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How close do you need to park to get free wifi
#1
I know a lot of places have free wifi for their customers and I was wondering if I could get it by parking close? For example, Starbucks, but I can't afford that. Does anyone know if McDonalds or what other places I can stop at to get email, backup to the cloud, etc.
I know the AT&T store is able to tightly control their access so that if you are just out the door, you don't get it.
I have handicap placards so sometimes I can park close. Any ideas? Sometimes I just don't feel like going into someplace when I'm wearing sweatpants and low on bucks.
2017 Chevy Express 2500 Van, her name is Big Girl. She is no frills and much loved. Heart
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Linda Cripple-Creek (11-06-2017)
#2
It's impossible to say  how close because every store is different.

For example, one time last year I was parked out near the perimeter of a WalMart and couldn't use their free signal. BUT, Lowe's was further away - I wasn't even in their parking lot - and I could use their signal just fine. I actually got a smokin' deal on disposable batteries from them that I saw in their entry page... Big Grin

I understand there are devices you can use to extend the distance that you can get a signal. Someone else will have to tell you about them because I use my own cell phone almost exclusively for my laptop. I prefer having my own service because I don't feel right about using the free ones without patronizing the firm supplying it. Since I don't drink coffee nor eat fast food, it kind of limits who I'd use... Rolleyes
Worry is a misuse of imagination!
 
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#3
Excellent question!  I don't have any problem using a store's wifi - whether I patronize the business or not.  I don't sit and use it for hours - just to check mail or whatever and be on my way.  Like the OP, there are times when I don't care to go inside and would prefer to be able to access it from the parking lot.  

With all of that in mind, I tried a 16 element Yagi antenna (1 reflector element, one driven element, and 14 director elements) for marketed for wifi frequencies on a recent trip and was very disappointed in its performance since it only gave the equivalent performance, over a distance, when compared to the results which an omni-directional (rubber duck type) antenna produced.  I don't know if it was a design defect by the manufacturing company or if the individual unit was defective due to mishandling in transit or otherwise.  Also, I was going through a heavy/coarse metal window screen (not fine gauge copper or fabric, etc), which I would think would absorb some signal, but that would be true for the omni-directional antenna that I used for comparison, too.  I did find that the Yagi was very directional, as one would expect, and would quickly lose signal strength if moved to one side or the other.  

I've used Yagis for 10, 15, and 20 meter wavelengths and found them very effective there - so I'm satisfied that the Yagi concept/design is a sound and effective one - leaving me inclined to suspect a defect in the unit I was using.  

I would love to know of a specific product, whether a yagi antenna (they're not all are the same quality!) or a panel/grid-type directional antenna used in conjunction with something to amplify signals, or something else, that would allow easy access from a bit further back in the parking lot rather than up front in the handicap spaces.  Size matters, in a vehicle, of course, so the smaller the solution would be, the better and more useful it would be!  

Peterson
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#4
these will get strong signals reliably from 1/8th mile

https://www.amazon.com/High-Gain-Long-Ra...6ZPY06LT1N

the marine version you can roof mount

https://www.amazon.com/Alfa-Waterproof-O...rine&psc=1

they also have a repeater

https://www.amazon.com/Alfa-R36-Repeater...i+repeater
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#5
The signal drops off very rapidly, so getting even a little bit closer, helps quite a bit.

I.e., get as close as you possibly can. Smile

Living in "Ziggy the Snail Shell" since May 2015
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#6
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001B033DY

Hawking Technology Hi-Gain Wireless-150N USB Network Dish Adapter

Wireless Speeds up to 150Mbps, 3x faster than typical wireless speeds.
6dBi Directional Dish Antenna increases your wireless range up to 4x further than your typical wireless antenna.
[*]Supports Windows and Mac OS up to OS 10.10
[*]Setup is quick and Simple

[*][Image: 31qJoQ75yzL.jpg]
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#7
Getting a stronger wifi antenna is on my todo list this week. I think it will make a huge difference to be able to stay in the parking lot some times and still get a signal.

When I was in San Francisco last year I was able to park right outside a Starbucks on the street. They closed early but wifi was always on. A few nights I would lay in bed watching netflix because I was probably the only one on the network because there were no customers. I wouldn't do it during the day but saw no harm while they were closed.
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)
#8
I covered this in another recent thread but re-posting here:



You can also buy 1 or 2 watt USB wifi cards that can accept an external antenna. Some folks refer to these as wifi boosters, but they don't 'boost' your existing wifi card, they are a separate unit with a more powerful wifi radio than what you are using now.

These can give you a range of about 1/4 to 1/3 mile (to a good public wifi access point) with a very simple magnetic antenna on the roof of the vehicle. They will run about $30-$40 or so with the magnetic antenna.

Mine look like this:


[Image: attachment.php?thumbnail=17073] 

If you need more range and are willing to spend more money, look on this website...they have whatever you need to get a long range wifi signal:

https://www.jefatech.com/collections/jef...peater-kit


Links to the unit on the right:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/MELON-2000mW-US...Swxp9W9W78


https://www.ebay.com/itm/RP-SMA-2-4GHz-7...SwU9xZ3e~9
Never trust a camp cook with lots of shiny new pans...
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Peterson (11-07-2017), SilverVoyager (11-07-2017), SondraRose (11-07-2017), Spaceman Spiff (11-07-2017), Linda Cripple-Creek (11-07-2017)
#9
(11-07-2017, 01:11 PM)tx2sturgis Wrote: Missing: Have you seen this  [Image: tongue.gif]
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#10
(11-06-2017, 08:59 PM)SilverVoyager Wrote: I know a lot of places have free wifi for their customers and I was wondering if I could get it by parking close? For example, Starbucks, but I can't afford that. Does anyone know if McDonalds or what other places I can stop at to get email, backup to the cloud, etc.
I know the AT&T store is able to tightly control their access so that if you are just out the door, you don't get it.
I have handicap placards so sometimes I can park close. Any ideas? Sometimes I just don't feel like going into someplace when I'm wearing sweatpants and low on bucks.

It depends on who is providing the signal. You'll just have to experiment on the spot.

But I've found that getting within 50 feet usually does the trick.

Check out libraries, too. Some of them don't require a library card for access, and they leave their wifi on even when they're closed. If you can, call them while they're open and ask if they provide guest wifi passes, some do.
2001 Ford Econoline 150
If it's low-cost camping, I'm interested
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SilverVoyager (11-07-2017)


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