Wednesday, September 02, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know About How Your Wireless Network Impacts Your Devices

Its true. Not everyone needs to know what makes their wireless network tick. But if you are an entrepreneur or small business depending on a fast signal, learning the technology behind your network might just make sense. I made this short video to explain the flavors of WiFi, but then I realized that the subject deserves much more explanation. So I wrote the post below to fill in some of the gaps; it will hopefully simplify some of the crazy numbers I was throwing out.

To visually illustrate, Here's how MU-MIMO works:

Next, a chart to illustrate what you need to know about the 802.11 wireless standards:

So who sets these standards and who is the IEEE?

The IEEE is the acronym for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an association founded in 1963 devoted to the advancement and standardization in a wide range of industries.  They named the “alphabet soup” of 802.11 standards for wireless radio-wave technology; WiFi.

Band and Channels: Why does this matter?

Without going into a long tutorial on radio signals, the different communication frequencies (bands or the radio wave spectrum) are assigned by the Federal Communications Commission. For the United States, they decide which frequency ranges can be used for different technologies and by which industry (airlines, medical devices, cellular, public safety, etc.).

Currently in the US, the assigned spectrums for a wireless local network (WLAN) are in the 2.4 GHz to 5 Ghz bands. Within these frequencies there are multiple channels. In the 2.4 band, there are 14 channels (but only 11 are allowed in North America). Of these eleven, there are only 3 that do not overlap on the others: 1, 6 and 11.

When you are setting up your wireless network, or adjusting the channels as you should from time to time, you can see which channels have the highest traffic. Selecting bandwidth is usually done automatically by your router, but some, as in the case of Linksys, the bandwidth can be selected manually if you wish.

Early devices (using 802.11b or g) should use the 20 MHz bandwidth. If your devices are exclusively using the 5 GHz band, you may benefit by selecting the higher range. I recommend that you don’t monkey around with this setting unless you really know what you are doing - or tech support tells you to do it.

If you are using an 802.11ac router you will notice the box says “dual band.” This means that the router drops back to 2.4 GHz for connecting to older devices, in this case it’s recommended that you let your router make the decision automatically.

In my post on How to Boost Strong WiFi in Every Room, I show how I use an app called WiFi Analyzer to see the data traffic generated by my neighbors. Once you see which channels are most crowded with traffic, you can select the emptiest channel for your home WiFi network. This will assure better connections and less interference.

Transfer Rates: How Many bits per second?

As data transfer rates increase, there are more multiples for the speed in which data travels. They are referenced in “bit” per second. In the video I spoke of a mid-eighties 300 baud modem which transferred data at 300 Kbps. In case you’re wondering, kbps moved 125 bytes per second.

With the move to wireless, transmission sped up to megabits, written as Mbps. Mbps transfers a million bits or a thousand kilobits. Now we’re looking at Gbps speeds, moving 125,000,000 bytes per second - or more practically, 1,000 Mpbs or a million kilobits per second. The next iteration will be Terabits (Tbps) moving a thousand gigabits per second. You do the math, that’s crazy fast.

None of us live in a laboratory, and this is where the ultimate speeds are measured. Most of the “theoretical” speeds are done with mathematical equations.

Antennas? MIMO? Whaaat?!

In many routers, the antennas are internal. In others you can see (and even upgrade) the higher gain antennas. External antennas can be adjusted for optimum range (Will cover this in an upcoming post). Each antenna in the early protocols (Single Input Single Output) designated one antenna at the router to transmit and the other single antenna at your device to receive data. When multiple devices are leaching off the same singular signal, you can just imagine (and have no doubt experienced) how the speed degrades.

The newer protocols invoke MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) uses multiple antennae at the transmission point and multiple streams, thereby increasing performance significantly. The antennas can be pooled to optimize your stream. MIMO also can deliver four spatial streams of data to your devices. If your devices (laptops, tablets, gaming) do not support MIMO, you cannot get the full benefit of this technology.

Again, assuming your devices can take advantage of it, MU-MIMO (Multi user) send out separate signals (up to eight) to lock on to each device demanding a WiFi signal. Each antenna can also transmit a signal to multiple devices depending on demand. (As I said in the video, buying an inexpensive 802.11ac WiFi dongle will easily upgrade your laptop).

Remember, your network can only run as fast as the data is sent to it. In my case I receive 100Mbps from my cable provider. I can’t make the data run any faster.
This post was sponsored by Linksys 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

How To Buy the Best Wireless Router for Your Network

Ask anyone. A strong, clear and fast Wi-Fi signal is one of the most important things to us (that is after food – but before sex – according to a new study). First world problems, I know. The connection to the internet for your office and home is critical; and these days, with the multitude of devices we connect to our router, speed is of the essence.

If you’ve read my post on boosting your Wi-Fi and you still need more, this post should answer your questions. I’m not suggesting that you break the bank, but spending more on essentials is a good idea. Your internet connection probably needs to be fast and ready for you twenty four/seven and has become an essential utility. When you chose to upgrade, consider amortizing the cost over the number of devices you're asking for a clean signal, then it won’t seem as much.

A May 2015 study from IDC found that 95% of those surveyed said they had routers with older protocols or did not know which wireless protocol they used. After you finish reading here, and upgrading your router, you will be one of the top 5%.


Previous routers boasted MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) radios through past protocols. Today’s newest use MU-MIMO (multi user, multiple input and multiple output) which provides significant performance gains. By sending simultaneous transmissions to your individual devices on the same channel of your wireless network the signal goes through without lag or buffering.  This means that the movie streamed to your TV and the video chat with your friend can each get their own Wi-Fi connection. MU-MIMO is more efficient, each user gets their own slice of airtime.

Multiple USB, eSATA, Ethernet and Gigabit Ports

Your new router should have several ports where you can connect various devices. A USB 3.0 port is the fastest current USB connection with data transfer up to 10 Gbps, so be sure you have at least one of these. You can connect digital media and hard drives to them for fast access throughout your network. They are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices (up to 6 Gbps), but you won’t get the advantage of the faster connection. Additional USB ports are preferable if they are eSATA.  eSATA is a powered (either 5 V or 12V) USB 2.0 hybrid USB port where you can connect additional drives or USB connected printers to your network for sharing.

Ethernet ports are also important for connecting to bridged networks or wired devices on your network. Having a Gigabit ethernet port is a plus; enabling you to hardwire your computer to a blazing fast 1000Mbps connection. (For best performance, be sure to use CAT5E or higher rated cables in these ports).

Dual Band Connectivity

In my last article on wireless, "How to Boost Strong Wi-Fi in every Room,” I explain the difference between the 2.4 Ghz and the 5 Ghz bands. Connecting appropriate devices to the bands as mentioned in the post will speed up your wireless connections and prevent unnecessary buffering.

It's also a plus, security-wise, if you have dual-band guest networks with different login credentials.

Antennas? or no antennas

Personally I think antennas make any wireless device look like they’re ready to conquer the airwaves. Many internal antennas are omni-directional (they send and receive from any direction). But does it really make a difference if you have external antennas? Many top-line newer routers feature external antennas for good reason, they are adjustable (generally straight up for one-story homes). They also connect directly with your devices (see beamforming below) and can also be removed and swapped out for more powerful, high gain antennas.
TIP: If your current devices (tablets and laptops) do not support all these high tech solutions, look for an inexpensive USB wireless adapter for your legacy devices and you will get the benefits of your new router.

Beamforming technology

The latest AC routers feature “beamforming.”  Beamforming technology enables the router to identify and connect directly with devices. It actually tracks each device, versus broadcasting in a circle equally in all directions.

High speed 802.11

You may have seen letters after the numbers 802.11 on your devices. The letters signify the protocol of the wireless technology used in your device. In a future post, I will explain the progress of wireless standards and what each brings to the user. Popular versions from the recent past have included 802.11g and 802.11n.  To get the latest in technology, look for the most current standard “AC” or 802.11ac. The AC protocol supports the fastest transfer rates currently available.

These variations have been monitored by the non-profit WiFi Alliance since 2002 to certify that wireless devices will work with other devices across brands. When you’ve narrowed your search to a few routers, you can double check their status of interoperability at their site here.

Although it is highly unlikely that you will reach maximum cleanroom speeds (as advertised on most routers' packaging), they may say they are capable of s high as 1900Mbps. More than likely, you can get pretty much expect to get what your ISP says you can get, they set the speed.


This post wouldn’t be complete unless I remind you that the fastest cable modem currently available is DOCSIS 3.0 (backwards compatible with older standards).  DOCSIS 3.0 has more channels than previous versions and can bond multiple channels for higher speeds. The typical DOCSIS 3.0 modem generally has four or eight channels for downloading and can result in a speed cap of 172Mbps or 344Mbps. For uploading, they generally support four channels up to 124 Mbps. DOCSIS 2.0 (the previous iteration) is much slower and only supports one channel up and one channel down. If you rent your modem from your internet provider, request an upgrade.

Why not print out this post and take it with you when you shop for a modem, so you won’t get confused (like I do) by the many tech catchwords you will see on the boxes.

This post was sponsored by Linksys 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Revealed! All-New Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

I was invited to Detroit for a special event. The Chevrolet people were a little cagey about what was going to happen during my visit, but since I am a sucker for almost anything automotive, I made the trip. There was so much to see, so many places to go. I got to visit the General Motors Social Customer Service team (but that's a topic for another post) and see some amazing vintage Corvettes. But the definite highlight of my visit was the reveal of the all-new 2016 Camaro convertible, featuring the segment’s most-advanced top.

The 2016 Camaro is the only convertible in the segment to offer all of the following:
Fully automatic operation with latches that automatically release and secure the top
Capability of opening or closing at speeds up to 30 mph
Remote opening with the key fob
A hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically, providing a more refined, finished appearance when the top is lowered and stowed.
Check out the video below to see it in action, I used the Periscope app to broadcast the big reveal and got an audience of 1,200 live viewers, so I guess I am not the only one excited by this car. This sexy vehicle arrives at dealers in early 2016..
The electro-hydraulic power roof system features multilayer construction – including acoustic and thermal barriers – designed for a comfortable, quiet driving experience in all seasons. The top emulates the sleek silhouette of the Camaro coupe.
“The 2016 Camaro coupe will set the benchmark for the segment in terms of technology, performance, and design,” said Todd Christensen, Camaro marketing manager. “Adding the most sophisticated top in the segment brings another level of refinement, and driving enjoyment, to the Camaro convertible.”
Like the Camaro coupe, the convertible benefits from a stiffer, lighter structure that helps reduce total vehicle weight by at least 200 pounds compared to the model it replaces. Consequently, the Camaro convertible retains the coupe’s sharp chassis tuning and nimble reflexes.
“From the beginning, the Camaro’s architecture was developed to incorporate a convertible with uncompromised driving dynamics,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “Customers will appreciate what they don’t feel: quivers, cowl shake or an under-damped chassis typically found in a four-seat convertible.”
The architecture also enables the Camaro convertible’s sleek design, allowing the top to fold down completely beneath the belt line. The hard tonneau cover automatically covers the folded top, creating a finished appearance.
“With many convertibles, you have to affix a tonneau cover manually – if it’s done at all,” said Tom Peters, design director. “The Camaro convertible’s automatically deploying hard tonneau not only makes it easier to enjoy convertible driving when the inspiration hits, it ensures the car always looks its best.”

About the 2016 Camaro

The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro offers higher levels of performance, technology and refinement and is designed to maintain the sporty car segment leadership earned over the past five years.

Offered in LT and SS models, it provides a faster, more nimble driving experience, enabled by an all-new, lighter architecture – at least 200 pounds lighter than the current model – and a broader powertrain range.

Six all-new powertrain combinations are offered, including a 2.0L Turbo rated at an SAE-certified 275 horsepower, an all-new 3.6L V-6 producing and SAE-certified 335 horsepower, and the LT1 6.2L V-8, which is SAE-certified at 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque – the most powerful Camaro SS ever. Each engine is available with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.

Camaro’s leaner, stiffer platform and slightly smaller dimensions are accentuated by a dramatic, sculpted exterior. Meticulously tuned in the wind tunnel, the exterior contributes to performance through reduced aerodynamic lift for better handling while enhancing highway fuel efficiency.

Inside, the driver-focused cabin integrates class-leading control technologies, including a new Driver Mode Selector, configurable instrument cluster and a customizable ambient lighting feature.

The 2016 Camaro coupe and convertible will be produced at General Motors’ Lansing Grand River assembly plant in Lansing, Mich.
FAST FACT: In 1967 – Camaro’s first model year – the available convertible model came with a manually operated top. A power-operated top was a $52.70 option selected by 47 percent of buyers.  
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 115 countries and selling around 4.8 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on the new Camaro can be found here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Revealed today! 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible makes its world debut Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Camaro convertible car has a hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically, providing a more refined, finished appearance when the top is lowered and stowed. It is capable of opening or closing at speeds up to 30 mph. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)