Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Wi-Fi Chair

Since 1980, my parents have lived in a house on the hill down in the canyons of Tanglewood. It's a nice old house, but for a techie guy like me, its greatest disadvantage is the lack of Internet. They have a phone line, but I haven't used a dial-up modem in years. I'm not sure I have the connection numbers any more. Sadly, my mother's interest in email has faded and I'm not sure I could honestly make the argument for them to get a cable-modem connection. Visiting here for three weeks means long stretches without a connection.

At the RV, parked over at my sister's house, there are a couple of connections. One is our Motosat dish, but even better in terms of bandwidth is my sister's home network. They have a good wifi router connected to an excellent cable-modem. Every night I have my choice of connecting to their system or the RV system. It's the daytime drought that troubles me.

Yes, I have my cell phone, and assuming Mary Ann hasn't swiped it, I can connect for about an hour before the battery runs dry.

However ... after the last trip when I was frequently just out of range of a wifi signal, I made a couple of upgrades. Item one was a Quickertek external wifi tranceiver. Laptop wifi systems are deliberately underpowered as a tradeoff between battery life and usability. The Quicky is a higher powered unit that connects via USB. I can carry it in my pocket unless I need it, and then greatly increase my range by plugging it in. It gets very hot to the touch when I do, so I understand the laptop designer's decision to have just enough of a transmitter to work comfortable in a house or coffee shop.

Item two was to replace my RV wireless hub with the new Apple 803.11n router. This gives the RV a greater range.

So, sitting in the den at my parents house, I can connect to the RV's satellite feed over at my sister's house. It's a half-mile walk, but line of sight, it's only about 700 feet. With the Quicky plugged in, I can make a fair connection to the RV's router.

But only in one chair. Back in 1980 when my father bought this house, he immediately began adding on the den, a large open room with lots of windows. If I sit in the south west corner of the room, in a comfy blue chair, I can hold the laptop's antenna to the window and only from this location, make my connection. It's the wifi chair.

I have tried going outside, but with trees in the way, the only place is just outside that same window, and outside, the sunlight washes out all visibility on my screen.

So, it works, but within tight constraints. Maybe I need to talk up that cable modem after all.

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