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Thread: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

  1. #1
    Just burned his ISO
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    Default Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    Hello forum,

    First of all, thanks and congratulations on all the effort you put in here, I've found tones of information that helped me get started in this whole new area to me. The reason I signed up is to share my experience (and hear your thoughts about it) with the all-promising Alfa AWUS036H usb wlan adapter. After lots of research online I found that this is the best bargain out there for us errr... wi-fi enthusiasts.

    Indeed, after receiving my AWUS036H, bundled with a second "9" dbi omni, I plugged it in and I could immediately see a couple of AP's more in the airodump. Also the signal would fly high (+6 up to +10) compared to my laptop's built in bcm43xx adapter which put a big smile on my face. After removing the "default" 5 dbi omni and connected the bigger 9dbi omni the signal instead of increasing it dropped down. I said ok, bad quality omni, so from thereon I continued using the 5 dbi omni (which kinda removed the initial smile from my face).

    When testing with my AP, all the aircrack suite worked like a charm, but then again, so it did on my old bcm43xx. so i decided to push it a bit further. From a greater distance I was able to crack my AP fine but oddly enough, I couldn't connect to it! However the signal report was around -70. At that signal level I for sure could connect with my bcm43xx!

    Then another observation came along. After starting airodump on alfa, I started a wifi station nearby (between my AP and my main laptop) and launched an mp3 streaming app on it. I realized that airodump was reporting very few packets coming in.
    Immediately I started airodump on my bcm43xx at the same time in order to compare the results and I realized that my poor bcm43xx was reporting packets at a steady faster pace. Also, bcm43xx was reporting beacons like crazy!
    in fact, after launching airodump on both cards at the same time, after 8 mins the results were something like this:
    AWUS036H:
    Beacons: 1180
    #DATA: 1141
    Station Packets: 743

    BCM43XX:
    Beacons: 2826
    #DATA: 2252
    Station Packets: 1341

    (the results were analogous with other BSSIDs they happened to detect)

    Funny thing is that at the same time my BCM43XX was reporting an additional station (some neighbor's) but the "mighty" Alfa didn't even notice it. It looks like Alfa goes crazy about AP's but doesn't really like stations.

    I should mention that my tests were done on both Ubuntu 9.10 and BT4 and I got the same results. I also tried different settings for the alfa, like changing the txpower setting from 20 up to 30, changing the rate and many other configurations but still got the same results.

    After reading in many forums I found out that many users had similar problems. In particular, many believe that Alfa is in fact reporting higher signals from what it actually perceives. Many also reported that Alfa is having a trouble maintaining a connection (that sounded weird... )

    What do you guys think?
    I would love to here your opinions, especially from anyone who disagrees (so that I can ask him/her how on earth he/she configured it in order to give better results)
    Also, what alternatives would you suggest to this (from what I've seen so far) over-hyped wlan adapter?

    Thanks and sorry for the long post

  2. #2
    Just burned his ISO
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    Same here. I tried both rtl8187 and r8187 (TUTORIAL: Installing driver RTL8187, r8187, rt2800usb on Ubuntu Jaunty and Lucid) and yes, I'd say the AWUS036H is definitely an over-hyped wlan adapter.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    At this point I assume your BCM is a built in card, with a built in antenna. Not knowing your knowledge of antenna's, I'll start out with the basics if you don't mind.
    The alfa has a very good chipset, and it's quite sensitive too (I have both an alfa and an imitation, both with the RTL8187). They both beat every single built-in card out there.

    However, you need to use the external antenna right. Yours came with a 5 dBi omni (which kind of weirded me out, mine came with a 3 dBi). How is it set up in relation to the access point?

    See, despite it being called an omnidirectional antenna, it's true signal is NOT. If you have the antenna on a 90 degree angle in relationship to the floor, the pattern looks like a giant donut. It radiates to the sides, but picks up very little from the top. The radiation field gets more narrow the longer your antenna gets, so that's also something to factor in. For example, when I go wardriving (just mapping the neighbourhood networks, that's legal here) I use a 10 dBi omni for the outskirts single-2 story buildings, but a 3-6 dBi omni if there are higher buildings.

    So that would be the first thing I'd try, make sure the antenna is used optimally. Sorry if you already know this, but I figured I'd start with the most simple solution

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    I have had similar problems with connecting to APs, but mostly just 2wire routers (AT&T). I can make an initial connection with my ALFA (can ping Google and everything) but I lose it within minutes. (most APs connect properly though). I definitely get more APs with Alfa than any other card I've used and am pretty happy with it.

    Using 5DBI antenna (doesn't do that much more than the 3)

    Keep in mind that just because you have a 1 watt card doesn't mean the AP is strong enough to keep up given the distance.

    have you upgraded your kernel on BT4 yet? It seams to help (as in doesn't happen as much but still does). supposed to be lots of hardware improvements.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    Citruspers,

    I see what you mean. Unfortunately I don't know much about antennas, but the thing is, I tried this with my own AP in distances from 2-5 meters inside the house. I also put the antenna in different positions (the shorter one, not the "9" dbi one. THe 9dbi actually makes no effect - it is as if there is no antenna connected) but again got the same results. The beacons (as well as the packets) were coming in 2 or 2 1/2 times faster to the BCM (which is a PCI Express mini card inside my laptop). After observing the airodump-ng screen, It sort of looked like while my alfa was able to reach more AP's than my internal bcm, but somehow alfa was receiving half the packets

    I was starting to think that my alfa was broken, but then I read similar posts in other forums and started wondering about the quality of the alfa card.

    The latest thing I tried was to use the ieee80211 driver for the alfa instead of the mac80211 one. But again I got the same results.

    Quote Originally Posted by Citruspers View Post
    At this point I assume your BCM is a built in card, with a built in antenna. Not knowing your knowledge of antenna's, I'll start out with the basics if you don't mind.
    The alfa has a very good chipset, and it's quite sensitive too (I have both an alfa and an imitation, both with the RTL8187). They both beat every single built-in card out there.

    However, you need to use the external antenna right. Yours came with a 5 dBi omni (which kind of weirded me out, mine came with a 3 dBi). How is it set up in relation to the access point?

    See, despite it being called an omnidirectional antenna, it's true signal is NOT. If you have the antenna on a 90 degree angle in relationship to the floor, the pattern looks like a giant donut. It radiates to the sides, but picks up very little from the top. The radiation field gets more narrow the longer your antenna gets, so that's also something to factor in. For example, when I go wardriving (just mapping the neighbourhood networks, that's legal here) I use a 10 dBi omni for the outskirts single-2 story buildings, but a 3-6 dBi omni if there are higher buildings.

    So that would be the first thing I'd try, make sure the antenna is used optimally. Sorry if you already know this, but I figured I'd start with the most simple solution

  6. #6
    Just burned his ISO
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    same here. I actually got it since the linux driver for my laptops wifi doesn't support packet injection (or the card itself doesn't)... So it does the job. But I haven't noticed much difference with the default 5db antenna- even after putting the power level high high.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    You might be too close the the AP. Remember, its a 1 watt card.

    Quote Originally Posted by nightling View Post
    Citruspers,

    I see what you mean. Unfortunately I don't know much about antennas, but the thing is, I tried this with my own AP in distances from 2-5 meters inside the house. I also put the antenna in different positions (the shorter one, not the "9" dbi one. THe 9dbi actually makes no effect - it is as if there is no antenna connected) but again got the same results. The beacons (as well as the packets) were coming in 2 or 2 1/2 times faster to the BCM (which is a PCI Express mini card inside my laptop). After observing the airodump-ng screen, It sort of looked like while my alfa was able to reach more AP's than my internal bcm, but somehow alfa was receiving half the packets

    I was starting to think that my alfa was broken, but then I read similar posts in other forums and started wondering about the quality of the alfa card.

    The latest thing I tried was to use the ieee80211 driver for the alfa instead of the mac80211 one. But again I got the same results.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    I actually have the same issue as the OP.

    Connected to my own access point 10 meters away, I would get a fair connection. Connected to my neighbours access point 20-25 meters away, I recieve a high rate of data, although still inconsistant, and eventually the connection will drop.

    I do not think it is an issue of sub-par card, but more-so to do with the OS being used and drivers loaded. It seems that amongst the users who report bad connectivity via RTL8187, they all report fantastic connectivity via Windows OS. Strange, I know.

    It also does seem like the RTL8187 will gather much more connections than my inbuild Intel card, which connects to my AP and delivers a HIGH rate of packet delivery. It also seems the RTL8187 is able to inject packets over a much further distance and do it with ease (5dBi antenna).

    My 20dBi antenna will be ariving soon, and I want to have a working consistant internet connection/Packet injection/recieve when this baby comes in my mail box. I dont think I will have it fixed in time though.

    I am running Bt4R1 with kernel 2.6.34 believe it or not, and still on the same issue.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    Wasn't there a fix recently, with the 802.11mac drivers?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Alfa AWUS036H.... Dissapointment??

    yes, muts posted the fix for rtl8187 using vmware in the how to section

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