LOW-FI WI-FI?: What could be blocking your internet signal

VIJAY SHAH via TecNovedosos

Having unfettered and uninterrupted access to wireless internet, is for those of use in the developed world, now as essential as having a continuous supply of electricity, gas and other utilities. We increasingly spend much of our lives online, and the things we need to do, such as shopping and filling in government forms are moving online too. So when your wireless signal becomes weak or choppy, the frustration is palpable.

If you happen to have a rubbish signal, with constant disconnections or super-slow download speeds, it could be your provider, but it could be due to your surroundings. Presented below are some of the things in your home or office that might be interfering with the quality of your Wi-Fi. This article is based off a feature published in the Spanish-language site TecNovedosos.

 

Objects that cause the Wi-Fi to drop or fizzle out are often referred to as ‘interference sources’ or ‘wireless barriers’ in the industry. So what are these barriers and how can you solve the low fidelity of your wireless ‘fidelity’ and get back to happy surfing.

Firstly the cause might be a mirror or a metal surface in the locality. Metal has a high interference capacity, according to the technical support guys at top tech firm Apple. Indeed having flat metallic objects in the same room is by far the most drastic means of limiting the strength of your signal. So it’s time to give the full-length mirror the boot. Just don’t break it, unless you are keen on seven years of bad Wi-Fi luck.

Another leading cause of interference is bulletproof or toughened glass. Its thickness and reflective properties act as a means of soaking up and reflecting the radio waves that propel Wi-Fi. Unless you work for a top-secret agency or military complex, bulletproof glass is probably not going to be an issue for you, but for the average user, things like glass tables, desks, or fancy glass ornaments can cause major interference with the Wi-Fi signal, and you should either remove or replace these sort of objects to lessen the interference capabilities they have.

Web connections can also be affected by the presence of other appliances, especially fridges, washing machines and radiators. Their piping, which often contains liquids like water, can act as ‘sponges’ that drown the signals. The impact of white goods is considerably less than glass or metal, but this is something worth considering if you are browsing through IKEA’s latest sales on the laptop while in the kitchen, and the product pictures take forever to load.

While you’re in the kitchen looking for Wi-Fi signal thieves, you can also add your microwave oven, gas/electric oven and even baby monitors and drones to the suspects list. These devices emit electromagnetic waves that can impede the radio waves used by wireless internet. Both types of signal operate at a frequency of around 2.4 Hz, so can cancel each other out. Other suspects include webcams, cordless phones and the telly. Healthy technological competition this ain’t.

You should keep your router as far away from other electrical devices and shiny surfaces as much as possible. Most of the people I know keep their routers in the hallways or passages of their homes.

As the festive season approaches, you will be pleased to know that Christmas lights can also be a problem for the signal. As with microwaves, lights generate their own electromagnetic fields which can play havoc with Wi-Fi connectivity, so don’t go online while decorating the Christmas tree!.

The popular expression goes ‘the walls have ears’, well in the case of bad signal troubleshooting, if you live in a house that has stone, cement or brick walls, then it may be time for you to move out if you want a better signal, which given that most homes are made of these materials might make house-hunting a bit tricky. The thicknesses of modern construction materials can act as a barrier to getting the perfect level of connectivity. The best way to mitigate this is to keep your router on the same floor as where you go online, so if you do most of your internet activities upstairs, the router needs to be upstairs too. If you find your signal is still weak or negligible, try moving and experimenting with different positions and locations for the router. A good recommendation is to place the router in a high location above other objects in the room or passage it is situated in.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

La Publicación 🇪🇸, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/LaPublicacion

“Estos son los objetos que más suelen bloquear tu señal de wifi” – TecNovedosos/Grupo Editorial Grandes Medios (15 September 2018) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/objetos-bloquean-senal-de-wifi/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Wifi, Hotspot, Public, Travel” – mohamed mohamed mahmoud hassan, PublicDomainPictures.net/Bobek Ltd. License: CC0 Public Domain https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=261335&picture=wifi-hotspot-public-travel

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SCIENCE EXPERIMENT: Making plasma in the microwave

 

A cool science experiment you can carry out at home in your kitchen for next to nothing in cost, and a chance to see plasma in action. Plasma is a state of material that is rarely encountered naturally on Earth but is a core component of stars.

The plasma is generated by a combination of combustion and the microwave’s electric fields. Electrons are pushed back and forth, colliding with air molecules. It is these collisions that science says causes the formation of a ‘plasmoid’ which being hotter that the surrounding air, causes it to rise up to the top.

This experiment is quite easy to set up and uses things like jars and matches that you can find around the house. Be warned however, that you should do your research beforehand, as the plasma experiment can go wrong if not set up properly. Also it’s best not to use your flatmate’s expensive microwave just in case.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Elle Eff, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Elle_Eff247

Science GIFs, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Learn_Things

Chemical Reactions, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ChemistryReacts

“Make a ball of plasma in a microwave” – Amie, Wonder How To Science Experiments/WonderHowTo, Inc (6 September 2008) https://science.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-ball-plasma-microwave-194331/

“Q & A: Plasma from a flame in the Microwave” – Tom, Ask the Van/Department of Physics – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (22 October 2007) https://van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=819

LONDON HOUSING CRISIS: Bedding down in a van

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via JIMMY NSUBUGA & Metro

As London’s housing crisis spirals out of control, and both house prices and rents became more and more painful for the city’s 8 million inhabitants, one enterprising worker has taken a peculiar, if somewhat desperate, solution to keeping a roof over his head, the newspaper Metro reported yesterday.

Alex Hill, aged 24, is an IT worker who emigrated to the UK’s capital from the small town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire county, England. Upon arriving in the big city, he found the price of renting beyond a joke, with single bedrooms in flatshares and houseshares now costing an average £550-750 per month. Buying a house would have also been just a dream, with the average London house now selling for around £500,000. There was no way, even in his relatively well-paid career, that Alex would have been able to purchase outright.

English: Boscombe, blue van A nice touch of se...
English: Boscombe, blue van A nice touch of self-parody, I’m sure! Looking up Westby Road towards Sea Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead he set up home….in a large blue commercial van. Hill uses the van as a place to sleep, parking it in side streets. While this seems makeshift, the IT employee, who works in the City, is able to save £1,000 per month on rent and utilities. Unfortunately the van has no running water or WC facilities, so Hill is forced to avoid drinking fluids after 7:00 pm to avoid having to use the toilet in a city where public urination is illegal.

He installed a bed in the vehicle, which also comes equipped with a solar powered generator for electricity and a small heater to keep Hill warm during this month’s cold winter nights.

“I was planning to cycle around Europe for a few months last summer and had already handed in the notice for my flat,” he told student newspaper The Tab.

“The plan was to stay with friends until I got another flat, but I decided to try out living in my car for a few weeks and showering at work.”

He often parks his unusual mobile home in hip places like Clapham, Brixton or anywhere in Islington where he can visit friends and camp outside after, and surprisingly with such a large van in a city notorious for its scarcity and expense of parking places, Alex Hill says he has no trouble with parking.

He added: “I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

‘The most important thing for me was that I could still shower every day at the office, but it depends what you feel you need.”

It is not illegal in the UK to sleep or even live in your vehicle. Many homeless people often live in their cars in preference to being on the streets, and thousands of British holidaymakers often go on camping holidays in caravans, but Alex’s situation is also a sad example of the difficulties in finding safe and affordable accommodation in the capital, even for those in well-paid jobs.

Hill has been sleeping in his van since September 2015. The Metro article does not say whether he has any plans to move into a des res less mobile and four-wheeled.

SOURCES:
Metro, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/?fref=nf
“IT worker saves £1k each month by living in a van in London” – Jimmy Nsubuga, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (4 March 2016) http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/04/it-worker-saves-1k-each-month-by-living-in-a-van-in-london-5734100/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Boscombe, blue van – geograph.org.uk – 1277393.jpg” –  Mike Faherty, geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons (29 April 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boscombe,_blue_van_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1277393.jpg

 

WORKSPACE BLOG HOP: Inside the HEM newsroom

The Half-Eaten Mind and myself are proud to announce that we have been invited to participate in the Workspace Blog Hop. The hop is a blogging initiative where the blogger is given an opportunity to share something about themself and the place where their pictures, poems, news stories or novels come to life. I would like to thank Sally Cronin of the blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life” for tagging me in the WBH and giving you an exclusive sneak peek into my blog’s newsroom, where we bring you cutting-edge news and amazing features every weekend.

I thought I’d start first with a bit of background information on the kind of place I live at. I’m from London, England, U.K. and for the moment I live in a houseshare in Plaistow, in the east of London. I live with the landlord, plus three other guys, who hail from India, Japan and Portsmouth here in England. My house sits right next to a junction just behind Plaistow Police Station, so needless to say the traffic around here can be rather noisy. Where I live isn’t a prosperous area, but it’s alright. I have two Iceland supermarkets and a Tesco store within easy walking distance, plus there’s a few good local attractions including a leisure centre, library and Plashet Park a few bus stops away. I have been living here since the end of February 2013. I did not begin the blog here though. That happened at my previous houseshare in Morley Road, Stratford, just across the border from here in Plaistow. My property manager/housemate, who was not a pleasant fellow in the slightest, evicted me from that residence with only two weeks’ notice. Ostensibly he blamed me for wasting electricity just because once I had forgotten to turn off the kitchen light, but now I suspect he just wanted to move someone else in who he could charge higher rent too.

My current room does not win much praise from me. I took the room only as an emergency measure. It’s essentially a box room, small, cluttered and a tad claustrophobic, but I call it home. I was originally looking to eventually move into a one-bedroom flat, but London is a notoriously expensive city and even small flats and studio places are ridiculously pricey. My current landlord has recently raised the rent by an eye-watering amount so it looks like I’ll be bumming around on Gumtree and Zoopla looking for a bigger, but cheaper, room. While my newsroom may not be buzzing with reporters and sweaty-collared editors, poring over banks of PC screens and TVs blaring out the latest breaking news via CNBC or Russia Today, it has the advantage of being portable and therefore easy to set up anywhere with a power supply and a plug socket. Hotdesking par excellence!.

My workspace is also my bedroom, with the usual wardrobe (closet) and chest-of-drawers. I have a single window that affords great views of the neighbours’ backyards and I often see foxes and squirrels milling around the place after dark. The wildlife here are almost as exciting as the shouting drunks that are always stumbling home around here.

This delightfully framed portrait is where the Half-Eaten Mind magic happens. The desk is small but manageable. All my stories and articles are penned on the spot using the laptop you can see. My trusty Toshiba Satellite C660 has been my portal to the internet and loyal office assistant for the past four years now, ever since I had to haul its ass home from the Argos store in Victoria, central London, where I used to work. I actually picked up this babe during my lunchtime. My Tosh is still working fine, albeit a bit more slowly, but still working a dream.

The cool snazzy mouse with the blue lights and red laser was purchased separately from eBay, and although it is futuristic, it’s had its day and I may soon need a replacement. There’s no room on the desk for any fancy stuff like potted plants and picture frames, but I managed to squeeze in a fan, which keeps me cool during summer or when the landlord has cranked on the heating on too high during the colder nights.

The desk, apart from being my workplace and escape zone, also functions as a place to stash my journalism portfolio from when I was at university, my stamps and banknote collections and some important paperwork. There is a recess at the back of the desk where I stash, and hopefully not forget about, any important letters or forms I have to deal with. Right now there is a letter from the borough council concerning postal vote registration which I need to get an envelope and stamp, as they never bothered to enclose a pre-paid one with the form.

I use the Chrome browser when working on the blog or doing internet research and activities, whether pertaining to the blog or not. The Chrome is fast and responsive in my opinion. With the news articles I publish, I use a variety of sources, in particular from news articles posted on my Facebook news feed or from tweets from media organisations I follow on Twitter. I also sometimes make use of press releases from the journalism.co.uk website, an information resource for journalists and PR professionals, who send me an email packed with them every Monday or so. I also get submissions for articles (mainly features) from friends and external contributors. Regardless of the source, it is this laptop where every weekend, I get comfy on my upholstered blue revolving chair and transform into HEM editor and roving reporter, literally from the comfort of my own armchair. I usually start writing around 11:00-12:00 in the morning, after a shower and breakfast, so I feel sufficiently fresh and energised to begin typing. A news story can take as little as thirty minutes to polish off, but some longer articles and features can take as much as two hours from start to finish. It depends. After I publish each blogpost, I visit the HEM Facebook fan page to share the article on my own Facebook, plus with any friends or family who I feel are interested or who originally suggested the story idea. I also do the same on Twitter. I then share on Twitter all of the articles and sources I used in the crafting of the piece, followed by the related articles that I add at the bottom of each published piece. These ‘related articles’ are automatically suggested by a plugin I use, named Zemanta. Zemanta’s really useful in that it ‘reads’ what you are typing and then makes suggestions for these articles, plus images, as you type up.

This device is also very important in my blogging. While it may look like a reject from Beyonce’s jewellery box, it is in fact a Sandisk Cruzer Facet USB drive (memory stick) with around 15 gigabytes of memory. Sandisk is one of the most regarded producers of USB drives and memory cards in the world, and I wanted a quality piece of equipment to hold the images from my blog. This stick is essential, as nearly all of the images I use to spice up each blogpost is then stored on here as a virtual gallery and archive. I do this as it means if an image vanishes from an article becuase the website it is attached to goes down or the relevant link dies, I have a backup copy on this drive ready and waiting to replace it. For extra peace of mind, I also save the images onto a cloud, my Google Drive. Better safe than sorry, don’t you think. I made this picture using a blurred edge photo border in Lunapic, which gives it the appearance of being set behind a fancy glass frame. Admittedly I did goof up on the hashtag on the bottom of the image. It should read #WorkspaceBlogHop, not #WorkplaceBlogHop, but it is astonishingly similar sounding how ‘workplace’ and ‘workspace’ are. In the background of the image above you can also see my bed, complete with psychedelic pillow!. The rest of my room is a bit messy and is overdue a spring clean. That and its size means I decided not to take pictures, but I’d thought instead I’d give you a Google Street View image of the junction I live near.

(c) Google Maps
(c) Google Maps

It’s exactly the view I see whenever I step out to go places or have a cigarette break. The red corrugated iron sheet ‘shed’ is in fact a Gospel Printing Mission that produces religious materials for a local church. The area I live in is highly multicultural and there’s a lot of people from west Africa particularly here, many of which are church-going Christians. The police station, which has a massive car park, is the small, castle-like building with the blue turret towards the centre of the screenshot. This is mostly a residential area and I see a lot of families with young children heading this way to go to the nursery further down Cumberland Road.

And also…here’s another screenshot, this time of my Google Drive, where we stash the pictorial stuff. Our little secret!!

(c) Google Drive
(c) Google Drive

A rabbit feels more comfortable to hop about if there are other rabbits to hop around with. Taking this lesson from our bunny friends, I would like to invite the following people to come join me in the Workspace Blog Hop and share with us their blogging workspaces. Attendance isn’t compulsory but it is a great way to give your friends and blog followers a glimpse into your blogging zone.

My six Hoppers are:

Alex Smithson

Ron Scubadiver

Ileana

Swetank Raj

Inese MJ

Gene’O Gordon

Sally’s article and her very fascinating blog hop can be found here: My Workspace blog Hop -Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap http://pizap.com/
Lunapic http://www171.lunapic.com/editor/
“Blank aluminium nameplate, 15mm x 50mm” – Label Source http://www.labelsource.co.uk/labels/blank-aluminium-nameplate–15mm-x-50mm/bmnp1a
Google Maps https://www.google.co.uk/maps
Google Drive https://drive.google.com/drive/

PHOTO MOMENT: Mum’s Christmas decorations for 2013

Vijay Shah 

One of the fondest, and most persistent memories I had of growing up was a yearly ritual that my mother would perform towards the last few weeks before Christmas, along with many other British families. That ritual involved running around with a stepladder, clutching fancy objects made of tinsel and LED lights, and then transforming the living room into a kaleidoscope of shimmering metallic colours, flashing bulbs and festive knick-knacks. Cardboard boxes and bits of Sellotape surfaced everywhere, not to mention the occasional broken bauble or chair leg. Loads of rustling and troublesome tinsel that will not stay put on the walls. This is festive home decoration – Mumsy-style!!

This year is no different, and this photo moment is dedicated to my mum’s skillful, playfully over the top, jaw-dropping-ly fantastic Christmas decorations, which can take her several hours to perfect and finish.

Though no-one in our family celebrates Christmas for religious reasons (although we do respect the message behind it), it is customary for families in the United Kingdom to erect a Christmas tree in the living room and festoon it with tinsel, baubles and more wattage than Oxford Street. My mother is very fond of decorating the house for Christmas ever since Day One, and this year she has really made an effort. It is not just the living room that gets the motherly festive touch now. Since my mum and younger siblings moved to a much larger suburban house five years back, she has now has more space to place decorations, and now not a single room in the house escapes my Mum’s festive cheer. In addition to the Christmas tree (we kept the same plastic pine tree for several years), my Mum would also pull out a ladder or chair and hang special decorations made from metallic foil from the ceiling. That is also an important sub-ritual we have enacted for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by them as a child, and now, more than two decades later, my niece, who is four years old, is just as fascinated. In fact when she saw them, she thought yesterday was the great “Happy Christmas Day” and wanted to “reach up to the sky”. She was mesmerised by the hanging ornaments.

This year, Mum went all-out. Additional kitschy lighted ornaments were placed in windows and in the passageways of the house. The decorating project was a nice effort by Mum. She stayed up until 2.00 in the morning last week on one occasion, doing nothing but hoisting up and sticking down all manners of festive decor to the walls. She had picked up some new additions from eBay and some local stores to add to the ones we box up after every New Year for storage. When I visited her yesterday, I even got stuck in a bit myself, although most of my help extended to lugging a large mattress across one of the bedrooms (don’t ask) so my Mum could get access to the window. My Mum was understandably very proud of her efforts and the hard work she put in to make sure that the displays were perfect and had the right effect of awesomeness. She even badgered me to go around and take pictures of the various decorations, while giving me a back story about some of them, especially how she got hold of them.

I walked around the whole house and even stepped outside in the freezing col minus jacket to take a selection of photos. I was suitably impressed, so much so in fact that today I have decided to upload them to the blog’s newly created Flickr account and then share them with you in today’s Photo Moment. Hopefully these pictures will get you deeper into the holiday season spirit and maybe even give you some decoration ideas of your own if you haven’t yet decked your halls with holly and other such Christmassy things.

Lit-up reindeer grace the front door of my mum’s place. Even the ornaments get their own bespoke ornamentation (c) V. Shah
Festive metallic card banner suspended over the door leading to the living room (c) V. Shah
Wide-angle view of living room decorations. The chains of ‘icicles’ at the top of this photo contain red and blue LEDs that alternate between the two colours. Witness the array of shapes hanging from the ceiling. (c) V. Shah
The Xmas tree. Traditionally we used a green one, but for the last couple of years, the colour scheme has been switched to snowy white. (c)V. Shah
A closer detail of Mum’s trademark ceiling ornaments. A red star jostles for attention with a ‘sea urchin’ and two snowflakes. Old is gold. (c) V. Shah
Model reindeer under the tree. My niece was smitten, but mistook is for one of those ‘My Little Ponies’. She refused to believe me when I told her it was a reindeer from Santa. (c) V. Shah
The Christmas tree. Notice the gold star at the top. We did not steal it from the Kremlin. (c) V. Shah
Brightly-coloured deer and Santa decorations set up in the living room window. (c) V. Shah
“Merry Christmas” light display and a few dangling snowdrops to lend that wintery feel from an upstairs bedroom window. Seen from the driveway. (c) V. Shah
Simple chain of electric blue LEDs above the threshold of the front door. Why do I suddenly feel like singing the “Bad Boy” song? (c) V. Shah
Freshly kidnapped from the National Santas Convention – a trio of ornamental Father Christmases. One appears to have been hired by a call centre. (c) V. Shah
A ghetto Christmas tree – in reality a branch ornament in the dining room which has not escaped the LED frenzy of my Mum. (c) V. Shah
The tree in all its finest glory. I managed to the get the blue lights at the top to snake around the body of the tree to make a good contrast between blue and white – good winter theme. Not bad for someone who is hopeless at interior design. (c) V. Shah
This Santa decided to jack in Rudolph and the sleigh and deliver prezzies with added locomotion. A long-established heirloom with fibre optic lighting that gently changes colour. (c) V. Shah
Miniature Xmas pine trees that look like the main tree’s sapling children. The empty drinks can is not a permanent decoration. (c) V. Shah
The train Santa again with full illumination. Kitschy but a good reminder of snowy Christmas evenings by candlelight. (c) V. Shah
Not quite a decoration but arguably one of the cutest Xmas cards I’ve seen in a while. A reindeer with glittery red nose, robin, and candy cane. (c) V. Shah
We even have a festive doormat. Jolly Santa and Xmas greeting. (c) V. Shah
Handheld fibre-optic tree, as demonstrated by one of my sisters. (c) V .Shah
I moustache you a question. Where did you get this bauble? Movember may be long over, but you can’t argue with a bauble sporting its own glittering lip scarf. (c) V. Shah

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IMAGE CREDITS:
Half-Eaten Mind on Flickr LINK