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Throughout your whole life, you’ve been raised in the art of recycling. And while it’s true that it’s better to reuse materials than to create new ones, there are more ways to recycle than chucking your cans and bottles in a bin. They can actually be used to improve the strength and distance of a wireless network.Pringles “cantennas” were one of the earliest such experiments, and while larger cans can actually work better, they are still a popular project for people just getting interested in WiFi experimenting. All you need are a can, a good Ntype connector, some copper wire, a coaxial cable “pigtail”, and a soldering iron. You can find many guides online, including this one which includes a handy calculator for determining the standing wavelength based on the diameter of the can. This simple device can improve your range by about a half mile under certain conditions. The size of the cantenna also makes it popular among “wardriving”, a surprisingly popular hobby among certain types of techheads in which they search for WiFi networks while in a moving vehicle.The “WokFi” Long Distance Signal Strainer, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, is another popular project.
Simply by using an Asian cooking strainer and a USB wireless thumb drive, you can increase range and possibly connect to networks blocks away from you. One thing to remember when using these homemade devices is that even though the power output of the antennas is low, you should never stand directly in front of them, and always follow reliable and safe instructions. If you’re interested in extending your network while also reusing household devices, though, these projects are highly recommended.
Choosing a wireless Internet router
While the decision may initially seem arbitrary, the fact is that different models of wireless routers can have drastically different results based on your individual network. There are a number of things to consider when purchasing a router, and cost is only one of them.You will usually find speed ratings on the box advertised in megabits per second (Mbps). Draft N routers may look tempting with their 300 Mbps ratings, but this is a test-value only. In reality, most people only achieve a fraction of that speed, so a more modest 802.11g router (with a speed of 54 Mbps) may not be such a bad idea. The other most common thing people look for, and with good reason, is sales rankings. Even if this doesn’t include the models that are later returned, numbers are a good indication that that device works, even if it isn’t cutting-edge technology.Before purchasing, make sure you’ve checked out the warranty packages for different models.
Paradoxically, the products with longer warranties will usually indicate that the router is more reliable and guaranteed to last (at least until the warranty expires). Routers with shorter warranties are usually lesser products, which the companies are hoping will outlast their package. You can check out reliability ratings and reviews online, but beware putting too much stock into personal anecdotes. Routers can produce different results depending on how they are set up, or how well the home network is connected. This isn’t to say that you should ignore a product that has only bad reviews, but don’t let a mixture of good and bad ratings distract you too much.
This isn’t to say that you should ignore a product that has only bad reviews, but don’t let a mixture of good and bad ratings distract you too much.Brand matching is something to consider if you’re looking to squeeze every last bit of processing power out of your network adapter. Companies often optimize products with their own equipment, and compatibility is more guaranteed. Finally, consider if size/style will be a factor in your decision. Businesses will have more use for smaller, more portable routers, while home owners may want something that goes with the wallpaper.
Protect yourself against session hijacking
With great power comes great responsibility. It was true for Peter Parker when he became Spider-Man, and it’s true for users of public wireless networks. With a trusted provider like clear wireless internet service, you can set up your own security settings, but if you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you don’t necessarily know how secure that network is. Session hijackers can exploit these vulnerabilities, often more easily than you might think. For instance, there’s a Firefox web browser extension, called Firesheep, which allows users with limited technical know-how to sniff out and detect unencrypted cookies.
This extension was developed by Eric Butler and released earlier in 2010. Butler says that the extension is intended to demonstrate security risks, and Mozilla has protected the extension from black-listing.`Firesheep is less effective when you are connecting to a secure network that requires a password. A WEP password offers less protection than a WPA password, as a Firesheep user who figures out the WEP password can still access your cookies. With WPA, you are actually isolated from the network.
There are other ways to block Firesheep on your computer if you must connect to a public hotspot. For instance, there are other Firefox extensions, such as BlackSheep and Fireshepherd, which can block Firesheep on your computer and alert you if someone is trying to access it. With a Clear mobile USB modem, however, your need to connect to unsecured networks will disappear.
Testing the limits of long-range Wi-Fi’
Wi-Fi is not yet at the point where it can compete with cellular and satellite networks in all cases. In some instances, though, these other types of connections are not an option, whether due to geography, cost, or both. Long range Wi-Fi has demonstrated its effectiveness in these cases, and developers are working to improve the technology to achieve even more range and speed.Some business instances in which long-range Wi-Fi is preferable, or even necessary, include providing coverage over an office or campus complex, connecting skyscrapers in the city, and connecting internet to remote labs that require it for research. For example, the TIER Project at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley connects the Aravind Eye Hospital with other health clinics in India, at distances of 5 to 13 km (3 to 10 mi).
Residential consumers are also finding long-range Wi-Fi useful for connecting to the internet during mountain vacations, or while on the ocean.How are developers getting the most out of their Wi-FI ranges? New multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) technology is being tested as a way to improve speed and distance by targeting sources with multiple antennas. “Range extender amplifiers”, on the other hand, work by supplying an extra watt of power to an antenna, which can increase the range by 5x. One humorous example of technological ingenuity is the cleverly-dubbed “WokFi,” in which USB WLAN hardware is placed at the center of the Asian cookware. This can improve ranges up to several kilometers.The longest link currently recorded, however, was a 304 km link by the Italian Center for Radio Activities (CISAR) in 2007, achieved by a 120 cm satellite dish antenna. A 279 km link was made in Venezuela by the Latin American Networking School, using parabolic dish antennas at both ends, along with an aluminum and a fiberglass reflector.
Avoid “Free Public Wi-Fi”
How many of us have been tempted to click on that unsecured “Free Public Wifi,” “Linksys,” or “hpsetup” network at a spot where many people are using their computers? It’s a common urge, but one which it’s important to avoid. These networks, far from being free computer access, create a connection between your computer and someone else’sand if that someone else is aware of the connection and has impure intent, this could mean trouble for your personal files.These networks result from an old Windows XP bug which automatically creates a network when your ordinary ones aren’t available. Lacking originality, the computer names this network after the last network you connected to.
Since this network is unsecured, anybody can connect to it. The bug has been referred to as a “zombie” network, because just like that infamous metaphor of spreading contagion, a connected computer will create the same network the next time it’s out of range of its favorites. This bug has been removed by a Windows Service Pack update, so make sure to keep your computer updated if you haven’t already, and make sure not to fall for the zombie network’s alluring title. Otherwise, your personal files could end up in a real horror story.