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glesniak

Boosting MiFi Internet Performance

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My wife and I are about to embark on our third summer on the road visiting mainly U.S. and state campgrounds. We have been using the Verizon MiFi for two years both on the road and at home.

Our travels take us to Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. We selected the MiFi because the Verizon network coverage map at the time was the best for the areas we were visiting.

We both travel with laptops and use them everyday to e-mail, run my business, blog, and surf the net. Generally, we do not use Wi-Fi. But if we did, we would access it directly from our laptop's wireless port.

The first year, 2011, we were very pleased with our ability to get online and do our thing. Our expectations were not very high, because we were going to remote areas with many mountains and canyons, both not good for cell service. However, we were surprised to find that the MiFi's 3G performance was actually OK and in some cases better than the cell phone service in the same location. For sure there were many areas with no service at all. So far so good!

The summer of 2012 was different. Our expectations were higher, while the service in several places we returned to was not as good. For example, in one of the campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park in the exact same site, we had virtually no Internet access even though we had acceptable 3G access the prior year. It appears that with increased Internet usage and the network build out not keeping up, we were left to going into town every other day to do our networking.

After these poor experiences, we needed to do something to enhance our MiFi's performance and to hopefully get 4G from time to time. So we went in search of a solution.

Note by the way, our home is on the edge of the 4G coverage area. During these two years our MiFi's performance at home was also not up to our expectation. While the service was good when it worked, it fell out of service every hour or so. Yes, we use the net throughout the day and evening. After many sessions with Technical Support, they finally said to set the MiFi to 3G only. This helped but did not really solve the problem. Our solution had to also address the home usage problem.

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Oh, I forgot to include our outbound e-mail SPAM problem.

In both 2011 abd 2012 while on the road, we found that our e-mail sends were sometimes being marked as SPAM. This occured even when we sent an e-mail to ourselves. After many discussions with Verizon as well as Godaddy Technical Support operations, we had no solution after two years.

The cause was that some Verizon servers that the e-mails were originated from were listed in several of the Spam detection databases. So when our outbound e-mails arrived at our outbound e-mail server at Godaddy, they were already being identified as SPAM before they were actually forwarded to their destination. Verizon was unable to resolve the problem with the SPAM detection database operators.

Spamassassin is the main Spam detection software used. Typically, an e-mail is considered SPAM if the Spam Status Score is above 5. Each Spam detection rule contributes to the score as the incoming e-mail is analyzed by each rule.

So what to do? In October of 2012, I referred the issue to my technical associate in my business. He came up with an ingenious solution. He implemented a routine on my Godaddy server that set the Spam Status Score for our outgoing e-mails to a minus number such that no matter how many points were added to the Spam Status Score by Spam software down the line, our sent e-mails would never reach the Spam Status Score of 5. Problem solved for us, but I'm not sure how others without a dedicated server can fix this problem if and when they have it.

A thank you call out to Walter!

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What we are planning this year, 2013, is a MiFi performance booster is a Wilson Sleek 4G-V with an RV/Trucker antenna mounted on the RV roof just over the driver's seat. I selected this antenna mounting location as the most unlikely to be impacted by tree branches, etc. that we may drive by, plus it is convenient to run the antenna's coax through the roof, into the storage cabinet, and over to where the Sleek mounting kit is attached to the outside of the cabinet frame.

The way this works is that the Sleek will hold either a MiFi or a cell phone. Our main use is for the MiFi. However, it is simple to slide out the MiFi from the Sleek and insert our iPhone when needed. The MiFi communicates wirelessly to our laptops. The model we have supports five devices. There is a new model that supports ten.

A nice feature of the Sleek is that it has a DC power adapter, so it runs off of our house power. And the Sleek also provides power to the MiFi or iPhone. The prior two years we had to run the MiFi using AC power.

Prior to the start of our summer trip, we have been using the Sleek with a window mounted antenna to boost our MiFi service at home. Since we are at the edge of the 4G service area, this has not significantly boosted performance. However, it has dramatically reduced the times that we drop service to hardly ever, and it runs at 4G. Previously we dropped Internet service when the MiFi tried to get a better connection with a different cell tower almost every other hour or so. This alone has been worth the investment.

We are looking forward to see how the Sleek works on our trip this summer. I'll be posting what we experience.

I considered using a signal booster that broadcast inside the Rig rather than requiring the devices to be mounted in the Sleek. This setup uses an inside antenna to communicate to laptops and cell phones. The advantage is that cell phones and laptops can be used at the same time. However, there is a need to have appropriate spacing between the outside antenna and the inside antenna to avoid feedback interference between them, which would shut down the signal booster. The length of our RV made this an iffy proposition, so I opted to go the way of the Sleek to not hassle with the correct antenna placements, plus the Sleek approach is less expensive and fits our main need, i.e. multiple laptop networking.

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I considered the Sleek, but ended up with a wireless router and an ASUS Wireless Ethernet Adapter, http://www.amazon.com/EA-N66-Ultra-Fast-Wireless-Repeater-High-Power/dp/B007ZT23ZE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367479658&sr=8-1&keywords=Asus+N66+Ethernet+Adapter.

I hook it up to the WAN side of my wireless router and it connects to the Wifi network on the Mifi. All of my devices, laptops, ipads, iphones, NAS, etc connect to our internal secured network. This lets us use our wireless LAN and the Internet parked or driving and even when internet is not available, we can still watch a movie off our local storage.

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The smithfamily solution looks great for networking between devices in and around the rig... I'm not sure how the wireless router, Ethernet adapter, and MiFi communicate to each other? Does this solution improve MiFi connectivity to the cellular network?

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