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