Not everything that you can add to a computer system, or to a personal
device such as a smartphone, is a "big" improvement. Sometimes, small
enhancements can make a big difference.
Take the Actionetec Wireless Broadband Router the folks at Verizon
gave me for the FiOS fiber-optic Internet service at "La Casa
Kellner." The router in and of itself isn't at all bad: it provides a
connection to the FiOS service, a direct connection to the router for
a desktop computer and up to three other devices, and a wireless
Internet signal for the rest of the house.
At least that's the theory: in practice, the Wi-Fi signal didn't reach
from the basement, where my office is, to the second-floor guest room
where my spousal unit (as the Census Bureau would call her) does her
thing. What to do?
My first try was an Apple Inc. wireless AirPort device that should
have grabbed the signal in an appropriate strength. Its performance
wasn't great, though I don't believe this was Apple's fault. In fact,
I can assert it wasn't because of the one thing I've tried: adding a
$150 ANTBOS-24-UN 500mW Booster Antenna from Luxul Corp. of North Salt
Lake City, Utah (www.luxul.net).
I was skeptical about the Luxul booster before I tried it: could
switching antennas on the router for one that has 500 milliwatts of
extra electrical power do the trick? Well, it seems it can, since I
now get a sufficient Wi-Fi signal in that same room. The firm also
makes a one-watt amplifier that I plan to test shortly, but this might
be more than we need.
Getting a Wi-Fi signal through the house is sometimes a challenge; the
previous users put their router on the first floor and the signal was
fine on all three levels. In my case, it's imperative that I have a
direct connection to the highest speed available at my desk, so the
location of my home office dictated placement.
The Luxul product seems a good one, and although the price may equal
that of some routers themselves, if you need the power, you'll find
this a good buy. The mail order firm of Tiger Direct
(www.tigerdirect.com) is the best current retail source for the Luxul
Wi-Fi line, although the firm is said to be working on other retail
Another small improvement is also wireless related, this time for the
iPhone I'm privileged to use. Griffin Technology of Nashville, whose
accessories I've previously praised here, has come out with
"ClearBoost," a $29.95 antenna and case for the iPhone which claims to
boost signal strength.
The concept is simple: put the phone in the casing, which also helps
protect the device, and you're able to get better cell phone
reception. Griffin claims the copper-based antenna, which includes a
"stub" at the top of the case, is tuned to work best within the
824-894 MHz band that AT&T Wireless uses.
I "field tested" the ClearBoost recently on a trip which took me
through Denver and the state of Washington, specifically the
south-central city of Walla Wall, and College Place, a nearby suburb.
In those places, and on a Sunday afternoon drive south to Pendleton,
Oregon, I had excellent cellular reception and I can only credit the
Griffin product; similar trips in equally non-urban areas weren't as
pleasant. The ClearBoost gives an iPhone a real boost, and for not a
whole lot of money.
It's spring, so perhaps it's time to add memory to your computer. I
remain a fan of Nampa, Idaho-based Crucial Technology
(www.crucial.com), as one of the best suppliers of RAM, and now at
very reasonable prices. Adding more memory to most desktop and
notebook computers is an easy process, and the resulting performance
boost will make you wonder why you hadn't done it earlier.