Sunday, April 1, 2018

Ways to Improve Your WiFi Speed

WiFi is the technology that allows any PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device to connect to the internet without the need for a physical wired connection. With WiFi, you can connect to the internet wirelessly while in your home, office or when you are on the move. Lately, people are noticing what appears to be a slowdown in their WiFi internet access speed. Let's see how you can improve upon that.
How to Access WiFi
Your connection to the internet is via a router. Routers are electronic devices that connect computer networks together. In the case of home and office routers, it connects the home/office computer network (even a single device) to the internet. You will need to ensure that your router can transmit the correct wireless signals. If your current router cannot accomplish that, you will need to replace your router. You will likely find that the router given to you when you subscribed for your connection to the internet can already do that.

Internet Bandwidth
Internet bandwidth describes the maximum data transfer rate of a network or Internet connection. It measures how much data can be sent over a specific connection within a given amount of time. When visualizing internet bandwidth, it may help to think of a network connection as a tube and each bit of data as a grain of sand. If you pour a large amount of sand into a skinny tube, it will take a long time for the sand to flow through it. If you pour the same amount of sand through a wide tube, the sand will finish flowing through the tube much faster. Similarly, a file upload or download will finish much faster when you have a high-bandwidth connection (wide tube) rather than a low-bandwidth connection (skinny tube).

Ways to Improve Your WiFi Speed
Use up-to-date Hardware: Wireless A, B, G, and N are older wireless standards Wireless AC is the most current wireless standard. Wireless AX is the next anticipated standard due to be released in 2019. Having a wireless AC connection (launched in 2013) will give you the ability to move more data at a faster rate than the older A, B, G, and N standards. You will need both a wireless AC router and a wireless device with wireless AC if you want the full speed standard. With more smart devices entering your home or office (e.g. addressable light bulbs, switches, thermostats, etc.) a strong WiFi signal that can propagate the fastest signal is essential.

Limit Bandwidth Hogging Applications
Some programs and applications (Apps) use much more bandwidth than others. Video chatting, music and movie streaming (e.g. Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, etc.), downloading/uploading large files and live TV and news feeds quickly use more of your bandwidth "tube" competing for that available flow rate to move data. Reduce the number of users simultaneously running such applications or block the use of bandwidth hogging applications. Another option is to schedule low internet demand times for using such bandwidth hogging apps (e.g. download of large data and files when most people are not online).

Restrict Network Access Only to Legitimate Users
Your router’s default administrator password should be changed immediately. If none exists, put a password on your WiFi router to allow wireless access. Without password protection and encryption your WiFi connection is open to anyone who happens to be in close proximity to your WiFi signal, even someone who just happens to pass by and notice your unsecured wireless network. A strong password (read "Are Your Passwords Safe") prevents unauthorized access to your WiFi router and computer network. The router's encryption will prevent anyone who hacks the WiFi signal from reading the transmitted data, which may include sensitive information like account IDs, social security numbers, etc.

Place Your Router out in the Open
Routers are typically installed in the location where your Internet connection enters and connects to your modem. Often that's a basement, garage or closet. You can alleviate that issue with a longer Ethernet cable from the entry point to the router's installation point. If you want the best WiFi signal, you’ll need your router centrally located out in the open, free of any thick walls, electronic appliances and obstructions. If your router’s optimal location is a space without a table or flat surface, check to see if you can wall mount it using its pre-installed mounting holes or a mounting bracket. Finally, make sure it’s in the center of your home or office so you have the best and most even coverage possible.

Boost Your WiFi Signal Range
When you have trouble getting a solid, reliable WiFi signal in some parts of your home or office, a WiFi range extender or a wireless access point (WAP) could be the solution for you. As you move your wireless device further from your WiFi router, the WiFi signal becomes weaker. It's like adding water to a cup of tea... As you add water the taste is not as strong.  A WiFi range extender (also known as a repeater) receives the remote WiFi signal and rebroadcasts it from that point. A wireless access point is typically hard wired from the router or computer network to create another WiFi signal point to which to connect to the router. By having any of these devices installed, you extend the range for your devices to access your WiFi router.
For more tips on improving your WiFi speed, click HERE to read the advice from Intel.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tech for Travelers

Wondering what technology and gadgets to take on your next trip? You're not the only one. Long gone are the days where a Walkman and film camera were the height of travel tech. At the very least, you’re likely to need your PC/Mac and your smartphone.

Let’s take a look at some useful technology you will want with you the next time you travel...
Consider carrying a tablet computer instead of a laptop. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, and with better battery life than a laptop, tablets are more convenient for travelers. The most well-known examples are Apple’s iPad (mini or full-size) and the Microsoft Surface. While either of those lines will do just fine for a traveler, a good value for money now is in the Android O/S tablets. Good choices are a Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, Huawei MediaPad and the Amazon Fire lines of tablets.

The Android OS supports lots of productivity apps, as well as games. To stay connected to your home or office, the devices all have WiFi connectivity, and some include the ability to connect to a cellular network. Plus, they all have at least one camera with good resolutions. However, I still can't get used to people taking pictures with their tablets.

VPN Software
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you are connecting to an unsecured WiFi network in airports and hotels. A VPN routes your internet activity through a dedicated, encrypted server. When you have a VPN and you are online, you establish a secure connection to the VPN server, locking out anyone on the same network as you. All of your transferred data is encrypted between you and the VPN service provider.

Select a VPN service that has host servers in the USA. When traveling internationally, connect to a USA-based host server so you can access streaming and social media websites that you may not be able to access from within a foreign country. In addition, some streaming services (i.e. Netflix) offer different content overseas as compared to being within the USA. You can connect to a local host server for all other website access. I use NordVPN since it has over 3,300 servers in 60 countries, is priced well, and is well reviewed.

Smart Luggage
These suitcases and travel bags include built in technology for the traveler. Some include a rechargeable battery and USB ports so that you can keep your smartphone charged during a long trip. Of course, you will need to remember to recharge your luggage. The one caveat with using this technology is that some airlines do not allow travelers to check luggage with lithium-ion batteries. So, check with your carrier.

Some of this type of luggage have Bluetooth installed and allow you to track the bag via an installed smartphone app. Some have a built-in digital scale so that you know the bag's weight before you check it - saving you airline over-weight charges. Others have internal pockets made from material that block RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) signals, which can prevent some forms of identity theft.

Portable Device Chargers
Until there’s a real breakthrough in battery technology, a portable charger might be your best solution. A portable charger allows you to use your devices for longer periods of time without the fear of your battery dying. Typically, small in size, they give you additional power for when you are not able to recharge your device's battery during a long trip or daily commute.

Noise Cancelling Headphones
While there are several brands and models of these tech gadgets, the Bose QuietComfort line is among the most popular. In fact, I own a Bose QuietComfort 15, which is now considered an older model. The primary advantage of using noise cancelling headphones is that it almost entirely eliminates airplane & rail noise, as well as loud conversations. This will help you better enjoy your music and movies when traveling, and help you get some sleep.

Power Converter and/or Plug Adapters
Foreign countries often use different electric current and different plug configurations than in the USA. Most electronic devices can recognize and adapt to the local electric current. If you will travel with electronic devices that require current used in the USA (120 volts, 60 Hz), then you need a power converter. Even if your device can use the overseas electric current standard, you will likely need a plug adapter, so you can plug your device into the wall outlet. Click here for a list of plug sockets and currents by region and country.

Often, we're unsure of what we really need when traveling. However, choosing the right gear to travel with doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Making a few smart choices and limiting yourself to what you truly need will give you all the benefits that technology can bring while avoiding most of the downsides.

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