Guide to Safe Internet Surfing


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Concerns about internet security are valid and I am sure this question will draw a lot of response as well as controversy over the exact methods to accomplish your goals.

In my opinion, there are several steps as well as general guidelines you should follow to reduce your exposure while surfing the internet.  Note: The only way to be 100% Protected is to have no internet at all.  Please keep in mind that whole books are written on this subject and I don’t intend to cover the details of each and every aspect, nor step by step instructions.

 

HIGH SPEED INTERNET CONNECTIONS

  1. Router – Regardless of who your internet service provider is, your first line of defense is to install a Router between your CABLE modem and your computer. Some companies now provide a modem with a built-In router, so check your manual for details. You can purchase a basic router for as little as $30. Even better, would be what they call a Firewall Router (Router with built-in firewall) which can run $50 or more.
  2. Router Settings – Always change the default factory username and password to access your router. Depending on the type of router you have, there could be additional security settings within the router that you may want to change..
  3. Wireless Router – If you are planning to go wireless and have purchased a wireless router, you should be aware that the factory settings have no security at all and need to be changed once the system is up and running. Anyone driving by your house can access your connection. At the very least, I would change the router password, enable WPA2 encryption and MAC filtering. (I will save this for another time)

 

CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS

  1. Protected Accounts – If you plan to purchase goods and services online, I would recommend setting up a special online account such as PayPal.
  2. Using a Single Card – If you prefer to use one of your current credit cards, set aside a single credit card for all online purchases.  Don’t use that card for any other transactions except online.  It will be a lot easier to spot errors and fraudulent charges if it is not filled with normal everyday charges.
  3. Fraud Protection – Use a credit card that comes with some form of fraud or online purchase protection. (check your credit agreement).
  4. Low Credit Limit – Select a credit card with a lower credit limit.  Having a credit line of only a few thousand dollars opposed to $18,000 can reduce your potential liability.
  5. Purchase From Known Companies – I know it is hard to resist, but I would suggest only purchasing from known companies or ones that have been recommended to you.
  6. Do not Respond – I would strongly advise against giving credit card information to any unsolicited websites (pop-up ads or email solicitations).
  7. Avoid Following Links – If you want to go to Barnes & Noble to purchase a book, type their web address in directly, instead of following an unknown link contained within an email.  It could take you to a fictitious site that looks just like the original.
  8. Spelling Errors – When typing in the address to a website, double check your spelling.  Some fraudulent websites take advantage of common misspellings and may look just like the real thing.
  9. Common Sense – Use your common sense.  If it seems to be too good to be true? … Well, you know the rest of the line.

 

USERNAMES AND PASSWORD

  1. Do Not Save your Passwords – I know it is not as convenient and a real pain, but never store or save your usernames and passwords for anything.  Always type them in directly each time. This especially goes for any form of online banking.
  2. Create More Difficult Passwords – Be more creative with your passwords, avoid using easy to guess things like your name, birthday and child’s name.
  3. Use Numeric and Alphanumeric – Passwords are harder to break if they contain both numbers and letters.
  4. Don’t use the same Password – Avoid using the same username and password for everything. Mix it up as much as possible.
  5. Change your Password – You should change your password as often as is practical.

 

EMAIL ACCOUNTS

Separate Email Accounts – I always suggest setting up an extra email account for yourself to be used for all online activity.  Most internet service providers such as Google, Comcast, Verizon and MSN allow you several free email addresses.  Use one email account for friends, family and business (the emails that you really care about).  Use the other account for all other activity such as registering your computer, software registration, subscriptions to forums and online purchases.  Each time you submit you email address online, you have the potential of it getting on some spam list. This can help you keep the flood of email somewhat organized and worse case, if it gets completely out of control, you can delete the account and start over without the hassle of changing your main account.

EMAIL SETTINGS

  1. Receiving Attachments – You can change the settings to prevent attachments that may contain viruses from downloading. This can be a problem if you regularly receive attachments because you may not be able to open them.
  2. Opening Attachments – The majority of problems come from opening attachments.  Do not open any attachments unless you know the sender and even then I would not open them unless you were expecting it.
  3. Displaying Email – I would recommend changing the settings to not show you the contents of an email until you double click on them.
  4. Downloading Pictures – You can also choose to be prompted before downloading pictures within emails instead of displaying them automatically.
  5. Junk Mail – Explore the options for filtering spam so that you can automatically move them to a spam or junk mail folder.  If you wish, you can have them deleted, but I prefer to brief through them to check for the few real emails that may be misdirected.

 

PERSONAL INFORMATION

  1. Never give out personal information –  I would never give my social security number to anyone.  The same goes for account numbers and passwords.  If someone called you on the phone, would you give them this information?  So, why would you give it to someone on the internet?
  2. Be very careful of bank inquires – I received an email recently that looked very official.  It stated that there had been some unusual activity on my bank account and that I should follow the link and enter my account information to verify.  If it were not for the fact that I did not have an account with them, I might have replied and given some stranger all of my personal information.

 

SECURITY SOFTWARE

You are going to need some form of security software.  There are numerous software packages out there for handling all forms of security from Virus protection to encryption.  In most cases, unless you really enjoy diving in and learning all about it, I would recommend installing a single, self contained Internet Security Package that includes at the minimum, virus protection and a Firewall (ie. Norton, Zone Alarm, Trend Micro, Panda). You can purchase each product individually and in some cases mix and match products from different companies to achieve the maximum protection, but you always run the risk of problems or conflicts between products.  I prefer to make it simple, one product from one manufacturer.  You can purchase all kinds of special software to hide your every move, permanently delete files, encrypt your files and even monitor your children.  I am not that paranoid, but it is all available.

 

SPYWARE

I would recommend installing one of the many programs available to block and/or remove spyware.  Fortunately, two of the best ones are available for download for free. SuperAntiSpyware and Adaware.  There are also many other good ones out there.

 

INTERNET SETTINGS

  1. Security Settings – You can change your security settings from within Internet Explorer, by clicking on TOOLS => INTERNET OPTIONS.  There is both a security tab and a Privacy tab that you can use to customize your settings.  Without getting into all the options, I would suggest experimenting with the various levels of protection and then surfing. If you find you are having problems you can readjust the settings.  If you normally go to the same few sites you can add them to your trusted Zones.  The privacy tab allows you to adjust how your system will handle Cookies.  Some sites require you to accept cookies, but it all depends on your individual surfing habits.  Again you can add common sites to Trusted Zones to override security problems.

Happy Surfing!

Guide to Purchasing a Digital Camera

When it comes to digital cameras, more megapixels is not always better.  I will explain in a moment.  Let me first say that, if you have not experimented with digital photography as yet, I think you will really enjoy it.  However, you should be aware of several differences that may or may not be important to you depending on your picture taking habits and needs.  In discussing these differences, I am assuming that you are not considering digital cameras over $1000, but are looking at the consumer level camera in the $200-$800 range.  You can easily spend $3000 and more (not including lenses) for professional Digital SLR cameras.  Based on several years of selling consumer level digital cameras at a major retailer and some experimentation with my own equipment, I have found the majority of complaints and/or concerns to be in the following areas.  I only mention these to inform you of the possible issues you could run into and I don’t mean to imply that digital cameras are loaded with problems.  I could not live with out mine, but if you have some very specific needs or expectations, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Slow Start – Digital cameras take longer to turn on to get ready to take the first picture.  This can be a problem when you see something to shot and that special moment has past before you can turn it on.
  2. Shutter Lag Time – Digital cameras generally take longer to actually snap the picture when you first press the shutter button, often causing you to loose that split second perfect photo.  Newer cameras a getting faster but it still can be a problem for some people.  Especially if you take a lot of action shots.
  3. Slow Shutter Speed/Low Film Speed – Consumer graded digital cameras just don’t seem to do as well as film cameras on action or moving subjects.   You also have to hold the camera very still for a good clear photo, especially when zooming.  This can cause blurry photos on sports shots.  You may not be able to get the same kind of photo that you can get with a good SLR camera with high speed film.
  4. Time Between Shots – Most of the low to mid range digital cameras require several seconds to save your photo to the memory card before you can take the next picture.  The higher end cameras have a burst mode that may allow you to take several quick shots before having to save the images.   If you take fast, consecutive photos, this could be a problem.
  5. Poor Battery Life – Digital cameras can really consume batteries.  Newer digital cameras are getting better at this, but can still be a problem for some users.  Note: If you purchase a digital camera that uses a rechargeable battery, you will want to pick up a spare battery.
  6. All your Eggs in One Basket – Digital cameras store their images on memory cards opposed to film.  You can purchase different size cards that will allow you to store anywhere from just a few photos to well over a thousand.  I have had customers that on occasion have had a defective memory card and lost all of their photos.  The entire trip was gone in a flash.  The dilemma that you face is whether to use a single large memory card or several smaller cards. With a single large card you face the possibility of losing everything where as with several smaller cards, if something goes wrong, you lose a smaller number of pictures.
  7. What do you do with all the Photos – Most people find that they take far more pictures with a digital camera then they ever did with a regular film camera.  The problem you face is where and how do you save all of those photos.  I have seen too many people simply downloading their photos to their computers hard drive and thinking they are safe.  Then 2-5 years down the road something goes wrong with their computer and they lose everything.  Years of photos down the drain.  You need to set a plan for long term storage of those photos. Saving them to you hard drive is not enough.  You need to back them up onto CD’s, DVD’s or thumbdrives and even then you should make more than one copy.  By the way, make sure you test the backup to make sure the photos are really there.
  8. Picture Quality – is in the eyes of the beholder.  If you are accustom to taking photos with a high end 35mm SLR, you may not be happy with the photos taken with a consumer level digital camera.  But if you have been using a pocket 35mm or disposable film cameras, you will probably be pleasantly surprised.  Keep in mind that printing is a big part of the overall image quality.
  9. Printing Pictures – Now that you have taken hundreds of digital pictures, what do you do with them?  Digital Photo printing has come along way and personal home printers are getting better and cheaper every day.  Only a year ago, printing 4 x 6 photos at home would cost you about $0.65 each (paper & Ink).  Today the price has dropped to about $0.30 a print (not including the initial cost of the printer).  The quality of home printers has also improved.  You also have many other options such as emailing your digital images out to be printed or going down to your local Walgreens, Walmart or camera store for prints.  You can expect to spend about $0.29 per 4 x 6 print with most of these outside sources.  Keep in mind that these prices are dropping daily.
  10. Don’t just Print Photos – There are so many possibilities with digital photos.  I have found that I rarely even print individual 4 x 6 photos anymore, but prefer to create slide shows on CD or DVD with music or narrative.  When I do print, I enjoy making large photo collages.  After one of my last trips, using a graphics design program, I scanned in the map of the island and placed our photos at the appropriate locations on the map according to where they were taken.  Using a large format printer, I printed a 14” x 28” poster and had it framed.  There are many programs available for creating slide shows, photo calendars and collages.  Be creative and have fun.

 

Selecting a Digital Camera

If you are new to digital photography and have some extra money to spend, I often recommend starting out by purchasing a low end camera (<$200) or even borrowing one.  Take it home, take some photos and experiment.  After you have used it for awhile, you will have a much better idea of the limitations, pros & cons and what features are important to you.  Then go out and purchase the camera with the specifications that meet your needs.  Keep the low end camera for travel, pass it on to the kids or sell it on ebay.  Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the things you should be looking for when purchasing a digital camera:

 

  1. Size – One of the first things you have to consider is size.  Do you want a camera to slip into you purse or pocket or one that requires a camera bag and someone to carry it.  Keep in mind that along with smaller size usually comes fewer features, smaller lenses and lower quality photos.  Similar to the differences between large and small film cameras.  Also remember that even though you may be trading photo quality for camera size.  Having a small pocket camera may allow you to capture moments that may not have been possible with a larger camera just due to the convenience factor of the smaller size.
  2. Mega pixels – This is basically the total number of dots that are used to make the photo.  A 3.0 megapixel camera has roughly 3 million tiny dots.  Some professionals claim that good quality 35mm film photo would be somewhat equivalent to a 15 megapixel digital camera, others claim it is more like 8 megapixel.  Personally, for the average user printing 4 x 6, 5 x 7 and the occasional 8 x 10 photo, a good 3.0 megapixel camera is fine.  I would much rather have 3 million good, clear dots than 8 million fuzzy ones.  I may be over simplifying this, but what I am getting at is Megapixel count is not everything.  Even though the number of megapixels is just about the only specification you ever hear about, it is by far, not the only thing that dictates the quality of the picture you are going to get.  The quality and size of the lens, type of image sensor, auto focusing system, Light metering system, and firmware all contribute to the final image quality.  I have one 2.0 megapixel camera that takes far better pictures than some of the 4.0 megapixel cameras I have used.  If everything else is equal (2 identical cameras), than the higher megapixal camera is better.  But that is never the case.  I had one 4.0 camera that took terrible photos, until I downloaded new firmware for it.  Yes, the internal software that interprets all that information coming from the sensors, decides what settings to use and then compresses the photo to save it on the memory card can ruin even the best photo.  In general, all things being equal, if you plan make large prints or use your photo editing software to crop and zoom into sections of your photo, then more megapixels is what you want.  But don’t sacrifice lens quality and other features just to purchase pixels.  One thing to keep in mind, watch out for the words “interpolated”, some cameras will use an electronic means of guess at the information between pixels, thus reporting a higher number of megapixels than the actual sensor.  You will also see the word “Effective Megapixel” or “Actual Megapixels”. Effective means that the sensor inside the camera has blocked some of the pixels to create the standard photo aspect ratio, so the sensor may be 4.3 megapixel but it is only using 4.0 to create the photo.  The effective number is what is actually being used.
  3. Lenses and Zoom – There are many types of lens used on digital cameras ranging from the inexpensive, plastic, fix focus lens like those found on many low end cameras (similar to what you would find on a disposable film camera) to high end interchangeable SLR lenses.  In general and oversimplifying this, you want to look for the largest auto focusing lens with the most optical zoom.  I would go with a minimum of 3x optical zoom.  This would be roughly equivalent to 35mm to 105mm for those of you familiar with lenses on film cameras.  Many cameras report something like Total Zoom, this is a combination of optical zoom and digital.  Don’t pay any attention to digital zoom.  Digital zoom is an electronic form of zoom and is really no different than zooming in with your computer after taking the photo.  Using it can make you photos fuzzy or grainy looking.  Optical Zoom is all you should care about, this is the actual zoom of the lens only. Note: Avoid  using digital zoom on the camera.  Zoom is as far as you can with optical zoom only.  If you need to zoom in closer, you can do that later using your photo editing software on your computer. To lean more about Digital Zoom vs. Optical Zoom, check out this video by Mark Saltzman.
  4. Type of Memory – There are several types of memory cards used in digital cameras. Compact Flash, Secure Digital (SD), XD, MMC, Memory Stick.  The type of card is usually dictated by which manufacturer of the camera you choose and which type of memory card they have adopted.  Some of the cards are a little more expensive, but if you wait for a sale, you can usually find a good deal.  You will need to purchase at least one additional memory card.  Most cameras only come with enough memory to save only a few photos (usually 8 to 16 high quality photos). The memory cards come in different sizes, some capable of saving several hundred photos.  The number of photos you can take depends on the resolution (megapixels) of the photo and the size (megabytes) or the memory card.  The higher the megapixels the fewer the photos you can take.  Here is a brief outline of the types of cards and which camera manufactures use them:
  1. Compact Flash (CF) – Many Canon and Nikon and most high-end and Pro cameras
  2. Smart Media – Not used anymore –  Older Olympus, Fuji Cameras and MP3 players – Max 128meg
  3. Secure Digital (SD) – Most common Now- Most pocket cameras including Canon, Nikon, Casio, Kodak, HP, Pentax, Minolta, Panasonic and most PDA’s, Pocket PC’s and Video Cameras.
  4. Secure Digital Mini – New, Some camera cell phones
  5. Memory Stick – Primarily Sony Cameras and PDA’s.
  6. Memory Stick Pro – Newer, Available in larger sizes for Sony Cameras, not usable in older Sony.
  7. Memory Stick Duo – Newer, small format- not compatible with older products.
  8. Multimedia Card (MMC) –  Not really used anymore in cameras- still in use on some cell phones.
  9. X digital (xD) – New card for Olympus and Fuji, a little higher cost, small and easy to misplace.

 

Keep in mind that if you already own memory card capable equipment such as a TV, Computer, PDA or a printer, you may want to stay with a camera that uses the same cards.  For example: If you own a Sony Television that has a memory stick slot, you may want to purchase a Sony camera so that you can view your photos on the TV without any additional cables or hardware.  Simply remove the card from you camera and insert it into the TV.

Note:  Most all cameras have quality settings that will allow you to reduce the size of the file, thus saving more pictures to the memory card.  Experiment with these settings, for many people find that even though they have a 6 megapixel camera, taking pictures at something less than the highest setting is plenty good for their needs and will allow you to take more photos (especially good for travel).

 

  1. Batteries – There are many types of batteries used in digital cameras.  The main thing to keep in mind is that digital cameras go through batteries, some more than others.  Some cameras use standard AA size batteries and others use a special Lithium Ion Rechargeable battery that is usually specific to that camera.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both:

 

  1. Lithium Ion Rechargeable – Generally longer life, however you need to have your charger with you and spares or replacements can be costly or hard to find. I recommend having a spare with you.
  2. AA Size – These do not tend to last as long, but you may have options to purchase rechargeable versions and even one-time-use Lithium batteries.  It can be more convenient if you travel a lot. With some cameras, you may be able to put in a set of regular Alkaline batteries in an emergency if you can’t get to your charger.

 

  1. Auto and Manual Modes – The better cameras have the ability to take pictures in both full automatic mode (Point and Shoot) as well as Manual Mode.  Manual mode allows you to set things like aperture, shutter speed and focus manually to really get the picture you want.

 

  1. Video Mode – You may or may not be interesting in the Video mode that comes with most digital cameras.  But if you are planning to use it, check the specs.  Some cameras can only take short 15-30 sec videos at low resolution (320×240). Other can take unlimited video up to the size of the memory card at 640×480.  I did not think that I was going to use the video mode, but have found it to be a lot of fun.

 

  1. Other – There are many other available features that you may want to consider such as Macro (ability to take very close shots), Panoramic modes, Sound Recording and outputs for TV. But I think you get the idea.

 

I apologize for getting carried away again. I guess the bottom line is to purchase the most megapixel with the maximum optical zoom you can afford.  I prefer to stick to name brand companies that are known for making high quality cameras such as Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Minolta and stay clear of no-name brands.

Related Sites- If you want you learn more about Digital Cameras or just compare camera specifications, I have found www.dpreview.com to be very helpful and detailed.

Wired or Wireless Network?

The decision to install a wired or a wireless network can be difficult.  Wireless has become very reliable and seems like the obvious choice, but there are several factors you should keep in mind before making the plunge.  To put it as simply as possible, the main difference between a Wired network and a Wireless network is the overall speed of the network.  The difficult part is determining whether or not it will effect the way you use your computers.  If you are planning to use your computers to simply check email, surf the internet and no more than 3 or 4 computers are doing this at one time, no problem, a wireless network will probably be fine as long as you are within the range of the wireless network (see Poor Range on my Wireless Network).  However, if your needs are more specific and involve things like:

  • Backing up or accessing large files to or from another computer in the house
  • Streaming Video or Audio across the network
  • Heavy usage of Online or network gaming
  • Usage of Wireless surveillance cameras

Then you might need to create an all wired network or at least wire part of the network.  The primary drawback to a wireless network is that all computers on the network are sharing the same bandwidth.  For example:  If you are backing up your living room computer to your basement computer and at the same time downloading a large file from the internet on your bedroom laptop, you could experience a real slowdown on a wireless network.  But if your had the living room and basement computers on a wired network and the laptop on a wireless network, you would not see any difference in the performance on any of the computers.

It would be impossible to discuss all the ins and outs of networking here, but the bottom line is: It is always best to run a wired network wherever possible and only use wireless only when absolutely necessary or where it is impracticable to run wires.  If you plan out your network and make it a point to understand how you will be using it, you can have a very enjoyable experience with networking.

 

The Time on my Computer is always Wrong?

You would think that a $3000 computer would keep better time than a $10 Timex watch.  NO, I have had some computers that lose or gain several minutes per day.  Whether this is a real problem for you or just an annoyance that you can’t stand, there is a solution.  There are many FREE programs that will synchronize your clock with the NIST atomic clock whenever you want or you can set them to update your clock daily.  I use Atomic Clock Sync 3.5, you can download this free program from Download.com.

Deleted Files by Mistake?

There usually comes a time when you discover that you just deleted something by mistake.  The first thing you should do is NOTHING!  Well not exactly nothing, but my point is that the less you do on your computer after deleting files, the better your chances are that you will be able to recover those files.  This includes digital cameras.  If you find that you just deleted all or some of your photos on your digital camera, do not take any more photos.  There are many file recovery programs out there.  Keep in mind that even if one file restoration program did not find your files, another may.  I had a customer the other day that lost all of his photos from a trip to Spain, I went through 6 different programs until I was able to recover his photos.  Call us or check out the many programs available that can recover lost or deleted files.

Disk Clean And Defragment

Just like your automobile, you need to perform routine maintenance to keep your computer in good running condition.  Over time, your hard drive becomes cluttered with temporary files and portions of files scattered all over.  At least once a month, you should clean and defragment your hard drive by first clicking on Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Cleanup.  Then click on Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter. (this can take several hours to complete).

NOTE: You can schedule many of these maintenance routines to run automatically for you at selected times when you are not using your computer.

Running Low On Free Disk Space

A full disk drive can slow your system down to a crawl. Double Click on My Computer and check to see how much Free space you have on your C Drive by Right Clicking on your C drive and select properties. Ideally, you want at least 15% Free. If you have less than 15%, you may need to do some house cleaning and delete some files, uninstall some programs that you don’t use anymore or purchase a new larger hard drive.

How can I protect my Children from the Internet?

This is one of the biggest concerns for parents.  There is quite a bit of garbage on the net.  We don’t know who our kids are talking to or what they are looking at.  Many service providers like AOL and MSN have many controls to protect what kids are viewing and doing on the internet. You can use these services on top of your existing cable or DSL accounts. There are also many programs out there that allow you to set controls for children.  You can limit online time, restrict viewing and stop chat rooms.  You can even view a log of everything your child has seen or typed on the computer.  One such program is called NetNanny and works very well.  If you have a home network and are using a router.  Many new routers have built-in controls that can restrict the hours that kids can access the internet as well as filter out undesirable web sites.

Poor Range on my Wireless Network?

Wireless networks have become one of our most popular requests.  Families now have two or more computers ( I have 8, but I am crazy).  Anyway, I still recommend a wired network wherever possible.  But sometimes you just can’t run wires to other computers or in the case of a laptop, wireless is the only way to go.  One other drawback to wireless is that all computers are sharing the wireless bandwidth, so depending on the the way you use your computers, you could experience some slowdowns.  Many users complain about limited range with their wireless network and there is no single solution to this problem.  Wireless range is dependent on a number of factors, such as:

  1. The construction of your house or office can effect the range of wireless transmission.  Insulation, Wire Mesh, foil barriers, large appliances and number of walls and floors between the transmitter and the receiving computer will all effect the range.
  2. The location of the transmitter and receiving computer should have the clearest line of site possible.  Transmitting through walls, floors and even furniture can reduce the overall performance.  The best location for the transmitter (Wireless Router, Access Point)  is generally above the receiving computer.  In other words, placing the transmitter in the attic will usually give better results than placing it in the basement.  Try to place the transmitter as close to the center of the house as possible.   This will not only improve coverage throughout the house but also cut down stray signals leaving the house.
  3. Other wireless devices such as Cordless phones, microwave ovens, wireless speaker systems and wireless cameras in the house can all effect the range.  Devices using the same frequency can be a major problem.  If you are using a wireless B or G system and cordless phones that use the same 2.4 ghz band, this can destroy your range.  You should either purchase a Wireless network that uses the 5 ghz band(802.11A) or replace your phones with either 900 mhz or 5 ghz models.   Sometimes changing the channel on your wireless router or access point to channel 1 or 11 can help.  If none of these are options, then try to keep conflicting devices as far away from each other as possible.
  4. Slight changes in location can make a big difference.  Try moving the transmitter (Router, Access Point) to different locations.  I have seen situations where moving the transmitter 1 foot higher to a shelf made all the difference in the world.  I can’t stress enough the importance of trying different locations for the router or access point.
  5. Depending on the brand of wireless network you have, you may be able to purchase a high gain antenna, booster or repeater for it.  The standard wireless router or access point comes with a standard omni-directional antenna that is designed to transmit evenly in all directions.  There are many add-on antennas that can increase the range by focusing the transmission in a single direction.  For example: If your wireless transmitter is located on one side of the house,  it will send the signal in all directions including out of the house.  If you purchase a directional antenna, you can focus the signal toward the inside of the house and away from the the neighbors, thus increasing the coverage inside the house.
  6. Installing Multiple access points can greatly improve your wireless coverage.  Many users will install two access points on opposite ends of the attic, your wireless computers can then seek the best signal of the two.
  7. Another method of increasing the range of a wireless network is to install a repeater.  You place the repeater half way between the transmitter and the receiving computer and it picks up the signal and retransmits it on to the computer.  Several companies sell repeaters, but keep in mind that most of these products will only work with same brand devices.  For about $200 you can build a repeater using a wireless bridge connected to an access point, but this takes a little know-how.
  8. In some cases you just can’t get a good wireless signal to reach a desired location and running a wire is not practical.  In this case, you may want to use a power line bridge.  You can bridge your network from one location to another utilizing the power lines in your home or office.  There are also products out there that will send network signals through existing telephone lines.  So regardless of your scenario, you should be able to resolve just about any problem.
  9. I have found that the best solution to range problems is to replace your 802.11b or G router with one of the Wireless-N Routers.  I most cases you can expect 2 to 3 times the range even when used in conjunction with older wireless cards.

In general, depending on the installation, I have seen wireless ranges as poor as 20 feet to as good as 150 feet.  I usually tell customers to expect about 35-40 feet through one wall or one floor.

VIRUS INFECTION

If your computer connects to the internet and is used for email, the first thing to check is for viruses.  If you don’t have antivirus software, shame on you…  Go out and purchase or download one.  TrendMicro Titanium Antivirus or Zone Alarm both work fine.  Both Trend Micro and Zone Alarm can scan your computer from their website if you want.  Simply having antivirus software is not enough. It must be turned on and updated on a regular basis (at least weekly).  New viruses are created every day and the only way that your computer knows how to deal with them is to update.  So, now that you have antivirus software installed and updated, scan your computer for viruses.


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