Q My wireless network's signal keeps dropping out. If it's not my cordless phone that's jamming the signal, could it be my neighbor's?
AThis question came several months ago from a friend whose bizarre technological mishaps have acquired quasi-legendary status. He had read that some cordless phones use the same radio band as WiFi and wondered if they could be at fault.
After we determined that his own phone didn't cause these problems -- manufacturers learned years ago to use slightly different frequencies than WiFi -- I suggested that a phone in the adjacent rowhouse might be at fault. But his neighbor protested his innocence.
The situation remained a mystery until my friend was reheating some food in the microwave and saw it start to smoke inside the oven. (His wife suggested that "user error" might have been involved in that.) He cut the power to the oven -- and with the microwave out of commission, his wireless problems largely ended.
This roughly 20-year-old microwave apparently leaked enough radio waves to jam the WiFi signal. So if you're having wireless problems, don't forget to consider your microwave. Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen, too.
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Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 firstname.lastname@example.org. Turn to Thursday's Business section or visithttp:/