Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Should we be concerned about radio transmissions in our homes?

We're surrounded by it. WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile wireless, cordless phones and now smart meters, transmitting at frequencies of around 2.4Ghz or higher. Realistically we can't live without all of this technology, but what we can do is reduce our need to keep this on all the time.

We can turn off our mobiles at night, and the same goes for use of bluetooth. Which leaves WiFi. I had a bedside clock that used the internet via WiFi for radio. That's now been moved away. The intent being that I want to remove all radio interference from my house when I'm trying to sleep - you can look at this video on YouTube to discover why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9bdU_uw2Dc

and:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-qzqOhDc_0

So how do you turn off your WiFi router at night? Some have buttons to turn off WiFi, but I have an Apple Extreme router that doesn't. I've turned off 5Ghz WiFi as I found it useless for my needs anyway. I've wired most of the house with ethernet, and in some cases that works through my power outlets (you can get WiFi "extenders", which ironically you can use without using the WiFi capability, and using the ethernet outlets instead! I've got BT's Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 500's for this).

But how do you turn off the WiFi on Apple's Airport Express without logging into Airport Utility? If you have a Mac, you can create a script using Apple's Script Editor with the following code (which worked in OSX 10.11 - no idea about other versions):

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--* WiFi Startup (& Shutdown) Script for Apple Extreme using Airport Utility automation.
--* ©2019 DRW.Photo

activate application "AirPort Utility"

-- * start twice just in case first time fails
activate application "AirPort Utility"

tell application "System Events"
-- * select Airport (i.e. first object below Internet world)
perform action "AXPress" of image 2 of group 1 of scroll area 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
-- * wait for the data of Airport Extreme to be loaded in the small popup menu
delay 3
-- * click on the edit button 
perform action "AXPress" of button "Edit" of group 1 of pop over 1 of image 2 of group 1 of scroll area 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
-- * click the Wireless tab
perform action "AXPress" of radio button "Wireless" of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 2
--* code for turn OFF Wireless - STARTS
--* ----------------------------
--* Select Network Mode "Off"
--* perform action "AXPress" of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
--* perform action "AXPress" of menu item 4 of menu 1 of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 2
--* ----------------------------
--* code for turn OFF Wireless - ENDS 
--* to create a separate OFF script uncomment (remove --*) in prefixing the two "perform action" 
--* commands above and delete the turn ON Wireless code section (from STARTS to ENDS)
--* code for turn ON Wireless - STARTS
--* ----------------------------
--* Turning on wireless with default settings requires redefining the WiFi 
--* name/password settings again. Note yours here before running scripts.
--* WIRELESS SETTINGS DEFINED HERE:

set wirelessName to "WIFINAME"
set wirelessPass to "WIFIPASSWORD"
--* select Network Mode "Create a wireless network" using the network values above:
perform action "AXPress" of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
perform action "AXPress" of menu item 1 of menu 1 of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 1.5
--* Enter your wireless name after clearing field
--* perform action "AXPress" of text field 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
tell text field 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
set value of attribute "AXFocused" to true
keystroke wirelessName
end tell
perform action "AXConfirm" of text field 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 1.5
--* select WPA2 Personal (menu row 4)
perform action "AXPress" of pop up button 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
perform action "AXPress" of menu item 4 of menu 1 of pop up button 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 1.5
--* enter password twice (set in variable above)
perform action "AXPress" of text field 1 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
tell text field 1 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
set value of attribute "AXFocused" to true
keystroke wirelessPass
end tell
perform action "AXConfirm" of text field 1 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 1.5
--* reenter your network password again
perform action "AXPress" of text field 2 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
tell text field 2 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
set value of attribute "AXFocused" to true
keystroke wirelessPass
end tell
perform action "AXConfirm" of text field 2 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 2
--* Airport Utility bug - when you create a wireless network, Internet tab "Connect Using" resets to DHCP from PPPoe!
--* This section resets "Connect Using" back to PPPoE and assumes previous settings are remembered. 
--* If you use DHCP, comment out next 5 lines (upto Update the Airport)
perform action "AXPress" of radio button "Internet" of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 2
perform action "AXPress" of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
perform action "AXPress" of menu item 3 of menu 1 of pop up button 1 of tab group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 2
--* ----------------------------
--* code for turn ON Wireless - ENDS
-- * Update the Airport 
click button "Update" of sheet 1 of window 1 of application process "AirPort Utility"
delay 4
-- * Quit Airport utility with enought time to check it worked
delay 60
tell application "AirPort Utility" to quit
end tell

The instructions on how to use it are in the code, this defaults to a startup script. To use it as a shutdown script, delete the startup code "code for turn ON Wireless" and remove the two --* comments from the "code for turn OFF Wireless" code. Paste the entire thing into Script Editor, editing your WiFi name and password and save it as your Startup script. Do the same for a new script, editing it to be a shutdown script, and save as Shutdown.

In order to run this, you should be prompted to make a one time change to the Security and Privacy settings - Privacy tab - Accessibility -> Script Editor. This permits Script Editor use the accessibility functionality, which is how the script works - it is emulating someone running the Airport Utility.

Test the Shutdown script using the play button at the top (which should trigger the permission request the first time). Then do the same with the Startup script.

Now you have two scripts, you must use Apple's Calendar app to create two events (or three if you want to delay the shutdown on the weekends).

To add a script to Calendar, create a new event, call it Restart WiFi, and select your times. Repeat every day. To trigger the script, select Alert - Custom (bottom of menu), Open file (select your script file), change to At time of event. Save it, and repeat for the Shutdown WiFi. Optionally add a different shutdown WiFi for the weekend if you want to delay it.

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I'm fortunate to live in the middle of three cell towers, so the furthest location from all of them. So we now shut off our mobile phones before going to bed. I don't have a smart meter, so that's less of a concern for me. But remember that the smart meter's job is to transmit your meter readings to the nearest street so that a meter reader can pickup the data. For me, the nearest road is a few hundred yards away! My WiFi doesn't reach that far, and most meters here are in a closet in the middle of the house. Think about how strong that signal must be!


This leaves the one last elephant in the room. Cordless phones. Yes I had one by my bed, which I now discover from the video above is yet another big problem. These have been recycled. So we've reverted back to using good old fashioned telephones instead. This gave us the excuse to invest in this little beauty that's 35 years old and works like new:



Why am I bring this up? I work from home and have experienced a dulling of my memory and artistic talents. If this is the cause, then I'm ahead of the trend. I've already noticed my sleep patterns are better after making changes in the last week.

Returning to a photography perspective, wireless transmitters for strobe lighting use various frequencies. In the UK the Pocketwizard transceivers use the lower 434Mhz (US uses 340-354Mhz), whereas Elinchrom uses the same 2.4Ghz frequency range as WiFi. So use them and then switch them off when finished. Radio isn't optional in our modern world, but reducing your exposure to nearby unnecessary transmissions is.

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