The Finance Corner: (Lifehacking Edition) Better Wireless Signal on the Cheap

We live in an age of wireless technology: cell phones, Ipads, Ipods, and laptops.  I still remember the days when all high-speed internet connectivity was via a wired ethernet ports and CAT5 cables.  However, the trouble with our current setup of wireless technology is that we (most readers of this blog) live in America and our wireless technology is woefully behind that of Japan.  We still have wireless dead-zones and weak signals, specifically, for wi-fi internet connections.  Don’t get me wrong, our technology has come a long way, but there are spots in my apartment where my wireless connection is as spotty as a scruffy-looking nerf-herder.  That is why today I am bringing you two cheap Life-Hacks to boost your wireless signal or wireless reception to improve connectivity and decrease lag in our “always on” society.

Boosting the Signal on Your Wireless Router

Get coked up! No... wait that didn't sound right.

Many times we find that we only have a bar or two for our online connectivity unless we are either at school (we have great coverage here) or we are right next to our router at home.  However, the further we move from the source of the wireless signal, the more it degrades until it is lost entirely.  To extend the range of wireless coverage and boost the signal, people typically purchase an item called a “Wireless Repeater” which receives the wireless signal and retransmits it, increasing the effective rang and power of the signal.  These devices average around $80 for a good quality unit.  However, there is a way to life-hack your wireless router to boost your signal at a fraction of the cost.  There are several guides out there for making your own signal boosting antenna, but the one I found the easiest (and most entertaining) is how to make one out of an old soda or beer can.

In this simple guide from theCHIVE.com, we are taught how to use an old can to our advantage.  After cleaning the can out, remove the tab, and remove the base of the can with.  Cut most of the way around the top of the can, and the cut the can along the length of the can (pictures in the guide walk you through this).  When you are done, you have a mini aluminum parabolic dish that simply slides onto the existing antenna on your router.  Point the new antenna in the direction you want to boost the signal and enjoy better wifi!

Boosting Your Computer’s Ability to Receive Wi-Fi

If I could just jam a USB thumb drive into Mickey Mouse's ears I bet I would get a great signal.

Sometimes it is not enough to just boost the output of your router.  Sometimes you want to connect to a really distant wireless signal.  Sometimes you want to steal your neighbor’s internet connection.  Well despite that last one which I do not advocate and you should not do, you can accomplish a better connection via Wi-Fi by building a Wi-Fi receiver for your computer.  Instructables has a great guide on this cheap DIY project.  All you need is a Cooking Strainer, a USB Wireless Thumb Drive, and a USB Extension cable.

By cutting a hole in the center of the strainer and putting the thumb drive in the center of that hole, you can greatly boost the thumb drive’s ability to pick up wireless signals.  The USB extender cable is used to connect the thumb drive to the USB port on your computer.  The strainer acts as an antenna, focusing the wireless signals to the thumb drive.  The one thing this guide doesn’t mention, which can help you boost your ability to pick up singles slightly better is that the thumb drive is more effective if you remove the plastic casing.  VERY carefully remove the plastic casing around the drive and hook it up using the same instructions and you will have a slightly better signal.  If you are at all nervous about opening up the thumb drive, this is not a necessary step.

Save your money a build your own wireless Utopia!

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