the access point

06-12b013

“You can call it: the cheap solution to an expensive problem”, my colleague Zakayo told me. A very cheap solution, yes, indeed.

Some time ago, our offices were provided with some nice HP desktop computers as well as an access point for a wireless local area network (WLAN). Except for the usual problems (e.g. ppl transmitting computer viruses (not virii!) via USB flash sticks), the wireless network had been left switched off as the previous setup could only reach 2 or 3 offices.

To give you an idea of what our compound looks like, pls feel free to check out this panorama view:

wrmatana2
(click click => opens in flickr)

The red arrows indicate the number and position of computers, the small green arrow at this former workshop building to the very right is the position of our access point as from today. The access point (AP) used to be in the building to the left – which is why the signals never reached these offices on the other side of the compound.

The access point we are using is a simple D-LINK DWL-2100AP with a small rubber duck antenna that connects via the typical reverse SMA connector. There are in fact external antennas for such accesss points and wireless routers available on the market – even in Nairobi. External antennas come as indoor and outdoor versions. However, these cost between Ksh. 5.000 and 15.000 /= – which of course is a lot money for a simple (repeater) antenna.
I even thought about extending the antenna by using a coaxial cable and the existing antenna or even an additional reverse sma connector (I even thought about building my own antenna using this manual). Yani, the best improvement for any wireless setup (tv, radio, wlan, etc.) is to get a good antenna. Any coaxial cable in between might extenuate the already weak signal, and besides, this is Embu. There’s no 50 Ohm coaxial caboool, neither any reverse sma connector available. And I am just sick of being stopped by unable shopkeppers who don’t even know what they are selling. These gals (!) don’t even have simpoool battely horrdaaass, as mentioned earlier.

I wanted this thing to eventually work. And I didn’t want to spend too much money on this. This is a public service office that survives on donors support, revenue from water permits and salaries through the government @ job groups J & K.

Think of solutions, not problems. (Dan Eldon)

06-12b010

And this is what you’ll need for the outdoor protection of an access point: an old jerrycan rescued from the garbage, some sisal rope, some tape, a sharp knife and, of course, the AP.

I also invested Ksh. 249 /= for a 5m extensiooon cabooool and ….nothing else, actually. These things just do the job.

06-12b014

I’ve cut the jerrycan into pieces (just like the salt shaker :-), put the AP inside, connected it to the extended power supply and fixed it to the ventilation windows on this old workshop building (ex provincial water office workshop).

Well, what can I say? It works. It just works. The signal is now strong enough to reach the whole compound, all computers are hooked up, are secured via the typical WLAN security measures and we only spent an additional sum of Ksh. 249 /= which could have been even less by using a simpoool powaaa caboool which sells for Ksh. 45/= /m.

The reason for blogging this is because in the past, I’ve seen a lot of money spent on expensive high-tech whereas simple and cost-effective solutions also do the job. And as long as we’re talking about public funds, the money issue is important, I think.

(funny thing: the wooden ladder as seen in the pictures was made to be heavy so that it doesn’t “walk away” (~ get’s stolen by someone). welcome to the public service! :-)

9 comments » Write a comment

  1. Waaaaaaait!

    You have a KBL sticker on your laptop?

    Lakini you are resourceful. On that note, i need to do something about the one i use. The router recently went for a swim and if the WAP wasn’t on a stool!

    I shudder….

  2. Excellent ingenuity, as always.

    Best part, there is really nothing about it that says it’s a piece of fairly expenisive computer equipment. Bravo.

    I ASSume it is pulled indoors each end-of-day? Otherwise, I’m sure that practically all of your co-workers know what it is, so if it does disappear one day…

    What you didn’t tell us, is how the idea got into your noggin (is that how it’s spelled?)

  3. Simpool solutions for simpool problems = genius. Great work! We always look for complex solutions yet the simplest ones would suffice. I like the jerrycan waterproofing case. How about providing some waterproofing for the power point by using a connecter directly between the wires to avoid using the power strip? Just a suggestion. :-)

    Nice personalised sticker! Now i can ID you anywhere if you pop the gadgetimoja out of its carrier bag. Heh heh!

  4. Gee, thanks for that link JKE. Been looking for something like that, had my route rhooked up outside in an ols tupperware-type container linked to a signalbooster and antenna, but still not as great as planned.. this shall help me quite a bit – and without the cost of buying eqiupment for hundreds of dollars..

  5. JKE

    Start blogging this stuff on afrigadget.com dude.

    Or I will just be linking straight to your posts with a comment like “jke makes another afrigadget” . . .

    – Steve