21 April 2004
: The long awaited NetStumber 0.4 ( + PDA MiniStumb.) is just out ! (www.netstumbler.com~1.2MB). Of coursewe've been trying all sorts of Wi-Fi cards to hand! Originally NS only favoured Orinoco PCMCIA, but the latest flavour IS talkingto such cheapies as the popular NZ Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) NZ$69 USB thumb dongle adaptor (cat XH6822). This DSEsweetie is based on a ZyDAS chipset,& seems to perform almost as well as esteemed Orinocos under XP. Yah! Can't say thingslook bullet proof with NS 0.4 yet, but it's certainly a tempting way to go, since USB cables & active extenders are dirt cheap,&being just digital are lossless compared with COSTLY microwave coax cable & connectors. Will maybe do a roof top "sweet spot"trial from here in central Wellington, New Zealand & perhaps upload a NS file,but picked up a AP ~500m LOS away OK.
25th April 2004
: Well - ANZAC day dawned fine here in Wellington (NZ), so in best military tradition we ran a few LOS(Line Of Sight) scouting trials,supporting the USB device on a broom handle tied to the roof,fed by ~5m of regular el cheapo USB cablefrom an XP laptop running the new NS 0.4 inside. As always LOS means just that at 2.4GHz, & assorted in line trees & buildingscaused massive signal losses, so ~100m was all we managed while walking around the house/yard/street with a Dell Axim PDA &a Socket low power CF WiFi card.We'll give it a further trial tomorrow across the inner city Basin Reserve to Mt.Vic, where a standby Orinoco Sardine can biquadeasily handles the 2km from work ( Massey University). Experiences however indicate already that such simple food can reflectorsat each end look only good for ~2km LOS, & this USB receiver doesn't seem as sensitive as an esteemed PCMCIA Orinoco.Sniff ! That USB adaptors ceramic antenna may be the culprit - anyone fancy a "hack" & installation of say a Biquad ?!THOUGHT - fit this thumb at the focal point of a directive antenna? Quick trials with NS 0.4 showed useful gain with even a baremetal plate behind it. Perhaps the classic "Sardine can" biquad reflector? Simple metallic plates behind the unit gave significantweak signal boost, espec. when spacings were ~32mm ( which of course is 1/4 wavelength at 2.4GHz). With DIY dishes (each 15-20dB ?) then range increases to say 5-10km may result - dB maths says each 6dB gain will double the range.The real attraction with USB of course is the jelly bean cheapness of cable & connectors-we paid NZ$95 for just a 1/2m Orinocopigtail in 2002 that eventually broke it's tiny connector! Grr... In contrast the entire box of tricks used here today came to ~NZ$75,& with a USB active extender (~NZ$30) cables could be run on to the basement. With USB cables in place you can swap out theWiFi unit for a golf ball web cam up there for an improved view too- cheaper than moving house maybe ! USB cables are so cheapthat they're almost worth cutting up as DC hookup wire - 5m USB 2.0 extension cables( the USB 1.0 limit) wholesale here forunder $NZ4 each. Woops- broom handle still outside in the dark. Stay tuned...
26th April 2004
: Rustled up a simple corner reflector (folded aluminium)to good effect & NetStumbler 0.3/W98 Orinoco detectedOK ~1km LOS away. Gain of such quickee antenna typically 5-8dB,& a simple open mesh dish (bird netting etc) will usually beMUCH better. The eventual idea of course is to have a lowish profile antenna that can be mounted inside something like an emptyplastic blank CD "cake" tin or bowl. Mmm-recall a movie where the hero linked to a satellite via a chopsticks supportedhomemade antenna! It might have some merit- what WAS that movie called?
28th April 2004
: Update- predictions on use with a dish confirmed, since we noted a (nameless!) AP some 8km LOS away whenpositioned at the focal point of an old 600mm parabolic reflector (~21dB). Compared with the expense & lossy cable runs of regular devices, this USB approach just COULDN'T be easier. ~1/2dB loss per m is typical with microwave coax, with maybeanother 1dB at each connector. A 10m cable hence may "cost" you 7dB of gain that spiffy roof dish provides... We'll try next someDIY smaller reflectors, with aluminium foil coated curved plastic lamp shades ($2!) showing particular promise. Only downsideseen so far is that the USB units run rather warm, although an overnight soak test gave no hassles. Surely we're not the only onesevaluating these USB adaptors - any other feedback ? With their tiny size & bargain NZ$69 (~US$40) price (plus jelly bean cheaplossless USB cable/fittings) they look a winner.
30th April 2004
: Have contacted DSE (Aust.),who inform these XH6822 dongles are a NZ only item, & they've no plans to retailin OZ- yet! However they DO sell a similar USB WiFi adaptor, the Spirit XH4268 @ A$59. Anyone had experience with these?Can they use NS 0.4 ?
1st May 2004
: Poor Man's WiFi ? You can thank an impromptu visit to a Chinese emporium for our latest variation- a 300mmdiam mesh parabola (gain ~15dB ?) that fits this USB dongle beautifully. It's based on a NZ$8 Chinese cook vat scoop c/wbamboo handle. Asian students here inform this classic Chinese cookware item is known as a "Spider Skimmer", & is usuallymade of brass rather than cheaper galvanised mesh. Sizes are 6", 8", 9", & largest 12" (300mm) as we used. Total setup B.O.M <$NZ80 (~US$50 ) & that includes the ZyDAS ZD1201 WLAN adaptor, USB cable,& dish antenna with environmentally friendlybamboo support handle. Field trials anyone ?
2nd May 2004
: While in the Asian Emporium diverse other cookware was noted, much of it stainless steel. Customers gavesideways glances as assorted woks, lids and pans were measured up& focal points calculated! Although tempting, normal woks areof course TOO solid & have serious wind resistance - a major factor here in Wellington even when closely attended ! Have just
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