Archive for April, 2010

Wireless Router Basics for the Home

Wireless Router Basics Home owners who have high speed cable or DSL systems installed at home can download email, browse web sites and even listen to music and videos once they have high speed access to the internet. Often they will connect their computers directly to the cable modem via the Ethernet connection. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as there is only one computer to access this high speed connection. If you want to connect more than one computer then you need to purchase what is known as a router. It allows more than one connection from multiple devices.

Wireless Router Basics

Think of a router as a device that will route and manage traffic such that traffic destined for one computer will always go to that computer and traffic destined for the other computer will always go to the other computer. It is a traffic cop such that one computer cannot hog all of the capacity and it also prevents unwanted visitors from getting through the router to your computer.  Most small home routers can support connection of up to 4 hardwired computers, however this requires the use of connecting cables to run from the router to an Ethernet card on each computer. This is really a problem for a lot of families who want to have multiple computers spread throughout the home. Cables are unsightly and most homeowners do not want to have anything to do with them.

Fortunately there are wireless routers that will support multiple computers up to a reasonable distance. All you need to have is a wireless Ethernet card in your computer and you can connect with the router and hence the internet.There are the basics you need to know before getting a wireless router for your home network, as well as Network World’s tester’s top pick.

Wireless Routers

Wireless routers have come a long way in a short time. The oldest standard wireless LAN technologies follow the IEEE 802.11a and 802.11b standards, which were established in 1999. The 802.11a standard uses the 5 GHz frequency and has a maximum data rate of 54Mbps. The 802.11b standard uses the 2.4 GHz band and delivers a data rate of 11Mbps. The upshot of this is make sure you purchase a router that supports 54Mbps of throughput for the data rate.

Note that with all wireless routers, the actual speed you get over the airwaves varies greatly based on distance and other factors like the types of obstacles that lie between your computer and the wireless router that cause interference. The rates given here are really just theoretical maximums. New standards are being introduced which will see routers that support up to 150Mbps to 300Mbps.

The 802.11n technology started showing up in many wireless routers in 2008, before the standard was even ratified. But the meat of the standard was there at the time, and manufacturers did not have to do much to update their wireless routers to comply with the standard once it was finalized. With a higher speed router there is less chance that your home network will become the choke point if one computer is generating a lot of data traffic.

Wireless router security

With the rapid deployment of broadband Internet access across the country and the world, the deployment of wireless routers shot up, too. This raised all sorts of security concerns, because wireless traffic is vulnerable to snooping.

Use of WPA2 is recommended for wireless routers in the networks of both homes and businesses. Now a days most people protect their routers by applying a password to anyone who is trying to access the wireless signal. A few people will leave their routers open and anyone can use their service, leaving them open to paying for traffic that they are not personally aware of and exposed to downloading material that would be considered questionable. It also leaves them open to penetration of their computers as well.  Always apply a password and only give it out to people who you want to use your high speed access.

Where to Buy

Today’s wireless routers are manufactured by companies including 3Com (which is being acquired by HP), Belkin, Buffalo Technology, D-Link, Linksys (owned by Cisco), Netgear, and others. They are sold in stores such as Best Buy, Staples and a host of other electronic stores around the country.  Experts and any of these stores will be happy to walk you through the steps of setting up your router, although the instructions are pretty straightforward and simple to use.

Once installed and with each of your computers equipped with a wireless Ethernet card, you will be able to enjoy the flexibility of using your computer in any room of the house or even the back yard.


Lawn Mower Maintenance

Most urban homeowners own a lawn mower and use them one a week to mow their lawns. Which are usually not very large in urban areas. Lawns in rural areas or estate sized lots may have large Lawn Mower Maintenancelawns and consumers may use riding lawn mowers instead. Regardless of how often you cut your lawn and how big your lawn is, the engines and the cutting surfaces should be maintained on a regular basis. Failure to look after these machines usually ends up with repair costs and / or needing to purchase a new lawn mower. Poor lawn maintenance, especially a dull lawn mower blade can cause your lawn to have a clipped torn look to it.  The situation also creates opportunities for mold and other diseases to enter your lawn.

A new lawn mower can cost over $200 and the more expensive ones can cost well over a thousand dollars. Either way most of us do not have money to throw around and who wants to buy a new lawn mower every couple of years.

There are basic things that need to be done to ensure that your lawn mower will last 10 or even 20 years. Mine is going on 23 years and the only thing I have replaced on it is the spark plug! So what is the secret.

Lawn Mower Maintenance – Change the Oil

A bottle of engine oil, an adjustable wrench, an oil reservoir all of which might cost you $20! And the ability to change the oil in the engine at least once per year. Once you have the tools, the oil only costs $4 or $5 per year.  You can take the lawn mower in to have the oil changed but you will probably pay something in the neighborhood of $50 to $75, which will include an oil change and also sharpening of the blade, and checking the status of the spark plug and also the spark plug gap. I would rather do it myself and save the $75.00!

Change the oil regularly, at least once a year and check the oil level prior to starting the engine each time. Your lawn mower will last many years with this basic level of maintenance and save you hundreds of dollars!

One word of caution. Always disconnect the spark plug wire if you plan to do any work on the engine to avoid any possibility of accidents. Follow the guidelines in the manual and make sure that the oil drain plug is securely tightened to avoid any possibility of oil leakage. Finally dispose of your old oil properly by taking it into an oil disposal facility.

Other Basic Things to Do

A variety of things could cause additional expenses when it comes to your lawn mower. You can avoid these with simple activities and prolong the life of the deck and the wheels. We have talked about the engine and changing the oil, however there are other things that can and should be done.

For example, use gasoline freshener. There are many trade names, however basically they are additives that will keep the gasoline fresh. They help to avoid gumming up of some of the smaller parts in the carburetor. Especially over the winter when your lawn mower is not used.

Check the air intake and try to keep the air filter clean. This ensures maximum air intake, clean burning of the gasoline and smooth running of the engine.

After every time you use the lawn mower, clean off the deck and the underside of the deck. Build up of grass clippings on the deck and the underside can  cause the metal of your lawn mower deck to deteriorate. This will take several years. Most consumers may not even notice it until it is too late. Keeping it clean will avoid buildup of grass clippings. More importantly eliminate the acid that eats into the metal of the lawn mower deck.

Summary

Change the oil on a regularly basis and keep the air filter clean. Use gasoline freshener and keep the metal housing clean and free of grass clippings. Perform all of the maintenance yourself following the guidelines in the manual. If you are unsure about something you can always talk to your local small engine mechanic to get some advice. Most will be glad to help you provided that you purchase the needed parts from his or her shop!


Reduce Your Homes Operating and Maintenance Costs

Your Homes Operating and Maintenance CostsWe decided to start this blog about how to save some money while maintaining our homes. After watching many people lose their homes due to the economic down turn. Also the significant economic hit that everyone took over the 2008 and 2009 period. Your Homes Operating and Maintenance Costs represent a large portion of your monthly expenses. A large repair can sometimes make the difference between staying and leaving. They are only now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone is trying to conserve their funds until they get a new job or even if they have a job. Every dollar in your pocket is one that can help you and your family in the future. Keeping your homes operating and maintenance costs to a minimum over the long term will help maintain the value of your home.

This is the first post and I guess it is pretty general in nature. But that is ok, we wanted to introduce the topic and set the stage for more posts to come. Some people can literally save thousands of dollars every year ! That is more than enough to enjoy a nice vacation or pay off a few extra bills that we all have.

If you could fix something yourself or complete an upgrade without having to call a repairman, wouldn’t that be a nice thing! Imagine having a repairman come over to fix a tap to replace a 50 cent washer. Then be charged $50 or $75 for the guy to show up! Some even charge more than that.

One of my motto’s, even if I screw up the first time, or have to buy a new tool, I am ahead of the game. Since I have saved money or I have a new tool I can use for other jobs or both! Over the years I have reused those tools many times. As well for various maintenance related activities and saved a bundle of money. You can do this too, just remember to always use the right tools and do the job in a safe manner. If you are uncomfortable with doing a particular job do not hesitate to hire the experts to do the job for you.

Your Homes Operating and Maintenance Costs

Monthly Operating Costs

We hope to be able to post a new blog post every week. Covering topics on how to reduce your homes upkeep costs and your annual maintenance costs as well as annual operating costs. There are a lot of common sense things that can be completed. Then there are areas that fall into the upgrade area which will not only make your home more sale able, but they will also reduce your monthly utility costs. We sometimes call this monthly operating costs.

Either way there is a real trade off between money saved and the amount of money you need to spend to save that money. Spending a $100 to reduce your heating costs by $200 a year would be a reasonable deal. However if you need to spend $10,000 and it takes 10 years to pay it off with savings, you may want to reconsider unless there are other reasons to spend the money. Maintenance or repair of some thing is usually a trigger, so you may as well invest in something that will save you money. Low flow toilets are a good example of this sort of thing.

This particular post is general in nature. However we plan to complete posts each week about Your Homes Operating and Maintenance Costs, which will fall into one of the major categories:

  • Energy Savings
  • Cost Savings
  • Repair
  • Maintenance
  • and more as we complete posts.

Initially we will focus on summer time issues. However as we draw closer to the fall, there will be more posts aimed at the fall and winter. People in northern climates must pay a great deal to heat their homes and run their lights.

Send in Your Thoughts and Ideas

This is a great opportunity for people to follow us and contribute to any of the posts that we put out on our blog. If you have a particular subject that you would like to hear about, please leave a comment. We will glad to consider it for our blog.  As time permits we want to also cover energy saving devices that are just coming onto the market. Such as windmills and photo optic systems that generate electricity and push power back onto the grid.


What’s Wrong with the iPad

What's Wrong with the iPadFirst of all in the interests of full disclosure I am a PC user and have been since he first DOS machines came out on the market place. I have gone through all of the upgrades and platform changes and all of the releases and issues that we all know and love with Microsoft. What’s wrong with the iPad?

Having said that I have recently purchased an iPod Touch mainly for the flexibility it gave me when I am traveling and need to get on the net to check my email, Facebook accounts etc.  There seems to be sufficient WI-FI sites available that I can reasonably find a location where I can get access to the net. It even has helped with my wife’s shopping were I tag along waiting for her to select something and try it on. I can amuse myself with browsing the net, or play games if I cannot get access were we are. However I digress from the main topic of looking at the iPad and what is wrong with the IPAD

What Am I looking for in a Computer?

This is probably my first mistake, since the iPad , although it is a computer is not a computer in the truest sense. Instead it is really a device that is aimed at a particular market segment with a particular set of tasks in mind. As far as I can tell it is really aimed at people who want an easy to use device to browse the internet, view pictures, view web sites and read books. There are thousands of apps that will be ready for the iPad in the next few months as well.

Let’s face it, if this is your need and your criteria , there is really nothing wrong with the iPad!

What you cannot do with the iPad is connect an external screen to it, you cannot connect an external keyboard and you cannot print from it. Fans will argue that you do not need to do this and there is an on screen keyboard for those that need to send emails and text messages.

What’s Wrong with the iPad – Power PC Users

This title implies someone who sits at their computer for hours and hours working on developing apps, developing and writing documentation, spreadsheets and presentations. While other technical experts will use their computers to interface with and debug programs and hardware that is being tested and developed.  These applications are really far from the planned or intended use of the iPad.

These users need external keyboards that are ergonomically designed with multi screens, printers, fax machines and various test gear that the need to attached to their computers. Since they spend so much time in front of their screens, they also need to be able to sit at desks and used keyboards that are ergonomic to protect their posture and their wrists from things like carpel tunnel syndrome.

So if you fit into this category and this is all you do with a computer, then the iPad is probably not for you. The iPad does not even have a USB port.

Do you Need Both Devices

There is an argument for owing both the computer of some sort as well as an iPad. If I had not purchased an iPod Touch, I probably would not have written this comment. The Ipad is basically a larger iPod Touch with many of all the same functions and format on a larger screen.

I have used a PC computer for many years to do most of the things I mentioned above. I use a laptop for its convenience, I can take it anywhere, use it whenever I need it as long as I can get connected to the internet and I can work off line as well on large documents, presentations and spreadsheets that I routinely work on.

Lately though i have found that the iPod Touch is being used more and more. The iPad fits into the same category. I have read and responded to my email around the pool, the restaurant while waiting in line, called via Skype to friends and family and lounged in front of the TV with the family watching a program while scanning the news. I just cannot easily do all of this on my PC in those locations.

So for me there is definitely a use for the iPad in addition to the regular PC.  However personally  I like the iPod Touch for ease of carrying it and its overall size and use.

Love to hear your comments as well. For more information about the ipad and smart phones, click here.

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iPad – What you need to know

There have been over 400,000 iPads written at the time of writing this blog, iPadhowever before it gets actually published there could quite possibly be thousands more iPads in consumers hands. We have looked at a number of areas that consumers may want to consider when buying an iPad. Although it is not billed as a computer and does not have the flexibility of a computer, many people are lining up to get this latest Apple product. It does have a lot of benefits, however there are some drawbacks as well which may or may or not be important to some users.

Review

Apps – It can run most if not all of the apps developed for the iPhone and for the iPod Touch, however they will most likely be the size of the small screens of the iPhone. If you expand them on the iPad, you will probably get pixelization.  Apps are being upgraded and or developed all of the time.

Cost – The price varies from $499 to $899 with memory and 3G connectivity being the main differences. Note that if you opt for the 3G version you will also need to subscribe to a monthly data plan with AT&T adding further cost. All iPads support WI-FI. If you spend $899, you may as well purchase a computer that has more features and business applications that you can add.

Display – similar display to the iPhone and the impound Touch. If you are already familiar with these devices, you will find that iPad the same with a larger screen

Web –Excellent for browsing the web with the same drawbacks as on the smaller devices. iPad uses Safari, which does not support tabs and does not support Adobe Flash, so if you go to sites that require Adobe, you are going to get error messages.

Wireless –The iPad supports WI-FI and AT&T’s 3G wireless plans. If you really need wireless on the go, you will need to pay the extra monthly cost. The iPad is fast and displays web pages with lightening speed.

Books – must be purchased from Apples book store with many titles and newspapers getting into the program there will be lots of content to review. Some reviews indicate that the iPad may be a little hard on the eyes vs. the Kindle if you do a lot of reading.

Email – reading email is similar to the iPhone, with a large screen of course, however the onscreen keyboard although better than it’s smaller cousin, is still not ergonomically sufficient for typing long emails.

Keyboard – Typing long emails is tough on the iPad and there is no USB connection to add an external keyboard.

Size – The iPad weighs a light 1.5 pounds and can be carried easily in your hands or in your briefcase. Most people are shown reclining with the iPad propped on their knees. This is not ergonomically designed , however convenience and ease of use are the primary benefits.

Games – supports all of the iPhone games and more are expected. Brilliant screen makes games on the iPad especially great to play on.

Music – Play all of your favorite songs with the iPad, listen on the built-in mono speaker, stereo headphones or plug it into an external system to listen to your music.

Photos – The iPad does not have a built-in camera, so you must import your pictures from other devices. Pictures can be displayed full screen or in groups. Note that if your pictures are taken with low resolution you might get pixelization when displayed full screen, which is a problem with the picture not the iPad

Movies – great for watching movies with the sharp clear screen. But the iPad doesn’t support the wide screen 16:9 format of most movies, so viewers will have to look at thick black edges on two sides.

Hardware – The iPad features a standard 3.5-mm jack for headphones, a dock connector port, a built-in speaker and a microphone. The 3G models also include a tray for a micro SIM card. Noticeably absent: USB and HDMI ports.

Battery – A built-in battery that cannot be replaced by the user. Apple can replace the battery for a fee. It is important to use your iPad properly , draining the battery every time so that you do not prematurely build in battery memory effects. As will all devices of this type, keep them away from water and high temperatures.

For more information about the iPad and smart phones, click here.

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IPAD vs. Laptop Computers

All of the experts are weighing in on the new Apple iPad. It has just been released and how it will take over the world, Experts feel that it will make all other computers obsolete and not worth the money you would spend on them. So what are Laptop Computersthe issues that people should be aware of. Why would you want to purchase an iPad and/or also have a regular computer?

The short answer really depends on what type of user you are of computers in general. We will try to break this down and let you decide for yourself, however recognize that it is early days yet and we have not had the opportunity to play with an iPad. We have been reading articles by various experts who have managed to get their hands on one of these new devices.

IPAD vs. Laptop Computers

Surfing the Internet, Social Networking sites, Email

Like the I-phone and the iPod Touch, the iPad should excel at this application. With touch screens and relative straightforward typing or input requirements, the iPad is ideal for this. With built in wireless WiFi capability,  fast computing and surfing capability, we expect that users will be more than satisfied with the iPad.

Smaller and less weight to carry around, with the touch screen, it is ideal for carrying around with you to the coffee shop or to work or to a meeting were you can keep up with emails , read the mail or monitor podcast presentations from anywhere you can gain access to the internet via WiFi.

Convenience and ease of use is the major selling point of the iPad. Anyone can use it, in fact it is intuitive surfing of the net. Whether it is your grandmother or your uncle who has never had a computer, the iPad will be the device of choice. The larger screen makes the difference for those who find reading small print difficult.

There is a large market for this general application of computers.

Apps

Currently we have read that any app that works on the iPod Touch or the I-phone will work on the iPad.  We doubt that Apple has had the opportunity to test every one of the 100,000+ apps that work on the smaller devices, however rest assured that within a month, they will be identified and updated.

Many developers are already working on new apps, with many available for the release of the iPad.  Those of you that like the I-phone and the iPod Touch for the app’s will continue to enjoy the same app’s on the iPad.

Preparing Presentations, Writing Small Documents, and Spreadsheets

Yet to be verified by users in the general market place, the iPad can be used to generate presentations, documents and spreadsheets as well as many other application of this type.  However the on screen keyboard and the lack of an external mouse may limit the number of hours that someone is willing to spend using this on screen key board.

Much has been made about ergonomic keyboards, mice, posture and screen angles for heavy users of computers. Small documents , etc should pose no problem, however we are concerned for those who spend long hours using a computer.

Developing  Music, Podcasts, Videos etc

Even though the eventual product is an app (music, podcast or a video or a an app) to be used by iPad owners on their iPad , developers will likely use Macs or perhaps even PC’s to develop these app’s. These app’s will the thoroughly tested on an iPad, however we doubt that they will be created on an iPad. Simply because to the ergonomics mentioned earlier as well as the computing power and ability to support more intensive programs that will not run on the iPad.

The jury is still out on this of course, however it will be interesting to see how this area of iPad use evolves.

Complex Graphics, Documents and Spreadsheets

Developing App’s, Programming detailed complex programs and documents takes long hours and sometimes significant computer power, display and various interfaces. We seriously doubt that the iPad will fit into this category of computer use.

The ergonomics are bad , the screen size is small for most developers are used to several large screens and the lack of an external keyboard makes the iPad not the ideal computer for this type of application.

Conclusion

There is still life after iPad for traditional computers, however the growth potential may be limited since they are both going after the user whose primary application is surfing the internet and responding to emails and social networking sites.

Power users, developers may also have an iPad, however they will continue to use their main computers for all of the traditional workhorse activities.

Give your comments and opinions about our thoughts and opinions either in agreement or disagreement.

For more information about the iPad and smart phones, click here.

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