How-To: Filling in a Wi-Fi Dead Spot on a Budget

For the past year I’ve been on the board of our local civic association. I did this to get me out of the house and more engaged in the local community. As a result I’ve become more aware of some of the IT issues that typically confront our neighbors. Beyond dealing with dastardly ISPs, one of the most common problems is poor Wi-Fi coverage throughout a home. When the question came up again just recently, I thought it worth collecting my thoughts on the matter and sharing them here.

Preface: The Wired

This is, for me, a statement of philosophy. Wherever possible I prefer wired, Ethernet connections to devices on my network. Wires are inconvenient to install, but are extremely reliable, and with the exception of intrusion by the occasional hungry rodent, last a very long time. If you want things to work all-the-time, every time, wired is the way to go. Period.

 

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Village Telco Explained In Video

Even though I live in a developed place like Houston TX I simply cannot help be be drawn to the principles of The Village Telco. A combination of open source software and open source hardware bringing basic, reliable communication services to an under-served population without interference from incumbent telcos or government bureaucracies. What’s not to like?

Recently some folks have been seeking to sharpen the image and message of the project, to make the idea it presents easier to spread. To aid in getting the word out they developed a new logo, a new website and finally a nice short one-minute video that sums it all up in a really easy-to-understand way.

I’ve worked in video production and broadcasting all of my adult life. IMHO, this is an outstanding piece of work. It communicates the message and potential of the project very effectively. It makes me wish that my college-age niece was still living two doors down just so that I could use a couple of mesh potatoes to graft her onto our phone service.

Great work! Great project. Don’t you need a couple of mesh potatoes?

A Tale Of Wonky Wifi Part 4: A Doubleheader Featuring 802.11B/G vs N, And WLAN vs Mesh

When last we left this story our protagonist had returned the Cisco AP to BUY.COM leaving le maison du Graves without functional wifi for about two weeks. Fortunately I was out of town a lot during that period so it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. If anything it gave me some time to evaluate my options regarding replacement gear.

I’ve noted that whereas I had a lot of problems with 802.11n type wifi APs I’d previously had far fewer issues with 802.11g type hardware. Very recently I was reminded by someone who should know that 802.11a/b/g is more mature hardware than 802.11n. This certainly rings true as my very old Linksys WAP-54G ran for literally years with no problems at all.

How I long for the Linksys of old.

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A Tale Of Wonky Wifi Part 3: Wifi Access Point vs Router

There are myriad inexpensive consumer routers available that include wifi functionality, but far fewer freestanding wifi access points (AP.) I surmise that this is because every broadband connected home needs a router and wants a wifi AP, so a converged device is the most affordable approach to this marketplace. Yet in many ways it’s less than ideal.

The fact that your router and wifi access point are in one device makes that device a major possible single point of failure. It dies and your entire network goes down. While merely inconvenient for the kids coming home after school to play World Of Warcraft, it’s a whole different kind of failure if you’re a full-time home office worker who relies on internet access to be effective in your job.

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A Tale Of Wonky Wifi Part 2: Some History & Seeking Advice

This is part 2 in the continuing saga of my fight with replacing a dead Netgear WNR-2000 that had served a my wifi AP.  Please recall that I just RMA’d the Cisco WAP4410N that was to be its replacement.

Firstly, I think that I was a very early adopter of both residential broadband and wifi. Linksys was the obvious leader in devices for this market. I bought a Linksys WAP-11 when they were brand new and fairly pricey. I wired it into my trusty Linksys BEFSR-41 4-port wired router. That device was fed by a Time-Warner Road Runner cable modem back in 1998.

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Village Telco Imagines A Phone Mesh

Open source software is a really wonderful idea. And if you like that then open source hardware should prove to be attractive as well. The folks at the Village Telco Project in South Africa have recently posted an interesting bit about assembling a mesh network for telephony, based upon David Rowe’s Mesh Potatoe hardware.

This is very interesting stuff. I get a big kick out of anything that goes into concerns where the commercial telcos just can’t be bothered. As a topic area, that’s actually a surprisingly large amount of ground, despite their beloved USF slush fund.