Thursday, May 17, 2018

A WiFi Bottleneck Fixed

 I am learning that the Wi-Fi adapter in a device may pose more of a problem than other factors in reducing speed than I had thought.   

That is a simple problem to fix (<$20),  and may save many an old machine from being discarded since we are now so dependant on the internet for everything we do.

I searched for USB Wi-Fi adapters on Amazon and selected the one with the best comments.   

I was flabbergasted at the results.     My old Dell ran 10 times faster than before when browsing.    


These adapters plug right into a USB port.     Drivers then come with them which need to be installed.

Then,  after that happens,  nothing will change until  the old adapter is disabled in device manager.    I did not find that indicated in the documentation but it is absolutely essential.

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Modem or Router?

 The most frequent question I get asked is the following:


Internet is not working well for me.  what do I do?

Before I get to answer, I often get asked whether a modem or router should be replaced or a tech called in at $100 an hour?

Before any of that happens we need first to determine if we are getting a good signal into our system.

All kinds of things can happen which interfere with that.

And there is no point in replacing anything if the problem lies elsewhere before getting to our system.

So we need to have our provider check signal strength with a proper meter to determine simply if we are getting a good signal.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are far more points of failure before signal gets to us then within our own system.   

These include type of cabling and proper cable maintenance.    Typically switches and so-called splitters fail frequently before a doistant signal even gets to our equipment.

Archaic equipment may reside anywhere between you and the source of your data.   Somewhere in the chain there may be reliance on age old telephone equipment.

It is a miracle that the system works at all.     A little understanding of how it works will aid in addressing problems with it.

Before internet was in place,  it was indeed understood how to make it work once the electronic technology was in hand.    

Communication had to work even where that technology failed,  so how could that be done?

This is what you need to know.

Internet communication works exactly like the post office.    Information is transmitted by packets. packets are just like letters.     They include a sender's address and the receivers address and content.

These electronic packets can contain any kind of information and enough of them  can present music or pictures or videos simply text material when assembled by the receiving device.

The transmission must be perfect,  so that every packet is sent back to make sure it had been received perfectly as compared with the original.    That way, you always get either perfect information or none at all or only some of the information or a slowdown when only some of the through and need to be sent repeatedly.

This last situation explains a lot of the problems that you may be having with internet.     Somewhere the packets are not getting through perfectly.

Could it be your equipment?     Most of the time it is not. However, simple measures like checking connections are basic.     Then the process of elimination takes over. Is the problem related to one particular device, or one particular website, or one particular location,  such as in wireless or Wi-Fi.

Next to getting a bad signal from your provider,  wireless is probably the next biggest area of problems.

The further you are from a wired connection, the more packet  loss you will have, of course. Typically Wi-Fi drops your internet speed by about two thirds.

With Wi-Fi you are also sharing communications with many others nearby,  using a limited number of channels available. There is only so much space available, so much bandwidth.  

When someone watches a Netflix movie,  throughput drops everywhere else accordingly.   That is just how the system works.

What happens here at times is that there may be interruptions or slowdowns  not related to anything more than high usage, and in no way related to your equipment whatever.

Streaming movies for example may stop and start,  especially on a wireless or Wi-Fi device,

That can be avoided by downloading them in advance,  which I highly recommend out of consideration for others.

Other palliative measures are simply to use devices which work well for speed of communication.     One such measure is a high-speed Wi-Fi adapter.

Or you could avoid Wi-Fi all together by using a so-called  ethernet adapter. Ethernet is the name for the most efficient and modern cabling,  also called twisted pair or 10 base T.

These can be a remedy for problems where your TV uses a streaming device like Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV.    There is even an adapter for an iPad, though it tethers you to a wired connection.

A frequent problem I have encountered is the use of an old computer which simply doesn't have the capability of doing anything fast,

Windows users need only to buy a cheap laptop to overcome such problems.     An up-to-dmate cheap $200 laptop will outperform an older unit which cost thousands of dollars.    I actually use a cheap Intel stick computer the size of a pack of chewing gum to work with an ancient display at extreme high speed.

So, it is only occasionally that a router or modem needs to be updated, and usually only by upgrading the so-called firmware online.

If your internet provider rents such to you, take advantage of rental and leave the problems to them. Alternatively, simply substitute a known reliable router or modem and see if that resolves your problem.   Mostly, it will not.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Easy Printer Setup

In setting up a new printer wirelessly, we are often confronted with CDs and complex installations.  With my Canon Image Laser, all I had to do is tap on the bluetooth button and then tap the router WPS button.   Done!

It's All About Speed

 No matter what device you use, using it is all about getting everything done as quickly as possible.  That is paramount. We all spend time browsing and we need pages to come up instantly. Forget operating systems, manufacturers and types of devices.


Next is getting devices cheap and getting them small for convenience, but compatible with a big screen.

Getting back to speed, what do we need?

We need a good fast internet connection.  That means not bogged down by multiple users on Wi-Fi nor bogged down by multiple splitters between you and the ISP.

Recently I looked over my system to see what I could do to speed things up.

Right at the start my ISP found bad splitters and replaced them.

I ran cables and installed inexpensive usb ethernet adapters to avoid Wi-Fi on laptops.

I concentrated on devices which support voice input, which also speeds up my activity on any device, not just smartphones.

I ruled out mechanical hard drives, and I looked for high speed memory devices.

I did not rule out Windows 10,  even though Windows 10 runs horribly badly on most  old equipment. Microsoft eventually catches up with new technology and the latest Windows 10 is much improved.

I tried a Lenovo Windows stick with an age-old display and it ran quite well.

For real speed I needed something better with 4 gigs Ram and 32 to 64 gigs memory, 32 for 32 bit and 64 for 64-bit.

That's not a lot of memory and you need to be astute in holding down use of that memory.  You need fast emmc memory nowadays. Windows gets cluttered with stuff too quickly.

As Windows is updated you need to do away with system files using disk cleanup,  and delete windows.old directories. Since most activity runs online anyway, there is no need to load much software.

Since this effort does not need to be expensive,  I picked up a flagship low-cost 2018 laptop at $200  meeting the above criteria.

Windows being Windows,  it took 10 hours to update the thing, but then a big surprise . This little laptop turned out to be the fastest device I think I have ever used.   Lightning speed.

Of course,  the very first thing I did with it was to dictate “ create a recovery drive”,  on a 16gb flash drive. That way, when Windows goes sour, it can be reinstalled without ado.

The laptop is light,  built to mil spec, and designed for rough and tumble treatment by students.  (Microsoft is trying to regain the school market lost to Chromebooks.)

It is very small and lightweight.    Works beautifully was a large external screen,  but also when the little display is set for max resolution but 150%  of normal font size.

The only downside is a soft screen which is certainly is vulnerable,  but nothing like as vulnerable as Microsoft Windows itself used by an unschooled person.

Windows has the great advantage is that it recognizes printers and many other devices simply by plugging them in.    To run on this laptop, however, it also took 10 special device drivers from the manufacturer. I put them on a separate flash drive for use in a future reinstallation.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Recovering Windows

 Sooner or later,  if your laptop has 32 gigs of memory or less,  that memory will fill up as you update Windows over time,  especially if you have an old Windows directory from a previous update.

At that point you may no longer be able to update at all.

it is therefore important that you prepare a recovery drive such as a USB recovery drive as soon as you start using a new computer.

The means to do so are are found separately on this website or can be found easily by searching  for instructions in a browser.

Here's the rub.  There may not be enough space for reinstallation.

It may be difficult to accomplish that result by deleting files.

Recently I needed to use Windows partitioning tool to create enough space.   That worked.

Unfortunately, running the recovery process still may not bring your laptop back to full functionality.   I was still not done.

There are usually a bunch of manufacturer’s files which need to be loaded to give access to everything,  such as a touchpad.

These can usually be downloaded and installed from the manufacturer support site.    

I needed to do that  to complete the job.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Rethinking Windows

When Windows 10 came out it was a fairly complete disaster.      It was hard to navigate and ran very badly on underpowered computers of the time.

Soon Chromebooks stole the show.  They pretty much took over the classroom.

In the meantime there have been some changes,  both in Windows itself and in its supporting hardware and hardware costs.

To attempt to regain the classroom market,  Microsoft now has much improved versions which run on rugged and cheap  laptops design for the classroom.

Those same laptops are also a draw for seniors.

Sufficiently large 64 gigabyte solid-state drives replace old clunky and slow hard drives.      Ram is now four gigabytes as opposed to two. Faster processors are in place. Repairs will be less frequent and easier.

There's also one big benefit in that Windows 10 configures a printer just by plugging it in.

Now available at as little as $200, all this does make Windows a more attractive choice, despite all the things that still can go wrong with Windows.