Poor Man’s Wifi

I’ve spent the last week or so trying to get Treah’s laptop on WVU’s wireless network. One problem she’s been having is the signal strength at her desk is way to weak. So I started looking at ways to increase the signal she is getting. I came across the Poor Man’s Wifi site. I decided to give it a try. I found an 8 inch mesh strainer at Kmart for $5. I thought that if the project didn’t work I’d only be out $5.

This is a pretty easy project. I took my drill and put 2 holes next to each other in the center of the strainer. I then cut out the metal between the 2 holes out . This made a single hole just about the right size for a male to female USB cable to fit through. I decided to use a male to female cable so that I could use different wifi adapters in the future. I ran the cable through the hole, and wedged the female end in so that about a 1/8 inch of the adapter was left not pushed through. Here’s a couple pictures, I think they’ll explain what I did better.




So now I had my antenna built. The idea behind it is that the strainer takes the signals in the air and concentrates them on a focal point in the center of the strainer. This would be where the USB wifi adapter sits.

I fired up netstumbler to see if this really helped. I was at home so this is signal strength of my home network, not WVU’s. So the numbers you see show a stronger signal than she was getting at WVU.

The first graph shows signal strength with the adapter plugged directly into the back of the laptop, without the antenna. As you can see I was getting around -65 db of signal.


Here is the graph with the wifi adapter running through the antenna. I was now seeing signal strength of around -45 db. One thing I noticed right away is that running through the antenna you have to get it aimed almost directly at your access point to see any improvements. You can see on the graph when my hand moved ever so slightly it resulted in a signal drop off.


I would have never guessed $5 would get a 20db gain. It’s a pretty ugly solution but I think it gets the job done. We’ll see what it does for Treah at her desk.

July 2007
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