Optimize wireless reception from a distance

Ever need to optimize the reception at a specific point on a wireless network? If so, the following tip from MacOSXHints.com reader ALT147 could help.

I recently had to connect to a wireless network operating from a point more than 100 meters away from the base station and in a metal shed—not the best environment for wireless communication!

Using the following set-up, I was able to have someone else carry my MacBook Pro around the shed while I stayed near the wireless router and fiddled with its antennas.

To do that, I connected to my MacBook Pro via ssh from a computer at the router, and ran the following command in Terminal:

while x=1; do /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport -I | grep CtlRSSI; sleep 0.5; done

What this does is periodically display the received signal strength indicator (RSSI)—basically the power of the radio signal from the router.

It returns a value in dBm. That's on a logarithmic scale, so an increase of 10 units means a factor of 10 increase in power, an increase of 20 means a factor of 100 increase in power, and so on. Watching this reading, I was able to position the router and antenna for maximum signal strength at various places in the shed.

The airport -I command alone displays other useful information about your airport connection, like the network name, channel, authorization mode, and the noise on the signal.

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