Tag Archives: router

Apple AirPort Express Review

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Like many of you out there, I have a home network. In the past, mine happened to be called “the not-working home network,” but I digress. Have you ever had a problem getting everything configured just so on your network? You would be my hero if you managed to get every setting correct and every feature fully optimized without any help. It can be confusing and difficult to do. There are ways to minimize the amount of frustration that you have with your home network.

A few years ago, I bit the bullet and decided to try out the Apple Airport. I had been using a different router and some open-source firmware up until that point. I had tweaked it to the max – and still wasn’t happy with the performance. It just got to be more trouble than it was worth. Many of my friends and colleagues had recommended the Apple device, so I gave it a try – and have been very happy with that choice.

At first, I was a bit put off at having to install software on my computer in order to manage the Airport. Why couldn’t I just log into a webpage and do things from there? I quickly learned that managing things like this is much more efficient when done from within the desktop. Also, the installed software can tell me when the firmware is up to date. Until this point, I had never had a router tell me if an update was needed.

Recently, I realized I needed to extend the range of my wireless network. I had a Time Machine hooked up my to main Mac Pro and a base station on the other side of the house. I tried to extend the range using the Time Capsule, but there was too much interference going on. I went out and bought the AirPort Express in order to accomplish my networking goals.

This worked beautifully. The AirPort Express looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? It looks similar to the power bricks which come with the Macbook line. Setting it up is simple: plug it in! There are a few cool features, as well:

  • Take the music from the iTunes library on your computer and sends it wirelessly to any stereo or speakers in your home.
  • Print wirelessly through AirPort Express – it’s almost like having a printer in every room of the house.
  • Wirelessly share photos, movies, and other files without having to worry about slow data transmissions.
  • The AirPort Express Base Station now features 802.11n, the next-generation high-speed wireless technology included with most shipping Mac computers and some newer PCs with compatible cards.
  • Industry-standard encryption technologies built into AirPort Express, including WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP, plus a built-in firewall that creates a barrier between your network and the Internet.

After working with this device for about a week, I can say that it works fantastic. I’ve tried it out in several different areas of my home in order to make sure it was going to be exactly what I needed. By doing this, I also found out where it should be placed in order to give me the most optimal performance.

What’s nice with this software is that I can go through their step-by-step wizard and go with their suggested settings, or I can configure everything manually.

In comparison to a lot of junk I’ve seen, Apple gets home networking right. If you need your network to work – you’re going to go find something that actually works for you.

How Do You Protect Your Computer?

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Recently, someone over on Lockergnome asked if a router can be used as a hardware-based firewall. The short answer to this is – YES! Your best bet is to always use layers of security, though. A hardware-based firewall – such as a router – should be used in conjunction with a software firewall solution and an anti-virus program.

Most routers have features built in to them to help you lock down your home network and keep it safe. The router is your first line of defense. Even if you aren’t connecting other devices to it, it will afford you certain security measures you wouldn’t otherwise have.

There are some routers out there that come pre-loaded with software to give you even more control. If you feel you need something highly configurable, you can grab one of these as your router choice.

What type of router are you using? If you’re not already using one, will knowing they can help keep you secure cause you to start?

What Cisco Doesn’t Want You to Know – ADTRAN’s Router Performance Results

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gillette. All opinions are 100% mine.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Director of Marketing for ADTRAN over the weekend. If you’ve not heard of them, you definitely need to pay attention. Independent tests have shown that when it comes to router performance, ADTRAN actually outperforms Cisco.

There was a whitepaper done by a gentleman who used to set up test methodologies. ADTRAN routers were run through a series of tests against Cisco routers. In short, three tests were done. One was Internet security. In that test ADTRAN outperformed the Cisco ISR g2 router by about a 285% increase in performance. You would think that routers in the similar price range would work about the same. However, that isn’t the case. The ADTRAN hardware is simply built better.

ADTRAN feels the tests prove they excel in three areas: operating system, patents in technology which allows data to move through the box quickly and their focus on small to medium markets. They’re making sure that they are offering a very robust feature set to address the needs of those market areas. You don’t want to pay for features you’ll never use – yet still leave room for future growth.

ADTRAN started about twenty-five years ago, and has a Cinderella story. They started by building one type of hardware out of an actual garage. The company grew out of that and now has two separate divisions.

Some of my audience is comprised of young geeks, but they don’t always know where to begin. The qualities that a company such as ADTRAN looks for includes the ability to do more than one thing. Don’t only focus on engineering… look at things such as marketing or management, as well.

What type of router are you using?

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How to Come Out of the Geek Closet

Geeks are everywhere. We tend to hold some of the coolest jobs on the planet. Our group has some of the most amazing (and personable!) people as core members. The gang is widely accepted socially these days – right? Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Why is it that even in the days of phenomenal technological advances we still sometimes have to hide who we are? Why are geeks ostracized in any capacity?

One teen on Lockergnome reports that his mom told him to not tell people he is a geek. Say what?! He explains further by saying: “When I call myself a geek in front of people, they don’t seem to understand what I mean. Some people misinterpret it for being the Hollywood stereotyped ‘I love school, reading books, doing homework and physically weak nerd.'”

I cannot believe that people feel as though being a geek is a bad thing. Hell, a geek isn’t necessarily even someone who is a computer lover. A geek is anyone who is passionate about something, whether that be technology, water polo or art class.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel there are still negative connotations in conjunction with the word geek?

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Wireless Networks, Hard Drive Failures, Web Browsers

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Taking live calls on the 888-PIRILLO line is always fun, especially when the questions are so diverse! This video entails more than one question/topic, so it was three times the fun!

Tuxedo_Jericho is a long time chat regular, so talking to him was lots of fun. TJ first asked what are good ways to increase wireless range with his router. The biggest and easiest way is to try to get a better antenna, if possible. Also, eliminate any wireless signals that may lie between the access point and the devices connected. If it’s in a house, try to keep the access point centrally located. My router is in the lower level of my house. Trying to access it from upstairs wasn’t working too well. I ended up buying a USB device that plugs in. It looks like a little radar dish. You point it in the general direction of the access point, and your wireless signal is boosted immediately. It makes a BIG difference. Sometimes, changing the channel on the access point works, as well.

The next call was two questions. The first one was whether I would go with iWork 08 or Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac. It’s funny he should ask that, b/c I just got ahold of Office 08 for the Mac today. First of all, I didn’t feel it was any faster than the earlier version of Office for the Mac. Even though the UI has supposedly been updated, it still feels clunky. I honestly prefer iWork myself.

The caller then said he had gotten his first Mac Mini. He plugged in the external 500GB Seagate firewire drive, and turned it off. It wouldn’t unmount properly. It screwed up the directory file for it, and the entire file system. Even when he plugs it into Windows, it tries to reformat it. I asked him if he can try running a repair on it, and he already had. Even DiskWarrior says it cannot be restored. DiskWarrior is the King of dealing with things on the Mac. If it had problems, I honestly am unsure if anything else will fix the problem. It’s formatted with Fat32, which made me grimace a bit. I recommend trying to recover the data, before trying much else.

The last caller for this video asked what Internet browser I prefer. My first question, of course, is which platform does the user use? Since they’re using OS X, I had an easy time answering this one. Despite Firefox’s default settings for OS X and how good they are… I still use Safari as my default browser. It’s crazy fast, and works great. If you’re a power user, you may want to use FireFox. Also, I know of people who use Opera on OS X, but the UI is kind of junky in my opinion.


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How to Secure Your Wireless Network

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One community member wrote: “After years of mistrust about wireless networks and creative use of Ethernet cabling I have now adopted a wireless network in my home for a laptop to access anywhere in the house. I have over the past week, done a lot of research and have some tips the community might want to consider in relation to the setup and/or use of wireless networks.”

Here are actually TWO Top 5 lists for helping make your wireless network more secure!

  • Am I secured? If you haven’t set up security passwords yourself then it’s not likely that you will be secured. To find out, simply go to ‘My Network Places’ on your PC and scan for your wireless network. In the list that appears, there should be a picture of a padlock next to the name of your network. If there is no padlock, then you need some security.
  • Use WPA. Most new routers now offer WiFi Protected Access (WPA) passwords as well as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WPA offers increased security, and if your computer and other hardware is compatible, you should always use WPA as it is far harder to hack into than previous encryption methods.
  • Added security. You should also always have comprehensive anti-virus software such as Norton or McAfee installed on your computer to protect you from viruses that can open your PC up to hackers. Make sure that these are always kept up to date by regularly checking for updates on the provider’s website. You should also use a firewall – many routers have one built-in but you should run one on your PC too.
  • Isolate your wireless signal. Wireless isolation works to make your signal invisible to anyone searching for WiFi in your area. Wireless Broadband UK is built-in to some routers but must be physically enabled by the user – so check your router’s manual for Wireless Broadband tips on how to do this.
  • Use an access list. If you’re still worried, you can create an access list. All computers have their own Media Access Control (MAC) address – a way of identifying each individual computer – and you can tell your router which MAC addresses it can allow access to; blocking all others. This means that anyone wanting to use your wireless signal would not only have to have your password but would have to be on the access list too.
  • Encrypt it! The first and most important consideration if you are thinking of running a wireless network is to make sure that you have not left the network totally unsecured, I say totally unsecured as no network is ever 100% secure and this is especially the case with wireless networks as they allow easier access for potential unsavory characters to get in. An unencrypted wireless connection can allow anyone within the range of your wireless signal to immediately connect to it and start using your Internet connection for personal and/or criminal purposes and also access any files you may have shared on the hard drives of the machines connected on the network.

    There are many guides available on securing your wireless network available on the Internet and your router’s manual should also provide a guide in doing so. A lot of the terminology and setup options may at first seem very technical to you but the couple of hours of research/setup is valuable time to spend where your privacy is concerned.
  • Be aware what you share, Most people using a wireless network or any network for that matter usually want to share files between computers on the network. Make sure you do not share any files in these shared areas which are in any way confidential or important enough that you would not want anyone to potentially see them. For example you might want to share some mp3s on a computer to listen to on another computer in your house which is fine, however sharing say a document with your bank details etc on is a definite no no.

    If totally unsecured, anyone within range of your wireless network can access any of these files without you noticing. Securing your wireless network will 99.9% of the time stop this intrusion but as mentioned no wireless network is 100% secure so just avoid sharing important files.

  • Be aware of public hot spots. There are many wireless hot spots in coffee shops or in general, wireless is everywhere! and where there is an abundance of something there are usually some individuals lurking about ready to exploit it. If you are thinking of or do use these wireless hot spots there are some things to remember. Turn off your shared files, even if they are only mp3s, it is still wise to make sure they cannot access your hard drive.

    Make sure any sites where you enter login details are secure. This can normally be determined with ‘https’ in the URI in the address bar or the padlock symbol in the bottom right of your browser window. This is because computers sharing the same network as you can (with the right software) see exactly what you are sending or receiving over that network unless that information is encrypted. This also means that it is possible for someone to snoop in on what websites you are visiting or the email you are sending (be aware that most secure sites merely secure the login details you enter, after that everything is visible on the network) so it is advisable to be a bit conservative on what you do on the Internet in these places. It is certainly a wise idea to wait until you get home to check your bank balance online or make an online purchase.

  • Keep your computer up to date and behind a firewall. Making sure you have your computer’s operating system up to date, a virus program installed and a firewall initiated on your machine should be something you have implemented anyway. However with the increased security risk a wireless network can expose you to, these things are totally essential in keeping you safe and secure. It is also the case I have found that users will often keep their main desktop computer up to date but neglect a laptop that they do not use as often. These laptops are likely the candidate machine that the user will be using to access a wireless network.
  • Turn it off. Simple yet most effective tip. If you are a moderate user simply turn your router/wifi off when you are not using it or schedule the wireless connection to only be off at times you know you will not be using it. If it is off then your wireless network is 100% safe.


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Wireless Routers Review

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We’re using a GoToMeeting to get together and share desktops again tonight. GoToMeeting is an easy and affordable way to host online meetings. Be sure and take advantage of our special savings! The current presenter is surfing sites relating to WiFi, since I am going to read you Sutty5’s tips for boosting wifi signal.

Hi, Chris i thought i should share out 5 tips on how to boost your Wi-Fi Signal. As i Was doing all these last week and i gotta tell you i got a great result.

  • Position your wireless router (or wireless access point) in a central location. When possible, place your wireless router in a central location in your home. If your wireless router is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. Don’t worry if you can’t move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection.
  • Replace your router’s antenna. The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be omni-directional, meaning they broadcast in all directions around the router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals will be sent outside your home, and much of your router’s power will be wasted. Most routers don’t allow you to increase the power output, but you can make better use of the power. Upgrade to a hi-gain antenna that focuses the wireless signals only one direction. You can aim the signal in the direction you need it most.
  • Replace your computer’s wireless network adapter. Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer. Sometimes, your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer, but your computer can’t send signals back to your router. To improve this, replace your laptop’s PC card-based wireless network adapter with a USB Network Adapter that uses an external antenna. In particular, consider the Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless USB network adapter, which adds an external, hi-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly improve your range. Laptops with built-in wireless typically have excellent antennas and don’t need to have their network adapters upgraded.
  • Add a wireless repeater. Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your wireless access point and your computer, and you’ll get an instant boost to your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless repeaters from ViewSonic, D-Link, Linksys, and Buffalo Technology.
  • Pick equipment from a single vendor. While a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the same vendor. Some vendors offer a performance boost of up to twice the performance when you choose their hardware: Linksys has the SpeedBooster technology, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement.

Robert sends us some more wifi tips

Yo Chris!

I’m emailing you from the country that brought you kiwi fruit, gum boots, LOTR and female goverment voting! Yes, NEW ZEALAND!

I thought of some more tips while watching you last video…

  • Use a cable when possible! If you have a desk top across the house don’t waste money on expensive wireless boosting products just because it is easier. Get a 100ft cable and run it under your house. This of course isn’t as practical if you are using a laptop.
  • Keep metal objects out of the way. Metal is good at reflecting wireless signals so try to position PCs, CRT screens and the like out of the way of the signal.
  • Centralized Location. If you want your router to be in a central location but don’t want your router to be in the middle of the house because there is a lounge or something where a router would look out of place, put it or a wireless access point in the attic or under the floor. Or maybe you can find a cunning object like a bookcase to hide it behind. This would involve running cables to your modem so might take some effort.
  • Use some tinfoil and paper to make a $1 booster. It really works! Bend the paper with tin foil stuck on around a semi-circle shaped piece of paper and stick a hole through the semi circular piece and slide it over your antenna.
  • Try and have your router in a high place, maybe up on a shelf or as suggested before in the attic. To show the importance of this I would like you to count the number of objects on the floor in the room you are in, and then count the objects on the ceiling. It is far less cluttered and there are fewer objects obstructing the signal!



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Apple Airport Extreme Base Station Review

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http://live.pirillo.com/ – Since my Linksys router fried itself last week (with no clear explanation as to why), I decided to take this opportunity to see what all the fuss over Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station was all about.

I took my $100 iPhone Rebate down to the Apple Store and purchased a unit – stopping short of also getting an Airport Express, since it currently doesn’t support the broadcast or extension of wireless N networks.

Setup was, indeed, exceedingly simple – although different from what I was expecting. I plugged one of my MacBook Pros into an open Ethernet port and jogged through Apple’s Airport Utility (after downloading the latest version). It told me that there was already new firmware available for the Airport base station – then proceeded to download and install it after prompting. That’s the way it should be with every router, IMHO – whether its config tool is browser-based or a binary.

I walked through the options and found just about everything I was looking for – including a nice (live) wireless signal meter for all connected clients. If I had attached an external drive via USB, it would have been quickly and easily discovered. Given the sour performance some people have reported with that configuration, I’m likely to stick with either NAS or networked drives on any one of my computers.

I like how you can assign a permanent DHCP address to any given client, too. Across the house, wireless N performance seems rather good.

What I couldn’t find, however, was a way to spoof the base station’s MAC address – which may be a requirement for me if Comcast Business forces me to go through a single MAC address. That’s a tremendous deal killer for some of us.

I was also a little baffled as to why there’s no easy way to download the latest version of the Airport Utility for Windows from the Web (instead, Windows users must install the tool directly from the CD first – which is rather asinine). Then again, since when has Apple been known to give a rip for Windows users (and vice versa).

No doubt about it: this is (by far) the most user friendly home networking router I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. If Comcast does what I expect it to do, I’ll likely have to relegate it to a bridge or a wireless extension device. If Verizon serviced my area with FIOS, life would be so much better…

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MAC Address Vendor Identification

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http://live.pirillo.com/ – I recently purchased a new router… a Wireless N. I now have better signal, and my network is certainly flowing faster. I was looking at my router the other day, and saw that I had an unknown MAC address there. What?? Thankfully, I know how to discover the identity.

A MAC address is the short term for a Media Access Control address. Every device has one. It’s an identifier, so to speak. It is a number that acts like a name for a particular network adapter, so, for example, the network cards in two different computers will have different names, or MAC addresses, as would an Ethernet adapter and a wireless adapter in the same computer, and as would multiple network cards in a router.

Luckily, I knew there are websites that can help you figure out what the heck a particular MAC address belongs to. So, I copied down the MAC addy, and off I went to coffer.com. I typed in the MAC addy and voila! The site told me what vendor (manufacturer) this particular MAC address came from. Hmmm. Microsoft? What the…. ohhhhh, right! The XBOX360! Ponzi turned it on the other day and used it to watch a DVD. Therefore, it connected to the network. I went down and check the XBOX, and yep. That’s the offending device.

You can also spoof a MAC address if need be. Years ago I had a different ISP who only allowed one device on the network to access the internet. They knew I had no other choice, as I told them right up front. I manually spoofed my other MAC addresses to make them appear to be the same as the original computer. That way, everything on my network could still access the Internet. Being a home office kind of guy, I didn’t have much choice!

Be sure to stop by and visit us crazy people in the chat room, or drop me an email. I love hanging out with everyone, and I love to read your emails!

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Bandwidth Throttling

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http://live.pirillo.com/ – There are ways to adjust bandwidth on an application by application basis, or even a device by device basis. Unfortunately, it’s basically not possible to limit bandwidth by website. There are ways you can assign priority to certain applications to allocate your bandwidth where you need it most.

If you’re like me, you probably have more than five different programs running accessing the internet. We’re chatting, IM’ing, browsing web pages, and checking our emails. You have a limited amount of bandwidth to use. You can only squeeze so much data through, no matter how hard you may try.

Unfortunately, I know of no way to limit the amount of bandwidth by website. However, I use a handy little tool called Thibor15c with my Linksys router to manage my bandwidth by application. I can assign priority to the applications I need most. For instance, my Vonage is the most important when I have a phone call coming in. You can choose to have XBox at the top of your list, or any other program that accesses the Internet you may need.

Another way to not necessarily control your bandwidth….but to make your surfing experience much faster….is to use this wonderful free program called Open DNS. What Open DNS does is to caches the DNS info for websites, and shortens the time it takes them to load. It also has cool little features like allowing you to define shortcuts in your address bar. For instance, if I type the letters gg into my address bar, my browser will automatically go to the website I have assigned to that shortcut. You can also set up shortcuts for typos…to correct them, of course. Have you ever accidentally forgotten the letter o in the .com extension of a web address? This typo feature will automatically add that letter o back in, and take you to the right place.

I’m definitely interested in hearing from you if you know of any ways to limit bandwidth on a website by website basis. You can always find us live in our chat room at live.pirillo.com or you can email me at [email protected]

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