Author Topic: recommend a portable USB modem  (Read 641 times)

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
recommend a portable USB modem
« on: October 05, 2020, 03:19:41 pm »
I've bought a cheap laptop and I'm not getting the excellent broadband signal I got on my previous laptop (whose battery charging circuit just failed making it a mains only machine).

I'm looking for an external modem with a good receiver. I don't mind how big it is but it needs to be battery powered or USB powered (not mains powered). It needs to connect to the laptop via USB not ethernet. I reckon I need something bigger than the USB stick modems in order for it to have a large enough antenna. I've seen models with a screw in vertical antenna - any experiences of these (regarding reception) would be welcome.

Any recommendations for models most welcome.

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2020, 03:52:22 pm »
I assume you mean for a mobile/4G signal rather then WiFi as your broadband source?

Can you use your phone as a hotspot and connect to it by WiFi. Alternatively I think you can also use an iPhone connected by cable as a modem but I've never needed to try.

Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2020, 04:04:06 pm »
If it's WiFi you want, then searching ebay for "usb wifi adapter" gives a range of choices at little money.
Quote from: Kim
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fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2020, 06:17:28 pm »
Thanks for these answers. It's good to have the correct terminology.

I need this for wifi as an improvement on the cheap laptop's wifi card. I'm looking to pick up and hold onto a wifi signal when I'm a long way from the router.

I had a look at ebay which has thousands of examples of the thumb-drive-sized wifi adapter. However I recognise there will be limitations on a wifi adapter this small so I'm looking for something with a larger antenna.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2020, 07:38:06 pm »
I'm now considering getting one of these. Looks like it would sit next to a laptop and connect with a USB A cable. I like the folding antenna. It looks a bit like a miniature laptop.

https://www.lifewire.com/netgear-nighthawk-a7000-wi-fi-usb-adapter-review-4844840

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2020, 07:50:14 pm »
Might it not be a better idea to add an additional Wireless Access Point closer to where you need it?

This would provide improved WiFi to all devices, not just the laptop with the mahoosive WiFi adapter.

Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2020, 09:17:14 pm »
Latops usually have WiFi antennas behind their display, which means they are usually fairly effective.
Many laptop models have the WiFi radio on a mini PCIe daugter board.
The antennas connect via small and simple push fit connections.

It is possible that one of the antennas is not connected, resulting in poor WiFi reception?
Also, if the laptops Wi-Fi card is defaulting to 5Ghz, pushing it onto 2.4Ghz might improve things slightly for you. The longer wavelength is a bit better for penetrating walls etc.

Finally, if the WiFi card is a poor performer, because it is on a daughter board, it is fairly easy to swap out.

Finally, if you really want a USB WiFi adapter that you can attach your antenna of choice to, Alfa Networks have a nice range. I've got one with a 10db gain antenna which can see wireless networks further afield than any other device I've got in my home. You can buy additional after market antennas and even craft your own. They are available in the usual online market places.
A Few Apples Short of a Strudel

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2020, 12:35:38 pm »
Finally, if the WiFi card is a poor performer, because it is on a daughter board, it is fairly easy to swap out.

I had reason to swap out such a WiFi card a few years ago, and it wasn't quite that straightforward.
The mfr ( I can't remember the brand of laptop  ) had a whitelist of 'permitted' device IDs in the BIOS, and would refuse to recognise any other cards.

The only fix was to hack the BIOS with a revised whitelist!

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2020, 09:00:15 pm »
Interesting info Afasoas. Thanks for that.

I bought the Netgear A7000 wi-fi adapter and I'm impressed. I measured a threefold increase in download speed and the same improvement for upload, with Ms. Fruitcake's mid-range Dell laptop running Windows10. However, while this device is plug and play with Windows, there are no drivers for Linux. So it is now offered for sale.

Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2020, 11:24:17 pm »
Interesting info Afasoas. Thanks for that.

I bought the Netgear A7000 wi-fi adapter and I'm impressed. I measured a threefold increase in download speed and the same improvement for upload, with Ms. Fruitcake's mid-range Dell laptop running Windows10. However, while this device is plug and play with Windows, there are no drivers for Linux. So it is now offered for sale.

hmmm.
That dongle uses a chipset for which there is a Linux driver.
It looks like there is a hack which requires modifying the list of supported devices ids in the appropriate driver and recompiling it.
vague instructions
driver source code on Github

this is the file that would need changing.

I'm happy to have a stab at amending and recompiling for you. That would get you down to downloading what I've compiled, running one command and crossing your fingers.



A Few Apples Short of a Strudel

Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2020, 11:27:49 pm »

Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2020, 11:32:04 pm »
Further to my earlier post, I notice both repositories have a patch applied already to make that driver support the Netgear A7000.
The first one (nazar-pc) is already compiled, so fewer steps.
The other, as philip says, is more recent but would need compiling.
A Few Apples Short of a Strudel

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: recommend a portable USB modem
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2020, 11:05:14 am »
A kind offer Afasoas. While the Netgear A7000 is a neat little unit, I've since seen products which work out of the box with Linux and have a standard connector for external antenna. So at this stage I'd rather sell the Netgear device to someone who uses Windows and use the funds for another purchase.