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Troubleshooting

NSU provides wireless internet connectivity for Academic and Residential computing. While not flawless, this service is reaching maturity and is seeing few failures due to service provisions.

Most often, wireless connectivity issues are not due to failed wireless services, but rather the user’s computers. This write-up will discuss several aspects of problematic wireless connectivity; after all, knowledge is power. This article is written for the end-user with MS-Windows based computers in mind; however, other operating system utilities may also be listed.

Low signal strength is often a reason for failed connectivity. Signal strength is often measured in “bars” for simplicity. Five (5) bars is an excellent signal strength and one (1) bar is a poor signal strength. You should be aware that you can still connect with 1 and 2 bars, however you may suffer from slow speeds and possible disconnects. 2 bars although low, will generally not have significant problems. Some computers allow boosting of the internal antenna’s power level. Doing so may allow for more bars. For instructions on this, please see http://www.netlobo.com/weak_wireless_signal.html.

When regarding wireless connectivity, terms like “Line-of-Sight”, “Barrier Interference”, and “Electrical Noise” have significant meaning.  Line-of-Sight references a straight line between your computing device and the Access Point.  It is always best to minimize the number of barriers between you and the Access Point.  Barriers include walls and large objects especially metal objects, that may block or deflect wireless signal.  Also, the electrical interference of other electronics such as blue tooth devices, phones, refrigerators, microwaves, and other computing devices can easily interfere with wireless connectivity quality.

Not all hardware providers use the best quality components. It is a simple fact that some built-in wireless adapters are inadequate. Purchasing and using a USB wireless adapter may in fact give you a much better connection than the built-in wireless adapter. Often changing from completely unable to connect situation to a 4 bar connection.

There are also tools available that can assist you with finding better signals. These are often called Wireless (or WiFi) Stumblers and Scanners. If you are an advanced user or are open to experiment, please Google this advanced topic. Stumblers written for Apple OSX often allow you to connect to specific signals found by the utility. OSX based stumblers include KisMac, AP Grapher, iStumbler, and Air Radar. Windows based stumblers tend to only display information, albeit very detailed information. Windows based stumblers include InSSIDer, Net Surveyor, Meraki, and NetStumbler. For Linux there is WiFi Radar and IWScanner.

One last wireless specific issue worth mentioning is regarding Ad-Hoc networks, which is basically other computers advertising wireless signals which are not internet Access Points. A big issue found recently is called Viral SSID’s. This is a host of computers pretending to be Access Points in lure of unsuspecting users to connect to them. Once connected, the user’s computer becomes one of the culprits, thus the term “Viral”, providing persistent advertisements of fake internet services. A very good article can be found at http://www.airtightnetworks.com/home/resources/knowledge-center/viral-ssid.html. Users should follow these instructions to delete or disable Ad-Hoc connections: http://lbis.kenyon.edu/snap/adhoc or http://www.wlanbook.com/free-public-wifi-ssid/. Do not connect to “HP Setup” nor “Free Public WiFi”.

Another big issue with computers is due to malicious software. Malware, as it is called, can be the culprit of a wide range of computer problems including slowness, crashes, information theft and even network connectivity problems. Often, especially with windows based computers, failing connectivity is due to Malware and excessive background processes.

In regards to Malware, there are quite a few cleaning utilities available. One of the most-recommended and free for personal use, is a utility called Malware Byte’s Anti-Malware. The free utility will not keep your computer protected in real-time, but it is among the best on-demand cleaners available. It will scan for and clean a vast number of malicious software.

It is also recommended that your Anti-Virus be fully functional and updated for real-time protection. No single anti-virus is 100% effective; however, they do provide a high level of protection. There are several free Antivirus and software suites available. Among the most popular providers are Avast, AVG, PCTools, BitDefender, Comodo, and Panda. When installing one of these products, it is prerequisite to uninstall the existing antivirus.

If your computer is known to be infected, Vipre Rescue is a good starting place for virus removal. Also SmitFraudFix may resolve some persistently odd infection issues.

Peer to Peer (P2P) applications, for example, Torrent Clients, eMule, Aries, etc. are known to diminish both the user’s internet connection and neighbors’ internet connections.  Using these software applications for downloading and sharing files will significantly slow your connection and also slow the connections of others connected to the same access point.  Please refrain from using P2P applications.

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