Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Tuesday, 05 June 2012 06:00
Due to the setup of our house, the WiFi internet signals aren't the strongest. The router needs to be on side A of the house, while the entertainment center is on side B. This translates to my gaming PC and systems being in a place where their addiction to the Web is stifled. They get very weak signals if any at all. Yes, there are a million purchaseable options to get better WiFi: Get a better router. Buy a repeater. Get better recieving cards. Bribe the wife into letting me move the entertainment room. In today's economy, though, those options aren't always feasible. Along with some tech friends, I have found ways to make the most of this weak signal so that I can game as usual in today's online world. Read in for a unique setup on capturing WiFi as well as tips on how to get your gaming systems connected if there is a weak wifi signal.
As you can see in the pic for this article, a little down-home ingenuity was used for my PC. The straining it was doing to get online was fixed with...a strainer! A USB-powered network access device was purchased, along with a four-foot extension cord. A support was made out of a wooden frame. At the base of the strainer, a hole precisely large enough for the Wi-Fi adapter was cut, and the adapter was glued in with a hot glue gun. The hot glue secures the adapter better than tape, and is easer to control than a super glue. When doing this, you have to make sure that no damage is done to the adapter. Don't let any glue get inside it, and don't touch it with the tip of the gun. Next, a hole was drilled in the strainer handle (see how the handle is flat for ease in this...it's best to look at the options when purchasing the strainer and think about just exactly how you want to set up the system. A bolt was put in to hold the strainer on. Why not just tape it? With the bolt applied the strainer can be tipped and turned.
If you haven't figured it out already, you are probably wondering why this helps at all. Well, the strainer's metallic mesh acts like a classic satellite dish! A weak Wi-Fi signal is still a signal, and the metal concentrates the signal down into the base of the dish where the WiFi USB adapter is located. Point the dish (adjusting by twisting the bar as necessary as well) at your router, and it helps capture any signals coming its way. To tell you how strong it works when done properly, I went from finding my own signal and a couple of neighbors to having about ten local signals on my list! Secured via passwords of course, but just the fact that my computer found them is awesome in itself.
Now, on to gaming systems. Let's say you have an original non-slim Xbox 360 without a WiFi adapter, or you are simply befuddled as to why your PS3 won't get your signal, even though you can sit on the couch and catch signal with your laptop. That's my situation on both counts. Computer on the desk runs perfectly fine, gaming console says WiFi signal doesn't exist at all. Personally, I'm thinking that the stand our TV is on is pre-massive internet use, and maybe there's something about it that stifles the WiFi, but I'm no computer expert on that. Regardless, if you don't want to buy the expensive proprietary Xbox WiFi adapter, there is a cheap and easy way to connect, so long as your laptop/PC has access to the WiFi and a basic Network port.
Connect a network cable to your system. Wiis have no network port, but there is an adapter that retails for about $20. Click the other end into the computer you are using to get the Wi-Fi signal. In the Network connections on your PC you should see two items: one for the WiFi signal, and another for the newly plugged in cord. Highlight both, right click, and "Bridge Connections". Turn on your gaming system, go into the options, and set it up as if you're plugging directly into the router with a wired signal.
My next experiment is one I haven't tried yet, but I'll tell you what I have been told. A friend gave me an old router. My understanding is I can do the Network Bridge trick above with the router instead of the gaming consoles, set up a password protected network within my home, and the bridge will send internet information to my own router. Signal strength is lost within each device you send information through, of course, and I don't have enough network cables to set up that whole situation yet, but I will do it soon and report back in the comments below.
Technology is always advancing at an alarmingly fast rate. I'm sure one day there will be strong public WiFi access for the entire country. Right now, the tech is pretty solid, but I'm sure I'm not the only one with unique WiFi problems such as this. With a little down-home ingenuity, one can overcome some of the minor technical pratfalls we face without breaking the bank on additional marketed equipment.
Got a neat homebrewed fix for something techie that you'd like to share? Sound off in the comments below!