rainbow-pc

Hackin’ The Net

rainbow-pc

Two topics this month, hopefully both of interest…
There’s a reason “beta” is the second, not first, letter of the Greek alphabet and that’s because it’s second, but not usually first-rate. The reason I bring this up is I have had the opportunity recently to try the new (and still in beta testing) operating systems (OS) for both the iPhone and Mac computers. There’s a certain honor, prestige or whatever word you want to use about having something first, but after this experience, I will also say there’s a heavy burden, too, because not only do you get the chance to be first, you also get to experience anything and everything that can and usually will go wrong. This includes, in the case of the iOS7 for the phones, more lock-ups than the county jailhouse and more frustration than imaginable.

As far as the OS for the computer, all I can say is I hope they get it on track as we did download and put it on one of our Macs (a rather new-ish iMac) and after two very trying days, went back to the previous 10.4 version which we’d purchased a year ago. Not only (honestly speaking here) did we not get the beta of the new computer OS to function well, but this writer, at least, finds the name Apple picked for it — Mavericks, named for a surfing beach in Northern California — the height of stupid. Somehow after Lion, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Jaguar and all the other big cats, we just can’t (here in the Midwest, anyway) get our heads around the name of a surfing spot.
Back on topic, as far as the OS itself, we had the biggest frustration when trying to surf (there’s that word again) the net as Safari flatly refused to load or operate. Not good for the native Mac browser.

Back to the iOS7 for the iPhone. That works somewhat better, though the word buggy comes to mind, and not the kind that the NSA is accused of planting or the kind that describes my garden most years. These bugs are programming ones and often found when one tries to do something on the phone and it either freezes or shuts down. I think I have seen more apples as the system reboots on my screen in the past 30 days than I have any time since I got my first iPhone years ago!

That said, I do like the new look of the OS and I do think that some aspects are better than the current one. Unlike some friends I have shown it to, I like the motion when one texts now, and the colors do add to its attractiveness. That said, the bugs often keep the camera from hitting its full potential, though when it does decide to work, it’s very crisp as anyone who’s a friend on Facebook can testify as I tend to post a lot of pics. There’s also the new Apple iTunes Radio which while still in trial I find to be interesting. That’s a polite word to say nowhere near Pandora yet as they seem to lack the depth of library material, especially for an old geezer like me who wants easy listening or classical and not the hits by Billy and the Bing Bongs or whoever’s popular this week. It has potential, but as it’s also Beta it seems to have a ways to go.


So my conclusion: Don’t try the beta. Wait and get the new OS for your computer, if you have a Mac, and your iPhone, if you own a 4S or 5, when they come out in general release this Fall. By then those of us who have spent the last month with looks of frustration, together with the engineers who get the crash reports we generate will have killed the bugs.

It’s just too bad Apple won’t be changing the name Mavericks to something more traditional!

On another topic, we need to chat a bit about routers. Do you have one? Do you have it safe and secure? Do you know what one does? And more important do you know what to do if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to? Lotta questions there, so here are a few answers, after I mention that a router is not only an essential piece of your home computer network, but one which can ruin your life if you are not careful. What a router does is, well, route! It’s what sends (routes) the modem’s signals around your network. They make wired, if you have only plugged-in computers; wireless, if you only use the WiFi for things like iPads, laptops and portables; and combinations wired and wireless. At our house we have the latter and can send e-mails from any device on our system, as well as surf, watch Netflix, stream audio and more.

But what if that router breaks as ours did not long ago? Then you are left with the need to replace it with a new one immediately. As with (it seems) almost any computer device, my recommendation (before dashing out to buy a new router) is you unplug and unhook the one you have and give it a couple minutes of “me time”. We did that and got a few extra weeks out of ours, but we found the time between “me times” got shorter and shorter so we knew something was going out. Better to replace something you “sorta need” than something you “have to have now!” right?

We went to the local Fry’s, but Best Buy, Radio Shack, on-line stores and even the local Target or Office Depot or Staples carry routers, and bought a new one. A word about that: caution. Not all routers are the same, not all work the same and not all will do what you or the family might find essential.

First, make sure what type router you are replacing — wired, wireless or combination. Be prepared to pay $75-$ 150 for a replacement. This is a case where we do not recommend scrimping. Penny-wise and pound-foolish applies here in spades. Think of it like a car and highway: the fanciest sports car in the world will not run well or at all if there’s not a good, smooth roadway. That fancy internet with huge speed you pay for will not translate to good streaming movies, surfing, music or other uses if the router is a roadblock between you and the net.

Next, if you are buying a wired or combination router, you need to count. Each device attached to a router needs a plug-in, called a port. If you have five computers or things like an Xbox or Apple TV attached by wires to that system or you plan to add them, then each needs a port. Buy too few and you will end up with some devices you can’t connect, rendering them useless.

The router also needs to be able to crank out a decent WiFi signal if you use it for that. This means asking a clerk or researching which have signals strong enough for your needs. At our house, we have to go through several walls between the router’s location and our bedroom, meaning metal studs, a lot of drywall and a closet, since the signals are pretty much line-of-sight, all lie between the WiFi antennas and the iPad I’m trying to use in bed.

Finally, before you buy, consider which band or bands you need. There are several choices which equipment firms are using to get the most speed possible to your devices. A new band is being touted to offer better speed with less interference though at present few devices are equipped for it, so a dual band one is (to me) the best answer, though it’s a few- bucks more expensive.

So now you bought that new router and have it at home. They are pretty easy to install — just follow the directions in the box (Some come with an install CD and others don’t.), but remember your IP and other connections may need to change, so do take the time to do it right and get advice should you need it.

But above all, please name that router and put your own unique password on it. Most come from the store with the manufacturer’s name (D-Link or Belkin or Netgear or 2-Wire to name the most common) followed by a number. Many arrive out of the box with passwords like 1,2,3,4 or 1,1,1,1. A lot of identity thieves know this and if they can see your router electronically from the street and get in, they can access your information, including banking and other sensitive stuff! It amazes me how many lazy folks do not bother to change the name and password when they set up their routers. At our house, the router carries the name of one of our cats who crossed the Rainbow’ Bridge a few years back, as well as a unique combination of letters and numbers to access it. Whatever you pick should be unique to you, easy to remember and not handed out to folks whom you do not know well. Guests at our house are welcome to surf, and are free to use all the internet they want, but we don’t want passers-by, nosey neighbors or the fridge repairman (who always brings his laptop) to have access.

Finally, use a lot of patience. A new’ router will likely mean new passwords need to be remembered by your devices, and things which auto log-in may need their memories changed to have the latest info. Just remember that whatever brand you pick or however you set it up to take your time, get it right and change that factory password from 1,2,3,4.

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