Thursday, September 24, 2020

The home technology arms race

I have not found it too difficult to keep up with changes in personal technology devices such as phones and tablets. Both of those seem to have supplanted the laptop and desktop markets. I consider the Windows desktop interface to have moved to tablets now.

Networking, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. I remember selling Wireless-G as the new fast alternative to Wireless-B. 50 mbps was much faster than any internet connection, so it should serve people's internet needs well and leave lots of headroom for internal transfers.

This year, due to some unattended challenges with my wireless provider, and a temporary need for higher capacity, I'm back to using more home networking equipment. Seems I was more out-of-date than I thought.

First, Comcast told me the cable modem I had bought for $5 a few years ago on Craigslist is no longer supported, presumably because it cannot handle the faster speeds Xfinity wants to sell.

I remedied that problem with a cheap model that only handles over 300 mbps.

Then, I found out that my old Belkin N150 router is also slow. I ran a speed test on my 200 mbps connection only to find that I was getting 5 mbps. That would explain why things were not operating smoothly as needed.

As we were selling Wireless-G years ago, Wireless-N was just coming out and was on the bleeding edge of wireless networking technology. Now, Wireless-N is considered old and slow. It's still faster than 5 mbps.

I was at the store today and there were two Linksys wireless routers with N300 in big letters on the box. I thought that was the model number. I asked the sales associate, and they pretty much depended on the package labeling to discern the difference. The one with the lower price had more features.

Since I've already made several trips over all this, and don't want to make more, I asked if there's anything else I should know about the router, connection, etc. He said it is older technology and that includes the security on it.

When I got it out at home, the model number was not N300, so that must have been the technology type. Later than N? No idea. My iOS/iPadOS devices are quick to point out that the connection has “weak security.”

When I connected an old desktop computer that had a direct ethernet connection to the modem early this morning, it registered 130 mbps download speed.

When I connect this new (old) router, speed test results show 60-65 mbps. That's a far cry from 200, but if it's like the difference between bandwidth and throughput, that may be about right. Belkin Support was expecting those kind of numbers.

Some argue in favor of “getting what you pay for,” but I'm still happy I just got a 10x speed increase. I'm not sure (a) I would get much faster with a gigabit router, and (b) that it would be worth the 5x cost.

Further, I don't plan to stay hooked on the higher speed plan anyway. If I stick with Comcast, I plan to drop to the lower speed at the end of the special anyway to keep the price point down.

Maybe by then T-Mobile will have more of its Sprint transition figured out. And maybe the Windows 10 mobile hotspot will be more robust, too.

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