Technically speaking Part III

Now that I have the router up and running, it’s now time to decide where the best place to put it.  Since we moved into the house, the router and modem have been in close proximity to the main computers here.  That is, in the addition off the main house in the back of the property.  For whatever reason, it’s really been the place that we spend the majority of our time, year in and out.  Which is weird sometimes, considering it’s a 3 1/2 bedroom house, on two stories.  We don’t have children, so 2 1/2 of the bedrooms have become de-facto storage space.

D-Link DIR-868L router

Getting back to the issue though, our WiFi setup has been incredibly wrong since the beginning.  If you consider how WiFi works through a router, the antennas send out a signal in all directions, as long as you have them pointed in the correct configuration.  The old D-Link router I had for the past 6 years had an omni-directional antenna, in that it was encased inside the housing and wasn’t visible. 

TP-Link Archer A8 router


Most routers have the ubiquitous 3-4 (or nowadays more) antennas and most people (me included…yes guilty) leave them in the standard up position without even considering that they can be directed where you want your WiFi signals to go.  By all that I understand, generally you want your router to be in the middle of the action, where you spend the majority of your time, so that you can get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of WiFi coverage.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to invest in things like Access Points, repeaters, even possibly a second router to adequately cover your house and property.  Of course, it’s not as simple as that (it never is, right?) because in most instances you don’t just have a router, you have to consider where your modem is, whether it’s fiber, cable or even DSL (I’m guessing satellite is probably similar, but I’ve never had a satellite Internet downlink).

In my case, the modem sits next to the router.  When we upgraded to fiber 4-5 years ago, the installer asked where to put the modem.  At the time, I had thought probably it would have been a better option to put it in the middle of the house, near the west facing exit door, but our computers are here in the addition, where the router would be.  The house was built in the 19th century (1838), so it wasn’t designed with electricity in mind, let alone hi-speed Internet connections.  Consequently, when the house was wired sometime in the 1950’s (I’m guessing based on the age of some of the outlets) there wasn’t a lot of thought put in to where those outlets needed to go.  So it was very haphazard.  Over the last 20 years we’ve been upgrading outlets as needed, because the very idea of re-wiring this house might end up costing us more than the property is valued at.  Too, to do a proper re-wiring, one needs full access to walls and such, to pull wire.  So we’d have to basically demo the interior to a degree that makes my eyes water.  Most people’s houses it wouldn’t be an issue because drywall isn’t all that expensive.  Plaster on the other hand?  Double your price estimate.  Or triple it.  There aren’t many qualified plasterers these days.  Believe me, I know.

As of right now, my plan is to put the modem and router more central to the middle of the house and run either Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable back to the addition to a switch so both of the desktops can be hardwired to the router.  Hopefully that will assist with the remainder of the house being covered by both the low speed WiFi (2.4 ghz) and the higher 5 ghz connection.  After I’ve had it connected and running for awhile, I’ll give another update.


Testing out the new equipment

This would be the third dash-cam that I’ve purchased since they became a ‘thing’ several years ago.  The two others I had, died almost immediately after being installed in our various vehicles, they were (for the most part) basic pieces of junk with extremely basic capabilities, but were priced as if they had more ‘oomph’ than they actually did when used in the manner to which they had been advertised.

My wife asked me a couple of months ago if I was interested in getting a dash-cam.  After regaling her with the stories about my previous attempts, she was unswayed so she went ahead and purchased one that was touted to have ‘4K’ video capability, and could use a 128GB micro SD card for storage, allowing about 10 hours of video time either in 3, 5, or 10 minute increments.

Naturally once it had arrived and I went to put it to use, I discovered it really didn’t have the touted 4K capability, it’s a simulated 4K on playback, the guts of the camera can’t produce that quality.  So basically it’s false advertising, but sending it back would mean incurring a shipping fee (they’re going to get you coming or going) so it was better just to make it work and wait a year or so until a new one comes out that actually does have that capability, though I don’t honestly think we need one.

We’ve just gotten back from vacation, and I was testing it out on the road, so to speak.  The first storage card I had for some reason didn’t work, even after I formatted it several times both on my computer and through the unit itself.  For whatever reason once it was used by the unit it was unreadable, so I endeavored to get a new card before we left to go visit family in the Hudson Valley of New York, where I grew up.  Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get one until we’d been in Poughkeepsie for a day, so I missed out on some decent opportunities to record video of places that were familiar to me, and yes I’m still kicking myself about that.  Too, when I finally did get the card and inserted it into the camera, I completely forgot about formatting the card, and even if I had, I never plugged the unit in so it wouldn’t have recorded anyway.  Took me a few tries before I actually got it to work, and was able to confirm that it was recording by removing the storage card and attaching it through a reader to my smartphone, which was easily able to transcribe the video and play it. vlcsnap-2019-11-18 This is a shot of us going over the Mid-Hudson Bridge (the locals call it that, and always have.  In 1994 it was renamed the ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge‘ in honor of FDR, but like the Tappan Zee downstate being renamed after former Governor Mario Cuomo, it’s still referred to by its old name by anyone local) yesterday morning.  It’s a pretty crisp and clear snapshot from the video, and I doubt anyone could tell the difference between a HD image and a 4K from this vantage point.  I certainly can’t.

I expect it’s going to take a little more trial and error before I’m completely comfortable with having it in the car.  I expect also I’m not going to be recording video daily, although I believe the intent of dashcams is having it on all the time in case something does happen, as one isn’t likely to turn it on just before something unfortunate occurs.  Better safe than sorry, right?  And in the event of an accident, even if it ended up being my fault (anything is possible) it’s better to have evidence just in case something could be seen another way.  So for the time being, it’ll stay in the car.  At least to justify the 10 minutes it took me to install the long power cord along the visor and around the interior in order to hook it into the car’s power system.

Not really missing my email

The desktop computer is for the most part my gateway to the Internet.  It has all the programs I’m used to using on a daily basis, connects to the router, the printer and so on, and it has a fairly large storage drive (6TB) as well as a smaller 2 TB drive for the operating system and other files that don’t need to be on the larger drive.  Too, it contains my email program (Thunderbird) which interconnects with my list of email addresses (I have a few) and stores them without any muss or fuss.

Although with the recent inability to get it to run reliably, I’ve been forced to use my old Thinkpad instead.  It’s a workhorse, but has limited abilities compared to the desktop.  One thing I never bothered to install on it was an email program.  I prefer to keep my emails in one place, other than willy-nilly all over and not somewhat organized.  If the problems with the desktop are really problematic, I may have to adjust that plan, since I can’t be without email for too much longer.  I can access most of my email from the web of course, but that’s a plodding way to get to my mail.  I much rather prefer having one program that can access them all, store and separate them into specific folders, like Thunderbird can do and has done since I first installed it.

Over the last week that the desktop has been down, I’ve been noticing that I’m not spending as much time on the computer, or the couch.  I’ve been doing other things when I get home from work, spending time outside with my wife in the backyard, tinkering in the garage with the roto-tiller (it’s coming together, should be done in a day or so barring any sort of further disaster) and looking around for other things to do.  So all in all, the breakdown of the computer hasn’t been a horrible thing, it’s actually forced me to do things outside of my routine, and I’ve been ok with it.  Booting up the Thinkpad takes time, it doesn’t have a very speedy processor, so from the time I push the power button to the time I can actively do anything is probably 5-6 minutes.  Sometimes more.  I have another laptop that’s a bit speedier, but that one is awaiting a hard drive upgrade.

When I first decided to upgrade the drive on that one, I went with a 2TB drive, (it originally came with a small 100 GB drive) but I didn’t take into account that the larger size drive with manual platters was going to make it as slow as molasses.  If I’d bothered to go with a SSD (Solid State Drive), without any moving parts, it would have been better.  But SSD drives are like big flash drives, and they cost a bit more. So I went the cheap-o route and paid the price.  Soon after I purchased a 1 TB SSD for it and it’s now awaiting me to open the case and install it.  More computer work to do.

This afternoon after finishing work I thought about trying to use Outlook for a stopgap measure in getting my email.  Except, Outlook doesn’t play nice with POP3 servers.  Or IMAP ones for that matter.  It has a pre-set method for getting to the servers, and it presumes the domain that you give is the same one that contains the email servers.  Which in my case isn’t the way it works.  Consequently, Outlook isn’t going to be sufficient.  I’ll probably have to go with a stripped down version of Thunderbird, and leave the emails on the server instead of downloading them to the laptop and taking up valuable space.  I do have an auxiliary ‘thumbdrive’ USB dongle attached to the laptop, that contains a lot of files and folders I use on the desktop; it’s easily transportable and works well in a pinch.  But even its 120 gigs is getting filled up.

Just one more conundrum in a month filled with them.