WiFi Mesh “Systems” for 2018’s WiFi Networks

Streaming television services, connected lights, iPads and Chromebooks, and smart devices are becoming common, even in non-techy homes and businesses. Their growing use has made WiFi coverage throughout your home or office a necessity.

When we first installed WiFi, we had one router that reached in the back part of our building where the computers, iPhones, and the Netflix box were usually located. WiFi was weak in our front rooms and garage, but we were rarely in those locations looking for the Internet..

But then iPhone apps and Amazon Echos changed our needs. Our response was to get a WiFi extender, but to be honest, that solution was not great. We had to teach every device the main WiFi name, “REDDOG”, and its password.  We had to teach every device about the extended network names, “REDDOG-EXT1”, and passwords.

As we carried our phones and other WiFi devices from room to room, they had to switch from network to network, and the hand-offs were often flawed.

Linksys Velop Mesh System
Linksys Velop Mesh System

About a year ago we switched technologies to a Mesh System. With a mesh system you connect your first unit to the ethernet from your ISP’s modem and configure the connection using a phone or tablet app. Then you plug in additional units around your home/property and quickly tell them via the app to join the WiFi network they are extending. These extenders use the same network ID, “REDDOG”, and password as the original unit.

This means that your phones, tablets, and other devices don’t have to learn many different network names, and they don’t have to switch networks as you move them around.

In our experience, the mesh network has been noticeably more reliable and easier to set up and maintain. In addition, the mesh network is faster and has tri-band capability, which has allowed us to stream video and audio to different devices simultaneously.

These systems are a bit more expensive, $300 for two units, instead of maybe $150 for a base router and $100 for a WiFi extension.  But, as you discover more WiFi devices you “need” to use in the corners of your home or property, the mesh network solution is clearer superior to other options..

We bought a Linksys Velop two-unit system from Amazon a year ago, and it’s been reliable and trouble free. When we disrupted the network by making bad decisions on some setting changes, Linksys’s free support quickly helped us get back up.

So, we recommend the Velop. It looks like the Linksys is also first choice of PC Magazine.

PC Magazine Mesh Network ratings

PC Mag has more information on mesh networking — good geeky reads And, the best prices for Velop Systems still seem to be at Amazon.

We are telling our friends and clients to go mesh!

Amazon Joins (Suddenly Leads?) the Streaming Video Race

This afternoon I went to Amazon to buy dog dental treats (why else??) and was greeted with the slash page announcement that Amazon now has its TV-connecting box for streaming NetFlix, Amazon, Huluplus, etc., etc.
Announcement for Amazon fire TV
Amazon fire TV takes voice commands, which might be fun, if it works, and I’m intrigued by its claim to buffer programs it thinks you’ll want before you hit play.

We love our old Roku, but if you haven’t taken the plunge to streaming video this looks pretty good.  Check out more info at Amazon.

An Embarrassment Waiting to Happen

iPhone Do Not Disturb Setting Screen

The latest version of the Apple iPhone operating system offers you a way to keep your phone quiet when you are in public.

No vibrating “sound of a cell phone on silent”.  No marimba alert  breaking through in quiet moments of a concert. No nothing.

The Do Not Disturb toggle switch will keep your phone truly silent.

Except,  you have to change two default settings to make your phone really quiet.

By default, if anyone calls you from your “Favorites” list of people, the phone will ring and/or vibrate, ignoring your Do Not Disturb instructions.

By default, if anyone calls you a second time in three minutes, the phone will ring and/or vibrate, ignoring your Do Not Disturb instructions.

To really keep the phone from making noise you have to change your Notification Settings.  

Under the toggle switch where you activate the Do Not Disturb mode, choose the Notifications menu.

On this screen change “Allow Calls from Favorites” to “No One“.  Also toggle “Repeated Calls” to OFF.

I don’t know why Apple chose disruptive defaults for its Do Not Disturb feature.  Although I appreciate the flexibility of the optional settings,  it make a lot more sense to me to have a Do Not Disturb switch actually mean that your phone will not disturb you when you activate that hush setting.

I think the phone should behave the way most people expect.  Geeks and VIPs can decide that they  must be reachable.  These folks can then enable the exception list.

But, by default Do Not Disturb should mean just that!

6 Top Gifts for Your Techy Geek Friend

My personal Christmas list is often too geeky for my family and friends to believe.  I want software and utilities and tools that make my time at the computer easier, more interesting, or more fun.

If I asked for games, especially if I wanted them to run on an Xbox or Wii, people would understand what is on my list.   Instead I hear, “I can’t get you that!   It’s too much like work.  Shouldn’t you buy that yourself and declare it as a business expense?”

To support my fellow geeks… or to give hints to the family and friends of geeks, I’ll share the best 6 gifts that have been on my list:

  1. Kindle Fire from AmazonA Kindle… now a Kindle Fire.
    This is probably the easiest to understand, crossover-to-the-mainstream, geek gift.  Kindle is simply a great technology to take a lot of books with you on trips without getting overweight baggage fees, plus you can get new books on a whim in less than a minute via the Internet.
    Why is this a geek gift: Only a Kindle Fire is really geeky in 2011. Other Kindles are great, but really not geeky any more (sigh!). The Fire is 1st generation, controversial, color, and probably a lot of fun.
    Cost: $199.
  2. ESET Smart SecurityESET anti-virus and security system.
    By now everyone knows that they need an antivirus program on their computer, and ESET’s software is the best in class.  Experts say that ESET watches for and protects against all of the known evils, and in our house it protected my computer against a virus that got on to other computers that were running a different anti-virus program.  Plus, ESET’s products run very quickly and don’t take over and slow down your computer as others do.
    Why is this a geek gift: Your geek probably has months left on their old anti-virus subscription. Giving them a better security solution without waiting until the Norton (or McAfee or whoever are using) expires is a geek luxury!
    Cost: $59.99 a year.
  3. A WordPress blog hosted by Blue Host.
    WordPress is the free software that drives this blog and many of the most popular ones on the web, and Blue Host provides one-click installation and updates.  It’s the easiest to use that I’ve found.
    Why is this a geek gift: Your geek wants to share their wisdom.  Giving them a hosted blog not only will let them sound off, they’ll get to tinker, download, and tune the many add-on customizations available for WordPress systems.
    Cost: As low as $6.95 a month for hosting.  The WordPress software is free.
  4. Dreamweaver.
    Fire your web designer and do it yourself!  Dreamweaver is the industry-standard web page authoring tool.  Your techy person can show their artistic design side while geeking out on the latest in scripts, panel layouts, and even mobile formats.  Hours and hours and hours of work… I mean fun.
    Why is this a geek gift: Complex, robust, and top-of-the-line software. Give this to your Geek for Christmas and you won’t see them again until Ground Hog Day.
    Cost: $399. Ouch!
  5. Photoshop Elements.
    An eye for photography with Photoshop ElementsEveryone wants to edit their photos, and most of the free software does a tantalizingly okay job.  Photoshop Elements is a more satisfying group of commands and functions than the free programs.  The industry standard in photo editing is Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements is a sub-set of commands that will let you do anything a mere mortal — not a photography god — will want to do.
    Why is this a geek gift: Your geek will be able to create custom mouse pads, touch up photos for Facebook, and create a whole new visual reality.  What fun!
    Cost: Currently on sale for $89.99
  6. Food for Your Hungry Neighbors.
    In our balance budgeting frenzy, government grants to local food banks have been cut back or cut out.  Too many people are un- or under-employed, and don’t bring home enough money to feed their children and themselves.  If you can afford to give your geek something, but there’s nothing that they trust you to buy, then donate a nice gift to your local food bank in their name.
    Why is this a geek gift: Because geeks are caring people.  Really!
    Cost: 100% of what you can afford.
    Give to your local food bank

May you and your geek have a very warm and happy Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Yule, and Solstice.

iPhone Backup Slowness Fixed

My iPhone 3GS backups had become incredibly slow, taking over 10 minutes on a fast computer. The backups and syncs were almost instantaneous when I first plugged in my iPhone, and the problem was vexing because my configuration, apps, and general information hadn’t changed.

I looked on the Internet and found several false leads. The most promising-sounding — but absolutely worthless in real life — was the suggestion to delete the old backups which were probably corrupt. I spent minutes in iTunes discovering where the “delete the backups” function was, and then discovered no speed improvement.

I finally found the answer to solve the slow iPhone backups on the Apple site that worked for me: delete the photographs and videos in the “Camera Roll”. You can download the photos and videos from the iPhone to your PC (copy them using Windows Explorer if you’re on a Windows machine). Then delete them from the iPhone… I did the delete in a Windows Explorer window while my phone was connected.  Now the iPhone backs up and syncs in under a minute.

If you’re having problems with slow backups try copying and then deleting your camera roll. Having photos in other folders seems not to affect the speed.

And, I linked above to Apple’s answer to help it rise in Google search results.  If I saw the right 2010 answer earlier, I would have saved time and angst!