Get­ting the most out of Wi-Fi some­times means drilling through walls

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

We have a reader named McCoy, and he main­tains that he is “The Real McCoy” (ac­cept no sub­sti­tutes). Well, we believe him and he has some good tips, which we will pass along a lit­tle fur­ther down the way.

But first: This goes back to a topic we wrote about on July 10. It’s an im­por­tant topic, and be­com­ing more im­me­di­ate as the world goes in­creas­ingly gonzo about new dig­i­tal as­sis­tants such as Google Home and Ama­zon Echo. Of course — as usual — the sit­u­a­tion will grow in­creas­ingly worse as other man­u­fac­tur­ers join the fray.

Our In­ter­net sig­nal is strong in our of­fice but not so good just 40 feet away. We bought a Google Wi-Fi router, which im­proved our wire­less re­cep­tion but not enough. So we called Google Store’s cus­tomer ser­vice, which by the way, han­dles ev­ery­thing Google-re­lated, even Gmail, and it’s free. The tech guy was a na­tive English speaker and first checked our con­nec­tions to make sure no one else’s Wi-Fi sig­nal was in­ter­fer­ing with ours. All was clear there.

The next use­ful thing he did was in­tro­duce us — and now you — to a free app called WiFi An­a­lyzer, which works with An­droid, Ap­ple and Win­dows 10. The app has a gauge and as we moved the phone around, the nee­dle fluc­tu­ated through a range of green to gray. He agreed with the Real McCoy that some­thing was caus­ing a ma­jor dis­rup­tion. He sug­gested we get a longer cord and ex­per­i­ment with mov­ing the Google Wi-Fi de­vice around.

With a longer Eth­er­net cable, we were able to put the Google Wi-Fi router in our liv­ing room by drilling a hole in the wall and snaking the cable through from the of­fice. The of­fice had our AT&T mo­dem; the liv­ing room just had fur­ni­ture. This im­proved things quite a bit. (NOTE: Some peo­ple may blanch at drilling holes in their walls, but it was easy, and Bob feels that walls are meant to have holes and it helps ful­fill their pur­pose.)

The closer your router is to the cen­ter of your house, apart­ment or busi­ness, the bet­ter the wire­less re­cep­tion. Google sells their router as one unit or a three pack, so you can place ad­di­tional “points” wire­lessly at some dis­tance. Joy points out that if

we had bought the three-pack in the first place, we could have placed the wired router in the of­fice and two wire­less points else­where. It’s $170 for a three-pack, $129 for a sin­gle.

There are sev­eral nonob­vi­ous ob­sta­cles that can pre­vent you from get­ting on the In­ter­net wire­lessly, not just hav­ing a lot of walls and other stuff in the way.

Pub­lic en­emy No. 1 is “video senders.” These are de­signed to beam your TV pic­ture to an­other TV in the house. You may not have one, but maybe your neigh­bor does. Baby mon­i­tors and se­cu­rity cam­eras con­stantly beam­ing out their sig­nals are sim­i­larly ob­struc­tive.

Other cul­prits:

■ The mi­crowave, at least while it’s on. Also, wire­less speak­ers and mu­sic play­ers. These de­vices do bat­tle with each other.

■ Cord­less phones, older Blue­tooth de­vices, Christ­mas lights, power ca­bles, mir­rors, plas­ter board, old TVs, fish tanks, and chicken wire round out the list. Chicken

wire? Well, you may not have chick­ens (on the other hand, maybe you do) but the wire mesh is of­ten used to help plas­ter stick to walls.

BEST TECH SUP­PORT

Google’s tech sup­port was so awe­some that it leads us to dis­cuss the best tech sup­port ser­vice we’ve ever en­coun­tered. The sup­port guy from Google even emailed us a cou­ple days later — on a Sun­day night — to ask if we had any other prob­lems. We’re think­ing of putting him on our Christ­mas list.

The only other tech­ni­cal sup­port we ever en­coun­tered as good as this is the one pro­vided by Oki­data, the printer com­pany. They an­swer at any hour, ev­ery day, and al­ways solve the prob­lem. This is the rea­son we al­ways buy Oki­data print­ers. So lis­ten up, you busi­ness school grad­u­ates: Tech sup­port re­ally is a profit cen­ter.

You can call Google on the phone, chat on­line, or have a video chat. In the video chat, you can see them but they don’t see you. That way they can demon­strate a prod­uct right be­fore your eyes. If you call (855) 836-3987, they can

route you to the right tech sup­port per­son. If you lose this num­ber, search on the phrase “Google Store cus­tomer ser­vice” from Google and it will come right up.

We even used their techs when we gave an old Google Chromecast de­vice to our friend Frieda but had trou­ble set­ting it up. A quick call to Google tech sup­port fixed it.

APP HAPPY

■ Start.Me is a free ex­ten­sion for your browser. It gives you a page on the Web with ev­ery­thing or­ga­nized — your fa­vorite web­site links off to the left, with today’s news on the right. In the mid­dle are icons for all the most pop­u­lar web­sites, or­ga­nized un­der the cat­e­gories “So­cial,” “Shop­ping” and “Google Links.” Un­der links, for ex­am­ple, you’ll find YouTube, Gmail, Cal­en­dar, the Google Play store and oth­ers. The whole page is cus­tom­iz­a­ble. Get it at the web­site Start.me.

■ Airbnb, a free app for An­droid and Ap­ple, is now mov­ing be­yond of­fer­ing places to stay. Click “Ex­pe­ri­ences” to find cook­ing classes, foodie tours, craft les­sons, and mu­sic tours.

CURSORS, FOILED AGAIN

When we’re typ­ing in Mi­crosoft Word on our Win­dows com­put­ers, we of­ten lose sight of the cur­sor. We move the mouse around and still can’t find it. If this hap­pens to you, change your mouse set­tings. We did.

In the search box in Win­dows, type “Mouse Set­tings.” (In Win­dows 10, there’s one ex­tra step: Click “Ad­di­tional Mouse Op­tions.”) When “Mouse Prop­er­ties” comes up, click the “Point­ers” tab. Un­der “Scheme,” choose “Win­dows Black Ex­tra Large.” Now look un­der “Cus­tom­ize,” and find the words “Text Se­lect.” Click to high­light “Text Se­lect.” Then click “Browse” and choose some­thing you find easy to see. We chose the ex­tra large black ar­row.

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