Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wifi everywhere but not a drop

Each public and private marina has had wifi on our cruise, but each of them has been problematic. Leland was over used by boaters and their friends and family. Their strategy to reduce use was to limit the distance that it would carry. The marina suggested that users come to the lounge to use wifi. I think that was a good strategy, but Speakeasy has a wifi extender (TheWirie) that usually allows us to access the Internet from the cockpit or salon even in a crowded harbor filled with masts. Not so in Leland. The signal strenghth was good, but it would not hold a connection for more than a few moments. Was this a protocol issue, strength, bandwidth, or something else.
As a test, I took the PowerBook to the lounge to upgrade Safari. Which I couldn't do in Leland or Pentwater where I had tried. The software downloaded without a glitch. Later in the evening Beth and I returned to blog and check weather for an early departure. The wifi was working but it suddenly disappeared. In the early morning, however, I could check the weather from Speakeasy using the extender. So, I'm not certain, but I suspect heavy usage is to blame for most of my wifi problems.
The Wirie folks are very responsive to my email queries. They suggested that it might be mast interference or too many access points on the same channel. On Beaver island, there are several open wifi spots near the harbor and even more private ones. With many fewer boaters vying for the bandwidth, but many more local users, I could get better performance before noon.
In many harbors, I've gotten better performance without TheWirie than with it. In Menominee, MI, for instance, I could not keep TheWirie active for more than a few seconds without a disconnection. Without TheWirie, I had a stable connection. I suspect software.

Mark Gillingham
Harbor-to-Harbor www.loftnet.com
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