Posted on August 18th, 2014 by David Bott
So you may have often wondered if you are secure when doing you’re banking on-line when connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot like at and RV park or campground. I seem to have had this question a lot during our time traveling when someone finds out I am a “techie”. Well, let me try to put your fears to rest.
In a word…YES. You are secure when you are using a banks website even if you are using an open Wi-Fi network like many campgrounds offer.
The reason… Something called a secure socket layer. (SSL) Go to your bank online… Look up at the browser bar where the URL (website) is shown. Do you see the HTTPS:// ? At the end of the HTTP that S stands for SECURE. (You may also see a little padlock icon or something depending on the browser you may use.) This is telling you that your connection, from your computer to the bank’s server and back to you, is all secured using encryption.
In fact any site you may use, such as G-mail or even Facebook, you see with HTTPS is secure. What that means is that the information sent and received is protected by a “key” that your browser and their server setup between each other before anything else is sent between them.
So yes, you are secure when using your bank or other services even on an open Wi-Fi network as long as the site is HTTP’S’. I bring this up for people sometimes mistakenly think that WiFi security is the protection. This is not the case. Wi-Fi security is only to protect the Wi-Fi connection between the computer and the access point or router. If a password is used to get on a parks WiFi, that password is only used to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi net-work, like a key giving you access through a door. It also does encrypt the data in the air, but ONLY between you and the access point you are connecting to. After that, and surely not on the Internet, it is not encrypted. However that is where HTTPS talked about above comes into play. HTTPS is fully encrypted from your computer on out and back. So, you are secure.
With that said, being on an open Wi-Fi network does come with a small risk of someone using a wireless “sniffer” to try to gather all the data packets you are sending to read no matter whatever it is you may being transmitting. But even with that, any time you are on an HTTPS website, even that “sniffed” data can not be read.
Now all bets are off if you have gotten yourself a virus, malware, or spyware somehow on your computer, then not even HTTPS can help if someone is tracking your keystrokes. So please be sure your use computer is protected using some sort of anti male-ware or spyware program.
Care for someone else’s word on it? See this video provided by Google about HTTPS:
For how to have better Wi-Fi and Internet in your RV, see RV internet and RV Dedicated Wi-Fi
Posted on August 18th, 2014 by David Bott
It seems that Wi-Fi is one of the most important items for a RV’er these days. Who am I kidding, it is REALLY important. Even more so to the upcoming RV’er who live on the web and thus must be sure to have access. Brenda and I are some of those people. Everything we do, we seem to do on-line. Be it planning our next stop, shopping, or to make a living, the web and thus the Internet, is the place we need to be.
Now I will say that their are a lot of places in the USA that you may care to go that you simply will not have ANYTHING. No 3G or 4G, nor Wi-Fi. You will be so far out that you will be cut off from that ever vital data stream. That is of course unless you have satellite Internet service. We did have, at one time, a DataStorm G74 automatic satellite dish with service via HughesNet. But that subject for us now is in the past.
So that leaves us with what seems to be a growing question we receive. What do we do personally for Internet on the road? Let me start by making this clear…This is the way WE do it. Their are surely less expensive devices and even the hardware we use for the radio (Wi-Fi Antenna) can be purchased for much less money if you know how to deal with setting it up. But even though I do know how to setup such things, I opted for ease of use and thus paid for a setup with custom firmware that makes the experience much more enjoyable. Their are A LOT of products on the market. So again, this is what we do and how we do it.
Please note: We paid for everything we use. We did not get them for free from a company to “Test” and thus hopefully market by talking about it on our blog. In fact, EVERYTHING we have ever reviewed or recommended we paid for. This is because we also do not ever want someone to question why we may be recommending this over that. We do not want to have a question in someones head if what they are reading is really an ad for X product or if their is a bias. In todays world, this is actually called “Brand Journalism” or “Native Ads”. Simply put, ads that do not read as ads, but really are. Here is a funny video about it… “HBO – This Week Tonight – John Oliver’s – Native Ads” .
So, this will be quick and easy overview of what we use and how…So lets get to it…
Improving Cell Phone Reception…(Which also means improving 3G/4G data reception.)
The quickest thing to use these days is a Wilson Sleek 4G. The Sleek is a reception booster that is an all in one simple package that you can mount to your dash or somewhere else if you choose. You connect the antenna, plug it into 12V and place your phone (or MyFi or HotSpot) into the cradle. It really is as simple as that. The cradle has a booster (amp) built into it as well as a patch antenna. Your phone will see that and use it like it thinks it is the cell tower. (And it is, as the cell tower is actually just repeated.) This will boost your reception of both the voice side as well as the data side of the phone or HotSpot.
For even better reception you can mount an external antenna on the roof and run the lead to the Sleek vs using the antenna that came with it. We mounted a Wilson Roof Mount Cell Antenna and ran the cable down the driver side windshield post to under the dash and then to the Sleek. (Proper cables, extensions, and adapters may be required.)
It is good to note however, that this is an amplifier. And as such, it does require to have a good signal to boost. In other words, if you are in a very poor cell area, it will have a very poor signal to amplify. But also good to note, that the antenna it comes with is better than the antenna in your phone and thus you will do much better. And even more so if you use a roof mounted antenna as that is even more powerful and thus can receive and transmit to a cell tower that is further away. For example…we have had cell and data service when the coach next to us had none based on our setup with a roof mounted antenna and Sleek. In fact, as I write this, we are in a park where cell service is bad. I get one bar and 3G. If I put my phone into the Sleek, I get three bars and it switches to 4G data speeds.
There are also repeating systems that will take the cell single and then repeat it inside your coach. While these can be good, it is only good if you are close to the internal antenna or if you have a good outside signal as these are mostly used to bring the cell signal inside an enclosure. I do not prefer this approach as it greatly varies vs having your phone or HotSpot right next to the patch antenna that is in the cradle. I did have this at one time, but stopped using it when the Sleek came out a few years back.
Hint…If you are in a bad cell area and the only way to get service that does not drop calls is if your phone is in the Sleek, use a bluetooth headset to talk on the phone. As such, you can walk around your coach and your phone can stay in the cradle.
Wi-Fi and Boosting RV Park Reception…
Ok, now these are the two questions that I seem to get over and over. ”How can I improve the Wi-Fi from the park inside my RV?” and “How can I better protect myself on an open Wi-Fi network?” The answer to this is of course that it can be done in a few ways and with a large number of different products. I will however talk about our current setup. Of course we have used, and thus have experience with, a number of different products.
The best way to handle BOTH of the above questions is to use a Wave Wi-Fi RogueWave. What the heck is that? Simply put, it is a Ubnt Bullet radio with a 8.5db antenna with custom firmware that makes it easy to use. The unit shows you all the SSID’s (Wi-Fi networks) in the air at the location you are at. You then simply click on one to connect to it. So now you may be asking, “How is this different than using just the Wi-Fi in my computer?” For one, it is a large 8.5db antenna and thus it can not just only pull in a better Wi-Fi signal, but it also can transmit a better signal based on the powerful 800mW (+29dBm) output radio it has. After all, it takes two to have a conversation.
Quick Lesson… A lot of the time, you may be able to “see” a good signal and think you have a great connection. But in fact, your computer, phone, tablet, or whatever is reporting the power of the signal it is seeing. The park could be putting out a very strong signal from a powerful radio. However, your computer is sending out a transmission that is to weak to reach back to their radio. In simple terms, in a crowded room, they are using a megaphone to talk to you and you are trying to whisper back to them. Oh, and you are doing this over all the other talking that is going on, aka noise, in the room. Make sense?
So what this means is it is a two way street. You need both sides to be able talk and that is where such a devise such as the WiFi RogueWave comes in as it not only receives a signal very well, it can also talk back just as well. Lets’ face it, we have all be in an RV park where you are parked far from the access point so you can not use the Wi-Fi. So this greatly helps in an RV park where the spot you may be in usually has poor Wi-Fi as you will now have the power of the RogueWave. In fact, I have been in an RV park where the Wi-Fi was so poor, I was able to use the RogueWave to connect to the McDonalds down the road. (Ok, no need to debate if I should have done that. But I did at least buy a Iced Cafe Mocha Latte.)
Oh, that also brings up a good point. Even if you have a Rogue and thus a good connection to a parks Wi-Fi, this does not mean they have good Wi-Fi or even good Internet. Many factors come into play when using a free network. Some of which included the number of people using the Wi-Fi, the amount of data service they have coming into the park, and the equipment they use. Some parks may have Wi-Fi but what that could mean is that they have a home Wi-Fi router in their office, and if you can see it from your site, you can use it. In that case, the RogueWave can be of help to reach such a poor setup. But let’s face it, bad is bad and in that case not even the Rogue will help. So that is when you are surely glad you have your HotSpot and Wilson Sleek.
Also this answers that second question as to using an open Wi-Fi network and Wi-Fi security. The Rogue has a built in router and firewall. As such, you do not get a public IP from the network that everyone else is also on, you get your own private IP handed out by the RogueWave and the RogueWave gets the public IP. As such, anyone that may try to look for other computers on a network to gain access to, will not be able to reach your computer.
The WiFi RogueWave is simple to use. It does require power and two network cables. You plug in the power and that goes into what is called a POE Injector. That stands for Power Over Ethernet and does nothing more than uses some of the wires in the network cable to carry power to the RogueWave so then only one wire is needed to go to the RogueWave. (Which is good if you mount it outside as you should.) The other network cable then plugs into the other side of the POE and then into your computers network port. Note…your computer would need to be set to get an IP via DHCP. All are defaulted to do this and unless you changed it, you will be set. Using your web browser you then go the RogueWave’s user interface and select the Wi-Fi network you want to use. Poof, your now on-line.
NOTE: You can also use the RogueWave to connect to your own personal HotSpot’s wireless SSID. Be it your phone acting as a HotSpot or if you have a MiFi or something like it . So if you want to use your own HotSpot for whatever reason, if you have it turned on, you will be able to see it’s SSID in the RogueWave’s interface and be able to connect to it. One of the nice features of the RogueWave is that you can store favorite Wi-Fi SSID’s to automatically connect to. So I have my phone and Brenda’s phone in the list so whatever one we may activate, if not wanting to use the parks Wi-Fi, it will auto connect once it sees it. Thus ways are using the RogueWave to connect to Wi-Fi.
But wait, what if you want to use more than one device and not connect it directly to your computer? The answer is to use a Wi-Fi router. (Which you can also purchase at the same time through Land and Sea WiFi – Best prices I found for the Wi-Fi RogueWave.) The RogueWave is still used, but instead of going into your computer, you plug the network cable into the WAN port of the router. Any Wi-Fi router you may choose to use will work. Sorry, but I can not walk you through setting up the router as their are many types. But most of them come with setup wizards to help you get going.
The best part of using a router is that all your Wi-Fi devices can then connect to your own private internal network and have Internet access via the RV park or your HotSpot through the RogueWave. As such, you always connect to your own SSID and not the parks.
This also means you then can use a Wi-Fi printer as it you would just connect it to your own private Wi-Fi network and then can use it without turning on a HotSpot as you may have to do now.
Ok, so that was A LOT of information and it may or may not help you and may end up leaving you with more questions than before. Their are a number of products that cater to the RV’er that we have tried, but we have found the above solution to be the best.
For example…We have tried, and tried, and tried to use the WiFiRanger which caters to the RV industry, but it was just way too buggy and could not be counted on. So much so that they took down their own customer support community forum as it was just filled with complaints. Now I am not sure if the product has improved or not, but all I know is that it was a major issue to keep running and something I could not count on. And Wi-Fi is something we have to count on. And that was a product that was actually given to me, free of charge, to use in hopes we would blog about it. I could have been writing about that.
WiFiRanger Company…If you have fixed your issues of the past, please feel free to let me know as I kind of liked the interface. Me being a techie, I like bells and whistles, thus offering some more control. That is something you do offer over the Rogue as the Rouge is it just point and click with not much more needed to be done. (It really is simple and efficient.) Then again, not being able to control my own DHCP server with static IP’s was an issue with the Ranger. Maybe you also fixed that.
The below links are to the parts we use in our motor coach for full time Internet access even when traveling down the road…
Wilson Sleek 4G
Wilson Roof Mount Cellular Antenna
Wilson Home Office Kit can be used for to window mount the antenna if not using roof mount.
WiFi RogueWave Kit
Asus RT-N66U Wi-Fi Router (This would be overkill for most users but I wanted dual-band.)
Samsung S4 Smartphone (Used as a HotSpot in the Sleek cradle when not using RV Park)
Our Connection Path For Access…
- RogueWave is plugged into the WAN port of the Wi-Fi router.
- All personal Wi-Fi items are connected to BottNet.
- Wi-Fi RogueWave is connected wirelessly to RV parks Wi-Fi or our HotSpot.
- If using our HotSpot it is always in the Wilson Sleek 4G cradle for boosting.
- Internet is then available to all devices over our private network.
Few, that was a lot to write. So lets also try it in a video chat which some of you enjoy and asked for…
Please be sure to share this if it was helpful. :)
Posted on August 12th, 2014 by Brenda
So we’ve spent the last two and a half months in Western NY at Southwoods RV Resort in Byron, NY. It’s the closest campground that we could find to visit our family and friends in the Rochester, NY area. When we made the booking we were originally only going to stay a month. When we got here however we truly did not expect to find such a lovely and comfortable campground. We ended up extending our stay for quite a bit longer.
One of the reasons was that we really clicked with the park owners, Mike and Sue, and David offered to help them with upgrading their wifi.
It was something he did for a park in Texas and it was nice that he was able to help out such good people at Southwoods. It seems it was the #1 complaint they had. And for such a wonderful park, David just had to make that complaint go away to be best of his ability. And he surely did from the reports received. The site where we were in for example went from .3Mbps down to over 8Mbps down when he was done.
We had a wonderful time at Southwoods. The campground has quite a few seasonal sites that are really well kept up. And when the park throws their theme weekends, the seasonal people really go all out with decorating.
Whether it’s the 4th of July complete with the campground putting on their own fireworks display……
Too Christmas in July…
Southwoods really does it up for all occasions.
One of the things we all look forward to doing when we are in a familiar area is hitting all of those familiar foodie haunts. Pontillo’s pizza, the original in Batavia, NY was just a short drive to where we were parked, Abbott’s frozen custard with locations throughout the Rochester area and our favorite Chinese restaurant, Chen Garden in Rochester, NY.
We were able to enjoy some local festivals and parades. The Cornhill Arts Festival is one of the areas largest and it seems we always seem to miss it when we are traveling in the area. Not this year!
We celebrated birthdays and much to my surprise, on our 20th Anniversary, David surprised me with a chef cooked meal (from our favorite restaurant) inside our motor home.
It was nice catching up with family and friends.
As a matter of fact. We enjoyed ourselves so much this summer at Southwoods we decided to make Southwoods our home base for all our visits back home. One problem with that though. They are so popular that they fill up very quickly. So we looked into getting a seasonal site. That way, we figured, we wouldn’t have to worry about making a reservation and finding out they were full. In essence, we could come and go as we please without sweating the details.
One problem with that however. We found out from Southwoods owners, Mike and Sue, that their is a waiting list for a seasonal site.
Good news though…
I guess they liked us so much they want us there as much as we wanted to be there, plus David seems to be now their tech support guy. Mike calls him “Giga-Bott”. So get this…they are willing to build us a seasonal site that will fit our 45 foot coach! Not kidding…Mike is going to build us a place just for our coach! A place that they currently do not have developed. (But I suspect that Mike may have always wanted to build one last lot in this area. So yea!)
Amazing to say the least! So we are pleased to present the future home of the “Bott Plot”
Now it doesn’t look like much now but let me tell you…it’s right on the end of a quiet street, private and right where we would have put it if we had picked it out ourselves! It seems like it was fate to say the least.
Before we left Mike came up with the idea to have a bonfire and christen the site for us. So surely we accepted! (Who dose not like a good ol’ bonfire!) So Mike pulled out some of the old brush and dead wood in that area and we were set to go! It was so great as Joe, David’s best friend, brought his family down for the send off.
Before we headed out the next day we took one last look at our future seasonal site. Dreaming about coming back next summer and wondering what the rest of the year has in store for us.
We’re sincerely thankful to Mike and Sue for making us feel so welcome, accepted and loved. It means the world to us to be able to call Southwoods home and we look forward to seeing everyone next summer!
Here is an flight video David did of Southwoods…
Posted on July 30th, 2014 by David Bott
“Okay, okay, I’ll make a video!”…is what I said to one RV owner who came up to talk to me about satellite TV in the RV. You see, we talked for about an hour and at the end, he just kept saying “you need to make a video on your blog about this.” He would not let it go until I said “Okay.” So not wanting to break a promise, I made the video and I hope this may help others make a choice.
In this short five minute video I talk about the two providers in the USA and also about the types of RV satellite dishes. I even get into the ever important reception, no pun intended, of NFL Football coverage.
What really gets me though is why the RV industry seems to always include a DirecTV satellite receiver in the coach that comes with a dome. This makes no sense at all seeing that everything else in the coach is setup for HiDef (HDTV). What do I mean? Simple…No dome RV satellite dishes can receive HDTV from DirecTV!!! It is only able to receive standard definition from the dome based on DirecTV using the KA band for all HDTV broadcasts. (Domes use KU band LNB antennas.) Only Dish Network is able to be received in HDTV from a dome as they broadcast everything in the KU band. My only thought is that they get a kickback for each receiver activated. But that is so wrong as it really seems to confuse people and by the time they find this out it’s too late and they are locked into a contract.
So, do not stand for it, get full HDTV and make the clear choice of Dish Network when using a dome. (Get it? ”Clear choice”, because the image is clearer in HD. I crack myself up sometimes)
(And no, this is not a paid endorsement.)
All in all, here is the video I did in regards to “RV Satellite TV and Making a Choice”.
(Please do not attack the messenger as we all have out likes and dislikes.)