Home internet networks over large distances?
April 1, 2008 6:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a wireless router in my house. 150 metres away I have a shed where I want to be able to use the internet on my laptop. There are electricity outlets in the house and in the shed but not in between. How do I get the signal from the house to my shed?

For example are there battery-powered boosters that I could lay between the two places and recharge them at night? Can I buy a more powerful router? Can I buy some sort of signal magnifier to attach to the router? Or .... is it crazy to run a telephone cable all the way from the ADSL port in my house to the router in my shed? Any other ideas?
posted by zaebiz to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen the cantenna?
posted by alexei at 6:53 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: Interesting. I also have a small satellite dish that I'm not using that could boost the signal.
posted by zaebiz at 7:10 PM on April 1, 2008

You need to look for "range extender," "wireless repeater" or simple "wireless access point." There's a lot of devices out there that simply increase the range of an existing wireless network and they'll go under those terms. You might also want to look into investing a "MIMO" router as I believe those are the best consumer grade routers out there currently. This with a repeater should prove no problem going up to 200ft+ depending on LOS and RF interference.

You might want to try and put the antenna on top of the shed and run a cable from that, which should help considerably. Running cables underground isn't crazy, and I'd recommend it if you're using the shed a lot, but for most applications is probably not necessary.
posted by geoff. at 7:11 PM on April 1, 2008

Oh you can roll your own I guess, but consumer grade devices for this sort of thing will be less time consuming, a lot less.
posted by geoff. at 7:12 PM on April 1, 2008

Another possibility is Ethernet over your electrical wiring--for example, Netgear's XE102. I haven't used one, so you should do some research (e.g. whether it will work across circuits), but it might be better than using a directional antenna. You could put a wireless router on the shed end if you didn't want your laptop to be tethered there.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:19 PM on April 1, 2008

(insert warnings about ground potential between buildings far apart... enough to knock the piss out of you and fry all of your equipment if you run wires.)

I would invest in a couple of fiber to copper transceivers and run fiber between the buildings. or go wireless. you can also do Power Over Ethernet (POE) to power repeaters in the middle if you want to run wire.

Frack'n April 1 day color changes prevent me from seconding the ethernet over regular power lines if you can.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:42 PM on April 1, 2008

This little antenna really works. Boosts signal and might be all you need , Windsurfer Antenna, easy to make, good results.
posted by Agamenticus at 8:15 PM on April 1, 2008

I use the3 Netgear that uses my house's electical wiring. Nothing but good things to say about it. Has not failed me yet. If your shed is on the same wiring system as your house, then that will work.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:35 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: JohnnyGunn: " If your shed is on the same wiring system as your house, then that will work."

Any idea how I find out whether it is or not?
posted by zaebiz at 9:25 PM on April 1, 2008

A 1000 foot spool of stranded CAT5 will set you back about 125 USD. Connectors and a crimping tool will set you back another 25 or so (unless you can borrow the tool).

Expect the signal to degrade a bit between the house and the shed, but you'll probably still get better throughput than wireless, and it would be a lot less prone to random interference. Lay the cable out in the open first to see if it works for you, and sell off the spool if it doesn't. If it does work, bury the cable.
posted by dws at 9:57 PM on April 1, 2008

If you have direct line of sight (LOS) between the house and the shed, this is an easy win with the following setup. Pick your variant based on your level of expertise/patience/cash:

Point 1 - House Router/AP + cheap cantenna

Point 2 variant a - Shed WLAN Access Point in client mode + cantenna or cheap mast antenna. Recommend the cheap, ubiquitous Linksys RT54GL (cheap on ebay) with DDWRT firmware (free, open-source firmware that hugely extends the capabilities of the hardware. Recommend you explore upgrading the firmware on the home router/AP side to something like this if that is an option, more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DD-WRT )

More info on Wireless Client Mode here: http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Client_Mode_Wireless

Point 2 variant b - Shed WLAN Access Point in client mode + cantenna or cheap mast antenna.

Linksys RT54GL with DDWRT as above in WDS Mode. Again, YMMV with WDS mode with the setup based on the specs of the house router/AP. It's always been a bit fiddly for me, especially in multi-vendor environments.

In this variant, that's all you need, as the laptop in the shed will associate with the AP in the shed. Upside- wireless coverage in the entire shed, freedom to move around. Downside- a bit more config, less stable.

Point 3 variant a - Ethernet LAN port on Shed WLAN Access Point in client mode via wired LAN -> laptop. Upside- easy, stable. Also, if you want to connect another wired LAN device like a network printer or a desktop, you can do this too. Downside- Your laptop will be on a wired port, less mobile.

My $.02. i could help you more if you shared some more details about your setup, i.e. home router/Ap hardware spec, goals for connectivity in the shed, etc.

Have Fun.
posted by StandardObfuscatingProcedure at 4:19 AM on April 2, 2008

Seconding the cantenna... my parents have a rig in place to run a signal from the main access point to a second building just over 400 feet away, and it works like a charm. Less latency than I expected, and I've never seen it go down from weather. The signal loss over 400 feet of CAT5 is very noticable, so without repeaters, I'd say it's probably your best bet.
posted by Mayor West at 4:39 AM on April 2, 2008

Build a $10 mast antenna
posted by mysterious1der at 9:16 AM on April 2, 2008

Any idea how I find out whether it is or not?
posted by zaebiz at 12:25 AM on April 2 [+] [!]

The only way I know of to find out if it is part of the same elecitrical loop as the house, is to see if it is in the same breaker panel. I think (I am NO electrician!) if it is , then it is. I have two panels in my house and some of the rooms on the other panel do not work.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2008

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