Friday 10 August 2012

Dealing With WiFi Dead Zones

This month we moved to a new home. Some things about the new place are better, other things are worse, and some things are just different. One of the "different" things is the property layout, it's much longer and narrower. This does cause a problem because the router is located at one end of the property, conveniently near my desk, but too far away from the living room for any usable WiFi.

I didn't want to install long ethernet cables here, so my first response was to look into signal boosting. I even tried the Windsurfer foil parabola reflector which didn't really work for me. Another inexpensive option I considered was to relocate the router to a more central position by using a long modem cable.  This approach didn't really work due to our property layout and the position of power outlets.

In the end I stumbled across a completely different approach which was fairly inexpensive and has provided WiFi signal across the whole house, although with two hotspots.

"TP-LINK's TL-PA211 powerline adapter takes advantage of your home's existing electrical wires to transfer data while simultaneously transferring traditional power. That means, with no additional wiring required, users can simply plug the TL-PA211 into existing power sockets and instantly establish a networking infrastructure."

I'd never used powerline adaptors for extending my network before, but I took a punt on these which has worked out to be a good solution for my set up. I plugged one powerline adaptor in next to the router and connected the ethernet cable, and then plugged the other adaptor at the other end of the house and connected it to my Mac Mini which is currently connected to the TV.

I then enabled Internet Sharing on the Mac Mini running 10.6.8, so that it acts as a WiFi hotspot. This worked great for connecting with an iPad and iPod Touch, but needed some special tweaks to connect non-Apple devices including an Android phone, Dell laptop, Wii and Playstation3. I'll detail the tricks for connecting those devices in my next posts.

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