Do It Yourself Outdoor Wireless Access Point

My wife and I live on 44 acres here in Texas and I needed to get my network distributed around the place. I needed to have access at the barn because my wife has a small office there and I wanted to have a camera at the entry gate. The barn is about 500 ft from the house and the gate is over 1500 ft away.

I built a couple of wireless outdoor access points using a Cisco-Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Router, a PVC enclosure from the hardware store, a couple of outdoor antennas and some open source firmware for the WRT’s.

I started by installing an access point at the house and putting an antenna under the eve. Since I only need to be able to see this antenna from one side of the house this worked out pretty well, otherwise I would have had to put it on a mast.

Here is a picture of the access point at the gate. It just fits inside one of these 8″ CPVC boxes. I had to drill the hole in the bottom in just the right place since there is just not enough room inside to make a bend in that antenna cable.

I don’t have a picture of the access point at the barn but it looks just like this one except, I left one of the little rubber ducky antennas on it that came with it. If you put the WRT on it’s side and at a slight angle you can turn the one antenna up alongside the WRT and it all fits. Since the box is plastic there is little there to attenuate the signal. Since the barn is only 500 ft away it works just fine. You need to be sure and disable the other antenna in the setup program.

I bought this antenna from RadioLabs. It’s a 16 Element 15 dbi Yagi Antenna. Here is a link to the antenna. The connector on the back of the WRT is a Female Reverse Polarity TNC (or RP-TNC). My antenna came with an N type connector and I simply ordered a cable that had the correct connectors on each end. The key is to remember that you need a Male RP-TNC on the cable or antenna to connect to the router.

The whole thing is powered off of the same solar panel that powers the gate controller.

I used the DD-WRT firmware for both of these. Both are used in Client Mode. Client mode is a way to have the WRT54g router act as the client end of the wireless connection instead of the access point end. This basically creates a ‘virtual wire’ type of connection. It’s as if I ran an EtherNet cable all the way out to the gate from the switch in the house. I can go out to the gate, plug my laptop into one of the ports of the router and surf the internet.

There is a lot of documentation on how to use DD-WRT in Client Mode, but there is one ‘gotcha’ that had me stumped for a while. You need to use MAC address filtering in the access point and put all of the client’s MAC addresses in the list. This may have changed in more recent versions of DD-WRT but MAC address filtering would be a good idea anyway, if for no other reason, than to help keep the neighbors from using your connection.

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