Houston We Have a Problem 11

  

 

Houston We Have A Problem 137, 15/01/11

 

A Range of Solutions

I live in an L-shaped house, which has foil backed wall insulation throughout. If I place the router in one corner (where my home office is) I cannot get an Internet connection at the farthest point, in my sitting room 19 metres away.  If I place it in the middle the reception is intermittent throughout the house. I have a 5-year old Netgear wireless router; do you think it is it worth changing to another model? 

Guy MacNaughton, by email

 

And…

 

The house I live in is old with walls up to one metre thick. There is no mobile phone reception and the Wi-Fi router, a Belkin model, only works in two rooms. Are there boosters on the market that I can install to get Wi-Fi throughout the house?

Baron van Tuyll, by email

 

Switching routers and installing boosters and extenders often helps but it’s a costly option, location is critical and there’s no guarantee of success. In really challenging situations like these it makes more sense to tackle the root cause of the problem, which is the inefficiency of the antennas used at the router and PC ends of the wireless connection. Replacing the standard ‘rubber duck’ antennas supplied with most routers with a high gain or more directional antenna, and mounting it up high can make a huge difference to coverage and range. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about the antennas used by laptop Wi-Fi adaptors as they are usually inside the case. However, you can easily bypass the built-in Wi-Fi adaptor and fit an external adaptor that plugs into one of the computer’s USB ports. The BearExtenderPC is currently the one to beat with a claimed fourfold increase in range. It clips to the screen surround so its high up and doesn’t get in the way. It comes with a 2dBi external antenna as standard and there’s an optional 5dBi omnidirectional antenna for pulling in really weak signals. It costs around £36, including shipping and is available from http://goo.gl/cz2jf.

 

 

Not Helping the Aged

My father is 80 years old and keen to start surfing the Internet. He has never used a PC or Laptop before. What is the simplest way for him to get on the Internet? Some have suggested an Apple iPad or via an XBox 360. What would you recommend? He does not want to use any PC functions i.e. word processing or email.

Richard Skidmore Leicestershire

 

A video games console for web browsing is not a good idea but an iPad or ‘tablet’ PC is certainly an option. However, these devices have some fairly significant limitations and I think it is a mistake to try and shield non-PC users from the perceived complexities of learning to use a computer. These days they are mostly quite civilised and very easy to use. Eventually your father will want to view web pages that these devices cannot handle or display properly. I suspect he will quickly become frustrated by the convolutions of on-screen keyboards and small screens can be difficult to read, especially for anyone with poor or failing eyesight. In my opinion it’s far better to get your father started with a basic Windows 7 or Mac PC or laptop with a proper keyboard and decent sized screen with a range of visibility options. Teaching him the rudiments of web browsing won’t take long and once he has mastered that I am sure he will want to try his hand at all of the other exciting things proper computers can do.

 

 

Slowing Down the Tube

I use YouTube etc. to learn classical choral items such as Bach Cantatas. Is there any way the tempo can be slowed down to assist my progress?

Stan Jackson, by email

 

You can either record YouTube videos on your PC (try Freecorder, free from http://goo.gl/jLrNA, it also converts recordings to other formats) then view them with a Media player that has playback speed controls. Alternatively use a commercial application called Enounce (http://goo.gl/JTNAG), which can control the playback speed of your browser's Flash player.

 

 

Surge or Surgery…

For the past couple of weeks, each time I switch on my computer, I get a message that says ‘Alert! System Battery Voltage is low’. After pressing the F1 key, the computer starts normally, and so far I haven’t noticed any problems. My knowledge of computers is minimal and I worry that something may soon happen and I shall lose all the accumulated treasures inside my computer.

Dalbor Sudwell, by email

 

The data stored on your PC should be perfectly safe. There are a couple of possibilities; if it is a Dell PC and you are using the supplied or optional mains surge protector, disconnect it and plug your computer directly into the mains socket. There was a problem with these devices that prompted the PC’s BIOS startup program to falsely report that the clock backup battery on the motherboard was about to expire. If you are not using a surge protector and the PC is more than three or four years old then it probably is due to a dead or dying clock backup battery. They are usually quite cheap and easy to replace but it does entail poking around your PC’s innards so if you are uncomfortable about performing this sort of minor surgery seek expert assistance.  

 

 

Dirty Macintosh?

Some years ago you recommended CCleaner as a cleaning tool for Windows PCs. Can you suggest a similar program for Macs?

Stephen Terry, by email

 

There's really no real need for this type of industrial strength cleaner on a Mac as it doesn’t have the kind of sneaky, hidden and protected system files that record every website you’ve ever visited. In any event Mac users are clean living and have nothing to hide, but if you are feeling paranoid you can wipe log files, caches and browser history using utilities like OnyX (http://goo.gl/FA2nq) and Main Menu (http://goo.gl/LaPwg).

 

 

---end---

© R. Maybury 2011 1212

 

 

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