Dead Laptop Battery

If you have a laptop battery that won’t hold a charge usually it is a good idea to just replace it. But if you want to try a homebrew method to restore it there is some hope.

Put your dead battery in a zip lock back and freeze it for 12 hours. Afterwards, dry it off with a towel and put it in your laptop and charge it fully. Leave your laptop on until it is sufficiently drained and repeat this two more times.

This should help your battery memory so that it will hold a decent charge for awhile.

WoL (Wake on Lan)

WoL is useful for remote computers that perform specific tasks that do not require users. It can also be used for remote maintenance: if you shut down your computer and the technician needs access to it with WoL they can start it up, do their maintenance, then shut it down.

There is the problem of getting it to work, however. With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft added a “Fast User Switching” feature. With this introduction came a system to completely shut down your computer without any monitoring. Imagine you turn off your TV then the remote will not turn it back on because it turned off even the circuit that monitors that. With “Fast User Switching” Windows does exactly that. You will need to go the power settings under “what the computer does when you press the power button” to turn off this feature.

Another problem with some computers that is not Windows related, but essentially does the same thing, is in the BIOS you can tell the computer to go into a very deep sleep. This effectively does the same thing but at the machine level. You will need to go into the BIOS and turn this off or to a less deep sleep. While you are there you will also need to turn on the network adaptors WoL feature.

You can find several good programs on the internet that will wake up a computer and some with timers that will turn them on and off on a schedule.

Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz vs 5Ghz

Why does this affect me?  For two reasons.  First most every device out there is using the 2.4Ghz band for Wi-Fi and some devices such as cordless phones and microwaves (yes the one in your kitchen.) use this frequency.   Second you have routers that transmit on both and devices that also transmit on both.

The first problem is that there are only 12-14 channels available to the 2.4Ghz band width and if you use an app to tell you whom is using what channel next to you, you will likely see a plethora of devices on every channel.  In my experience there are usually 5-7 channels that are overwhelmed since most people let their routers auto decide which channels to use.  There are apps out there that will show you which channels are used and you can pick one for your router that, over time, is used the least.

The second problem is something that doesn’t get addressed that often is devices and routers that can offer both bands (2.4 and 5Ghz).    If you set it up correctly this is not an issue.  But by trying to over-simplify your Wi-Fi you can create your own problem.   If both the router and device (laptop, phone, tablet…) are setup to use both then setup auto connects to both on the device the device is likely to flip flop between the two bands and will result looking like a very unstable internet connection.     Since most newer routers and devices do support both this can be very frustrating.   The simplest way around this is to forget or unsubscribe to one of the two bands.

The pros to using 2.4Ghz are its high availability and ability to go longer distances through walls and other barriers.  

The cons to using 2.4Ghz are so many things that occupy that bandwidth.

The pros to using 5Ghz are less devices clogging the airwaves and better performance and the fact that both 802.11a and 802.11b cannot use it.  See my earlier article about this.

The cons to using 5Ghz are that it doesn’t go through walls and other barriers as easily as 2.4Ghz and therefore range may be a limiting factor.  Also even though it is listed as a pro the fact that 802.11a and 802.11b cannot connect to it may mean that you lose some of your older devices.

Why is my Wi-Fi slow?

One possibility that is not always thought of for your Wi-Fi to being slower than is should be.

Wi-Fi comes in a variety of flavors. There is a, b, g, n and the new ac when buying adaptors or routers for their Wi-Fi. But do you know what they are and what you need to know about them to help your own system? The most significant differences between all these standards is the speed. There are other differences but for the purpose of this article we will focus on speed. The following is the speed ranges for each standard:

• 802.11a – 11mbs with a fallback to 5.5, 2 or even 1mbs
• 802.11b – 11mbs
• 802.11g – 54mbs
• 802.11n – 100mbs with up to 250mbs with special configuration
• 802.11ac – 433mbs up to 1.3gbs with three antenna configurations

Obviously you would want the highest speed you can get but you may not be actually getting it even if you own it. Why wouldn’t you get 433mbs out of your brand new 802.11ac router? Well the first and most obvious reason is that your computer doesn’t have an adaptor that supports it. Both the router and your computer must be able to support the ac standard before you can realize the speed difference.

The other reason may not seem so simple. That is because it doesn’t have anything to do with your relationship between your computer and the router but the relationship between the router and all the other devices around it. If you have an 802.11n router and there is a printer attached to it that can only communicate in 802.11b then the router will be adjusting to the 11mbs b standard and, therefore, force the communications between your computer and itself to comply with b standards of 11mbs. Oh, and it gets worse. If there is a neighbor that doesn’t even connect to your Wi-Fi but is within range and they use 802.11b devices, then the same thing will happen since the devices will communicate even if it is only verifying that the other exists. This happens all the time over Wi-Fi. Routers are inherently programmed to cater to the least common denominator they need to keep compatibility between everything.

Ok, this sucks. But what can be done? Most routers have the ability to fine tune to just one or two of these standards. So you could set your router to only work with g and n networks, for instance, so that your minimum only goes as low as 54mbs. Your only problem with that are devices like your printer that only works on 802.11b. You need to make sure that you only exclude up to your lowest common denominator. (Honestly, what are you still doing with a printer that old anyway?) You can also upgrade your devices to more modern standards before you do this as well. That way if everything was running 802.11n then you can get those fantastic speeds you paid for just by setting your router to only use n.