While we are trying to stay cool this week, I had some time to do some wireless tests at the Strom world HQ. And when I started to add up all the wireless stuff that I have beaming radio waves around here, I was impressed that everything just sorta works, given all the crossed signals.
Let’s make a list, shall we, of the wireless stuff that is in a typical house: besides the wireless LAN, there are Bluetooth headsets, wireless mice and keyboards that may be running on infrared or some other signal, remote controls to the TV and stereo, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and let’s not forget garage door openers too. Heck, my wife just bought a fan yesterday that had a wireless remote control, which got me thinking about all this wireless stuff out there.
If you are in the market for a new cordless phone, make sure you get one that operates at the higher 5 GHz frequencies if you can — you will get a clearer signal and stay out of the WiFi band that your network operates on. That is, unless you have an 11a network.
What about the wireless LAN — that has its own idiosyncrasies. Most of you are probably not aware that the current crop of wireless LANs operates on three non-overlapping frequencies out of all 11 frequencies that are available — channels 1, 6, and 11. It is best to do a site survey and figure out if you can move your own access point/router to some other frequency that will have better reception. In my case, I had plenty of neighbors who were using channels 1 and 6, but only one on 11.
How do you do a site survey? If you have the Canary WiFi spotter, you can do it easily in about two minutes, because this handy device tells you immediately what channel everything is talking on. And you can move from one side of your house to the other easily and see how the signals change. Failing that, you can bring up your laptop’s wireless control panel and root around for a while seeing if you can make sense of the information it is telling you while walking around your house.
Once you get the frequency, you will have to dig out your wireless router’s manual and figure out how to connect to its management interface and make the change to its parameters on the right page. While you are on this page, if you have a wireless router that operates on more than one protocol, such as a b/g or a/b router, now is the time to turn off the ones that your computers don’t use. If you have those 5 GHz phones, then turn off the 11a signals and you will get better reception, provided none of your laptops are running 11a cards. Got that?
Finally, there is Bluetooth, which operates at near the same frequencies as our wireless 11b/g networks in the 2 GHz ranges, along with microwave ovens. Now, most of us aren’t on our Bluetooth headsets all that long anyway, but some new ones are coming out there that can do double duty — such as answer calls from our desk phones and also be used to connect to our PC audio to listen to music or make VOIP calls. I tried out the GN Netcom GN9350 and it worked well, even on my Mac that isn’t promised in its manual. The one downside is there are a lot more wires on my desk, and the unit doesn’t do caller ID on its futuristic base station. I could roam all over the house with this unit, which is very nice, but I wonder how my wireless LAN connectivity is affected. Blandford’s article talks about a 10% hit in his tests.
Have fun with your wireless networks, and enjoy your summer.