Online Learning and the Technology in your Home.

A few weeks ago a customer called Chris and asked him how his kids would be able to get any schoolwork done given the school districts movement towards Online Learning.  As a single parent who works in an office, he’ll have to bring his children to work. The problem with that is they won’t be able to access the corporate network to connect to the internet. Chris recommended that he get a stand alone Hot Spot from his cellular company and bring that with him to work.

Another customer called last week. He was concerned his grand-kids would have to scrounge for computer time on their mom & dad’s computers to do their school work.  He decided to order a new computer for the older grandchild and re-purpose an existing machine for the younger one. This way they’ll both be able to log into their classes individually.

Online Learning at Home

Since Boulder County has decided on 100% at home learning because of the coronavirus, many parents are struggling with how they can best provide the technology resources their children will need. (In addition to all the other issues they’re dealing with!) Many other school districts all over the US are making the same decision. Parents throughout the country will have similar struggles.

Here are some of our Online Learning Recommendations for Families:

  1. Find out if your cell phone has hot spot capability. If it doesn’t, call your cellular carrier and get it turned on. (After asking about additional costs, of course.) That way if tHot spot for Online Learninghe WiFi in your house goes out, you (or your children) can still have access to WiFi via your cell phone. (You’re generally only allowed to connect one other device to your phone via its hot spot.)
  2. Consider getting a cell phone or separate hot spot from another carrier. That way if your carrier is down, you can still get online. With an independent hot spot, you can connect multiple devices.
  3. Is the WiFi adequate in the area where you’ve set up the desk for your kid to do school work and get online? Consider moving your router for better coverage, or getting a mesh router for greater coverage. Here’s a recent article about fixing your slow WiFi, or this one – Why Doesn’t My WiFi Work?
  4. Keep your laptops plugged in as much as you can. If there’s a power outage, you’ll be glad for those extra hours of “juice”.
  5. You might also consider an Uninterruptible Power Supply. It’s essentially a spare battery that gives you an additional half hour or so of power. If you plug your router and modem directly into the UPS, you’ll have some extra WiFi time, and it’ll give you time to get stuff saved on your desktop.

How can Geek For Hire help you?

  • If you’ve decided to upgrade your Router or will be adding a  new Mesh Router, let us know if you need help setting it up. Definitely call for help if you want to add separate bands for you and other users.
  • Gail was able to connect her new Verizon Jetpack Hotspot to her phone and tablet without help from Chris. She thought it was relatively straightforward. Connecting to her laptop was another story! Let us know if you need help with that.
  • Let us know if you’re thinking of getting a new machine. Chris routinely gets 35-50% discounts with Dell, and they’ve got some that are appropriate for your children. (Or get a new one for you and give the kids your hand-me-downs.)

Good luck this semester! In case you’re interested, here’s a link to our Covid19 Policy.

Watch Out For Scams:

  • Remember to stay well clear of shortened links unless you know without a doubt where that link will take you. That includes most bit.ly and owl.ly links. Here’s a recent article about short links.
  • Right now there are a lot of scams out there. Read our article about Covid19 scams.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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How Do I Fix My Slow WiFi (Internet speed)?

I keep having friends ask me what they can do about their internet speed. “How do I fix my slow WiFi?” they ask, or “I’m starting a new job, and I’ll be working from home. How do I know if my internet will be sufficient?” or fill in the blank with your own questions!

First, to fix your slow WiFi, what is your actual internet speed?

Head over to SpeedTest and run some tests.

Distance from Router Date & Time Download Speed
Computer with WiFi
Computer plugged into the modem
Phone with WiFi Next to Router
Tablet or Phone with WiFi Away from Router
Phone with cell signal

Does Your Internet Speed match what you expect?

If you have slow WiFi sometimes, but the speed is fine at other times, check with other members of your family. Is someone downloading a big file? That can skew your results.internet speed

Do you know what speed you are paying for? Look at your internet bill or call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to find out.  While you are on the phone with them, also ask what the maximum speed that is available for you and what the additional cost would be to upgrade.

For example, the maximum that our ISP can provide us at our location is 12 Mbps. If your computer is connected directly to the router, you should receive the speed you are paying for. Using WiFi, the speed will be degraded somewhat. For me, using WiFi, both my computer and phone averages between 9 and 11 Mbps.

Of course, you always want it to be blazing fast, but a small decrease in measurable service of 10% or so is acceptable.

If your speed is well below 15% of the rate you are paying for, do the test numerous times. Keep track and write down your results, time of day, distance from the router, etc. If it persists, call your ISP, report your results, and ask them to get it fixed.

Remember that with more people working from home and with kids learning at home, overall connection speeds are down. Try to negotiate for a discount if your ISP can’t provide the service speed they promised last year.

What Your Results Mean:

If your WiFi speed is adequate next to the router, but not so good as you move away from it, you may need to get a new router with a wider range.  For a larger home, consider a mesh router. Keep in mind that brick, stone, and metal are not good conduits for the WiFi signal.

If your WiFi speed is bad, regardless of where you are in your house, you’ll need to call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for help.

If your internet speed is terrible while connected directly to your modem, it’s definitely your ISP.

You can also check Downdetector to see if your ISP has run into more widespread service issues.

What to do:slow wifi is frustrating - here are some suggestions to fix it

Technology has changed a lot in the past few years, so if your router is more than 4 or 5 years old, it’s probably time to get a new one.  If you’ve determined with the activities above that the problem is with your router, it is definitely time to get a new one. (Here’s a link to Chris’ recommended routers and modems.)

If you’ve determined that it is a problem with your ISP, get them on the phone. And if the data shows that your router is fine, don’t let them blame your slow WiFi on the router! (Yes, they will try that.)

If you have an off-brand modem, your ISP will also blame any problems on that as well. Chris recommends getting the router that your ISP will sell to you. For example, our ISP is CenturyLink, and we purchased our modem from CenturyLink. This gives them one less thing to blame your WiFi speeds on.

When you call your ISP, give them the data you’ve collected. Let them know how long the problem has been going on. And be prepared to wait on hold for a while. If they do need to send someone out, be prepared to wait a week or more for your appointment.

Other Hints for slow WiFi:

Watch Out For Scams:

  • Remember to stay clear of shortened links unless you know without a doubt where that link will take you. That includes most bit.ly and owl.ly links. Here’s a recent article about short links.
  • Right now there are a lot of scams out there. Read our article about Covid19 scams.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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My Power Went Out!

It’s winter here in Colorado and that means blown down or frozen power lines.  The power goes out at our home about once every four to six weeks in the winter and we’ve learned what to do to keep our equipment safe.

Power Lines Down | Source: WikiMedia
Power Lines Down Source: WikiMedia

It’s really simple:

When the power first starts to flicker – the lights turn off for a half second or the smoke detector beeps – we go around the house and unplug everything from the wall.  This includes the computers, printer, TV, stereo, entertainment system, everything that would be expensive or inconvenient to replace.

What about a Surge Protector?

Surge protectors are okay, because you are not always at home when the power goes out and they do provide a small amount of protection.  Just know that they are not always able to provide 100% protection to all of your equipment.

Don’t forget your Router:

Remember to unplug your router as well.  Many times, we’ve been called to a client after a power outage and they’re no longer able to get their internet service.  Sometimes the power surge will “fry” the router and there’s nothing to be done but to get a new one.

If your power had been out and you need help adjusting your settings for your printer or router, just let us know!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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My WiFi Isn’t Working!

It sure is frustrating when your WiFi isn’t working.  We rely on it to get work done and keep in touch via email.  Facebook and Instagram, of course, rely on a good solid connection to the internet too.

If the WiFi itself isn’t really broken, then there are a couple of quick things you can do to get it working again.

My WiFi isn't working!
My WiFi isn’t working!

Airplane Mode?

First, is your device in Airplane mode or has the WiFi been turned off? On some laptops there is a simple switch (usually in the front) that is easy to accidentally turn off.  On other machines you’ll need to hold the function key and “radio” key down at the same time to toggle it on or off.

Forget the connection

Tell your device to “forget” the connection, then reconnect and reenter your WiFi password.

Router

If you have access to the router, turn it off, wait 10 seconds, then turn it back on again. Then, relog into the wifi on your computer or other device.

Call Your ISP

If you’re still not having any luck, call your Internet Service Provider (CenturyLink, Comcast, Xfinity, Rise Broadband, etc.).  Let them know that your WiFi isn’t working.  They should be able to tell you if it is something they can fix, or if you need to call in outside help.

You’ve followed these steps, but still your WiFi isn’t working?  Give us a call!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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DDoS? And Why YOU May be to Blame

Last week, many websites and apps were severely compromised, especially on the East Coast. Apps like Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, AirBnB, and Netflix slowed to a crawl or were shut down altogether.  A DDoS attack was launched against Dyn, a New Hampshire company that provides DNS routing.

Level3 Outage map on 24Oct16 Screen Shot by Geek For Hire, Inc.
Level3 Outage map on 24Oct16
Screen Shot by Geek For Hire, Inc.

What did you just say?

  • DDoS = A “Distributed Denial of Service” occurs when hundreds of thousands of messages are sent to specific internet addresses with the intent to overload that service and shut it down. (In this case, the intent was to take down Dyn in order to affect many websites and not just one.)
  • DNS = The Internet’s Domain Name System translates the URL’s we enter, like www.google.com, into “the numerical IP addresses needed for the purpose of locating and identifying computer services and devices.” (From wikipedia)

In the past, most DDoS attacks were focused on a particular website.  Last Friday, the attack was focused on a company which the NY Times calls “one of the Internet’s giant switchboards”, which had a devastating impact.

So, how is this MY fault?

Do you have a surveillance camera on your front door? A wireless printer? A “smart” refrigerator”? All of these are connected to the internet with their own numerical IP address.  The “bad guys” can run through a list of IP address to see which addresses can easily be compromised.  Once they’ve identified these devices, they can use them to add to their arsenal to send the messages that create the attack.

I still don’t get it.  How is this MY fault?

Do you use a password on all of your internet connected devices? Is it secure? A password of “admin”, “123456”, or “password” is NOT secure!  Have you ever been out looking for free WiFi, and something like “HP-M475-5E3F78” was presented as an available WiFi that you could connect to?  That is what happens when someone does not put a password on their printer.  There are literally millions of WiFi connected devices in the US.  How many of those are vulnerable to participating in these types of attacks?

Please make it a point to use a secure password on all of your internet connected devices.  Change it today!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Tips To Getting a Great Cable Modem

We’ve had several customers ask us how to find a good Cable Modem, so I asked Chris to enlighten us:

Here in the sunny state of Colorado, the two major Internet Service Providers are Xfinity (aka: Comcast) and CenturyLink (previously known as Qwest). Xfinity provides cable service, while CenturyLink provides DSL.  This article will focus on Xfinity Internet and cable modems.

I’ve found them to both be reasonably reliable service, and am comfortable recommending either one of them for service.  (I have occasionally had a bad phone experience with Customer Service from either company, and my personal favorite method for dealing with this is to reassess the progress of the call at the 2-3 minute mark, thank them for their time (yes, do it), then hangup – and call back about 30 seconds later. Because you will probably get someone different who is in a completely different mood or skill level, and find your call will then go swimmingly.)

We currently have CenturyLink DSL service at 12Mbps (Mega bits per second).  This is the fastest plan that CenturyLink tends to offer.  I have seen CenturyLink provide 25Mbps once or twice, and in the past year have seen two customers who have actually received the new Gigabit internet service (one was in a new neighborhood in Commerce City, and the other was in a new neighborhood near Stapleton).

Note that there is another recently new Internet service called NextLight in Longmont which is Super Fast!  They provide Fiber To The House.  They are currently deployed in South Longmont, South and East of Oscar Blues.  We have several customers in this area, and I have measured speeds between 250 and 800Mbps there.

Longmont's Nextlight Service
               Longmont’s Nextlight Service

In general, Xfinity (Comcast) tends to provide The Fastest internet service in the state of Colorado.  I will routinely measure 50Mbps at customer locations, and am seeing an increasing number of customers with 100+ Mbps service.  This is good.

Xfinity Cable Modems

The newer cable modems offered by Xfinity have generally good WiFi service built in to them.  It’s as if Xfinity has finally gotten the concept that their customers do tend to have many tablets and notebook computers that are being simultaneously used at their home, they are surfing the internet and using Facebook and streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon, and a better built in WiFi card and better antennas tends to make the general customer experience a good one.

The new cable modems are mostly black plastic, stands about 12″ tall and about 2″ wide, and have 5-6 vertical white lights on them which are about .5″ in diameter each.

All new Xfinity cable modems will come with 2.4Ghz WiFi.

But try to get the new cable modem which also has the 5Ghz WiFi built in to it.

WiFi comes in two frequencies, 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz.  2.4Ghz WiFi has been around a long time, and that band can be crowded.  If you live in an apartment or condominium, or other high density area, you will find that everyone and their mother has a 2.4Ghz WiFi router.  However, the 5Ghz band is relatively new and unused – and therefore quiet.  So if you’re having trouble connecting to your WiFi router, see if you can connect using the 5Ghz band, because that band tends to be much less congested.  Note that not all WiFi enabled devices are 5Ghz capable, such as some printers which are more than a couple of years old.

About 2 years or so ago, Xfinity began to offer their “new at the time” 105Mbps service, which was a nice improvement over their 50Mbps service.  Getting the faster service required that the customer get a new cable modem, because it had the newer technology to make use of the faster service.

There used to be an orange band across the back of the new Xfinity cable modems which said “105+” on it, which differentiated them from the “old style” cable modems.  I haven’t been seeing this recently on the back of the new Xfinity cable modems, yet they still do provide a fast download speed of 100+ Mbps.

Here are two modems which Comcast has approved and Chris recommends:

and,

If you are replacing your Xfinity cable modem with another one, make sure you get a “DOCSIS 3.0” compatible cable modem.  Otherwise Comcast will nag you to death with pop-up messages.  Read more in this article.

Let us know if you need help setting up your new modem, or if your printer or computer can’t “find” the new Internet signal.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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