city a hot spot, Chicago plans to blanket the city with access, and large parts of Philadelphia are to go wireless soon.")

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Many airports, umpteen hotels, and countless other sources intentionally offer their bandwidth freely. So, please spare me the moralizations and legal citations about stealing someone's signal as we address the following technical challenge:

I'll be on a boat full time. I'll be in range, more or less, of lots of freely available access - such as San Francisco Bay, for example. I want to be able to sit in the cabin (less signal due to fiberglass, mast, rigging, etc.) or on deck, and access *WITHOUT WIRES* the available signal(s) on my laptop.

Where I am now, there are very marginal signals available from several free sites. There are also stronger signals available from several subscription sites. So, I need either my external antenna's configuration utility, or my internal Windoze Zero Configuration utility to be able to specify to which of the access points I wish to associate my computer. Because I'll be in differing locales, I'll not know the SSID or MAC addresses in advance. Likewise, because I have no control over what's used, I have no assurance that what I have installed will be the same manufacturer's in the AP. So, requirements that I have the same mfr. gear, or specify SSID or MAC are out. Likewise, as subscription sites are likely to have more powerful stations, or just where I am at the time might have such differences, just having the gear associate with the strongest signal won't get it either.

Previous attempts to find something I could put up the mast, with some minor amplification to enable returning the signal, and about an 8.5dBi omni antenna to hear the signal (omni because at anchor one never knows the direction we'll face, and it changes all the time, and 8.5 because it's strong enough without having a totally narrow pattern which would limit what it saw) have failed miserably.

However, I'm reasonably sure that's just because I haven't looked in the right places. I have a relatively unlimited amount of 12V available to power this setup, whether POE or directly wired. If it doesn't come that way, I can put whatever it is in a NEMA waterproof enclosure, keeping it safe, with the antenna N-mounted to the box or the mast, putting all that very high up, assuring good range.

So, who knows what I need to accomplish this? Recall that I want to be able to have my laptop see the shoreside point, through whatever is up the mast, and be able to communicate with it, in the same fashion as I'd do if I were in immediate laptop range. Intermediate steps (such as seeing the SSIDs and manually entering the one I want after selection from what's available) are acceptable, but definitely not preferred over WZC or the like's point and click.

I've entertained, but had defective/faulty/somehow not work ethernet-connected bridges with the same omni 8.5dBi antenna setup associate but fail to actually pass data, to a station known good as I can (like now) communicate over it with my USB external antenna. As both of the Senao

2611CB3 Deluxe units I had behaved in that fashion, I assume this is another case of manufacturer specific or other limiting circumstances, as I (gasp!) about wore out the owner's manual, and did every possible change, one at a time, with no success (other than association and the same signal and link ratios as found on my USB antenna). So, I've given up on those.

Is there a plug-and-play solution to this technical challenge? Anybody done the equivalent (something free-standing, some distance away from your laptop, and a very long distance from the selectable AP you're using)?

Thanks for the assistance. We're getting ready to leave, permanently, and would surely like to be able to access all the free APs now arising.

Reply to
Skip Gundlach
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Typical pointless newspaper article. How could they claim "its here" when most of those cities are in the thinking about it stage?

Actually you posted in a public forum so if you are using it without the owners permission then what would you call it?

So it sounds like you have an answer already.

So, I need either my external antenna's configuration utility, or my

Reply to

Thanks so much for the enlightenment and entire disregard for objective. I'll try to remember your name so I don't waste any more time than this on you, which doesn't include the very obvious observations which are begging for view to your comments, left below for the entertainment of archive readers.

Reply to
Skip Gundlach
[POSTED TO alt.internet.wireless - REPLY ON USENET PLEASE]

That's a pretty big leap. Time will tell if it spreads, dies, or remains a niche. The big issue is how to pay for it. Cheap services tend to be, well, cheap.

See Wi-Fi on sailboats in the Wi-Fi How To below.

Doesn't really matter in any event.

Not usually how it works -- most software, including Windows, make a connection from a priority list of profiles.

Covered in the Wi-Fi How To.

There are companies selling packaged solutions, but they're pretty expensive.

Reply to
John Navas

Just a thought: You're more likely to get free help you seek if you get the chip off your shoulder and exercise more restraint.

Reply to
John Navas

I recommend an oudoor short or long range 2.4 GHZ cpe unit. You can buy one at this place

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online. They range from

179 to 229 based on how far away you want to reach. Then you can plug this into DC power system of the boat, and simply add a short range access point so you can wirelessly get internet anywhere on the boat.

Visit there places for examples:

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Reply to

well said, John.

Reply to

I'd try the Buffalo AirStation Turbo G High Power Wireless Ethernet Converter

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and one of their high gain omni-directional antennas mounted on the mast
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. You're going to want the shortest distance possible between the Ethernet converter and the antenna.

With omnidirectional it could be tough. Depending on how much money you're willing to spend, you might be better off with multiple directional antennas, connected to multiple Ethernet converters.

Reply to

Hi, John, and group,

Given the absolute avalanche of helpful info, I conclude my original cautions to be right on target.

The chip on my shoulder comes from being very specific in my requests, including observing what has *not* worked in the past in order to save effort of those interested in either the outcome or being part of the solution, on many prior areas of discussion, only to find them either totally ignored or blatantly flouted.

As I presume responders here are considerably smarter than the average bear, that infers either stupidity or more rudeness than Boortz. Most of the other fora, whether mailing list, web forum, usenet or otherwise grouped interest areas in which I participate have a considerably higher signal to noise ratio, along with rather more civility, than I've observed here in the infrequent times I can access the group.

As I was merely asking for those who may have seen a working example of a solution, not asking for someone to (take the time to) devise a debugging exercise, nor any more "free help" than "I've seen XYZ work; here's a link", I didn't think I was being very opportunistic. I certainly wasn't trolling, nor attempting to generate other than a "Here's something which I know to work" response.

I've gotten nearly nothing of the sort, or, responses which ignore my specifications, in fora which (I assumed - silly of me, of course) addressed this sort of thing. Interestingly, non-technical fora seem to have been fairly productive of info and leads.

Ah, well.

The question still stands: how to be able to *wirelessly* connect my computer to a shoreside AP via some sort of mast-top repeater which can pass through info - and not have as a requirement that it either be manufacturer specific, nor manually entered SSID info. And, as specified, I'm willing to manually enter SSID info once displayed if that's what it takes, but would prefer a point and click solution similar to WZC or the utility I use with my current (stationary, not needing height, wired - all of which won't be on the end result) solution.

By this time, of course, with the preceding deafening silence other than to take me to task, however, I expect none other than opprobium. Should I be mistaken, I'll be grateful and surprised. Should I be correct ...

... Well, it will prove the point.

Reply to
Skip Gundlach

Hi, Steven, and Groups,

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The solution I tried used a 6" pigtail between the card and the lightning arrestor/hard mount on the NEMA box, so we have the lossy coax problem handled.

I've not yet dug into the Buffalo stuff, but prior looks at Buffalo have them pretty manufacturer specific as to what they'll talk to. Do you know if they are omni-accepting in this model - and does this act as a repeater (that is, amplify and send the signal both ways, being transparent to both ends)?

Heh. I'm trying to avoid that sort of thing. The 8.5dBi omni stick I was testing, alongside my 6.5 directional desktop USB one, saw the same stations at the same signal strength, so I think that will do - if I can find something to attach to it!!

Thanks for your input. I'll have a look at the Buffalo; your knowledge in the above will be appreciated as well.

Reply to
Skip Gundlach

Hi, John, and groups,

(about the wiki stuff)

I went to the wiki, and found that it addressed wired solutions. I'm trying to achieve a wireless solution.

I know several ways to skin a cat about using wires, from amplifiers and mega coax, to ethernet to cards with antennas, to active USB connections, but all of them have wires running to the computer.

If I give up, I'll likely use an ethernet solution to an amplified bridge (not huge amplification - just enough to get to shore - so I'm not a bigmouth overkiller) along with a high (not so high as to have a pancake pattern - more like a bagel that's been stepped on, not as fat as a donut) gain omni antenna.

Any suggestions as to whom and what they are? And, of course, to a tinkerer who wants to make cantennas, anything in three figures - maybe even in the high twos! - is expensive. OTOH, communications at sea can run into 5 and 6 figures (I'm not in that league!!), and the failed solution I have beat myself to death with was over $400.

If I can achieve continuous at-anchor communications, a few hundred bux isn't a deterrent. Several thousand will have me considering other options, but to put it in perspective, a HAM or SSB (Single Side Band, aka marine radiotelephone) modem and software (that's without the radios, of course) to accomplish the equivalent of 1980s dialup speeds is well into the teen hundreds of dollars. Of course, the advantage there is that it works in the middle of the ocean (relatively speaking; one doesn't alway succeed in connection), and the downside is that it's distinctly not a browser; text email is all you get on one, and 50k limit on size on another.

Satellite phone comms is another option, giving the advantage of being at sea as well, but with the same limitations, and accompanied by a high minutes cost, accompanied by areas of no-coverage; no single provider has it all. Globalstar runs out of steam in the south Caribbean with very spotty coverage in the other hemisphere, Iridium doesn't talk to almost anyone in the Atlantic, etc.

Various cellphone companies with GSM3 phones can give voice if near a cell tower, internationally it is spotty, but there are many countries which are included. However, none do internet for free, and not many of them do it at all, so while voice is possible in some areas, email and other internet based stuff isn't, and outbound minutes are breathtakingly expensive.

So, you see my dilemma...

Thanks for the help, if you (or anyone) can...

Reply to
Skip Gundlach

On Fri, 16 Jun 2006 18:00:40 -0400, "Skip Gundlach" wrote in :

You either didn't read carefully enough, or made unwarranted assumptions. You're going to have to run a power cable up the mast anyway, so it only makes sense to use it for signal as well, avoiding the fairly serious problems of a repeater in a location like that. If you want wireless on the boat, then put a wireless access point at the lower end of the cable.

Again, see the Wiki.

Reply to
John Navas

On Fri, 16 Jun 2006 17:36:52 -0400, "Skip Gundlach" wrote in :

Given your attitude in this post, I conclude my original assessment of the chip on your shoulder to be right on target.

My advice was based on what actually works. Perhaps you should rethink not only your attitude, but also your requirements/expectations.

The Wiki is pretty much all signal.

Again, my advice was based on what actually works.

Good luck to you then.


Your question was actually answered. If you're really serious, take a more open look at the answer, and ask whatever questions you might have. If OTOH you're going to continue to assume you know more about this than we do, and think it's appropriate to reward free help with discourtesy, then good luck to you -- please don't waste any more of our time, and don't let the door smack you in the tush on the way out.

I think you've actually proved my point. I'm frankly not surprised you're having so much trouble getting an answer.

Reply to
John Navas

hello, again...

Well, I went back and reread all I'd seen. I don't want to seem contentious, so I'll not cite all the citations listed as solutions which don't meet the specifications I outlined (yes, I agree that there are many other ways to skin the cat as long as one doesn't mind being joined by a wire).

However, one solution wasn't clear, and perhaps it's the one to which you refer as meeting my specs.

It's the one where there's a bridge (even specifying essentially what I have, a weatherized, NEMA box mounted, 2611CB3Deluxe [later 2611]) which is POEd and data-connected to an AP.

Unfortunately, whether it's the nature of the specific beasts, or something else, a 2611 won't play with another one, whether by crossover or direct cat5 connection. Worse, in the two supplied me, neither would even act as a bridge successfully.

As I know you prefer to keep this to the usenet, I can't send you what I did, step by step (and it's way too long for general discussion, I think), eliminating all the potential possibilities under the manufacturer's instructions, one at a time, but the 2611s I have will interrogate, given the same IP and subnet families, will allow me to select an AP and show it associated with that AP, but not pass any data.

That makes me not very enthusiastic about pursuing that line.

Later, you refer to putting an AP on the other end of the cat5 for wireless comms. From that I infer you mean the AP will talk to the laptop, and to the bridge, which will talk to the shore point. That, in fact, is what was sold to me - but all located in the NEMA box... Perhaps some other pair might, but these won't even live together, let alone cooperate, and, as above, if a hardwired 2611 bridge won't pass data, I'm SOL.



Reply to
Skip Gundlach

You continue trying to "think" you know what to do then blame the hardware for not doing it, instead of doing what can be done with the hardware available.


You do not need to focus on "manufacturer specific", anything. That is why there are standards for wifi. Any open networks that you are allowed to use will connect if you have a clean enough signal and don't go trying to outthink things and screw it all up in the process.

You do not need to manually enter a SSID if you are allowed to use the signal. If you are instead trying to find some way to hack into networks illegally then no wonder nobody is going to help you do it.

Reply to

On Fri, 16 Jun 2006 19:34:09 -0400, "Skip Gundlach" wrote in :

So, either you've got (1) some cockpit error you haven't figured out, or (2) you've got some buggy gear that won't do the job. OTOH, the gear and configuration in the Wiki *will* work.

I think I've already seen it.

So cut your losses.

NO -- not the same thing!

Standard gear, configured as described in the Wiki, *will* work.

See .

Reply to
John Navas

This discussion (in a rather different tone) has been going on in other groups. Here's what I recently replied to one of them:


It appears we're headed down somewhat the same road, though I'm far less than sufficiently technically motivated to do what you're proposing...

That was what I'd wanted to do in the first place, really. My original, failed, setup, was an amplified bridge with omni stick antenna, crossover connected to an amplified AP with a rubber duck.

Supposedly (according to the vendor), after first configuring them with my laptop individually, via URL IP address, connecting them with a crossover cable would be all I'd need. The AP with the duck would give me and probably the entire anchorage access to the bridge points, which would see the shore points.

The vendor never tested it out, and the only way it ever worked at all was in a system that was invisible, seeing only the strongest signal, unaddressable, and therefore not configurable, and likewise subject to landing on an unknown spot that neither I nor anyone else could communicate with. Since that time, it's never worked, and generated only IP conflicts. Neither of the units will even perform as a wired bridge, as it will associate, but not pass data on a known good site (the one I use on the boat).

I've left all the above in case I've missed something. You're essentially setting up a server on an old laptop? And that's doing the routing, allowing you to use the AP it's serving as the gateway to your laptop which is the "real" computer?

As I'm trying to minimize space and clutter belowdecks, my objective was to put something in a NEMA box up the mast, with the appropriate antennas, and not have to do anything else other than power it up.

Your earlier stuff led me to look at some gear that I've not yet had the opportunity to dig into; first glance wasn't conclusive as to whether it would do the job specified.

Interestingly, over in a couple of techie newsgroups, there were assertions that all I needed was a bridge and an AP connected together. However, off those groups, I was in extensive comms with a guy who designs municipal and other large-scale wifi applications.

He did a lot of work on the project, and said that all I really needed to make my current gear do the job was a router in between. He suggested the router be at the nav or similar, but the AP and Bridge be topsides with the antennae, connected with ethernets to the router. If desired, I could cable to the router, or plug in a VOIP box (the router looking like a broadband feed to the VOIP at that point) or other ethernet device (similar to the $1800 unit shown on another site which URL doesn't immediately spring to mind, but an advance over the previously only wired version of shipside wifi they'd had earlier; this new unit had 250ma AP and 250ma Bridge with router between them, N and one other antenna mount - perhaps an N also, don't recall, and a cat5 RJ45 out - all in one box designed to mount mast-top or similar), but that project was stillborn with the failure of the Senao units to even act as a Bridge - accompanied by massive IP conflict messages.

So, I presume it's do-able, maybe even achievable by my own playing around, but now it's getting in the way of casting off, and I either need a plug-and-play proven item, or to shelve it for a while. Logic and my minimal understanding of how things work network-wise tells me that while the AP and Bridge alone is a lovely idea, I need a router to give out addresses and translate. If I thought I wouldn't encounter what I have already experienced, I'd try again. But I've been through such hell with this, each time and attempt taking many hours, I'm gunshy.

Prior correspondents, thinking they'd solved it with standard, off-the-shelf gear, have found on review that it only worked in a proprietary environment, where specific maker and model gear were involved, with specific SSID and MAC, known in advance, were specified. That won't work out in the "real world" that I'll be facing...

So, I look forward to additional commentary. I'm not ready for the complexity you've described - three items, one of which was down on the nav (as suggested by the muni developer), was pushing my limits as it was, but if I got a VOIP feed rather than the softphone (software enabling of my laptop to be a telephone with headset or mike and speakers), I was willing to hide it and use an outlet for the POTS device I'd hook to it. However, see above for the disappointment :{/)

Thanks for any additional insights...

Reply to
Skip Gundlach

Hi, John, and thanks for the continued dialogue. Comments inline:

The testing I did was to go from computer to XO cable to 2611 with antenna. It's entirely possible I've got buggy gear. Lord knows I've about worn out the CD with the manual on it. That there are two units which fail in the same fashion (on multiple computers) is either frustrating or confirming of the problem in them.


:{)) Heh. Have done, and recently sent the 1/2 ream of documentation to Discovercard to reinstitute the refund and eventual return of the product(s).

This is where, following your miniURL, I guess I'm missing the point.

How is locating the AP and Bridge - connected by ethernet - in the same place different from locating them in different places, connected in the same fashion other than a longer C5?

As above. Of course, with all the bruiting of their superiority (the various commentary from other failed attempts to use them by others and the failure of the reps to follow up - all in these usenet groups - enhancing), the failure of the 2611s was a bitter pill to swallow, as I was convinced that they *should* work - even if it took inserting a router in between. That the recommended gear in the wiki was also a senao makes me nervous to start over. That just walking into the local bigbox joint doesn't seem to produce readily available (and returnable) alternatives further discourages me.

But I'm still here, and still listening...

Reply to
Skip Gundlach

On Fri, 16 Jun 2006 23:50:09 -0400, "Skip Gundlach" wrote in :

*Client* bridge wired to a wireless access point.

Should I be impressed? Is his work one of the many that don't work?

It doesn't take a lot of work.

He's in the wrong line of work.

That would be wrong.

Fair enough -- bon voyage.

What I'm recommending *does* work in the real world.

Not me. Wasted too much time on this already. Have tried to tell you how to do it but you won't listen. So at this point I'll only wish you bon voyage.

Reply to
John Navas

On Sat, 17 Jun 2006 00:03:06 -0400, "Skip Gundlach" wrote in :

A repeater is *not* the same as a client bridge wired to an access point

-- way more difficult to get working: compatibility issues, interference issues, on and on. OTOH, my way *does* work. If you insist on doing it some other way, then you're on your own (no offense intended).

No, no, no!

Any good client bridge will work. The Senao is just one that's known to work very well.

Your needs aren't what they are addressing.

Fair enough. Take it step by step -- prototype the whole thing on the deck *before* doing anything major. If you do it right, following my instructions, it *will* work.

Reply to
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