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WiFi in Mobile Home
November 12, 2004 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I have an acquaintance who wants to put an wireless router in her mobile home (aluminum skinned trailer, just so there's no confusion) and access it from her Mother's trailer across the street. It's only about 50' but there's a narrow street in between so a long Cat5 won't work.

A mutual acquaintance is saying that this just won't work because the aluminum skins of the two trailers will suck up all those lovely radio waves.

Anyone have experience with WiFi in this type of situation (mobile home, RV, etc) and what kind of signal she's going to get. Are we going to need repeaters in the windows to get this to work at all or will a 802.11g router and a good card in the laptop going to get a decent signal.

Please, no trailer jokes. These are small-town folks, they have a good life but not a lot of money.
posted by m@ to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
 
an aluminum skin would probably be a problem. Metal is always a bit difficult but even more so when it forms a shell around a source of EM waves. This is why the inside of computers is generally lined with metal -- it reduces the extent to which they produce and except EM radiation outside the box.

Anyway, why does the wireless router need to be *in* the trailer? Any reason you couldn't find a way to make it weather proof and put it outside, stringing wires either through an existing vent (we used to have a trailer with a ceiling vent) or through some modification? Some ideas for weatherproofing might be to find a plastic structure of a suitable size or perhaps make something from wood. It's not such a crazy idea, directv satellites live outside and feed wire into the inside, etc.

Of course, before you get radical, just try it inside first, see how it works.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:12 AM on November 12, 2004


I also would suggest putting the antenna outside if possible. If you're looking for something on the cheap, you can make a directional antenna out of a Pringles can
posted by willnot at 7:14 AM on November 12, 2004


Suggest they buy from a vendor with a good return policy and test a few.
posted by anathema at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2004


There are people who make weatherproof enclosures for access points as well as this homebrew solution.

I second anathema's suggestion and this also goes well for people who don't live in metal houses. I have friend that has a lot of metal in the walls of his traditional house and it causes havoc with inter-room WiFi usage.
posted by mmascolino at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2004


I have a friend who lives in a trailer, and has a TiBook (which all had notoriously bad wifi reception). Indoors, she's barely able to haul in a signal from the open node at a next-door restaurant; others in her trailer park using more robust antennas (but a little farther from the restaurant) have better luck.

A wifi bridge in a weatherproof box outside would probably be the best bet.
posted by adamrice at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2004


please note that running cat5 from one house to another can be a very bad thing if the ground planes are different.
posted by chrisroberts at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2004


You shouldn't have any problem with just a stock wireless router in one and a stock bridge in another. I reccomend d_link as the brand, although I've also had good luck with Belkin, but Belkin's setups are always more confusing. I've never gotten a network based on Linksys kit to work properly all the time.

I actually just set this up last night in the office space I'm subleasing, and it's a steel-framed building (steel studs in all the walls.)
posted by SpecialK at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2004


I am not an expert, but just put WiFi in my home and so have learned some about it. I agree with the suggestion of just trying it out first, you may be surprised. An easier solution than putting an antenna outside (or pair of antennae) might be to put them inside and aimed at each other through windows; this will be more likely to work the windows in question have fiberglass screens. An article about this sort of thing is here (getting a bit old but the physics of 2.4 GHz radio waves probably haven't changed much since 2001) with a collection of links here (that includes the homebrew pringles can antenna mentioned above.)
posted by TedW at 10:23 AM on November 12, 2004


what willnot said. I thought the Pringles thing was a prank until I saw one actually work. very cool indeed
posted by matteo at 10:40 AM on November 12, 2004


Please, no trailer jokes. These are small-town folks, they have a good life but not a lot of money.

Pfft! A trailer with wireless? That's cool. Not everyone in a caravan is trailer-trash ;-) The "Pagan Nation" in U.K./Eire springs to mind, if they still exist.
posted by Shane at 10:41 AM on November 12, 2004


I’ve done this before with a Linksys Router + AP and a pair of external antenna.
posted by Tenuki at 11:42 AM on November 12, 2004


OT:

Please, no trailer jokes. These are small-town folks, they have a good life but not a lot of money.

I wish trailers were socially acceptable.

/longing for decent affordable housing and the collapse of the mortgage industry
posted by mecran01 at 2:12 PM on November 12, 2004


Hi, I'm lilboo, and I'm pro-trailer.


Last spring I visited my friend out in California, stayed in her trailer for a week, and I really enjoyed it. There is something so Jetsons-like about the trailer itself, it's really kind of a thrill for geeky-multi-use freaks like myself: "it's a staircase AND a storage unit!" I guess the key is to find a place with good neighbors. In that week, I got to know the people in her trailer park better than the people who lived in my building back in Hoboken. But then again, the weather is a hell of a lot nicer out there than it is here.


BTW, her living expenses rent/utilities was about 250/month. Can't argue with that.

posted by lilboo at 2:32 PM on November 12, 2004


Maybe a trailer park with a vicious Home Owner's Agreement.
posted by mecran01 at 3:51 PM on November 12, 2004


The real downside is even out in the open fifty feet is A LOT to ask for off the shelf wifi equipment. Toss in all this metal and, frankly, you won't be able to pull this off without some kind of directional antenna.

Googling for 'directional antenna wifi' shows that Netgear makes some fairly cheap ones.

I'm assuming you're going to be looking at a bridge to bridge solution as the laptop in the second trailer will have to overcome the huge bottleneck of whatever card the user has. Or the user can get his own directional antenna and plug it into the card, if the card supports that little connector.

Linksys makes a super-cheap WAP that will double as a bridge. Two of these pointing at each other will probably take care of your problem. They will probably require a directional antennae, but you can play with just putting them outdoors (or on the window sill) and see how it goes. If there isnt much cordless phone interference you might get away with it.

Note: a WAP in bridge mode does not act like an regular AP(access point). You will have to connect the users with a CAT5 cable.
posted by skallas at 4:12 PM on November 12, 2004


Also, you should ask this question at one of the wireless newsgroups. Try alt.internet.wireless
posted by skallas at 4:14 PM on November 12, 2004


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