About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

February 13, 2018

How Fast Are You Surfing?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:52 am

You know the feeling, you are at home and all of a sudden, the sites load very slowly.  You may be at the local coffee shop where they provide free Wi-Fi and it is unbelievably sluggish.  YouTube videos either stop and start while buffering multiple times in a couple of minutes or do not load.  Before you reboot…and find that nothing has changed check the internet connection speed where you are.

This service allows you to check your speeds through either a website, application and/or your mobile phone.

The site name is “Speedtest,” is found online at and is owned by Ookla.  Ookla began in 2006 with their home base in Seattle.  The parent company is Ziff Davis so that gives you the knowledge that it has a good pedigree.

Speedtext logo

This site does only three things but does them all well.  When you go to the site you will see a large circle with “Go” in the center.  Click “Go.”

It will test the ping rate and your download and upload speeds in just a few seconds.

First, some definitions.  Ping is the reaction time of your connection to the web servers.  It shows how fast you get a response after your browser has sent out a request. A fast ping (lower number) means a quicker reply back from the site.  This is especially useful in gaming.  The ping rate is measured in ms (milliseconds).

Download speed is simply how fast you get files back on your browser.  For instance, if you are downloading a picture or video you get them quicker, the higher the number.  Upload speed is how quickly you are sending your information up to the internet.  For example, when you are copying something up to Dropbox or emailing a picture.  High numbers are good for uploads too.  These last two are measured in Mbps (Megabits per second).

The website works fine; however, you can install the Speedtest application on PC, Mac or phones.  That way if the connection is slow the apps will get your numbers more quickly.  For your computer, go to, “” to download the application.  I prefer these over the site.

imageFor your phones you can either go to the phone’s app store or directly to Speedtest,

I highly recommend you use this site or app if you are wondering why your speed is lagging.  One slight difference is that with the phone apps you do not (at this time) get “GO” but a “Begin Test” button.  Also, the apps give you some information the site does not.

Keep the following in mind.  When you are at the coffee shop everyone there with a phone or computer is also sharing your connection.  They are notoriously slow if many people are present which includes the employees’ phones.

At home, you may be paying for 50 Mbps download speed and find you are only getting 25 or so.  This is normal as your Wi-Fi is sending your signal across the house through walls and may be further away from your device.  Or someone at home may be watching a movie on Netflix.  You will not get full speed as promised unless you are connected directly into your router by cable.  So, you do not call and complain to the service provider unless it is significantly slower than it should be.

February 16, 2015

2015-02-16 Show Notes

Here are the Monday morning links and podcast if you missed it live.

Have a great day and see you next time.

Tech News
Windows 10 is a free upgrade for all 7 and 8.1 users

Wondering how much Windows 10 will set you back? In most cases, nothing. Microsoft has announced that the new operating system will be a free upgrade in the first year for everyone using Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1. The company sees Windows as a service rather than a product, Terry Myerson explains. Yes, Microsoft is partly following in Apple’s footsteps (OS X upgrades have been free since Maverick), but it’s hard to complain about getting a big update for free.

This sounds too good to be true and I’ve read where this is only for OEM (short for original equipment manufacturer, which is a misleading term for a company that has a special relationship with computer producers. OEMs are manufacturers who resell another company’s product under their own name and branding.) or for everyone.  Only time will tell for sure.
Worst passwords of 2014… …are just as awful as you can imagine

Please sit down. We need to have a talk. It seems some important points about computer safety and security have completely gone over the heads of a certain portion of the population. If you’re one of those people whose passwords look like "9$RxkU#55zx!%winning1," you can go ahead and leave. If your password looks like "1234567890" or "qwerty," it’s time to repent and change your ways.

    Here are the top 10 worst:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 1234567890
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football

Ron’s Android App Recommendation
(This app can be found on Google Play from your Android phone,
tablet or viewed on your PC from the link below.)
WPS Office
WPS Office can open almost any document including PDF, TXT and Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. This means when you use WPS Office to open a document from email or your favorite cloud service, you can be sure it will look exactly the way it would on your PC.

WPS Office comes loaded with features similar to what you’d find on a PC office solution. This includes advanced text and paragraph formatting options as well as the ability to add and edit images, shapes, tables and charts directly into your presentation or document.

With WPS Office you can share your files through email, Evernote and more. You can also share presentations with others over WIFI or directly to other DLNA compatible devices.

Using WPS Office you can access and edit documents from your favorite cloud drive. When you are done editing, WPS Office will automatically save them back online.

Quad Core Android PC in a Keyboard Computer in a Keyboard
An entire Android computer in a keyboard?!

Hook up your monitor and a mouse, if needed, and you have a computer. $299 is a bit high but if you think you need one, wait a few months.

See you next month, listen online on WSVA, March 16, Monday from 9-10 am.  If you miss the live broadcast come back here and listen a little later in the day…or next depending on my workload.


November 29, 2011

Get Connected

OK, the holidays have started and you may be traveling to visit the relatives in a faraway or unfamiliar location.

You take your computer so that you can keep up with email, Facebook, your Tweets and your news and sports information.  Gee, first of all what happened to the "good ole days" when you visited your relatives?  Oh well, I guess we are more civilized now but don’t get me going on that.

Or let us say that you really are a "family-visiting" sort of person and you do want to visit and not spend your entire time with them texting and online.  On your way to visit you go to a hotel and you need a Wi-Fi connection.  You have your notebook and your Wi-Fi enabled and Wi-Fi tablet PC with you.  When you get to the hotel you find they only have a wired connection.  Well unless you are geekier than I am, you will not have a network cable with Network Cableyou.  But since you need to connect you hope that they have a cable to lend you.  An aside here; I experienced this very thing a year or two ago and they would "lend" me a cable…for $7.50 a night.  What a rip-off, but don’t get me going on that one either.  In that case you could connect your notebook but most likely not your tablet, phone or other non-cable ready devices.

The program we will look at today is Connectify ( It will help to resolve this and some other situations for you.  You can install Connectify on your Windows 7 PC or XP but it doesn’t work nearly as well with XP and has fewer features available.  Once installed, you can set up your own Wi-Fi Hotspot.

Visit ConnectifyThis means after you plug into the network and download and install Connectify you can set up your own private wireless network.  Yes, this makes it just like home with your Wireless setup.  You will have a SSID (a network name) then you can use all of your other wireless devices to connect to your computer’s network and get online.  This shares the connection all around with multiple devices.

There are other features available with Connectify but the one that interests me the most is only in the paid version.  Check online for the price.  (I once quoted a price in a column and when it was published the prices had gone up so go check it on the site.)

This other feature can be used to extend the local wireless router you are using, even your home’s router.  OK, now I just lost some of you but here is the situation.  Your wireless router is located in the, oh let’s say, Northeast corner of the basement.  You can keep it hidden there and out of the way.  

Wi-Fi symbolYou notice every time you sit on your back porch (on the second floor, southwest corner of the house) to read a book, check email, surf the net, etc. your Wi-Fi connection is either gone or so weak you cannot do much.  This is because the farther away from the wireless router you are, the weaker the signal.  If you use Connectify Pro you can use your notebook computer as a signal extender.  With that set up you can get much farther from your router since the notebook computer is now "extending" the distance of the broadcast signal.  You could go way across the street or out to the backyard and still receive a strong signal.

As always, make sure you secure your wireless network to keep your connection yours.

June 21, 2011

Open to the World, Part 2

Last week we started looking at securing your home network.  Today we will finish our walk-through.  There are other settings for your router I have not mentioned but with instructions in hand you can experiment.  Just be very careful and (maybe) check with a geek friend first.

In review:

  1. Open your browser and go to either or
  2. Enter your router’s username and password.
  3. Change your password to something difficult.
  4. Rename your network/SSID.
  5. Encrypt your network to WPA-PSK or WPA2.

Let’s pick up where we left off.  Do not use the old settings of WEP or WPA since they can be cracked in minutes by hackers.  If your router doesn’t have the WPA-PSK or WPA2 try to upgrade your router’s firmware (there should be a menu item for that) or buy a new one.  I would recommend a purchase because you can get good and more modern ones for less than $50.

Finally, set a difficult password from eight to 63 characters. Make it tough by using upper-case characters, lower-case characters, numbers and/or symbols.  Do not forget it since you will need it sometime in the future, like when you get a new computer.  Check my past columns on creating good passwords for help with this.

All you have left to do is to save the settings and close your browser.  This will most likely kick you off of your network so you will need to reconfigure your computer with the new router info.

Reconfiguring your router is easy to do in Windows 7.  Look for the wireless icon in the lower right area of your taskbar.  This is the notification area.  Right-click the icon and select Connect to a Network.  You will see your network name (SSID) which you previously set up.  It should appear in a list of available networks. You may even see your neighbors’ networks, but come on, be nice.  Select your network from the list.  Choose the connect link, enter your password and in a few seconds you should be online.

With a Vista machine, use START then Connect To. Now choose your network name (SSID) and click Connect.  Proceed as above.

XP is the last one we will look at since it is a little more difficult.  Go to Start again, then to  Control Panel and double-click Network Connections. Right-click the Wireless Network Connection icon and select Properties.  Now go to the Wireless Networks tab.  Look for your SSID in the Preferred networks.  Click it and choose Properties.  Now, find the Network Authentication setting and select WPA-PSK or WPA2.  Under Data Encryption, select AES. The Network Key is the password you set for your network, so enter it here. Make sure the option This Key Is Provided For Me Automatically is not checked. Then click OK.

Your computer should reconnect to the network. This process will have to be repeated for every wireless computer—the good news is that you should only have to do it once.

May 31, 2011

Wireless or Wired for Your Home?

You live in a home as we all do, whether an apartment, condo, townhouse, single-family, duplex, etcetera. You also use a computer in your home.  OK, I know that last one isn’t true for everyone but if you are reading this I will make that assumption.  You may be thinking about upgrading your internet connection; either a more modern Wi-Fi router or hard-wired with multiple outlets around your home…which way should you go?

Cat5 CableOne thing to consider is that Wi-Fi requires you to set up one additional component for somewhere around $50; whereas, wired requires you to run Cat5 cable throughout your place with a significantly higher cost.  (Cat5 is twisted pair high signal cable. Think of COAX cable with the wider phone plugs on the ends or RJ-45.).  The cost and inconvenience could be a limiting factor.  If you are doing some rehabbing of your home or building a new home, the decision becomes easy.  Wire your home if at all possible.

But isn’t Wi-Fi any good?  Absolutely, Yes!  But Wi-Fi does have some limitations.

As Bill Testerman, of Silicon Logic, states regarding wireless, “Distance and the speed of your connection are inversely proportional.  Thus, for a given frequency band, higher speed always means lower distance.  You want to sit 50 feet from your access point?  Prepare to sacrifice performance.

Unfortunately he goes on to say, “The only workaround is high-power radio transmitters, which are limited by the FCC to fairly low values, due to potential interference and other issues.  With a wired connection, you don’t suffer nearly this significant a loss over distance.”  People in the know state that for a high-quality Cat5 or 6 cable you can get about 300 feet from the source with little to no loss of signal strength.

Basically, wired is solid, wireless has some limiting factors.

Simply stated, with Wi-Fi the further you are from the source, the greater your broadcast signal degrades.  Also, other factors interfere with your signal.  Construction materials, i.e., drywall, concrete, metal, etc. in your home can slow down the waves along with wireless phones, copper wires in your walls, running HVAC, etc.

After all that “bad” news I will say that for my internet use, wireless router is fine.  I can surf the net, work from home, or watch videos including Netflix and Hulu, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc. I like it and for $39.95 it was well worth the investment in the wireless router and a quick set up.

WiFi RouterI have wireless in my home and love it…best of all I can sit on my back porch to work, or watch movies and play online – not necessarily in that order.  Yes, some days the signal is a little weaker than others.  However, I have investigated and found that this is often due to my service provider, whom I won’t mention here since they have lots of lawyers and I have none.

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