I recently moved to France, and am amazed by the fact that they have these things called Smartboxes which seem to do just about everything, including providing Wifi. I'm currently renting a small flat just outside of paris, of which the owners of the property have generously provided free internet. The problem here is that the Neuf Box doesn't seem to have a Wifi range strong enough to reach my flat, some 35-40 Meters away.
My main question is, how do I increase the range of the wifi without interfering majorly with their current set up? My French is limited and I have issues communicating the problem with them. I would like to limit the amount of fiddling around in their house and with their equipment as possible.
I read somewhere that I can set up a wireless repeater, but wouldn't know which one to purchase for the job, what I would be looking for, Etc. The walls of my flat are fairly thick, so unfortunately I'm worried it may be a major spend!
You may in fact need a repeater, but not what others are probably recommending. For one thing, a repeater provides no protection from others on the same network.
What you want is a standard, everyday, wireless router. Get whatever you need to satisfy your local network requirements. Then use a "wireless ethernet bridge" patched to the WAN port of that router. This effective creates a "WISP" (wireless ISP) router. IOW, the bridge provides a "virtual wire" between your router's WAN and the remote AP. And now you're safely tucked away behind your own router!
Obviously it would make sense to use a different channel for your wireless router and the remote AP.
The only remaining issue is if you can't place the router + wireless ethernet bridge in a location that gets you a good signal. Fortunately the wire between the router and the wireless ethernet bridge gives you quite a bit of flexibility (up to 100m w/o amplification). But if that's not enough or proves inconvenient, THEN you need a repeater. You'd place the repeater closer to the wireless AP and bridge the wireless ethernet bridge to the repeater.
But that's only a last resort. You don't need to concern yourself w/ the repeater until you find it truly necessary. It's MUCH more important to get yourself behind the safety of your own router! In fact, some ppl would go so far as to establish a VPN connection behind their router given that the “free” wireless AP is probably OPEN. And open wifi is always subject to eavesdropping unless you're using secure protocols (e.g., SSL).
I should also mention there are a few manufacturers who sell WISP routers (e.g., Zyxel). IOW, they already have the ability to establish a wireless WAN connection without needing a separate wireless ethernet bridge. But equipment is so cheap these days, and the number of choices for WISP routers is so limited, most ppl just purchase and configure them as separate devices. Any dd-wrt (third party firmware) compatible router can also be configured as a WISP router.