Tag Archives: wifi

Wi-Fi Etiquette: When is it appropriate to ask for access?

coffee mugWhen it comes to logging in online, there are a number of rules – usually unwritten ones – to follow. From where web access can be “stolen” to how long its ok to sit in a coffee shop, we’re all victims to this ever-changing trend. But because there are no set laws, it can be hard to know what’s kosher and what’s pushing your barista toward spitting in your next chai latte. To get the best of both worlds, consider the following the next time you log in.

A better option to stealing your neighbor’s Wi-Fi

Despite all the questions we may have, there are a few instances when it’s clear-cut, for instance, stealing your neighbor’s internet by hacking their password. Sure, if they leave it unprotected, that’s their loss, but when we have to resort to illegal activity, it’s best to pass.

However, secret option three can also be used; just ask your neighbors for their access code … and offer to split the bill. It may slow down the speed some, but for those with minimal net use, it’s a great budget-friendly solution.

When you’re visiting a friend, leave the password requests to a minimal. Generally hosts will offer up such info, especially long-term guests. But when checking game stats in a single evening, or wanting to Facebook after a dinner party, stick to your mobile network’s web access instead.

Public Wi-Fi

Other protocol to avoid comes into play in public. Places like the library usually offer free online access and expect nothing in return (though they may limit your time). But as for coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and cafes, that’s not the case. Customers are expected to make a purchase of some kind before hopping online.

However, if you plan on eating lunch, but want to check your email first, who says you can’t use then buy? (This isn’t a grocery store, after all.) So long as patronage of some kind takes place, it’s fair game. That means you shouldn’t re-use McDonald’s cups to look like you purchased a drink, and don’t bring in your own snacks, and especially don’t bring your own power strip and personal heater (I’ve seen it). If it’s free service you’re looking for, the library may be more your speed.

Conclusion

No matter how often we log in to Wi-Fi access points, there are a number of instances to come up each and every day. Be sure to follow these universal rules to stay online and in good terms with each router owner.

Create a WiFi signal strength map with NetSpot for Mac

Finding the best spot for wifi access in your home or in a public place is pretty much trial and error. Turn on your laptop, and see what happens. NetSpot is a free wireless survey tool that makes it more of a treasure hunt. Once you install it on your Mac (OSX only), your laptop becomes a wifi sniffer.

Before you start up the app, you’re going to need a floor plan with measurements. NetSpot includes some decent drawing tools so you can map out your area in a way that won’t gain you admittance to architecture schools. But you’re going to need to draw the floor plan to scale, which means taking measurements (or making the best educated guesses of your life).

I’m lucky; my stepson is a CAD enthusiast who already created a map of the first floor of our house which I loaded into NetSpot. I then walked around the house with my laptop – stopping at strategic locations on the floor plan and clicking on them. Then waited a few seconds while the app scanned my wifi networks. In my mind, a strategic location was at a corner or doorway (which was detailed precisely on my floor plan). It required no guesswork or estimation on my part.

Each click colored the area on the floor plan green. When I covered the entire floor, I stopped the scan to see what I got.

NetSport Wireless Survey App
The NetSpot app creates a heat map showing the signal strength of my wireless network at home.

The dim yellow shading in the “Second Living Room” shows the strongest signal on the first floor, which is right below the wireless router upstairs. The worst spots are on the kitchen counter and in the bathroom (although these are still decent strength levels).

The app also will create heat maps showing interference and signal noise.

It’s a fun app that can be useful if you’re trying to figure out where to place your routers and work stations, but if I didn’t have a floor plan already, I would haven’t even tried the app. The work involved wouldn’t have been worth it. Your mileage may vary.

One last note: I wish this was a mobile app. Sure, creating a floor plan could be ugly on a small screen. But walking around the house holding a laptop still is not easy on the arms.

How to Use A Router as a Wireless Adapter

ddwrt-image1There may come a time where you have an extra wireless router on your hands (such as the Linksys WRT54GL) that you’re not sure what to do with.  One thing that I have recently found useful is to use the router as a wireless adapter to connect to a wireless network.

Using a router as a wireless adapter will not only provide you with wireless connectivity, but will also give you a multiple-port switch to connect your wired devices.  This is a great way to allow multiple devices to have network connectivity without needing a wireless network card for each device.

  1. Start by checking if you router supports a 3rd party firmware.  (For this guide, I will be using the free DD-WRT firmware).
  2. Download and install the firmware according to the instructions for your router model.
  3. Enter http://192.168.1.1 into your browser and login using the default credentials, which is typically a blank username and the password admin.
  4. Click Wireless.
  5. Change Wireless Mode to Client.
  6. In Wireless Network Name (SSID), enter the name of the wireless network you would like the router to connect to.
  7. Click Apply Settings.
  8. Click Wireless Security (If the wireless network you are connecting to doesn’t have security enabled, you can skip this step.)
  9. Select the corresponding Security Mode and enter the network key and click Apply Settings.
  10. In the top right corner of the web interface, your router should now get a WAN IP that is provided by the wireless network.
  11. Click Setup and then select Basic Setup.
  12. Change the Local IP Address of your router to something other than the default, such as 192.168.5.1.  This is done to prevent conflicts with your existing network.
  13. Enter the Gateway of your wireless network.  (You can find your Gateway information under Default Gateway by entering ipconfig in the command prompt on a computer already connected to your wireless network.
  14. Optional: Click Setup and select Basic Setup.  Under WAN Port, check the box to Assign WAN Port to Switch.  This will add the WAN port to the 4 port switch, giving you 5 ports to share the wireless connection.

Once the above steps have been completed, your router with DD-WRT firmware will be connected to your wireless network as a client just as if you connected to the same wireless network with a laptop.  Any devices that are connected to the 4/5 port switch will now have network connectivity as well.

How to Rebroadcast a Weak Wifi Signal

routerThere may be a time when you have access to a wireless network in one part of your house, but just can’t get it anywhere else.  This isn’t a big deal if you own the network (you can buy another access point or wireless repeater), but if you don’t own the network, this guide will show you how to extend your free coverage.

What’s the purpose of this, you might ask?  In my case, I can connect to several wireless networks in my bedroom where my PC is located.  Unfortunately, I can’t access those networks in my living room where my Xbox 360 is located.  The technique presented in this guide allowed me to use my PC to pick up a wireless signal, share it with my PC’s Ethernet connection, and then rebroadcast it with a router.

What You’ll Need:

  • A working wireless connection
  • A computer running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 with an unused Ethernet port
  • A configured wireless router set to DHCP mode (I’ll be using a WRT54GL with Tomato firmware, but anything will work).  Every router is different, so make sure you configure your router’s settings (SSID, security, etc) before you begin this guide.
  • An Ethernet cable

Windows XP

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network Connections.
    rebroadcast_wifi_networkconnXP
  4. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  5. Click the Advanced tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingXP

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  6. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  7. Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click the Properties button.
    rebroadcast_wifi_tcpipXP
  8. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettings
  9. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows Vista

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_sharingcenterVista
  4. Click Manage network connections on the left side of the window.
    network_rebroadcast_managenetworksVista
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_allowsharingVista

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows 7

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_opennetworkswin7
  4. Click Change adapter settings on the left side of the screen.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_changesettingswin7
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingwin7

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

While rebroadcasting a weak signal does give you better access to a wireless network, it does have some inherent disadvantages.  Port forwarding will now be twice as complex, and there will most likely be a high amount of network latency induced.  That being said, I didn’t personally notice much of a difference browsing the internet on my laptop or using Xbox Live.

Have any other ideas for accessing wifi on the cheap?  Let us know in the comments.