Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Microsoft Office Mixes it up AGAIN

There's a new Microsoft operating system (Microsoft 8), and now there's a new version of Microsoft Office as well. Microsoft is calling it.....drum roll.....Microsoft Office 2013! But it's also called Microsoft Office 365 for the yearly subscription option. Let me explain....

If you have a new machine and you needed Microsoft Office installed, you bought the version you needed, and that was that. Now they are leaning consumers toward a yearly subscription and will be charging a yearly fee. Hence the Microsoft Office 365 nomenclature.

Home Premium 365 includes the line up of programs that were included in Office Professional 2010. This includes: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. The one year subscription will be $100 dollars for up to five PC's.

Small Business Premium has everything Office Professionalism Plus 2010 included. This has everything listed above plus InfoPath, Access, InfoPath, Communicator, and Sharepoint. This will run you $150 a year PER user.

Both subscription versions come with some extra swag:

Home Premium gives you 60 Skype minutes a month and 20 GB of extra SkyDrive storage in addition to the free 7GB already included.

Small Business Premium customers will get get Exchange Hosting through Office 365, with a 25 GB mailbox and shared calendars. There is also 10GB of Sharepoint storage for your organization and an additional 500 MB of Sharepoint storage per user. The Lync software also gives you free video conferencing and screen sharing.

If you don't like the subscription model you can still buy the more traditional software style of Office 2013, but you'll notice a significant price hike. And like 2010, are only available to install on one machine.

Like always, give us a ring or shoot us an email with any questions!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Maximizing your Router

Nine times out of ten, your router is just fine as is, but there are ways to ensure that you are maximizing your router's capabilities.

The first rule seems counter productive, but use wires whenever possible. A wired Ethernet connection will always be your fastest option. This means that if your computer is sitting three feet away from your wireless router, just connect them via an Ethernet cable, and save the wireless for your laptops and tablets.

Next, you will want to choose the best wireless channel. The biggest thing that slows down a wifi signal is OTHER wifi signals from other routers in your area. Most routers will default to channel 6 or channel 11. So those channels can get easily crowded. There's an easy way to check this if you have a wireless smart phone or tablet. Or I guess I should say, "There's an app for that".

 Wifi Stumbler

Simply pick the channel with the least traffic. You don't have to fully understand why picking channels likes this changes the strength of your signal, only that you want the least congested highway. You can change the channel in the administration page like we went over in the last post.

Another thing you can do is tweak your routers power Also in the admin page is a selection called "TX Power". Boosting it too much can have adverse effects so keep it around 70 mW. Going much higher can cause your router to overheat and even die. Some routers don't have this option at all.

Make sure to turn off all wifi devices while not in use. Those devices just sitting there doing there thing, running updates, calibrating with GPS, keeping you up to date on the weather, whatever, is still a transfer of information that is taking up a piece of your wifi highway.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Understanding Your Router's Admin Page

OK, so in our last router lesson we went over the basics of the hardware. Now we are going to take a look at the settings. You won't necessarily need to change ALL the sections of your admin page, but it is helpful to understand them and what they do.

The first thing we have to do is GET to the admin page. You will need to know your router's IP. It is 9 times out of 10 printed on a sticker on the back or the bottom of the router. It will be something like: You will need to connect it to a computer via a wire for this set up process. Then open up your web browser; Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc. In the address bar type in the IP that we found on the router. You don't need to type www or anything like that. Just type the IP. It will then ask you for the user name and password. A lot of routers will have a default one that hopefully you know. If you don't try googling it. I had to look up mine and it was Admin/Motorola. Once you get into the setup pages, you can change the username and password.

First things first and it's a fun one!

Naming Your Router

That's right you get to name it. This is technically it's "SSID" or service set identifier. Have you ever searched for a network and seen all kinds of interesting options like "New Kids on the Block" "Rosco's Rocking Hot Spot"? Well those are SSID's that people designated. Mine is called "Sarah_The_Dinosaur". Why? Well because my favorite stuffed animal is Sarah and she is a dinosaur.

Choose Your Broadcast Mode

Like we mentioned in our speed test blog post, wireless N is the fastest. You can choose to broadcast both N and G but this will slow your speeds over all. If you can just broadcast N do that. But make sure that your devices are N compatible. All new devices will be. If you're not sure, just choose N and G. It might be called "mixed".


This is an important one for obvious reasons. This is where you enter your password. Mine is a combination of letters and numbers. I use numbers for some of the letters. Like this:

S33 Jan3 4un f457 (make sense? It says: See Jane run fast)

 You'll have an option to choose what type of encryption. Generally the options are WEP, WPA, WPA2. WEP tends to be the easier setting to crack. Choose WPA2 if it's an option, choose WPA if 2 is not available.

So there's the basics. There's a lot more in there as you can see but this will get you in there and running safely with encrypted password protection! Call us if you would like our help and show you all the settings.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is your internet fast enough?

With internet speeds as fast as you are these days, it may be difficult to tell if your getting optimal performance. Connection speed really is a quality of life issue, your virtual life that is. Many of our day to day applications depend on the speed of your connection. Applications like Netflix, Youtube, and Pandora, are all reliant on the speed of your internet. On the flip side you may not need blazing fast speeds. No one needs to drive a Ferrari to the grocery store. If you're watching Netflix in the living room while you have a couple kids in their rooms streaming music, and also watching some business tutorials...and things are getting slow....you have a problem.

The first thing to determine is how fast your speed really is. This is fairly easy to do as there are several on line sites that will test your connectivity. I like to use THIS SITE.  Just hit the go button and it does the rest.
But how do interpreted the results? You don't want less then around 2 megabytes per second if your streaming ANYTHING. This would be considered light usage. Moderate usage would be around three simultaneous users using high definition media. Suggested speeds for this would be 6Mbps to 12Mbps. Heavy usage would be four or more people using HD streaming of movies, videos or large files. For this type of usage you would want around 15Mbps.

There's also different TYPES of connections; Dial-up, DSL, Cable, and Fiber-optic. That list in order of speed with Fiber-optic connection only available in very select areas. Cable internet is available all throughout the Treasure Valley and is recommended if you want to do any streaming.

You want to make sure that you are getting the speeds that you are paying for. Ask your internet service provider for the speeds in your internet package, then perform the speed test that we went over. It is best to connect to your modem with a wire instead of wirelessly when conducting the test as the test will show results of your router's speed and not your actual connection which often times will be slower. Connecting directly to the modem with a wire will give you the best speeds. If you need to rely on a wireless connection make sure that you are keeping the software up-to-date. Also look for the term "802.11.n". 802.11 means  it is a wifi product, and the N is the fastest version of hardware currently available.

Just like you want a current router, you will also need a current modem. If you have been using the same modem with your internet service provider for years then it's probably time to upgrade. If your connection speeds are fast but your hardware is out-of-date, you won't be properly utilizing your internet.

There are other things that can slow your speeds as well. Viruses and Spyware can dramatically slow your browsing speeds. So make sure you have antivirus and malware installed and are using it properly. Installing protection is NOT enough, you have to run scans and make sure it is staying updated.

So to answer the question just ask yourself if you get frustrated with your connection speed? If you do run a speed test, check the age of your hardware, and find out what type of connection you have. There are tons of upgrading options if you know what you need. And remember, you can always ask for us to come and audit your set up and determine if an upgrade would be a good idea for you!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Future is here and Google is driving!

Video chat, commercial space flight, robotic surgery, self-driving cars….have you noticed that the future is here? It interesting that as a child it seemed everyone thought that once we had video chat we had really moved forward as a society. Now that’s here, turns out no one really cares. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, especially considering you should probably put on pants and act like you’re really listening.

Commercial space flight is awesome and all, but still not a lot of people can afford it. Robotic surgery has sent us leaps forward in terms of precision and keeping wounds clean reducing accounts of post surgery infection.

But how in the world are there self-driving cars? You know the one; Google’s street view car is completely self-propelled and navigated. The fleet of Priuses has logged nearly 200,000 miles. These miles include everything from inner cities to mountain trails.

The car’s computer is programmed with all the appropriate traffic laws. There is a “Velodyne 64-beam laser” mounted on the roof that creates a detailed 3D map of the cars surroundings allowing it to interpret it’s path and avoid obstacles. This is made even smooth with other sensors including: four radars, a camera that interprets traffic lights, a GPS, an internal measuring device, and wheel encoder. All these different sensors are essential as relying on GPS alone could result in several meters of error.

The car knows to yield when appropriate but has also been programmed to be aggressive when necessary. For instance at a four way stop if the other cars are not allowing the Google mobile to proceed, the car will begin to advance to show the other cars it’s intention. Without a more aggressive approach around human drivers the car would never make it in the real world.

This could lead to a convenient service of automated rides throughout cities and towns. Just tap on your smart phone app and a self-driving car would appear and take you where you needed to go while you caught up on your email or applied your makeup.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Router Hardware: 101

Your router is what connects your home and office network to each other and the web. (Most of the time, but we won't be getting into all that right now).

A router is NOT a modem. These two pieces of hardware do two different things. There are modems that double also broadcast a wireless signal, but they still have different functions.

The modem is your house or offices connection to the internet. Your router connects all your computers and your modem together. The router enables data to be transferred from point to point. This data can include the internet connection that the modem provides. So by connecting the modem to the router and then multiple computers to the router, they are able to share a data connection.

Most modems can only direct data to a single computer. A router can connect to several computers, but cannot connect to the internet alone.

Anything that gets data from the router, like your computer, a tablet, a printer, etc., is referred to as a client. Each client gets their own IP address that is like it's ID. Your modem gets a GLOBAL IP, while your clients get LOCAL IP's. Think of it like this: Your modem is the street, and the global IP is the street name, while your clients local IP's are like the individual house numbers.

Now there are wired and wireless routers. This is pretty straight forward. Wired connections are going to befaster, and generally more reliable, so if you can hard wire computers that aren't moving around a lot do that. For your mobile devices like your tablet, phone, and laptop, or even a computer at the far end of the house, connect via the wireless connection. Most people have a mixture of both.

Throughput is the speed of the data transfer. The speed of the data transfer depends on what "standard" the wireless router uses. The most common are 802.11g and 802.11n, (or commonly known as wireless G or Wireless N). Wireless N is faster, but also more expensive.

Another aspect that determines speed is the wireless card in your client. Older laptops will only have a wireless G, so updating your router won't make the speed any faster. If you have a mix of wireless G and N in your home or office, you have set your routers to "Mixed Mode" which will support both. This will compromise the speed of the N clients, so if you can have everything on your network run N, that's the way to go.

Wired Throughput's have two speeds: 10/100 or 10/100/1000 (or gigabit). If all you're connecting to a router is one computer, the 10/100 should be fine. If you are transferring data from computer to computer however, you'll want the faster router.

Range is another thing to consider with your routers. If you have a large house or office and the router is at one side it may not reach the other side. Wireless N has a larger range than wireless G. There are ways to extend the range. You can purchase a wireless extender, or wireless repeater. You also have the option of using a power line adapter which uses the electrical wiring to connect to the router via an ethernet cable. A little trickier but that's what we're here for!

And for a big one: SECURITY!

You should ALWAYS protect your wireless network with a password. WPA2 is currently the most secure  type. Some of the older devices will only have WEP. Some routers also offer a "guest network" which will give people (like customers or guests) access to the internet without access to your computers or data.

If you think you need a router, or need to upgrade yours be wary of on line reviews. There are a lot of factors involved with the effectiveness of a router. It depends of its environment, how it's used, or even what kind of interference is in the area. Please don't hesitate to let us help pick the best option for you!