Ken's Korner Newsletter Logo
May 2015
Wireless networking is great …
… but there are some pitfalls.
WiFi to the Rescue

Some of the problems with WiFi are:
It is slow. While the advertised throughput may be 600 Megabits per second you are probably going to get 150 Mbps. Meanwhile the wired network is running at 1000mbps or 1Gig. (If you are in a situation where you can actually get the bonding of multiple channels you may get the 300, 450 or even 600 Mbps but that is a rare occurrence.)

Remember that even if your WiFi speed is say 150Mbps and your DSL connection is say 10Mbps then your maximum speed while surfing the Internet will be a little less than 10Mbps regardless of what you do with the WiFi. It is only as fast as the slowest link in the chain.

Many things can slow the speed of WiFi such as;

  1. Distance from access point. (Less than thirty feet is best.)
  2. Number of simultaneous connections to that access point. (Too many connections on one access point and you start dropping users. One user is best if you can get it)
  3. Other electrical signals in the area that are not part of the WiFi network such as lights, power cables.
  4. Other radio transmissions from microwave ovens, game machines, Bluetooth or cordless phones that use the 2.4 gigabit frequency.
  5. Walls, most WiFi routers are a “two wall” device assuming that there is no signal blocking material in those walls.
  6. Even the type of wireless security can affect and slow down some routers with inadequate processors or memory.
  7. Transmitus Inturuptus. If something blocks the radio signal then you are off line. This can happen in all sorts of places in everyday life. If you are mobile bridges, tunnels and metal buildings can be a problem.

In “real world” use, net IP layer throughput of WiFi is typically 60% of the air link rate due to WiFi being half-duplex with ACKs, and being CSMA/CA. The actual data you seek may only be a few percent of the total traffic that is being broadcast. Bottom line, if you can get the 150Mbps consider yourself fortunate.

Some major software companies recommend a hard wired network;

  • Peachtree
  • QuickBooks
  • Thomson Reuters
They do not support wireless networking with their system at all.

Well the wired network is, by nature more secure. Yes that is true but only slightly more secure. Network security is huge problem either way. However that is the subject for another newsletter.

What can you do to escape some of these pitfalls?

Get closer!
Distance is a big killer of WiFi performance. Double the distance and you get one quarter of the signal strength. Weaker signal means slower speeds.

Change the channel!
Your router shipped from the factory set up to use the default channel. So unless you are the only person on the block there is a good chance that somebody nearby could be using that channel. That’s OK wireless routers have multiple channels. Try switching to one of the non overlapping channels, (1, 6 or 11).

Use the 5GHz band!
Dual band “N” class wireless routers have a second option. In addition to the 2.4GHz band they also have a 5GHz band. If your device can use the 5GHz connection then do it. This will eliminate a lot of problems right away.

Get more access points.
Under provisioning and overloading the router will result in slower speeds and more dropped connections. Wireless cameras and Network Area Storage systems can greatly increase the load on your wireless router. Consider more access points and spread them around. Correct placement is very important and may require some empirical testing.

Go Wired!
If all else fails and your device is Ethernet capable you can connect a cable at least for temporary use, when the need arises. Wired is easy! No special access codes just connect and go.

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What is my MAC?

MAC Address
WhatsMyMACWhat is my MAC?

Every network device has a unique ID known as the MAC address. That stands for Media Access Control, not the popular device made by Apple. (Although the Mac does have a MAC address like everybody else.) Some computers have two MAC addresses, one for the wireless and another for the wired network.

Why is this important? It is a permanent way to identify your device. If your machine is lost or stolen and by chance it is recovered how can you prove it is yours? External labels, stickers even numbers molded into the case can be rendered unusable. Hard drives can be formatted or removed but the network connection device will have a unique and permanent MAC address assigned to it when it was made. This can only be changed by changing the hardware itself. Since the network “card” is usually part of the main board in most mobile devices that means major surgery and major cost and it is cheaper to just buy a new machine.

MAC addresses are in hexadecimal, (base 16) format and look something like this; 00-D1-08-06-FF-C5. It is a good idea to write this down and keep it in a safe place just in case you need to identify your machine someday.

How can you find your MAC address?

For Windows machines;
Method one, (Command prompt)

  1. Click the Start button, select Run.
  2. Type CMD and click OK.
  3. A black Command prompt window will open. Type ipconfig /all and press ENTER
  4. Lots of information will be displayed, but what you need is the Physical Address in the Ethernet Adapter Local Area Connection section.
Method two, (Network settings)
  1. Click the Start button at the bottom left of your screen.
  2. Type ncpa.cpl into the search box and press ENTER.
  3. Right-click your Local Area Connection and select Status.
  4. Click Details and the Physical Address is your MAC Address.

For UNIX machines;

  1. From the desktop open a terminal window, (click Ctrl Alt t all at once).
  2. Type ifconfig -a and click ENTER.
  3. Again lots of information will be displayed, but what you need is the Hardware Address, (HWaddr) section.

For Apple/Mac machines;
Method one, (System Preferences)

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu at the top left of your screen.
  2. Click Network from the System Preferences menu.
  3. Choose Wi-Fi from the list of interfaces on the left and click the Advanced button.
  4. Choose the Hardware tab under which you will see the MAC address of your wireless card.
  5. Press Cancel to return to the Network menu. Choose Ethernet from the list of interfaces on the left and click the Advanced button.
  6. Choose the Hardware tab under which you will see the MAC address of your Ethernet card.
Method two, (Terminal)
  1. Launch Terminal from the Applications: Utilities folder.
  2. Type ifconfig into the Terminal window and press the Enter/Return key.
  3. You will be shown data on all your interfaces.
  4. On systems with both an Ethernet and wireless connection, en0 will be your ethernet interface and en1 will be your wireless interface. A MAC address will be shown for both en0 and en1 and likely labeled as "ether".
  5. On systems with just a wireless connection, en0 will be your wireless interface. The MAC address for en0 will likely be labeled as "ether".

Many of the Wireless apps will also display the MAC address of the network device(s) present. Write the address down on paper and keep it in a safe place just in case the worst happens.

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