Looking for a WiFi signal
September 8, 2006 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Why won't my Powerbook recognize a wireless network?

I live in an apartment building. There is a WPA encrypted network in the building which my 15" Powerbook (purchased about 2 years ago) can see. I don't have the password but I can see the network signal.

I thought that was the only network I was in range of. Well, turns out I was wrong. My friend stopped by with her newer iBook (purchased w/in the past 5 months) and it can see a wireless network from the bar across the street and log in. I would love to take advantage of this.

However, no amount of posturing and positioning at various points in the apartment allowed me to pickup a signal from this network. I was using MacStumbler to try and locate it. It never even registered.

I have an Air Port express card in my laptop. Any idea what the problem might be, or where I should start??
posted by dead_ to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry, Airport Extreme
posted by dead_ at 9:49 AM on September 8, 2006

Is your airport express card internal? My old TiBook has an internal Airport that gets the *worst* reception (crappy antennas) -- I mean, we're talking like needing to be 100-200 feet closer than a computer equipped with an external card.

i'd buy an external card and see if that helps -- if not, return it. But really, DSL is so cheap these days, I'd just get my own. (Low-level DSL -- 1.5 mbps -- is down to like $12.95 a month in my area. Buying a wireless card is gonna run you $40 - 50.)

Another option is to buy the wireless bridge that motorola makes and pop on a bigger antenna (possibly a cantenna.)
posted by fishfucker at 9:54 AM on September 8, 2006

PowerBooks were notable for a case design and material that resulted in poor wireless reception.

I am typing this answer on my 14" PowerBook, in which I installed an external antenna. The antenna plugs into the Airport card.

I use my PC Card slot for an audio adapter, so I had to drill a small hole in the case to route the antenna cable. Normally the cable runs through the PC Card slot. Few use the PC Card slot, it seems, so you might not need to do what I had to.

You may also want to connect to a wired network and run Software Update to make sure you have the latest AirPort software updates, so that you can reliably join WPA and WPA2-secured networks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 AM on September 8, 2006

OK. Sounds like this is probably a hardware issue then. Dang.
posted by dead_ at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2006

To discount another (albeit unlikely) factor – what happens when you actually go into the bar across the street? Do you get a signal then?
posted by ed\26h at 10:23 AM on September 8, 2006

Some Powerbooks have crappy antennas. Maybe yours does.
posted by k8t at 10:40 AM on September 8, 2006

Sometimes the bad reception is fixable. If you open up your Powerbook you should be able to find the wireless card, which has a thin round cable plugged into it which goes to the antenna. Sometimes this cable will be poorly plugged in, causing bad reception, so try unplugging it and plugging it in again (it may require some force). I'm sure someone has instructions and pictures for doing this on the web somewhere, try googling for it!
posted by xil at 11:06 AM on September 8, 2006

Maybe you could add an external antenna to improve your reception.
posted by jaimev at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2006

The antenna on my MacBook Pro is about 1000x better than the one on my PowerBook. An external antenna might be your only option. The MacBook is still weaker than my HP work notebook. Sadly, I've have all three running on my coffee table at the same time for side by side comparisons.
posted by birdherder at 11:48 AM on September 8, 2006

Do you have "Use interference robustness" selected? I think that can cut down on your range.
posted by Addlepated at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2006

ditto birdherder... i can see all kinds of networks in my neighborhood with my macbook that i never new existed before (powerbook g4...)
posted by joeblough at 5:24 PM on September 8, 2006

The Titanium powerbook has a poor antenna. Some people hacked it to improve it's reception (as I recall, by rerouting it's antenna through the screen).

The aluminum powerbooks and the MacBook + MacBook Pro all have superior antennas.

I think that Blazecock has a iBook, not a powerbook - apple never made a 12" PB. Just a 12, 15 and 17" PB.
posted by filmgeek at 5:03 PM on September 9, 2006

No, I have a Titanium PowerBook.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:49 PM on September 10, 2006

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