How to Make Your Wi-Fi Faster and Better

A gadget’s only as good as its internet connection. Few things drive you crazier than a stuttery PUBG session or an episode of Game of Thrones streaming one. Halting. Word. At. A. Time. You probably don’t think much about your router, though. And yet, by the time you’ve connected a family’s worth of phones and tablets—plus your laptop, Roku, Xbox, smart fridge, doorbell, and thermostat—you’ve stressed out that Netgear RT-X86Something you bought at Circuit City in 2008. You remember your router, right? The one stashed in a closet somewhere, forgotten until the Comcast guy tells you to unplug it.

You can do better. And so can your Wi-Fi. Luckily, getting faster internet requires nothing more than some light interior decorating and a few strings of numbers that we swear we’re not using to hack you. Or, if you’re into upgrades, you can solve your problem with one credit card swipe.

Update, Upgrade

Believe it or not, routers finally feature upgrades worth the price. Mesh networks, as they’re known, use two or more boxes to create a larger, more capable range of coverage. You can connect more devices and get internet in more places; plus, most of these new devices are smart enough to choose the right channels and bands to keep your internet running smoothly. Buy an Eero, or Google Wifi, or maybe a Plume, and in five minutes you’ll have a dramatically better home setup.

Don’t want to drop $300? OK, at least make sure you’re running the latest version of your router’s firmware. Every router works slightly differently, but a quick Google search will show you how to get in, and a quick update will ensure you’re getting the best performance and the most security.

Location, Location, Location

The short wavelengths used by Wi-Fi routers don’t do well with walls, floors, doors, couches, and carpets. Keep your router out in the open where you can see it—anything between your gadget and your router just slows things down. Put it next to the TV, not in the cabinet.

For best results, try a few places by plugging in your router, running a speed test, and finding where things work best. Pro tip: Place it somewhere high. Because of the way most antennas are designed, the stream of internet your router emits mostly travels downward. The higher you place it, then, the more directly it’ll get to you. Kitchen counters are good places, or if you’re really after that low-latency goodness, stick the thing to your ceiling. It’s like a chandelier!

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Safety First

We shouldn’t have to tell you this, because you read WIRED, but you need a password on your Wi-Fi. It’s good for keeping hackers away, and keeping neighbors from Netflixing off your bandwidth. Make sure you use AES encryption, too (it’s usually right there in the dropdown), which is both the most secure and most speed-friendly security option.

Another thing: Your probably should have two networks. One for you, one for guests. Everyone asks for the password, but you’re better off limiting the number of people and devices on your personal network to things you actually want there. Plus, let’s be real: Do you really trust your friends? If they’d text your exes just because you left your phone unlocked, they’d definitely hack you just for fun.

Plan and Prioritize

Does it ever feel like the internet’s slowest right after dinner, or when some big TV show is on? That’s not in your head. The more people online, the slower your connection. This isn’t a router change, it’s a you change. Start your big downloads right before you go to bed so they can work in relative calm, and if you need rock-solid connectivity to the DOTA servers, maybe fake a cough and head home early. Nobody’s stealing your bandwidth at 1:30 pm.

It also helps to reduce the number of devices on your network. Having dozens of things tapping into the Wi-Fi can be just as problematic as trying to play FIFA online while simultaneously torrenting the whole of The Sopranos. Plug anything you can into Ethernet, and unplug anything you have connected but don’t need (like that “smart” tea kettle you never once got to work). Make sure only the things that need internet get internet.

On most recent routers, you can even prioritize a particular device or service through the same wonky settings menu you’d use to create a password or update the firmware. It’s a hacky but handy way to make sure your games never get interrupted by someone’s Facebooking. If you have Luma or Google Wifi, you get even more granular controls—you can prioritize the Fire TV, but only for the next two hours.

Remember, though: Wi-Fi is a strangely personal thing. Performance depends on where you are, what the walls are made of, when your microwave was manufactured, and whether the guy who laid the cables did it right. You never see the speeds advertised on the box. But without trying very hard, you can make the situation much better. And with a new set of routers now, your network can be ready for the next time you come back from Home Depot with a car full of smart-home stuff. You know that’s happening soon.

Humanscale, the Vintage Design Tool, Gets a Second Life

Apple messed with a cardinal rule of industrial design with regards to made the iPhone 6. The glassy display, 5.5 ins on diagonal, ended up being too big for those who have tiny arms to achieve the utmost effective. To compensate, the company introduced Reachability—a fast dual faucet of the house switch that shifts the screen’s apps downward two ins, into the array of tiny hands.

The function had beenn’t so much a salve for ergonomic oversight as it was an acknowledgement of an unfortunate truth: When building one thing for millions of people, one size can’t fit all. “The dual tap is the most apparent human being factors workaround,” states Luke Westra, a designer at Chicago design studio IA Collaborative.

When Westra talks about human facets, he’s discussing a industry of design concerned primarily with how people’s systems connect to their physical environments, also known as ergonomics. All good designers consider peoples factors when creating a item. The ones that don’t get stools too brief for the table or office seats that provide workers straight back aches.

IA Collaborative

Steve work and Jony Ive used computers and CAD pc software to contour the final kind of the iPhone, but years before the smartphone to enter the market, designers relied on an analog device to help them better understand the body. This tool, called Humanscale, was a group of nine rotating disks filled with a lot more than 60,000 information points. Spin the selector in just about any direction and a group of numbers align in the windows showing you the proper dimension values the subject you been designing for.

Through the ‘70s and ‘80s, commercial designers utilized the reference tool being a cheat sheet getting quick data points. But after MIT Press stopped printing them inside mid 1980s, they truly became something of a enthusiasts item, selling for well over $2,000 on e-bay. Now Humanscale is back thanks to Westra plus team at IA Collaborative’s Venture supply, who are producing reprints of this classic design tool for $79 per printing or $199 for the complete set.

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Humanscale ended up being the item of Henry Dreyfuss & Associates (HDA), the look firm behind iconic things like Honeywell thermostat and Bell’s tabletop phone. Its creator, Henry Dreyfuss, had been an earlier champion of ergonomic design, and his studio approached its training such as a science. Kind accompanied function, and function followed data. A significant load of data.

No item had been made without first consulting a washing listing of physical statistics—things like average height, supply span, sitting hip width, and viewing angle from a desk. “The big problem in those days had been that data ended up beingn’t necessary in a pleasant, easily usable form,” claims Bill Crookes, who worked at HDA through the early ‘70s until its closing inside early 2000.

Data existed, but in piecemeal. If you desired to know the measurements regarding the normal North American man’s leg, you might reference army documents. In the event that you wished to understand the maximum decibel comfortable toward human ear, you can look up data through the EPA. One of many firm’s lovers, Niels Diffrient, was determined to combine this ergonomic data as a solitary, easy-to-use tool that designers could bring together into the field.

Diffrient and his team, including Crookes, spent years tediously gathering human being engineering data. They discovered, as an example, your average height of the fedora ended up being 2 inches—important when taking home dimensions into account. They combed formal sources for information on the height of wheelchair-bound people. They measured the distinctions in gripping posture when keeping a cylinder, ball, or pencil, and then arranged all this information onto Humanscale’s themed disks. “They laid out every little facts about these tools by hand by having a square triangle and a compass for a drafting table,” says Nathan Ritter, a design researcher at IA Collaborative.

Illustrations regarding front and straight back of the disks revealed people and their body parts in a variety of positions, with arrows annotating dozens of measurement points. Rotating the disks filtered the info sets so you may see information particular to women, guys, and young ones at their different percentiles.

Humanscale was a masterpiece of data design, and perhaps among the first interactive information visualizations. It’s a relic, but it is also regarded among industrial developers once the gold standard of peoples engineering statistics. Today, the disks were replaced by more technologically higher level tools, like proprietary digital ergonomics databases that design firms can license for thousands of dollars.

For IA Collaborative, letting the Humanscale disks fade into obscurity is a missed opportunity. “They’re still just like appropriate today as if they had been just launched,” Ritter states. The developers are starting with reissuing the first disks and publications, but in the course of time they plan to digitize the information and create an interactive interface for the data. They figure most designers can use an easy tool to make their designs be more in regards to the individuals they’re designing for. “You can design such a thing within the vacuum,” Westra says. “However, if you’re perhaps not considering the those who are gonna make use of it, they’re not going to have a great experience.”

Thanks to Augmented Reality, Your Desk Will Soon Be a Computer Too

In the early 1990s, Xerox Parc researchers showed off a futuristic concept they called the Digital Desk. It looked like any other metal workstation, aside from the unusual setup that hovered overhead. Two video cameras hung from a rig above the desk, capturing the every movement of the person sitting at it. Next to the cameras, a projector cast the glowing screen of a computer onto the furniture’s surface.

Using Xerox’s desk, people could do crazy things like highlight paragraphs of text on a book and drag the words onto an electronic word document. Filing expenses was as easy as touching a stylus to a receipt and dragging the numbers into a digital spreadsheet. Suddenly, the lines between the physical world and digital one were blurred. People no longer needed a keyboard, mouse, and screen to harness a computer’s power; all they had to do was sit down and the computer would appear in front of them.

Despite its novelty—or maybe because of it—the Digital Desk never took off. Technology moved in the opposite direction; towards the glassy, self-contained boxes of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. But researchers never gave up on the vision, and now more than 35 years later, these half-digital, half-physical workspaces might actually make sense.

“I really want to break interaction out of the small screens we use today and bring it out onto the world around us,” says Robert Xiao, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose most recent project, Desktopography, brings the Digital Desk concept into the modern day.

Carnegie Mellon University

Like Digital Desk, Desktopography projects digital applications—like your calendar, map, or Google Docs—onto a desk where people can pinch, swipe, and tap. But Desktopography works better than Xerox could’ve ever dreamed of thanks to decades worth of technological advancements. Using a depth camera and pocket projector, Xiao built a small unit that people can screw directly into a standard lightbulb socket.

The depth camera creates a constantly updated 3-D map of the desktop, noting when objects move and when hands enter the scene. This information is then passed along to the rig’s brains, which Xiao’s team programmed to distinguish between fingers and, say, a dry erase marker. This distinction is important since Desktopography works like an oversized touchscreen. “You want interface to escape from physical objects not escape from your hands,” says Chris Harrison, director of CMU’s Human Computer Interaction Institute.

That gets to the biggest problem with projecting digital applications onto a physical desk: Workspace tend to be messy. Xiao’s tool uses algorithms to identify things like books, papers, and coffee mugs, and then plans the best possible location to project your calendar or Excel sheet. Desktopography gives preference to flat, clear backgrounds, but in the case of a cluttered desk, it’ll project onto the next best available spot. If you move a newspaper or tape recorder, the algorithm can automatically reorganize and resize the applications on your desk to accommodate for more or less free space. “It’ll find the best available fit,” says Harrison. “It might be on top of a book, but it’s better than putting it between two objects or underneath a mug.”

Desktopography works a lot like the touchscreen on your phone or tablet. Xiao designed a few new interactions, like tapping with five fingers to surface an application launcher, or lifting a hand to exit an app. But for the most part, Desktopography applications still rely on tapping, pinching, and swiping. Smartly, the researchers designed a feature that makes digital apps to snap to hard edges on laptops or phones, which could allow projected interfaces to act like an augmentation of physical objects like keyboards. “We want to put the digital and physical in the same environment so we can eventually look at merging these things together in a very intelligent way,” Xiao says.

The CMU lab has plans to integrate the camera and projection technology into a regular LED light bulb, which will make ubiquitous computing more accessible for the average consumer. Today it costs around $1,000 to build a one-off research unit, but eventually Harrison believes that mass manufacturing could get a unit down to around $50. “That’s an expensive light bulb,” he says. “But it’s a cheap tablet.”

Moment’s Snap-on iPhone Lenses Get Their Own Battery Case

Until phones last a week per charge, everyone’s in the market for a battery case. Most of them have a problem: Once you slap a battery pack on your smartphone, there’s no room for fancy lens attachments. Most bulky, pro-minded lens cases don’t have built-in batteries, so you’re stuck with a decision between more juice or more photographic firepower.

Well, you were stuck with that decision, because Moment’s new case pulls double duty. It’s a high-capacity battery case, and it’s built to accept the company’s excellent lens attachments. The thing’s even got a physical shutter button on it—one that uses the Lightning connector, making it much faster than the older Moment case’s Bluetooth button. You also get DSLR-type actions with the button when you take photos within Moment’s app: A half press resets focus and exposure, a full press snaps a photo, and a press-and-hold action fires a burst.

Moment’s Battery Photo Case is roughly the same size as Mophie’s very popular Juice Pack, but it actually outdoes Mophie in terms of capacity. The iPhone 7 version of the case more than doubles the phone’s battery life, thanks to a 2,500mAh cell stuffed inside of it. The iPhone 7 Plus case goes even further, with a 3,500mAh battery to sip from. There’s no physical charge switch on the case as there is on Mophie’s stuff; you choose when you want to recharge via the Moment app.

MomentlensTA3.jpgMoment

This is also Moment’s first case that’s made to work with both lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus, albeit not at the same time. There’s two mounting slots on the case that match up with that phone’s dual-lens setup, so you can use the company’s macro, fisheye, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses with either one.

We usually don’t get down with Kickstarters (they’re unpredictable in terms of quality, and they often don’t even ship), but Moment has a solid track record. The Battery Photo Case will set you back $100 if it reaches its $500,000 goal on Kickstarter. They’ll hit that number number quickly; Moment has a strong following among mobile photography enthusiasts.

Also on offer is a new Photo case—a basic protective case with a mount for Moment lenses—and a redesigned wide-angle lens that works better with the iPhone 7, but also fits Moment mounts for Pixel, Galaxy phones, and older iPhones.

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