Saturday, August 13, 2011

Alfa antenna not recommended for Mac

I recently purchased an Alfa 1000mW 1W 802.11b/g USB Wireless WiFi Network Adapter from (also known as ASUW036H) from Amazon.  I posted a review there but it has not appeared, and I'm not sure it will, so I'm repeating the main points here.  The bottom line is that while it works, it is not easy to install and it won't work on future versions of the Mac OS.

Recently, the signal from my home wifi antenna has been inadequate for my Mac. Whether the problem is with the Mac AirPort or the Verizon modem is not clear.  With Verizon on strike, I don't think that anyone is going to come out to diagnose that side of the problem, so I bought this antenna.  It works, but installation on Mac OS 10.6 is far from easy.

For the record, there is a video on YouTube, and you can download the driver from the alfa web site (here) but I got the instructions on the CD that came with the antenna.  That was harder than you might think, since the CD was a non-standard size and would not work with the Mac CD slot (I had to use an external CD drive).  The instructions themselves involve the following steps.
1) You have to download the driver, as a rar-encrypted file, from a third-party site (here).  I had to use another computer, since the Mac's internet connection was not working properly.
2) You have to unpack the .rar file.  To do this, I downloaded WinRAR, which came with the StartNow computer virus (see previous post).
3) The package can then be installed on the Mac, but must be activated using line commands entered onto a terminal window.
4) Finally, the RealTek software has to be run.

It works.  The antenna receives enough signal that internet works fine.  This is an important point, and I'm happy for it.

But there are two more negatives.

First, I found that upon restarting, the device is not recognized.  The command
sudo kextutil -t -v /System/Library/Extensions/rtl8187l.kext
has to be repeated each time the computer is rebooted (anyone with a better solution, please comment). 

Second, this device will not work with future versions of the Mac OS.  From the alfa web site:
AWUS036H is not compatible to Mac OS 10.6.7 and later version, due to the chipset manufacture has stopped its driver update for this particular model. In countermeasure, we have verified that our AWUS036NH, AWUS036NEH, AWUS051NH, and AWUS036NHR are compatible to Mac OS 10.6.8.

To be fair, I should point out that this is as much Apple's fault as Alfa's.  There are many other antennas that don't work with the Mac.  I suppose that the best solution is to use a repeater rather than an antenna.

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Blogger Frank said...

Hi Steve,

I'm actully having the problem you mentioned:

sudo kextutil -t -v /System/Library/Extensions/rtl8187l.kext

I have installed this on a different MAC wihtout any trouble, but when on this computer ibook 10.5 will not work. Any suggestions?


10/1/12 15:37  

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