This weekend, I'm at the annual Debian BBQ in Cambridge, and it's very nice weather. All the cool people are sitting outside with their laptops, a good 10-20 meters from the indoor wireless access point, happily using the internet. The problem is, by default, my wireless card just doesn't work at that range.
So, today I had a look at the Broadcom bcm43xx driver code, to see what was going on. After reading a thread on the LKML bcm43xx-dev, it turns out that the current versions of this driver do not automatically adjust the bitrate. Manually setting the bitrate to a low value has got me at least double the range:
sudo iwconfig eth1 rate 1M
Of course, this isn't ideal. The same thread mentions that automatic rate adjustment will be implemented in the driver some time soon - which will be really useful.