Do you really need an 802.11AC wireless router for your home/home office?

802.11ac is the newest wireless networking standard on the market.

802.11ac is the newest wireless networking standard on the market.

They are here and on shelves everywhere… and they are the newest standard for 802.11AC wireless routers for home and small business.

Outside of having the standard set of rules for WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPS encryption modes, it adds a stronger security framework. Take the Asus RT-AC66R WiFi router, available in most stores for around $200 (the price you pay may vary from $295 down to $165).

This particular router does stateful packet inspection, detects denial of service attacks, provides access control, parental control, network service filter, URL filter, and a port filter. All of these security features have to be understood by the end-user, though, in order to be effective.

Asus  RT-AC66U

Asus RT-AC66U

So why would the average user run out and buy one of these new devices? The answer is plain and simple and the same reason why so many people want a Bugatti over a Yugo–speed! Yes…the maximum theoretical speed of an older 802.11g wireless router is around 54Mbps. This is fast enough for most loading content from most web sites or to view streaming media over an Internet connection.

An 802.11N wireless router will get your data transferred over your home network’s connection at speeds around 100-150 Mbps throughput. To give you an example of how fast that is, consider downloading the latest drivers for your computer from the manufacturer’s website. There is a 250 MB file and your average download speed on the connecttion to the manufacturer’s FTP server is somewhere between 1-2 Mbps. If this were a straw being used to slurp down a shake, then think of it as you are using 1/64th of the straw for the shake and the other 63/64 parts are empty waiting for another shake, a soda, some beer, or whatever it is you wish to fill that up with.

That is one way of looking at bandwidth.

The reason why it is so much faster is that 802.11AC uses up to eight (8) MIMO (multiple in/multiple out) connections and each connection utilizes up to 180MHz per connection. Couple this capacity with using 256-QAM, a method for twisting the signals so that they can handle 256 different different signals that are being twisted/manipulated of each of these 256 streams and you come up with the capability of hitting close to 7Gbps bandwidth. To give you an idea of what that is, if you paid a small fortune and ran fiber optic data lines inside your home, you will be using close to 10Gbps and that is maximum theoretical speed.

If you home cable modem tops out at 20Mbps then that leaves a large amount of bandwidth of your network untouched. And since, right now, nothing inside your laptop, desktop, tablet or smart phone can come close to using all of that bandwidth, and given that the full potential of this technology has been touched, we have a ways to go before this is going to be incorporated in your computer or personal device.

Currently the Asus RT-AC66R is one of the fastest AC standard routers on the market and it tops out at speeds between 1300 and 1700 Mbps. This is a long way away from its maximum potential of 8 MIMO streams at 180MHz but instead it currently is using 4 MIMO streams at approximately 80 MHz for a combined total of 1750 Mbps. The limits now are the routers and the wireless cards in our computers and smart phones.

So do you need one of these devices? Maybe not now. Most of the best uses for this bandwidth will occur within the local network as the end user begins transferring video and photo files from one machine to another and the realization that what today takes 45 minutes to move will take approximately five minutes in the next two years or so. Right now, AC wireless cards are planning on being used in notebooks, desktops, and smart phones sometime in 2014 and 2015. So save your dimes, save your time and learn how to use a cable connection on your laptop to take advantage of the next to 3 Gbps data transfer speeds of a hard wired network connection.

If you have questions, let me know!

Don’t lose your images to a lossy .jpg

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo-Courtesy of Rick Miller/Wake Forest University

Before we being, I apologize for my absence. I’ve switched jobs, switched lives basically and am just now getting settled into some kind of routine. Thanks for sticking with me during the past month of silence.

Okay…so if you’re like me you shoot in raw or maybe jpg and then rush over to your PC to download your shots and view them in some tool like Lightroom, Picasa, Microsoft Paint, whatever…

There is a reason why you should not save those precious images in a .jpg format for long term.

Everytime you open a .jpg type image you decompress the image and when you close it, you recompress it. It’s in this recompression that you wind up losing data. To understand why this happens you have to understand how compression works.

Compression works by using an algorithm to compute where changes in your file can be safely made to substitute one character for several. Now for you techies…this is a major simplification of the process. There is actually a lot that happens but suffice it to say that the original file that you started out with is stored in a compressed format. JPG uses this to reduce the size of the file and there are two formats…lossless and lossy.

If you are using lossy, you are also using a format that loses data. So everytime you open a file in Picasa, Photoshop, John’s photo viewer, etc…you are losing data. So over time, that image of your loved one, pet, flower, or something else over time, and multiple openings and closings, will start showing noticeable signs of deterioration in the digital version.

So what’s the solution? Save images in a lossless .jpg format or save them in an entirely different format like tiff, or maybe even .bmp (yes…a bitmap). Another option is to save original in their raw format that your camera shots them in, and use a lossless .jjpg for sharing and use a tiff/bmp on those images that you want to save for a very long time.

If your images are already in a lossy .jpg format. save them in a different format like tiff now. If you are just now importing images from your camera in a nice raw file mode, leave them in that mode and work with/use .jpg copies for short periods of time. Of course you can always make digital copies of your jpgs and share them.

Camera Classes

LADay1-82
So from time to time it may be a good idea to take a class, either online or in-person to remember how this whole capture of light thing works. A few notes from the class I took over the weekend for those of you with new DSLR cameras.

1) Auto format–good if you really don’t know what you’re doing. But it’s like walking up to a baker and saying “make me a cake” and you get a strawberry banana cake when you wanted German chocolate. You didn’t specify what kind of cake and the same holds true for taking photographs.

2) ISO–you cannot overstate the importance of having the proper ISO for your conditions. If you are outside on a bright sunny day, ISO 200 or even 400 will work for you but at twilight, time to open that thing up higher and start approaching the 1600 range as lighting degrades. Experiment with different ISO settings to see how this works. It’s a DSLR and the space on a memory card is cheap. Blowing that once in a lifetime shot may not be so expendable.

3) Aperture (f-stop) — this is how big the hole is in the lens that lets light through. The bigger the hole, the more light shines through. It’s sorta like the family idiot…everyone knows he’s got a big enough hole in his head that you can see clean down to his gullet but he just won’t quit showing it off. Same is true here. The lower the number, the larger the opening. If you can find a lens with a 2.8, 1.8, 1.4 or so aperture then you can grab some really intense photos in low light. Conversely, if you have a smaller aperture lens, say a f4-6.3, you have what is called a slow lens. It’s slow because it requires more time for the shutter to remain open in lower lighting to achieve a decent image. That also means that your image is more prone to blurry shots because nothing really stands still long enough anymore. Well except for the oldest brother in my family…he sits still for so long, Mom had to dust him as a child…oh wait…that was me.

4) and finally…Shutter speed. This is how fast the shutter opens and closes to control how much light passes through the lens and into the sensor. It also determines how your image will be captured. A fast shutter speed means that you will stop motion faster but it also means that your aperture must be opened more in order for enough light to pass through to get a good enough image to use.  If you look at the photo above, you can see where I stopped the helicopters rotors in flight. It’s a neat trick but I must confess…the camera was on auto…and what was that about strawberry banana cake again.

Questions? Let me know…you can look online for digital photography classes in your community. Check with your local community college for continuing education classes as well as check with local camera shops. That’s where I took mine…and it only cost me $30 for two and a half hours of refreshing my brain. I wish I could do that for math. But if you are in the San Antonio area, check the Camera Exchange website and let them know you read about it here on Jchampion.com.

They aren’t paying me anything but I figure if I get enough referrals they might let me take the next class for free.