Monthly Archives: June 2016

Making the Most of what you have

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my blog once again. In this post, I would like to share with you on how you could potentially improve your wireless speed and performance at home.

Over the last few years, I have heard of and been asked about problems along the line of “Why is my wireless connection so slow?” Now, I once faced that issue too, and with what I learned in my course of study at SP, it turns out that a second broadband router you may have is all you need.

First, let’s run through the basics. A broadband router is the device that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would give you when you subscribe to their internet plan. They typically feature 4 Local Area Network (LAN) ports, and a Wide Area Network (WAN) port, as well as wireless connectivity and the option for a phone line. Newer broadband routers may also come with dual band wireless for faster access.

Your home wireless broadband router typically consists of:

A router – Routes and filters the traffic between your home’s internal network and the internet.
A network switch – To connect all the devices, both wired and wireless, to the LAN, and
An access point – The wireless transmitter and receiver module that allows your wireless devices to communicate with your broadband router.

In my home, I initially only had one broadband router with only a single wireless band (2.4Ghz), as it was quite old and simple. Since the wireless medium (the space around us) is shared by all our mobile devices and the broadband router, only one device could broadcast a wireless data transmission at any one time. If two devices transmitted together, their transmissions would collide as they are all on the same band, and the data would become corrupted.

Not long ago, a good friend of mine passed me his old broadband router. It was the same model as mine. So here’s what I did to help increase the wireless connectivity performance in my home. It starts with configuring your second broadband router. Although, if you are looking for a second one, you can easily find one online with a quick search.

I went into the configuration page of the second broadband router. Typically, its IP address should be along the line of “192.168.X.Y”. Since these broadband routers have DHCP (a protocol that assigns IP addresses to your PCs and devices), you can just plug a cable to your PC and it should get an IP address that you can start working from.

You can enter the phrase “ipconfig” in the command prompt “cmd”, and look out for the IP address of the default gateway for that wired connection. Then enter that IP address into the URL in your browser and you will reach the broadband router’s configuration page.

Now for setting up the wireless connection. I noticed that many of the broadband routers of the same type I was using, came with it’s 2.4Ghz band set to channel 6. Just to give you a brief overview, there are 11 channels in the 2.4Ghz wireless band. Each of these channels has a frequency that is slightly different from the one next to it in running sequence, but the frequencies for each channel also overlap slightly with each other. However, there are 3 non-overlapping channels, which are channels 1, 6 and 11.

With this information in hand and mind, I set my first broadband router to use channel 1, and my second broadband router to use channel 11. Being the furthest from each other, they are least likely to interfere with each other even if the two broadband routers are beside each other. Furthermore, as they do not overlap with channel 6, which many other broadband routers use, they are least likely to be interfered with by my neighbour’s wireless devices.

It is also important to note that since you are using two separate broadband routers, each router will have its own SSID (Wifi name) and password, so remember to set that too. (Remember to use a strong password and WPA/WPA2 where possible. See below.)

Among some of the other the changes I made, I disabled DHCP so that my two broadband routers would not be conflicting with each other in assigning IP addresses. I also set a static IP address on my second broadband router so that I could access it in future.

I did not post any pictures here because all the different broadband routers have different configuration layouts and interfaces, so you will have to play around with yours and get a feel of how it works.

Last but not least, I used an ethernet cable to bridge the LAN sides of both the broadband routers. I did not connect anything to the WAN port of the second one, as there is no need for me to use that function. From then, your mobile devices should be able to see both wireless networks. Once this is done, it’s important to spread the load of wireless communication between the two broadband routers. For example, parents can use the first one while the children or teens use the second one.

This arrangement and setup effectively gave my home something close to the performance increase that would typically only be possible with a dual band broadband router. It also helped to reduce the interference of wireless communication from the wireless signals from my neighbour’s homes. It was a win-win situation for me at literally no cost.

Performance aside, another important factor to consider if you haven’t already, is wireless security. Most broadband routers have their wireless security option set to WPA/WPA2, which is a stronger encryption that the older WEP standard. What I do advise you to do is change the wireless password for that broadband router. Use a strong password that is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess. It will be very helpful in keeping out the bad guys.

I know that the concepts and methods that I have stated here may be a little difficult for some of you to understand. I hope this post will be helpful to you if you want to improve your wireless performance without leaving a hole in your wallet.

Thanks again for reading. Feel free to reach me at my contact in the “about” link in my blog.

Imagine, Innovate, Inspire.

Photo (1012)

The device in the photo above is an impromptu “external hard drive” storage device I put together several years ago. I remember that it was owing to the fact that my family’s data collection was growing and we needed more digital storage space for them. My parents were not willing to buy an actual portable hard drive for me due to the higher prices then.

The point that I want to bring across is that sometimes, the solution or answers to the challenges we face might already be around us or an idea lurking in our heads. Sure, when you want to solve a problem, you think up all kinds of ideas and solutions. Dream big and wild. Don’t consider them silly, because they are unique and may actually work out well. I learned through doing my own research, as well as trial and error, and you can too. Although since everyone has different learning styles, I’ll leave that portion to you.

To continue on with the photo above, I pulled together my impromptu “external hard drive” together using a power adapter, USB to PATA* and SATA* adapter, and a couple of old hard drives I had previously salvaged.  I linked it by USB to my home broadband router, effectively turning it into a Network Attached Storage (NAS), which turned out to be more convenient and accessible than using an external hard drive.
(*PATA and SATA are 2 types of hard drive interface connectors.)

I still hold on to the notion of, “If you don’t have it, make it, or at least try to.” Allow me to share one more story with you. My parents only allowed me to get, and stick to, a basic handphone when I entered into secondary school. As I started my journey in polytechnic, I soon realized that I would need a smartphone to be productive. Eventually I found myself in a situation where I needed to use Whatsapp to communicate, but I did not have a smartphone back then.

With help from my friends in Singapore Polytechnic, and lots of reading up, I managed to create a “virtual smartphone” using an android ISO container file and program Virtualbox. I installed Whatsapp in it and I used that to communicate with my lecturers for a while, to ask for some help with our homework back then.

It came as a big surprise to me that doing something like that was even possible. This achievement inspired me as to what could possibly be achieved through virtualization, alongside computer networking and security. I do regret not taking any photos of this virtual smartphone back then. I stopped using it a couple of years ago due to a growing number of  compatibility issues.

To carry on with the message behind this story, it’s all about exploring the possibilities that can be achieved around us. It’s about not giving up when an idea seems too difficult to pursue. I hope to continue inspiring people to pursue what is in their best interest for themselves and others.

Just spend a moment pondering about it, how many problems do you think you can solve for yourself and others by just observing the challenges in your surroundings and applying your knowledge and learning skills?

A Simple Electrical Noise Filter

Photo (963)

This device in the picture that I built is an electrical noise filter, whose purpose is simply to filter out electrical noise. Electrical noise refers to the voltage spikes or sags that may make the electrical supply unstable.

I was inspired to make this after facilitating the SP EEE club freshmen orientation camp at St John’s Island. The electricity there is supplied by generators on the island. During the camp, I made some observations about the events that occurred relating to the electrical supply on the island, and I suspected that it might have been due to an unstable electrical supply.

The first was the simultaneous flickering of all the lights in multiple buildings and street lamps for just a mere fraction of a second regularly through the night. The second was the frequent power trips whenever someone switched something (like the lights) on or off. The third was when some of my friend’s hand phone batteries got damaged after they left it to recharge. These occurrences led me to believe that there was a high amount of electrical noise in the electricity supply.

The electrical noise filter helps to regulate the electricity coming in so that any voltage spikes, surges or electrical noise does not damage any device or appliance connected to its output. This would be especially beneficial to sensitive devices like hand phones or computers that need a stable power supply.  I sourced for thicker wires so that it would be capable of handling higher currents.

The filter I am using is probably an industrial grade type I pulled out from a discarded air conditioning tower. It has enough channels for 2 separate electrical lines. I used a recycled acrylic case that I found to create the housing. This filter uses 2 inductors with 4 coils each, and 8 capacitors. Each electrical line (2 Live, 2 Neutral) would have to pass through 2 inductor coils and alongside 2 capacitors. The inductors help to suppress any voltage spikes or sags from passing to the connected devices, while the capacitors help to fill in the gaps caused by voltage spikes or sags to stabilize them.

Right now I am using it with my home server computer, as it can draw a significant amount of power and requires a stable electrical supply. I intend to use it in the future for places where the electrical supply may be noisy.

Thank you again for taking the time and effort to read through all this. I hope this gave you a better understanding of the concept, effect and solutions pertaining to reducing electrical noise.