Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Joy Of Wires

Last week I was working away on my latest Dell Laptop when I realized my internet connection was ridiculously slow. Not only was it slow, but it was dropping packets left and right.

I don't have a Speedtest from that particular day, but here's a snapshot from this morning:

3.11 Mb/s down is just not that impressive. The day I was having problems it was even slower.

It was slow enough that I actually called Verizon (we have Fios). And as happens every once in a while, I talked to an informed and helpful representative (after waiting on hold for 30 minutes, or so). Unfortunately, I knew from my own testing that the bottleneck was actually between myself and my router; not with the Internet itself. Both my Dells, though especially the new one, were having slow ping times to the router in the basement.

The Fios support guy had me install the Verizon In Home Agent specifically so that we could look at the signal quality between my laptop and the router. Sure enough, the quality was sub par.

Yesterday, I wrote a quick script to capture the WiFi signal quality, and check out this graph:

Online Graphing
Graph maker

The graph goes from sub 50% signal strength up to above 90%. Here's the cool part: I "made" this graph by simply picking up my laptop and carrying it down to my router, and then back up to my office. The peak performance was when the laptop was just a few feet from the router. It's painfully obvious: my wireless router is in the exact wrong place in our home.

Luckily, as our home was getting finished, I had our contractor install Ethernet ports in all the rooms. Even 10 years ago when I did this, the idea of needing a wired connection seemed a bit silly. But I did it anyway.

I figured the solution to my connectivity woes was simple: plug my new Dell into a wired port and see if that gives me better network performance. And then I ran into my next snag: the Dell Inspiron 7547 doesn't have a physical Ethernet port. D'oh. I hadn't really considered this when I bought the laptop, though even if I had noticed it lacked wired networked support, I'd probably ignored that fact. Who uses wires these days?

Amazon to the rescue. For $18.99 I Primed myself a USB Ethernet dongle. When it arrived I plugged it in, and the speed test results were glorious. Here's what they were this morning:

That's a blazing 57 Mb/s down and 63 Mb/s up. Whooo!

Who loves wires? I love wires!

I suppose I should ding my new Dell as having a less powerful WiFi receiver than other laptops. And it's annoying that there's no built in Ethernet jack. But all things considered, I'm just happy that I can leverage the massive download speeds Fios is offering. And to do that, I'm going to need to use actual physical cable.

Incidentally, I also ordered this Ethernet Switch from Amazon, so that both my work laptops could share the same Ethernet drop in my office. So far, it's working out very well.

1 comment:

  1. I wired our house also, mostly for fast PC to PC transfers. Glad I did, WiFi is often unreliable. The commercial equipment they use at work seems better though.