Boosters Solve Weak Signals and Dropped Calls
Zombies may be all the rage, but being in a dead zone is no fun when it comes to your cell phone.
In a phone culture like Los Angeles, dropped calls can mean lost opportunity. No matter how fancy your smartphone, if you don’t get a strong enough signal, you are not connected. For Angelenos who depend on their cell phone, Robert Galeano is the answer man. His Canoga Park-based company, Cellular Outlet, has found a niche in raising the bar on signal strength — by installing booster antennas.
“A dead cell zone can occur right in the middle of an urban area. Most of my customers use their cell phones as their only phone. They rely on their cell phones to do business, so connectivity is a must for them and dead zones can seriously impact their productivity and quality of life,” said Galeano.
Dead zones can occur due to buildings, hills, and even dense foliage. There are also many surprising causes of poor reception, such as tinted glass windows made with metal oxide, and heavy concrete walls – and even the commonplace lath-and-plaster and stucco walls of many Los Angeles dwellings – that signals can’t penetrate.
Of course, the distance between a cell phone and the nearest cell signal repeater also affects a signal, which is why Galeano’s business is especially robust in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, were civic groups have opposed installation of cell towers due aesthetic and safety issues.
Galeano says he is aware of the concerns people have regarding the presence of towers and dangers of radio frequency, which is why he explains to customers that boosters do not increase radio frequency radiation any more than normal use of the cell phone, when it’s resting against your ear. He stresses that, “Boosters are a safe, legal, and cost effective way to eliminate dead zones.”
Unlike the eyesore of a cell tower in a tony neighborhood, the booster antenna is discreet. The booster has three main components: An external antenna, which mounts on a roof; a small signal amplifier, which is placed inside the house in a closet, garage or equipment room; and an internal antenna, which can be mounted unobtrusively on a wall. In the case of a very large house, more than one internal antenna may be needed. The three components are connected by coax cable.
The booster only serves one household. The external antenna receives the weak signal and sends it through the cable to the amplifier inside the house. The signal is amplifies and sent through the cable to the internal antenna, which sends the signal around the house. The booster can improve signal strength by as much as 20 times. Galeano also installs boosters made for cars that work in a similar manner.
Booster don’t require a telephone line or Internet connection, and users do not need to register their phones to the booster, so even guests in a building with a booster benefit from improved cell reception. A booster can be used by multiple people who are using multiple types of cellular devices and accessing service from multiple cell carriers – all at the same time. The boosters are usually carrier agnostic, but with the new 4G services there are some differences, so an installer will need to know who your cell provider is.
The initial investment for the booster system – such as the popular Wilson Adjustable Gain Signal Booster — is around $2,600 for a large home with three antennas. The installation should be done by a professional and takes about three hours. There are no subscription or maintenance fees. Professional installers like Galeano generally include at least a year’s service agreement in case there are any problems, which are rare since the system needs little to no upkeep, similar to a telephone or cable installation.
Boosters can be installed in just about any building – apartments, multifamily dwellings, hotels, hospitals and businesses. All antennas, splitters, cable and boosters can be concealed inside an attic or basement, except for the approximate 6” by 4” outside antenna that goes on roof. If there is no basement or attic, cable can be run on the side of a building and penetrate a side wall. A booster works best if the outside antenna is on the roof, but if needed an antenna can be installed on a terrace or a ledge or even on the side of the building as long as the antenna is pointed in the direction of the strongest signal, which the installer can determine.
The booster’s performance is unaffected by weather, unless the weather actually causes a power outage or interferes with the cell tower’s ability to transmit and receive signals.
While Galeano serves an A-list of clients whose names he keeps confidential, he says you don’t have to be rich and famous to have a cell booster.
“Anyone who has a weak cell phone signal and suffers through a lot of dropped calls can benefit. We have many clients who are parents who stay at home with their children and want to make sure their cell phones work in case there is an emergency,” said Galeano.
Galeano, who is ranked as Los Angeles’ top installer of the Wilson cell signal booster, says his business has expanded exponentially over the past few years. As he spends more time on the road traveling to perform installations, he finds himself more and more reliant on his own cell phone in his car, in which of course he has installed a booster.
I’ve been accused of having a phone obsession. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone; I just like them a lot. I enjoy having lots of features, and I am very particular about their looks. So imagine my delight to discover the Gigaset SL785 DECT 6.0 system. Whereas fancy cell phones abound, until the Gigaset SL785, the lowly landline handset had not gotten much love.
The Gigast SL785 rolls the answering machine into the handset, which sits in a small charging cradle, so it takes up minimal space on a desk or end table. The separate 4.5” x 4.5” square base, which resembles a small, slim modem, can sit or be mounted anywhere in the home within 165 feet of the handset, or up to 985 feet in unobstructed outdoor areas. In a large home, multiple bases can be spaced throughout so that a base is always within range, and the phone can be programed to default to a particular base or the best base within range.
The high-end features of the Gigaset SL785 include Bluetooth headset compatibility, Bluetooth or USB data and photo transfer capability for up to 500 v cards (for Window XP or Vista), 45 minutes of message record time, an assortment of ring tone and alarm melodies, a full duplex speakerphone, an illuminated keypad, 15 hours talk time/200 hours standby, caller ID, remote mailbox access and expandability up to six handsets.
Tech features aside, this phone is a beauty to behold. Its metal shell is sleek, stylish and solid, and its weight in your hand affirms that this handset is substantial. The on-screen menu operates like a smartphone, down to screen savers and slide show capability on its large color display.
With two or more handsets, the Gigaset SL785 can transfer from handset to handset, host two calls in parallel (one internal/one external) or a three-party conference call with two internal callers.
Finally, a handset that is rivals my smartphone, without the dropped calls.
Flexibility is key when you work at home, especially when your office base roves from the den to the kitchen to the patio. Take your work wherever you go, with these high flying Wi-Fi and wireless options that keep you connected and productive.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Hear and be heard with the sleek and stylish Savi Office, the headset solution to unite your calls through a single desktop location. With crystal clear audio performance, you can answer both PC or deskphone calls with one-button control on the ultra-lightweight and comfortable wireless headset. It works with most home and commercial phone systems and can roam up to 350 feet from the base and lasts for up to nine hours without a charge. A noise-cancelling microphone and digital signal processing technology makes it easy on the ears for both the user and callers. $379.95. www.plantronics.com
Sky’s the Limit
Give up the old ball and chain of a wired hard drive and free up space on your computer with cloud computing by SugarSync. You can upload all those family photos, videos, music and other content that clogs your computer with a secure 5GB free online account for anytime, anywhere access anywhere you have an Internet connection. If you need more space, you can get 30GB to 500GB for $4.99 to $39.99 per month. www.sugarsync.com
Off the Hook
When flexibility is paramount and desk space is at a premium, the 6.0 DECT VTech DS6321-3 is a compact phone and digital answering system with a small foot print but packed with powerful features to meet your home office needs. The phone’s ability to make and answer calls for both your landline and up to four Bluetooth-capable cell phones is an ingenious convenience, so you don’t have to juggle multiple handsets or miss calls searching for your mobile. The system can also pair the handset with a Bluetooth headset and conference between each of the three handsets, which all feature a hands-free speaker and mute and hold buttons. $99.95. www.vtechphones.com
Simple Solutions to Create an Ergonomic, Comfortable Setting While Your Work at Home
The Look-Up Trick
The demise of the bulky desktop computer and the proliferation of laptops has led to a plethora of aches and pains for those who work at a desk. Laptop screens are lower and require the user to lean forward and look down, causing neck and back strain.
Ergonomic experts advise raising up a laptop so that its screen is readable at the same height as a PC monitor, just above eye level. There are a few good looking stands out there, such as the adjustable ENHANCE ErgoPROP Ergonomic Laptop and Netbook Display Desktop Stand (sale priced at $9.99, AccessoryGenie.com). It sure beats the low-rent option of boxes or books as props.
Of course, you won’t be able to type on an elevated laptop, so you will need a separate keyboard. The wireless Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop (Microsoft.com, $119.95) features an ergonomic mouse and a wave-shaped keyboard with a padded wrist rest that keeps the hand, wrist and forearm in a more natural, neutral position. The large-sized mouse is designed for use with the hand comfortably resting on its side. Short-cut keys on the panel get you quickly to email, Internet, or your favorite websites. The mouse and keyboard feature controls to zoom and enlarge test, so you can sit back farther from the screen to read.
There is a short learning curve to get accustomed to the spacing of the keys and the angle of the keyboard, but then it’s smooth typing. One trivial complaint is that the USB plug sticks out about an inch and a half, sometimes getting in the way, and the mouse lacks an “off” switch to conserve batteries. Overall though, this keyboard has lots of great user-friendly features, all with comfort in mind.
If you don’t have the space for a large keyboard, the Verbatim Wireless Mini Slimboard ($44.99, B&H Photo, Amazon, Newegg and Buy.com) has an ultra slim, compact design and comes with an integrated wireless mouse. It also features an on-keyboard media console so that you can play, pause and otherwise control your media from your keyboard. The key size and spacing feel similar to a laptop keyboard, so transition is easy for new users.
One problem this reviewer encountered was occasional loss of wireless connection for no apparent reason. Also, each time the computer is restarted the number lock engages by default, which can be annoying when entering passwords upon boot up. Mostly this keyboard is for those who don’t have a lot of desk space or want to take a keyboard on the go.
Look Boss, No Hands
Cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder is a sure way to neck pain, but heavy headsets or annoying ear pieces have their downside too. For those multi-taskers who want to move about and talk on the phone handsfree, the Gigaset C610A and L410 bundle ($119.99, gigaset.com, Amazon, Bestbuy.com) is a great solution. The clip-on L410, which can be fastened to a shirt collar, offers clear sound quality even while you walk and talk, up to 164 feet from the base. Calls can be accepted or ended on the L410 or transferred from the C610A with the touch of a button. If you don’t want your calls broadcast on the speaker, you can easily transfer the call to the handset. For work-at-home parents, the set also functions as a baby monitor.
Good ergonomics means proper posture from head to foot, so don’t forget to support for your legs and feet under the desk. Varying the height and position of your legs and feet can reduce back pain and lessen fatigue. The Fellowes Heat and Slide Footrest ($79.99, Office Depot) is adjustable from 4-1/4” to 5” and features a sliding platform to help increase circulation in the legs and feet. It has the added bonus of an energy-efficient low-wattage heat source for chilly days, to warm the tops of your feet. The heat turns off automatically in eight hours in case you leave it on. For those who work without shoes, the bumpy surface of the footrest offers a stress-reducing massage.