9 Simple Ways to Boost Your Home Wi-Fi Network

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We’ve all been there: You're watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix when, all of a sudden, the video jerks to a stop—and the endless buffering begins. It's frustrating when your network slows down (or shuts down completely), but there are a few tricks you can use boost your Wi-Fi signal. Here are a few of them.

1. DON'T HIDE YOUR ROUTER.

Most people hide their routers because they’re unsightly or in the way, but placing a router in a closet or in a cabinet is a one-way ticket to slow Wi-Fi: Walls and doors can degrade and absorb signal strength. Find a central location in your home and put your router on a table or bookshelf. Because some routers are designed to project a Wi-Fi signal slightly downward, keeping it higher off the ground will evenly distribute a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.

2. STAY AWAY FROM APPLIANCES AND METAL OBJECTS.

Microwaves, cordless telephones, flourescent lights, and even other routers in your neighbor’s home or apartment may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. To reduce interference, place your router away from household appliances and set it to a different wireless channel and frequency. Using online tools—Acrylic Wi-Fi for Windows and AirGrab Wi-Fi Radar for Mac, for example—can help you find the right wireless channel with the least amount of interference. If you want an easier fix, most routers have an automatic option to find the best channel for your location.

You should also avoid placing your router near metal objects, which can absorb signal strength.

3. RESET ON A SCHEDULE ...

It sounds simple enough, but a majority of tech support problems can be cleared up by simply resetting or rebooting your router or modem on a regular basis. (It's also probably the first thing your Internet provider will ask you to do when you call to complain, so head them off at the pass.) And if you buy an outlet timer, you don't even have to worry about it: Set the timer to reset your router once a day at an off-peak time.

4. ... AND UPDATE YOUR FIRMWARE.

Yes, we know—running firmware updates is annoying and time consuming. But if you have an older router, those updates ensure your router's software is running at its best and most efficient. And remember: It's best to buy a new router every seven or eight years.

5. ADJUST YOUR ROUTER'S ANTENNAS.

Most routers have two adjustable antennas on top. If yours are parallel, it's time to switch things up and go perpendicular. Wi-Fi works best when signals are parallel to a device’s internal antenna, which are horizontal in laptops and vertical in desktop computers. Internal antennas vary in mobile devices, depending on how you’re holding them (in portrait or landscape mode). Keeping a router’s antennas perpendicular to each other will ensure a solid connection between your home network and your smartphones and laptops.

6. USE BEER CANS.

Typically, a beer is something best enjoyed after a home improvement project is complete, but in this case, it's necessary to drink one before you even get started: The aluminum in beer and soda cans reflects and extend the signal farther than the router itself.

Here's how it works. Step one: Have a beer and wash out the can. Then, remove the pop top and, using a pair of scissors or a utility knife, cut around the bottom of the can to remove it. Repeat the process for the top of the can, just below the mouth, but don’t cut all the way around—leave about 1 to 2 inches of space at the top to make sure the mouth of the can is still attached. Then, from the bottom, cut down the middle of the can on the opposite side of the space. Fan out the flaps to create a curve or parabola and turn the can upside down to stand it up. Stick one of the router's antennas through the mouth of the beer can and use a small piece of duct tape or blu-tack to keep it in place, then repeat the process for the other antenna. Although your router might look messy, your signal strength should greatly improve (at least in certain directions).

If you don’t want to use a beer can, you can use simple household tinfoil to create the same effect.

7. PASSWORD-PROTECT YOUR NETWORK ...

Because home Wi-Fi speeds are (slightly) dependent on how many people are using it at one time, a strong password is key: It will ensure that only authorized people are using your network. Take advantage of the security already built into your router and select a password (or better yet, a passphrase) that is a hard-to-figure-out combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

8. ... AND STAGGER HEAVY BANDWIDTH USEAGE.

If too many people on your home network are using heavy bandwidth at the same time, like playing online video games, watching Netflix, and downloading movies and music from iTunes, then your entire network will slow down for everyone. Try to stagger heavy Internet use to make sure your home network is running fast and smooth for all users.

9. BUY A REPEATER.

Most routers have a range of about 150 feet. If you live in a big house, devices and computers in rooms farthest away from your router might have a hard time connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. The easiest fix to boost the signal in those rooms is to buy a Wi-Fi repeater, which can plug into any wall outlet and will increases a signal's range and strength to the farthest parts of your home (with a corresponding decrease in internet speed for those connecting to the extender, but you can’t have everything).

If you’re feeling more ambitious (or cheap), you can turn an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater with a little bit of programming and hacking.

China's Coronavirus App Is Alerting Citizens When They're in Danger of Being Infected

Coronavirus fears have spread throughout China and beyond.
Coronavirus fears have spread throughout China and beyond.
Kevin Frayer, Getty Images

Questions continue to linger around the new coronavirus, currently plaguing parts of China and other countries. In an effort to combat the spread of the virus, the Chinese government recently introduced a smartphone app that claims to alert users when someone suspected of having the virus has been nearby.

According to the BBC, the app, dubbed the “close contact detector," works by having phone users register their name and government ID number. Once they activate the service, they’ll be notified if they’ve been in a place where someone diagnosed with coronavirus has been. Patient A, for example, might have reported being on a train, in a classroom, or in an office space that the app user also occupied. The user would get an alert along with a notice to stay home in the event they might have contracted the virus.

Whether a user has been in close contact is determined by their physical proximity to someone suspected of having the virus. Airplane passengers in the three rows surrounding someone suspected of being infected would be considered in close contact. Other passengers may not be considered close.

The scope of the app appears to be limited to information provided by transit authorities and other institutions and does not appear to be an all-inclusive method of determining exposure.

The app is state-sponsored and was developed by the General Office of the State Council, the National Health Commission, and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. While critics have said the app presents an invasion of privacy and a way for government to track any user's movements, others have argued that the risk to public health warrants it.

"In this case the public good and the public health has to outweigh the privacy concerns, otherwise we have no shot of doing anything about this," Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told ABC News.

[h/t BBC]

17 of the World’s Oldest Films, Captured by Thomas Edison

A photo of inventor Thomas Edison, who was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847.
A photo of inventor Thomas Edison, who was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Thomas Edison was a man of firsts. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that he built the first movie studio in 1893 (called the Black Maria). Stocked with a staff of fellow know-it-alls, Edison’s company made nearly 1200 films. Here are some of Edison’s best oldies, from the first recording of a kiss to the greatest cat video on the internet.

1. Newark Athlete (1891)

Film doesn’t get much older than this! A young boy twirls two Indian Clubs in one of Edison’s earliest experimental film fragments.

2. Fred Ott’s Famous sneeze (1894)

Fred Ott was the jokester of Edison labs, so when Edison needed a model for his new Kinetograph, Ott was the perfect choice. Here, Ott sniffs a pinch of snuff and lets out the sneeze seen ‘round the world. It’s the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture.

3. Carmencita—The first woman on film (1894)

When Spanish dancer Carmencita brought her saucy act to Edison’s lab, she became the first woman ever to appear in front of a motion picture camera.

4. Annie Oakley Sharpshooting (1894)

"Little Sure Shot" Annie Oakley easily obliterated these targets in Edison’s studio. Oakley and Edison met when he visited the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, where she was performing as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

5. Sandow the Strong Man (1894)

Considered the father of modern bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow could flex some serious muscle.

6. Sioux Ghost Dance: The Native American Film Debut (1894)

Edison’s team was the first to record American Indians with a motion picture camera. Like Oakley, the Sioux here were part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

7. The World’s First Hand-Tinted Motion Picture (1895)

Broadway dancer Annabelle Moore caused a stir when people caught a peek above her knee in this colorful short. Scandalous!

8. The First Kiss for the Movie Cameras (1896)

Actors May Irwin and John Rice smooch for the camera, reenacting a scene from the musical The Widow Jones. It caused an uproar. Not only was it one of the first commercial films shown to the public, it was also the first to capture a kiss.

9. The Sutro Baths (1897)

When San Francisco’s Sutro baths opened in 1896, it was the largest indoor swimming complex in the world. It seems people weren’t on their best behavior there.

10. Wreckage of the Battleship Maine (1898)

In February 1898, the U.S. Battleship Maine exploded in Havana Harbor and ignited the Spanish-American War. This footage by William Paley roves around the wreckage.

11. The First Ballgame on Film (1898)

Possibly the first recording of America’s pastime, ballplayers donning “Newark” jerseys chug to first base.

12. Street-side Acrobatics (1898)

Break dancing has been around longer than you think!

13. The World’s First Car Parade (1899)

The modern automobile was born in 1886, so it was only a matter of time before people started dedicating entire parades to them. Here, Edison’s team captures the first annual automobile parade in Manhattan.

14. What Happened on 23rd Street? (1901)

As trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, and dapper men amble down a dusty NYC street, a couple—two actors—walk to the camera and pause at an air vent. According to the Edison Company’s film catalog, “The young lady’s skirts are suddenly raised to, you might say an almost unreasonable height, greatly to her horror and much to the amusement of the newsboys, bootblacks and passersby.” You be the judge.

15. A Bustling Fish market (1903)

Health inspectors patrol this street market in the Lower East Side—once a hub for Jewish commerce—as peddlers and customers bicker. Can you imagine what they’re saying?

16. The Oldest Existing Footage of a Football Game: Princeton and Yale (1903)

Although 50,000 fans were in the New Haven stands, the visiting Tigers got the W, winning 11-6. The action starts at 2:13.

17. The Greatest Video of All-Time (1894)

Behold! The King of Cat videos!

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