Saturday, 9 April 2016

Caribbean WiFi Internet Access

Hi everyone,
Before leaving Australia we saw references to cruisers using WiFi boosters in the Caribbean.  We did some research and decided to buy a booster in Australia.  Now we're here we are finding it very, very useful.

The reason these units are so useful is that there are so many countries here.  Getting mobile phone SIM cards takes time and is expensive.  And roaming charges are high.  In contrast there are a number of WiFi Access Point ("hotspot") providers which cover many of the countries.  With a booster one can easily connect to them from the boat via the booster.

WiFi booster temporarily mounted on the pushpit
The unit we chose was a MikroTik Groove.  It was about 1/3 the price of those usually purchased by cruisers.  That's because Grooves are normally sold to IT professionals.  The others supposedly have an additional layer of cruiser-friendly software.  We did have initial trouble connecting but eventually tracked down the problem (see below).

These units (MikroTik and others) have all the WiFi circuitry in a "bullet", with a high gain antenna attached directly above (see below).  The connection to the bullet is via ethernet cable.   The units come with a PoE (Power over Ethernet) wiring harness with which 12Vdc is fed to the bullet.  An ethernet to USB adaptor completes the assembly.

WiFi booster assembly
(antenna, bullet, ethernet cable, PoE harness & ethernet USB adaptor)
Detail of our MikroTik Groove "bullet"
We control the Groove using MikroTik's Windows GUI program "WinBox".  WinBox's QuickSet menu makes it easy to find and connect to access points.

QuickSet Menu showing available Access Points
QuickSet Menu showing active connection
We are actually running WinBox in a Parallels virtual machine on our MacBook Air laptop.  Amazingly this weird configuration of a WiFi booster connected via ethernet to a Macbook then via Parallels to Windows 8 running WinBox allows us to surf the net in Safari and get our email in Mail back on Mac OS X!

The only trick we found is that a DNS Server needs to be configured in Mac OS X's Network Preferences for the ethernet connection.  We used Google's server at IP address 8.8.8.8.

This post brought to you by MikroTik Groove and HotHotSpot.com!!! ;)

1 comment:

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