Tag Archives: Connect

Winegard ConnecT WF1 WiFi Extender for RVs

by Jim Guld

Winegard is taking their extensive knowledge of TV antenna technology to the WiFi frequencies with the new RV Internet WiFi Extender they named ConnecT. They provided us with a pre-release model to test and we put it thru its paces at an RV park and parked in a friend’s yard.

What is the ConnecT?

The ConnecT’s purpose is to extend available WiFi signals from public or private hotspots you find at RV Parks, Truck Stops, Rest Areas, etc. for a better signal over a longer distance to your rig.

The ODU, or Out Door Unit, is designed to be permanently mounted on your roof with the provided hardware. It has 3 high-gain antennas and 3 amplifiers and feeds the hotspot signal through a network cable to the IDU, or In Door Unit.

The IDU creates a private and secure WiFi network inside and around your rig to connect all your Internet devices, computers, tablets, phones, and printers. You have both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band networks and you can configure a Guest Network as well.
It can be free standing or mounted to a wall.
The IDU is powered by an AC adapter and uses POE (Power Over Ethernet) to power the ODU through the RG-45 cable.

Setting it Up

imageWe were at an RV park in Florida, for the Living The RV Dream rally when the ConnecT arrived. It came well packaged with installation sheets.
Links below the review will take you to the Winegard product and support pages.

I chose to not mount the ODU permanently to my RV roof for the evaluation.
Your mounting location should be carefully planned. The three removable antennas on the ODU might be prone to damage from low hanging dangers. A 25′ cable is included so you have a lot of freedom.

Once everything was connected and powered, it was easy to go through the setup on the computer in a web browser. I connected to the ConnecT’s default WiFi signal and opened a browser window. The instructions are clear and easy to follow with screen shots.

  • Navigate to 10.11.12.1 to open the local configuration screen.
  • Login and scan for available WiFi signals.

I was impressed by the number of results on the page. Many more WiFi hotspots than my unaided laptop could see. The page recommends connecting to those with greater than 50% signal. The only one available to me was pretty close and strong. The others were password protected but it was a good first test.

The drop-down menu system for other options could be more user-friendly. Maybe better on-screen prompts. Response speed in the interface should be improved as well.

My initial Internet speed tests through the ConnecT were good. Only the expected loss from earlier direct connection tests because of the way networks work.

Remember, when you connect to a WiFi hotspot, your effective speeds are limited to the Internet bandwidth available to that hotspot. Even if you have a great connection to a hotspot, that hotspot may not be connected to a fast Internet source or their shared connection is overloaded.

Most of you have probably been there.

I went through the steps to upgrade the firmware without a problem and everything connected back up fine.

Configuring the ConnecT and Having Problems

I renamed the SSIDs for the 2.4 and 5GHz networks and enabled the Guest Network and set new passwords. I tested those networks and everything seemed fine at first. I was looking forward to using the ConnecT for our Youtube live streaming session the next day.
That’s when the trouble started. When we really needed it, I started to have problems with bad slow downs and even drops. I reset everything several times. Sometimes now it took several tries to even reconnect. When I did and checked all the settings, everything looked fine.
I still encountered problems connecting. Sometimes to the local IDU and sometimes it was inside the system to the available outside signals.

Starting Over

We made it thru the Youtube live streaming event, sometimes switching over to our Verizon phones as hotspots. Later, I did a factory reset on the ConnecT and performed a new setup. That seems to have fixed my problems.

Next Stop, Everything Works Great

We moved to a rural location for further testing. We parked our rig on a friend’s piece of land. We were between two available residential WiFi routers inside buildings about 30 and 100 yards away. I had an unobstructed line of sight to the closer building. There were a few trees between me and the farther signal. My laptop unaided could only see the closer signal and sometimes had trouble staying connected. The ConnecT even saw a few other distant signals on the scan results. Both connections were solid and speeds were consistent.

The ConnecT had no trouble connecting me to distant WiFi signals I couldn’t even see on my laptop’s built-in adapter. That’s what this thing is for.
The convenience and security of having all your devices connecting to your own local network are great. You can finally get that wireless printer to work with everything.

Overall, the system works quite well. The $549 price seems a bit high. You will learn a little about networks in the process and the instructions are clear. Permanent installation of the ODU on your roof might require a pro.

Here are links:
http://www.winegard.com/connect
http://www.winegard.com/support?support=Winegard_ConnecT_WF1_WiFi_Extender


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Internet by DROID

I have had my new Verizon phone for a couple of weeks now, and I like it.  You don’t need to be a Geek to want one.  If you are one of the many folks who want a phone just to make calls, the Droid is way overkill.  For a phone, it is expensive at $200 with a 2 year contract.  It’s cheap for a computer, though.

connected-droidDroid showing Sliding keyboard. Optional desk dock.

The Droid is essentially a computer that can also make phone calls.  It is connected to the Internet through the Verizon cellular data network or a local WiFi network.  You can browse the Internet, send and receive emails, stream or download videos/music and so much more.  Texting or entering data is easy using one of the three keyboards.  Some people I know could use the Droid and never need a conventional laptop or desktop computer.

The Verizon data plan for the Droid is unlimited.  There is no 5GB limit as with cellular data cards or tethering my old phone using VZaccess Manager.  How about using the Droid’s Internet connection to connect my computer like I used to do?  Well, I can.  I just need PdaNet software for the Droid from June Fabrics.

Tethering is the term we use to describe the hardware and software needed to connect a computer  to the Internet using the cellular data connection from a smart phone.  It is usually a USB connection, but could be wireless using Bluetooth DUN (dial-up network) or WiFi.  A wired connection to the computer is simplest and most reliable.

There are two parts of the system.  A program that runs on your computer and stays in the system tray and an app on the Droid.  Installation is easy.  Follow the easy instructions.  Download the installation program from the website and run it on your computer.    Plug the Droid into an available USB port.  Let the program talk to the phone for a moment to establish communication, and you are ready.

First, start the PdaNet app on the Droid phone and Enable USB Tether.  Then, on your computer, click the PdaNet icon in the system tray and connect.

image

This is a broadband connection and speed is determined by the cellular network.  In a good Verizon area, the speeds are excellent.  You can easily stream video and not worry about going over your monthly data limit.

The Droid is not the only smart phone that allows tethering.  PdaNet has been available for PalmOS phones, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones for a while.

If you want to use PdaNet for the iPhone, you need to “jailbreak” it, voiding the warranty.

The price of a single license is $23.95. It is a one time purchase for the Android version. One license covers one phone (you can reuse the license if you switch to a new Android phone). There is no limit on the computer side and your license gives you unlimited free upgrades.

So far, there is no support for connecting to our Cradlepoint router, but I expect that fairly soon.

We’ll show you how to network the connection in a future post.