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Bob Mueller

Using a commodity router to extend wifi

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I want to share a positives experience that I had this weekend extending my marina wifi. I installed dd-wrt open source firmware on to a Linksys WAP54g access point, turning the dumb access point into a sophisticated router. I was then able to configure dd-wrt to extend the reach of the wifi at my marina to provide strong service at my boat.

There is a project on the internet called dd-wrt. dd-wrt is a version of Linux that has been packaged to upload to commercially available routers to replace the OEM firmware. It greatly extends the capabilities and features of the router. The best part: it is open source, so it is completely free! It was originally designed to replace the firmware on a Linksys WRT54G wireless router, but it has been extended to work on almost any router that has sufficient RAM and a broadcom chipset. One company (Buffalo) has even started shipping their retail router with the dd-wrt firmware installed. Installing the dd-wrt firmware is different for every router, so I will not delve into that here. Interestingly to me, I found out that dd-wrt can also be installed on certain access points as well. I happened to have a Linksys WAP54g laying around that was not in use. The WAP54g is just a dumb access point. It can't do a whole lot of things. After installing dd-wrt the WAP54g went from a dumb access point to became a fully featured wifi router with NAT, DHCP, DNS, QOS, and all kinds of other advanced features. dd-wrt is not difficult to install. It is as simple as uploading a newer OEM firmware.

The wifi at my marina is pretty weak at my boat. I can get a decent signal when I am topside in the cockpit. When I go down into the cabin, the signal is infuriatingly intermittent. The signal will link, then die, then link, then die. Very frustrating. I was able to configure the dd-wrt firmware loaded on the WAP54g to repeat the wireless at my marina. If I place the WAP54g in the cockpit, it is able to get approximately "28%" signal strength with the OEM antenna from the marina wifi. Then the WAP54g delivers nearly 100% signal strength to me in the cabin. Even with the extra wireless hop, the Internet comes down strong and fast. A sharp contrast to my previous experience with the standard wifi. I was able to stream Pandora and I also had about an hour long FaceTime session with my wife. Not one single hiccup. I have not tried VOIP yet, as I have not found a VOIP app that I think works really well on the iPad.

One of the nice things about the install, is that I now have a wifi network on the boat with dhcp. So I am considering how to utilize that!? Either to extend instrumentation and GPS to iThings or other ways that I have not envisioned yet.

I did not delve into the steps to install dd-wrt and configure it as a repeater. Those steps are well documented on the Internet. If someone is having trouble, I am happy to do my best to help. Although I am certainly no dd-wrt expert. I simply had a successful install.

Now I am thinking about the next steps. I can also use this dd-wrt when I travel to pull in distant wifi at other marinas. I currently have it configured to specifically connect to me marina wifi. You can configure it to automatically connect to the strongest wifi source that is detected. The firmware settings are configured via a web interface, so i can easily configure it with any iThing. Currently, I just power the WAP54g and set it in my (canvas enclosed) cockpit. Then I stow the WAP54g while I am underway. I would like a more elegant and permanent solution. I would like to convert to using a 12v power supply, so that I don't need shore power and could use it at anchor (I have no genny). Bigger is always better, right?? So I also want to get a high gain marine antenna to bolt to the side of the boat. Then mount the WAP54g in a locker. Anyone have suggestions to a high gain, omnidirectional antenna they have had a good experience with?

4 Replies

  • I forgot to mention. This is probably not nearly as simple to use as the Rogue Wave. But it was pretty simple. I already had the WAP54g laying around. So I have something successful up and running with zero cost to me. That is, until I buy an antenna.....

  • This looks like what you are looking for:

    -Dual Wireless networks (Offboard and Onboard)
    -12 VDC powred (1Amp)
    -Extended range
    -IP Rated (Marine WeatherProof)


  • That is pretty much what my little box does. What is their product? how much is it? how do you buy it. From the website, I would guess that the product is vaporware.

  • The Wirie AP is not vaporware, and does the same thing you built on your own. Simple to install, just a single 12V power cable, and will extend any WiFi access point to another location, all wireless. Designed for boats, but easily used in a land installation.

    It also waterproof, not "weatherproof" :).