Chang­ing router’s ‘line of sight’ fixes some Wi-Fi con­nec­tion prob­lems

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - BOB AND JOY SCHWABACH

A reader wrote us to say he’s barely able to con­nect to the In­ter­net wire­lessly, even though his phone is just 20 feet away from his AT&T router. Two bars is the best he gets. We told him to call AT&T, since they’ll re­place his router or add a booster for free; it’s part of the monthly con­tract. How­ever, that may not work.

What he’s opened up is a much larger prob­lem that many peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence, and it’s def­i­nitely worth go­ing into. It is a trick­ier sub­ject than it first ap­pears. The sub­ject of ra­dio broad­casts (which is what your wire­less mo­dem is do­ing) and re­ceiv­ing them is a spe­cial field of its own in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing. An­tenna de­sign can re­quire some heavy math­e­mat­ics. Even when the cal­cu­la­tions are right, the re­sults are of­ten dicey. Broad­casts can be af­fected by changes in air tem­per­a­ture, mois­ture and most of all by what is in be­tween — par­tic­u­larly walls, the thicker the worse.

For in­stance, we couldn’t get a wire­less In­ter­net con­nec­tion to our bed­room, even though it’s just 25 feet from the of­fice router. Nat­u­rally we called AT&T. A tech­ni­cian came out and in­stalled a Net­gear booster but that didn’t help. We gave it back to AT&T and bought a Google Wi-Fi, which is a sig­nal booster slightly thicker than a hockey puck. At first, it worked per­fectly. But af­ter a few min­utes the sig­nal dropped out.

At that point, Bob brought up the three magic words of wire­less re­cep­tion: “line of sight.” Man­u­fac­tur­ers of modems and other sig­nal gen­er­a­tors will typ­i­cally claim a range of up to 200 feet. Yeah, if ev­ery­thing’s per­fect. They’re talk­ing about the line of sight be­tween broad­cast and re­ceiver be­ing clear of all ob­sta­cles. Walls are ob­sta­cles.

Joy had put the Google Wi-Fi booster next to the of­fice mo­dem. It seemed rea­son­able, but from there the wire­less sig­nal had to go through a closet stuffed with ex­tra equip­ment and ca­bles, through two tiled bath­room walls, a hall book­case, then a bed­room wall and all 20 vol­umes of the Ox­ford English

Dic­tionary. Books can block an as­ton­ish­ing amount of ra­di­a­tion.

By sim­ply mov­ing the Google sig­nal booster (it has a long cord) so that the sig­nal

only had to go through one wall, it was “Bingo!” time. The sig­nal to the Ama­zon Echo Dot (you know: Alexa) in the bed­room was strong and con­stant. This will work for any­one with re­cep­tion prob­lems: re­mem­ber “line of sight.” Keep that trans­mis­sion lane as open as pos­si­ble.

An ob­ser­vant reader could point out we might have im­proved sig­nal clar­ity just by mov­ing the AT&T router in­stead of buy­ing a booster unit. The AT&T tech­ni­cian should have thought of that too, but didn’t. In any event, it was worth a few bucks to get a booster that can be moved around to get the best line of sight.


It’s hard to leave your browser. We re­mem­ber the first one we ever tried, Netscape Nav­i­ga­tor, back in the 1990s. Then there was In­ter­net Ex­plorer (in all its many in­car­na­tions), Fire­fox, Sa­fari, Opera and Google Chrome, which we’re sort of stuck on. How­ever, the new Vi­valdi browser is re­ally in­ter­est­ing.

Vi­valdi is avail­able free from Vi­ and places a lot of ex­tra tools at your dis­posal. Click the “Notes” icon to make a to-do list or notes page that lives next to the main win­dow, but can be tog­gled on or off. Click the down­loads icon to see your re­cent down­loads. If you tap the F2 key on your key­board, you can get a list of things to do, such as clear your brows­ing data, get a list of key­board short­cuts, open a pri­vacy page, and so on. If you close a tab by mis­take, just click the trash can. It has a list of ev­ery­where you’ve been.

Vi­valdi comes with a lot of built-in rec­om­men­da­tions for where to go on the web. Click on the book­mark sym­bol to see fold­ers full of pos­si­bil­i­ties. Un­der tech­nol­ogy, there are over 20 lead­ing sites. There are lots of op­tions un­der en­ter­tain­ment, news, travel, busi­ness and games too.

Vi­valdi was cre­ated by one of the founders of the Opera browser. Like Opera, it is at its root based on the Chrome browser. It’s like a highly cus­tom­iz­a­ble ver­sion of Chrome. For more info, search on the phrase “9 Rea­sons to Switch to Vi­valdi.” A rea­son not to switch? Adding an ex­tra layer to Chrome, as Vi­valdi does, could slow things slightly.


99bit­ has a list of who ac­cepts bit­coins, the vir­tual cur­rency. We were sur­prised to see Sub­way, Mi­crosoft, Dell, Bloomberg, Ex­pe­dia and T-Mo­bile Poland on the list. A sin­gle bit­coin now trades around $2,500 in U.S cur­rency.

“Fif­teen Crazy Things Peo­ple Have Found in Their Homes.” Google that phrase to find an amaz­ing list. A hus­band and wife found an Ac­tion Comics No. 1 comic book from 1938 worth $1.5 mil­lion. An­other fam­ily found a fully stocked ser­vants kitchen, com­plete with pots and pans hang­ing on the wall, hid­ing be­hind junk in the base­ment. A cou­ple oth­ers found cash — $45,000 in one case, $50,000 in an­other.

“High Jump: Cos­mos, the In­fo­graphic Book of Space.” Search on that phrase to find out how high you could jump on Pluto, a comet, the moon, and many other places. When you click “jump,” you see a stick fig­ure jump. On Pluto, you could jump about 25 feet. If you made it to comet 67P, you could jump thou­sands of feet; land­ing would be tough though.

“Most In­ter­est­ing Li­braries in the World.” Google that for quite a show of beau­ti­ful places to read a book. Google “28 Most Spec­tac­u­lar Li­braries” for even more. Worth trav­el­ing.

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