• Posted on April 7, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Deciding which laptop to buy can be tough, with hundreds of laptop models to choose from and prices ranging from under $200 for Chromebooks to over $2,000 for high-end laptops. In addition to your budget, the kind of work and play you plan on doing on your laptop should help you narrow down your choices. Here are some tips for making a wise laptop purchase. How to Select the Best Laptop for Your Needs 1. Consider your operating system. You have more choices with Windows laptops, but Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops can also run Windows, which makes these laptops attractive for their versatility. However, Apple's laptops are much pricier. If you're considering this age-old debate between Mac or PC laptop, think about how much you really want to spend (see below) and whether you need a laptop with features (Blu-Ray, touchscreen, TV tuners, etc.) not available on the few variants Apple offers.​ 2. Start with your budget. Netbooks are the cheapest and smallest type of laptop, and you can actually use them for business, but they're very underpowered and limited. They are also being replaced by tablets and more powerful laptops shrinking in size and weight. You can buy a budget laptop, good for most basic tasks like web browsing and word processing, for under $500 (even much less during sale holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday); these laptops sometimes use older processors and often come in the 15.6" display size. Generally, the smaller and thinner you want your laptop to be, the more you'll have to pay for it. If you have a couple of hundred more to spend (between $600 and $1000), you can buy a thin-and-light laptop (4 to 6 pounds and 14-inch to 16-inch displays), with better performance: the latest generation processors, a sizable hard drive of 500 GB or more, and more memory. Thin-and-lights are probably the most common types of laptops being sold (and bought) today. For $1,000 or more, you can opt for either a sleek ultraportable laptop--light in weight, and very thin, with screen sizes 13 inches or less--or go the other way, and buy a gaming laptop or a desktop replacement laptop--heavy in weight and with giant 17-inch screens.​   3. Make a checklist of what's most important to you in your next laptop. Think about how you want to use your laptop to rank the features you should look for in your next laptop: Entertainment, such as music and movies? Go for the larger screen sizes, 15-inch or more, and higher resolution, high definition displays (1920x1080 pixels). You'd probably also want as large a hard drive as possible for all your media storage, e.g., hard drives of 750GB or more. A Blu-Ray player would probably be on your list for movie-watching, as well as HDMI ports and/or wireless TV streaming. Travel or a lot of mobile work? Portability will obviously be your biggest consideration. Look for screen sizes 13-inch or under, weights 4 pounds or under, and a rated battery life of 6 hours or more. You might also want a mobile broadband card in your laptop for Internet access on the go. A lot of graphic/multimedia work or gaming? A large, high-definition screen, lots of memory (4GB is low, 8 GB is better), and a dedicated video graphics card should be at the top of your checklist. For the best performance, look for quad-core processors. For a balance of performance and portability, seek out a thin-and-light or ultraportable laptop with 13- or 14-inch display, the mid-range processor (e.g., Intel Core i5 processor), 4GB or more of RAM, and 500GB or more of hard drive space (or, for better performance, a solid state drive). 4. Read reviews. Once you have your checklist, it's time to find the laptops that fit the bill. Check out review roundup sites like ConsumerSearch to see the most recommended laptops, then compare features to your checklist. Keep in mind that a lot of laptop manufacturers, such as Dell and HP, also let you configure laptops to your specifications--adjusting the amount of RAM or choosing a different hard drive, for example. 5. Compare laptops. Finally, I like to make a table comparing the top few options. You could use a spreadsheet and list the specs (processor, memory, hard drive, graphics card, etc.) as well as price for each laptop to make your final choice. This interactive laptop chart can also help you narrow down the options, by filtering available laptops by their specs.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, MONEY
  • Posted on January 31, 2017 11:22 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The Advanced Startup Options menu, available in Windows 10 and Windows 8, is the central fix-it location for the entire operating system. From here you can access Windows diagnostic and repair tools like Reset This PC, System Restore, Command Prompt, Startup Repair, and much more. Advanced Startup Options is also where you access Startup Settings, the menu that includes Safe Mode, among other startup methods that could help you access Windows 10 or Windows 8 if it is having problems starting. The Advanced Startup Options menu should appear automatically after two consecutive startup errors. However, if you need to open it manually, there are six different ways to do so. The best way to decide which method to use to open Advanced Startup Options is to base your decision on what level of access you have to Windows right now: If Windows 10/8 starts normally: Use any method, but 1, 2, or 3 will be easiest. If Windows 10/8 does not start: Use method 4, 5, or 6. Method 1 will also work if you can at least get to the Windows 10 or Windows 8 logon screen. Time Required: Accessing Advanced Startup Options is easy and can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on which method you use. Applies To: All of these means of getting to the Advanced Startup Options menu work equally well in any edition of Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 unless I note otherwise. Method 1: SHIFT + Restart Hold down either SHIFT key while tapping or clicking on Restart, available from any Power icon.​ Tip: Power icons are available throughout Windows 10 and Windows 8 as well as from the sign-in/lock screen. Note: This method does not seem to work with the on-screen keyboard. You'll need to have a physical keyboard connected to your computer or device to open the Advanced Startup Options menu this way. Wait while the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 2: Settings Menu Tap or click on the Start button.Note: In Windows 8, Swipe from the right to open the charms bar. Tap or click Change PC settings. Choose Update and recovery from the list on the left (or General prior to Windows 8.1), then choose Recovery. Skip down to Step 5. Tap or click on Settings. Tap or click on the Update & security icon, near the bottom of the window. Choose Recovery from the list of options on the left of the UPDATE & SECURITY window. Locate Advanced startup, at the bottom of the list of options on your right. Tap or click on Restart now. Wait through the Please wait message until Advanced Startup Options opens. Method 3: Shutdown Command Open Command Prompt in Windows 10 or Windows 8.Tip: Another option is to open Run if you can't get Command Prompt started for some reason, probably related to the issue you're having that has you here in the first place! Execute the shutdown command in the following way: shutdown /r /o Note: Save any open files before executing this command or you'll lose any changes you've made since your last save. To the You're about to be signed off message that appears a few seconds later, tap or click on the Close button. After several seconds, during which nothing seems to be happening, Windows 10/8 will then close and you'll see a Please wait message. Wait just a few seconds more until the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 4: Boot From Your Windows 10/8 Installation Media Insert a Windows 10 or Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows installation files on it into your computer.Tip: You can borrow someone else's Windows 10 or Windows 8 disc (or other media) if you need to. You're not installing or reinstalling Windows, you're just accessing Advanced Startup Options - no product key or license breaking required. Boot from the disc or boot from the USB device, whatever your situation calls for. From the Windows Setup screen, tap or click Next. Tap or click on the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window. Advanced Startup Options will start, almost immediately. Method 5: Boot From a Windows 10/8 Recovery Drive Insert your Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive into a free USB port.Tip: Don't worry if you weren't proactive and never got around to creating a Recovery Drive. If you have another computer with the same version of Windows or a friend's computer with Windows 10/8, see How To Create a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive for instructions. Boot your computer from the flash drive. On the Choose your keyboard layout screen, tap or click on U.S. or whatever keyboard layout you'd like to use. Advanced Startup Options will begin instantly. Method 6: Boot Directly to Advanced Startup Options Start or restart your computer or device. Choose the boot option for System Recovery, Advanced Startup, Recovery, etc.On some Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers, for example, pressing F11 starts System Recovery. Note: What this boot option is called is configurable by your hardware maker so the options I mentioned are just some that I've seen or heard. Whatever the name, it should be clear that what you're about to do is a boot to Windows's advanced recovery features. Important: The ability to boot directly to Advanced Startup Options isn't one that's available with a traditional BIOS. Your computer will need to support UEFI and then also be configured properly to boot directly to the ASO menu. Wait for Advanced Startup Options to begin. What About F8 and SHIFT+F8? Neither F8 nor SHIFT+F8 is a reliable option for booting to the Advanced Startup Options menu. If you need to access Advanced Startup Options, you can do so with any of the several methods listed above. How To Exit Advanced Startup Options Whenever you're finished using the Advanced Startup Options menu, you can choose Continue to restart your computer. Assuming it's working properly now, this will boot you back into Windows 10/8. Your other option is to choose Turn off your PC, which will do just that.

    Blog Entry, Security, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 29, 2017 11:30 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    In wireless networking, dual band equipment is capable of transmitting in either of two different standard frequency ranges.  Modern Wi-Fi home networks feature dual band broadband routers that support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels. The History of Dual Band Wireless Routers First generation home network routers produced during the late 1990s and early 2000s contained a single 802.11b Wi-Fi radio operating on the 2.4 GHz band. At the same time, a significant number of business networks supported 802.11a (5 GHz) devices. The first dual band Wi-Fi routers were built to support mixed networks having both 802.11a and 802.11b clients. Starting with 802.11n, Wi-Fi standards began including simultaneous dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz support as a standard feature. Two Examples of Dual Band Wireless Routers The TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router (buy on Amazon.com) has 450Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps at 5GHz, as well as IP-based bandwidth control so you can monitor the bandwidth of all the devices connected to your router. The NETGEAR N750 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (buy on Amazon.com) is for medium to large-sized homes and also comes with a genie app, so you can keep tabs on your network and get help troubleshooting if any repairs are needed. Dual Band Wi-Fi Adapters Dual-band Wi-Fi network adapters contain both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless radios similar to dual-band routers. In the early days of Wi-Fi, some laptop Wi-Fi adapters supported both 802.11a and 802.11b/g radios so that a person could connect their computer to business networks during the workday and home networks on nights and weekends. Newer 802.11n and 802.11ac adapters can also be configured to use either band (but not both at the same time). Dual Band Phones Similar to dual band wireless network equipment, some cell phones also use two (or more) bands for cellular communications separate from Wi-Fi. Dual band phones were originally created to support 3G GPRS or EDGE data services on 0.85 GHz, 0.9 GHz or 1.9 GHz radio frequencies. Phones sometimes support tri band (three) or quad band (four) different cellular transmission frequency ranges in order to maximize compatibility with different kinds of phone network, helpful while roaming or traveling. Cell modems switch between different bands but do not support simultaneous dual band connections. Benefits of Dual Band Wireless Networking By supplying separate wireless interfaces for each band, dual band 802.11n and 802.11ac routers provide maximum flexibility in setting up a home network. Some home devices require the legacy compatibility and greater signal reach that 2.4 GHz offers while others may require the additional network bandwidth that 5 GHz offers: Dual-band routers provide connections designed for the needs of each. Many Wi-Fi home networks suffer from wireless interference due to the prevalence of 2.4 GHz consumer gadgets. The ability to utilize 5 GHz on a dual band router helps avoid these issues. Dual band routers also incorporate Multiple-In Multiple-Out (MIMO) radio configurations. The combination of multiple radios on one band together with dual-band support together provide much higher performance home networking than what single band routers can offer.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 28, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Private Branch Exchange Explained A PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is a system that allows an organization to manage incoming and outgoing phone calls and also allows communication internally within the organization. A PBX is made up of both hardware and software and connects to communication devices like telephone adapters, hubs, switches, routers and of course, telephone sets. The most recent PBXs have a wealth of very interesting features that make communication easy and more powerful within for organizations, and contributes in making them more efficient and in boosting productivity. Their sizes and complexity vary, ranging from very expensive and complex corporate communication systems to basic plans that are hosted on the cloud for a two-digit monthly fee. You can also have simple PBX systems at home with basic features as an upgrade to your existing traditional phone line. What Does a PBX Do?  As mentioned above, the functions of a PBX can be very complex, but basically, when you talk about PBX, you talk about stuff that does these things: Use of more than one telephone line in an organization, and management of outgoing and incoming calls. Splitting of one single phone line into several internal lines, which are identified through three or four-digit numbers called extensions, and switching calls to the appropriate internal line. This saves the organization from having to pay for several lines, and allows all departments to be reached through one single phone number. Allow free phone communication within the organization. Empower the whole communication with VoIP (Voice over IP), which has a tremendous amount of features and enhancements over traditional telephony, the most prominent being the cutting down of call costs. Ensure good interface with customers through features like call recording, voicemail, IVR etc. Automation of response to calling customers with IVR (interactive voice response) whereby the system can automatically direct users to the most appropriate line through voice menus. It is the kind of feature where, as a caller, you hear things like "Press 1 for the Finance Depart, Press 2 for complaints..." The IP-PBX PBXes changed a lot with the advent of IP telephony or VoIP. After the analog PBXes that worked only on the telephone line and switches, we now have IP-PBXes, which use VoIP technology and IP networks like the Internet to channel calls. IP PBxes are normally preferred due to wealth of features that they come with. With the exception of old already-existing but still-working-fine PBXes, and those chosen because cheap, most PBX systems used nowadays tend to be IP PBXes. The Hosted PBX You do not always have to invest on the hardware, software, installation and maintenance of your in-house PBX, especially if you are running a small business and the cost of ownership prohibits you from benefiting from those important features. There are numerous companies online that offer you the PBX service against a monthly fee without you having anything but your telephone sets and router. These are called hosted PBX services and work on the cloud. The service is dispensed through the Internet. Hosted PBXes have the disadvantage of being generic such that they cannot be tailored to your needs, but they are quite cheap and do not require any upfront investment.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, KnowledgeBase (KB)
  • Posted on January 22, 2017 11:45 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Building the local area network that's right for you Computer networks for the home and small business can be built using either wired or wireless technology. Wired Ethernet has been the traditional choice in homes, but Wi-Fi and other wireless options are gaining ground fast. Both wired and wireless can claim advantages over each other; both represent viable options for home and other local area networks (LANs). Below we compare wired and wireless networking in five key areas: ease of installation total cost reliability performance security About Wired LANs Wired LANs use Ethernet cables and network adapters. Although two computers can be directly wired to each other using an Ethernet crossover cable, wired LANs generally also require central devices like hubs, switches, or routers to accommodate more computers. For dial-up connections to the Internet, the computer hosting the modem must run Internet Connection Sharing or similar software to share the connection with all other computers on the LAN. Broadband routers allow easier sharing of a cable modem or DSL Internet connections, plus they often include built-in firewall support. Installation Ethernet cables must be run from each computer to another computer or to the central device. It can be time-consuming and difficult to run cables under the floor or through walls, especially when computers sit in different rooms. Some newer homes are pre-wired with CAT5 cable, greatly simplifying the cabling process and minimizing unsightly cable runs. The correct cabling configuration for a wired LAN varies depending on the mix of devices, the type of Internet connection, and whether internal or external modems are used. However, none of these options pose any more difficulty than, for example, wiring a home theater system. After hardware installation, the remaining steps in configuring either wired or wireless LANs do not differ much. Both rely on standard Internet Protocol and network operating system configuration options. Laptops and other portable devices often enjoy greater mobility in wireless home network installations (at least for as long as their batteries allow). Cost Ethernet cables, hubs, and switches are very inexpensive. Some connection sharing software packages, like ICS, are free; some cost a nominal fee. Broadband routers cost more, but these are optional components of a wired LAN, and their higher cost is offset by the benefit of easier installation and built-in security features. Reliability Ethernet cables, hubs, and switches are extremely reliable, mainly because manufacturers have been continually improving Ethernet technology over several decades. Loose cables likely remain the single most common and annoying source of failure in a wired network. When installing a wired LAN or moving any of the components later, be sure to carefully check the cable connections. Broadband routers have also suffered from some reliability problems in the past. Unlike other Ethernet gear, these products are relatively new, multi-function devices. Broadband routers have matured over the past several years and their reliability has improved greatly. Performance Wired LANs offer superior performance. Traditional Ethernet connections offer only 10 Mbps bandwidth, but 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet technology costs little more and is readily available. Although 100 Mbps represents a theoretical maximum performance never really achieved in practice, Fast Ethernet should be sufficient for home file sharing, gaming, and high-speed Internet access for many years into the future. Wired LANs utilizing hubs can suffer performance slowdown if computers heavily utilize the network simultaneously. Use Ethernet switches instead of hubs to avoid this problem; a switch costs little more than a hub. Security For any wired LAN connected to the Internet, firewalls are the primary security consideration. Wired Ethernet hubs and switches do not support firewalls. However, firewall software products like ZoneAlarm can be installed on the computers themselves. Broadband routers offer equivalent firewall capability built into the device, configurable through its own software. About Wireless LANs Popular WLAN technologies all follow one of the three main Wi-Fi communication standards. The benefits of wireless networking depend on the standard employed: 802.11b was the first standard to be widely used in WLANs. The 802.11a standard is faster but more expensive than 802.11b; 802.11a is more commonly found in business networks. The newest standard, 802.11g, attempts to combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b, though it too is more a more expensive home networking option. Installation Wi-Fi networks can be configured in two different ways: "Ad-hoc" mode allows wireless devices to communicate in peer-to-peer mode with each other. "Infrastructure" mode allows wireless devices to communicate with a central node that in turn can communicate with wired nodes on that LAN. Most LANs require infrastructure mode to access the Internet, a local printer, or other wired services, whereas ad hoc mode supports only basic file sharing between wireless devices. Both Wi-Fi modes require wireless network adapters, sometimes called WLAN cards. Infrastructure mode WLANs additionally require a central device called the access point. The access point must be installed in a central location where wireless radio signals can reach it with minimal interference. Although Wi-Fi signals typically reach 100 feet (30 m) or more, obstructions like walls can greatly reduce their range. Cost Wireless gear costs somewhat more than the equivalent wired Ethernet products. At full retail prices, wireless adapters and access points may cost three or four times as much as Ethernet cable adapters and hubs/switches, respectively. 802.11b products have dropped in price considerably with the release of 802.11g, and obviously, bargain sales can be found if shoppers are persistent. Reliability Wireless LANs suffer a few more reliability problems than wired LANs, though perhaps not enough to be a significant concern. 802.11b and 802.11g wireless signals are subject to interference from other home appliances including microwave ovens, cordless telephones, and garage door openers. With careful installation, the likelihood of interference can be minimized. Wireless networking products, particularly those that implement 802.11g, are comparatively new. As with any new technology, expect it will take time for these products to mature. Performance Wireless LANs using 802.11b support a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 11 Mbps, roughly the same as that of old, traditional Ethernet. 802.11a and 802.11g WLANs support 54 Mbps, that is approximately one-half the bandwidth of Fast Ethernet. Furthermore, Wi-Fi performance is distance sensitive, meaning that maximum performance will degrade on computers farther away from the access point or another communication endpoint. As more wireless devices utilize the WLAN more heavily, performance degrades even further. Overall, the performance of 802.11a and 802.11g is sufficient for home Internet connection sharing and file sharing, but generally not sufficient for home LAN gaming. The greater mobility of wireless LANs helps offset the performance disadvantage. Mobile computers do not need to be tied to an Ethernet cable and can roam freely within the WLAN range. However, many home computers are larger desktop models, and even mobile computers must sometimes be tied to an electrical cord and outlet for power. This undermines the mobility advantage of WLANs in many homes. Security In theory, wireless LANs are less secure than wired LANs, because wireless communication signals travel through the air and can easily be intercepted. To prove their point, some engineers have promoted the practice of wardriving, that involves traveling through a residential area with Wi-Fi equipment scanning the airwaves for unprotected WLANs. On balance, though, the weaknesses of wireless security are more theoretical than practical. WLANs protect their data through the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption standard, that makes wireless communications reasonably as safe as wired ones in homes. No computer network is completely secure and homeowners should research this topic to ensure they are aware of and comfortable with the risks. Important security considerations for homeowners tend to not be related to whether the network is wired or wireless but rather ensuring: the home's Internet firewall is properly configured the family is familiar with the danger of Internet "spoof emails" and how to recognize them the family is familiar with the concept of "spyware" and how to avoid it babysitters, housekeepers, and other visitors do not have unwanted access to the network Conclusion You've studied the analysis and are ready to make your decision. Bottom line, then, which is better - wired or wireless? The table below summarizes the main criteria we've considered in this article. If you are very cost-conscious, need the maximum performance of your home system, and don't care much about mobility, then a wired Ethernet LAN is probably right for you. If on the other hand, the cost is less of an issue, you like being an early adopter of leading-edge technologies, and you are really concerned about the task of wiring your home or small business with Ethernet cable, then you should certainly consider a wireless LAN. Many of you will naturally fall somewhere in between these two extremes. If you're still undecided, consider asking friends and family about their experiences with building LANs. And, spend just a few more minutes with our interactive Home Network Advisor tool. It should help you decide on the type of network as well as the gear you will want to have.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet