Google+ July 2012 ~ High Tech House Calls

Do Dogs Really Miss Us?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shopping For A New Wireless Router? Here Are Some Things to Consider:

  • There is more than one standard for wireless networks. From best to worst they are "N", "G" and "B". 
  • Make a list of all the devices in your household or business that you want to connect to the wireless network. 
  • Go back through that list and determine what type of wireless network they can connect to. Based on the age of the device, they may be able to connect to one or more of the standards. Google your device specifications to see which network standard it supports.
  • If all your devices support the "N" standard, buy the best wireless router you can afford that supports that standard.
  • If you have a mix of network standard needs, buying a dual channel wireless router might make sense because it will broadcast an "N" and a "G/B" network.
When will it be necessary to buy two wireless routers?
  • If you buy a dual channel wireless router and setup an "N" and a "G/B" network, the "N" network may be incompatible with Apple iPhones and many Android Operating System Tablets such as the Amazon Kindle and Nook Tablet.
  •  One way to solve this incompatibility would be to buy two routers. Neither router should be dual channeled. One router would be configured for a "N" network and the other router would support the "G/B" network.
What is the downside if my device cannot connect to a dual channeled "N" network?
  • Most devices that support a "N" network will also support  a "G" network. The "G" network is less robust than the "N" in both speed and area coverage, but should be fine for your needs unless you download large amounts of data or stream large amounts of video or music.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Is Your Child's School Transitioning to Apple Laptops?

Some schools are utilizing Apple laptops to enhance the learning experience?

Here are some things you may need to know regarding your student's use of the laptop:

  • More than likely, your student will not be able to install software or apply patches because the school has restricted the use of the laptop. This means you may not be able to install the software to use a printer.
  • When something goes wrong with the laptop, the school will normally erase the entire contents of the hard drive and load a new copy of the laptop software. If you don't backup your personal files, those files will be gone.
  • Don't load your entire iTunes library onto the laptop. The chances of filling the hard drive to capacity are high. When you ask the school to fix the problems with the laptop associated with a full hard drive (such as crashing, or not booting) the universal fix of erasing the hard drive and loading a new copy of the laptop software will be applied, wiping out your iTunes library.
  • The laptop should be able to connect to your existing wireless network with no problem. Once the wireless network is detected by the laptop, select your wireless network name and enter the encryption key associated with that network. When you successfully connect for the first time, the  network information is stored on the laptop. The next time the laptop needs to connect to your wireless network, it will be done automatically with the data stored from the last successful connection.
  • Put a label with your student's name taped to the laptop. This will make it easier to find your child's laptop in a sea of similar looking laptops and will minimize the chance of your child picking up the wrong laptop.
If you cannot install the software for the printer on the laptop, how do you print out school work?:
  • Use a USB Flash Drive to copy from the laptop and then plug the USB Flash Drive into another home computer that can print. 
  •  Email the document to a computer that can print.
  • If your printer is an HP printer, does it support HP ePrint? Using ePrint, you create an unique email address with which your HP printer is associated. When you want to print, send an email to the printer with the content embedded in the message space of the email. An added benefit of ePrint is that your iPhone and iPad can also use this technology.
How do you backup personal files?
  • Use an USB Flash Drive or external hard drive to backup your personal data.

How do you manage your iTunes library without filling your entire laptop hard drive?
  • Buy an external hard drive and set the library location in iTunes to use the external hard drive.  This solution has the added advantage of making your iTunes library portable. The iTunes library is accessible from any computer to which the external hard drive is connected.
What happens if you don't know the encryption key necessary to connect to your wireless network?
  • Worst case, the wireless router can be reset to the factory settings wiping out all your customized information. At this point, the wireless router would need to be re-programmed. Refer to the documentation for your wireless router or go to the vendor's website for help.
  • If you know the username and password for the administrator's account for the wireless router, you can access the administrator's control panel and see the encryption key or change it to something else. Refer to the documentation for your wireless router or go to the vendor's website for help.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Moving from Blackberry to iPhone?

Here are some pointers to help you move from Rim's Blackberry Smartphone to Apple's iPhone.

  • I get plenty of text messages, many of which are presented with just a phone number. I cannot identify the sender because they are not in my address book. I add a signature to my texts so that my recipients know the text is from me, in case I am not in their address book. There is no easy way to do this on your iPhone. Try creating a shortcut and name it sig which expands into your signature. At the end of your text, type sig to get your signature as part of the text message.
  • Want your ring tone to stand out from the crowd of other similar phones? If your ring tone is already in your iTunes library, syncing your Blackberry via Blackberry Desktop Manager gets the ring tone onto your Smartphone. On your iPhone, getting anything other than the stock ring tones provided by Apple can be a little more tricky. If you don't want to pay for a ring tone from the iTunes store, here is a link that documents the process to use an existing song you have and convert it to a ring tone:
  • Battery life on my Blackberry Smartphone got me to the end of the day without charging my phone. My iPhone is charging via a cigarette lighter adapter in my car when I'm driving. Without this charge, the iPhone is dead before 8pm.
  • I was unable to print from my Blackberry, but  I can print from my iPhone using the Print Central app. I will warn you that the installation is more involved than you would think, but it does work. An easier way to print from an iPhone is buying an ePrint enabled HP printer. Using ePrint, you create an unique email address with which your HP printer is associated. When you want to print, send an email to the printer with the content embedded in the message space of the email.
  • In a nonscientific sampling, I have not come across a shattered Blackberry screen. This is not the case with the iPhone, for which the screen cracks much more easily. I never bought a protective case for my Blackberry and all three of my Blackberrys survived without being serviced for breakage. For the iPhone I spent the $50 for an OtterBox.,default,sc.html
  •  The Blackberry was always a work in progress to get it to sync with multiple Windows and Mac laptops. Syncing is a breeze with iCloud for your iPhone. The only glitch is that the iCloud control panel does not run on Win XP or on Mac computers that don't run Lion.
  • Blackberry never had a very wide selection of apps. It was tiring to read about an app that I wanted and then find out that was not available on the Blackberry. I have not had this issue with the iPhone. Apps for the different devices are written in this order: iPhone, Android and then Blackberry.
  • Rebooting by pulling the battery out was a daily occurrence with my Blackberry. Every time the Blackberry froze it required a reboot. The iPhone has not required turning it off and on due it freezing.
  • The browser on the Blackberry was non functional. You did not browse the Internet on a Blackberry because of the slowness displaying web pages and the small size of the display. The iPhone addresses both these problem, making Internet browsing much more practical.
Find your old Blackberry a new home by selling it to Gazelle.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 2012 eNewsletter

Monday, July 2, 2012

Top Five Things You Need to Know About Your SmartPhone

  1. Buy a case such as the OtterBox. Insurance is a waste of money. Lets do the math: you pay your cellular company $5.00 a month for insurance on your SmartPhone. When you drop your iPhone, crack the screen and file the claim, you find the deductible is $100. The Otter Box is $50 and is guaranteed for life. Buy the OtterBox!
  2. Don't buy an OtterBox from a brick and mortar store. You must be careful encasing your SmartPhone in a OtterBox as you can rip the rubber case if you are not gentle. Many returns to brick and mortar stores are ripped cases that are put back on the shelf for you to buy. Good luck getting the brick and mortar store to exchange or refund your money for a ripped case you bought from them. Buy the OtterBox from the online site and if you rip it, they will replace it, no questions asked.
  3. Update your iPhone to the latest update. Set up iCloud and turn on Locate Me. When you misplace your iPhone, you can use Locate Me to find it. If you cannot recover the iPhone, wipe it of all your personal data using Locate Me.
  4. Install the Blackberry Protect Application for your Blackberry SmartPhone. This application has similar functionality to the Locate Me application on the iPhone.
  5. Lock your home screen on your iPhone with a Pass Lock. If you iPhone is stolen, getting access to your personal date is much harder with a Pass Lock. To get around the Pass Lock, one can reset your iPhone to the factory default which will wipe your data off the iPhone. You may not recover your iPhone, but your personal data is no longer accessible.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

How secure is your computing environment?

What would happen if your  laptop or smartphone were stolen? 
  • Can you replace the data? 
  • Could the thief steal your identity by using the data on your laptop or smartphone?
  • Could someone drive by your house and read the data on your hard drive, or intercept the data you send from your laptop to the Internet, from your wireless network?
Here are some things you can do to minimize your security risks:
  • Password protect your computer and smartphone.
  • Have a backup procedure in place for all your data. Test the recovery procedure to make sure your backups are working.
  • Secure your wireless router by using the strongest encryption protocols your wireless router supports.
  • Encrypt sensitive data so that only those who know the key can access it.
  • Make sure your computing environment has up to date BIOS, hardware drivers, operating system and application software patches.

High Tech House Calls has achieved a  Comp Tia Security + certification. We can review your home or small business computing environment and suggest inexpensive and unobtrusive ways to minimize your risk.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Making Your Nook Tablet Usable

Do you want more than what a Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet or Color eReader delivers?

  • Want to be able to read eBooks from Amazon, Kobo or other sources?
  • Want a calendar application that syncs with your other computing devices?
  • Want to be able to synchronize your address book with your other computing devices?
  • Find the applications available from Barnes and Noble limited and wish you could download better Android applications from Amazon or Google?
The answer was "rooting" your tablet, but rooting had many problems and was neither easy to do or maintain.

A better solution is loading the Android Operating System on your MicroSD card and running the Android Operating System from there. You can have the best of both worlds, without modifying your factory installed tablet operating system.

High Tech House Calls can install the Android Operating System on your MicroSD card.
  • Access to both the Amazon and Google Android Application Library is set up.
  • Typical applications are downloaded and installed for you.
  • You are taught how to boot to the Android Operating System and to the Nook Factory Installed Operating System.
  • One on one training is conducted to get you comfortable with the Android Operating System.
  • Answers to any questions you have after the training are just a phone call or email away.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Thinking of Buying a SlingBox?

What is a SlingBox? 
Here is what SlingBox website has to say:
Never miss your home TV shows regardless of where you are. With the Slingbox SOLO take your TV with you on the road. Easily connect the Slingbox SOLO to practically any one of your home theater sources and watch your standard-definition (SD) or high-definition (HD) TV shows, sporting events or special programs on your laptop, tablet, smartphone or connected device over the Internet from anywhere in the world.


Connect to one HD or SD source in your home theater, such as your DVR, digital cable set-top box or satellite receiver.






Take complete control of your TV via the web with the comprehensive and easy-to-use on-screen remote control and electronic program guide (EPG).


Watch your favorite shows in crisp SD quality over the Internet via
your Mac or PC laptop, tablet, smartphone or connected device—
from anywhere, anytime.

What you need to install a SlingBox:
  • A router connected to the Internet with one available wired port.
  • The knowledge to assemble various stereo components together.
  • An understanding of wireless routers and the knowledge to forward a port.
  • The knowledge to extend wired networks.
Things you will need to get a SlingBox working:
  • Know where the infra red sensor is on the cable box.
  • Have a Plan B, if you cannot run a Cat5E cable from the wired port of the wireless router to the back of the SlingBox?
Plan B
  • Purchase a PowerConnect wired Internet adapter. Using your electrical outlets and the wiring that connects to them, you can plug an adapter into an electrical outlet near the SlingBox. A Cat5E cable can connect the adapter to the back of the SlingBox. The other adapter is plugged into the electrical receptacle near the wired router port. Another Cat5E cable connects the adapter to the wired router port. This completes the connection from your SlingBox to the wired router and then to the Internet.
  • Two Cat5E cables that are long enough to connect the SlingBox to a PowerConnect Adapter and from the wired router port to the other PowerConnect Adapter. The two 6' in length Cat5E cables that came with the PowerConnect Adapter will be too short. You will probably need 10' length cables.
  • The distance between the two PowerConnect adapters determines the data transmission speed. If the distance is further than two adjacent rooms, the data transmission speed may be too slow to support your SlingBox's needs.
Additional components you will need to buy to make your SlingBox work:
  • If you don't access your SlingBox from a web browser, the iPad and iPhone App will cost $30.
How long will it take to install a SlingBox?
  • It took me 2 hours from start to finish, but times may vary depending on your situation.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Updating Your Computer, iPad and iPhone

How do you know if a message about an update for an application on your computing device is valid or an attempt to infect you with a virus? 

One of the things applying valid updates does is fix security holes that viruses use to infect your computing device. To protect you from viruses, it is critical to apply updates in a timely manner.

iPhone: Go to Settings->General->Software Update. This will check to see if you are up to date. You also need to update any Apps you have installed on your iPhone. Go to App Store. Click on Updates (lower right corner of the screen).

IPad: Use the same directions as the iPhone.

Windows XP: Go to Start->All Programs-> Windows Update. Once the screen opens in the Internet Explorer browser window, select Custom. If you have not done this for a while, it can take an hour or more to complete the search for updates. Once the list of updates comes back, select them all. Reboot your computer and go through the same search/selection/reboot process again and again until you do not find any more updates. You should go through this process weekly.

Vista and Windows 7: Select the Start button and click on Windows Update. Select Check for Windows Updates. Select all the updates presented, including the optional ones. Reboot as required and go through the process repeatedly until no more updates are found. You should go through this process weekly.

Applications on a Windows Computer: Applications such as Adobe Reader will have a Check for Updates option under Tools or Help. Follow the directions.

Apple OS: Click on the Apple Icon and select Software Update. Follow the directions. You should go through this process weekly.

Microsoft Office on Apple OS Platform: When any Office Application is loaded, click on Help and then Check for Updates. Follow the directions.

Apps Store Applications on an Apple Computer: Click on the App Store icon. Once the App Store has loaded, click on Updates (icon is on the top far right side). If an update is available, click Update to download and install it.
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Apple Lion OS Hints

The newest release of the Apple Operating System for laptops and desktops is called Lion (10.7). Which version of the operating system are you running? To find out, click on the Apple Icon in the upper left hand corner of your screen and select About This Mac. If the version displayed is 10.7.x, you are running Lion.

  • What happened to the scroll bars? Lion, by default, made scroll bars invisible until you click on where they are hidden. Want to make them visible again? Select System Preferences > General  > Show Scroll Bars Always.
  • If you created your username on your computer without a password, you will run into problems installing software. Add a password via System Preferences >Users and Groups.
  • When you first boot your computer, do you see a new account called Guest? The Guest account does not require a password and once logged in, starts the Safari Internet Browser application. This account is required for the Find Me function. Once Find Me is turned on, you can locate where your computer is by logging into and selecting the computer you are looking for. Therefore, don't disable or delete this account.
  • Make sure you keep your operating system software up to date. Click on the Apple Icon again and select Software Update. If updates are found, install them. Timely installation of updates will ensure your computer is not infected with nasty viruses like the Flashback Malware.

Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Sending SMS Text Messages to Emails on iPhone

My business uses SMS Text Messages to interact with clients. Keeping track of commitments I made via SMS Text Messaging on my Blackberry was not a problem because all SMS Text Messages automatically forwarded to my email. The email copy could be stored in the client's folder in Outlook and printed out for their hard copy folder.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with my new iPhone.

Here is my solution:
You can send an SMS Text Message to someone from email. Each cellular phone company has a format to embed the cellphone number into it to create a valid email address. For Verizon that format is where the 10 x's are the cell phone number. Using my cell phone number as an example, if I wanted to send myself an SMS Text Message and a copy of that message to email, I would put in the To field of the email, and The address directs the SMS Text Message to the SMS Text Messaging Application on the recipients cell phone and email address sends the SMS Text Message to their email inbox.

Admittedly, this is a clumsy solution and it only captures one side of an SMS Text Message dialogue, but it does allow you to capture important SMS Text Messages without cutting and pasting message elements into an email that I send to yourself.

Here is a link that documents many cell phone provider's formats for sending SMS Text Messages from an email program:
Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting