Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Home Networking: Wires vs Wireless

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently, and I think it may be of interest to “everyone” and provides a good opportunity to discuss some computing fundamentals.

Q: Paul, I am hoping for some guidance. I will soon be moving, and will have to set up a new network. I have three computers, a laser jet printer and a photo printer. My old network was wired and homenetworking worked well, but I have heard that the new wireless is faster.

Which is better these days, wired or wireless?

A: I hate ambiguous answers, but in this situation I really must answer, “that depends”. And I must also say that it really isn’t a case of one being “better” than the other.
In my experience, a “blended” network (both wired and wireless) is the most common.

Consideration #1: Mega-bits-per-second (Mbps)
1) Wire “speed” is typically either 10/100, or 1,000(Gigabit).
2) Wireless “speed” is either 54 (g) or 270 (n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at.. 1.5? 3? 6 Mbps?
(My point here is that, as far as sharing your Internet is concerned, even a very old 10 Mbps network is “fast” enough.)

Consideration #2: Stringing cable:
Most newer homes are built with Ethernet wiring, and so your network is already there (to a large degree), but for older homes a very real concern — should you choose to go Gigabit wired — is WirelessHomeNetwork where will the wires go? How will you get them upstairs?

This is not an insurmountable issue (and, you could hire a professional) but it may be that wireless is the best for you.

General advice:
* Networking gear defaults to the speed of the slowest component.
What that means is, let’s say you go and buy a brand-new Wireless -N router (technically, a “WAP”) that runs at 270 Mbps, and the adaptor on your 2 year-old laptop is a “G”, your connection will be at 54 Mbps.
And if the port on your Desktop is Gigabit, and your cable is Cat 5e or better (Gigabit capable), but there’s no Gigabit port on your router.. your LAN is running at 100 Mbps.

The trick is to make sure everything ‘matches’. For instance, in the first example (laptop), buying a Wireless-N PCMCIA card, or USB dongle, will now give you the 270 you bought the fast router for. And for the Gigabit example, a new router that has Gigabit ports will make things ‘match’ and give you a Gigabit LAN.

Last bit of advice: Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.

Today’s free link: In today’s article I mentioned that there are alternatives to drilling holes in your wall/floor/ceiling, and one method is EoP (Ethernet over Power lines [aka “powerline networking”]). This uses the electrical wires already in your home to send your 1’s and 0’s from device to device. It is often rated at 200 Mbps.
Better Together: Wi-Fi and Powerline Networking – PC World

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking, PC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mac Printer Problem

The other day I received a phone call (at Aplus Computer Aid) from a man whose printer had suddenly stopped working. All the lights were on. The cable was plugged in. He hadn’t moved the printer or computer, changed any settings, or installed/uninstalled any software.
So he was puzzled.

So I had him try the usual Printer Troubleshooting Steps
* Was the printer getting power (plugged in)? Yes.
* Turn the printer off, and then turn it again. Resolved? No.
* Is the USB cable plugged in securely? Yes.
* Delete old print jobs. Resolved? No.
* Is the printer showing in System Profiler? No.
* Restart the computer. Resolved? No.

Hmmm… Now I was puzzled.
The fact that the printer wasn’t showing up at all in the Profiler meant that it was almost certainly not a software (driver) issue.. And all the lights on meant it (probably) wasn’t a power issue. So I kept coming back to the USB cable, and he kept telling me it was plugged in just fine, and that he hadn’t touched it.
So I told him to “humor me” and plug it in to a different USB port.

This resolved his problem.
It turns out that he had made a change recently. He had replaced his keyboard with a new wireless mouse and keyboard set.
Keyboard? What’s that got to do with a printer???Keyboard-USB

His printer’s USB cable had been firmly and securely plugged in — to the old keyboard. The one that he had unplugged to make room for the new wireless one. Apple likes to put convenient USB ports on their keyboards, and..
Normally, I run into this “it IS plugged in” with powerstrips. Is the powerstrip plugged in?

Today’s free link: Apple’s Support page for troubleshooting printer issues provides the step-by-step methods for resolving most printing errors. Those with driver issues (software) should look here.

Today’s free download: In sticking with my Mac theme today.. http://www.opensourcemac.org/ is a website dedicated to listing the best in free (Open Source) programs for your Mac. All kinds of categories, so whether you’re looking for an anonymizer or image editor, you’ll find something here.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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May 21, 2009 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, hardware, how to, printers, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Firewall Causes Connection Problem

Yesterday I received a call for help from someone who simply could not regain their connection to the Internet. My questioning revealed that they had recently followed some advice they had read on the Internet and installed a firewall on their computer. So I’d like to review for you some “firewall basics”, and share how I resolved the problem.

Firewall BasicsFirewall
1) You want a firewall.
2) You want ONLY one firewall running (this was the cause of my caller’s problem). Two will interfere with each other.
3) A firewall’s job is to allow, or deny, incoming and outgoing Internet connections, by instance, and so it must “learn” – from you – what programs to “allow” and which to “deny”. To avoid repeats, you will see a “Remember this answer?” checkbox. Use this feature sparingly.
4) Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows come with a firewall. These firewalls are adequate, but not necessarily the “best”. Their main advantage is that they function without hardly ever notifying the user of their existence, or asking questions. (In fact, most people are unaware that they already have a firewall.)
5) Almost every Internet Security “Suite” (every?) comes with a firewall. Also, there are many “3rd party” stand-alone firewall programs available.

Okay. Firewalls are “good”, and you want one. Unless your operating system is very old (older than XP SP2, and OS X) you have one… if it’s an old edition, get one.

When you install a new security suite, or 3rd-party firewall, the vast majority of them are ‘smart enough’ to turn the existing firewall off for you.. but occasionally they don’t — as what happened to my caller. The way to check is to open either Security Center or Control Panel (Sharing Preferences in OS X) and look at the Firewall status — there will be an option to “Enable/Disable Firewall”. Make sure the OS’s firewall (aka “Windows Firewall”) is off. (This simple act restored my caller’s Internet.)

[note: when troubleshooting Internet or file sharing problems, one of the first things to try is turning off your firewall (BRIEFLY). Misconfigurations can cause slow speeds, failures, intermittent failures, and other misc. weirdnesses.]

Today’s free download(s): The two “best” 3rd-party” firewalls are generally considered to be Comodo and ZoneAlarm. If you are not running a “suite” already, and would like a more robust and effective firewall, I would suggest one of those two.
The Comodo firewall is for the more advanced user, and is highly configurable. The ZoneAlarm is for those who simply want the protection and is my reco’ for most users.
Both these firewalls are “chatty” and will query you as they “learn” — Allow this? Deny this?
But this is good — when you see “Trojan.B_dwnldr.exe is trying to connect to the Internet. Allow or Deny?” — you’ll know to click “deny” and that you’ve been infected, and it’s time to get busy.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, how to, Internet, Microsoft, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wired or Wireless?*

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently.

Q: Paul, I am hoping for some guidance. I will soon be moving, and will have to set up a new network. I have three computers, a laser jet printer and a photo printer. My old network was wired and homenetworking worked well, but I have heard that the new wireless is faster.

Which is better these days, wired or wireless?

A: I hate ambiguous answers, but in this situation I really must answer, “that depends”. And I must also say that it really isn’t a case of one being “better” than the other.
In my experience, a “blended” network (both wired and wireless) is the most common.

Consideration #1: Mega-bits-per-second:
1) Wire “speed” is typically either 10/100, or 1,000(Gigabit).
2) Wireless “speed” is either 54 (g) or 270 (n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at.. 1.5? 3? 6 Mbps?
(My point here is that, as far as sharing your Internet is concerned, even a very old 10 Mbps network is “fast” enough.)

Consideration #2: Stringing cable:
Most newer homes are built with Ethernet wiring, and so your network is already there (to a large degree), but for older homes a very real concern — should you choose to go Gigabit wired — is WirelessHomeNetwork where will the wires go? How will you get them upstairs?

This is not an insurmountable issue (and, you could hire a professional) but it may be that wireless is the best for you.

General advice:
* Networking gear defaults to the speed of the slowest component.
What that means is, let’s say you go and buy a brand-new Wireless -N router (technically, a “WAP”) that runs at 270 Mbps, and the wireless adaptor on your 2 year-old laptop is a “G”, your connection will be at 54 Mbps – the G speed.
And if the port on your Desktop is Gigabit, and your cable is Cat 5e or better (Gigabit capable), but there’s no Gigabit port on your router.. your LAN can only run at 100 Mbps.

The trick is to make sure everything ‘matches’. For instance, in the first example (laptop), buying a Wireless-N PCMCIA card, or USB dongle, will now give you the 270 you bought the fast router for. And for the Gigabit example, a new router that has Gigabit ports will make things ‘match’ and give you a Gigabit LAN.

Last bit of advice: Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.

Today’s free link: In today’s article I mentioned that there are alternatives to drilling holes in your wall/floor/ceiling, and one method is EoP (Ethernet over Power lines). This uses the electrical wires already in your home to send your 1’s and 0’s from device to device. Fellow Tech Blogger Bill Mullins has a very informative article on this topic, here — http://billmullins.wordpress.com/2009/03/07/your-electric-wiring-is-a-wi-fi-network-alternative/

* Orig post 11/16/08

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 7, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments