When I was in college, the Internet was always accessible either by means of a router in my dorm room or the wireless hotspots across campus. When I graduated, I did not have many means to access the Internet through my desktop computer. I grew tired of dial-up, which had slow downloading speed and could potentially be interrupted by incoming phone calls. I searched for an alternative on my slow but functional Internet connection. I found an unusual device, the Hi-Gain USB Wireless-G Network Adapter with Hi-Gain Dish Antenna (Model HWU8DD) by Hawking Technologies, during my investigation. The device physically resembles a miniature satellite dish. Though complex, the shape allows the Hawking Dish to extend the distance of your wireless capabilities much further than either a generic USB adapter or a PCI card can.
In my experience, the dish does have a significant range. Upon first activating it, many previously undetected wireless networks in my area showed up in my wireless network list. Considering that the residents in my neighborhood live in houses that are separated quite a distance away from each other, I find the dish's performance impressive (I would not recommend connecting to a stranger's wireless network due to security and legal issues; I am merely trying to describe the ability of this product).
Installation is fairly straightforward on a computer using Windows XP. One inserts an included CD that has the necessary software and installs said software. Afterward, the dish can be connected to any one of the USB ports on your computer and become operational.
Installation becomes slightly complicated when installing on a more recent OS like Vista. I installed the dish on an Acer laptop that used Windows Vista 32 bit. I attempted to follow the same instructions for Windows XP but encountered some problems. I had to find the exact folder on the computer that the drivers (another term for software) were in and install them from the device manager section in the Control Panel; this was not a step in the Windows XP manual, but it was necessary to do for Windows Vista. Other than that minor mishap, installation was successful.
The HWU8DD model is a bit older than its progeny, such as the HWDN2, and its age shows. The dish is not suitable for future upgrades higher than a wireless-G network. The HWU8DD, for example, can only detect wireless-B and -G networks; the newer wireless-N networks are not compatible with it.
The physical design of the dish also has one or two useless features that are negated in later models. It has a blue LED counter that shows connectivity strength but does not accomplish more than the internal software does. It also has a dish with a swiveling base; although this seems like a useful aspect to capture wireless signals, it physically weakens the base of the dish, making it more susceptible to breaking if enough pressure is applied.
The worst part of the HWU8DD, however, is the flimsy cable connection that connects the dish to the computer's USB port. Although the cable fits well enough into the computer, the cable end that connects to the dish is not very secure. In fact, it is a bit loose. The cable wiggles around with the slightest touch. This would not be a major problem by itself until one realizes that it affects wireless connectivity. On more than one occasion, I tried moving the dish to adjust for a better reception, and doing so would sometimes cause the computer to be unable to identify the device. The problem can be solved by plugging the device in again and finding the drivers on the computer for re-installation; in some cases, I have merely waited a couple seconds for it to recognize the dish again, but it is still an inconvenience since the Internet connection is lost during that time.
Another potential downside to the Hawking Dish is that it is quite expensive. I purchased mine online from Amazon.com for around $67.00 in the Summer of 2007; the cost of the same device on the Hawking Technologies website is currently $70.00, though I have seen it go for as low as $40.00 on another site. The price of a generic WiFi USB adapter or a PCI card is generally lower, but one must take into account that the effectiveness of the dish may justify its high monetary value.
In conclusion, the Hi-Gain USB Wireless-G Network Adapter with Hi-Gain Dish Antenna (Model HWU8DD) by Hawking Technologies is somewhat recommended for those who wish to adapt older computers to the wireless age and for those who seek an easier time connecting to public and private networks for a budget price. If one has enough resources, however, I would recommend purchasing a newer dish model from Hawking Technologies, such as the HWDN2, for its increased longevity and better design.