Noah has a Dell Inspiron 17R laptop but he's having trouble connecting through his new Motorola router. It's slower than anything else. Leo says that the Inspiron's 17R Wi-Fi is G/N, and if he puts a device on it that uses a lower Wi-Fi standard, it downgrades everything to that lower standard. Also, Windows Machines slow down over time, so he may need to start over and restore to factory conditions to speed up the performance. Leo says to try connecting the laptop to the router via ethernet and see if it speeds up. If it does, then it's a wireless problem.
Matthew is having Wi-Fi problems with his Asus laptop. His router isn't all that great though, and Leo has a hunch that the router is the culprit. It also may be that there's a lot of congestion by other Wi-Fi signals in the neighborhood.
Wi-Fi can be a difficult thing to get right, especially when there are numerous Wi-Fi hotspots all around. Even at its best, Wi-Fi won't ever be as fast and reliable as a hardwired connection, and will occasionally suffer drop-outs. But there is a way to optimize your Wi-Fi network so it has less trouble keeping your devices connected.
Once your wireless router is set up, all of your devices will remember the Wi-Fi password automatically. While this is convenient, it can be problematic if you've forgotten the password -- especially when it comes time to set up a new device on the network. Fortunately, it's possible to look up your Wi-Fi password without resetting the router.
Marie had someone set up her router, and she needs to get the Wi-Fi password to set up a new printer. Leo recommends taping a piece of paper with the Wi-Fi password to the router next time so she won't forget or lose it. She can reset the router by powering the router down or unplugging it, then pressing and holding the little reset button for about 10 seconds, then when she starts it back up she can configure the router. But this would require her to set up a new password and reset all of the devices connected to it.
Mike is wondering if he should do anything to protect himself while using these public hotspots though. Leo says this is an important question because he's on the same network with other people, so there are risks. Other people could see traffic sent to and from his computer, and could use hacker tools that are widely available to get that data. This is mostly an issue when accessing email, but since he uses gmail, it's encrypted and won't be a problem. If the sites he's on use 'secure http' (https), then he should be ok.
Mike has an old HP printer and he wants to use the wireless printing option. It works great wired, but he has issues printing through Wi-Fi. It says his printer isn't connected. How can he get the computer to recognize the printer?
Leo says that he'll have to go into the printer settings and tell it what the Wi-Fi access point is. He should remove the USB connection and have it rediscover the printer. Uninstall everything first and then press "plus" in the Printer section of OS X's settings, and he should be able to add it.
Leo thinks this could be the best answer to the open internet issue with the FCC. If communities create their own internet, it ends the conversation because it is a municipal utility like water or electricity. One way communities could make this financially viable is to ask commercial providers to provide service on top of their infrastructure. It could also encourage competition among providers. It's a great idea, but it's hard to convince municipalities to do it.
When it comes to securing a Wi-Fi router, there are a lot of things people often do that aren't actually effective. For instance, hiding the name of the router (the SSID), won't help. Another scheme that's particularly onerous is MAC address filtering. Every computer has a unique MAC address, and the router can be set up to only allow computers with known MAC addresses to access the network. This technique is used by businesses and schools, but it overlooks MAC address spoofing.
The city of San Francisco is making another attempt at providing city-wide Wi-Fi, starting with Market St. San Francisco had teamed up with Earthlink and Google nearly 10 years ago to build a city-wide Wi-Fi network, but Earthlink backed out of it in 2007. The most recent deal is with Ruckus Wireless. The network will be free, won't have ads, and won't even require users to sign in.