Why Wi-Fi is speedy
Q: You wrote that any Wi-Fi router you can buy today will be much faster than your Internet connection. Does this mean the wireless router can transmit data faster than my Internet connection can send it? If so, who cares? What’s the best way to measure the Internet data speeds coming into my home via my cable modem? Is there a way to use the Speedtest.net website to measure the data speed to a specific computer in the house? I’ve noticed that the Internet speed to my PC, which is wired to the router, is faster than the speed that my wife gets on her Wi-Fi-equipped laptop in another room.
A: It might seem silly that your home Internet connection (typically less than 20 megabits per second) is left in the dust by your Wi-Fi router (300 to 900 megabits per second advertised, although 25 to 50 percent slower in practice). After all, you can’t share Internet data around the house faster than you receive it.
But it turns out to be important. When that fast Wi-Fi router is shared by several PCs, tablet computers or smartphones, each of those devices claims part of the router’s overall speed. The more Wi-Fi devices using the home network, the slower the speed that each one gets. So it makes sense to start out with a fast Wi-Fi router.
It is possible to measure the speed being received by each computer in the house. When you use Speedtest.net, a credible and widely used site, you are sending the website a request to measure the time it takes to download or upload a preset amount of data to or from the PC you’re using at the moment. All things being equal, you’ll get about a 30 percent faster speed on a PC with a wired connection to the Internet compared with a PC in the same house that’s connected by Wi-Fi. In most cases, that’s a difference of seconds, not minutes.
Why? Once in your home, data can’t travel over the air as quickly as it moves through a wire. Obstacles for Wi-Fi include the walls in your house, which can affect signal quality, and radio interference from other Wi-Fi networks, microwave ovens or garage door openers (all share radio frequencies designated for public use).
— By Steve Alexander
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Study building safety
Q: I work for a major local retailer after closing hours. At that time, the managers lock all doors, two of which are metal gates. Supposedly a door on the far side of the building can be kicked out in an emergency. Otherwise, we are locked in until a manager comes to open the sole door we are permitted to use as an exit. If we need to leave, we have to page the manager to come unlock this door, and wait for him or her to arrive. In the event of a fire or other potential catastrophe, absent kicking out a door that we aren’t 100 percent certain can be opened, we would have to wait for a manager to let us out. Is it legal to lock in employees and expose them to the dangers of being trapped if a fire breaks out? Shouldn’t a manager with a key be stationed by the sole exit door?
A: You are right to raise concerns about your employer’s practice because it puts employees at incredible risks. It certainly concerned the head of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Long Island, N.Y.
“Simply put, exit routes must not be blocked or locked,” said Tony Ciuffo, who heads the Westbury, N.Y., office.
The only exceptions, he said, are exit doors that may be locked in a mental or correctional facility. Even then, supervisory personnel must be continuously on duty, and the employer must have an evacuation plan, he said.
“This exemption does not apply to the vast majority of workplaces,” he said.
He noted that locked exit doors caused one of the deadliest industrial disasters in New York City’s history — the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 workers died.
“Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits — a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks — many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth and 10th floors to the streets below,” he said.
A similar problem led to the death of 119 workers at a Chinese poultry-processing plant earlier this month, he said.
— By Carrie Mason-Draffen