Archive for February, 2007

Phone kills Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi kills phone

Our cable company recently added broadband phone to their lineup, so I switched over from DSL. When the cable guy was done, I hooked up my wireless security appliance and tested the connection with my laptop. I was impressed with the speed difference. Then I hooked up the phone and tried it. It worked great. I thought everything was going to be OK. I was wrong.

After dinner, my wife got on the phone to call my daughter while I was online. My wireless connection speed immediately dropped to less than 2Mbps (it should be solid at 11 Mbps). As soon as she hung up, the connection speed recovered. It didn’t make sense. Voice over IP is not that bandwidth-intensive.

That wasn’t the only problem. The voice quality on the other end of our line was terrible. The audio was choppy. The person on the other end could barely understand us most of the time. I was ready to tell the cable company to forget it all and reverse the changes. But I finally figured it out.

I had my wireless phone next to my wireless router. Traffic from the radio in the phone was crossing up with traffic from the wireless causing interference in both. I moved the phone across the room and everything got right again. Problem solved.

The Geek

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Filed in: Answers, Computers, Hardware

How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #2 (or, How Not to Invite Attackers Into Your PCs and Networks)

In my previous post, How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #1, I said that the best security measures are useless if you invite attackers into your PCs and networks. Several people have taken me to task on that statement, saying that they always practice safe surfing, never click on links in emails, etc., etc. I listened intently and acknowledged that they’re doing the right things, mostly. But when I asked what type of router they were using, I drew a few blank stares.

The on-by-default Windows firewall notwithstanding, anyone who has a PC plugged directly into their DSL or cable modem is at serious risk of having their PC hijacked and their personal information stolen. A PC connected directly to the Internet is visible to anyone who cares to look for it, a sugar-coated invitation to criminal hackers and spammers. An inexpensive router using network address translation (NAT) serves as an excellent hardware firewall, making your computer virtually invisible. And what they can’t see, they can’t get. With that in mind, here is Maxim#2:

A first, important step in securing your PC is to install and configure a NAT router.

The Geek

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