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The Zuckerberg Approach

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

In an earlier column while describing possible solutions to Wi Fi connectivity problems, I made passing reference to what we Information Technology people call the “Zuckerberg Approach.” It was widely reported in the news that Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg spent $30 million buying four homes surrounding his Palo Alto mansion. It gives a whole new meaning to the word “unfriend” that he purchased the properties allegedly to have more privacy, improved security, and better Wi Fi.

There is something a bit troubling about the maneuverings of someone who made his fortune on social media and now guards his personal privacy so jealously. I will leave that to the psychoanalysts to debate, while on a purely technical level I have to admit the guy was absolutely right on target in finding how to improve his Wi Fi coverage. Eliminating radio interference from your neighbors’ Wi Fi is a proven way to improve your own Wi Fi.

Working with clients, I have actually done just that. In one situation, my client simply could not use her iPad in the living room of her small apartment because there was too much radio interference on the Wi Fi frequencies. The apartment next door to the north had a big Smart TV on a common wall, and a few centimeters away through the south wall other neighbors had a smart-TV too. Both televisions were connected wirelessly though they were stationary and could have been easily hard wired. On top of that, more neighbors a few meters away across the patio also had appliances connected wirelessly to the Internet.

If you read the earlier column, you should understand that Wi Fi is a wait-your-turn system that works like an old telephone party line. When there are a lot of wireless devices sharing the same radio spectrum, all of them slow down. When this happens, there is nothing that can be done to improve things by boosting the wireless signal or adding a repeater; the only effective solution is to reduce the number of wireless devices.

Armed with this knowledge, my client convinced three of her neighbors to turn off the Wi Fi in their Smart TVs and connect using an Ethernet cable we provided. Another neighbor connected his laptop with a cable because it was sitting on the same desk with his modem anyway. Like magic, my client could suddenly use her iPad in her apartment. When those neighbors noticed that streaming video such as Netflix was greatly improved by using a hard-wired cable, other neighbors soon realized they could benefit from doing likewise.

Connecting devices wirelessly to the Internet certainly seems more convenient than using an Ethernet cable, and a lot of people want to do so for aesthetic reasons. Just be aware that there are some limits as to what  Wi Fi technology can support efficiently.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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