Saturday, December 12, 2020

About Me (and my network tech journey)...

Rob Blomstrom, owner of Blomstrom.Tech

I am a Sienna, TX resident and I have spent my career in, around and designing the technology that defines our modern life. I have experience not only in the actual technology itself, but the marketing strategies (games and misleading advertising) that companies use to boost product sales and differentiate "consumer" products from "business" products. 

Today, the home and small business networks have become more critical. There is no shortage of bad advice and misunderstood products competing for your hard earned $. There is nothing worse than spending money on technology that leaves you disappointed. 

Before I continue, you are invited to see my professional LinkedIn page HERE. In brief, in my early career, I helped design the Palm Pilot, the U.S. Robotics 56K & Courier modems, and the first DOCSIS 1.0 Cable modems. Some of those iconic products of the past are shown below. I worked for 3COM - they invented the ethernet protocol. I have also designed for enterprise telecom and MIL products - like GPS3 satellites currently launching. 

Palm Pilot m505

U.S Robotics 56K "consumer" & Courier "business" Modems


USR / 3COM DOCSIS 1.0 Cable modem and board inside

These experiences taught me that companies use very different components inside devices depending on whether the end user is expected to be a "consumer" or a "business". That translates to consumers getting cheap parts to reach price targets. This will affect performance and reliability. With rare exceptions, the products you buy at local stores or online will be "consumer" grade. It will also be marketed as being easy to install.  

This ease of install and lower price is one strategy of consumer WiFi call Mesh and home Routers. 

Typical WiFi Router

Typical Mesh and Extender

The majority of my business comes from frustrated people who thought these were the answer - instead I need to remove them. 

Sadly, these are not the answer. In general, mesh relies on plugging a parent main unit "base station" into the modem and then radio signals  connect to the children units. So, by design, the children need to be close to the base-station or they have weak signals. In our large homes, this is not a practical approach. Next, if the radios are busy talking amongst the other mesh units, there is less available signal for your devices! 

An even worse scenario is when folks have multiple device families competing for WiFi names and control. 

The solution is what business IT does - build a "Wired-WiFi"

A "Wired-WiFi" builds a fundamental ethernet network and then each individual access point is wired back to the main wire closet. Each individual wire connection is at least 1Gbps. Each individual access point is 4x4 MU-MIMO to connect to your devices. They aren't wasting valuable WiFi signal getting back to the internet.
Additionally, where possible, it is best to wire stationary devices (like TV's) to reduce WiFi traffic for your mobile and IoT devices

In my business, I prefer products from

Ubiquiti's Unifi line has an ecosystem of products that are perfect for the home or small business. PLUS - they are "enterprise" grade which tells me they use better component parts in their devices. The company also provides their software & firmware at no additional costs and there are no contracts required. Below are shown examples of the Unifi line of products I have installed in Sienna! 



Access Points

Every home/business is unique. 
I am happy to do a walk through consultation and discuss my thoughts for your best network and WiFi. 
I follow that up with a detailed proposal. 
Call/text/email me and we can begin the conversation! 

cell/text: 732-673-4265

Friday, July 10, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Networks and WiFi

In my experience helping people with networks, I get asked some common questions. In this blog, I'd like to give you my perspective and ideas.

  • My network seems slow. How fast is enough? 
  • Am I receiving the speed that I am paying for? 
  • My WiFi doesn't reach parts of my house. Can't I just buy an extender? 
  • All my friends say to just buy a mesh system. Won't that work? 
  • I bought an expensive router with lots of antennas.
    But the WiFi is still slow. Why? 
  • Aren't wireless networks the future and wires are just old technology? 
  • What's the difference between a modem, router, wifi router and gateway? 
  • What is a managed network?
  • What does a managed network cost? 
  • What's the cheapest fix?

My network seems slow. How fast is enough? 

This question varies by location. You need to understand how much activity is on your network. Are you a single user, with just a laptop to browse the internet and do email? Or are you a family streaming multiple shows and have many devices connecting to the network? 
Today, the first case is rare. Today the needs are a minimum of 100Mbps download speed and over 1TB of data allowed per month. This is the main data pipe that connects your home/business to the world outside and needs to be as large as you are comfortable paying for. Depending on your location, you may be able to receive 1Gbps download speeds.

Am I receiving the speed that I am paying for?

This is where many people get confused. In order to know this answer for sure, you need to connect an ethernet cable from a computer directly into the back of the modem and then boot up. 
Once logged in, go to a speed test site (like and let it run. Do it several times. 
If you are getting at least 85% of the speed you are paying for then most ISP consider that good enough and won't help you go faster. This speed varies depending on time of day and the load on the network outside. During these COVID stay-at-home times, the infrastructure is struggling to keep up. The outside networks were never designed to keep up with so many people at home all at once. During this time, it is not uncommon for 30-50% speeds during the day to be common regardless of ISP provider. 

My WiFi doesn't reach parts of my house. Can't I just buy an extender? 

The short answer is probably not. These devices have been around a while and seem like a good idea especially since they are pretty cheap. Problem is, these low cost devices tend to use very old WiFi protocols and are very slow. When you couple that to a weak signal that is trying to be "extended", the speed is terrible. In many cases, simple browsing is difficult and media steaming is impossible. 
These continue to fill the market because they promise a very easy setup with a quick fix. 

All my friends say to just buy a mesh system. Won't that work? 

The short answer is maybe. Mesh systems are an evolution of the older extender concept. The idea is that there is a base unit and one or more distributed units. These devices will chatter among themselves and find the best path of signal back to the base unit. In theory this sounds reasonable. And many people have had good luck with these products. But let me point out some flaws of these products. First, the whole system depends on where the base unit is located and how strong the signals are to the distributed units. If this is not ideal, the system will be slower than advertised. Next, all wireless devices use radios, channels, and bandwidth speeds. These items are not equal in all devices so performance will depend on the specific devices. But regardless of device, if the WiFi channels are being used to connect a mesh system to itself, that is lost traffic availability for the devices you are trying to connect. Think of a highway at night versus rush hour. In an ideal situation, if devices are located well and have good signal strength then you can expect good results. But under heavy loads you will likely see slow speeds. 

I bought an expensive router with lots of antennas. But the WiFi is still slow. Why? 

There are two issues going on here. First, the many antennas relate to how many radios the device has to communicate to multiple devices. They look impressive and are designed to make you think they are fast. But this is more marketing than performance. These units will again be affected by where they are located. If they happen to be in the middle of the house, then you may have a decent experience. If they are in some other room or closet then you will have weak signal. 

Aren't wireless networks the future and wires are just old technology? 

Not exactly. There is an old saying that anything done wirelessly can be done faster in wire. Every year the industry finds new ways to go faster and push more data. The ideal balance is to have a wired backbone network that allows well placed WiFi access points to send data back to a central location over wires. 

What's the difference between a modem, router, wifi router and gateway? 

The device left behind by your ISP is a combination unit. A modem is the device that connects your home/business to the internet. A router is a device that provides security to separate your network from the destructive outside world. A WiFi router is kind of a misused term. The device itself acts as a WiFi base station and funnels data back thru the router and ultimately the modem. 
I use the term "gateway" to describe a device that functions as a router (typically with better software) without the other functions of the combo device. 
In practice, I recommend adding a gateway device and disabling all the functions on the ISP device except the modem. Additionally, some people prefer to buy their own modem and give back the ISP provided unit. 

What is a managed network?

This is where things get interesting. 
The networks people have at home are beginning to evolve. Data loads and security are becoming real desires for homes and small businesses. Managed networks give more control, more integration, and greater security to start with. You can create guest networks, divide your network into VLAN's, isolate your cash registers from customer traffic, and create a VPN that let's you securely connect to your network from anywhere. 

What does a managed network cost? 

This answer will depend on the hardware you choose to use and how you plan to manage it. The big companies have powerful and expensive hardware that also requires service agreements. These are good for them, but are not an option for homes and small businesses. I like to offer people an ecosystem of products that are designed to work together and compliment each other. At present, I like offering products made by Ubiquiti. ( They offer solid products and their software is free. Based on their Unifi line of products I will present two scenarios...

1. Smaller home install
    This will need a modem, gateway, a controller, a POE switch and 2 access points. 
    Below is a picture with this basic schematic.
    At the time of this writing those items cost: 
  • Modem (provided by ISP)
  • Gateway $130
  • Controller $170
  • POE switch $195 
  • Each access point is $180

2. Average small business or larger home. 
    For this I will recommend a rack mounted solution with a stronger gateway with integrated controller, larger POE switch, more access points
  • Modem (provided by ISP)
  • Gateway $380
  • POE switch $300
  • Each access point is $180
In both these cases, specific needs will require additional hardware plus miscellaneous parts like wires, connectors, racks, patch panels and screws plus my labor to install.
Every location is unique and every install has some level of custom needs for the customer. 
As part of my service, I provide a detailed proposal with a schematic and parts list to make costs very transparent. I supply a shopping list to the customer so there are no mark-ups on hardware.
Also, the Unifi product line also includes other products like cameras and NVR's. These integrate seamlessly and have no subscription costs. 

What's the cheapest fix?

I get asked this often. 
In my opinion I would avoid extenders and mesh systems and begin to budget for scenario 1 above. 
I am happy to come out and review your specific needs and discuss how to meet your expectations. 
In the end, people just want to have networks that work. I cannot control the main pipe from the ISP's, but I can maximize your network to utilize every bit of speed you are receiving.

Contact me or text me  at 732-673-4265

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Discovering Hidden Network Treasure

Recently I had an inquiry from a neighbor about how to improve their home network. 
These first contacts are always a bit tricky because I don't know the source of their problems or how their home is laid out. 
But my experience has taught me one thing - that ISPs (internet service providers) always come into a home, drop some useless WiFi router/modem into some remote room of the home and then leave. They do not make any effort to check signal strength anywhere that the customer will actually use the WiFi, and they definitely don't make any attempt to offer an ethernet wall jack anywhere to let the customer add to the network or plug in directly. In recent years, the ISPs have started offering band-aide solutions in the form of "mesh" boxes. These give the illusion of more connectivity, but they don't truly unlock the potential of the internet speed that you are already paying for. After some initial ideas of how I could help, I setup a time to meet at the house and see first hand what the problems were and present my thoughts for the best solution. 
This is exactly why I offer a free consultation session - everyone's needs are different!
My expectation was that this home was going to need some sort of network cable(s) run in order to add a basic network skeleton and be able to install access points in key locations to blanket the home in real WiFi coverage. 

When I arrived, I found the cable modem/WiFi router in the downstairs office room - no surprise. Its input was from a coaxial cable that came from the very typical "network" box found in an upstairs kids closet. (this will be important later). The output of the modem was some ethernet jacks as well as an activated VOIP port for the customer to have a home phone. That port was connected directly to a wireless phone base station. The ethernet was in turn connected to a "wireline" transmitter. These devices are used to jump the ethernet signal from one room to another using your electrical wall power wires. They do OK for getting a network signal to a hard to reach location. But in this case, this was the second problem after the modem being in a remote room. 

In this case, the home owner was paying for 150Mb down / 20Mb up service. Not too bad these days. But, with useless WiFi, they couldn't use that or any other speed. But with that "wireline" approach, they were bottlenecked to 27Mb down.

At receiver end of the "wireline" was another older store bought WiFi router. Aside from being older, it was also the typical consumer grade product that most people would normally buy. These devices tend to bottleneck when more than one user is trying to heavily use them. 

The overall approach was good, but it had no chance of ever working well enough to use the speed they are paying for. 

And worse, the bottlenecked WiFi signal is still not reaching to their living areas. 

Then I made my discovery! 

In that "network" box upstairs I found an abandoned telephone distribution block. Since the ISPs now use VOIP, they never bother to even attempt to tie it back to this original distribution system. (which is super simple if you needed that these days) 

This home was built in the early 2000's and instead of old telephone wires, they used network wires!!
See those green wires plugging into that box?  Those have 4 pairs of twisted wires that go to various rooms in the house. At the other end, they only were using 1 pair for telephone jacks.

This was a treasure to find! 
It meant that I could replace that phone distribution box with a network switch and then change the phone jacks (RJ11) into ethernet jacks (RJ45)  - and viola! - the makings of a skeleton network in this home! And because we are in an upstairs closet, I could easily run a new wire straight up into the attic to add more access points on the second floor! 
At the other side of those green lines I had the option to either wire an access point directly, or use the network jack to add an additional small switch. 
Why would I do that? Well, consider that one of those jacks was in the media room behind the TV - I could wire the TV and game consoles directly and not need to add traffic to the WiFi network! 
But the real elegance of this plan was still to come. 
With both the coaxial cable lines and this new network access, I could locate that cable modem in this box along with a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and this could yield a network connection and WiFi even during short power outages! 
So, take a look in your closet and see if you have treasure hiding there from a phone system you are no longer are using! 
As part of my process, I sketch my ideas and then make a "schematic" of the connections as a sanity check that I am not missing anything and have the correct size switch, etc. 

Then I also prepare a proposal for the owners to consider and discuss with me before we begin. It includes the estimate of hardware I need them to purchase using an Amazon list link, as well as estimates for my time.

I keep things real up front, no hidden costs. I just am trying to help people use the potential of the internet they are already paying for! 
As you can see, I am very pleased with the Ubiquiti Unifi line of products. These are considered "Enterprise" grade level and I will link to several products below. 
BTW, I do not represent Ubiquiti, I am just a geek who loves their products and want to share what I have discovered! 

Contact me if I can help you step up your network game!


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Interview with 7th Inning Stretch

Come check out when I sat down with 7th Inning Stretch owner Todd Miller ( to talk about tech, networks and a new business to help folks sort it all out!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Why did I start Blomstrom.Tech?

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I love to help people with both mechanical or techie stuff. I love to tinker and learn. 
Apple II
I’ve been messing with computers since the days of the Apple II, and love to help people build custom machines that you just can’t find at the stores.
Along the way, I’ve had to learn how to connect machines together and my network skills grew. To organize information, I’ve created many websites over the years to help share between my design departments and the community.
No alt text provided for this image
And I have been blessed to have designed PCB’s (Printed Circuit Boards) for some pretty cool devices over the years. (Palm pilot, GPS3 satellite, proto work that led to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, US Robotics modems, supercomputers and avionics systems to name a few).
My first two jobs as a designer were at service bureaus that also built bare boards. This was an amazing time. So many different types of products and variety of build techniques needed to meet the customer’s needs. But my background extends into a variety of other DIY hobbies – engine rebuilding/car maintenance, building kitchen cabinets (and marching band props), routing 220V feeds, creating 3-way switch wiring, welding car frames, home plumbing, framing and sheetrock, building fences and decks, and so on. I was raised with the encouragement to research and try a project myself before looking for external help. And the projects always gave me new discoveries and the courage to try something more difficult. One example I have from my childhood – when I was 12, I replaced all the switches and outlets in the house my parents had bought when we first moved in. I never thought twice about this. That is until I was a dad with 12 year olds and couldn’t imaging them doing the same task.  I suppose it helped that my family was very middle class. We had to do work ourselves because paying someone else to do it wasn’t really an option most of the time. This mindset has continued throughout my life as I always tackle new challenges without being intimidated by the project. One summer when I was home from college, I remodeled my mom’s kitchen out of the blue because we had imagined it over the years. And my first car was a hand me down that I had to fix if I wanted a car.
Fast forward to today. I have worked for many technical companies, climbed the corporate ladder several times, and built design teams from scratch. In the end, the successes were always short lived because the companies made stupid decisions or just plain self-destructed. Big companies always trip over themselves, and their goals always outweigh the needs of the individuals. The idea of job security at a company is a dinosaur that disappeared years ago just like company paid pensions. And any process improvements or my professional growth only happens if it fits their agenda.
No alt text provided for this image
Meanwhile in my community, I see friends and neighbors struggling to understand how to deal with all these electronics in our lives and in our homes. The advice and knowledge out in the wild is often flawed and doesn’t fix the problem, it just band-aides it. WiFi routers like this one pictured are like the old "boom boxes". They do several things, but none of them great. 
I have spent my whole life helping people where I can. Coming to the rescue if a computer crashes or some other problem arises. I have also sat at my various jobs for many years never quite feeling complete. The old adage of “you should do what makes you happy and then it’s not work!” never seemed to apply for me. Instead, I have a knack of finding companies with promises of growth, teams to build, and varieties of products, but only to instead discover they are drowning in closed thinking and redundant products. I watched as they made dumb decisions and disappeared into history. 
I have so much experience bottled up to just sit here and rot in an old school corporate office.
I first took notice of the new domain extension “.tech”. This got me thinking. Why don’t I start by grabbing a domain – and Blomstrom.Tech was born. But so what? What can I do with this?
I thought that this can become a very personal brand – of me! By putting my name front and center, it is not a clever company name that I can hide behind if I give bad service. It make me accountable and from there I can build trust from the services I provide.  

To begin that process, I resurrected an old server and built the website (Blomstrom.Tech) as my means of organizing my thoughts. As of this article, I’ve grouped together 4 general categories of services I can help others with.
I envision the first 3 to be targeted towards my community.
  • Network Design will help people get their houses and businesses wired for the 21st century.
  • PC Support will include helping people with their crashed PC’s, adding upgrades, and building the custom machine of their dreams.
  • Web Sites will help folks who want more than the DIY online tools like Wix can offer.
The 4th category I see being useful to anyone across the country.
  • PCB Design is something that I can help startups or big companies get their jobs done.
What’s the game plan? Well, here’s where I am going against conventional thinking. (no surprise – right?) Unlike the usual plan of saving $ to launch a startup, I intend this business to be like a self priming pump.
I refuse to take away resources from my family to build my idea.
There is no savings or slush fund to tap into. So then what – pray for money? Well, in a sense, yes. If this business is ever going to be a success, then it has to be alignment with HIS plans. And IF that is true, then the right doors and contacts will open. Some of those contacts have already started connecting. My first goals are pretty simple. Provide a service to someone that will yield me enough to file my LLC. Next will be my insurance and EIN. But then there is my BIG hurdle. In order to do PCB design, I need to either use an opensource (a.k.a. free) software tool or I need to spend some heavy cash to purchase licenses of the tool I’ve used my whole career. I am currently researching ways to raise that cash. One idea it to seek out an angel investor who would be willing to front the startup costs in exchange for some percentage of profits later. Another idea I am researching is this… perhaps as a kickstarter campaign, I could offer personal tutoring to a local young adult in PCB design (using said tool), and maybe even treat it as an internship to give them a “reference”. My industry has a distinct need of young talent and I know from my own family that not everyone is the right fit for college. For this, or several, young adult this would be the training needed to start their career into a very exciting world. I see opportunities constantly that require relocation to a different state. That is not the path I wish to take today at this point in my life, but is perfect for a young designer starting their career!
Perhaps you know someone willing to be an angel investor or a parent of a young adult who would benefit from an apprenticeship?

For some perspective of these CAD tools, they fall in the mid 5-figure range per user. So for an angel, that would be the target. But for an apprenticeship - compare that number versus a 4-year college. Except I would be teaching the skills, and presumably the industry contacts, to a young adult to begin a career!