Go Wireless With a Router

Linksys 802.11ac router

Many of you already have a router for your home or office network. And some of you use your router for wireless connectivity with the Internet, and of course many of you do both. Routers can be a mystery to many people so I’ve tried to bring down the cobwebs of this device so it can be seen more clearly.

Before routers entered the home arena, they primarily were the backbone of network interconnectivity throughout the Internet. In order for a message to get sent from one location, perhaps on the east coast, to another location 3000 miles away on the west coast, that message would have to travel through several routers. Routers are the interface between networks. It is the traffic cop that “knows” which is the best network to route that message to as our message continues its 3000 mile trek toward its destination. And this process continues until the message finds its destination. Using that technology has been very beneficial for the home user, whether the need is for a personal home network or an office network, at a cost that most people can afford.

Perhaps one of the best investments you can make is purchasing a router, sometimes they’re also called a WAP (wireless access point). For around $80 you can buy a decent router and it will definitely add capabilities to your PC and smartphone that you did not possess before. The latest wireless standard is 802.11ac, which is about three times faster than the previous standard, 802.11n. 802.11ac is backwards compatible, meaning it can be used for older PCs that do not have the 802.11ac yet. If you need to purchase a router, you can buy the 802.11ac one, but it will cost more money. You actually would do fine getting a 802.11n version since benefiting from this speed increase will only occur if your PC also has a network card at the 802.11ac standard. More new PCs have it, but only a small number of PCs industry-wide actually have it installed.

Routers are multi-functional. They can be used for:

  • Home/office network
  • Wireless connectivity for your home/office PC
  • Wireless connectivity for your smartphone

As far as which companies make the best routers, that is really a judgement call, but some of the more popular routers are made Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, and Belkin.

Home/Office Network

One of the big advantages of having a router is being able to connect multiple PCs together, whether they are desktops or laptops. And if one of your PCs is a laptop, you can have it wirelessly connected to the Internet and surf the Web from anywhere in your home or office. Routers add a strong convenience factor and flexibility to your computing environment. You can have your home or office network wired together with Cat-5 cabling and/or you can set it up for wireless connectivity. This is great for sharing files between the PCs on your network or if you have a printer, you can have each PC share that networked printer.

To wire your network, you’ll need a few Cat-5 cables that you should be able to purchase where you purchased the router. Plug one end of a Cat-5 cable to your cable modem and the other end of that cable  into the router jack labled, “Internet”, located on the back of the router. The various PCs you will have on the network plug into one of the Ethernet jacks labled on the back of the router as well. When you first configure the router, you’ll plug it into one of these Ethernet jacks. Each router has an interface program which has all of the options/choices for operation, and many also have a quick start guide which will allow you to leave several of the options at their preset default values, so you’ll really only need to select a few choices to get it up and running in just a few minutes.

Wireless PC Connectivity

Let’s look at it first in terms of using it for wireless usage. Many of you know that you can use a public wireless (WiFi) hot spot (Starbuck’s or any Internet Café) to connect your laptop to the Internet. If you desire to connect to the Internet using wireless connectivity while you’re at home, purchasing a router is the way to go. Once you have your router set up for wireless operation, it is simply a matter of selecting your router amongst the list of routers you will see listed, and connecting to it.

Wireless Smartphone Connectivity

Not only can you use it for a wireless connection to the Internet for your PC, you can also use it as a wireless connection for your smartphone. Many people like this feature if they live in an area where there isn’t any cell phone tower coverage. On your phone you simply go into the settings menu and configure the phone for wireless operation. On a voice call, the wireless  part of the call if from your phone to your router. Since the router is wired to your cable modem, the voice call continues from the router to the cable modem and out through your cable line onto the Internet. It’s simple to do and just about all phones now have wireless capability. Most phones with wireless capability will also keep track of how many wireless minutes you have used as well. And if you’re consuming a lot of voice minutes through your cell phone carrier’s cellular network, by using the router to go wireless, you just might lower enough of your voice call minutes to drop down to a lower priced carrier plan, thus saving you money.

Avoid Router hijacking-Use Password Protection

You could be a victim of neighborhood bandwidth hijacking. It is quite common for nearby users in one’s neighborhood to tap into your router’s signal and connect to the Internet using your router’s bandwidth. Other people using your router not only causes your wireless performance to suffer, you are in essence giving them free Internet access. The way to combat this is to put password protection on your router. You can set up the password protection by going into the router settings as well as choosing the best type of encryption method.

Wireless Encryption

Data encryption discussed here is for the wireless portion of the data path. Once the data enters a wired path, the data is decrypted before traveling further. There are two methods for encrypting your data; WPA and WEP. WPA is a much stronger encryption method and thus much more secure. You would be better off selecting WPA as your encryption choice since the encryption key is changing regularly versus WEP, where the encryption key never changes, and is much easier to hack.

Improve your performance by experimenting

Play around with the router’s external antenna, if it has one. Move the antenna to various angles (45 degrees, 90 degrees, etc)and observe what it does to your performance. Some performance improvements as high as 20 percent are possible by these adjustments.

Relocate your router to various locations in the house, if possible. If you have more than one location for the cable outlet, that will make it easy. You can also get a splitter and split the cable into a Y configuration and run additional cabling to various locations throughout the house. If you have several PCs throughout the house, try to visualize a location that is central to all of them and establish that is the router location. That is much better than having all of your PCs on one floor and having the router down in the basement. Distance and obstructions can affect the signal.

Get Firmware Upgrades for Better Performance

If you purchased your own router for your Internet usage, check the router manufacturer web site for firmware updates since these updates often results in performance improvements. Check if one is available for your model by locating the model# printed on the underside of the unit. Enter the model# and see if there are any upgrades to the firmware. If there are, download and install the upgrade and you will more than likely experience some performance improvement. If your cable (high-speed broadband) provider is also providing a router for your usage, contact them and see if a firmware upgrade is available. Sometimes, rather than issue a firmware upgrade, your cable provider may simply swap your unit with a newer version, which often results in a performance increase.

Buying a router is one of the best investments you’ll make for your home computing environment. Compared to the various advantages, the cost is minimal and once it’s set up and running, you’ll be very glad you did. If you’ll be using it with several PCs and various users, purchase the most expensive router you can since the more expensive ones usually handle the additional bandwidth drain better than low-end routers. If you have an older PC that does not have a wireless network adapter card, you can usually find them at the same stores that sell routers. Many of the newer ones are very small and easy to install: just plug it into a USB slot on your PC. Once you begin experiencing wireless operation and the flexibility of using your laptop in any location of your household, you’ll wonder how you did without it for all these years!

Ways to Sell Your Smartphone

ScreenHunter_55 Sep. 29 10.00

It’s been quite a year with a lot of new smartphones hitting the market. With that comes the temptation to upgrade to a new phone. Many of you would be more apt to sell your old phone if you knew the good price you can get for selling it.

There is more than one way to sell your smartphone.  They include:

  • selling it yourself on Ebay or Craigslist. 
  • buyback services, such as Gazelle and Glyde. They will offer you a price based on the condition of the phone. You will be paid with cash.
  • buyback services through BestBuy, Amazon, and Apple. They will also give you a trade-in based on the condition of the phone. These services only pay with credits for other purchases through their brick-and-mortar store or an online store.

As mentioned above, the reimbursement method for your phone varies. Let's look at the credits method of reimbursement first.

Amazon

Amazon has among its many programs an electronics buyback program where you can sell just about anything that is considered consumer electronics. Included in that category are cell phones. Go to the Amazon.com website and select the open the Shop by Department menu, then Electronics & Computers, and then select Trade in Electronics. You can do a search for your phone and and based on its condition you’ll get an estimate for your cell phone. Your phone has to be in good working order and must meet one of the following conditions to be acceptable:

  • Like New; the phone is in perfect working order, has all accessories and packaging
  • Good; the phone has some visible wear, some light scratches on the body, has its battery, charger, and USB cable
  • Acceptable; the phone works but shows more visible abuse, and it may be missing accessories such as its charger or USB cable

You do not receive cash from Amazon but will get credit awarded to you in the form of an Amazon Gift Card.

BestBuy

BestBuy is similar to Amazon in that you select your phone among the choices available and then receive credit toward a purchase at a BestBuy store. Go to BestBuyTradein.com. Then locate the “Find Your Trade in Value” and below that you’ll see the electronic categories, including Mobile – Cell Phones, which you want to select. That will take you to a list of phones from which you locate your phone which is also listed by carrier. Based on the phone’s condition you will be given an estimate of your phone according to your response to a series of questions.

Apple

Visit store.apple.com/us and you’ll be taken to a website where you’ll select Shop iPhone. Based on your responses to a short questionaire, Apple will give you an estimate on how much your iPhone is worth. Notice I used the word iPhone. That is the only model Apple will accept. Like Amazon and BestBuy, Apple will give you credit which you can spend at an Apple online store.

Gazelle

Gazelle is a buyback service dealing with electronic items, including phones. Unlike a few of the others mentioned above, you actually get cash for the buyback instead of credit being awarded to you. Some of the buybacks have good prices. For example, involving the HTC One smartphone on a buyback with the phone considered in “Good Condition” meaning that it is good working order and only has average wear and tear on it from normal usage, and using Sprint as my carrier, I would get a $170.00 buyback. Gazelle does not offer buybacks for all phones, only selected manufacturers and models. For example, they only consider smartphones made by Apple, HTC, Samsung, Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, and LG and only certain models are accepted. The buyback price also depends on your carrier as well.

Glyde

As the seller you would list your phone on the Glyde marketplace with its price. Once a buyer has chose to purchase your phone they will send the purchase amount to Glyde. Glyde meanwhile sends you a prepaid shipping kit for the phone. Glyde retains the money until you have shipped the phone and it safely arrives at the buyers location. Once received by the buyer, and after a two day evaluation period in which the buyer has the the right to cancel if not satisfied with the phone, the money is then released to you from the Glyde account minus a transaction fee. The fee is 2% on the first $100 of the item's sale price and 8% on the rest. You are also assessed a shipping kit fee of $1.00 to $3.50 depending on the phone. The shipments are made through the U.S. Postal Service and are shipped Priority or First Class, depending on the weight and distance involved.

Selling the Phone Yourself (Ebay / Craigslist)

When you’re selling the phone yourself, the risk for getting burned or burning someone else is greater although if you adhere to a few basic precautions you can get through the process with a good deal for both parties involved. Selling your phone this way often brings the seller a better price, and fees such as one might pay with a buybark service are minimal or none. Any kind of financial transaction harm can be minimized by using a pay service such as PayPal or PayQuicker. Both are free services and enable each party involved to conduct the transaction safely and with minimal risk. Ebay has their own buyer protection service, which gives the buyer some recourse on a dishonest seller, so there are many buyers out there willing to purchase your phone safely and confidently.

Edge, Next, One Up, Jump Carrier Service Plans

Earlier this month I wrote about using the new service plans available from the four major cellular carriers. They are Verizon-Edge, AT&T-Next, Sprint-One Up, and T-Mobile-Jump. Keep in mind that if you decide to go with one of these plans, you must turn the phone back in after the term expires, thus circumventing your option to sell your phone.

The bottom line is shop around like you would for anything else. Any of the ways to sell your phone listed above would be excellent choices, but it doesn't hurt to look around too. Remember, it literally pays to take good care of your phone and accessories when you try to resell them.

HTC One Smartphone Review

HTC ONE

The Taiwan giant HTC has hit a home run with it's One smartphone. In the looks department, it outweighs many of its competitors, with its metal frame and awesome looking display. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer looking phone. However, the HTC One lacks perfection, as all smartphones do, and if we look at it carefully, we'll see a few larger than normal blemishes. Let's begin this smartphone review by looking at its basic features first.

Hardware

The phone checks in at just over 5 ounces, making it one of the heavier smartphone superstars. It's .37 inches thick, 2.7 inches wide, and 5.4 inches in height, so it's certainly not small.  You immediately notice that there are 2 grills on the front which equates to two speakers habitating this phone. The sound has good separation, using a feature called BoomSound, with built in amplifiers. The capacitive touch display, at 1920 x1080 resolution, is made of Gorilla Glass, which is very durable and its display has excellent quality. It's a pleasure to watch.  Populating the top edge include various sensors for light and proximity, as well as a notification LED.  The power button is near the top as well, which also doubles as an infrared sensor for remote control operation of your TV. There are 2 touch buttons beneath the screen, Home and Back.  The OS version with this phone is Android 4.2.2.

On the back side there are gyro and accelerometer sensors, with 4G/LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, A-GPS, DNLA and WiFi-N/ac (dual band).  The brains include a Qualcomm quad-core 1.6 GHz Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM.  There are both 32GB and 64GB memory versions available. The battery (2300 mAh) lasted 9 hours and 37 minutes when subjected to a video battery drain benchmark.

Sense User Interface / BlinkFeed

I'm not sure why smartphone manufacturers install their own interactive interface over the generic Android one. Perhaps they want to leave their brand "signature." This phone definitely continues this trend.  The HTC user interface, Sense, has been upgraded and users that have HTC phones understand how intrusive the interface can be. They will be glad knowing that it's not as bad with this phone. The home screen, BlinkFeed, establishes itself as the first thing you see, as its tiled look quickly reminds you of an RSS feed. Okay, this can be quite fine if you like that as your home screen, but it becomes an annoyance when you realize it can't be disabled, one of the HTC quirks.

Cameras

The front camera is mounted up at the top next to the sensors, and is 2.1 megapixel, at 1080p. The rear camera is a 4 megapixel lens with 2688 x 1520 pixel resolution including an autofocus.  Other camera features include a picture capture during video recording, image stabilization, touch focus, and face detection.  Recording video is at 1080p with stereo audio. The camera takes pictures with acceptable color and detail, but when you zoom in, the quality fades.  The HTC Zoe feature, when enabled, provides a selection of various images taken (up to 20), and produces a short video using the shutter. When in the video mode, you get acceptable quality and the focusing is better. 

Benchmark Speed Test

Benchmark speed test results show the Snapdragon/Adreno chipset in the One decidedly beats 2 other phones: the Tegra 3 found in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the previous HTC One X. This is one area where the HTC One shines, and shines brightly. It is the fastest smartphone that has been tested. You will not experience much delay in anything you do with this phone. Now, the downside to the speed is that the phone does get warm. In fact it gets very warm and the metal case certainly does not help this effect. This usually occurs when the phone is really being put through its paces.

4G LTE Connectivity

The phone tested on a Sprint network was dismal. Average download speed was 0.45Mbps and upload speed at 0.46Mbps.  An AT&T network was also used with much better results. Downloads on LTE were at an average 24.6Mbps while uploads peaked at a very respectable 12.6Mbps. It should be noted that in a number 0f places in the U.S. Sprint has yet to replace their existing network with 4G LTE and this was the case with this particular test.

Standard Features Missing

There are 2 major features missing that some users may feel as untouchable, as most users are used to seeing these features in a smartphone. One is that you cannot open the body. Consequently, you cannot remove the battery nor are you supposed to. The other quirk is that there is no SD card slot, thus no allowance for expansion.

Overall, the HTC One is an excellent phone and should be a consideration if you're ready for a phone replacement. It's easy to operate, has a great display,  the two-speaker sound is outstanding, as well as superior speed performance. If you can handle the 2 missing features mentioned above, this phone will provide for your needs very well and then some. Keep this phone at the top of your shopping list.

 

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone Review

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4

The famous Korean smartphone producer, Samsung, has done it again in good style with their Galaxy S4 offering. This smartphone, in traditional Samsung style, is loaded with features and the pro's far outweigh the con's, making this one of the top picks of the year. With a full HD display, an improved processor, and some additional sensors distinguishing it from the S3, let's take a closer look at what makes this phone such a rockstar.

Big and Improved Display

Just when you thought the 4.8 inch screen of the Galaxy S3 couldn't get any bigger, you will be excited to know Samsung has outdone that with a 5-inch screen size, and the phone uses the display real-estate well, with full HD resolution. Inside of this 4.6 ounce beauty, you've got a number of good things going on.

Hardware Improved

Joining it's 2GB of memory, the processor has been improved with a faster 1900MHZ Quad-core, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T system chip, and it takes the phone through its paces nicely. There is a place for a microSD chip, which is great for multimedia add-ons, but not good for apps. You must install apps into regular memory.  While we're on that subject, even a 16GB memory version only has half of that amount available due to preinstalled apps that you cannot delete. They are on the phone for the long haul, although if you're going to be stuck with something, it might as well be these since you can't find them anywhere else. You get the Android Jellybean OS 4.2.2 version with it, and it does traffic directing very nicely. USB 2.0 is via a microUSB port, for charging and data. Battery life ends at around 17 hours.

The 32 and 64GB variants come with an octacore design, which is actually two quad-core processors (1.6 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 and 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7). The battery life ends at 10-hours, substantially less time than the quad-core version.

Features

  • The rear camera has changed considerably, increasing from 8 to 13 megapixels. You'll need to use the 4:3 aspect ratio if you want to take 1080p videos and the microSD chip certainly allows for the additional memory needed.  The front-facing camera checks-in with two megapixels. You can use the camera in a number of other modes as well:  auto mode, night, action/sports, panorama, and eraser,which takes several sequential shots and can erase a moving background object.
  • Searching and mapping do very well with the S4, and if you travel overseas frequently, you'll find you can store all of your locations easily.
  • The Smart-stay technology, which senses if your eyes are watching the screen, has been improved on the S4. Combined with Smart Scroll,  the screen can scroll by moving your head or tilting the screen. Users who are commonly doing other things with their hands while talking will love this feature. 
  • Air Gesture is a great feature that is engaged by waving your hand in front of the screen to answer a call, as well as change music tracks, and move from photo to photo.
  • WatchOn is a nice feature that turns the phone into a multi-purpose remote control, although from time to time it does get lost, and the setting numbers have to be reentered.
  • LTE works well, and although this mode wasn't what you would consider consistent, slipping down to 4g at times, it worked well while in LTE. Going wireless is strengthened by using a dual-channel configuration.
  • Sensors are plentiful. Besides the temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors, there are ambient light and proximity sensors, with a infrared sensor used for the remote function, rounding out the list. The sensors have colored indicator lights that illuminate when in use.

As mentioned above, since the 16GB version only has a little over 8GB of usable memory, you might want to consider a higher-capacity version such as 32/64GB. The Galaxy S4 has a lot of great things going for it that more than compensate for its weaknesses. This is definitely one phone you need to consider when renewal time rolls around for you.