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Thursday, 10 December 2015

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Even in the small space of a UK 1920's semi-detached house, getting wifi into the remoter corners can be an issue, especially if one of those corners is on an upper floor and overlooks the road outside from which there is excellent reception of all the other home wifi networks in the street.....

So I've taken the step of getting some actual ethernet cable installed; one length up to our home office (in the front upstairs room) and another to the location of the TV, satellite TV receiver, and Apple TV box. All the static devices in each location (iMac, PC, TV, set top boxes) are physically connected via a switch. This then leaves the Wifi for just mobile devices. It would of course also be possible to connect a wifi extender to one of the switches as well.

After installing my apple airport wifi router, I was able to throw away my range extender.

Hi Mike,

I live in a 3-story house and my router is rather inefficiently placed in a corner of the middle floor, so I had a couple blind spots in the places I most wanted to use, as it always happens. I bought a cheap TP-link range extender (about 50 US$) and installed effortlessly in fifteen minutes or so. Instant coverage in the whole house, and perceived speed is indistinguishable from being 10 feet from the original router. Bliss!

This is one of those cases where I would avoid going too deep down the rabbit hole. No need, and you'll save $$$ and headache from overcomplicating things.

I've been happily using my Netgear WN3000RP extender for some years now to get internet in the far reaches of the house. I was so pleased with it that I bought one for my parents so they could use the internet in the garden during the couple of days a year we call the British Summer.

I also had the idea of purchasing a more robust modem/router to replace the one that came with my broadband package, something with big beefy antennae that looked like it would do the job, but that didn't have nearly as much of a benefit as the range extender. The more advanced router also came with a lot more advanced options, and very little in the way of help setting them up!

I haven't heard great things about range extenders. Is there any way you can move your router to a more central location in the house, preferably high up?

Failing that... after my house move this year I moved to a garden office and the wifi performance was pretty poor in out there. I replaced the stock router with one that had multiple, detachable aerials. I removed one of the stock aerials and connected instead an external aerial on the wall outside pointing at the office (a cheap TP-Link thing). Works beautifully.

TP-Link also do internal aerials, so this approach might work for you if you can't easily relocate your router. Something like this http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/details/cat-4765_TL-ANT2409CL.html - your router needs to have a RP-SMA Male connector.

I use one and it works fine to repeat a signal around some difficult stairs and corners.

Mike,

FWIW, I have found that my own router, independent of my modem, has always worked better for me...but I'm at least mildly tech-oriented.

Presently, we have an Apple (Mac?) Time Capsule as our main router, with Airport Expresses (multiple, as needed, depending on where the holes are) working to extend wireless range around and within the house.

As a side note (and I'm sure you've heard it before), because we're "all-in" with Apple/Mac products, it makes networky things (file sharing/access, wireless printer sharing, music listening, etc.) much easier for us, even those of us who are not tech-oriented. It's also been (for us) a mostly set-it-and-forget-it experience, which is nice.

Thanks!

You may want to consider a powerline adapter to extend your network. Many models come with a built-in WiFi access point. These use the HomePlug AV2 standard for data transmission over your house's wiring. You simply plug in one of the two units and connect it to your router via an Ethernet cable, and plug the other unit into an outlet where you need WiFi coverage. I use one to extend my WiFi coverage into a room that is shielded by metal siding. Just search for "homeplug" on Amazon.

If it is a wireless to wireless extender, you do not want it. It eats 50% or more of your available wireless bandwidth. That is meant for point to point to extend cable ethernet. What you want is to 1) better position existing wireless access point ( likely part of your router), 2) run an ethernet cable from router to a location on opposite side of house and add an access point (can be another wireless router in AP mode), 3) try a ethernet pver power extender with a AP to the other side of house, 4) if you have cable to the weak area, use MOCA modems to extend ethernet and place an AP there,or 5) increase the power of the existing AP if possible.
Wireless N or AC on the 2.4 Ghz band will go the furthest.

Smallnetbuilder has good guidance on how to attack this issue.

Frank

On range extenders: I wouldn't go that route. What a typical range extender does, is picking up an already weak(er) signal from your router, and then amplifying it. So that would be like making an underexposed photo in the dark at ISO 102000, and then correcting the exposure in Photoshop. Will the result be pretty to look at? No.

For a similar issue I've installed a couple of Devolo Powerline adapters with built-in Wifi, which works flawlessly. For the wifi you can either choose to let each adapter be its own access point, or replicate your main wifi signal. In both cases obviously the data goes through the powerlines.

Range extenders do work. A better/more powerful router can work well too. Depends on how much coverage you need and the layout of your house. Sometimes the range of the router on paper isn't enough when you consider the reality of the particular house.

I had this one in my old place(not a big apartment, but a lot of other wifi networks in the building made it a difficult place for a single router) and it worked well - http://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-range-extenders/WN2500RP.aspx

Thanks for the pointer, Mike, I've eyeballed that bag off and on since they were introduced and now it can join the camera bag collection.

To answer your question about renting... it will almost certainly be cheaper to buy a modem and wifi router to replace the Time Warner box, and, in my experience, will likely give you a better signal as well. I'm not up to date enough to recommend a modem and router, though.

We use an older Apple Airport base station as an extender in our house (wirelessly) and it does work to get WiFi to the office at the other end of the house but it is definitely a little on the slow side. It works much better if you're able to run an ethernet cable between them instead of relying on wireless. Since stringing it down the hall isn't a long-term option running one under or outside the house is on my project list.

I don't know about the construction of your home but homes with metal lathe that provides support for plaster walls (popular in the 1930's) is an effective shield for WiFi signals. Non-metal construction is more friendly to WiFi transmissions.

That said, WiFi access points and routers have been difficult to configure and are often placed in poor locations. A good location would be somewhere in the middle of your home that is away from other electrical devices. Sometimes moving your wireless device a few feet will make a big difference too.

Google has recently introduced the OnHub device that is easy to configure and it has multiple antennas built in to optimize the reception.

It has received favorable reviews by many.

Range extenders work. Or, I should say - the one I have tried works. Let me revise that yet again. My WiFi Router is a Time Capsule, and I use an AirPort Express to extend the range. The radio technology is basically the same for all brands, so assuming a high quality implementation and build, it should help.

Have you read the "best wifi extender" article on wirecutter.com? It seems to be very comprehencive and useful. It was updated October 29, 2015.

My experience with wifi extenders has has not been good. If the electrical system in your old house will support it, you'd be much better served with an ethernet over power-line adapter. Do some googling and you'll find out all you need.

I have an extender that simply plugs into a wall socket a few feet from my desk and has worked very well. In my upstairs office I had only one or two bars. I now have 5 consistently.

Yes, range extenders work - at least the one we have does. Easy enough to setup and use, works for us...

I find an extender useful to give a stronger signal upstairs from the router downstairs. If your device is already connected to the router when you switch on the extender you may need to disconnect and reconnect to get it to pick up the new source. Extenders are now cheap, mine was about £15, and easy to set up, so well worth a try. Good luck.

I would definitely replace the rental... I use a Motorola Surfboard and Netgear R7000, there is a newer Netgear, but I really like mine-just make sure the antennas are correctly aligned and ideally place it in a corner. I actually turned down the power on the router so it doesn't extend much beyond my yard, but it covers the whole house very well.
I think that with a good wireless router you shouldn't need to have an extender.

Range extenders compete with your existing router for capacity. If you are the only user, that's not a problem, but it can backfire in a busy wireless network.

scott

Definitely do not get a range extender, if it is one that takes a weak wifi signal and blasts it out more strongly at the distant end. In my experience, the initial signal is so degraded that amplifying it results in very poor performance.

A better solution is Powerline, or Homeplug. It uses your home wiring to transmit a robust data stream to anywhere on the same wiring circuit. You can get them with built in wifi transmitters for the 'far end', so you plug an ethernet cable from your router in at the near end, it goes through your wiring and a good solid signal comes out the other end. Many examples on Amazon, but also check out the reviews at http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/

One thing at a time.

First of all, I found that the wifi strength in my living room was significantly affected by the placement and orientation of the cable modem/router in the bedroom. A 45 degree rotation of the modem took me from a "barely adequate" one bar to a reasonable 4 (out of 5).

We've come a long way, but radio antennas are still radio antennas.

Second. You should be able to have your cable company disable the router part of the all-in-one so that you can use your own up-to-date stand-alone router, which will almost certainly outperform the all-in-one. Later, you can consider replacing the modem to reduce your bill.

The Wirecutter recently did a fairly exhaustive test to find the best routers: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-router/

There's an overwhelming amount of data and info there, but the NYTimes summarizes the conclusions here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/technology/personaltech/if-your-wi-fi-is-terrible-check-your-router.html

and also points to the Wirecutter piece on range extenders, if you still find it necessary:
http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-extender/

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/technology/personaltech/improving-your-home-network.html?referer=&_r=0

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/technology/personaltech/if-your-wi-fi-is-terrible-check-your-router.html?referer=

The best solution might be a power line adaptor. Basically runs a hardwire line through your electrical power lines. Very little loss of signal. You can set up a router at the other end in bridge mode if you want better wifi everywhere. Check out the Wirecutter article. http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-powerline-networking-kit/

I have had good success using the apple airport express as a range extender. It is best to connect to another apple airport device (express or extreme) that is Ethernet wired connected to your internet access device. Apple also has a free airport network utility app that makes it easy to manage and configure your wireless devices.

Here is my recommendation. Buy two airport express units. Replace your rented all-in-one with an external Ethernet enabled cable modem. The cable modem connects to one airport express which connects to your wired Ethernet connection to your iMac (depending upon the number of Ethernet devices you might need a small 4 port switch). The other airport express plugs into an ac outlet into another part of your house and configured as a range extender device using the Apple utility.

If you find that the airport express used as a range extender does not provide adequate performance you can add two power line adapters. Power line adapters plug into an ac outlet and have an Ethernet connector. They use the ac wiring in your home to create a wired Ethernet network. They are sold as a pair as a start pack. So one power line adapter plugs into your range extended airport express and the other one is located next to your wired Ethernet network (probably near your other airport express that is connected to your cable modem and imac). I am also using a pair of these with great success.

If you have additional questions please feel free to email me privately.

Mike,

I would encourage you to purchase your modem if you plan on keeping your service for two years. The ROI is about 12-18 months depending on the model you purchase. Time Warner has a nice listing of recommended models on their website (http://www.timewarnercable.com/en/support/internet/topics/buy-your-modem.html). As for your WiFi…I’d recommend the Hawking Technology 1200AC Access Point (http://hawkingtech.com/products/hawking_products/wireless_ac/HW12ACM.html) . I run one in my home (single family ranch) and the penetration on the signal is amazing. The unit is installed in the middle of my home in a closet. I get full bars in my backyard, front yard and basement. The unit is also slightly future proof in that it supports the AC WiFi band (think gigabit). If you have WiFi clients that support a 5ghz over a 2.4ghz connection that would help with penetration and reduce interference with other 2.4ghz devices. The access point also supports POE (Power over Ethernet) show the unit does not need power at its location. You’ll need to purchase a POE injector which is inexpensive (http://amzn.com/B001PS9E5I) if you wish to take advantage of not have a wall wart next to the Access Point.

we had range extenders put in several months ago to cover poor internet in parts of our house and it definitely helped. The cable company provided them so we did no research as to what was best. They are netgear model wn3000rpv2. I would try your cable company and see if they wont provide them! Of course that will take a day of your time trying to get to talk to them.

As always... it depends.

I blindly accepted the cable modem rental for years before it ever occurred to me that I could own one. I think the rental fee was around $8-10/month (don't recall exactly). So when I spent about $100 on my own gigabit modem, it paid for itself in under a year. Then one can also find a good dual-band wireless router for +/- $100, depending on bells and whistles (your Apple devices are dual-band capable, you can experiment which frequency gives you better range/connectivity in your particular environment) and of course you are free to upgrade your home networking devices whenever you get a new phone or iPad or whatever that uses the next-gen wireless standard. 802.11ac is getting more widespread (your phone has it), and the newer/faster/bigger/better standards are always in development and rollout.

Currently at Newegg (haven't checked B&H), you can get a modem with free router for well under $100. I have no experience with the hardware in question, but the point is they can be had relatively inexpensively. I purchased the Archer C7 dual-band router (~$91) some time ago, and it's been great for us so far (2 iPhone users, an iPad, 3 hard-wired PCs).

When renting, I found that I was always at the mercy of whatever they gave me, which may or may not have been a good experience for me. It's not like Comcast was knocking down my door to bring me the latest and greatest whenever it became available. Not that you're (probably) paying for gigabit internet at your home, there's usually little need for that, but I still prefer having something better than the standard rental issue.

Of course, if your modem or router die, and you're renting, it's their problem vs. having to go buy a new one, so there are pros and cons to both sides. Depends how much control you want to have over your home network.

I've set up many London townhouses (old, tall buildings, very thick walls and floors) and offices with combinations of HomePlug adapters and small Wi-Fi access points. I make sure the encryption is turned on for the adapters (usually via the button on the side, allowing them all to join a single encrypted network), and set all the Wi-Fi access points to broadcast the same network name ('SSID')and the same password in bridge mode.

HomePlug devices work by transmitting data over your internal power cables and wall sockets. I use AirPort Express (or similar) devices for the Wi-Fi access points. Each Wi-Fi access point should be set to a channel that doesn't interfere with the others. Today, the 5 GHz band works best for Wi-Fi.

For this to work, you do need to have wiring that allows data to pass along it. Worth testing using a single pair of adapters. Once set up, it has been very reliable, in my experience – I've set up many clients this way and, years later, all is still good. Data can sometimes pass between buildings, hence the need to encrypt. (Before encryption, it's not uncommon to see devices appear on the HomePlug network from next-door buildings that also use HomePlug.) You have my email address if you have questions. :)

PS. The setup I described in my comment ends up working as a single, cohesive network: devices pick the nearest Wi-Fi access point as you roam around the house. All devices on the ethernet (cabled) network, like printers, can talk to the Wi-Fi devices and vice verse because the Wi-Fi access points are set to work in bridge mode.

My wi fi router is about as far away from my home office as it could be while still inside the house. I had no problem with the iMac in the office, but the company-issue Dell laptop apparently has a crappy radio. I bought a Linksys range extender (same brand as my router) and after a very easy install process (into a power outlet in the living room above my office), no more problems with weak signal on the Dell.

Note that both the router and extender are of the dual frequency "n" type.

Extender was about $80.

Here in Duluth we are privileged to enjoy the offerings of Charter Communications. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth and four visits to my home by technicians because I refused to be anything but relentless in pursuing a fix, Charter finally gave in and installed the latest technology for my WiFi network and hurrah! the system works like a dream. The solution was something called an AC router.

I've used a Netgear router and a Netgear WN3000RP extender for several years now and it's been fairly reliable. My wife's office is diagonally opposite mine and up two floors The basement router just couldn't reach. The extender plugs into a 120v outlet and looks like a plump wall-wart with antennas. It's located about half-way between her office and mine.

I had some very bad experiences with a pair of Linksys devices before that. They were never reliable at all. We'd experience all sorts of lockups that required running to and from the devices to reboot and reconnect them.

Whatever you decide upon, be sure to update your firmware to the latest version.

Hi Mike
While range extenders work, they do have a speed penalty as they encode then rebroadcast each search results. They can slow down the internet by up to half speed and open up additional troubleshooting issues.
IMHO you are much better off getting a good router and a separate cable modem. The router radios inside the "all in ones" provided by cable services are not that great. Any top ranked router will provide better coverage/speed. Many are now dual band and MIMO.
I live on a family ranch with 4 houses all serviced by one router in a separate building, talk about difficult WiFi, yet I have coverage in all buildings.
There is also a cost factor if the cable service charges you "rent" by the month. Eventually you will recover your investment.
Finally, there is the security factor. Cable modem/ routers are notorious for poor internet security. Much better having the ability to set your own security levels, firewalls, passwords, guest channels for visitors(allows visitors to have internet access without opening up your computers to them if on separate channels), etc…
Hope this helps, Greg

WiFi extenders can be useful, though there are issues that need to be dealt with. If they connect to the main router via WiFi then they need to be placed where they can both get a good signal from the main router and broadcast a decent signal to the intended room.

I work for a photographer's gallery here in Key West and while I was hired as the "Chief Photoshop Jockey", I also act as the IT tech. The gallery is in an old 2 story building built as a residence and expanded. It now houses the gallery, our printing department (me) and a framing dept. Our internet connection is at my desk upstairs in the front and the framing dept is downstairs at the back. Our primary router's WiFi signal doesn't cover the rear third of the ground floor. I installed an "extender" (older Netgear model new at the time) in one of the rear upstairs gallery rooms where it could receive the main WiFi well and could present a reasonably strong signal in the framing department as well.

This has worked well, though the extender presents a separate SSID. If you connect to it in the framing dept. and walk the computer through the gallery and up to my garret you loose your connection. You need to manually reconnect to the main SSID, a minor inconvenience.

The WireCutter has pretty good, mostly unbiased, reviews. The cable companies all in one is always going to be cheap and dirty. A standalone router, preferably with external antenna, will give you better performance. Take a look at the review below:
http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-router/

Scott

Turn off the wifi in your ISP's modem (you can still use its routing capabilities) and use a separate dedicated wifi access point.

I highly recommend a "commercial" type wifi access point like this one: https://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap-ac-lr/

I recently installed that model in my house and I'm very impressed with the coverage.

Replace the rented cable modem with a basic one (no wifi) like this http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9F4WXA?psc=1 .

I'd recommend springing for an Apple AirPort Extreme. Very simple to setup, decent range and more stable than inexpensive routers I've had the misfortune of supporting for family members who won't spring for the better ones.

The payback period would be around a year if you only rented the modem. Buying the two devices will take longer to pay back, but the quality should be much better (faster internet potentially, and better quality router).

Another nice thing about separating the two is you can place the router in a more central location so you may not need a range extender.

I know diddilly-squat about such things, but my son, who is knowledgeable, would tell you to get the Apple device; the industrial strength model. It worked for us.

+1 for Dale's comment
As many have pointed out there are several ways to do this.They all work.
If you don't have one, Apple's Time Capsule provides effortless (and automatic) backup and can extend range, as do the ultra simple plug in any outlet Air Port express. (but no backup)
Apple is never the cheapest solution but often the easiest.

I'm thinking Think Tank is discontinuing the slate blue color for the Retrospective bags. The prices on this color have been reduced for a couple of months at several locations online. I picked up a 5, 7 and 40. I returned the 5 because it was too small to be of any use to me. The 7 holds my E-M1 with battery grip, E-P3 w VF-2 EVF, 14-42, 17 1.8, 45 1.8, 60 macro, 75 1.8, 40-150 3.5-5.6, Leica/Lumix 25 1.4, 7 lens shades, 4 camera batteries, battery charger, Color Checker, remote release, Metz 58 AF2, remote flash cord, and 8 extra AA batteries. It won't hold my Surface Pro 4, but a 7 or 8" tablet could be squeezed in there. I can't believe a bag that looks so small can hold so much. If I want to work out of it while walking and taking photos, I wouldn't carry all that stuff at once but it's a great bag for storage or shooting with. I use the larger 40 with my Canon 5D MK II kit. Extremely good buy at these prices.

They do work. Think back to radio days, and broadcast "repeaters." Not a perfect analogy, but good enough.

I bought this one a few weeks ago:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I48MK9Y?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00

It looks like a wall-wart, or some kind of room deodorizer. Easy to set up, and cheap. For me, it's a life extender for my first generation Nexus 7 tablet, which after sever Android updates, got ridiculously horrible wifi performance. It's livable now.

Some of the other suggestions above are good as well. If you know someone who is reasonably tech savvy who is in a position to help you, I think you can get to good performance for under $200.

That Retro 7 is a right-sized and very comfortable bag. I use it for a modest D300 kit, sometimes including a water bottle and snacks for the kids (heresy, I know). Alternatively, it can fit an entire m4/3 arsenal.

Gee Mike, with all the advice being piled on you the most obvious solution seems to have escaped everyone's attention: Buy a new house! One with all the electronic doodads and gizmos you'll need already built in.

[Good suggestion, Kenny, I'll do that right away. But I want to still keep living in this one. I guess I can go to the new one whenever I want to use Wi-Fi. --Mike[SA]

IF you can get into the setup of your wi-fi modem (not always that easy) you can turn up the signal strength of the modem.
Most modems are set at the factory for a low signal strength. Many reasons why, both good and bad, but seeing that you have no next door neighbours, then who cares.
And in case you really are interested, the distance record for wi-fi reception is about 50 miles. That was done with a couple of satellite tv dishes.

Sorry, Mike, but your router problem is getting zero sympathy for me, since you just created no end of headaches for me.

I am not a "bagaholic" in the sense that I love camera bags. I actually hate them. But I'm also fairly particular about what works for me, and when I recently purchased a new camera (the absolutely jaw-dropping Panasonic GM5, which I picked up with the 12-32mm kit lens for $470 from Adorama through your links -- be sure to get the matching Panasonic DMW-HGR1S grip for only $19(!!!) with it), I had to get a new bag that would accommodate the GM5 alongside my Panny GX7. The bag had to be easy-access and I was hoping for something that could accommodate my full-size Olympus flash as well, when needed.

Unfortunately, when it comes to bags, I also tend to be stingy. I've long wanted a Think Tank Restrospective, but I've also been put off by the prices. How can I justify spending $170 on a bag when there are so many great bags available for $30-50? (And FWIW, there really are great bags available in this price range. But not all satisfy my particular fetishes.)

I saw a Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW on sale from Adorama for $13 (instead of the usual $40). So I jumped. But when it arrived the color was awful, the bag was too big, and most importantly it was too "square". It was more of a box to put gear in than a trim messenger bag (my preferred style). [Bag #1]

Recently I was in NYC on business. My meeting ended late (about 6:15pm) and I dashed crosstown to B&H. I figured I would browse their bags, maybe even find a used one I liked, and be on my way. But I was distracted by the Sony RX1R II, with it's jewel of a viewfinder, and the Sony/Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens, when suddenly they announced the store was closing in 10 minutes [Side note: how can the greatest camera store in New York City close at 7pm during the holiday shopping season?!?!?]. I dashed over to the used bags, didn't find a one I liked, then ran to the new bags where the Samsung ED-CC3N90N ($25) caught my eye. It's a rather nice bag, but (as I realized when I got home), a bit too small, a little bit too stiff and the cover isn't a flap, it is sewn into a boxy shape that makes it very awkward to work with the top open. [Bag #2]

The best camera bag I've ever owned (and that I still use when I need to transport a large amount of gear from place to place) is my Vanguard Up-Rise II 38, so I thought I would check to see what Vanguard offers in the way of relatively small messenger bags. On Amazon (again, through a TOP link) I saw that the Vanguard 2GO 33 was on sale. It is probably too big for my needs, but for $12 (instead of the usual $55), I figured it was worth trying. [Bag #3]

What really caught my eye was the Mark II version of the Vanguard Sydney bag, but it doesn't seem to be available in the U.S. yet. I found an eBay seller in (of all places) Latvia that was selling the Vanguard Sydney II 22 and Sydney II 27 bags at very low prices. I was having trouble figuring out which size would be best for me. Given the long lead time due to shipping and the low cost of the bags themselves ($20 and $25, respectively), I decided I would just buy both of them. [Bags #4 and 5]

At this point, my wife caught on. I already have a closet FULL of bags (that's no exaggeration), so when she saw that more were on the way, she suggested treatment at a 90-day inpatient facility. I (barely) managed to convince her that was excessive and that I was capable of controlling my foolish instincts.

Then you come along and tell me that B&H has a sale on the Think Tank Retrospective, the bag I REALLY wanted in the first place. A few minutes later, both the Retrospective 5 AND the Retrospective 7 are on their way to me. [Bags #6 and 7]

That's 7 bags in about a 2-week span, or roughly a new bag every 2 days. Even for me, that's a record. I hope you feel proud of yourself, breaking up my marriage like this...

;-)
Adam

P.S. FWIW, my experience with WiFi range extenders hasn't been great. The extenders seem to keep losing the signal from the base station. Moreover, my devices seem to latch onto the signal from the extender, rather than the signal from the base, even when I'm closer to the base, which then means that my signal on the side of the house CLOSEST to the base is weaker/slower than it would be without the extender. I think your best bet is to do your darndest to place your base as close as possible to the center of your house, so that it covers the whole house (more or less) equally.

...and of course, the eternal lesson on false economy rings true here as well:

Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW - $13
Samsung ED-CC3N90N - $25
Vanguard 2GO 33 - $12
Vanguard Sydney II 22 - $20
Vanguard Sydney II 27 - $25 (+$10 shipping)

Total = $105 (and that doesn't even include the Retrospective 5)

Price of the Think Tank Retrospective 7? $109

Apple Airport Extreme.
You'll never go back.
Position and orientation of the unit make a difference.
Mind the lathe in the lathe and plaster walls(if any).

I'm happy to hear about the reader endorsements, because amazingly I have *just* bought the brother of this bag, the "30" (in plain grey). I just immediately wanted it when I saw a picture of it, and I still like it. Very simple, very aesthetic in the rustic way I like, and very well thought through.
And for MFT, it holds a big and flexible system. (Example: the "7" is especially tall, to hold the 70-200mm 2.8 zoom. Mine is not, but the Olympus PRO 40-150mm 2.8 fits in the less tall bag with an inch to spare, and it has 50% more reach!)

I've never had to use any of the range extending options in our large duplex -- partly because I I bit the bullet and made sure the location of the single device is very central. But that means I can't discuss the options from any experience.

This isn't going to help (you clearly need to reduce options, not increase them) -- but for APs with detachable antennas, sometimes improved antennas are the easiest way to increase range. Ask any ham radio operator about the tradeoffs of more power vs. better antennas!

The 5GHz band is less good at going through walls and things than the 2.4GHz band, so it's not better in all ways particularly when reach is the issue.

In general, you're much better off owning the gear than renting it.

Ubiquiti.
Their commercial (i.e. hotel-grade) access points are all you need. Ars Technica has the review you want to read: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/09/ubiquiti-revamps-its-enterprise-unifi-gear-and-weve-got-some-to-review/

Good stuff. Affordable good stuff.

I don't know if you're using an Apple Airport router of any flavor, but if you are, any other airport router can be configured to extend the range very easily. I don't know about other dedicated devices, but I do know that configuring a mixed brand extended router system can be frustrating and non trivial.

When I got my current Macbook Pro I found that it didn't get wifi in my office, which had never showed wifi weakness with any other computer before. I simply bought a used previous generation Airport Extreme and it took less than 5 minutes to set up to extend the main router to my office. Completely solid. I just have to turn it on when I come in here.

As for the Retrospective bag, I ordered one once, as I was expanding my MFT gear, and I fully intended to keep it. It was good looking, and so it appealed to my vanity. But the flap was big and slow to get into the bag. Along with the Retrospective I ordered 4 other bags to check out, one of which I didn't think I would like, but which had a lot of adherents: the ThinkTank Turnstyle 20. It costs less than the Retrospective even with the sale <http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=turnstyle+20&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=>. The Turnstyle is also a little slow, since the camera can be all the way on your back. but for a period of working, it slides around and opens right in front of you. Although inviting the possibility of something tumbling out, it is really nice to work with everything open right in front above the waist. And on the back it's inconspicuous and easy to carry.

I'm slowly upgrading to an all AC wifi system. I have the new Google OnHub wifi router and an AC USB3 at the computer. It surely helped.

I just upgraded my ChromeCast to the new version with AC wifi and that really helped.

I'm forced to put the wifi router in the garage and my make-do office is two floors up and on the opposite side of the house. AC wifi is stronger and will work at greater distances than N wifi.

AC wifi makes a difference but at the cost of $200 for the router I don't know. Maybe in the long run it will.

I see you have updated with a solution so I will only add that since you have a Mac laptop you can use that as a range extender by sharing its wifi. I think it it is never security protected then but it is a useful temporary solution especially since you have no very near neighbours.

I use a Netgear wireless router and it reaches from the basement to the attic (4 floors) through 1914 plaster. I bet you see a big improvement with your new Apple setup. Oh, and a shoutout to fellow Duluthian Peter Van Dyken.

You have got some excellent advice about repositioning the router and using airport express for extending if necessary.
Please don't use those horrid Powerline adaptors that send data over the house wiring. The mains wiring was never designed for high speed data. But even worse is the problem with them polluting the radio waves with interference as the mains wiring acts as an unintentional antenna, the radio interference is dreadful, making radio reception at Long Wave, Medium Wave, Short Wave and even VHF harder and harder. They are the invention of the devil, and should never have been allowed. http://www.mds975.co.uk/Content/amateur_radio_BPL_interference.html

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