The Computer Corner: How hard could that be?

The Computer Corner: How hard could that be?

Customers habitually assume the best-case scenario will unfold in their favor every time while professionals know that in the real world, such an optimistic expectation is entirely unrealistic.


Take the case of the guy who saw Tiger Woods sink a hole-in-one on TV and thought to himself: “How hard could that be?” So he went and bought a set of golf clubs and a country club membership and hired a pro to teach him how to play the game. His results were, to say the least, a little disappointing. He came nowhere near being able to play a round of golf as perfectly as he had imagined. Tiger Woods had made it look so easy to sink that hole in one that the optimist thought he should be able to score at least several aces and eagles. When he failed to do so, he fired his golf pro for being such an incompetent teacher.


That is the problem with theoretical bests—they are rarely achieved in the real world. Such is the case with the quest for the highest speed Wi-Fi. Customers read the advertising fluff on the box of a new Wi-Fi router that says, “IEEE 802.11ac speeds of 300 Mbps (Megabits per second)” and blithely assume that is the speed they are guaranteed to get. Any professional knows better.


If it happens that the device you are connecting to your Wi-Fi is one that supports the IEEE 802.11g standard, such as many smartphones, then the maximum speed for that device is 54 Mbps. It does not matter if the router can deliver 300 Mbps, the phone can only use at most 54 Mbps of that bandwidth.


And the 54 Mbps of which the smartphone is capable is also a theoretical maximum. If your Wi-Fi network is half-duplex, as most are, this means your base station and your laptop/tablet/phone do not communicate at the same time but rather take turns transmitting then listening. Half-duplex really means half-speed, so the theoretical maximum of 54 Mbps can be cut by half to 27 Mbps or less.

The environment is also a huge factor that limits Wi-Fi speeds. Even when you start with a router that promises speeds of 300 Mbps, your device might only register a connection speed in single digits. The pie-in-the-sky claims of 300 Mbps speeds by Wi-Fi router manufacturers are largely predicated on the assumption that there will be a clear line of sight between the router and your device, and that your device will not be more than 3–4 meters distant. In real life, many users place their router in one room and then need to use wireless devices in other rooms separated with solid concrete walls that dampen the signal.


And about that analogy to the game of golf, the theoretical best score for a round of 18 holes is 18. That has never happened and probably never will. The closest anyone has ever come in the history of competitive golf was in 1962 when Homero Blancas shot a record-setting round of 55.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email