2011-08-31

RIP: 802.11b and 802.11g WIFI have died.

802.11b and 802.11g are utterly obsolete and must now be disabled by all access points, routers, and clients.

802.11b first emerged in 1999 - a hot new standard that provided inexpensive networking over the air. But by January 2003, a faster standard became commonplace - 802.11g. And since 2006, 802.11n based products have been on the scene.

Both 802.11b and 802.11g are inefficient.  These protocols consume valuable wireless bandwidth and manage to slow everyone down. And therefore, I proclaim that 802.11b and 802.11g must be immediately banned from the world. Doing so will speed access for everyone.

So log into your access points and disable the mixed modes that support anything below 802.11n. Throw out your old interface cards and routers. You, and 99.99% of the rest of the world will see much better performance.  Never buy a product that doesn't support 802.11n or better.

Upgrades are very inexpensive: 802.11n USB client interfaces are available for under $15, and 802.11n routers can be had for less than $25. At this point, there is simply no reason to have the obsolete protocols around.






2011-08-09

The Windy City

Some folks are under the mistaken assumption that Chicago is not actually a windy city.  They look at the NWS weather data and see that Milton, Massachusetts is the windiest city, and that Chicago is a bit down on the list.

The problem with this logic is that NWS weather stations are often not actually in the cities themselves, or at least not downtown.

The Milton, Massachusetts weather station is on Great Blue Hill (the namesake of WGBH), the highest prominence on the coast of Massachusetts.  In contrast, the Chicago NWS station is at O'Hare International Airport, which is far west of downtown Chicago and as far away from the shore as one can be and still be within the sprawling limits of that city.

2011-01-16

Fixing Wifi Problems: MacBook wireless card replacement

For years my cousin was suffering with the WIFI of his MacBook. His MacBook would drop its WIFI connection every few hours (or minutes), and he'd have to manually stop and start the WIFI on his MacBook to fix it. The bad behavior made web surfing, Netflix, and anything else on-line quite unpleasant.

The Bad WIFI card, as pulled from my cousin's MacBook.

I tried everything to try to fix the problem. I replaced his router, tweaked OS settings, and even re-installed the OS. The on-line forums weren't particularly helpful - a lot of people had a lot of ideas how to fix it with software, but ultimately none of their suggestions worked.

So I concluded that the problem was with the MacBook's WIFI card.

Some of you might think that the MacBook has its WIFI chip soldered onto the MacBook's main board, but that's not the case - the classic MacBook uses a fairly common WIFI card. Getting access to that card isn't trivial, but if you're able to drive a dozen or so screws with care, it can be done.

I bought the replacement WIFI card on eBay. It was a standard Broadcom Mini PCI express 802.11a/b/g/n card with two antenna connections ... (a lot like this one at Amazon) and it was under $30.

I took the MacBook apart, based on the an on-line guide, removed the old WIFI card and put in the new one. I reassembled the MacBook.

We booted the MacBook, and everything came up fine. The new WIFI operates perfectly, and there were zero software changes that had to take place. No special drivers required, and performance and reliability has been better than ever. Interestingly, going into "About This Mac" feature of the Finder now shows that the WIFI card type is a "Third Party" card instead of an "Airport Extreme".

If your MacBook's WIFI is persistently problematic, I suggest you think about having your WIFI card replaced.

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