Introduction: How to Get WIFI Signal From 1/4 Mile Away [or More] for Less Than $60
Yea I know, you don't believe me. 1/4 mile? Shenanigans.
Still reading? Great.
The whole thing started when I dropped my friend off for Horse lessons and didn't want to drive all the way home only to drive back to pick her up in an hour and a half. So what did I do? Drove to the closest neighborhood and got on an open WIFI network.
[NOTE: Connecting to someone’s WIFI without their permission is illegal in some areas!!!]
The network I connected to was a local realtor’s OPEN HOUSE FREE PUBLIC WIFI network…so I didn’t break any laws.
The problem was, the signal was very weak and I had to hold the computer at odd angles just to do a simple google search.
THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER WAY!
So after about twenty minutes of searching and finding things like “wokfi” and “parabolic asian cookware” I had the basic idea of what I needed to do; Concentrate the signal onto the antenna using a parabola. After a bit more searching I found out how to build a parabola out of a cd and a glass pot top, but I figured that it would be too weak for the distances that I am looking for [I would like to be able to connect right from the parking lot at the stables] Then there was the world record holder who had built a reflector out of a 10 foot diameter dish but that was WAY too big. So I compromised and picked up a rooftop satellite dish from a guy on Craigslist.org.
Long story short I built the thing and drove out to the stables, turned the rig on, started netstumbler, and started looking it took a little bit but I got the right angle to lock onto a signal and SHAZAM! I was connected!
So I knew that I had working signal, not just a fizzled connection from the router. The noise was at -100 and the signal was hovering around -75 or so. Not the fastest connection but based on the fact that I was ¼ of a mile away from the router I would say I was doing pretty darn good!
Ok enough with the stories, how do you build the darn thing!
A satellite dish [and the four screws holding it to the roof [YMMV]
A pair of scrap 2x4’s
A tin can [green bean sized]
A usb extention cord
A usb wireless adapter [in this build I am using the cheapest adapter I could find [$30 at target]
Two wood screws long enough to screw your two 2x4’s together
Some hot glue
An unwanted cd [I picked up a free netzero disk at Wally’s]
A glass pot lid shaped like a parabola
Some spray paint to make it look pretty
And some carpet of you are going to be mounting it to the roof of your car so It won’t scratch it.
The total cost for the build was only the $30 for the usb adapter, I had everything else on hand.
If you bought everything new it would cost around $60 [Not counting the dish]
Step 1: Form the Rear Reflector
Take your parabolic lid, remove the handle, it should just be a screw.
Take your CD, place it mirror side up in the glass lid.
Place the CD in the oven THEN set the oven to 300 degrees [faren if anybody is wondering]
[WARNING: If you put the cd in a preheated oven the cd will crack and the foil will wrinkle! This is bad for signal reflection! Start with a cold oven.]
Leave the CD in there for about an hour to an hour and a half [I just put it in there while I was building the rest of the rig]
After it is done forming take it out of the oven and IMMEDIATELY depress the center of the disk with something heat resistant like a spoon to form the CD to the parabola.
Step 2: Form the Rear Reflector Mount
Take your tin can and measure halfway and draw a vertical line around the can.
Cut the can in half leaving the entire bottom intact, you need it that way.
Now cut a hole in the back of the can in the center at the top of the ribs. Make sure the hole is large enough to fit the female end of the extension cord.
Drill a hole in the bottom of the can so that you can attach it to the satellite dish. [don’t mind the second hole that was v1.0 of the build.]
Attach the can to the dish open side facing in.
If your CD is cool then bend the can open and hot glue the parabolic CD to the can with the hole of the disk and the hole in the back of the can line up.
Step 3: Build the Support Rig
Attach the two scrap boards to form a “T” and sand them down to prevent splinters. The length of your boards is dependant on your dish, make sure that it is as long as the widest part on the dish on every side to prevent tipping.
Now line up the dish on the board a little farther back than the intersection at the T [looking back it would be more stable if you mounted it about halfway] and mark the four holes where the screws go. Pre-drill the holes. [You may skip this step if your screws are small but mine are ¼” thick.]
Mount the dish to the rig and check for stability, adjust as needed.
OPTIONAL: Apply a coat of paint over the wood and the back of the parabola CD. Do not spray the front as it will interfere with the signal concentration.
OPTIONAL: If you plan on mounting it to the roof of your vehicle, cut out a strip of carpet the size of all the points where the stand touches the ground and staple it to the bottom of the rig.
Step 4: Bring Everything Together
Attach the USB adapter in the hole in the CD and run the wire down the arm of the dish.
Plug everything in and turn on the WIFI adapter.
I use a program called Network Stumbler to find the best angle for the dish, it has a refresh rate of one second so I can watch the signal strength in near real time. [You cannot connect with Network Stumbler, only see data on the signal. Once the correct angles have been found, close the program and connect with your default configuration program.]
Another program I like is inSSIDer, it can show you a graph of the signals coming in and how they interfere with each other. It’s neat but it doesn’t refresh as fast as Network Stumbler.
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I would like to thank these wonderful businesses for donating to make Project Upcycle possible!
Ranco Roofing and Insulation
Call Kirk A Cooper
Jackson Brothers Meat Locker
David Hernandez & Jose Hernandez
806-495-2898 & 806-495-2631