pcns - from the trenches

Why wireless refuses to work.

Wireless is a type of technology that can be running fine one day, and a few days later you cannot connect.  

Too Much of a good thing:  At a real estate office, I setup a WIreless Access Point.  The Netgear worked fine for about a month, then a call came in - nobody can connect to the wireless network.  As it turns out, the customer installed a display kiosk and equipped it with a Logitech MX5000 Bluetooth Wireless keyboard and mouse.  PCNS determined the problem to be wireless interference between the Bluetooth and the access point, both of which are on the 2.4 ghz wireless band.

Panasonic Gigarange Cordless Phones blows away a Linksys WRT54GS router signal.  The Panasonic Gigarange is designed for LONG range.  In some cases it may be possible to rearrange the Router to a different channel, but, in this case, ultimately the phone was replaced with the 5.8ghz version as no channel selection made the wireless useful.

What Helps:  When paired with the Linksys Routers (WRT54G, WRT54GS), the 7dbi High gain antennas produces about a 30% improvement in signal strength.  Not all routers (Linksys 802.11B routers and competitor brands) benefit from these antennas.  These antennas extend the range better with a horizontal radiation pattern - that is it works better when all PC's are on the same floor.  If you're trying to extend the wireless range on a multi-story home, your results may vary.

Placing the router in the center of the home or office, away from obstructions, helps.  Placing it at one end of the home only gives the next door neighbors a strong signal.

Linksys 7dbi SNA Antennas help with Desktop PCI based wireless cards.  Beware, an ideal location is such that the antennas has line of site to the router.  If the antenna is on the backside of the Computer, and is 180 degrees away from the wireless router, consider buying an antenna mount, so the antenna can be raised and given line of site.  An antenna mount with the shortest possible pigtail should be used, because considerable signal attenuation occurs in the thin coaxial cable.

PCNS has seen middling results with the small directional antennas - which resemble a 3" dish, which sits on a desktop.

An active wireless repeater can be used, but note with this device your throughput gets cut in half, because the repeater has to listen and repeat the signal.  If a hard line (ethernet cable) can be extended to a Wireless Access Point, decreased throughput will not be an issue.

Certain kinds of building material in both homes and office buildings can attenuate the signal.  In some households, a strong robust signal isn't always possible.  In densely packed apartments and office spaces, wireless may not work, in one office I observed over 24 wireless networks.  Imagine having 24 radios, each playing a different radio station.  Now try to concentrate on listening and dessiminating that one radio station.  That's a hard thing to do.  Your wireless access point has similar challenges.  In some cases wireless simply won't work.