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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A Cautionary Tale of Meshes & Networks

ubiquiti amplifi 300pxEveryone wants great Wi-Fi. That much is a given. Our homes occasionally make achieving this difficult, either by way of their sheer size or manner of construction. This is a cautionary tale about a project I undertook around our home, and its unexpected impact on our Wi-Fi.

In recent years wireless mesh networks have become quite fashionable. And why not? Providing reliable coverage in a large home may require multiple wireless access points. Pulling Ethernet cable to each of those locations (yeah, baby!) is beyond all but the most ambitious of DIY homeowners.

For the average Joe installing one central router, then plugging in a couple of more distant wireless repeaters seems so much easier. That’s a Saturday morning chore that might well ingratiate you with the family.

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User Experience: T-Mobile’s Continental Plans

TMobile-Phones-CoOmpositeEarlier this year T-Mobile altered their US Simple Choice Plans to include coverage in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. The plans eliminate roaming while out of the country, but also eliminate international long distance when calling Canada and Mexico. Further, they include “4G LTE data in Canada & Mexico.” Since we go to Canada to visit family at least once a year the new plan sounded quite useful.

Change is hard…

Last month we made our annual trek to the Great White North. While making plans an associate, who is also a T-Mobile customer, recommended that I call T-Mobile and make sure that we had the correct plan. Failure to do so would result in us incurring the usual roaming charges for platinum-plated voice and data service while travelling.

On the very eve of our departure I remembered to call T-Mobile and make the change to the account. In fact, I called from the airport (IAH) while we were awaiting the departure of our initial flight to Toronto.

Of course, I called the from my mobile phone. The automated system advised that there would be some on-hold time, and I could opt to have them call me back, which I did. The callback took about ten minutes.

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