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Category: Tech
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005 @ 02:28 pm
Posted By Brent

Last week my little brother had a bit of a delimma, one that he knew could only be solved by yours truly. After a quick diagnosis it was quite apparent that this man was having severe video game withdrawal and needed to pwn some n00bs as soon as possible. I quickly instructed him that Half Life 2 bundled with Counter Strike: Source was his best bet for relieving himself of this ailment, so forty dollars and two hours later he's at his house installing Half Life 2. Unfortunately, he couldn't get Steam to connect and authenticate his install, so I came over to help troubleshoot and lend moral support. So begins the events that would lead up to the design and construction of The Ghettotenna.

First thing I noticed was that he could browse the web just fine, it was only Steam that couldn't get out. Actually the first thing I noticed was that his computer was littered with spyware, but that's a different post all together. Second thing I noticed was that his wifi connection was on the rather Piss-Poor end of the spectrum. Thinking the signal strength may be the cause for this sketchy behavior, I set out to boost his reception to see if it would solve the problem.

Luckily, he was using one those USB wifi fobs on a cord for his wifi adaptor. Being the genius I am, and having read quite a bit about people boosting wifi signals with chinese wok utensils and Pringles cans, I knew I could whip up a ghetto solution in no time flat. Here is where we enter the meat of this post and the explanation of that weird ass piece of crap up there.

I start calling out to my brother for materials: Scissors, check. Shoe Box, check. Aluminum foil, check. Tape. Tape. Tape? No go on the tape so I quickly raid his closet and find a pristine box of Band-Aids. I won't let this mission be grounded by a simple missing ingredient, so I throw all my materials (and the Band-Aids) together in a pile and get to work.

First, I take the lid to the shoe box and cut the angled lip off the edges so that it's just a flat piece of cardboard a little larger than a standard sheet of paper. Next I wrap said sheet of cardboard multiple times in aluminum foil and tape Band-Aid it in place. Now that I have my signal reflecting surface, I roll in into a half-circle and tape Band-Aid one of the strips I cut off in step one across the opening to make it retain its shape. Once all of this was assembled I taped Band-Aided the adaptor to the shape-retaining strip of cardboard so that it would be in the dead center of the semi circle.

Here's a diagram of where my thought processes were going with this. The black represents the semi-circular reflector, the grey spot is the adaptor, and the green represents magic wifi signals that I can't actually prove exist. Or bounce off aluminum. Or remotely resemble crappy green dotted lines. Click on it to get a larger picture of it. Yeah, I know. Drink in its beauty.

With everything together, I plugged it in, pointed the open end of it in the general direction of the access point, and BAM! His signal shot from "Low" to hovering between "Very Good" and "Excellent"(a two to three bar jump on a five bar scale). Once my brother's roommate witnessed this, he sprang into action, his movements a blur of Band-Aids and aluminum foil.

This story is not without heartbreak, unfortunately. As anyone well versed in wifi knows, a low signal, as long as it is steady and doesn't fluctuate, is perfectly fine and doesn't interfere with connectivity at all. He still couldn't get Steam to connect, and it wasn't until I got his neighbor's router login info did I realize what the problem was. Someone had filtered a handful of ports that, for reasons unknown, included the ports that Steam uses to communicate on. So our story ends on a high note, our hero is rewarded with a higher wifi signal and unadulterated n00b pwnage.

PS. For anyone interested, Jason modeled and rendered the beautiful image up there in Blender, an open source 3D Studio Max alternative. Here are examples of the source materials I gave him to base his model off of:

I feel sorry for all those people that threw thousands down the toilet for an engineering degree. Some people are just born with it, holmes.


Thursday, September 28th, 2006 @ 04:19 pm
(Murdoc is Macgyver's arch nemesis)

Thursday, September 28th, 2006 @ 01:46 pm
I was thinking the same as Joe while reading this.
A parabola, not a semicircle would be the best for a directional antenna.

Still, kudos for the Band-Aids & Tin-foil solution.
I'm sure Murdock is cursing you and plotting revenge as we speak...er...post comments.

NAME: Mark
Tuesday, September 6th, 2005 @ 03:13 am
Any idea what the range is like for this thing ?

NAME: Tusombrero
Saturday, August 27th, 2005 @ 03:04 pm

NAME: Eric
Thursday, August 4th, 2005 @ 11:02 am
Great work, and most appropriate Tenacious D reference.

"Some people... learn it on the streets! Some people learn it in the schools... me and KG, we were ****ing born with it, HOLMES!"

NAME: Engineer
Thursday, August 4th, 2005 @ 07:55 am
My original "Backyard engineering isn't real engineering ;)" was meant to be tongue-in-cheek...not an insult.

It is a kludge though, but most interesting things are.

NAME: You all are tools
Thursday, August 4th, 2005 @ 12:03 am
Dude helps a guy out, then he shares it on the internet, and then you all act like he went into your homes and blew your mother's brains out all over your face....just because he makes an engineering joke.

Lighten up people.

NAME: katopz
WEBSITE: http://www.sleepydesign.com
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 10:28 pm
low cost + work,and must be add in manual ;P

NAME: brent
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 07:48 pm
Thanks for stopping by everyone, and for the tips. Hope everyone realizes that with a little ingenuity, alot of aluminum foil, and a few Band-Aids, there is no hack to large.

Stan: Thanks a lot! You guys' stuff over at usbwifi was the first thing to come to mind when I started creating the Ghettotenna.

BTW, I was hoping that everyone could read the sarcasm oozing out of the engineering snipe at the bottom. I'm no engineer, just a guy who reads too much Hack-a-Day and Gizmodo (who graciously linked to this post).

NAME: scott
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 06:48 pm
Gotta love somebody who takes the time to critique the spelling of "holmes" (fwiw: I think you're right, Brent) and doesn't mention delimma vs. dilemma. By the way, where did you post this?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 04:05 pm
not to be a dick but its 'homes' as in 'homeboy' not 'holmes' as in sherlock holmes. just thought a ghetto themed article should be ghetto proper. :)

NAME: manuka
WEBSITE: http://www.usbwifi.orcon.net.nz/btique.jpg
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 01:53 pm
Bravo - for a neater approach you can't beat the "boutique" cookware version we've now rolled up. This uses a mesh parabola supported on a flexible stalk desk lamp. When spray painted a stylish black it REALLY looks the part - & of course still whips up 12-15dB signal gain. We half expect commercial production ! Stan in NZ

NAME: digigeek
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 01:06 pm
You know, an Engineer should at least know the definition of his claimed profession. This antenna is as much a feat of engineering as anything else. Hell, killing a fly with a swatter is Engineering in a sense. ;)

"Engineering is the application of science to the needs of humanity."


NAME: Calaveras
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 12:29 pm
Ghetto engineering is where it is at! Engineering is an intelligent application of limited resources to solve a problem. Pretty much all engineering is about that. Computer, Electrical, Audio etc.All a degree does is prove you can go without sleep and write 7 papers in one week while not getting laid in college.

NAME: Engineer3
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:42 am
Don't worry. All of us engineers are just bitter dicks. Bitter because we went out antd got the degree we didn't need, and dicks because we're virgins. Anyway, that jawns is cool.

NAME: MacLeod
WEBSITE: http://www.asoq13.dsl.pipex.com/
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:40 am
I am also an engineer and I would just like to say back yard engineering is where it all begins, and don't give up. However I do agree with Joe, you need to make a good parabola. Also make the surface as smooth as possible, otherwise your reflecting singals all over. You could also make a smaller bowl shaped reflector for placing in front of the wifi-stick. This will help reflect missing signals back to the stick as well as into your larger reflector - increasing your chances of improving your signal by multiples!!

NAME: Engineer2
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:32 am
That's like hooking up your Mom's stereo and calling yourself an Engineer. "Oh, I made something work!"

I am so proud of you!

Getting better Wifi reception isn't engineering.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 11:19 am
Shape the Foil like a parabola. It will work better

NAME: Engineer
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 10:36 am
Backyard engineering isn't real engineering ;)

But a nice kludge at any rate.