Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wi-Fi on the Water

Alfa Marine USB Wi-Fi
If you're on a boat, and there's Wi-Fi available ashore, but your computer can't get enough signal for a usable connection, the outdoor waterproof Alfa Marine USB Wi-Fi Adapter can be a good solution.

The pictured module has an integrated 12 dBi long-range antenna. Although the antenna is directional, the pattern is wide enough that pointing is not critical, and a fair amount of boat movement is tolerated. With clear line-of-sight and a good antenna at the other end, range can be a mile or more.

The module mounts to something like a stanchion or mast on deck by means of stainless hose clamps or plastic zip ties, with a USB cable running to a computer below deck. Although the cable is limited to 15 ft (5 m) by the USB standard, a USB extension cable may be used for an additional 15 ft.

Available on Amazon for only $35 (link) as of this writing. Drivers provided for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

(Beware of cheaper off-brand units with exaggerated claims of antenna gain or range. Most are junk.)

Tip: Only one computer is supported, but if the computer has Wi-Fi, software can turn that Wi-Fi into a hotspot for wireless devices. Sharing over Ethernet (cable) is also possible.

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