Sunday, May 12, 2013

Possible Solution to Annoying Household Problem

It is surprising that what must be a common problem - sketchy wi-fi signals at home - can become so obscure to fix. My house has thirteen rooms, not counting bathrooms (Why does one not count bathrooms? They're rooms.) on two floors and it is difficult to get a usable wi-fi signal in many of the upstairs rooms. Rita's house is larger and on three levels and it is difficult to get a decent signal even on the same floor as the router. We have tried so-called range extenders, signal repeaters, with uneven and unreliable results, and hassled with the problem for years.  It has been and remains a major pain in the butt.

 I have just learned of the existence of a device that sends the signal through the house's electrical wiring so it can reach all parts of the house, regardless of distance. Cisco/Linksys, the biggest manufacturer of network hardware, sells the Linksys Powerline AV Wireless Extender Kit PLWK400 for $90 at 

I have sent for the device and will report on it when I get it and get it installed and perhaps even working.

17 May
I have received the device and installed it.  It is idiot simple to set up.  

Plug the included ethernet cable into one of the ethernet ports on the back of your router.  All routers have them.  Plug the other end into the ethernet port on the PLE400 box, then plug the box itself into an electrical outlet.   Then run downstairs or wherever you are not getting a signal and plug the PLW400 box (the one with more lights on the front) into an electrical outlet there.

Use a laptop or other computer able to receive wi-fi and check for a channel named 'PLW4'.  Click on that.  If you are paranoid and gullible* you can use the software on the included CD to set up security and other useless eyewash.  If not, you are ready to go.  

The 'PLW4' (Its default SSID name) signal is strong enough that it covers more than half the house from its end.  Since the signal path from the router to the PWL400 device is copper wire the whole way, the transmission rate is faster than before because the signal does not have to be re-broadcast, as with wi-fi range extenders.  Presumably a hardwired connection will be more reliable than a broadcast one, and certainly more than a re-broadcast one.

With the router near the uppermost rightmost frontmost apex of the house and the Linksys PLW400 device near the lowermost leftmost rearmost apex, the house is almost completely covered.  This is a three-storey roughly 4000 square foot house with woodframe construction and stucco outer walls, so the combination of the router and the Linksys PLWK400 should be sufficient to cover most houses.

The signal is not only plenty strong for laptops anywhere in the house but also fast enough for Roku boxes carrying Netflix or Popcornflix or Pandora to a television.  Most "streaming" movies are actually buffered downloads and the signal is plenty fast enough for that.  

To sandbag the signal speed and reliability, one could run one of the two included ethernet cables from the port in the bottom of the PLW400 to the back of the Roku box (or Smart TV if one has one).  Thus one would be connected by copper wire all the way from the cable company to the user's screen.  Similarly one could run ethernet to a game console for online multiplayer games.

The only caveat to buying this thing is that Linksys has several models with similar names.  The key to the product names is that the 'PL' stands for 'power line' and the 'W' for 'wi-fi'.  The other models are mainly for 4 or more ethernet connections at the output end instead of wi-fi.   The 'K' in the product name stands for 'Kit' since everything one needs is included.

The instructions say there can be a problem connecting the device if the input electrical socket and the output one are not connected at all, perhaps because the rooms are on different circuits and not joined by a circuit breaker anywhere in the house.  My experience and that of dozens of people who posted Amazon user comments is that this is seldom a problem.

Summary:  The Linksys PLWK400 is a complete and successful solution to the problem of getting adequate wi-fi and ethernet coverage of a large house.  It costs $80 directly from Linksys, more from others.   Linksys ships from California so, if avoiding California sales tax is an issue, order it from someplace out of state, possibly

*Router manufacturers make a fuss about securing your wi-fi signal with a keycode so that others can't "steal" it.  Since passwords are all encrypted, what exactly is being stolen is not clear - your Facebook pictures of kitties and puppies and smiling children?  In smaller housing units or apartment buildings, instead of one router supporting perhaps 10 neighboring users, each user must have her own.  Which means that the manufacturer sells 10 routers to that building instead of one.  Would manufacturers deliberately spread groundless fear and uncertainty in order to greatly multiply their sales and profits?  Does scum rise?  Does crap float?  Do capitalist lowlifes lie and mislead?  What do you think?

As more and more files are on the cloud and not on the local computer, fears of having one's signal "stolen" become even more fatuous.

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