Out of the box? Absolutely.
Configured correctly? Not really.
When you go to the store and buy your brand new personal printer, it more than likely ships with wireless capability. It also promises super easy setup and connectivity to your laptop or whatever you’re trying to print from. To do this, it broadcasts an SSID - the actual name of the wireless network, for your device to connect to. Once connected, you can install the printer and use it easy peasy. Perfect. Except…
The network it creates and then broadcasts is ad hoc.
At home this is fine because there aren’t 200 other people living with you, all with their own wireless devices attempting to connect to 40 different Wi-Fi access points. On campus, however, the printer is using up one of the precious few Wi-Fi channels your other devices utilize to talk on the network. This can cause high latency (ping times), frame loss (rubberbanding in games), and slower download speed.
How To Configure Your Printer:
Go into the settings of your printer, whether from the software on your laptop or the LCD interface on the printer itself, and tell the printer to connect to mc.edu. It’s not necessary, but if you can find it, register your printer’s MAC address here: https://www.mc.edu/computerservices/mymc/device-registration. This will help it work better.
Make sure you can no longer see your printer broadcasting any Wi-Fi. Printer’s broadcast names are usually something like “DIRECT-B7-HP ENVY 420.”
The key difference between printing one way versus the other is after connecting your printer to mc.edu, it will play nicely with all the other clients in the dorm and on campus. Leaving it “out of the box” is a bull in a china shop.
When buying a laptop, make sure it has at least 3 spatial streams.
What in the world is a spatial stream? First, you’re looking for this abbreviation in the hardware specifications of the wireless network card: 3x3:3
The first 3 designates how many transmit (Tx) radio chains your laptop has. The second 3 is for how many receive (Rx) radio chains. The third 3 is the most magical, because if you have it, the previous two are implied. It stands for your number of spatial streams. And, with this mighty ability, your laptop is able to transmit and receive multiple data streams at once(!)
That’s like, to use our previous example, driving 3 cars wide in the same lane! Don’t try this with your buddies in Jackson.
For example, if you connected to one of the wireless access points on campus with your single stream phone at 65mb, you’d be able to connect to the same access point with your 3x3:3 laptop at 195mb*!
*For reference, Netflix claims to only need 5mb for HD quality video streaming.
Switch to 5ghz.
You might be wondering, “Why is 5ghz faster than 2.4ghz?” Great question! It’s not. In theory.
In practice, it looks something like this:
So, while 2.4 is just as fast as 5, it's got a lot fewer lanes, the lanes are crowded, and when you're trying to do something in a hurry, there are people in the way.
How do I know if I’m on the 2.4ghz spectrum or the 5ghz? You guys and your questions - so good, so good.
Your device should tell you what channel it’s on in the network settings. If it’s on 1, 6, or 11, that’s the 2.4ghz range. If it’s on channel 36-165, that’s 5ghz. Tip: If your device is using 802.11ac, it’s on 5ghz.
Sometimes, your device will let you choose. If it will, choose 5ghz! I suppose there may be some remote possibility that the 2.4 spectrum would present better results than 5.0, but don’t worry, you’ll probably never run into it on campus, so just set it on 5 and forget it.
If it won’t let you choose, your device likely doesn’t support 5ghz, which is a real shame, because that’s kind of like buying a pair of running shoes without laces. Please don’t tell me you prefer the hurdles in penny loafers.
In short, don’t buy a laptop or phone that doesn’t support 5ghz. And, if it does, make sure you’re using it!