WiFi Calling

Did you know that you can use WiFi calling to make phone calls with your SmartPhone even when there is no cellular service available?

Like many of us, I have one friend who lives in the mountains where there is really spotty cell coverage, at best. When I arrive, I quickly connect to her WiFi so that I can receive phone calls and text messages from our customers. (Hey, just because I’m having lunch, doesn’t mean your computer will continue to work perfectly.  If you need us, I like to be available!)

Why you should use WiFI Calling:

But even if you don’t have friends with sparse or non-existent cell service, you still want to know about WiFi calling.  We’ve all gone to that coffee shop with lots of brick and metal and maybe one bar of cell service.  Or that place in the shopping center whose entrance faces north, AWAY from all the cell towers. Or, true story, the wind blows down the primary cell tower at your house and it WiFi Calling - setting up on your iphonetakes them three months to put it back up.  Where ever you have WiFi, you can continue to make phone calls.

How do I turn on WiFi Calling?

  • On your iPhone, head over to Settings -> Cellular -> WiFi Calling -> then toggle the button to “on”.
  • On an Android, tap on Settings, then “Networks”, and then “Call”. You can turn on WiFi calling from there.

Anything else I should do?

I wouldn’t recommend updating your Emergency Address unless you ONLY use WiFi at home.

If you found this helpful, please forward it to your friends!

 

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 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 days 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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Why Isn’t My Printer Working?

You printed a document last night and now, this morning, your computer can’t seem to talk to your printer.  What gives?  It’s a common problem which has several possible causes.

Power?

Check to make sure your printer is on.  Is the printer securely plugged into the outlet? Is your house experiencing a power outage? You can try a different outlet too.

Printer Cable Securely connected?

Printer Cables (Source: WikiMedia)

Printer Cables (Source: WikiMedia)

If your printer has a cable connecting it to the computer, is it securely fastened?  Check the connections at both the printer and the computer.

WiFi?

If you have a wireless computer, check to see that your WiFi is working. Does your computer have the WiFi turned on?  Is the signal strong enough? Is the WiFi working on the printer?

Is it Wednesday?

If you have a Windows machine, Microsoft sometimes sends out updates on “Patch Tuesday”, the second Tuesday of every month.  (Microsoft has been talking about discontinuing “Patch Tuesday” for the past year or two, in favor of automatic updates, so this may not be a reliable indicator in the future.) Occasionally, the update will change some of your computer’s settings.  Try reinstalling the printer.  You can also check to make sure you have the proper driver installed for the printer. Even if Microsoft moves from a monthly update to automatic, any update can still mess with your printer settings.

When All Else Fails:

Turn your computer off and back on.  Turn the printer off and back on.  Sometimes that will reset whatever bug was preventing you from printing.

If you still can’t print, it might be time to bring in the services of an independent IT professional.

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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How to Select a Great DSL modem

Two weeks ago our blog was about getting a great cable modem.  Today I’ve asked Chris to enlighten us about DSL modems.

The two major Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the state of Colorado are CenturyLink (previously known as Qwest), and Xfinity (previously known as Comcast).

Photo Credit: Amazon

                          Photo Credit: Amazon

Note that CenturyLink is the only provider of DSL internet service.  Within the past week, I saw a standard DSL modem with “DISHnet” printed on the top of it.  I know for a fact that Dish subcontracts with CenturyLink in the state of Colorado to provide DSL internet service, but you would have to call Dish to have any DSL troubles or questions resolved – because CenturyLink will not have a record of you or your account.  So in general, if you want DSL internet service, you will be best served by going direct and getting this service through CenturyLink.

The easiest way to get a DSL modem that is compatible with CenturyLink DSL is to get a CenturyLink branded DSL modem, for about $100.  The CenturyLink branded DSL modems have an “Auto-Configure” capability built in, which will automatically get the configuration it needs using the Caller-ID from your phone line.

However, contrary to the general advice of CenturyLink, you can use other DSL modems – but there are some “magic values” that will need to be entered into the DSL modem.

The magic DSL values are:

  • DSL VPI: 0
  • DSL VCI: 32
  • Authentication uses PPPoA.
  • You will need to manually enter the Userid and Password, which is gotten from CenturyLink.

The WiFi in the CenturyLink modem is okay, but not great.  There are a few DSL modems that can improve your WiFi service.  Some specific recommendations are:

Want more technical information about DSL?  Read more in this separate article.

One of the common problems with DSL is that the service becomes Oversubscribed.  We love where we live, and in general we wouldn’t change a thing, except if only the internet service wasn’t so slow sometimes.  The best way to solve this lack of available bandwidth problem is:

  • You call the ISP about poor performance,

and

  • You talk with your Town and your County about poor internet performance, and ask them to begin to have conversations with the ISP – because sometimes Politics can be put to good use to incrementally improve aspects of Your life.

Need help getting your new DSL modem to talk to your computer, phones and printers?  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 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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Technical info about DSL service

After Chris described how to choose a good DSL modem, I thought our readers might want some more technical background about DSL.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) “piggy backs” a data signal onto the already existing telephone wire pairs that come to your house.  It’s a way for CenturyLink to add another service or “function” to their already existing infrastructure without retrenching the roads to install new wiring infrastructure – which is a slow and expensive process.

There is a physical distance limitation in the DSL specification which is 18,000 wire feet.

However the wiring “snakes” around from the DSLAM (DSL Access Multiplexer) located at the Telephone Company (Telco) Central Office (CO) to get to your house, the total distance limitation to carry the DSL signal must be less than 18,000 feet of wire.

Telephone wire comes in different “gauges”, which is the physical diameter of the wire; a larger diameter wire has less “resistance” than a smaller diameter wire, and a larger gauge wire allows more signal to travel farther.

Telephone wiring has a “twist” to help reject “hum” and other induced electrical noises. (Noise is bad for DSL.)

There will be “breaks” in the wiring where two or more sections of wire join together.

These “joints” are usually made by crimping two wires together with a “button” like connection; this is fast and efficient for a Lineman to do, but each joint is a possible source of corrosion and signal noise if the joint is not kept in a weather-proof and critter-proof container.

Note:

  • If you see a squarish metal green box in your front yard about 3-10 feet in from the road, about 6 inches on a side and about 2 feet tall, this is a CenturyLink container.
  • If you find it open, please /Do/ call CenturyLink and report this, because this helps everyone in the neighborhood that has Phone and Internet service from CenturyLink.
  • If you don’t call them, they will either think that they have achieved perfection, or will have a mystery problem that they just cannot get a handle on and don’t know where to begin to fix it because they can’t find it.

Each joint in the wiring is an opportunity for electrical “noise” to be introduced.

The farther the distance, the smaller the gauge of wire, and the more “joints” there are in the wire path leading to your house, the less clean signal will reach your equipment.

There are ways for CenturyLink to extend this DSL distance limitation, and this is commonly done using a “Terminal”.  The Terminal can be used as a relay to amplify and repeat the DSL signal to make it go farther.  There will be a limit to how much “bandwidth” can delivered to the Terminal, mainly because there is a limit to the number of cables that have already been run to the Terminal.

Most CenturyLink infrastructure uses copper wire pairs, because they are “The Phone Company”; working with copper wire is what they do, and they do it really well.  Sometimes they will dispatch a “Wire Guy” (aka a Lineman) to your location, to physically inspect the entire wire path from the Telco Central Office to your house; they will try to reduce unneeded wire length by changing the details of the wire path to make it shorter and more efficient; they will also electrically measure the wire path for damage using an expensive piece of equipment called a Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR), which operates on the fact that wiring damage can be measured because it will reflect a signal back before the end of the wire is reached.  They will physically inspect the wiring joints along the way to see that they are tight and free of corrosion, and that the enclosure which contains the joints is reasonably weatherproof.

Read this article about selecting a great DSL modem.

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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Wi-Fi Anywhere

Did you ever try to connect to WiFi and see a Hotspot choice like “Sam’s phone”? The fictional Sam has set his SmartPhone up to “tether” to the cell system so that his phone can send out a WiFi signal.

What is tethering? MobileBurn explains it this way:

“Tethering is the process of using a cell phone or smartphone as a modem for a personal computer of some sort – typically a laptop computer. The term gets its name from how a phone is attached, or tethered, to the computer via a USB cable, but wireless technologies such as Bluetooth can also be used for tethering. Typically the network carrier and the user’s account (contract) have to support tethering before it can be used. Many networks charge an additional fee for users that wish to connect their phones as tethered modems because it typically uses far more data than using the phone normally would.

There’s more information about tethering on Wikipedia.

Chris’ iPhone recently stopped working and he had to get a new one. (Just don’t ask him when the last time was that he backed up his old iPhone and please, please don’t ask him about all the photos on that phone!) He got a new cell phone with Verizon service. We wanted to know how the coverage differed in the Geek For Hire service area. He also had tethering turned on so that he can use his laptop in an area without WiFi. So far we’re pleased – not only with the WiFi tethering, but also with Verizon’s coverage. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be an extra monthly charge for the service, so long as we don’t use more than the 3gig of data we signed up for.

If you do decide to turn on tethering, remember that it will drain the battery of your SmartPhone much faster than just using that same phone for cell service. Think about getting a battery case. (Mophie and LifeProof are two that come to mind.)

Here are some other articles that describe tethering:

If your current SmartPhone allows tethering, you may have to call your carrier (or bring it in to a store) to get the capability turned on.

Do your use tethering? Are you using an app, or do you have your SmartPhone switched on to allow it? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!

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.

What Do I Do With My MF (Multi-Function) PRINTER?!

No matter where I am, when I mention what I do, the questions start flying. Last Sunday, the conversation centered around printers.

The problem with printers these days is they are designed to be a throw-away appliance. The cheaper ones may last for a year or two, but even the more expensive ones can break down, and then it’s more efficient to just get a new one.

Here are some of the common printer problems:

Paper Jam
If you have a paper jam, the first thing to do is to pull out the paper holder. Sometimes the paper is just stuck coming out of the holder. If that doesn’t work, carefully open up your machine and turn all the knobs and wheels that move the paper forward. If you can see where the paper is stuck, carefully give the paper a little tug to see if you can pull it out. If it feels like it might start to tear, stop pulling. Continue moving the knobs and wheels until the entire piece of paper has been removed. In rare cases, the jam is so severe that the paper cannot be removed.  In equally rare cases, the paper may bend some of the metal bars.   In that case, it’s probably time to look for a new printer.

Driver upgrade
Sometimes, with both Mac and Windows machines, your computer will take an upgrade overnight which then requires a new software printer driver for your printer.   Go to your printer’s website – Hewlett Packard, Dell, Brother, etc. – and download the new software. Once you have downloaded and installed the software, your printer should work again.

Wireless printer won’t connect to the wifi
If your computer suddenly can’t find your wireless printer, somehow the printer lost its connection to the Wi-Fi router.  Input your Wi-Fi code into the printer control panel and you should be good to go.

Printer won’t turn on
Sometimes a printer just won’t turn on. Check all of the connections. Is it plugged into the wall? Is the cord firmly pushed into the back of the printer?  You might need to try a hardware reset of the printer back to its default settings.  If it still won’t turn on, remove the power cord and let it rest for a little while or over night. If it still won’t turn on, it’s time to get a new printer.

New Printer?
What do you look for in a new printer? There are several options, which depend on your preferences and requirements:

  • Ink Jet vs. Laser
  • Black vs. 4-color
  • Printer only vs. Multi-Function (Copy, Print, Scan, Fax)

I really only have strong opinions about the first option. Get a laser printer. Yes, they are a little more expensive to purchase, but they cost less to operate in the long run. In addition, the ink in a laser printer doesn’t dry out. If you only use your printer occasionally, the ink in an ink jet printer will dry out (because it is water-based) and you’ll need to purchase ink much more frequently.

Of course, we can help you with  your printer issues.  Give us a call and give me a run-down of the symptoms.  If it can be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, I’ll let you know.  If not, I’ll let you know that too.

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.

The Geek That Calls You Back – and Other True Stories

We get calls all the time from people who say “I’ve had this problem for a week, but my regular geek isn’t getting back to me.”  When people say that, it always makes me wonder.  How can you expect your customers to treat you with respect when you have a sub-standard level of professionalism?  We provide a professional service and treat our customers how we want to be treated.

The geek that lets you shoulder surf:  Chris likes for our customers to know more after their service than they did before. Ask questions! Chris will answer them, but more than that…

The geek that treats you like an intelligent human:  We’ve all seen that show where the geek comes to fix your computer and makes fun of you because you don’t know the difference between a RAM and a gig. Chris knows that you’re an intelligent person who has skills in areas other than fixing computers. He treats you with respect and kindness.

The geek that’s not on commission:  When you bring your computer to a “big box store” for repair, everyone you talk to is probably earning a commission. It’s in their best interests to tell you that your computer can’t be repaired, or that you’d be better off with this new computer on the shelf over there.

The geek that comes to your home:  Have you had a problem with your computer and you pack it up and bring it in to the store, but the problem magically disappears? Then comes back when you get it back home? Even laptops, which are supposed to “work everywhere”, will have issues only in one place. When we come to your home, all the problems that were there yesterday, won’t mysteriously disappear just because we walk through the door!

The geek with 30+ years of experience:  Yup, you read that number correctly. It makes me laugh when I see an IT company with two geeks that proclaim “OVER 15 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE!!” (Each geek has worked with computers for 7 or 8 years.)  Chris has been working with computers since high school.  He has kept up-to-date with changes over the years. Today, he’s just as comfortable with a MacPro or a Surface as he is with the old PDP-11.

The geek that’s been around for over 15 years:  We intend to be around for a lot more. That means consistent service for you from someone who knows you and knows how you work. There’s a trust there that’s built over the years.  We watch your kids grow up. There’s an honor about being let into our customer’s lives. We grieve with you when your house gets flooded or is in the middle of a wildfire. We celebrate with you when you get a new puppy, or your kids graduate from high school.

And, we know computers, and we’ll call you back.

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.