one signal bar, two signal bar. three signal bar, four?
January 22, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

i live two floors above the wireless router, and my powerbook can't get a strong enough signal. what's the most cost-effective solution?

i'm subletting in an old house- i'm on the third floor. the ethernet jack and router are on the ground floor, and they can't be moved-- ethernet must be plugged into an computer that apparently didn't take well to an expensive wireless card-- and i'm not comfortable asking the other tenants to change their established system and run cables all over the place for the new persson.

we have this bell sympatico router. it's in the back of the house. (specifically, it's one room away from the main stairwell, and it's sitting on a table near the doorway of that room, pointed towards the stairwell / centre of the house. given that it has to be in that room, i think it's in the optimum position). its signal has to either go through 2 floors, or follow a slightly bendy route up the stairs and through one wooden door in order to reach me.

i have a 2005 12-inch powerbook g4 (the aluminum one), which is apparently notorious for its crappy wifi antenna. in my apartment, i can get at best 2 bars of signal- not good enough. i've found a couple places in the apartment where the signal kind of works better, but even that's unreliable. previous tenant had a 2007 macbook and he didn't report any net problems, so i think my laptop is mostly at fault.

i guess my options are:
get a stronger antenna for my laptop (i don't know what kind though- suggestions?)
get a signal booster to attach directly to the wireless router, (again, don't know what kind and the guys in the bell store had no idea what i was talking about), or
get a signal repeater and place it halfway through the house, maybe in the stairwell or in my apartment? (again, what brand?)

does anyone have insight about which of these options will work best, and suggestions of where to get whatever bits i need, cheap? i'm in toronto.

thank you in advance.
posted by twistofrhyme to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
correction- i should have linked the router description above to this page. it's the 2701 HG-G, SSID Bell 999. apparently it has a speed of up to 8MB/sec, which is more than my 7MB/sec wire line can deliver anyway.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:48 PM on January 22, 2008

If the antenna comes off the router you already have, you can buy or make an extended-range antenna. They do work.

Also note that the waves spread out perpendicularly to the antenna. If your antenna is currently pointed straight up, you may be able to get better results simply by tilting the antenna slightly so that its length faces the spot upstairs where you use the computer.
posted by kindall at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Same distance away as you, same powerbook as you. Linksys router, though. But this parabolic template worked for me. I don't have amazing strength anywhere, but I can get some coverage everywhere two floors away.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2008

thanks for the answers so far. the router doesn't have a visible antenna, so i'm not exactly sure where on it the signal originates. it's kind of shaped like a vertical slice of toast- the link in my question shows a photo of it.
posted by twistofrhyme at 5:10 PM on January 22, 2008

Net Gear. I use this in my house and it works really well.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:21 PM on January 22, 2008

I've got the same PowerBook and I gave up on the internal AirPort card long ago in favor of a no-name USB wifi adapter. Works great and I don't think I paid much more than twenty bucks for it at Microcenter.
posted by richrad at 5:44 PM on January 22, 2008

Dollars to doughnuts the router's internal antenna is designed for uniform coverage in a horizontal plane, which means the antenna is vertical. Try tipping the whole router over on its side.
posted by flabdablet at 7:23 PM on January 22, 2008

Not sure if this would be cheaper than a repeater, but if you can score a cheap Linksys WRT54G router, you can load Tomato or DD-WRT on it and crank up the transmit power.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:33 PM on January 22, 2008

Lay it flat, that way the antenna will be sending most of its energy up and down not sideways.

Currently its like this | you want it like this ___


Spring for a USB wifi card that has an adapter for an external antenna. Connect a nice high gain antenna to this and lay it flat on the floor.

Also, try using a different channel on the wireless. Say its on channel 6 and youve got your neighbor and 2 cordless phones providing interference on that channel. Try channel 1 or 11 then. Trial and error.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:33 PM on January 22, 2008

Also, set your wireless router to do B-only instead of B/G. In noisy environments B is a tad more stable. If youre just doing internet you wont notice a difference. If you do large file transfers then its kind a pain, but I imagine youre not getting good speeds anyway.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2008

The 12-inch powerbook doesnt have an external wifi antenna adapter thus my suggestion to spring for a usb card and an antenna, although at that point its cheaper to get a repeater.

Dont buy the linksys dedicated repeater thingy. Get a WAP54G and put it in repeater mode or one of the various linksys's that run dd-wrt on it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:39 PM on January 22, 2008

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