preliminary fun at 24 dB
Thursday, February 17 2005
Yesterday as birthday presents Gretchen had given me two things. The first was Collapse, Jared Diamond's sequel to his fascinating Guns, Germs, and Steel. The second, which we had to pick up last night at the Kingston UPS headquarters after a new driver freaked out about our dogs, was a 24 dB parabolic antenna tuned for 802.11b & g WiFi frequencies. The latter came in pieces which I assembled this morning. It ended up being forty inches across and much bigger than I'd expected, more of the scale of an old-timey West Virginia satellite dish than, say, a DirecTV antenna. [This subsequently sent me researching what wavelengthgs DirecTV uses and I found they're actually six times shorter than WiFi frequencies, accounting for the tiny size of the dishes and the fact that they are not made of meshes or grids.]
I hooked up the new antenna and pointed it at various locations, some the known locations of neighbors' WiFi hotspots and others simply populated areas within line of sight (particularly the community of Riverside down in the Esopus Valley). Since I've yet to actually mount the antenna in a solid outdoor location, all these experiments were conducted through obstacles of various densities, mostly the windows and walls of the house. In the one outdoor experiment I set the antenna on the laboratory's deck, and this allowed me to connect to a mysterious and elusive WiFi hotspot I've known about to the northwest. This was the first time I'd ever been able to connect to that hotspot from an antenna located at the house; in the past the only way to reach it was to carry a laptop up Dug Hill Road or run an ethernet pseudopod out into a neighbor's field.
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