Tech – for Everyone

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

Is Wireless Better For Home Networking?*

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently, and I think it may be of interest to “everyone”.

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 (wireless-g) or 270 (wireless-n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at, what, 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 G’s 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  the slower 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(s): 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 an informative article on this topic here, http://billmullins.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/easy-computer-networking-use-your-electric-wiring/

For more on understanding Gigabit Ethernet, see, Gigabit Ethernet Didn’t Make Internet Faster

* Orig post: November 16, 2008

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

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July 28, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, networking, PC | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cybercriminals Target Clueless Vacationers

laptop_beach “This guy doesn’t know it, but he’s putty in the hands of cybercriminals. The newest trend in Internet fraud is “vacation hacking,” a sinister sort of tourist trap.

Cybercriminals are targeting travelers by creating phony Wi-Fi hot spots in airports, in hotels, and even aboard airliners.

Vacationers on their way to fun in the sun, or already there, think they’re using designated Wi-Fi access points. But instead, they’re signing on to fraudulent networks and hand-delivering everything on their laptops to the crooks*.”

Please click here to read the rest of this story, and find out what you need to know before you use public “hotspots”.

* emphasis mine.

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

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July 20, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, Internet, News, Portable Computing, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s Time We Talked About Netbooks

The word netbook is a portmanteau of the words Internet and notebook.

feature_GetitAll Netbook users typically rely on online applications and services which do not require powerful hardware on the local computer (aka “cloud computing“), such as Google Docs and Calendar.

These are not speed demon gaming rigs, media servers, or even very small laptops — what they are is lightweight and very portable. And they’re cheap (I don’t mean “flimsy” or “poorly made”). Using one, I was reminded of state-of-the-art… in the year Windows XP came out (2001).

Some (most?) netbooks do not have conventional hard, or optical disc drives. Such netbooks use solid-state storage devices instead, as these require less power and are smaller, faster, and lighter. (On machines with no optical disk drive, application software is typically downloaded from the web or read from a USB device.)

All netbooks on the market today support Wi-Fi wireless networking and many can be used on mobile telephone networks with data capability. Mobile data plans are supplied under contract in the same way as cell phones. Most also include Ethernet and/or modem ports for broadband or dial-up Internet access.

I look at netbooks as filling the gap between smart phones/PDA’s and travelbooks/”mini”-laptops, and the pundits are saying netbooks are our future. Google seems to be betting that line, and it’s new Chrome OS is aimed squarely at this segment (see Netbooks: Google’s ace in PC war with Microsoft).

Recently I have been playing with a borrowed 9″ Acer “Aspire One” ZG5 (its main competitors in the low-cost netbook market are the Asus Eee PC and the Dell Inspiron Mini 9) which has the Intel chip and Windows XP. That combo is what I would buy.

I like the screen size and brightness, and I like the light weight, and I like the keyboard (which I would guesstimate to be 3/4’s of a “regular” keyboard) as I am not skilled at typing with my thumbs on tiny QWERTY arrays with miniscule buttons — I need KEYS. The unit feels solid and sturdy. It is too big to fit in any of my pockets, though.

I think these machines do what most people – even business people – use their mobile devices for.. e-mail, browsing the Internet, and working with documents; and by “ripping” a DVD to the drive, they can also be media players too (see, Quick Tip: Movies on the plane). I think they are worth a look-see, if you haven’t “checked it out” yet.
(They might make a perfect ‘first computer’ for a child, too…)

Purchasing: As I always advise, and due to the smaller key arrangements and touchpads, this is something you definitely want to “test drive” before you buy. Make sure it “feels right” before you buy.

The future of computing? I’m not so sure. What do you think?

Today’s free link: Hacker steals Twitter’s confidential documents

Today’s free download: Free YouTube to MP3 Converter Extract sound from videos on YouTube and convert sound tracks into MP3.

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

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July 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, Internet, PC, Portable Computing, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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

Video Tutorial – WIFI Antenna Boost

How can I boost my signal strength?

Folks, I have been asked many times about what can be done to improve the wireless signal produced by a home router/WAP. And, like so many things in life, there is no one, single, best answer. A weak signal slows you down, and can cause “connectivity issues” (aka “disconnects”).

Methods for a stronger signal, at a greater distance, include:
* Replace your router’s firmware with a Linux-based system that allows for “antenna gain” adjustment. (Advanced) — free.
* Add a “reflector” (Simple) — free.
* Replace your antenna with a “signal boosting” (aka “range extending”) antenna, or a directional antenna. (Simple) — $25.
* Upgrade to a Wireless N router. (Simple) — $100.

I recommend the last option. Wireless N routers are quite reasonably priced now. But, as I mentioned in If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It*, some people have a need to “tweak” and “hack”, and try to give things “more power” (ala Tim “The Toolman” Taylor). If you’re one of them, check out this video…
Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “WIFI Antenna Hack!“, posted with vodpod

.. and should you decide to try this at home, of course, you will be doing so “at your own risk”, and any sane person would have six paragraphs of legalese here. I will simply say that, if you open up your existing antenna, and it is a plain wire as shown in the video, and does NOT have a dipole, you can do this and expect a modest improvement. Which may be all you need– and the price is right!

Today’s free link: watch how to make a tinfoil parabolic reflector in this vide0.  And, you may want to look around the Internet some. There are, literally, thousands of these hacks and tips.

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

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March 3, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking, performance, routers, routers and WAPs | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rural Areas Stuck With Dial-up?

The other day I was helping a client via my remote desktop tool (over the Internet) and I thought this person really had a problem, but they weren’t talking about that — they were talking about Outlook.

It was like they were ignoring the elephant in the room.

So, finally, I asked. Er.. um.. pardon me, but.. don’t you think there’s a problem with your Internet?

“What do you mean?” they replied.

Huh? So I said, “Well, no offense but, it’s slower than molasses in January.” (I suspected a hefty spyware infection..)

Fortunately, my client laughed, and told me that where they lived, all they could get was dial-up Internet. And it was running “pretty good” lately at 28 Kbps.

Kilobits? That’s so.. early-to-mid-1990’s!

Tip of the day: If you live in a “rural area” and neither cable nor DSL service is available (yet), and you would like to join the world of “Mega” (aka “broadband”), you do have some options you may not be aware of.

Option 1: Satellite.
Satellite providers, such as HughesNet and WildBlue, can provide up to 1.5 Mbps (equal to basic DSL) for residences, and faster for (pricier) “Business” plans.

Option 2: Microwave.
This is also know as ‘fixed wireless’ and ‘wireless broadband’, and has a range of about 25 miles from the transmitter. (It works kind of like a radio station). Often, these are set up by small, independent ISP’s, and finding them is done by geography. KeyOn is one that covers the area my client was in, and you might try an indexing service like this one, to locate a provider near you. This will give you speeds “up to 50x’s faster than dial-up”.

Option 3: (The wave of the future?) WiMax.
WiMax is also a microwave technology, capable (I have read) of speeds of up to 70 Mbps. US residents will have to wait for this technology to become ubiquitous, but if this sounds appealing, take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMAX.

Today’s free link: http://www.broadbandreports.com/ is the place to go to find a high-speed service near you (the “Find Service” tab). But it is much more than just that; you can find reviews of ISP’s, and there’s tools for testing and tweaking your speed, and much more.

* hidden bonus for those of you who read all the way through: Free ZoneAlarm Pro – One Day Only!

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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November 17, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, performance, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments