Is Your Internet Fast or Slow?

hareWhich is better faster or slower? You know that commercial where a group of ankle biters are asked that question and in return give creative answers that only young minds can think of! The point of the commercial, in case you missed it, was to sell a faster Internet connection. How fast is your Internet connection?

First, to test your Internet Speed there are several websites, Charter Speed Test and Speedtest.net are just two that gave me similar results.

When you run the test, you will get 2 numbers – download and upload. Download is the amount of time it takes for your web browser to load pictures, pages and other web page elements, or for your email to download attachments. Uploading is when you send pictures or files either through your web browser or email. Today you can get speeds anywhere from 10Mbps (megabytes per second) to 50 Mbps for downloads and significantly less for uploads. There are many things that will affect your personal results – your computer, modem and router.

Think of it this way – if you had an automobile built in the 1920’s how fast could you go on an empty 4-lane highway? Or, if you have a NASCAR automobile, how fast can you go on the highway at rush hour? Your Internet connection’s “highway” is usually referred to as bandwidth.

Newer computers have faster processors, which affect all aspects of your computing, including your web experience. If you have viruses, malware or other issues that in general are slowing down your computer, do not expect your web surfing to go fast either!

Your Internet enters your house through a cable or phone line. This is then connected to a modem. If your computer is connected directly to this modem, then you will be getting the fastest speed allowed by the connection and modem. However, most homes have several devices that share the Internet connection, either by wire or Wi-Fi. If that is the case, then your modem is connected to a router.  The more devices devices (iPads, smartphones, laptops, desktops, even TV’s!) connected and using the Internet, the slower your Internet will be.

If you think you are not getting the speed you are paying for, you might want to start with the modem. Your modem was probably supplied by your ISP. If it is 4 or more years old, it should be upgraded.

Next, and very importantly is your router. The standards for routers have changed. In 1997 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) developed 802.11 as the standard. That could handle 2 Mbps! As the need for bandwidth grew, so did the standard. Next came 802.11 a/b, 802.11g, 802.11n and now there is 802.11 ac.  You should be using at lease 802.11n. Most computers are not equipped to handle the ac version yet.

Sorry if this was too technical for you. Just know that if you have the same modem and router that you had 5 or 6 years ago, maybe it’s time to replace them!

To Blog or not to Blog…

BloggingDo you Blog? Should you Blog? What is a Blog?

OK, you are reading this blog, so there’s a good chance you know what a Blog is!  But in case you don’t – simply put, it is a web log, or a type of online diary. Many of you probably think that you have nothing to blog about, but there are many useful reasons to Blog.

First, students are encouraged to blog as a way to develop writing skills. Many teachers utilize this tool in a closed network situation, meaning these blogs are not made available to the general public.

Many people have an expertise in some area – horticulture, camping, cooking, decorating, music etc. Why not share your expertise with others? In addition, if you sell a service, this could help to build your customer base!

Recently, our family was able to keep in touch with a cousin undergoing a serious medical treatment. The hospital had a blogging program that my family members used to disseminate information and allow for messages of encouragement to be shared. This eliminated the family being bombarded with many calls and emails during this stressful time!

There are many places that you can start a blog – Google has a free site called “Blogger”. There is also software called WordPress, which you can use on your site, or you can start a blog through WordPress.com. Then there is the “Patch” which offers a spot for you to blog and share ideas with your neighbors!

Backup your Computer!

Most people today take digital pictures, create documents and store information on their personal computer. What would you do if: your hard drive crashed?; If a burglar stole your computer? ; or, if your home caught fire? If you are like many people, you would have lost valuable information.

All computers today come with a program to create regular backups of your documents. In addition, there are several online companies that will remotely backup your hard drive.

Some people use a CD or USB to save important files. While relatively convenient, they require you to remember to put in the disk and save. In addition both forms of media can fail. If a disk gets scratched it will be rendered unreadable. USB drives are easily lost or misplaced.

Better solutions are to have an external hard drive connected to your computer, or better yet, use a “cloud” storage system. Both can be setup to perform regular backups of your files.

Pros and Cons to hard drive backup:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive and easy to setup
  • Both Windows Backup and Mac’s Time Machine allow easy access to recover documents
  • Multiple versions of your documents can be saved for retrieval
  • A complete backup of your hard drive is possible – programs and documents.
  • Backups retrievals are made quickly. A complete system restore of you programs and files can take 2 hours. A restore of documents, seconds.

Cons:

  • Hard drives can fail – including those used for backups!
  • Could be lost or damaged in a fire or other catastrophe.

Pros and Cons to online backup:

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Will backup every time a document in changed
  • Both Macs and PC are supported
  • Easy to retrieve documents – even if you are in a location other than your computer.
  • Storage is in a different location than your computer, adding extra security that your files will not be lost in case of a break-in or fire.

Cons:

  • Yearly fee charged
  • Takes approximately 2 weeks to fully backup or restore your computer files
  • Only documents are backed up. You need to make sure that you have the disks for the programs if you ever needed to reinstall them.
  • Only the most recent version of your documents will be saved.
  • Internet connection is necessary.

 

That being said, below is a list both hard drive and online backup systems. In addition, you might want to checkout your ISP. Many Internet Service Providers like Charter Communications, Comcast and the like, offer free online backups for customers. The pros to these are they are included in your Internet bill. The cons are that they usually offer limited storage.

Hard drives – It makes no difference what OS you are using, Mac or Windows, any of these can be used. Compare the prices with online places like PC Mall, Mac Mall and Amazon against the big box stores like Best Buy, Office Max and Staples. Brands that are comparable are Seagate and LaCie . I would recommend a terabyte or larger. That should store plenty of photos and music!

Online servces – Check out the terms of service, some allow for multiple computer backups. Carbonite and Mozy will probably give you the most storage for the money. iDrive and Norton Online Backup are others, but are a bit pricier for less storage!

What do I do? Both! I like the quick access that the hard drive affords. If I get a new computer or hard drive I can have it fully loaded with my programs and files in about 2 hours. At the same time, I have peace of mind that my documents are also safe guarded at an offsite location. If you decide to go for Carboniteuse this link and you will get a $25 Amazon gift card.

Understanding Location Services on iPhone

I’m sure you have gotten the message from an app – “Google Maps wants to use your current location”  – but you are not sure what that means. Your smart phone has GPS built in and many apps are able to take advantage of this.  This can be good when you are lost and need directions to your destination, or to locate the closest Starbucks. This is also good when you have lost your phone and wish to locate it. However, this location service will also “geo tag” your photo with the location a picture was taken. You post this picture to Facebook and this information is embedded with the photo. If you think your secret vacation spot is still a secret after posting, you’re wrong! Many a celebrity has inadvertently given away the location of their homes this way. In addition, you might be putting children at risk by identifying their location to pedophiles.

If you have a smart phone, chances are you have activated a location app such as, Find My iPhone, or Where’s My Droid. These apps can locate your device as long as it is turned on and accessing a cellular or wifi network. However, thieves know about this and would probably disable the GSP as soon as they steal your phone.

How can you take control of your location services on your iPhone?

Go to the Settings and Select GENERAL General Settings

 

 

 

 

 

Restrictions

Scroll down and select RESTRICTIONS.
When you do this you will need to put in a 4 digit passcode. It is recommended that it NOT be the same 4 digits you use if you lock your phone.

 

 

 

Now you can see all of the apps that have access to the GPS.

Location On

You can toggle the on/off switch for the individual apps.

SCROLL down to the PRIVACY section and touch Location Services.

Again, you will see a list of Apps that are using your location. You may turn these on or off as well.

 

 

Location Services

Before you leave this screen, select DON’T ALLOW CHANGES.

Now, if your phone is lost or stolen, your Location Services cannot be easily turned off.

They will have to enter your passcode to access it.

 

Amazon.com has tutorials for other devices, like Kindles, Android and Windows phones.

Public WiFi – Great in a pinch – but far from secure!

For the third time in fourteen months my family, as well as many others in the northeast, found themselves without power for a week or more. Unlike last time, we were prepared with an automatic generator that worked beautifully! We made sure that the cable devices coming into the house were also on the generator lines, incase it was only electricity that was out. Unfortunately several large trees came down on our street wiping out power, cable, and unfortunately part of a house. We had no way of leaving since we live on a dead end street.

What does this have to do with technology? Actually a lot! I manage the websites and social media for several businesses, including a school system. I needed to post school closures and other emergency information on the web and Twitter.

Since I had the electricity to power my electronics, I only needed to get connected. Fortunately, I was able to turn my phone into a “hotspot”, that is a WiFi connection using my cellular plan. While not ideal, it served the purpose! You can check these sites out for your Android or iPhone.

One day while checking on a neighbor, she indicated that she was headed over to the library to use their WiFi as she had some bills to pay. My safe surfing tentacles immediately sent out a code red! Public WiFi + Banking = Potential disaster!

By now, most of you know to look for the https when logging onto password-protected sites. The “s” at the end of the http assures you that any information entered will be encrypted. However, you need to input a password to get to the https! It is that password that anyone with access to the public WiFi can steal. In addition, when you log onto the public WiFi, you might actually be logging onto a “hotspot” that someone else has created and made to look like the library, donut shop or other free WiFi. Once they have your password, they can log into your accounts!

There are a few solutions that should protect you.

  1. If you have the ability to use your cell phone data service (not WiFi) use that. It is more difficult for hackers to gather your information from the cell network.
  2. If your bank offers a “Pass Key” use it. A Pass Key is a onetime use code that is transmitted to either a tag or your phone. Unfortunately, many small area banks do not offer this. I do not recommend switching to a mega-bank just for this feature!
  3. Use a VPN. VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. From your computer, you are logging onto another computer that you know is secure. Many people already have this through work, but you can set up your own.

One final word – A good rule of thumb when using free WiFi – do not do anything or post anything that you would not put on a postcard for all to see!

By the way, my friend decided to pay her bills the old fashion way – snail mail!

E-Mail Pet Peeve

Are you guilty of forwarding that cute cat picture to your entire address book? Did you receive a funny email that you have to immediately forward to all your friends? Please STOP!

Every time you “forward” an email, you are sending the email address of EVERY recipient that has been sent this email. Sometimes the email has been forwarded so many times, those previous emails end up in an attachment that some email programs cannot open.

First, there are three lines that can be used to send an e-mail: TO, CC, and BCC. Use the “To” field when you want the recipient to take action. Use the “Cc” field as a way of informing others of something, but no action is needed. Use the “Bcc” field to send an email to many people without disclosing their names and emails to everyone!

Second, COPY the content, picture, joke from the original email and PASTE it into a NEW mail document! Your friends will thank you for not having to scroll through all the past email addresses and comments!!

One more word about Bcc – there are those people who every time they respond to an email “reply to all”, if you have used Bcc they will only be replying to you and not everyone!

Google Doodles Honor the Summer Olympics!

Have you been noticing the Google Doodles? In honor of the Olympics, Google has been highlighting the various sports by making them part of their logo. Some like today’s canoeing are actually interactive games. Using your arrow keys, you can maneuver down the river through the poles to the finish.

The faster you toggle between the right and left arrow keys, the faster you will canoe – but be careful of the gates you need to go through!

Other interactive Olympic Doodles included basketball and hurdles. If you missed any of these, you can see them on the Google Doodles site.

Is your Windows machine running slow?

Windows

OK, I will avoid any comments that show my preference for Macs! I actually have both Macs and a PC at home. When I turn on my PC after it has been off for several days, it runs excruciatingly slow!

Window based machines automatically go out periodically and look for updates. Virus Protection (please don’t tell me you don’t have any!), system updates and others are usually done when the computer is idle. However, if you are always shutting it off it never has a chance to do these.

In addition, there is an internal battery that helps to keep the date and time among other important computer information. Should your computer be off for an extended period of time, that battery can get run down, as it recharges itself when it is on.

If you are using your computer and it suddenly begins to slow, you can always restart the computer. That will stop anything that is in process. You might see a prompt that it wants to install updates first!

From personal experience, I would leave my PC on at least once a week, restarting it in the morning.

Where did I leave my phone?

302  – the number of events; 2,300 the number of medals that will be awarded; 67,000 – the number of cell phones likely to be lost or stolen during the London Olympics! About 40% of these phones will be “smartphones” Android or iPhones.

This statistic comes from Venafi, a management solutions firm. It calculated this number from the average number of cell phones normally lost or stolen in a two-week period in London and the number of people expected to be in London for the Olympics.

While replacing these phones could cost you anywhere from $200 to $600, yes, even if you have insurance, the bigger issue is the data contained on these phones! This should be a wake-up call for those of us that use these phones. If your phone lands in the wrong hands your personal information could be at risk. We use smart phones for banking, travel reservations, online purchases and even business documents.

Your first layer of protection is to lock your smartphone’s screen. I know it’s a pain to type in a cade every time you want to use it!

The next layer is to make sure you have activated “Find my iPhone” or “Lookout” for Android phones. These apps allow you to locate your phone, remotely lock it and even remotely wipe the information from the phone. I even suggest testing these apps to make sure you know how to use them. Maybe bookmark the websites on your home computer!

Other tips:

  • Do not store sensitive information on your phone, or if you have to, encrypt it.
  • If you lock down your phone, make sure that you remember the password! There is no way to retrieve it if you forget! You can reset your phone – but that will wipe out all data!

Back-up your data. Your wireless service should offer a backup system, but in addition Google offers backup for the Android phones and Apple for the iPhones.

Treat your smartphone with care – in the wrong hands it can make a mess of your life!

 

Are your parents susceptible to scams?

Sad, but true, scammers target senior citizens. With the digital age, these scams can be in emails made to look legitimate. But more often than not with the older generation, scammers resort to the older technology of the telephone.

The most common and successful scam is the “Grandparent Scam” because it tugs at the heart. A caller pretends to be the person’s grandchild. They deviously get the grandparent to offer up the child’s name: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” Once they have established a grandchild’s name, they will tell a sad story about them needing money and “please don’t tell Mom & Dad”. Without thinking the Grandmother does just that!

A good rule for all phone solicitations is – if they called you – do not give money or credit card information! If you think it is a legitimate organization, get their phone number; check it out on the web before you call them back.

If you get an email requesting money, credit card information etc, NEVER give that in an email! If it’s a friend – call that friend on the phone and verify the need!

Be careful of emails that appear to be from your bank. They will NEVER ask for personal information in an email. Also the IRS will NEVER email you at all!

Just as when we were kids, our parents talked to us about dangerous situations, it’s not a bad idea to now talk to your parents about these scams! Check out the National Council on Aging website .

« Previous posts Next posts » Back to top