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Old 01-19-2010, 11:27 AM   #1
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Wifi newbie with a few questions

At home I use a cable modem that is run thru a router, which acts a firewall, and is them connected to my PC. This same router, a Linxys, has little antennas that allow it to network with other PCs but I never use that function and have switched off the antennas so that no one can steal wifi service from near by.

Now let's say I want to take my PC on the road for a while and access wifi internet at the average RV park. Can I just use my router to do the job?

What is the standard procedure for using a wifi system at an RV park? Do you get an IP address or something from the manager when you check in or just use the computer as if it were plugged into a hard wired internet connection?

I've seen some stuff here about outdoor antennas and wondered how necessary they were. The body of my Airstream makes an outdoor TV antenna a must, so I assume wifi is the same way.

All basic questions I am sure but normally the computer stays at home so I am clueless.

Thanks,
Christopher
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:35 AM   #2
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Is your computer a labtop? If it is a desktop you will need a wireless card to get wifi
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:37 AM   #3
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I use a Mac, and when I switch it on at an RV park, it tells me it cannot find the usual server (my home wireless router) and if it finds local ones, asks me if I wish to join one
of them.

Its that simple, I assume the PC's work the same.

Sometimes you need to get a password from the office, other times they are unlocked.

I am always more than a little nervous of using them for banking etc.

Some RV parks are tied in with companies that charge for access - Tengo is one I often see.

I have signed up for a day now and then but generally do not. In cases like that, I just wait until we are near a local wifi hotspot - or maybe go to the local library.

Many campgrounds indicate coverage at all sites, but I find that is often a gross exaggeration! (Even sitting outside the trailer.)

I generally ask where the antennas are (if the staff doesn't know, I just scout around!) then go with a chair & laptop and sit near it!


Brian.
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:43 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by blickcd View Post
...Can I just use my router to do the job?

What is the standard procedure for using a wifi system at an RV park?...
short answer is no to the router, use a wifi (receiver) card with the puter.

some parks use password protection, which is needed to access the wifi signal/pipe...

others are just open to use.

IF the puter is a recent laptop it may have a built in wifi antenna/card and

depending on location a booster or external antenna may help catch the signal.

the 'stream has many windows and usually a reflected signal can be used inside without an extra antenna.

the bigger issue is line of slight to the broadcast, out doors.

BIG rvs or building or BIG trucks may block the path to your trailer and an antenna ABOVE these obstructions may help.

before buying stuff...

...find a local public biz that has a free wifi signal and fool around with your equipment before hitting the road.
___________

there are routers with built in wifi receivers that can serve dual funcitons...

lots of options, post your exact equipment models for more direct help.

and scan the threads on this issue, there are LOTS of options and variations...

however ONE thing seems to ring true, most rv parks have poorly maintained and unreliable internet service.

early on having wifi was a BONUS for many rv parks, now it seems to be a nuisance for them.

there are so many business (and towns) providing free wifi now,

and with the huge growth in cellular broadband and data plans,

options are plentiful.

cheers
2air'
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blickcd View Post

I've seen some stuff here about outdoor antennas and wondered how necessary they were. The body of my Airstream makes an outdoor TV antenna a must, so I assume wifi is the same way.
Thanks,
Christopher
We have an outdoor antenna we use when we are too far from the WiFi transmitter to get good reception.
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Old 01-19-2010, 12:45 PM   #6
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There are wide variations between CG's on wifi reception. Some have insufficient transceivers or you may be unlucky enough to have a massive 5th wheel or bus/RV between you and the antenna blocking the signal. I always ask how the wifi reception is and that often results in being put in a space with good reception, often near the office. Some CG's hire techs who do a bad job and some learn how to run a wifi system themselves or hire good techs to do it and have better wifi.

I have had to go outside at times (the aluminum body doesn't help with reception) and sometimes sit near an antenna. When really desparate, going into town and looking for hotspots is the other solution. Then I can sit in the truck on the computer instead of following my wife around shopping.

One KOA wanted $7/day for wifi. I complained about how much I was paying for a campsite (this was near Key West) and they gave me a free pass for each night we were there. That's only happened once. Sometimes you can pick up an open network nearby and get on that. Or the nearby network may work better than the CG one.

There are certain times wifi won't work as well at a CG because so many people are using itómid evening and morning before people are getting ready to leave. Sometimes a nearby business will have an open network and in the evening no one is using it so it will work better than the CG's.

Most places are fairly accommodating when you let them know you need good access (let them think it's for business reasons, not to spend hours on the Forum) and find a good reception spot for you. Maybe they realize you'll post somewhere how lousy their wifi is if they don't give you a good spot. When I have a chance and know where we're going to be the next day, I do check RV Park Reviews :: Home about various CG's including the quality of their wifi.

Some people use aircards that allow them to access the internet through cellphone systems. There's a charge to buy the card and then monthly rates. If you travel all the time or a lot of the time, need internet and boondock a lot, or are afraid of being away from the internet for more than a few hours, that can be a reasonable solution. For us, CG's are getting better with wifi, though there's a ways to go.

Gene
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Old 01-19-2010, 02:28 PM   #7
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Thanks everyone. Sounds like I need a wifi card, preferably one that has a connection for an external antenna.

The PC in question is a Dell, typical tower case, running Windows XP. The router is a Linxys WRT54GL and I think it's wireless capability just lets other wifi capable PC's within range access the web, so long as the router is plugged into a connection.

If I were hitting the road long term a laptop obviously makes more sense to lug around. I just wanted to see what would be required if I wanted to take my existing system on the road for a short while.

I've also read a lot on rvparkreviews.com about lousy signals in parks and based on replys that seems like a common thing.

Thanks,
Christopher
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Old 01-19-2010, 03:25 PM   #8
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tower, ok yikes.

make a back up of the hard drive BEFORE hauling it around.

IF there is 'park the drive' feature on the dell, use it.

IF it's got any usb slots, there are wifi cards (with antenna ports) to fit the usb.

it might be wise to look for a older card/antenna kit online, the newer stuff isn't all backward compatible.


cheers
2air'
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Old 01-19-2010, 04:13 PM   #9
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tower, ok yikes.

make a back up of the hard drive BEFORE hauling it around.

IF there is 'park the drive' feature on the dell, use it.

IF it's got any usb slots, there are wifi cards (with antenna ports) to fit the usb.

it might be wise to look for a older card/antenna kit online, the newer stuff isn't all backward compatible.


cheers
2air'
Good advice. Another advantage of the USB adapters is that you can attach them with a USB cable and move it around inside to get the best reception. Note that there are restrictions on how long the cable can be, but you probably will not be able to fine one that exceeds the max anyway.
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Old 01-20-2010, 10:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman View Post
tower, ok yikes.

make a back up of the hard drive BEFORE hauling it around.

IF there is 'park the drive' feature on the dell, use it.

IF it's got any usb slots, there are wifi cards (with antenna ports) to fit the usb.

it might be wise to look for a older card/antenna kit online, the newer stuff isn't all backward compatible.


cheers
2air'
Yikes is right. Towers are not made for moving around, I can testify from first hand experience. You might be better off buying a used laptop. Our MacBook has done very well no matter where we've been with it's built in wifi. Yes, sometimes we need to move around a bit for better reception.
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Old 01-20-2010, 10:47 AM   #11
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So what is the potential problem with a tower hard drive? Does the hard drive in a laptop have better isolation to handle the bumps on the road?

Christopher
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Old 01-20-2010, 11:08 AM   #12
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So what is the potential problem with a tower hard drive? Does the hard drive in a laptop have better isolation to handle the bumps on the road?
hi christopher

short answer is YES laptops drives=better tolerance for movement.
__________

again it's all about the model details and drive specifics...

i'm not a geek'pert, so here's a basic overview, which may totally bogus.

modern drives are 'supposed' to unload (park) the heads automatically when power is disconnected.

the potential problems include total death and unrecoverable destruction of the hard drive... IF this doesn't happen.

see Head crash issues...

2.5 inch drives used in laptops are lighter, smaller and designed to tolerate MOVEMENT.

the laptop case/mounting for the drive often includes bumpers to cushion it more.

apple started using 'drive portection' (sudden motion sensor) ~5 years ago and most of the laptop vendors now have similar features.

then there is the MASS of a laptop vs a tower and how that mass impacts movement/vibration.

many of the newer (~2007 and beyond) 2.5 inch drives used in laptops also have a magic accelerometer gizmo

that can "park" the drive within milliseconds IF sudden movement is detected, like a drop.

Active hard drive protection...

OLDER 3.5 hard drives, and older towers may require MANUALLY parking the hard drive (via soft/firmware) before movement...

usually that warning was included in the SETUP info/cautions.

so IF you are gonna transport or use the tower in a stream, keep it FORWARD of the axles and pad/secure the storage spot.

again just back up the data/drive before the journey.

cheers
2air'
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Old 01-20-2010, 12:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
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...

OLDER 3.5 hard drives, and older towers may require MANUALLY parking the hard drive (via soft/firmware) before movement...

usually that warning was included in the SETUP info/cautions.

...

cheers
2air'
It has been quite some time (over 10 years easily) since drives didn't park themslves. I have a disassembled Seagate 3.5" drive on my desk that is at least that old. It uses a pair of permanent magnets to park the heads. Shut off the power, and the magnets move the heads to a safe place. Some really old hard drives used a spring, but that could have broken. Hence the change to magnets.

If you have a computer that is old enough for that to be an issue, it is way time to upgrade.

And yes, laptops make a good choice. I just bought a new Mac Mini which is not a laptop, but is very compact. It uses laptop components, like the small hard drives that are resistant to damage from movement. It also has builtin Wi-Fi. (I use my TV for a monitor and don't particularly need to carry my computer around, so it is a good choice for me.)

Point is, not only is the tower more fragile, it takes up a lot of room too.
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Old 01-20-2010, 06:19 PM   #14
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Been traveling around by both boat and RV for about 6 years and using my computer. Now I manage a wifi set up in an RV park. Originally I used an air card with unlimited minutes which worked most of the time. It is dependent on a cell phone signal so what happens is if you are in the boondocks without a tower close, no joy. If you are in an urban area with heavy traffic you can be dropped. Also that type of plan is very expensive. We used both the air card and open wifi networks to access the internet, Public libraries generally have an open networks that are easily accessed but we have had to also just drive around the business district until we could find a network we could use. Now we generally use the network available in most RV parks. I won't pay to access a RV park network. If they don't have free wifi I complain and let them know that is one on the reasons I choose to use to stay or not stay in a park.

The system in most RV parks might have a strong signal but it is line of sight. If you are using a n laptop in an A/S you have another probem and that is the double wall aluminum construction. Your computer transmits a very low power microwave signal that basically can be trapped with in the shell of the A/S also the incoming signal from the network may not penetrate the shell of the trailer. Through trial an error I have discovered that if I am by window and that window has line of sight to the park antenna I'm golden. If another RV parks next to me and blocks my line of sight I'm not. I now use an external antenna to mitigate the A/S aluminum shell issue. The external antenna is omnidirectional and is connected to a reprogrammed Linksys router so my wife and I can use both of our computers anywhere in the trailer without being hard wired. If you use an external directional antenna that is connected by a USB cable you will only be able to run one computer at a time from a fixed location with the directional antenna aimed clear line of sight with the the network antenna.

An RV park wifi network is just like the one you might have at home except there are a whole bunch of users. Band width is a problem. At home you probably would never use 5MB of DSL bandwidth because of limited use. In an RV park people abuse the system by running web cams, playing high graphic online computer games and watching TV over computer or streaming videos which soak up band width. Click on the icon at the bottom of your screen for the wireless network and select "status". It may show connected with excellent strength but less than 1MB of transfer. This means you have a strong connection but probably not enough bandwidth available for your application. If you have a personal router you can security protect it so no one else can access your network. Use your router software help feature to explain how to security protect the router. Using an open network for banking should not present a problem as the bank website should be secure. I administer the network here but I cannot see what the individual users are doing. I would love to be able to find the individuals that are watching CSI Miami while I'm trying to send and recieve email or log on the A/S Forums.
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