Holiday Wi-Fi threat as obvious as Santa's beard

Wireless signal strength affected by Christmas decorations, AirMagnet warns

For the love of St. Nicholas, do not let anyone hang holiday decorations willy-nilly about the workplace lest you render the office Wi-Fi net as discombobulated as Santa's sleigh without Rudolph.

That's the gist of a warning from wireless-LAN monitoring vendor AirMagnet, which this week "announced the results of a recently conducted survey measuring wireless signal strength in a standard office setting both before and after introducing a change in the office environment -- holiday decorations."

Bah humbug, says my go-to guy on such matters, but we'll get to his complaint about "the stupidest press release I have ever received" in just a moment.

First, AirMagnet has data to share in its "media alert," as the company's tests "showed the decorations had a significant impact on the Wi-Fi network, with: signal strength decreased by 25%; signal deterioration increased over distance by one-third; and, signal distribution uneven in some locations, deteriorating signal strength by an additional 10%."

Maybe they didn't hang the tinsel strand by strand. I've always been a strand-by-strand guy myself.

But the details are really beside the point, says Joel Snyder, a senior partner at Arizona, U.S.-based Opus One.

"Holiday decorations, like any change in the environment, can make wireless better, or they can make it worse," Snyder says. "To try and instill fear into people, suggesting that they should be afraid to put up holiday decorations, is ridiculous. Worrying about such degradation (which, by the way, could be an improvement as well) is silly, and it's temporary, and it's slight."

To be fair, the AirMagnet press release does include the phrase "as with any change introduced to a wireless environment," but that caveat gets rather lost under an ominous headline that reads: "Holiday Decorations Can Create Major Wi-Fi Disturbances."

More from Snyder: "The point here is that any change in the environment, from moving people around (they are, after all, large bags of water) to file cabinets to . . . well, to anything, will change the Wi-Fi behavior. We all know that; that's why we all instinctively move to a window when we make a cell call and the signal is bad.

"Hell, if you're going to say decorations are a problem, you might as well point out that parking cars in parking lots will change your wireless, since a lot of our wireless goes out one window, bounces off the environment and comes in another window. Maybe we should be requiring people with SUVs to park closer to the building because that will improve our wireless experience."

Hey, Santa, would you mind moving that rust-bucket? It's doing nothing for our signal.

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