MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

Whip Pro +5.5dB PowerBook antenna

by Daniel M. East

As seen in MAKE 04 Toolbox

Tool photo.

Frustrated by the Wi-Fi reception problems on your large screen Powerbook? Use QuickerTek’s high gain Whip Pro antenna. My 15-inch aluminum Powerbook was showing two wireless networks near my office, my old 2dB antenna from QuickerTek currently shows five networks, and the new Whip Pro shows eight. I don’t know where they might be or to whom they belong, but I see them and most of them show signal strength of over 20 using MacStumbler. In other words, it sees more networks and sees them with better reception. I found that one network was even on the same channel as my AirPort base station and changing that proved to be very helpful with reception on my own network. Interesting to see just how many people surrounding my own office never checked competitive networks on their frequency.

On the down side, installation is not for the timid, though it is not quite as tough as one might think. In fact, this model was designed to make the form meet the function and the aesthetics actually make installation easier in terms of mounting and assembly. Once the jumper cable is installed, the antenna’s cable connects easily and you will notice immediate results.

Another issue I have with the external antennas, as a whole, is the need to use adhesives and other materials to properly mount these antennas onto the Powerbook. What I have done is to leave the antenna as a tabletop item since the corner mounting hardware is stable enough to stand the antenna upright. A nice touch is that the jumper cable, which connects to the AirPort Extreme card, is small enough to be fished through the PCMCIA card slot without interfering with the actual card installed (if/when one is).