Is your home wireless network secure? Are your neighbors using it? Excellent article from Securing the Human.
From Securing the Human. You really should use Two-Factor Authentication for all your sensitive on-line accounts, especially banking sites and Google (are you using Gmail?).
Charter Communications (the cable Internet provider in Rochester) recently announced that they were upgrading their entry-level Internet speeds from 30 Mbps to 60 Mbps (download speeds). Are you getting the new speeds? I wasn't... The quoted speeds are the not necessarily what you will get, as this is a shared resource with your neighbors. So, at 8:30 PM, when your neighbors are streaming Netflix, your speeds may be lower.
You can check your speed at speedtest.charter.com (or speedtest.net, but that site has many misleading places to click). The only speed most people care about is download speed, and that is the speed that Charter advertises (60 Mbps). My Internet speeds have been averaging 20 Mbps or so over the last year, and didn't change when Charter announced the free upgrade. So I called their support number. They checked a few things, then I heard the dreaded "Oh...". They made a change, rebooted my modem, and now I was at 35 Mbps. Not there yet. "Let me check another thing.... there, now try it again". 65 Mbps! I asked what the problem was, and they claimed my account had "fallen through the cracks". They had to manually upgrade my account. It's good to check!
The other piece of the speed equation is your total connection speed to the Internet. In the past, you didn't really have to worry about your wireless router if all you did was connect to the Internet (if you didn't have a Server at home, maybe for your pictures or other files). If you computer is wired to your modem or router with an Ethernet cable, you still have no worries, since that connection is ether at 100 Mbps or 1,000 Mbps. You won't see that type of throughput, but that's true of most numbers you see quoted - other than for Charter, apparently.
If you connect over a wireless connection, things get more interesting. A few years ago, when wireless was really starting to become popular at home, most people bought a Wireless-G router, usually a Linksys WRT54G (blue and black, with two antennas). The maximum speed of Wireless-G is 54 Mbps, which was faster than your ISP (Internet Service Provider, likely either Charter or CenturyLink) could provide. So the ISP connection was still the bottleneck. Well, at 60 Mbps from Charter, if you still have a Wireless-G router, that is now your bottleneck! Plus, you should understand that the wireless speed decreases as the distance from the router increases (and metal obstacles can causes issues, too).
Fortunately, wireless technology continues to get faster. Wireless-N technologies have been out for a while, and most newer cell phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming systems support Wireless-N. The theoretical maximum for Wireless-N is 300 Mbps, depending on a number of factors. When looking at your network speeds, it will use the slowest connection point - a Wireless-N cell phone can't go faster then 54 Mbps if connected to a Wireless-G router.
Confused yet? The latest technology that came out last year is Wireless-AC, which is double (or more) Wireless-N speeds. Devices that support Wireless-AC are starting to appear. You won't have to worry about this, for now, if all you do is connect to the Internet. But if you have newer devices, and a Server, maybe it's time to consider an upgrade.
Finally, when testing your wireless speeds with one of the speed test sites, test both next to your router, and where you would normally use the device. Depending on the distance, and obstacles, the speeds could be drastically lower where you use the device. Consider moving the router, or upgrading to newer technology that has better long-distance support.
Need help with this? Call My Techie Buddy!
Microsoft today announced a number of new features coming in Windows 10, available later this year. Most surprising, they announced that users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 will get the upgrade for FREE!
SplashData's "Worst Passwords of 2014" (status change from 2013):
Just last week I had a coworker come to me with "Microsoft Support" on the phone, offering to fix his computer (which was fine). This really happens! Microsoft, or other companies, will not contact you to fix your computer. If this has happened to you or your computer, make sure you don't use any credit cards or provide any sensitive information to any web sites, and call My Techie Buddy to clean up your computer!
Looking for a cheap cell phone plan that uses a smartphone? So was I. I didn't want to pay $40 a month per additional phone to Verizon to share the data that I have on my main phones. Or $60 a month for a stand-alone plan. Yes, my teenager and soon-to-be teenager wanted/needed phones, and they wouldn't settle for less than a smartphone. An Android smartphone.
First, what are their NEEDS? In our case, the primary purpose was to have a way to call (or text) home when they were out and needed something. Walking home from school - extra security. Practice or school event done early, and need a ride home? We need to find out where you are, or why you're not where we thought? Then come the WANTS: texting friends, email, Facebook, surfing the web…
After looking at many plans, and many reviews, I determined that Republic Wireless was our best option. Their contract-free phones are all Motorola phones, run the latest version of Android, and start at $99 with a 4.3" HD display. They have a middle-of-the-road option at $149, and go up to a high-end phone for $299. Again, no contracts, no 2-year commitment. Cancel anytime, and you still have a decent wifi "tablet".
Republic Wireless is a "wifi first" service. This means that they will use a wifi signal for everything (talk, text, data) first, and only if a wifi signal is not available will it move to use cellular (over the Sprint network). Wifi is available at many place, including many homes (you probably already have wifi for a laptop or phone, or a game console), businesses (McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings, coffee shops, the library, Mayo Clinic, etc.), or at friend's homes. So when you're connected to a wifi signal, your phone uses that.
For only $5/month, you get unlimited talk/text/data over wifi, but nothing else if you're not within range of a wifi signal. This may be a good option to replace a home (landline) phone if you have wifi already.
$10/month gets you all that, plus unlimited talk/text over cellular (this must be their most popular choice); you get data (i.e. to use Facebook) only over wifi. This is the plan that my walk-to-school son has - he can call or text us on his way to or from school if he needs to, and can do everything else that a smart phone can do when he's at home connected to wifi.
The next level up is $25/month, and that gives you everything in the $10/month plan, plus unlimited 3G data (so you can use Facebook or Snapchat on the bus or in the car, or example). Finally, for $40/month you get everything in the $10/month plan, plus unlimited 4G data (if you have a 4G signal, and a 4G-capable phone).
No other hidden fees, just some standard taxes that you pay for all phones. And you can easily change plans twice a month at no cost (the plans would be pro-rated) - this would be useful if you're normally a home-data-user ($10/month), but are going on vacation away from a steady wifi signal.
It's worth checking out! No contracts, cancel anytime. By using Republic's $10/month plan, instead of the Verizon $60/month plan, you'll save $1,200 over two years! If you use this link to sign up, you'll get a $20 statement credit (full disclosure: so will I!). Post comments here if you have questions, and contact My Techie Buddy if you need help learning to use your new phone!
Five steps everyone should follow: You, Updating, Passwords, Encryption, and Backups. Need help with any of these? You know who to call...