Need help in Iraq!
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Thread: Need help in Iraq!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Iraq
    Posts
    28

    Need help in Iraq!

    Hello all,
    This is my first post..so bear with me. I have searched (a little) through the threads and haven't found specific answers to my questions; if they are already posted please forgive me.
    I am serving here in Iraq and have a problem with our wireless connection. In our living area (tents) we have wireless 802.11b. It is actually transmitted with a system called a CAISI (anyone familiar with it?) that is made up of, among other things, linksys bridges, switches and routers and AirFortress encryption devices (not sure of which models except for the AirFortress which is an 1100). We have plugged the CAISI bridge into the local satellite internet package and are broadcasting in 802.11b with a supposedly extended range (24"antenna should be 800m and 40"antenna should be 2 miles).
    Wouldn't you know it, my tent is on the border of reception. The ranges quoted above are a joke..we get nothing near that! But I have several buildings between myself and each AP which block me also. I am currently using in different computers a Dell TrueMobile 1300 PCMCIA and Linksys 54g PCMCIA cards. They both get LOW to VERY LOW signal strength; but bounce around 1Mb/s to 5.5Mb/s. Mostly the just cut out completely.
    What can I purchase to increase my signal? I am not sure exactly what a access point's capabilities are. Would just putting one between my computer and the bridge or another AP increase my signal? I thought about the cantenna...but then I must purchase another card that can connect to an external antenna! I need a practical solution that will not "break the bank" and would be obtainable through USPS/APO mail. I get real confused on specifics of hardware as to what piece does exactly what. Bridges, Switchs, Hubs, Repeaters, Access Points, etc..
    So, sorry for the long post; if anyone can enlighten me...please do

    WoMBaT
    "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
    --William Tecumseh Sherman--

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
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    5,553
    Welcome to the forum. I would say that you have two possible choices. One would be as you said to get a wireless client adaptor with external antenna connections as well as 200mw of output power. There are two that I know of, the Engenius one and one made by SMC.

    http://www.netgate.com/NL2511.html

    http://www.smc.com/index.cfm?action=...ode=SMC2532W-B

    Then I would get a panel antenna that would have as much dBi gain as you could afford. There are several at this link. You would also need to get a pigtail that would mate the pc card and antenna. They are also represented at that same site.

    http://www.fab-corp.com/

    If you have an existing vertical antenna you can make some of these little reflectors and they will almost double the power output. they work surprisingly well.

    http://www.freeantennas.com/projects/template/

    The next and more extreme option would be to get a bridge device and an access point. What this will do is setup your own mini network. You have the bridge located in a position to see the remote node as best as possible, maybe even add an external antenna to it so the link becomes a solid on. Then connect it with CAT5 Ethernet cable to the access point. Then you can be anywhere in the immediate vicinity and get the signal. You mentioned Linksys devices, so I will give you examples of those. Here is the access point for 11b.

    http://www.linksys.com/products/prod...id=35&prid=563

    Then, this is the bridge device.

    http://www.linksys.com/products/prod...id=36&prid=602

    There is one variation to the second option. If you have the ability to get two access points that will work as well. The reason for this is that an access point will act as a bridge device as well. Usually access points are more common, that is why I mentioned it. Hope that has helped and good luck. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask.

    I forgot to talk about repeating, you mentioned something about using an access point as a repeater. That is a possibility, but it is not the best option and the performance will not be what you expect. It will really cut down the bandwidth available and it needs good signal strength to work. But in worst case, if this is the only possibility it will be better than nothing. You just locate the access point in between the two locations and configure it as a repeater. Since you have signal coverge going all over the place, you may have trouble with interference using this method as well.
    CWNA, CWSP, K0PBX

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Iraq
    Posts
    28
    Thank you mpkn3rd.

    I have looked at the SMC card to be had for around $59.00 on Amazon.com and have looked at the Super Cantenna Bundle from www.cantenna.com that includes a tripod and pigtail for around $49.00. But you mentioned the panel antenna, is it better for my application?
    I am willing to buy an Access Point as I can use it upstairs at home with my current wireless router when we return; and my tent-mate will purchase one too. So, am I to understand that two AP's (such as Linksys' WAP-11's) will extend my range? I don't mean to sound "thick-headed". If this is so, I could put one in a solider's tent that is closer to the transmitting antenna and one in my tent, correct? And this would help everybody out. Again, just to be clear...if you setup an AP anywhere within a signal coverage area, it now increases that area and other devices can access the net? Is this invisible to the user?
    Okay, now the next question. How do you setup an access point? Is it html based like the Linksys routers or is it just a "dumb" device? The reason I ask is the laptop computers have to have an "AirFortress Software Encryption Client" installed on them to communicate with the bridge's AirFortress 1100 box. If it's not a dumb device (and I've never seen any way to install software other than firmware in any of my Linksys products), will it still pass the signal? I guess what I'm asking is: Does the AP care about what is contained in the transmission packets? Do you see my point? I could use the AP at home...but I would hate to have a friend spend the money on one just to find out it won't work.
    Lastly, yes after posting I read several threads about repeaters and them reducing bandwidth 25-50%.

    Again, thank you for the awesome help and timely assistance.
    "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
    --William Tecumseh Sherman--

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Posts
    5,553
    The first option you mention will work, I just like the panel antennas a little better, you can mount them easier, and they are less obtrusive as well as weather proof.

    Now for the access point approach. It is a little more complicated than that. Using one closer to the source node as in your friends tent may work, but I have many reservations about that approach. How close is the friends tent to yours? My thought are to setup a WAP11 as a bridge node, maybe get a cantenna or panel antenna and locate that device somewhere it has a good line of sight to the remote node you are trying to connect with. It can be semi-permanent that way. Then run a CAT5 cable from that to the other WAP11 in your tent. That WAP11 will be your network and you could be anywhere within its range and get a good signal. The bridge link with the good antenna is just capturing the signal and then passing it through to the WAP11 in your tent. If you friend is close enough that signal maybe strong enough to use as well. This requires two devices, but it eliminates all the problems by using one WAP11 as a repeater.
    If you go this route, you will have to make sure the WAP11 in your tent is on a different channel than the remote node, so that they do not interfere with each other. If the remote node is on channel one, try to use channel eleven. and so on.

    As for configuration, all that is required is to initially connect to the WAP11 with a short piece of CAT5 cable, might have to be a crossover, not sure. Then, you go into your browser and type in the default IP address for the WAP11 and it will bring you to a log in screen. You use the default login initially and there you are. You should change those after you are done with the configuration. If you are having no problem with the encryption scheme on your wireless client, I would doubt that the access points would have any either, they are just acting as relay points.

    If you want,you can go to the LinkSys website and look at the complete user manual. It will describe in very good detail all the steps required for setting up any of these options.

    Just to try and make sure I have this explained correctly, the card and antenna option is a good one if you do not want to move around and have to relocate the antenna all the time. But if it is not a big deal then that might be the best for both you and your friend. You can still move around but not as easily. The other option is more complex, but will create a completely independent wireless network that you should be able to access with your existing setup. I hope that helps, if still confused tell me to explain it better.
    CWNA, CWSP, K0PBX

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Westchester, NY
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    WoMBat -- sorry to interrupt but I just have to jump and throw out a big salute to you guys in Iraq.

    From the relative quiet of the WiFi-Planet/Jupitermedia headquarters in Connecticut, I just want to let you know we appreciate all you're doing.

    I don't have an answer but I promise you that I'll keep an eye on the thread for you -- if you don't get the answers you'll need, I'll hunt them down for you.

    Just let us know if there's anything else we can do. We're proud to help in any way we can...

    - gvenditto
    -- editor-in-chief, JupiterWeb Networks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    New England
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    If you are getting some signal on you linksys g card then most likely switching to a pure 200mW 802.11b card alone with external antenna will do the job. The linksys cards have less than 100mW and really bad radio chipsets.

    A high power card with good Receive Sensitivity like the Engenius / Senio cards are the best option better than SMC.
    [You could use a 200mW wireless ethernet bridge like the engenius 2611 CB3 and run ethernet to your computers. This solution lets you mount the bridge near the antenna for a clear line of sight.
    The higher you can mount the antenna the better chance you will get a RF line of sight. You need something like 20 feet Fresnel zone clearance in all directions to go more than a few miles. If you use a 14dbi directional patch mounted high up it should more than go the distance.

    One problem though the US postal regulations do now allow for shipping of RF devices or GPS devices to APO.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Hawaii
    Posts
    97
    Just to throw in a couple more options to think about....

    Although this doesn't appear to be a requirement in this case, 3e Technologies has a 200mW card, the 3e-010F Crypto Client "that is a FIPS 140-2 Level 1 Validated client security option which meets the Federal Information Processing Standards mandated by the US Department of Defense for use in wireless environments." You can read the Wi-Fi Planet review here.

    Another option may be one of the new 300 mW cards that are now available from Demarc and from ZCOMAX. The Demarc has the capability to add an external antenna, and is rather sensitive at -96dBm, -95dBm, -93dBm and -91dBm, at 1Mb, 2Mb, 5Mb, and 11Mb, respectively. This card looks identical to the 200 mW SMC card which mpkn3rd mentioned previously (and which I have), and can be connected to an external antenna via a RP-MMCX connector.

    Take care.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Iraq
    Posts
    28

    Thumbs up WOW!

    Okay first,

    gvenditto--thank you for the words of support! It is always nice to here people back home behind us. There is always the spectre of Vietnam over our heads. God, please don't let this turn into that. Especially for us here where we are; I can't give exact details due to security...but we are in a dangerous spot west of Baghdad and East of Ar Ramadi. Things have been bad this last month.

    keenanj--thank you for the links, I will check them out at work today if the net is up. My feelings are hurt I love Linksys products and have had nothing but success back home with them! But ,after much research, I have found that what you say is true. The Linksys PCMCIA cards are not stellar performers. Now, I have to purchase another card (imagine the question from the wife ).

    danielmaui--I will check out the Secure card and the 300mW card links you gave. Thank you. I really want to make an informed choice before going through the channels I have to go through to get this equipment over here. And before I shell out more $$
    "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
    --William Tecumseh Sherman--

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Georgia USA
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    Is there any way we can send some cash or equipment to you guys for this project?

    If so and you come up with a grocery list I would be honored to contribute.

    I could chip in a few bucks...

    God Bless all of you......

    Spiderbite

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Iraq
    Posts
    28
    Spiderbite (and others),
    That is a very generous and noble offer. I feel a little guilty though because I really did not mean to try and play the "sympathy" card. I am just going crazy trying to get these soldiers something set up to email / message their families. I have fanangled and massaged the system up to now just to get the wireless setup to access non .mil addresses. This probably wouldn't have gone over well if I hadn't set up the Battalion Commander with it
    I didn't know before now what I would need to reach the border tents we are in. The signal closer to HQ is good. It's just these last few tents we have. And just to be clear, yes mine is the furtherest away (closest to where the mortars land ) so it's a little selfish too. If I made some kind of list it would just be what is suggested here, because I'm a novice at setting up the wireless. All the things suggested fall in my realm of "expensive" so asking for any kind of donation would seem crass on my part.
    We just need to nail down the bare minimum we need to get the signal boosted on the edges. I have some info on the equipment that is in use; but I will have to review it again.

    WoMBaT
    "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
    --William Tecumseh Sherman--

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    New England
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    Guys 300mW cards are not for use in laptops but are designed for outdoor equipment only. Iraq might not exactly be under the FCC but they have these rules for safty reasons.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Posts
    5,553
    If you are with others that have notebooks with wireless nearby, then I still would suggest going with the bridge/access point route. You would not have to get another pc card, just two access points. That way you would be able to share the coverage with the tent mates in your immediate vicinity. You could add a direction antenna on a mast to get the best line of sight. An antenna with clear LOS will always be a better option than more power. There are very simple soup can antennas available and I have a spare panel antenna I would be glad to donate. I also have the correct cable to attach it to a LinkSys product. That attached to a WAP 11 should get a good link if you are almost getting one now. The second access point depending on physical barriers should be able to have at least a 30m coverage area.

    Also, if equipment is working, do not feel that you have to get another brand to make it work. LinkSys is not an enterprise brand but, it is the best selling supplier out there, that is why Cisco bought them.

    One though as well, if you have the ability to borrow an access point temporarily, you could test the ability to get a signal with it and a notebook wired to it. Just try it from your tent and see if it works. Try to raise it up as high as you can. Also, if possible make those little reflectors to help focus the signal. If that test works, then you will not have to worry as much about spending money on something that will not work.

    http://www.freeantennas.com/projects/template/
    CWNA, CWSP, K0PBX

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Georgia USA
    Posts
    607
    Think nothing of it. Being presumptuous, I assume I make more than you and do not work half as hard. It's the least I could do

    My father always said that if your looking for sympathy, its between s*** and syphillus. I didnt mean to put you on the spot, and if you are uncomfortable I understand.

    I feel that I am the one who is blessed because y'all are there. I get to bitch about bad coffee, dry cleaning bills, and who is going to landscape my front yard, because of all y'all. (which is plural for y'all!)


    Keep it up and thanks again,

    Spiderbite

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Iraq
    Posts
    28
    Again, thank you all.

    I have attached a txt file that shows what I get as far as SNR in my tent. Again, keep in mind this is the most remote site. I have zeroed out the MAC addresses for security reasons. This is on a good night. Usually the signal is worse. I still only show two red bars and Very Low signal strength.

    I will probably take you up on the panel antenna and connector, mpkn3rd. Let me work out who in the tent wants to buy what and get back with you.

    I think we may go with the two WAP11's and see what happens, but I need to check with my tentmates and the wife back home.

    WoMBaT
    Attached Files Attached Files
    "War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
    --William Tecumseh Sherman--

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
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    Sounds good to me. Just let me know. Also if you need CAT5 cables made (straight or crossover) let me know as well. I checked the file and it is barely over the noise floor. Not a good sign. If you get the WAP11 up in the air some, will you be able to see the remote node better? It should help by lessening the physical barriers it goes through. I ask this as then the example I give next will help quite a bit.

    What I have done on some occasions is to find a tupperware container that was large enough, put the WAP11 inside and ran the wires down to the house. Also ran the antenna lead which is good to keep short out through the container to the antenna. It lasted quite a while here in MN. There are all sorts of ways to help and figure this out. Getting you and your comrades to be able to email is huge in my opinion.
    CWNA, CWSP, K0PBX

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