Panbo

My Bad: EnGenius EOC-2610 vs Wave WiFi Comet

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Mar 15, 2010
Wave_WiFi_Comet_cPanbo.JPG

"It's the firmware (and customer support), stupid!"  That's the lesson I learned when I bought an $75 EnGenius EOC-2610 high-power WiFi system in December, 2008 (when I was staying in NYC, cadging Internet from neighbors).  I got far enough into its dense menu systems to see some good hot spots, but I never got the damn thing to actually connect.  And at first my hubris was such that I simultaneously took to task a small company called Great Boat Gear for selling a "marine" version of the same hardware at more than double the cost.  Well, my bad...

You see, EnGenius and other off-the-shelf multi-purpose power-other-Ethernet WiFi appliances have a habit of humbling even fairly tech savvy boaters.  Which can make a big cost savings a pretty poor deal.  I found this out for sure when Wave WiFi offered to trade my 2610 for one of their EC-Comets.  Yes, they admitted, the hardware is the same, but they claimed that their firmware was oh-so-different, and they were right.  I've never had such an easy time getting online with a WiFi bridge (and the Port Networks MBW 250 I've also tested is fairly easy).  Just type "wavewifi.com" into your browser's address block and you get the list of available access points seen below, ordered by signal strength.  Click on one you want to try, and the Comet attempts to connect and then checks if you've gotten an IP address and actual Web access.  If you get "Yes, Yes, Yes" as I did with my own home network below, you're all set, and likely will be whenever you fire up the Comet at that location.
   I used the Comet a fair bit on Gizmo last Fall and was quite pleased with performance as well as ease.  I also checked out Wave WiFi's customer support line and was tickled to get a smart human who even knew something about a local WiFi weirdness I've run into from time to time, like when testing the 5MileWiFi USB device.  Wave -- which is a division of GeoSat Solutions, a partner in the Argus depth data project, and a former partner of Syrens Onboard (I tried to explain here) -- has a lot of experience dealing with boaters frustrated with WiFi!

Wave_WiFi_Comet_software_cPanbo.JPGMeanwhile, Great Boat Gear, which has a good WiFi tutorial, got into building WiFi bridges more waterproof than the EnGenius, like the OmniBeamBox seen below.  And these days both it and Wave have put together marine systems based on the red hot Ubiquiti Bullet, dubbed the Omni-lite Bridge and Rogue Wave respectively.  IslandTime PC has a similar system, which Jeff Siegel raved about recentlyWiFi for Boats also looks like a good source for marine Bullet systems and WiFi info.
   Ubiquiti's native firmware AirOS may be easier to use than EnGenius's, but it looks like Wave is again using its own super easy stuff, and I don't know about the others.  If I was shopping Bullets I'd look deeper into this subject, and customer support.  Lesson learned!  Incidentally, while I still  favor power-over-Ethernet over the USB-powered WiFi amps, I was a little surprised to realize that the ones I've been discussing here use 12 or 24 volts and not the 48v standard used by many commercial bridges, VOIP phones, IP cameras, and gear like the FLIR M-Series thermal camera controller.  So while Ethernet switches with POE built in sound slick for big boat systems, be careful!  All the vendors mentioned here make good cases for POE WiFi bridges, but check out The Wirie for a counter argument, even a comparison chart.  And those of you looking for a really inexpensive but easy-to-use WiFi router might like the Blue Box, though the set-up sounds non trivial.

GreatBoatGear_Omnibox.JPG

Comments

PS I'm sure that some Panbo readers could handle the EnGenius WiFi Bridge software just fine; I'm just not one of them...or am somewhat short on patience.

Posted by: Ben at March 16, 2010 3:08 PM | Reply

Ben, this article couldn't have come at a better time. I have just recently been looking at a WiFI system for the boat. I had already looked at the stuff offered at "WiFi for boats."

It looks like the WaveRV and WIRIE are certainly the best priced. And both of them seem to be sold locally so I'm going to go look at them.

Which one tickles your fancy the most?

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff at March 16, 2010 7:02 PM | Reply

Doesn't all this nice WiFi antenna receiving equipment depend on an open Internet access point somewhere on land? After cruising New England for the past several years it has become harder and harder to find a free hot spot to log into. Most WiFi I see are protected or commercial sites charging expensive hourly rates. Even some yacht clubs give out their password to transients renting a mooring, reluctantly. As you sail south toward NY free access is almost unheard of. In Northport Harbor, NY the local cable company has strong shoreside WiFi only for subscribers which does nothing for cruisers. If I lived in town I would host a free site just for those visiting our harbor. Without access all these great antennas become a poor investment.

Posted by: Richard C at March 16, 2010 7:12 PM | Reply

Yes they do Richard and it's just as bad here on the West Coast. There's ton's of WiFi access but it will all cost you money. It's rare to find a place that you can get on for free.

Posted by: Jeff at March 16, 2010 8:13 PM | Reply

I have also been looking at wi fi range extenders both boating and RV--I note that some of these are only b/g--and not n. Often the speeds at public points are so low as to be almost unusable.

The summer before last, we cruised British Columbia, and almost every little marina had soem form of satellite internet access and a WiFi system. last summer in Alaska, Wi Fi was almost impossible, even with the subscription units in the city marinas.

I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot find a good signal with a good medium gain reciever and external antenna, that you are better off with some air card type of arrangement.

To that end, we are currently investigating the AutoNet rather than persuing the open WiFi spots. I have seen it mentioned more in the RV world, but it uses the Verizon network in the US and Rogers in Canada, with a 1 gig plan of about $29 and 5 gig plan of $59. The advantage over an air card in our situation is that it is easy to use an external antenna (Wilson) and it sets up an internal Wi Fi spot on your boat. You can also use an amplifier (again Wilson seems the best) for distant cell towers. In our specific case this also broadens our coverage, since we use an I phone (AT&T) (and probably an I pad when they are available)--and gets the advantage of the Verizon's better coverage, without a second phone plan.

Posted by: Bob Austin at March 16, 2010 9:16 PM | Reply

Going ever so slightly off topic, does anyone know of a decent range extender or even another system, perhaps with an external directional antenna for a 3G/GSM USB stick (puck).
Obviously needs to be "marinised".
I currently have a Vodafone Connect Unit which is a Huawei K3565. It's OK but suffers when in remote locations or seriously out at sea.
By the way the wi-fi situation is much the same here in the UK. Plenty of it around, but mostly commercial and expensive anything between �5 and �12 per day being the norm.

Steve

Posted by: steveow at March 16, 2010 10:47 PM | Reply

Bob, This is also an interesting point you raise about the AutoNet. I had never heard of that but already have a Wilson cell amplifier and antenna on the boat.

I checked out their website and they say they are an ISP and you have to subscribe to their service. They also say it will work with any PDA, phone or computer. You mention the Verizon restriction but I don't see that on their website. I have both a Verizon phone and an iphone which is of course AT&T.

I also see your from here on the west coast. I live in Washington. I have tried the BBX service in the past and found that to be very spotty and pricey.

Have you actually tried the AutoNet?

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff at March 16, 2010 11:21 PM | Reply

I am using a strikingly similar UBANTU product with a slightly more complex menu-driven interface. It cost $65 and draws in a large number of access points, a few of which are not secured. I am working at a distance of .5 miles with the PoE antenna strapped onto a flybridge bimini support pole.

Posted by: Ron Rogers at March 17, 2010 9:42 AM | Reply

"Which one tickles your fancy the most?"

Jeff, I think it's telling that so many marine vendors are working with the Bullet, plus I prefer the power-over-Ethernet architecture anyway. 15 feet of USB cable from my boat PC to amp/antenna is not convenient or very effective.

Posted by: Ben at March 17, 2010 10:04 AM | Reply

Via e-mail from Jack at GreatBoatGear...

Really good article. I appreciate you including us. I do have the following comments:

The OmniBox and OmniBeamBox work as repeaters as well as bridges. This is unique in that multiple computers within range of the OmniBox can connect at the same time and that the connections between the WiFi enabled computers and PDA's/cell phones are wireless.

We believe that waterproofing and conformal coating is important for marine use. We do use the Bullet 2HP in the Omnilite, but we add a waterproof gland and conformal coatings to the Bullet's and even the PoE.

To assume that the Bullet's commercial outdoor use designation makes it suitable for marine use is setting the consumer up for failure, especially when mounting it on a rail!

(In addition we also download our file to the Bullet before shipping.)

PoE - You are correct, the standard is 48Volts. The OmniBox and OmniBeamBox use this standard. The Bullet is limited to 24V.

Part of the debate on power centers around length of cable between device and PoE. This depends on the voltage. The specs say 300 feet, but that's at 48V. When doing the calculations, take into account that 4 wires are used for power. Some PoE's like the one from Renasis support voltage from 9VDC to 48VDC, but the maximum current is 0.4A which at 12VDC will be marginal at best for the Bullet 2HP!

USB - After a spirited email debate with Mike Kilty at Wirie about USB, I further educated myself via the USB.org website. Pretty tough reading even for myself with two degrees in Electronic Engineering! I discovered a few interesting facts:

a. The USB 15' limit is due to the transmission line effect, not the power. You need a powered active cable, or a few of them, to extend the length. USB.org actually recommend a USB to ethernet and ethernet to USB converter for long runs.

b. The active cable is essentially a powered hub which is not waterproof. So USB limits you to 15 feet from inside the boat to the device, but active cables can extend this.

c. Another interesting fact is that power via a USB connection is limited to 500mA at 5V. When I was researching USB devices for the seminars I gave at the NE Boat Show and the webinars at Seven Seas U, I was confused when I compared 2 products that use USB. Both claim 1000mW transmitter power but one uses one USB port and another uses 2. Then looking at the transmitter efficiency of a common card, which is low power CMOS and is 500mW EIRP power but draws 4 Watts, I come up with an efficiency of 12.5%. I can't work out how one of the USB products has RF output (EIRP before antenna) of 1000mW with max input power determined by one USB input (2.5W) while the other needs 2 USB connections (5W). Maybe the Alfa-based unit that uses one USB connection has amazingly efficient electronics with 40% efficiency while the other doesn't? Or maybe the solution with 2 USB ports puts out a lot more than 1000mWto compensate for the losses in 25' of antenna cable?

There is total customer confusion when comparing products on the basis of range and power. In my classes, I try to teach the difference between EIRP, dBm and dBi and how they interact. An example I use is that going from a 500mW to 1000mW transmitter doubles the power (3dB), while adding a 9dB passive antenna gives 8 times the power. I also explain the compromise between antennas gain and directionality.

Vendors are vague with specs and often quote the manufacturer's marketing material which uses words like "up to 1000mW" where the manufacturer is referring to use with an unspecified antenna. An example is one vendor that has the Bullet's spec sheet on the website showing 28dB and 29dB (depending on b or g) but incorrectly states that the Bullet is 1000mW. The same website suggests that as the Bullet is used commercially outdoors, that it is fit for marine use.

Especially absent are the specs on "low loss antenna cable" and connector losses. (I am still looking for a reasonably priced antenna cable with low losses at 2.4GHZ that is not thick and difficult to work with.)

Another point of debate is the best omni-directional antenna to use. One vendor sells the Bullet with 12 or 15dBi antennas. Apart from being way over the FCC limit, I question how the narrow beam with extra power makes this better on a rocking boat, or when you are close to a high hot spot. Also, the shipping costs skyrocket because of the increased antenna length.

Finally, although these devices are great, the typical user seems to struggle with the technology, so support is really important. There is a trade-off between simplicity and flexibility. An example is auto connecting to the strongest signal and finding that it isn't the signal you want( it may be encrypted, you may need to pay to use it, etc).

Hot spots differ in the technology and the authentication methods they use, which can result in problems with any device. As you said, "local WiFi weirdness I've run into from time to time". It's often not plain sailing, even for the tech user, so support is important.

Jack Chadowitz
http://www.greatboatgear.com/
jack@greatboatgear.com
tel 781 784 3148
Skype:greatboatgear

Posted by: Ben at March 17, 2010 10:28 AM | Reply

I've used the Engenius 2610 to provide WIFI to Portsmouth(NH) harbor from the Portsmouth Yacht Club with great success. One 2610 shoots over to Kittery ME harbor where I receive it using an Engenius EOC3610Ext at the top of my 65' mast. I've never had any problems, and plan on adding another 2610 to Portsmouth Yacht club to provide WIFI to the up river moorings. I just bought a Ubiquiti M2HP to try and it seems to be a very nice unit with clean lines for mast top mounting. I didn't have any problems with either interface.

Although the Engenius uses standard 802.3af POE, I was able to find an 12-48vdc converter on Ebay and use it to power an engenius POE switch on LIONHEART wich powers the 3610. The bullet is actually a bit simpler for boat use since it will work on 12vdc and you simply need a way to inject 12v into the cable (I found some cool POE injectors on ebay)

The good news in all of this is that there are some really cool new options for getting WIFI on boats, unfortunately it also seems that there are fewer unsecured access points available, however if you're visiting Portsmouth NH, the Portsmouth Yacht Club provides free WIFI for most of the harbor.

Dan

Posted by: Dan Gingras (Captdang) at March 17, 2010 12:34 PM | Reply

Most of the best WiFi firmware is free from the open source community. My guess is that some of these "boating" firmwares are simply wrappers around the open source projects. Take a look at http://www.dd-wrt.com as an example free firmware site that also will sell you Engenius and other hardware already loaded with the alternative firmware. I'm currently using "tomato" firmware ( http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato ) loaded onto a $30 ASUS router tied to a really cheap "outdoor" antenna from China.

Posted by: Craig at March 17, 2010 11:24 PM | Reply

The provision of wifi at marinas is something I actually know quite a bit about, as I used to work at a company which provides quite a bit of it on the northern Chesapeake Bay.

I remain amazed at how many people think Internet service should be free. Rest assured, it is not free to provide. To cover a medium sized marina well, it takes at least 2 radios, and 3 are better. And these are not $59 cheapies like you buy at best buy. These are $700 - $1000 devices which are weatherproofed, lightning-arrested, and full of additional management smarts. And then there are antennas. And then there is the cost of getting all that traffic out of the marina and back to the actual Internet. So by the time you're all done setting up a 250 boat marina, you've just spent 3 to 5 thousand $ on equipment. If the marina has covered slips, the cost goes even higher.

This equipment gets hit by lightning, it gets hit by boats, it gets eaten by birds, invaded by spiders, kids throw rocks at it, etc. etc. And this is all before the provider pays the monthly charge to ship this traffic off to a national provider.

And then boaters want to sit at the at-the-waterline or lower chart table in their boats, surrounded by wiring, electronics, and other boats, and have this wireless work just like it does at home (where the access point is 50 feet away, not 500 feet away). This simply isn't a reasonable expectation. In free space, a radio signal decreases in strength as the square of the distance. Obstructions weaken things further. Get an external antenna like the ones talked about here, or even just a USB external wifi adapter (laptop internal antennas are generally horrible). It'll change your life overnight for $49. I once demonstrated the effectiveness of my external USB adapter by setting up my laptop on a picnic table at the entrance to Great Oak Marina (on Fairlee Creek) and connecting to their access point which is about 1/4 mile away (if you know the marina, this table is at least a 10 minute walk from the main building) and then checking my email. And then, even though I recommended buying online, one of the onlookers insisted that I lend him my personal USB adapter so that he could test it in his sailboat, as if I had a vested interest in newegg or whatever site I had recommended. (I said no. Would you ask a mechanic to lend you his socket set?) Astonishing.

Oh, and I haven't even talked about interference yet. 802.11b/g operates in the 2.4GHz unlicensed band. So do lots of older cordless phones... AND SO DOES BLUETOOTH. I was invited onto another boat once where they couldn't connect to the access point. I asked them to demonstrate. The couple had 2 laptops, and each had a bluetooth wireless mouse. The guy had trouble demonstrating his problem to me because the two mice were interfering with each other (and I suspected the hotspot as well; I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud). I had them pull the batteries out of the mice, and magically both were able to connect to the access point.

And then there's the issue of performance. Remember, the access point is a hub, not a switch. Technically speaking, everyone is sharing a single network segment. So all it takes is a couple of knuckleheads watching a high def YouTube or Hulu video, and you can kiss performance for everyone else goodbye.

So look. I'm a longtime boater, and I'm a longtime computer user, and have integrated the internet, boating, and internet access while boating into my life just like everyone else. Sorry to sound unpleasant, but how can people who drive expensive cars to their expensive boats in expensive slips be so unbelievably cheap about a service which is a) expensive to provide and b) considered an essential must have?

My best bet, and yours, may well be to forget about wifi and spend the extra $30/mo for Verizon Wireless internet access on my cell phone. Sure it doesn't work everywhere, but it works at a lot more places than wifi does or ever will. Get over being cheap... spend a little money and save a ton of aggravation. If your internet access is that important, it's worth paying for reliability.

Posted by: MD Eastern Shore at March 18, 2010 7:12 PM | Reply

Ben if you remember I was the 1st to tell you about the conversion last year on my Engenius unit to the Wave firmware /software by Richard. Here on the East Coast of NJ I can tell you marinas are installing the Wave Access Points like they are going out of style with free access. Why you might ask? They want to atract new customers and retain those that they have. If you guys don't think your already paying for a slower Cellular data connection your fooling yourself with the exception of a few WiMAX locations by ClearWire. I have had one of the Wave WiFi high power units in my boat for 3 seasons. I have yet to find a place where I can't find a free hotspot. Also check with your cellular carrier especially AT&T I think you will find they will give you access to all their affiliate WiFi Access Points just to retain you. I also have cellular modems for Sprint, Verizon and the Ericsson W35 on AT&T each installed to external hardtop mounted antennas. In addition I am using the Pepwave unit to manage combining and provisioning service all the services. I also have a Skipper 150 which we use mostly on voice due to high data costs when using VSATs. Anyone looking for a mid priced unit I highly recommend the new ROUGE sold by Wave WiFi initial testing of the product has been impressive.
Bill
Wireless One
40 Mainship Sedan Bridge

Posted by: Bill Lentz at March 18, 2010 9:31 PM | Reply

For another player in this field, you may want to check out www.bitstorm.com. They were just reviewed in the April edition of Practical-Sailor along with the Rogue Wave and The Wirie.

Posted by: Mike L at March 22, 2010 6:40 PM | Reply

At Practical Sailor, we just published a comparison of four Wi-Fi devices; including the Wirie, the Rogue Wave, and an affordably priced unit from a new Canada-based company Bitstorm. The Bitstorm Badboy Xtreme was a fairly impressive unit at an affordable price, and, as Ben mentioned, Wave's customer support, software and longer track record in the rec (and commercial) market, adds value. In response to our report Wirie has upgraded its customer support. This follows up a fairly extensive sea trial of the 5mileWifi.

Posted by: Darrell Nicholson at March 25, 2010 10:49 AM | Reply

Thanks, Darrell. The Bad Boy Extreme seems to be another Bullet-based system:

http://www.bitstorm.com/

Posted by: Ben at March 25, 2010 11:23 AM | Reply

I don't shop once I find reliable products with great customer support. You want cheap then shop and have the headaches. I have tested almost every Marine based WiFi system and Wave (GeoSat) leads in this area be it their AP's or Boat based Bridge/Routers.
Bill

Posted by: Bill Lentz at March 25, 2010 11:47 PM | Reply

Steve, and others,

In the UK, I'm able to access marina WiFi, but thats about it. All the hundreds of apartments round the marina are broadcasting WiFi but locked.

In the good old days, six or seven years ago, none would be locked, and casual use by passing boats was practical.

One option is a system called FON, a WiFI sharing service.

Alternatively, here in Wales, our 3G signals are strong offshore to 20 miles or more, often further than in the hilly countryside. So now, to ensure that my signal gets through, I've been using an external antenna connected to an Ericsson W25.

Its been reliable over three years, and I get broadband to 3.6 mbs and a simultaneous voice line. I get video Skype calls too, and that can be fun from the middle of nowhere.

In Wales there are four or five operators that give me decent prices - from �5 to �10 per month. When I go to France or Ireland, I buy a local SIM card for the cheapest calls and data costs.

By the way, the Astra satellite service is starting to offer its satellite broadband service via a stabilised dish. Its fast, and modestly priced:

http://www.astra2connect.com/maritime-broadband/index.php

Posted by: Michael Powell at March 26, 2010 9:49 AM | Reply

Not to go go too far off topic I was using a W25 and now a W35 by Ericsson in addition to my Wave HP WiFi. I find they complement each other. I addition I think anyone properly using WiFi in their boat should be mindful of the power levels you can set your AP's to and the channels they are on. Many router AP's have an auto mode which will optimize their "in cabin" experience. I set my 802.11A,B&G router in the boat to it's lowest power level and my WiFi Omni is on the hardtop which when I had it fabricated included an internal Faraday screen or counter poise.
In addition where possible we use the 5.7GHz band or 802.11A devices in cabin.
Bill

Posted by: Bill Lentz at March 27, 2010 7:34 AM | Reply

HI,

I am Mark (not Mike) Kilty, from The Wirie.

Just wanted to add a few facts into this great thread as well.

Jack from GreatBoatGear stated that the USB Active Extension cables needed to extend a USB-Based WiFi device are "powered". Just to clarify, they are powered from the same USB port that the cable and device are plugged into. No external electricity is needed to power these cables. They can be extended up to 80' in length in total with no signal loss. He also states USB.org recommends Ethernet converters for longer runs, but what he failed to mention is that this is for runs greater than 80', which is unnecessary on most installations.

There is currently a 15' limit from the end of a USB device to get inside to a waterproof area (i.e, through the deck). However, with a normal mounting situation, this is not an issue, and the cable can then be easily extended from there.

I do second Jack's statements (and even some of the Bullet vendors mentioned on this thread) that the Bullet is not suited for long-term marine use as-is, but it is certainly a fine product when used as the manufacturer intended. There is lots of information on the web about the "waterproofing" of the bullet and what other cruisers have done to help it out in the marine environment. The fact that many "marine vendors" are selling the Bullet, unfortunately doesn't mean as much as it should. It was not built as a marine electronic.

Also, as Jack pointed out, the antenna used in any system has a major impact on performance and longevity of any system. Very few marine resellers are using what we consider to be a Marine grade WiFi antenna on their system, and will also cause failures down the road. In fact, the only true marine grade antenna we had come across (until we designed our own), was the Shakespeare (but it is very costly).

And last but not least, Mike L who posted the Link to Bitstorm, is the owner of this company, not be confused with a unbiased contributor.

Mark

Posted by: Mark Kilty at April 7, 2010 12:12 PM | Reply

I just recently purchased and then returned a Wave Wifi Rogue "bullet". I returned it because it inappropriately identified my WPA protected home network as WEP and would not accept a password or connect with the network even from 4 feet away. I spoke to GeoSat and they admitted some software issues with any network encrypted with WPA security. They also said that the unit was unlikely to connect easily with any home networks from the boat because of signal strength issues. That seems to leave only commercial networks that are rarely free now. It seems to me now that a better solution to staying connected with the internet, especially with decent security is using a cellular modem.
Any thoughts?
Mike Long.... (not the Mike L of Bitstorm)

Posted by: Mike Long at April 10, 2010 10:36 AM | Reply

Funny, Mike, I was just checking out Verizon data rates and available smart phones. My current Verizon contract is ending and I'm interested in a new phone with an unlimited data plan that could also be used with other computers like my boat laptop and maybe an iPad.

The good news is that even Verizon -- which has the best data network in Maine, and maybe the country -- offers a $30/month unlimited plan. The less good news is that WiFi tethering -- which would be slick, especially for the iPad -- is only possible by hacking a Droid phone.

WiFi tethering really appeals to me, but there are many ways to use cellular data these days.

Posted by: Ben at April 10, 2010 10:58 AM | Reply

Ben,

What about a VZ MIFI card or a Palm PRE with built in MIFI?

Posted by: Anonymous at April 10, 2010 9:50 PM | Reply

I am looking for a good wifi system for my boat as well but I don't really want to spend $300 for it as I will probably have trouble finding hotspots as well.

Does anyone have suggestions for a less expensive system?

Posted by: Peter at July 1, 2010 4:59 PM | Reply

on a related note to my comment above... anyone have expiernce with this product?

http://www.amazon.com/Alfa-Waterproof-Outdoor-wireless-Integrated/dp/B003ILWRLI/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1278015115&sr=1-1

its pretty cheap but sounds too good to be true.

Posted by: peter at July 1, 2010 5:05 PM | Reply

Those are great specs for the price, Peter, but there may be something odd going on. I found the Alfa site and some Wifi radios that look like this, but they don't claim as much power and they don't mention "marine" anywhere. They are also POE not USB, but that's not a bad thing:

http://www.alfa.com.tw/in/front/bin/ptlist.phtml?Category=106475

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2010 7:45 PM | Reply

I looked at all the systems above and ended up buying the Bullet2 for $78, a 12 v POE for $10, a couple of CAT 5 cables and an Antenna for $75. Put everything together and had it up and running in a couple of hours with directions posted on the Cruisers Forum. Works great as long as there is an unsecured WiFi router available. These are all "Line of Site" Antennas and are effected by trees and buildings and such. System was less than $200 total.

Posted by: Paul G at July 16, 2010 10:42 AM | Reply

Ben, I recently installed the Red Box controller and Ubiquity Rocket M2's (MIMO) attached to integrated MIMO 120 degree sectors one on 5.7GHz and the other on 2.4GHz. I'm currently sitting at the waterline 1200 feet from the AP's and connect with great RSSI & SINR to either AP using my laptops Intel internal card. The Red Box controller is available from GeoSat (Wave WiFi). I am not using my high power client unit for the 2.4GHz testing. With the Red Box controller you can set the QOS to the users. It also provides the proper disclaimers needed and a splash page. I simply named the (dumb) AP's (insert marina name) "high speed" for 5GHz and (insert marina name) long range for the 2.4GHz link.
You pay for software and ease of use. In the near future I think we are going to see numerous dual-band installations in marinas. Making the average customer's overall ease of use is the marina owners primary concern not playing WiFi technician. I don't see many marinas wanting to tell the average Jane or Joe how to set up a 2HP Bullet or 5HP Bullet, but I do see them selling a well packaged easy to use ROGUE units to extend and provide better overall performance.
There should be a Beta 5GHz ROGUE unit available in the near future.
Bill Lentz

Posted by: Bill Lentz at July 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Reply

Thanks, Bill, but I'm having a little trouble deciphering all that. I think you're talking about setting up marina hot spots, right? Also can't find any reference to Red Box at WaveWifi?

Posted by: Ben at July 17, 2010 1:47 PM | Reply

Ben, sorry to confuse the 2 issues but they are related. The Ubiquity Bullet can be used as an AP or Client as others have posted above.
Give Richard at Wave a call about the Red Box Controller he can fill you in on the unit. In addition to a conventional Hotspot controller this switch/controller can be used on charter vessels to generate individual codes, set various user levels connection speeds (QOS throttling) and track users for billing purposes. Another use for the Red Box would be behind a VSAT to control access distributed via wired or small access point or multiple AP's in a vessel. I typically don't mind my boating neighbors access to my 3G or WiFi AP but don't want them to access my VSAT.
I was reporting about some testing in progress on using the Red Box switch to control 2 AP's with 120 degree MIMO sectors on 2 different WiFi bands (2.4GHz B,G & N and 5.7GHz A & N). Both sectors cover the same area of the marina. The 2.4GHz air link covers more than the marina.
I'm a fan of the current ROGUE (2.4GHz version) because of it's simplicity for the end user/client who doesn't have the need for the high end units but wants better RSSI/SINR for improved speeds and distance than the internal laptop card will provide.
However the ROGUE or Ubiquity 2HP has limits. To connect to more than one device a switch or low powered AP is still needed in the boat. If the boats internal access point is not properly provisioned you will create your own interference.
This is one of the reasons I like the idea of the Hotspot providing 5.7GHz signal to be redistributed in the boat on 2.4GHz where most devices currently operate.
With the increasing number of cellular handsets, Blackberry RIM devices, Netbooks, I-Phone, HTC, Droid and the new Motorola I-1 (Nextel, Harmony & SouthernLINC in the US) that have WiFi chipsets to shed the cellular network data or provide it on WiFi only increases the chances of WiFi Hotspot deployments. AT&T in Times Square and the NY & Northern New Jersey cable companies (Roadrunner)have already started aggressive outdoor WiFi Hotpot deployment programs. In most situations I have rarely seen 3G cellular data connections exceed a good WiFi Hotspot. In case anyone is interseted a single sector CDMA EVDO rev.A (3G) cell site will only support 50 users before users are are shed to 1-RTT data rates (2G).
Using an Ericsson W-35 in an AT&T HSPA+ area I have found that the speeds may be good but the latency and jitter make for a poor overall quality of service when compared to WiFi using pingtest.net. This seems to really show it's effects when I remote in to my office network.
I think the serious boater who needs to stay connected should use a combination of WiFi and a cellular data connection not one or the other. Each location we move our boat to has it's own data communication challenges. Having an Ericsson W-35 with AT&T service and the Wave Ec-Ap-Hp allows me to spend more time on the boat and out of the office. I have a Skipper 150 that I am happy with. I rarely have to use the VSAT but it is nice to know I can stay connected at all times when needed.
Bill

Posted by: Bill Lentz at July 17, 2010 5:33 PM | Reply

I'm having trouble with OpenID, so I'll continue as a guest.

This is probably hijacking of this very fine thread. Please feel free to refer me to a different thread and I'll move on.

I have an Airstream "Land Yacht" Trade Wind built in 1968. One of the features of an Airstream is its monococque design, with a totally aluminum shell, punctuated by a few windows and vents.

The nautical references come from earlier iterations of the Airstream as a kind of "ship", but over time the metaphors have become mixed up. Mostly, the interior looks like a cabin of an airplane, with some wood trim that might resemble the cabin of a yacht, especially when there is a barometer mounted on the wall, as in my Trade Wind. The trailer was built in Jackson Center, OH, so the only waves it has seen are the amber ones, of grain (corn).

I found your post because I want to be able to use a Virgin Mobile WiFi device in my Airstream. This is where I was heading when I found this thread. It sounds like some of the issues are very similar.

Using a MiFi outside is great. I was able to test one that belonged to a fellow camper in a state park. Our cell phones had good reception even back in the woods in the largest state park in Indiana. We both have iPhone, service with AT&T, so both of us were unable to use tethering.

My friend has a Verizon version of the MiFi. We connected three laptops, noticed a little slowing up of the download speeds with three, but with two laptops, we were unfazed in bandwidth. I tested Skype and had a pleasant response.

Supposedly, with MiFi, up to five devices can connect, so if we travel with laptop, iPhones, iTouch, iPad, etc., we will be happy.

When I tested my friend's MiFi by Verizon, we were outside by the campfire. I logged my MacBook onto her "portable wifi hotspot" with ease and checked my email and also tried a Skype call. I was so impressed, we ended up talking more, and browsing, but I forgot to try the same connection from inside the trailer.

The next morning, after my friend had left the campground with the MiFi, I did a little experiment with my cell phone. Outside the trailer, reception was good, full bars (I noticed there is a new tower within the park on a ridge near the campgrounds.) When I entered the trailer, I watched my cell phone reception bars decline to nothing as I moved slowly toward the center interior of the trailer inside. I assume reception of the MiFi would be a similar experience.

I have some old ethernet routers and maybe a wireless router sitting in a box in the attic. Can these be used as repeaters or extenders, even temporarily with a WiFi device like MiFi? I've run across some notes of such smart gadgetry, but I don't know enough about it. I have a more than average comfort level with tinkering, so I am eager to give it a try.

My simple question is, how best to install and use a Virgin Mobile MiFi inside or on my aluminum trailer?

Thanks for response or referral.

Anne

Posted by: Anne McWilliams at October 3, 2010 1:28 PM | Reply

First Virgin Mobile is a Sprint PCS reseller you might have been on Sprint's network or roaming on Verizon depending on signal levels. The MiFi is really not the correct device for an Aluminum trailer. You should consider having an external cellular antenna on the trailer, having the cable run into the trailer to an Ericsson W35. The W-35 would give you shared data access through it's built in WiFi and you could plug in a cordless phone (RJ-11 interface) and be able to talk on the phone while receiving data on AT&T's 3G network. In addition if you bought a used AT&T phone off of EBay you could swap the SIM card out of the Ericsson when you aren't in the trailer and use the same SIM card in the phone. The reason I am pushing the W-35/ external antenna combo is because you already said you had good AT&T service where you had used the trailer. In the US the only UMTS/GSM service providers are really AT&T or T-Mobile.
Bill

Posted by: Bill Lentz at October 3, 2010 9:25 PM | Reply

USB-based networking is nonstandard, not scalable beyond one link, involves always some latency increase due to extra driver layers, and will only work on a few proprietary platforms. You are not going to find USB drivers for older versions of operating systems and certainly not for new routers/gateways you may upgrade to. Ethernet, by contrast, was standardized by a rigorous process (Interop etc.) by which a vendor that didn't interoperate perfectly was literally thrown off the floor of the leading trade show. No one will *ever* do that to USB-based con artist vendors who sell you something they invented last week that will stop working next week. Ethernet, also, has only one connector type and has scaled from a megabit to ten gigabit without much change to the cable - while USB connectors have had to change from 2.0 to 3.0 and will likely change again when Light Peak is added. USB networking is a plain dead end in the industry's view - spend a few hours trying to 'tether' a PC to a 'smart phone' and watch how well it works.

Meanwhile powered ethernet is used in the security, wireless access, VoIP and other industries where it is absolutely standard and will remain so for decades. This is pretty obviously the standard to build on in the future.

Don't get fooled by in-store demos either. Quite a few of the USB-based networking "solutions" work when initially set up and then never again as devices reset or configurations auto-detect. And where the drivers exist, even for such fairly standard configurations as a PC running Windows XP Pro (fully updated) talking to an Apple iPhone (latest OS release) it fails, crashes or otherwise inexplicably reconfigures itself into total uselessness. Anyone who thinks USB connections are going to be "simple" had better look at the instructions for using the fairly standard Linksys 3G routers' USB ports: https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?pid=90757


USB networking should be considered a last resort when Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet connections fail or are unavailable. No one should choose it if they have alternatives.

Posted by: tried USB networking, won't try it again at November 5, 2010 1:05 PM | Reply

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