The Perfect Gadget for the Person With a Big House

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From your gadget-obsessed sister (who lives for her iPad) to your garden-obsessed uncle (who thinks apple is a fruit) A special report

In the competition between sliced bread and every other invention in the world, I usually come down on the side of sliced bread. After all, it makes sandwich artistry easier and I do love a good sandwich. However, when you match up Wi-Fi against sliced bread, Wi-Fi is clearly superior. It has untethered all of our gadgets, not just from ethernet cables, but from cell phone networks that would like to overcharge us for data. Wi-Fi makes every single modern device better, not to mention allowing the creation of a new and (to my mind) superior communal work culture.

But nothing is perfect and Wi-Fi has one key defect. It does not reach into every single nook and cranny of a large house. Now, I've never actually lived in a large house, but I can imagine how frustrating this would be. It's not a big problem, but you would encounter it each and every day. Luckily, there is a solution, one promoted by our own Jim Fallows. The Wi-Fi range extender. He recommends a Belkin Dual-Band Range Extender. I'll let him tell you about his experience:

The extender works by taking your existing Wi-Fi signal and re-propagating it to cover more of the house. Our existing dual-band router now sends out two signals, which I'll call Network1 and Network2. Nerds will know that one is 2.4GHz and one is 5GHz. The extender creates two new Wi-Fi signals, let's say Network1_xt and Network2_xt, which are broadcast from its new location. You just need to place it close enough to the original router to receive its signal -- and close enough to the now-uncovered areas to extend coverage to them.

Less than five minutes after I opened the box, no joke, the new gizmo was running*, and the two new networks extended coverage to all parts of our house. Now I have even fewer excuses for being so behind on email! Our original Wi-Fi router is also by Belkin, but the specs say that the extender should work with Linksys or other routers that produce a normal signal. Specifically, it requires an 802.11a/b/g/n router with 2.4GHz and/or 5GHz bands. That means: any mainstream Wi-Fi.

There may be other extenders that are cheaper or have some other feature; I didn't take the time for systematic research. I saw this on sale and decided to give it a try. Many people already use similar systems. But in case you'd been wondering whether they actually worked, I wanted to report that this one did, for me.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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