Dave in the City out West (DITCOW)

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Blog: Fixing those WiFi Blues

November 22nd, 2015

We had a moment of triumph with the home wireless network this weekend.    I, along with others around the apartment, could tell that the connections were sub par.    I knew the overall network speed was rather good because my speed tests over ethernet were always great, but any tests over wifi on any device would run 10-20mbps, no more.

This was pretty lame, but it was workable... recently we noticed that peoples' connections were dropping out and I was hearing about it.  My room mates were not into it at all.   I had to be honest, it never bothered me as much because I wasn't using wireless that extensively and the podcast operations went through Ethernet.   However I know it's pretty bad because signals were just flat dropping out, and whenever I ran baseball or other video streams onto my Google Chromecast, it was spotty performance.  Sometimes it was good but other times it would freeze and drop out.   It almost seemed like the dropouts were getting worse too.

On Saturday, I tried to download 4 podcasts totaling 1GB and after an hour of slow download speed I had enough.  I thought "this is ridiculous!   It takes over an hour to download four shows?"   So, I carried on with my plan to go see football and boxing at the bar and the movie theatre respectively, but on the way over I stopped at Staples.

I want to give the fine people at Staples a huge attaboy because these guys have had very real, honest, helpful advice with computer solutions.   I mean that.  I was speaking to the fella in the store and asked for advice on wireless routers, and I had it in my mind to get the Nighthawk router from NETGEAR.   Nighthawk is the top of the line, end all be all beast of a wireless router.  You could run government operations with this thing, it was impressive.  It was also nearly 200 dollars.  So I asked without bringing up Nighthawk about what is good for Wireless routers.  He recommended a Linksys router that was way, wayyyyyyyyyyyyy cheaper and he really liked it a lot.  He even said how it handles video games really well.  I asked him how many people use it at his household and he said 3 people use it every day.  That was tremendous!   I thought "I should forgo the expensive Nighthawk and try the Linksys out first.. if it hits all the speeds this will be good enough."

I went for it -- bought the new Linksys router and set it up the next morning.   In between I checked out the Cotto/Canelo fight at the Cinemark theater near me, very good fight!   Granted, Canelo was controlling it the whole way, he was huge compared to Cotto physically.  His punches landed way harder and he fought with forward momentum in every round but three of them.   The Cinemark, which used to be a "Cinema de Lux" theatre called "The Bridge", has been around longer than I realized -- it opened in 2001 apparently but the upkeep and occasional renovations have held up nicely under Cinemark control.   More than I expected, I suppose.    I had to think this theatre was built before 2006 because practically zero theatres built since that time have stadium auditoria with screens optimized for the wider 2.35:1 aperture.  In fact, taking this further the newest screens now have the screen go HIGHER rather than wider, a return to the original academy 1.33:1 ratio but its actually taller than that even, which would be what IMAX does... and Cinemark basically does a similar style presentation without the IMAX licensing.   I'm told it's very very good, and a huge screen with great sound.

Boy I got sidetracked didn't I?   Anyway, I snuck into another large screen back at the Cinemark, which has 18 screens.   It's a huge place... now Theatre 14 was showing the Hunger Game Mockingjay Part 2, and as I entered I noticed how wide the screen was... I thought "This is a side masking theatre!  How cool is this??"   You can really take advantage of the super-wide aperture such that it fills the entire front of the theatre, side to side, AND top to bottom.   What a sight!  I only got a peek for a minute but it was very cool to see it.   In actuality, you don't really need the theatre designed for 2.35:1 anymore given the move to large format *taller* screens, but the funny thing is virtually all movies today, like 90% of them, are presented with the 2.35:1 ratio.   The IMAX style movies are just for about a dozen films a year.

After touring the other screens, I went to a 230 seat auditorium, not big, but I would say it's a comfortable, medium-large sized screen very capable of nice presentation, bigger than a lot of screens in the suburbs, top down masking, so it's fitted for a 1.85:1 aperture.  This was where the boxing match was being projected for the evening.  I paid 19 dollars for a ticket to see the fight.  Let me tell you, once I sat down in my plush leather reclining seat with extra large arm rest, I was SO glad with the decision.   I had a sharp crisp clear, pretty detailed 1080p projection screen that was at least 50 feet wide, a guaranteed seat, and nice air conditioning the whole night.  Compare this to what I could have had going to a regular sports bar... a cover of 20 dollars AND a first come first serve scenario for what was THE fight of the fall by far in LOS ANGELES even.   There was no way I wouldn't be scratching and clawing for a space just to stand!  I would not have had a seat most likely.  What if it was so packed already that I couldn't enter in the first place?!  No way folks, no way.

Going to see the boxing at the movies is a much better deal.   Certainly worked out very well on this night at what, thankfully, is still a terrific venue.  I didn't have high hopes honestly, I was reading all sorts of criticism from movie snobs about the Cinemark 18 following Cinemark ownership.  The theatre used to be run by "National Amusements", and here's a fun fact, National Amusements is the parent company of CBS and Viacom.  I was unaware, wow!  It was a really nice theatre in those days and my first visit to the place was around roughly 2007 to see "Charlie Wilson's War" on a modest sized screen.   My friends: it's still a nice place now and the screens look to be in good shape at least from what I saw.

The fight was very fun, and there was one undercard bout that was quite crazy!  Vargas won the match against a guy from Tokyo despite looking beat going into the round... but I thought Vargas has no chance, but suddenly out of nowhere he flat out knocks out the Tokyo guy!  Whoah.

I talked with the server fella at the theatre's bar after the match and told him how the fight went and we talked boxing for a good 20 minutes.  That was a good night.

So, the next morning it was time, I had my new Linksys wireless router and set it up after I woke up.   As it set up it asked me about how to assign the two networks.  I get two networks with this new router now!  The networks are a 2.4GHz Network and a 5 GHz Network which means the network is on a different broadcasting channel.  Think of it like AM and FM on your radio.   I was pleased with the speed test results on the 2.4GHz network... the speeds on wireless were much faster than before, even exceeding 30Mbps I believe.  I said, this router is a winner, it tripled the speed I used to get on average.

That was just the beginning, ohhhh baby I was not *prepared* for what happened next.  I thought "all right, what if I just jump my router to the 5GHz network for fun?"  When I moved to 5 GHz we were BLAZING!!!!!   Everything went way faster.  I almost jumped out of my seat when I did speed test on the 5GHz network... 80-100 Mbps!!  OH BABY!  It was outstanding!!  FINALLY I had proper download speed matching what the Cable Network subscription offered over the cable modem.  Could not believe it.   Furthermore, I asked my room mates to test connections and streams... they said no more dropouts, which were frequent before.   

What a moment... I was trying to hold off on this upgrade because I didn't justify the expense, but it really wasn't even that expensive and the improvement is enormous.   We are talking anywhere from 5x to 9x faster speeds over wireless devices.  It is HAYUGE.   More importantly, the signal is so much stronger now that dropouts and buffer delays should be a thing of the past.  I'm so thankful to finally get on the new modem... and it made me wonder - why did I put up with such inadequate speed for so long?  Most of what I do, twitter, web browsing, and youtube, didn't need huge connections, but I certainly put up with a lot more delays, hangups, and dropouts than I should of.   That problem is no more.  Thanks very much to Linksys for putting out such a fine product and I'm glad to an extent that my room mates kept griping about network issues... it was a good wake up call that led to a much better experience in the end.

Now, here's where it gets exciting...  I'm going to make improvements just like this to someone else's home soon.   I cannot wait!  It's going to be so awesome to see the smiles on their faces when it is complete.  I wont's say who or specifically what but not only is it going to happen, it's going to make my life easier as well.  I'll share more on that later on.

For now, why don't I file this blog posting and download some files on a super fast carrier?   Away we go!  Catch you all soon, and if I don't write anything before then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving everybody.