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Daily dose

How to boost your WiFi signal

You may have a fast internet connection at home, yet sometimes you’d experience your browsing slowing to a crawl, a movie you’re watching would buffer or worse a video call gets dropped because you’re in a corner of the house farthest from the WiFi router. Checking on your device it’s barely getting a signal. A minor issue that could be really frustrating.

Here are a few practical tips to improve your WiFi network. Practical in the sense that you’d be able to avoid spending on additional gear.

Location, location, location

WiFi routers are essentially radio transmitters so it works best in open spaces where there are fewer objects that block its signals. Concrete walls or even drywalls with electrical wires within could cause interference. The fewer objects between your device and the WiFi router the better.

Ideally if you can mount your WiFi router high on the wall or from the ceiling, the better. This is why in offices or public places you’d see WiFi routers hanging from the ceiling or high on the walls. Avoid placing it inside cabinets, behind books, or in the corner of a room.

Placing it near or at the top of the stairwell would help ensure its signals reach all floors of the house. Keep it away from other wireless devices like the base of your cordless phones to avoid interference.

Optimize your WiFi Router

Update the firmware of your WiFi router as device makers routinely provide updates that improve performance. If you’re unsure how to do this, either check its user manual or get in touch with your ISP if the device came with your internet service.

Make sure that the antennas are vertical to ensure good coverage. It also helps if the air ducts are free of dust and dirt so as to keep it from running too hot.

Almost all routers nowadays are dual-band, operating on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz. You can configure your router to use the same SSID or network name on both bands so that you’re devices would have alternative bands to connect to. Again, consult with your ISP for help in setting this up.

Get a WiFi repeater or extender

This tip requires spending a little extra as your house may be too big for just one WiFi router to provide sufficient coverage. There are plenty of choices available and as always, it’s best to check with your ISP first to know which ones would work best with your router.

Lastly, you can also check with your ISP if they offer newer routers that are have better coverage or performance at no additional charge to your existing service. Routers are so ubiquitous nowadays, it’s easy to forget that you’re still using an older model.

I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have a few of your own, please share them on the comments below or send it my way. I would love to hear from you.

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Daily dose

Tips to Troubleshoot Your Internet Connection

Staying connected to the Internet is essential nowadays. We use it for entertainment, education, working or staying connected to family and friends. When your home internet connection does go out it can be a real problem. Below are some of the most basic steps that will help you fix it before going through the motions of calling your ISP which in itself could also be another world of pain.

Is the modem/router on?
modem-router
Modem + router device

Check if your router/modem has power. A modem is a device that allows you to get connected to your ISP via telephone, coaxial cable, fiber, satellite or even via wireless mobile service. A router is another device that allows you to have more than one device connect to your internet service usually via WiFi. Nowadays, it’s standard for Internet service providers or ISPs to give you a modem + router combo. Routers would have lights turned on to show that it has power. Check the outlet and the power adapter. While you’re at it, check if all the cables to your modem/router are properly connected.

Check the physical connections
Rear view of modem-router
Rear-view of a modem-router with the proper connections

Check if the line coming into your house from the outside pole is connected properly. It could be that something snapped or got caught in the cable which caused the lost internet connection. If there’s a problem with it then you’d need to call your service provider as it can be dangerous to fix this on your own.

Red light indicating connection loss
Red LED light means it’s not synced with your ISP
Reset the modem/router

After checking and making sure the physical cables to your modem/router are properly connected and the unit is receiving power, do a power cycle. Unplug it from the socket and give it around 10 to 20 seconds before turning it on again.

If it does the trick, you should be able to get back on-line. If it doesn’t, most modems would usually give an indication that it’s having trouble connecting to your ISP – a red light is quite common.

Check your Wi-Fi connection

You can use other devices that are connected to the Wi-Fi to try to isolate where the problem is. If other devices are able to connect and go on-line then the issue may lie with the device that you’ve lost the internet connection on. It may be a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone. It’s also important to make sure that the WiFi you’re connecting to is your own. I’ve worked in customer service before and believe it or not, we’ve had lengthy calls from customers who later found out that they were just connecting to their neighbor’s WiFi and had been denied access because they changed or put in a password.

Check your device settings

Depending on what device you’re having problems with, check if it has the correct credentials for WiFi by opening its networking settings. It would usually give a notification that it’s unable to connect to the WiFi or if there’s something else that’s wrong with it.

Disable your tablet or mobile phone’s WiFi then enable it again to see if fixes the issue. Then check if you have the correct password. The next step would be to do a power cycle on your device. If it is still unable to go on-line, you may need to reset the WiFi settings on the device. That means removing the current WiFi settings and entering it again as if it’s the first time the device will be connecting to your WiFi.

For laptops, you can reset the Wireless adapter – for Windows, Linux (Ubuntu) and Mac. An alternative is to grab an ethernet cable and physically connect it to your modem/router. If you’re able to go on-line again, then the issue is with the laptop’s Wireless adapter. This could be fixed by updating its drivers or installing updates to your operating system or getting it repaired by your device manufacturer.

If all else fails, it’s time to get in touch with your ISP and ask for assistance. These are the basic steps to troubleshoot your internet connection. Most of the time, one or a combination of these would resolve your internet connection issues without having to call your ISP.

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Quotes

Sacha Baron Cohen: Rise of Social media, Democracy declines

At a recent ADL conference, actor/comedian/director Sacha Baron Cohen links the rise of the social media to the decline of democracy:

“Today … demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

Though he cites many reasons, emphasis was made on one:

But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

The greatest propaganda machine in history.

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

The Age of Reason has come to an end. Social media has helped speed it along.

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Daily dose

Open APIs – A proposal to monitor fake news

Around the world, ‘fake news’ or disinformation is of the newest phenomena that has causing problems. Russian propaganda has messed up with the US elections which most likely have given Donald Trump the Presidency while here in the Philippines, die-hard supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte has succeeded in hijacking the public discourse with its army of online trolls. Congress has already conducted hearings, debates continue to rage on in academic circles, the public space and on social media sites. What can we do?

Tom Wheeler, a former Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission has a proposal:

The government should require social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to use a similar open application programming interface. This would make it possible for third parties to build software to monitor and report on the effects of social media algorithms. (This idea has been proposed by Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee who helped organize the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011.) To be clear, the proposal is not to force companies to open up their algorithms — just the results of the algorithms. The goal is to make it possible to understand what content is fed into the algorithms and how the algorithms distribute that content. Who created the information or advertisement? And to what groups of users was it directed? An open application programming interface would therefore threaten neither a social media platform’s intellectual property nor the privacy of its individual users.

The question is, would Facebook, Twitter and other social-media entities open up?