Has WiFi Peaked?

So in the course of The Great Media Experiment, we've noticed a significant degradation of the Apple TV's ability to stream data from the computer upstairs.  Forget HD stuff, we can't reliably stream DVD rips.  One has to start the video, pause it, go away for ten minutes to let it cache, then start it.  And even then, some evenings that isn't enough.

The iPads are similarly affected, but that's usually written off to them being tablets with obviously inferior wireless equipment.  Why obviously?  Well, because it is bad, of course!

The real, real culprit is probably this:

Well there's your problem
Yeah, eight networks overlapping mine.  Nice.

(Actually, looking at that makes me wonder if I can solve a bunch of my problems by shifting to channel 11, since there are fewer coincident networks there...)

So yesterday I spent a bunch of time drilling holes in walls and floors and I ran a wire from the basement into the Apple TV.  And wouldn't you know it, all of our problems with streaming are gone.  Looking at the activity graphs on the computer upstairs, it looks like it can now stream data at 40Mb/s whereas over the WiFi it would plod along at 1Mb/s.  Huge difference.

I also discovered that my laptop can do a speedtest.net and show a 15/3 connection over the wireless.  Connected to the wire? 50/3.

It has a bit of the boiling frog problem.  When I started with this WiFi in the home thing eight years ago or so, I had a router in my basement.  The theory was that it would project the WiFi signal more or less straight up, and the concrete foundation would "hide" the signal from the rest of the neighbourhood, and to a certain extent hide the rest of the neighbourhood from my router.  It was all kind of academic, since I remember that I could see exactly one other wireless network from my laptop, and that weakly at best.

Now here we are, I have changed WiFi routers three or four times -- each time when the signal reception was getting unusable, I just assumed the router was dead or worn out and got another one.  The router has also been moved around the house -- from the basement, to the second floor office, to the shelf in the front room (a location I picked because it was the only network jack on the main floor).  The router's current location is less than 10m from the Apple TV with no significant obstruction between the two devices (one empty desk and the side of the entertainment unit -- no walls) and the throughput is still crap.  The iPads can barely surf the web from the couch in the living room.

I've even contemplated a wireless mesh network for the house -- multiple radios on each floor.  And frankly that seems just overkill ridiculous to me.  I'll be blasting out so much signal that my neighbors won't have any choice but to respond in kind.  And we'll be right back to where we started, except with more money spent.

5Ghz doesn't look like a solution because it doesn't work even half as well as 2.4GHz -- and given the choice, most devices will chose the 2.4Ghz connection anyways.  And looking at the InSSIDer screen above, it appears my neighbors have come to the same conclusion, as there's practically no 5Ghz networks in use.  Possibly the prevalence of 5Ghz cordless phones is what is killing 5Ghz WiFi.  I know we have 5Ghz phones.

I'd have to do the mesh solution to make 5Ghz work because it demonstrably doesn't work between floors.

All this makes me wonder if for the average person, WiFi might have peaked.  So many people have so many access points and devices that the spectrum is so congested.  People tolerate it because their tablets or phones are mobile devices, and therefore inferior (see my logic above) or because their laptops are running Windows and therefore obviously slow.

Or because their internet is slow.  (But that's a separate blog post.)

Overall the experience is so much worse than it could be.  Eventually people will stop putting up with it.  I wonder if my return to the wire is the beginning of the end of the WiFi wave in the same way that my router was the beginning of the same wave.  

As for my network, I'll probably move the router next to the Apple TV -- not for wireless streaming, since the wire is superior in every way -- but so that the iPads work better in the area where they primarily get used.  I'll try the channel change I speculated on above.  And I'll look into another router for the office upstairs.  We'll just have to see how it goes.


Review: Burlesque

Plotwise this is a terrible movie. The main protagonist's trajectory is only up, up, up. The only crisis in her trajectory is an incompetent professional rival who merely provides a platform for our protagonist to show how wonderful she is; and will she find a boyfriend. The main crisis in the film, the club's survival, is driven by a supporting character.

If you ignore that, it was loud (which might have something to do with the TV it was displayed on) and choppy (which might have something to do with the network it was streamed over).


Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (IMAX-3D)

IMAX is really big. Too big, if you sit too close. So if you have to sit further back to make the big screen smaller, what's the point?

I preferred the HFR-3D that we watched the first part in, even if it seemed a little "darker" (visually, not story-wise). When you have a gigantic screen at the standard frame rates, fast movement is visually blocky, as in the monster is here - here - here, not flowing from point A to point B. HFR gives you more frames so there are more places for the monster to be in the same period of time, so the movement has to be much faster before it breaks down like that.

I am still not convinced that 3D is anything more than a gimmick. This one made me dizzy with a couple of camera moves though.

And oh yes there was a story.

My biggest complaint: so far there are no stakes for the heroes. Nobody has died yet. I mean in LoTR 1 you had Boromir step up and take one for the team and you got the message, hey this isn't some fairy tale where we're all going to live happily ever after, some of us will not make it out. In The Hobbit there are thirteen dwarves at the start of the journey and there are thirteen dwarves at the end of movie #2 and the most peril they've been in is one of them got sick. I know this is supposed to be a children's story, so all of our plucky heroes need to make it, but since we're showing gigantic spiders I don't think this is a children's movie even if it is a children's story. Orcs are being mowed down like storm troopers; let's loose a dwarf or two. In the noble sacrifice for the rest of the group, yes, sure, but come on.

I got a little tired of the action sequences, some of them were more than a little contrived; nearly all of them went on too long. Say, for example, the bit where one of the barrels bounces out of the water and across four or five orcs.

Speaking of contrived, I think that word sums up Legolas' inclusion in the story. Word is that Vigo Mortenson declined to reprise his role of Aragorn for The Hobbit on the grounds that it wasn't canon. Well, maybe Orlando Bloom needs the money, and frankly who is he to say no if someone wants to pay him?

Jenn wanted to know that since Gandalf knew for certain that Sauron was "back" so to speak, what was he messing around with for sixty years before LoTR's start, and why was he so horrified that Sauron was back in LoTR?

And-oh-by-the-way, the One Ring is a universal translator for evil?

Overall, this movie is weaker than the first one, even considering that part of the strength of the first one was that feeling that ok we've sat through all this the next two will make it all worth while, and frankly so far it isn't. This movie was too long, and together the first two movies are way too long. I'm getting the feeling that once the third movie comes out, someone could make a 120 minute supercut of all three together to tell a tight and coherent story without making us sit around for eight hours.



I'm not terribly convinced by the legal argument that prostitution shouldn't be illegal because having it so makes it dangerous for these involved in said illegal activity, but that's probably why I'm not a Supreme Court judge.


Git Is So Terrible It Is Awesome

Today's SysAdvent is hilarious:

14 Tips For Git Giddiness In 2014

It's hilarious because it basically boils down to git is so awesome that it can commit every sin that would get any other piece of software summarily canned and you'll keep coming back for more.

It features such pearls of wisdom as:

  • You'll be glad you stopped relying on default command arguments, especially when they change in a major release.
  • Previous version control systems would add conflict markers in the file and make you resolve them, but without operating against the repository. (and here's how to make Git work the same way.)
  • Do Not Store Artifacts in Git (Even Lil' Ones)
  • Submodules are Horrible... Except When They're Not
  • One of Git's most useful features is the ability to add commands to its lexicon, via the alias feature. Learn to love this feature: it allows you to create shortcut commands for complex operations.

That one is my favorite -- after telling you to avoid default behavior because it will break in future revs, the author tells you to create your own defaults, which will break in future revs because the pieces they depend on will break. Plus it will mean that not only do you need a particular version of git to work the way you want, you'll need a whole environment.

  • Be Careful What You Read On the Internet

That one is good advice. One could even apply it to both this and the linked article.

  • The attitude that everyone must obsess over the intricacies of a single counter-intuitive tool required to get work done does nothing to help Git's adoption.

One might argue that Git being a counter-intuitive tool is a bigger hurdle preventing Git's adoption.

  • Your Team Needs a Git "Language Lawyer"


  • Make Time Early On to Discuss and Decide on Workflows

I describe this as "the wiki problem". Because there's no structure imposed on people, people can do what they think they want. Which is liberating. But the problem is that if you have more than one person using the tool -- and sometimes not even that many -- the conflicting ideas of workflow (or structure, in wiki terms) turns the whole thing into an inconsistent mess, one that only increases exponentially in complexity and depth as more people are added.

In summary: Git Is So Awesome It'll Make You Want To Kill Somebody.

The bottom line to all this is that version control is hard, even though we've been doing it for ever -- sccs dates back to 1972, which is before most of the kids today can remember.  Of course, these kids "discovered" version control with git, so they think they invented it and that it is all new.  Us old fossils know better.

And the best part -- we can watch the same thing happen to these kids.