Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wireless site visit

Yesterday I had to swing by the golf club where I installed a wifi hotspot back in the Spring. One of the guys there was concerned about low signal levels and wanted to ensure that it would be working OK for a conference being held there this Thursday.

I got there yesterday afternoon and fired up my iBook. I saw that the signal levels were fine, just as good as when I replaced the SMC WAPs with Netgears. We simultaneously checked with another employee's Dell laptop sporting a Linksys Wireless-G card. Afterwards, I doublechecked with my Dell with its Netgear Wireless-G card.

Being able to check with three different computers eliminated the possibility that a bad NIC would skew results. It also served to demonstrate that radio reception is dependent not only upon how strong a signal is being transmitted, but by how good the receiving antenna is.

As I've previously noticed, my iBook has a very good antenna built-in for the Airport Extreme card. The Netgear and Linksys PCMCIA adapters in the two Dells, however, don't have as much gain, and therefore have inferior reception.

One can buy wireless cards with high gain antennas for PCs. If you find yourself using hotspots but handicapped with poor reception, you might look around and see what's available with a high gain antenna. (I don't have any recommendations, unfortunately.)

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