Piloting, from hercs to mechs.

Piloting, from hercs to mechs.
A running recap of what I'm doing for fun, between active duty flying, technology, gadgets, and some of my favorite games.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back...in Irack

Well, I'm back in the sandbox again. Got settled, started our flying routine, and met my old foe...poor wifi internet in my room.
It's fast enough to see my wife's face once every 15 seconds on skype. While I've already killed about 12 hours looking into better VOIP video solutions than skype, I am also beginning an epic search for better wifi antennas. I currently have an ALFA AWUS036H adapter connected to a 20 foot cable that goes to the included antenna. I have mounted the antenna through 2 metal tubes that I scavenged off an old broken folding chair, and attached it to the roof of my pod, going vertically.

My problem: I receive the signal from 3 different wifi routers that all belong to the crappy on-base ISP called Babtel, also commonly known as Balad WiFi. Once I'm connected, my transfer rate is typically limited to about 3-5 kbps, and that's barely fast enough to check your email.
It's NOT fast enough to skype, connect to the Playstation Network, or get on World of Warcraft...YET.
I'm on a mission, to find or create a directional antenna that will completely solve my problem by increasing my reception and transfer rate from my room.

The first question is: does it matter how you position the standard omni-directional antenna?
The second question is: is there a better antenna solution? (aka directional)
The third question is: is there a better USB wifi adapter for either Mac OSX or Windows 7?

I will update as I learn more. Here's what I've read or seen so far:

  • A peer had a different wifi adapter with an identical antenna setup and claimed to be able to play WoW even during peak times from his room in Iraq earlier this year. He declined to sell me his adapter, btw.

  • A peer who is here currently with an even larger omni antenna is having the same poor performance that I'm having.

  • I know for a fact that your distance from the router matters: last year one room got the same performance I get now, while one room never could connect even at all.

  • There are many directional antenna options out there. I'm already considering the Blueway High Gain Wireless Adapter with 8dbi Directional Dish Antenna. There is not a great availability of directional antennas out there that have any credibility.

On a separate note, I played a 5 man successfully with my priest in the USO, where gaming is apparently prohibited. My RL buddies had to carry me, as I experienced 1500-3000 ms latency. Not thrilled about that either. My situation will improve, inevitably, because I'm working at it.

UPDATES as promised: If you have an ALFA like me, you have the best wifi USB adapter available for Windows or Mac. Good luck getting it to work on OSX10.6.7 though...I've had no luck on either of my macbook pros. Good thing I have windows.

Also, I highly recommend the yagi directional antenna from Rokland.com - I am very pleased with mine, although it can only do so much with the inadequate connections here. It is a noted improvement over my other cheap omni. I recommend a program called WirelessMon to select your routers in an environment like our pods. I'm still searching for a solution that will support instance play here at Balad, but I am pleased with the ability to AH and level in my room. During an alpha alert I was able to play nearly all hours of the day, even during peak times, on the Babtel connection. The bandwidth is still as low, although consistently around 10Kbps, up to 25Kbps.