Friday, February 26, 2016

A Better Way to Back Up Windows

For a long time users have wrestled with precarious and risky ways to backup Windows.   Here is a surefire, safe, easy way to do it...

Click or tap for

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bad Cabling Causes Bad Internet Here

Ever since the local SnrInternet service was installed several years ago I have had periodic outages ranging from a few seconds or minutes or longer slowdowns to a few days. I pay about $45 a month for cell hotspot services to fill the gaps when service is down..

As other factors have been ruled out by the process of elimination, it is now clear that the cabling system in this community (Willow Valley North) very probably is not suitable for resident Internet here, especially with internet dependency growing.  Whereas earlier computers accessed internet only now and then, iPads and tablets work continuously interactive with the cloud.

Willow Valley actively promotes such internet dependent use of computers by residents by offering courses in iPads, which increases resident dependence upon internet.   But even much normal printing nowadays goes via the internet cloud.

Worse, the Amazon all-voice Echo, invaluable to the less mobile seniors, must transfer voice patterns to the cloud and send instructions back instantly.  It cannot work with timeouts.  

The provider of our internet service, Senior TV, has established, however, that frequently signals from our computers do not reach the cloud and their server.

That results in waiting times and delay. That condition explains the many complaints I have heard over the years and the problems I have had myself.

The problem is the cabling.

The old cabling system is coax, which was never designed for Internet. In new areas Willow Valley universally installed Ethernet which was specifically designed for Internet.

Worse, the old cabling is RG6 which loses signal as opposed to RG11.

SeniorTV found a drastic 27db drop in signal from my connection.   The technician was surprised that it worked at all.   Coax was designed as a one-way medium.

(Would it not be simpler and cheaper to put everybody on WiFi as already in the public areas?)

Here is a comparison of the two cabling systems:

Ethernet vs. Coaxial (RF) Comparison

Source: eVideon for hospital patients health systems

Sample of error logs from my modem as this was written....

Feb 24 2016 13:07:443-CriticalR02.0No Ranging Response received - T3 time-out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:423-CriticalR06.0Unicast Maintenance Ranging attempted - No response - Retries exhausted;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:423-CriticalR03.0Ranging Request Retries exhausted;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:413-CriticalR02.0No Ranging Response received - T3 time-out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:343-CriticalR06.0Unicast Maintenance Ranging attempted - No response - Retries exhausted;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:343-CriticalR03.0Ranging Request Retries exhausted;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 24 2016 13:07:333-CriticalR02.0No Ranging Response received - T3 time-out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 23 2016 11:09:585-WarningZ00.0MIMO Event MIMO: Stored MIMO=-1 post cfg file MIMO=-1;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 23 2016 11:08:113-CriticalR04.0Received Response to Broadcast Maintenance Request, But no Unicast Maintenance opportunities received - T4 time out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 23 2016 11:08:065-WarningT202.0Lost MDD Timeout;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 23 2016 11:08:033-CriticalR04.0Received Response to Broadcast Maintenance Request, But no Unicast Maintenance opportunities received - T4 time out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 23 2016 11:07:433-CriticalT05.0SYNC Timing Synchronization failure - Loss of Sync;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;
Feb 22 2016 21:28:073-CriticalR02.0No Ranging Response received - T3 time-out;CM-MAC=20:3d:66:04:64:f8;CMTS-MAC=00:17:10:03:4f:87;CM-QOS=1.1;CM-VER=3.0;

Bear in mind that errors are not even shown until 16 attempts have been made to connect over a 4 second delay.

Footnote:    Earlier WiFi was blamed for the above problems---which IT here does not support but does have serious overcrowding of the 2.4 spectrum with everyone having their own WiFi, increasing fast.   However, the same problems do not occur with cell tower based hotspots which use the same frequencies.   They also occur using the uncrowded 5.0 band.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tracing Internet Connection Problems

There is no substitute for a qualified proper cable tester to run down internet connection problems.

However, Comcast has a help site with many pointers which also apply to our local Willow Valley Senior Internet system if you are tech oriented.

Click or tap for

Skip down to check your modem signal levels. Of course, it will take a qualified technician to deal with any issues.

Don't connect your computer direct to your modem and unless you want to welcome malware into your system.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fixing Internet Dropouts (Timeouts)

Over the years I have observed countless instances, at countless computers, where internet simply hesitated or froze for a time.    Residents come to me all the time for help.    

It is terribly frustrating to be stopped dead in your tracks while dictating or communicating, for example, so I hear about dropouts a lot.   IT calls them timeouts.

With the process of elimination (replacing hardware devices), cabling finally got to be suspect in my case and others.  In connecting to cell towers, I never have these problems, and I don't need cables, so that situation points to cables.   Initial checks of my cabling with a simple multimeter showed no serious problems, however, although signal strength was outside normal limits.

At that point, Willow Valley called in its internet service provider SeniorTV, who came in with a more sophisticated (expensive!) cable tester.

Bingo!!   In testing, my cabling failed from wiring closet to my modem, a very short run!    There had been a 27 db loss in signal.   That was drastic.   The wiring will now be replaced, of course.

What happens is that the modem cannot push the signal over the bad cabling and quits.   The upstream signals do not get to the ISP.   

Now, this may very well affect other residents.

You can check this for your own system if you are using a standard Motorola SB6121 or SB6141 modem.   Just type into your browser search window.   Simple.  Then, tap on Signal and then tap on Log.   (Or click.)

If you see a log of errors and warnings, there is cabling related trouble.   If the upstream power level gets into the 50s, you have a problem.

You can also go to the command window in your OS (such as Windows) and type
ping to see ongoing detail.   

If you see trouble, IT here will soon have a proper cable tester to track down any problems and fix your cabling.  

Cabling problems probably exists much more widely than thought by IT (which I now suspect based on what I see and resident complaints), and will prevent you from making the most of internet.    

For more information about the intricacies of many cabling issues, click or tap to go to

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Helpdesk Needed

Willow Valley, our retirement community, provide services of every imaginable kind, including computer training, with one shortcoming.

There is no computer help desk, even on a fee for service basis.

With all the benefits of computers in Internet to seniors, a help desk is needed.

Simple tablets can provide enormous help to those with vision, hearing, and mobility problems, and to those confined to bed.

It can keep seniors connected to the outside world. It can keep them far more able to help themselves than otherwise.

Presently Willow Valley will hook you up to Internet. It will turn on the switch. But if anything goes wrong, it is entirely up to you to fix it whether technically qualified or not. 

It is up to you to choose, buy, install, and service the equipment you will need.

Either that or go outside to some questionably qualified support person and high cost helper who probably cannot deal with the complexities and age of Willow Valley's computer grid.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Extend ring time on cell phone

To extend ring time on your cell phone tap or click for how to do it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Do it all on a Smartphone

Almost everything you do or did on a computer can be done more safely and more easily and cheaply on a smartphone than on any other device, with very few exceptions.   (The only one I can think of is using Calibre to read, catalog and access ebooks and publications.)

Right now, with a "stick" plugged into TV or display monitor, you can do all the big screen stuff anyway on large screen with your smartphone.   The new Windows phone now has the full capability to run Windows 10 built in.

But don't confuse the new smartphones with the old ones, which frankly were terrible.  And don't associate the plans with extremely high costs.   (Those contract plans are still offered for the uninformed.)  The old phones were a pain to use just for phoning (and there are better ways to communicate than phoning).

There is no reason any more to need to go use a computer that takes up a lot of space, costs too much, and is too complicated and slow and full of old parts and wires to be reliable.  

Security Notes

Security issues are clouded and muddied by uninformed opinion.  To get things straight, research them yourself on internet.   Here are a few interesting sources of information.

Is encryption safe?  (YES!!)     Tap or click for more information.   But do your own investigation before opining that it is not safe.

Is Windows 10 less safe?    (Getting better.)   Tap or click for

Do I need a VPN for safety?  (Companies use it.)   Tap or click or

Which OS os most secure, Windows or Mac?    (Neither,  ChomeOS and Windows Phone.)   Tap or click for

Will malwarebytes keep me safe?   (No.)   Do your own research on internet to see why not.

The facts are out there.    Don't go by anybody's unsubstantiated opinion without getting them.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Run Google Apps on Kindle Fire 7 version 5

Here's a link to overcome the biggest downside of the Kindle Fire 7/5 generation. Tap or click for it.

Internet at Willow Valley

[Update March 1, 2016:  After actually years of recurrent problems, SrTV tested my system to find a 27db (unacceptable) drop in signal from cabling problems, this time checked with an appropriate meter as opposed to WV's multimeter which showed no such problem.    Partial recabling was then done.  

The cabling in this building is coax R6 as opposed to the better R11 and much more appropriate for computers, 10-base-2 ethernet designed for the purpose and used in new construction here.   When WV obtains a newer cable tester, the coax cabling will again be checked for proper signal levels.]

Recently I have noticed frequent dropouts (timeouts) in my internet service at Willow Valley.  Dropouts occur when the server at the provider's site does not respond.

It works like this.   My computer sends out a request to internet.   If there is no reply after 16 tries or 4 seconds it gives up.    It may try again and again.   Essentially, my computer will "lock up" for many minutes.  

It is a serious problem.   With limited mobility, I rely on my smartphone for phoning and my phone uses WiFi where available and therefore internet.   Indeed, I use internet for all phones so that I can be reached instantly anywhere.

That does not work with dropouts.

Worse, however, recently my phone was bricked during an upgrade as connection was lost during a dropout.   I had to get a new phone.

Appealing for help to MIS here, I was advised that my dropouts problem was WiFi and that Wi-Fi is not supported by MIS.     It was questioned as to whether I had a problem at all.  

(In my opinion, if the internet service provider is not providing reliable service, I am not getting what I am paying for.  I see this problem with no other provider here, such as hot spots and DSL.)

That response has been the answer in the past whenever I have had a problem.  Indeed, I have replaced WiFi routers five times without any resolution of any problem.

I made the point to MIS that Willow Valley has been actively offering many courses in iPads which require WiFi for two years.

MIS was unaware that this training was being done.  There is a disconnect.   Indeed the responsibility for computers is badly splintered.  The internet responsibility is yet a third party.   And cabling is yet a fourth party.    Cabling here is littered with splitters, a known cause of delays and dropouts.

When I was a company officer and MIS director, I had ALL responsibilities to develop, broaden and maintain systems, and I think that is essential in any organization.  I don't think anything else can really work without users being shunted from one party to the next.   I could make no excuses.  That arrangement is what makes  quality control WORK.

So we have dropouts.

This time I replaced my modem, only to have problems continue.   I now started to watch logs.   (The ISP should be doing this.)   These showed problems.   I then checked Kiosks to find frequent signal delays and a probable endemic systems problem.

Living earlier in another retirement community, I found similar problems.   I suggested there that maybe they needed fiberoptics, but the management told me that nothing could be done to get it installed.   Period!

Get this...   I went to Verizon myself!!   Surprisingly, their engineer came right out, and we figured out together how to do it without digging up the streets.   Bottom line:  They installed fiberoptics.  Lumberton campus of Medford Leas now has fiberoptics.

To solve problems like this requires: recognition of need, leadership, communication, and coordination, a big order.    Dependency on computers, cell phones, and internet is only going to grow.

For example, Penn Medicine, which took over our local hospital, is working on ways to connect seniors better for services, especially where not offered locally.

I have long been an advocate to keep seniors better connected.   My senior help website gets lots of interest.   Willow  Valley itself has a mission to keep seniors connected as well (separate from other MIS activity), and does a good job of it up the point of tech support, for which it requires users to provide their own..

Without reliable internet this cannot happen.    I see too many seniors frustrated with no place to go when problems occur, and asked to resolve tech problems on their own or with expensive outside help.   Often they just give up.

There are other problems.  Those who use Windows now are newly exposed to serious privacy, security, and functionality problems best resolved by using virtual private network.    But VPNs require reliable connections.

For now, I have indicated some alternatives.   One is DSL or phone company based service.   Another is Comcast, but expensive, and uses our old cable grid. Another is cell access, via hotspot or more recently cell phones directly.    All these are described elsewhere on this site.

I ought to note that in its business system, Willow Valley does not use the slow satellite based system it provides for residents, which has known problems with latency or dropouts.  Still, there is technology to make satellite reliable, including simply providing enough capacity.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Time was when you needed a computer to handle your music needs, using a Rube Goldberg process on a tower.

I remember when it took reels of tape to record a few minutes of music.   Yes!!

The old tech was incredibly duplicative.   It needed to be cut down to size without losing quality.

It was a cumbersome process. You needed to digitize your old music and rip your CDs and store the files somewhere, such as on a unreliable external drive.   

No more.

All it takes is a tablet or even smartphone.

Now, all you need to do is to go to Spotify or Amazon with Prime, and search for what you want. A lot of it will be free or ridiculously cheap.

You can also send music directly into your own safe library in the cloud for access anywhere you are, such as with headset or Bluetooth.Best of all, you can listen in your arm chair as opposed to that bulky, balky, tower.

A new and better Wi-Fi solution

I have commented before on Wi-Fi problems. Wired internet is full of problems before the signal even gets to your Wi-Fi device.

Cell phone internet service eliminates just about all of them. It is just more expensive.

That may change.

Republic Wireless is now making it possible to log on via Wi-Fi to your phone from any device.
No modem, no wires, no router, no satellite, just direct connect through the air.
For $25 a month you get unlimited phoning and one gigabyte of data service.

Republic has a great analysis of what you can do with one gigabyte. For many one gigabyte will service most needs, excluding video however. Another gigabyte can be  added as needed.

Your get a refund for data you don't use, so that you can use the service  when your regular service is not working well.