13 Tips for reliable SpeedQuizzing WiFi
Rather than attempt to provide a stable ‘time sensitive’ Smartphone Pub Quiz over the world wide web, SpeedQuizzing’s main unique selling point (USP) is that it utilises its own Local Area Network. This means that if the internet went down, your event could still go ahead, making SpeedQuizzing by far the most robust and reliable tablet based pub quiz system on the market. However, creating a SpeedQuizzing LAN using a bespoke SpeedQuizzing WiFi hub doesn’t completely rule out occasionally being at the mercy of WiFi gremlins. Therefore, detailed below are thirteen tips on how to maximise your SpeedQuizzing WiFi Network range and prepare for any problem that may arise when hosting a SpeedQuizzing event.
- Use an official SpeedQuizzing router (Also known as a SpeedQuizzing Hub). Over the last few years lot of really useful features and optimisations have been added to the bespoke SpeedQuizzing router firmware, features which simply aren’t available in consumer routers. In addition to features such as ‘Push button WiFi channel select’, ‘Faked Internet’ ‘WiFi LED channel indicator and Extender/Repeater modes, there are also dozens of behind the scenes optimisations which significantly improve the devices’ performance for SpeedQuizzing. This is why the attempted use of non-approved ‘off-the-shelf routers’ is not supported, and now that SpeedQuizzing Hubs are priced from as low as £30 UK, why would anyone want to attempt to use something inferior?
- Router Location, Router Location, Router Location! Carefully planning where to position your SpeedQuizzing router is the single most important way of avoiding annoying WiFi dropouts, disconnects and failed picture questions when hosting SpeedQuizzing. Many people make the mistake of thinking that just because the device comes packaged with a short Ethernet cable, that the best place to position it is on the table next to the laptop. Incorrect! It comes packaged with a 0.5m lead, because a 30 metre one wouldn’t fit in the box. 😉 If you position your router at one end of the room, half of the quiz router signal is blasting through the wall behind you into the kitchen, or the car park, or a hot-yoga class, rather than the quiz.
- Shed Some Light! Think of a SpeedQuizzing WiFi Router/Hub like a single large light bulb in an otherwise darkened venue. You need to position this imaginary bulb where it will maximise the chances of casting some amount of light on everyone taking part in the quiz. Once you think of it like this, then you’ll be far less likely to place it in a flight case, in a DJ booth, behind the bar, or on the floor over in the corner of the room. The optimum position for a router, as with a light bulb, would be out in the open, as central as possible. Therefore, place away from walls, furniture and other obstacles, and in clear view of as many players as possible.
- Raise the router above head-height. FACT!! People’s pesky bodies can weaken WiFi signal significantly. This can lead to a change in WiFi performance once a room fills up with people. In order to achieve optimum results, a professional SpeedQuizzing host will often go as far as to attach the SpeedQuizzing hub to the top of a fully extended microphone boom-stand or light stand. Locating it above head-height in the optimum area of the room will allow it to have line-of-sight with as many player devices as possible. Many users agree that the extra effort of using a mic stand with a long Ethernet and a power extension cable, in order to position your router above head height in the middle of the room, is well worth the effort.
- Don’t be shy! All this talk of an extra long Ethernet cable could be a moot-point, if rather than just placing the router in the optimum WiFi sweet spot, you actually re-locate yourself and host the quiz from this position. Just because a room has a DJ booth in the corner, or a wall socket for the audio system, or just because that’s where they’ve always hosted the pen and paper quiz, doesn’t mean that’s where you have to stand to host SpeedQuizzing. Often the optimum place for your router would also be the best vantage point to interact with your players. It can significantly add to the fun of hosting SpeedQuizzing when you can see people’s faces and they can see you. So don’t be shy, get amongst the action, even if it means re-thinking how you connect your audio.
- Always connect the router to the host computer via an Ethernet cable. Connecting the router to the host laptop via an Ethernet cable rather than over WiFi ensures that the SpeedQuizzing software never loses communication with the router. A momentary loss of communication between the host laptop and the router is far worse than a momentary loss of connection between a player device and the router. This is because if communication is lost to the host, then ALL player devices will lose connection to the game instantly. Most laptops have an Ethernet socket. If yours has one, then definitely use it. If it doesn’t, then you should always invest in an Ethernet adaptor.
- Be extra careful NOT to double connect. As stated above, connecting the router to the laptop via an Ethernet cable is recommended. Ignoring this advice and connecting the laptop to the router using the laptop’s Wifi can work in some situations but is not recommended. However, accidentally doing both of these things at the same time is guaranteed to cause disastrous effects. So when connected via Ethernet cable it’s important that you regularly check, double check and treble check that you are NOT also connected to the quiz WiFi in the laptop’s WiFi connection. Even if connected to another ‘house’ Wifi at the start of your quiz, your laptop can occasionally jump onto the Quiz Wifi at any point for various reasons, so it is advised to keep an eye on this.
- Always use the correct router power supply. A common hosting mistake is to plug the router into a power source that is not suitable for the router. The Buffalo routers will perform badly and potentially cause damage to themselves if used with a black DC box other than the one that was supplied with it. USB power on the Pocket Hubs can also be a bit of a minefield. You’d be forgiven for assuming that all laptop-USB sockets would provide a standard power source capable of powering any device that uses a USB socket. Unfortunately this is not the case. As an example, the SpeedQuizzing Pocket Hubs require a power source of a minimum of 1 amp (1000 milliamps). Some laptops struggle to produce this figure and can be inconsistent depending on what other processes the laptop is running in parallel. If in doubt, use a good quality USB phone/tablet charger with a minimum output amp rating of 1 amp (1000 milliamps) for either the black or yellow Pocket Hubs.
- Make sure you know how to change the WiFi channel when required. The Pocket Hubs make it very easy to switch to an alternative router WiFi channel. A single tap of the push button on the side toggles between Ch1, Ch6 and Ch11 (the three recommended main channels). Therefore, if your router is positioned well, but WiFi is being temperamental, give it a try. On the pocket hubs, the middle LED indicates which channel you are using by displaying a series of blinks. Buffalo Routers will require you to enter the GUI (General User Interface) via a web browser in order to change the channel. Instructions on how to do this are printed on the side of the routers.
- Avoid using WiFi extenders to do a job that one well-positioned master router can manage on its own. Is your quiz venue on one floor? If so, then don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I’ve paid for these extra boxes, so I’m damned if I’m not going to use them”. A wired extender will allow you to extend your quiz into otherwise impossible to reach adjoining rooms (and even onto multiple floors), but nothing beats a single well-positioned master router in an open-plan area. Whilst wired extenders are a relatively reliable means of increasing your range, it is still an extra gadget in the chain of things. A simple setup is often the most reliable setup and easiest to fault-find should you run into any kind of issues. A common misconception is that adding an Extender will bring extra power to the table (i.e. increase your potential device connection count). This, however, is absolutely not the case with the pocket hubs. In reality, one device can likely handle more connections than two linked together. Only use Extenders for impossible to reach areas NOT to try and increase number of connections!
- Understand the limitations of a wireless repeater and only use one when a wired solution is not a viable option. A repeater (wireless) is another way of extending WiFi range, but whilst more convenient, it has to rely on a good WiFi signal between itself and the master router (preferably with a direct line of sight between the two). Therefore, ‘wireless repeating’ is deemed less reliable than ‘wired extending’. It is therefore recommended that, rather than for general regular use, wireless repeaters should be reserved for emergency quick fixes when a wired option is not possible. Remember, a repeater can lose connection to the master router, disconnecting all its connected devices from the game, whereas a wired extender should in theory maintain a connection at all times. Another limitation of a Repeater is it can only share the same wireless channel as the master router, whereas you can change an Extender’s WiFi Channel independently if required. Remember (as above) only use Repeaters for impossible to reach areas NOT to try and increase number of connections!
- “Anal-isers” WiFi analyser-apps and why it’s sometimes better to ignore them. By all means use a WiFi analyser-app for a quick recky of the room as a starting point when selecting your router’s WiFi channel. But it can be good advice not to let the on-screen visualisation sway you from switching the WiFi to a more congested looking channel should the visually clearer channel yield less than optimum results. It’s important to understand when using these apps, that neighbouring WiFi networks are only part of the interference problem and that other things, which DON’T show in a WiFi analyser app, such as baby monitors, credit card machines, surveillance cameras, microwave ovens, cheap wireless microphones etc, along with a multitude of other things can all affect the network. In addition, some apps do not show the traffic on a particular channel, which is a bigger factor than the actual amount of networks sharing the same WiFi channel or the strength of the signal.
- Be mindful of the limitations of SpeedQuizzing. SpeedQuizzing Version 3 imposed a limit of 32 player devices. For a long time we resisted temptation to increase this figure, arguing that more than this wouldn’t realistically be manageable both in terms of the limitations of WiFi and also managing this amount of people playing a quiz. However, due to public demand, Version 4 has seen this cap removed and the maximum connectable device-count is now only limited by the size and resolution of the laptop screen. This does not mean, however, that because your screen can fit 60+ team names, that you should attempt to host SpeedQuizzing with this many connected devices without first testing WiFi coverage of your router in your intended venue. SpeedQuizzing V4 literature states that up to 60 devices is officially supported with one of the black pocket hubs, but this figure is based on good WiFi conditions and should be approached with caution. Anything above this figure should be considered un-chartered territory and undertaken at your own risk.