Monday, May 14, 2018

New Modem or Router?

 The most frequent question I get asked is the following:

Internet is not working well for me.  what do I do?

Before I get to answer, I often get asked whether a modem or router should be replaced or a tech called in at $100 an hour?

Before any of that happens we need first to determine if we are getting a good signal into our system.

All kinds of things can happen which interfere with that.

And there is no point in replacing anything if the problem lies elsewhere before getting to our system.

So we need to have our provider check signal strength with a proper meter to determine simply if we are getting a good signal.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are far more points of failure before signal gets to us then within our own system.   

These include type of cabling and proper cable maintenance.    Typically switches and so-called splitters fail frequently before a doistant signal even gets to our equipment.

Archaic equipment may reside anywhere between you and the source of your data.   Somewhere in the chain there may be reliance on age old telephone equipment.

It is a miracle that the system works at all.     A little understanding of how it works will aid in addressing problems with it.

Before internet was in place,  it was indeed understood how to make it work once the electronic technology was in hand.    

Communication had to work even where that technology failed,  so how could that be done?

This is what you need to know.

Internet communication works exactly like the post office.    Information is transmitted by packets. packets are just like letters.     They include a sender's address and the receivers address and content.

These electronic packets can contain any kind of information and enough of them  can present music or pictures or videos simply text material when assembled by the receiving device.

The transmission must be perfect,  so that every packet is sent back to make sure it had been received perfectly as compared with the original.    That way, you always get either perfect information or none at all or only some of the information or a slowdown when only some of the through and need to be sent repeatedly.

This last situation explains a lot of the problems that you may be having with internet.     Somewhere the packets are not getting through perfectly.

Could it be your equipment?     Most of the time it is not. However, simple measures like checking connections are basic.     Then the process of elimination takes over. Is the problem related to one particular device, or one particular website, or one particular location,  such as in wireless or Wi-Fi.

Next to getting a bad signal from your provider,  wireless is probably the next biggest area of problems.

The further you are from a wired connection, the more packet  loss you will have, of course. Typically Wi-Fi drops your internet speed by about two thirds.

With Wi-Fi you are also sharing communications with many others nearby,  using a limited number of channels available. There is only so much space available, so much bandwidth.  

When someone watches a Netflix movie,  throughput drops everywhere else accordingly.   That is just how the system works.

What happens here at times is that there may be interruptions or slowdowns  not related to anything more than high usage, and in no way related to your equipment whatever.

Streaming movies for example may stop and start,  especially on a wireless or Wi-Fi device,

That can be avoided by downloading them in advance,  which I highly recommend out of consideration for others.

Other palliative measures are simply to use devices which work well for speed of communication.     One such measure is a high-speed Wi-Fi adapter.

Or you could avoid Wi-Fi all together by using a so-called  ethernet adapter. Ethernet is the name for the most efficient and modern cabling,  also called twisted pair or 10 base T.

These can be a remedy for problems where your TV uses a streaming device like Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV.    There is even an adapter for an iPad, though it tethers you to a wired connection.

A frequent problem I have encountered is the use of an old computer which simply doesn't have the capability of doing anything fast,

Windows users need only to buy a cheap laptop to overcome such problems.     An up-to-dmate cheap $200 laptop will outperform an older unit which cost thousands of dollars.    I actually use a cheap Intel stick computer the size of a pack of chewing gum to work with an ancient display at extreme high speed.

So, it is only occasionally that a router or modem needs to be updated, and usually only by upgrading the so-called firmware online.

If your internet provider rents such to you, take advantage of rental and leave the problems to them. Alternatively, simply substitute a known reliable router or modem and see if that resolves your problem.   Mostly, it will not.

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