Airstreamer's Computing Guide - WiFi Connectioin
I opened my own business in the early 1990’s that specialized in computers and networking. After relocation to Nashville in 1999, I became the IT Director of a local petroleum company designing a enterprise VOIP system. My education and training includes a BS in Business and Org. Mgmt. in 2006, MCSE in 2009 and MBA in 2011. I am currently the Director of IT for a International Truck dealership in Tennessee.View all articles by Michael Yeargin
It does not seem to matter where you are at while on the road, getting that high speed connection is just always out of reach – well, out of reach of your current PC, that is. You would think that having setup hundreds of Wi-Fi for both business and home users that this would not be such an issue for me, but it is if I am not prepared. After finishing a recent redesign of a Wi-Fi system for a campground I realized that the issues that most users were having had nothing to do with the availability of the signal but had more to do with how they were trying to connect to the signal provided.
The first task is to determine your level of Wi-Fi use. Will you be using Wi-Fi a lot inside your RV or just on occasion? If your answer is just on occasion then your solution may be as simple as sitting close to an open window and using plastic screening in the window and not aluminum screening material. If you answer a lot, then you need to consider a solution that can be easily setup but removed for travel. This solution is the one we will be considering in greater detail a little later on. While some of these suggestions have been shown to me by other computer users, some of them are NOT supported by the manufacturers of the devices and are not recommended by me due to inherent dangers to users or equipment.
The first solution was shown to me by a full timer who worked mostly outside his trailer, but needed an option for those rainy days. The solution was to use a six foot USB cable extension and to purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter; this could have been just as easily one of those CDPD adapters. He ran the six foot cable from his table next to the RV refrigerator through the wall and out through the refrigerator vent where he had attached the stand that came with the USB Wi-Fi adapter to the vent at an angle using silicone to help keep water out. At this point he would use compressed air to get any water out of the connector, then plug the Wi-Fi adapter into the cable and cover it with a freezer bag and zip tie, then go plug the other end into the laptop. Unfortunately there are just a few issues with this. First, the USB port on most computers is powered as part of the laptop’s main board voltage and power source of 5 volts, so if you short it out, you short the main board on PC. The second issue is that a USB connection is not meant for OUTDOOR USE! When I mentioned this to him, he assured me that he had been using this setup for about two years, so I wished him continued luck. If you wanted to run a similar setup for an inside solution which would allow you to move the USB adapter closer to a window, then I would agree with this solution as long as it there is no risk of getting the adapter or cable wet.
My suggestion for mounting the units would be something as simple as using a zip tie and putting it on your awning pole or using a portable tripod such as the ones made for satellite dishes, which allows you to move it around for the best positioning. You could mount both on the same tripod (see Figure 3) given enough vertical pole space. The second suggestion would be to use shielded twisted pair instead of unshielded and use a grounding strap to ground the shielding on the cable to an earth ground to prevent either a short in your electrical system or other such issues doing damage to the equipment.
The final note about wireless is about security. When you link to a wireless, your information can be seen by others on the wireless if it is not secure. When you connect to a wireless you should use one of the common security encryption protocols such as WPA or the less secure WEP. While the use of encryption does NOT guarantee true security unless you control the access point and do not share the encryption key, which is not likely while Airstreaming, you are going to have to put some trust in the network owner. This is considered the first layer of security. The second layer should be to never use websites for personal transactions such as banking or other financial transactions, online shopping, or even e-mail if the site does not employ a two-part authentication process and some type of encryption.