After reading Dots blog on Gypsy Rover yesterday I thought that I should share my internet connection solution, for those that may be interested that is.
A narrow boat is a large metal box which is a very good screen to radio waves, and as anyone knows who has a computer and goes on the internet on the boat it can be a right pain trying to get decent connection. The usual method for connecting to the internet is to use a USB dongle which can often be seen hanging in the window or in some cases on the roof in a plastic bottle. The problem with this type of setup is that you have to have the computer near the dongle, ok you can get longer USB cables, but you still have the computer tied to the dongle via its umbilical USB cable. So the computer location is determined by the dongle position and the dongle position is determined by the strength of the signal. Not a very satisfactory situation compounded by needing to connect more than one computer to the network, some could say that this is an extravagance but hey you would think nothing of doing this at home in a house.
So I have a two part solution to this problem.
1) A Wifi box which frees the USB connection
2) An external antenna which improves signal strength
First of all I must stress that I am no expert on computer systems and that there are more than likely loads of you out there with more knowledge and computer experience, having said that I also know that there are those that would like help in freeing their computer on board a narrow boat.
The first requirement is to obtain what is known as a ‘3g Router and Access Point’. This is a module into which you plug your USB dongle to provide internet access and it also includes a standard (802.11b/g) WiFi access point and means that you can connect any WiFi compatible equipment to it. We have two computers, a music player and a mobile phone connected to ours.
The one we have is ‘Edimax 3G-6200N nLite WiFi 3G Broadband Router’ which you can get from Amazon for £42.57 they do others at a range of prices but I cannot comment on the why’s and wherefores of choosing one rather than another, oh except for cost.
We also had a Solwise 3.5G router 3GWIFIMRW which you can also get from Amazon for £44.99 or direct from Solwise, this is a handy little device, but we had a problem connecting our Music player to the LAN port for internet connection which I was not able to resolve.
The setup for both these units was very straight forward, unless of course you read the instruction manual which in the case of the Solwise module is 255 pages in pdf format.
Seriously they were easy to setup, of course only after you find out what has to be done.
For 3G connectivity you need to enter the APN which simply stands for Access Point Name and there is nothing else to do. In the case of our provide Orange it was orangeinternet, what could be simpler? When I did this the first time it took me 2 hours to sort out that this was all that was required. So before you start you need to find your providers APN. When we received the Edimax I had it set up completely in less than 5 minutes.
The WiFi connection was just as simple but again only when you find out what has to be done, which is to turn on and set the security password.
I know that I may have grossly simplified things and that it may be different from computer to computer and that it is important to have the correct settings on the computer for example the PC LAN should be configured to obtain an IP address automatically…. Help, too much information.
I will leave it there and do the external antenna connection tomorrow. If there is an interest I will combine these things into a guide with a bit more specific detail and hardware configuration.