distant view of Old Hurley
Saturday, March 17 2012
The freaky unseasonable weather continued today and I used it to finish bucking up most of the wood at the blowdown clusterfuck at the edge of our neighbors' field. Since the site is so close to (and downhill from) our woodshed, I'm thinking about making a more-or-less direct path down which I can pull a handtruck or wood cart, thereby avoiding the use of a vehicle for transporting the wood. A vehicle won't actually buy me much (or anything) given all the overhead of loading and unloading (in addition to the distance the wood must still be hauled by handtruck from the parking area).
This afternoon I took my netbook, Eleanor, and Ramona with me into the forest to see how far I could detect a D-Link router attached to a 24 dB parabolic dish on the solar deck. I'd done a similar experiment years ago, but this time I'd brought a powerful WiFi dongle and a variety of antennas.
I lost the WiFi signal at 41.926612N, 74.103212W, well short of where I'd hoped to. However, my laptop started detecting two WiFi hot spots I'd never previously detected when scanning this area from the solar deck. This is some of the most remote terrain east of the Catskills, but with a slightly better antenna I could have hopped onto one or both of these networks (neither of which were secured in any way).
I continued out to 41.923993N, 74.099436W, hoping I'd find my way out of the radio shadow blocking my reception of the signal from the solar deck. Alas, that wasn't to be, but I found myself picking up another WiFi signal, one called simply "skytop." Could this have really been from the Skytop Motel some three miles to the northeast? I had line-of-sight to that region and it's possible they have a particularly powerful hotspot. But it seemed more likely that the signal was coming from someone on the upper reaches of Eagle's Nest Road. I should mention, by the way, that at this distant point (which is located near the southeast end of our long, narrow 16 acre property), I was finally able to see clearly into Old Hurley, which meant that a powerful WiFi router at Ray and Nancy's place would be reachable from here. The problem, though, is that this location appears to be in a microwave shadow with respect to out house. It's possible that I could get out of that shadow by simply climbing a tree. But none of the trees here are easy to climb.
Back at the house I realized that a good portion of my 24 dB WiFi signal reception and transmission from the solar deck is being blocked by the lower branches of some nearby White Pines. Using a ladder and the 18 foot pole saw, I was able to clear two of those branches, but there are still four or five more that need to go that are perhaps fifty feet above the ground. I found myself having trouble imagining a way to easily cut those down.
Much of the inspiration for this site surveying originally comes from an I, Cringely article I read years ago in which the author ("Cringely") claimed to have used two yagi antennas back-to-back to make a passive repeater part way between his house and an urban area having a WiFi "cloud." The source had been reputable (pbs.org), so I'd just assumed Cringely had somehow pulled it off. I'd reread the article recently, though, and this time the technical details had seemed suspicious. The power passively being picked up by one yagi and then passively retransmitted from another must be incredibly weak, and yet Cringely was claiming to be able to pick up that signal from 1.5 miles away. More absurd still was his claim that the receiving yagi of his passive repeating system was able to get enough of a signal from the urban WiFi cloud five miles away without any strong antennas pointing at it to rebroadcast a signal strong enough to pick up from 1.5 miles away. So today I did some more research and found plenty of people had done the math and deduced that Cringely's story is a complete fabrication, a fraud (akin to fraud recently perpetrated on This American Life by Mike Daisey). And yet Cringely's column lives on. He even has a podcast.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
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