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  • One Word Extinguisher

    • 8 out of 10
    • Prefuse 73
    • It's an album about a breakup, done with beats instead of mopey lyrics. But the beats are raw, and the emotions are there, even if there aren't many words on top of it. While possibly not Scott Herren
  • Music Has The Right To Children

    • 10 out of 10
    • Boards of Canada
    • This one will haunt you. From the first notes to the last, their sound surrounds you. BOC has put out a fantastic catalogue, and this album is a great starting point for a new listener. Jump straight
  • Physical Graffiti

    • 10 out of 10
    • Led Zeppelin
    • This album bears every flavor of genius from the five records that came before. It is, I believe, the band's finest. With Physical Graffiti, Zep came raging back to their musical home territory -- har
  • Mystics Anonymous

    • 8 out of 10
    • Mystics Anonymous
    • Mystics Anonymous is the brainchild project of Jeff Steblea, a fantastic songwriter and good friend of mine, as well. In fact, I even played the drums on all but one of the tracks on this album. Jef
  • King James Version

    • 4 out of 10
    • Harvey Danger
    • The sophomore effort from Harvey Danger, I was really looking forward to this followup to "Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?" Unfortunately, "King James Version" failed to deliver any of the bri

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Looking at What the Signal Bars on the iPhone REALLY Mean

Some people assume that the number of bars displayed on their iPhone means the strength of the tower signal. In fact, it’s only a general idea of whether the user has a good chance of making a call, according to ars technica. What’s really going on with that meter reveals a lot about how the cell phone system works.

In fact, the number of bars is based on an algorithm that takes many factors into account. After it combines all those elements, it computes how many bars to display. Because the number of bars displayed is an indicator of chances of success, it can be a dynamic value, based on the load on the cell phone tower.

Moreover, different phones and different carriers can utilize a different algorithm to compute the number of bars, according to Jacqui Cheng in her superbly researched article.

Other factors, such as signal to noise can affect the call quality -- such as atmospheric effects or tall buildings that bounce the signal around. If that S/N estimate is too low, the number of bars is reduced and the system won’t let the user make a call.

In summary, while it’s in the best interest of the carrier to have a system that works well and to make the number of bars an accurate guide, there are variables that sometimes undo the best algorithms for the display. In addition, there are no specific industry standards.

"While manufacturers tend to stay within the same general range for each bar of signal, like women’s dress sizes, they don’t often match up exactly. This means that the value can (and does) vary between manufacturers, phone models, and even different firmware versions on the same model," Ms. Cheng noted. In the final analysis, the number of bars is an attempt to provide a rough estimate of your chances of making a call with acceptable sound, not a measured signal strength indicator.

"Just take the bars with a (very large) grain of salt when the service you get doesn’t seem to match up with what the bars tell you, because the relationship between bars and call quality is much more of an art than a science," she concluded.

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