Juha Saarinen 's Opinion

Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: Election year social media

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Kim Dotcom visited the Waihopai intelligence base near Blenheim. Photos / APN
Kim Dotcom visited the Waihopai intelligence base near Blenheim. Photos / APN

Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party have been trolling John Key hard around New Zealand, upsetting not just the PM but Family First as well.

In between annoying the establishment, Dotcom found the time to head over to the GCSB Waihopai signals intelligence base for a look-see, and tweeted some pictures from there.

This communications box reveals that our sigint spies are a precise, meticulous lot.

Place your mouth exactly 50 millimetres from the microphone, people, and press the red button to talk. Oh yes.

More interesting perhaps is Stella Blake-Kelly's electoral history of New Zealand. This animated data-viz GIF is great:


Read the rest of Blake-Kelly's story over on The Wireless.


Wi-Fi woes remedied


Having bought and tried out new and very fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers, it's been bothering me that I've never reached the dizzying speeds they promise to deliver.

The fastest I've seen is around 600 to 867 megabits per second, which is pretty amazing, but still a far cry from the faster-than-gigabit Ethernet speeds of 1,300 Mbps that the two routers I have are supposed to connect at, and which the Macs can handle too.

To get the really fast speeds, you need to use the 5 GHz frequency band. This has much more bandwidth than ye olde 2.4 GHz spectrum, and due to less use and shorter reach, much less interference.

With 40 and 80 MHz wide channels, 5 GHz Wi-Fi should in theory be very quick indeed, yet for me it wasn't all that.

Finding out why I couldn't connect at the fast fast fast speeds even close to the router turned out to be really quite a propeller head exercise.

The first hint was the country code displayed by the Macs in the house - DE for Germany.
This is wrong, but there's no setting in OS X to change it to that of the routers (I use Australia on them, sorry.)

I didn't think it would matter much until I realised that the wrong country code limits the amount of channels in both 2.4 and 5 GHz, and also it would seem, the output power of the Wi-Fi adapters.

With the DE country code, the Macs couldn't connect to any 5 GHz channels above 48. This was problematic with two routers as there wasn't room for 80 MHz bands on both, and I wanted the high channels above 100 for that.

The problem here is that Macs pick the country they think they're in through 802.11d beacons, or short signals. Not all Wi-Fi routers send those signals and Macs aren't picky which beacons they select, so my systems probably decided one of the neighbours' routers should decide that we're in Germany.

There's no way to turn fix this easily, or even turn off 802.11d on Macs that I can find.

Instead, I ended up binary patching the Wi-Fi drivers for OS X with trepidation as it's very low-level tinkering with a whole heap of things that could go wrong. Yes I backed up, and no, you shouldn't try this unless you really know what you're doing.

But, it worked. Here's what I see now:

That's warp speed Wi-Fi right there, Captain.

Should it really be this difficult though to fix a relatively simple thing like the Wi-Fi country code (answer: no!)?

Am going to follow this one up with vendors for a more detailed explanation and I hope, an easier way to fix the problem.

- NZ Herald

Juha Saarinen

Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

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