Five weeks ago, David Moore commenced his expose into the secrets of computer maintenance — rules that are carefully guarded or simply too embarrassing to share. This week, he unmasks some of the preconceptions behind wireless networks and multi-tasking.
One of the most common complaints levelled at computer technicians is that ‘the internet doesn’t work’. It’s such a common, misdirected concern that I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the ‘layman’ user in us all.
And for those who think they are beyond ‘layman’ status, with specialist hardware for multi-tasking at lightning speed, I’m about to burst your bubble.
16. Wireless speeds are what they seem
Whether it be wireless internet, wireless mice or wireless networking, the reality is that the speeds you are quoted when you buy a device are unlikely to ever be achieved.
For example, wireless networking speeds are quoted to us based on a standard measurement that has the sending and receiving devices one meter from each other.
One meter? What is the point of that?
Sure, it is a standard measurement but it is not a real life test. This speed is further falsified by a thing called the “theoretical limit”. The theoretical limit is what is mathematically possible in a perfect world.
About.com explains some of this nicely:
“The disparity between theoretical and practical performance comes from protocol overhead, signal interference, and decreasing signal distance with distance. In addition, the more devices communicating on a WLAN simultaneously, the slower the network will appear.”
Wireless ‘protocols’ can’t assume that the information you are sending back and forwards makes it to the other end OK. After, there may be a fridge between your laptop and your wireless network access point.
When the fridge fires up it will cause electrical interference.
On your radio you’d hear crackles over the music. Over you network these crackles destroy your data. So the ‘protocol’ includes checks and redundancy to make sure things get where they are going. This is wasteful and slows things down but it has to be done.
As much as the pushers of wireless tell us that speeds are increasing to the point of direct competition with cables they are lying.
The bottom line is that a good wired network will always be significantly faster than a good wireless network.
So the rule of thumb is ‘wireless for convenience, wires for speed’.
17. When your internet goes down it isn’t the end of the world.
Patience is your friend. The ‘internet’ usually comes up on its own again in less than an hour.
When I say internet I am referring to all the services over and on the internet we’ve come to love (e.g. email, instant messaging, web browsing and connecting to the whole cloud as well).
We falsely come to expect that the internet is always there and communications over it are instantaneous. It isn’t and they aren’t.
Your computer person may well provide very fast and instant service but that is not always the best thing for your wallet.
The information super highway is quite like our own road systems. Sure, it is good when it works but every so often things break and maintenance is required. Your mail may not make its destination when you expect because the truck has broken down or the depot is closed for the night. Exercising a little patience will have the problem resolved in due course without any extra effort or cost on your behalf.
When I experience email delivery problems I don’t jump on the phone to my internet service provider or start troubleshooting it. I simply shrug my shoulders and wait a while before trying again.
Of course, if problems persist seek medical advice!
18. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking
Almost since computers as we know them were invented people have been trying to make them do more than one thing at a time.
This was because they originally did their one thing quite slowly… faster than us maybe… but slowly nonetheless.
These days multi-tasking is commonplace.
The thing is… it doesn’t really exist. At least, it certainly doesn’t for mere mortals like you and me on our home computers.
Face it, you are just one person sitting in front of one computer. Be honest, what are you doing right now at exactly the same time as reading this?
I’ll tell you – nothing because you can’t. Human heads are single tasking. We work far less efficiently when chopping and changing from one task to another and back again.
This is exactly how computers multitask (in most cases). They switch back and forth so fast we don’t notice the stops and starts. Much like how old fashioned movies flick from frame to frame but we see motion.
What you make up in looking like you are doing lots at once you lose in switching overhead. Apple understood this and a large proportion of its success with iPhones comes down to avoiding multi-tasking (whether the users know it or not). This will change soon though (if it hasn’t by the time you read this).
So when someone next tries to sell you on multi-tasking don’t be fooled. Sure they may have multiple processors and all sorts of fancy stuff going on but we know what is really going on right? Of course we do. It all comes together at the end of a funnel we call “the monitor” and goes into our brains through just the one head.