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The problem with WiFi when travelling
We all know the problem when travelling – trying to get Internet access to check our emails isn’t really always very easy. A lot of the time even legitimate hot-spots always seem to have a flakey signal. For a long time I’ve seen these “long range WiFi” thingies saying they will improve the sitiation but at £80+ I wasn’t prepared to try it. However a thread on Motorhome Facts showed another device that had these claims for only £20 which made it worth a punt…. So……
For the purpose of the test I used BackTrack3 Linux toolkit rather than Windows as it allows a lot more control of the WiFi cards. So though you may not recognise the screens it doesn’t matter as its for testing only. Please note all images can be clicked to zoom in, but I’ve blurred the MAC/SSID details for personal/security reasons.
Normal WiFi Card
Sitting at home I performed a scan of all available networks using a standard WiFi card. As you can see there are a few networks in range but not many. As you can see in the PWR column only 2 have power in double figures and in order to maintain a connection you really do need double figures – thus only mine and my direct neighbours is accessible.
Rocket High Power WiFi Card
Then after plugging in the new device I ran the same scan, in the exact same location, and instantly detected more networks and not only that the power listed was in double figures for the vast majority of the networks
So first impressions are, most definately, it does what it says on the tin!
For those interested, the chipset is fully compliant with BackTrack3 and above, and supports MAC spoofing and packet injection. What this means in simple terms is explained in the picture below
What that bascially means is that it does support the method of obtaining the security keys of WEP encoded networks. As can be seen above, even though the network tested was out of range under a normal wifi card, I was able to detect and obtain the security key, then within Windows connect to their network and have full internet access*.
For the money? Yes – fully recommended. It also gives me confidence in the claims of some of the more expensive devices. This one is rated at -9dbi which, they say, is 500m range. From my tests I have no reason to doubt the 500m range though I would suggest the range would be maybe half that in a built up area.
In the box you get a couple of brackets and mounting kit though I expect I’ll just move mine around as and when needed. If you buy from the Amazon link – look at the “people who bought this also bought” area and get the suckers as well which you need to stick it to the side of the van.
It comes with a manual and CD (which, being a bloke I didn’t even look at), instead I simply plugged it into the laptop and let Windows get the drivers direct from Windows Update. So fairly idiot proof!
This review was undertaken on the rocket aerial below which, I love and recommend, and pretty much everyone who has seen it work has bought one! Bargain at the price.
There are other options for long range wifi, but this rocket works and is simple. Stick it up, stick it in and hey presto. Some other options are more difficult (such as having to “aim” the device) but these should be considered if you like playing.
*Note: I’m obviously talking theoretically as I would, of course, not ever recommend nor approve of anyone using anyone elses network without permissoin.