Weak wi-fi woes

wifi-home-networkIt can be so disappointing – after a long day, you’re looking forward to catching up with the episode of The Night Manager you missed last week, only to find that you can’t get a wi-fi signal in the room you’ve set up as your TV snug at the top of the house.

We get a lot of requests for help to improve wi-fi signals at home – home networks can get quite congested with kids streaming things on their iPads, gaming and home-working, not to mention the tall houses in London that mean routers can struggle to push signals to the furthest reaches of your home. So, what to do about it? Is it possible to boost a weak wi-fi at home? Of course it is. And as with all things technical, there are many options – some simple, some needing a bit more effort and cash.

Here’s a few things you can try yourself.

Move, it, baby!

router

While routers are hardly eye candy, they shouldn’t be tucked behind cabinets or sofas. For the best wi-fi signal, routers should be placed in open spaces, where there are no obstructions or walls. If the router has antennae they should be positioned vertically. The higher and more central the router is located in the home, the better its coverage will be. And bear in mind wi-fi isn’t keen to compete with other electronic devices – particularly microwaves and cordless phones. And the signal will be weakened by thick walls, steel beams, washing machines and other low-tech realities of life. There are routers that are developing curved wi-fi signals, but let’s not go there yet!

Channel hopping

You may find in compact London that there are dozens of other wi-fi networks crowding your precious signal, so it might be worth changing the channel on your router to find one less crowded. This should give you a better chance to catch up with that episode of The Night Manager whilst the kids are battling online monsters on their iPads.

Power (line) to the people

wireless_home_2010Search Amazon for ‘wi-fi booster’ and you’ll find dozens of items for sale, starting around the £20 mark. And probably the easiest of these gems to use are power line adapters. We particularly like the Devolo wifi range – they’re a bit more expensive but super-easy to set up. These clever little devices use the household wiring of your home to send the broadband signal around the house. Plug one into a socket near your router. Attach said router to the power-line adapter with an ethernet cable. Plug another power-line adaptor into a plug socket in your office eyrie and bob’s your uncle. Almost.

Of course, if you can’t fix woeful wi-fi yourself, just give us a quick call. Umair joined us as a Tipster in January; he’s our network expert, tempting your wi-fi signal to the very furthest corners of your house. He’s getting quite excited about the new curved wi-fi signals too!

 

 

The joys of YouTube

You Tube logoI read recently that people upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every minute, and that if you tried to watch every video currently on there, (assuming no new videos are uploaded while you are watching) it would take you 60,000 years!  So it’s no wonder you can lose yourself for hours onSneezing panda YouTube,  watching anything from the latest movie trailers, music videos or just laughing at funny animals – this is one of my all time favourites (click on the panda picture) – be sure to have the sound turned on.

But YouTube can be really useful if you don’t know where else to look for help with something (I learnt how to re-grout my shower from a lady on YouTube) and that includes help with your home IT. Lots of people post tutorials that are designed to solve your IT issues, but they can be of variable quality and sometimes you Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.59.38can end up more confused than when you started. Also, with so many videos on YouTube, you can spend hours searching for precisely the information you need and never quite find it.

So this blog post is really just a shameless plug for the new Fingertips promotional video, that talks about some of the ways we can help with your cropped-small-helpdesk-finger1.jpghome technology. You can watch it here, or on the home page of our website. Please let me know what you think of it, or just send on your favourite YouTube videos for us to enjoy.

Top Tips – iOS 8

8Just when you were getting used to the features that were introduced on your iPhone or iPad last year with iOS 7 (see our earlier blog), Apple have released iOS 8 and we’re being encouraged to upgrade. I finally took the plunge with iOS 8.0.2 hoping that the early bugs have been ironed out, and there are some clever new functions. To help you through the bewildering array of new features, and point you in the direction of those that will be most useful, we’ve compiled some top tips.

BackupFirst though, I know a number of people whose device got stuck midway through the update and they had to restore it using iTunes. This is pretty easy to do and shouldn’t be a problem at all – as long as you have backed up your device before you start the upgrade. I know we’re always banging on about backing up, but it can save so much heartache if anything should go wrong. If you’re not sure how to make a back up, have a look at this Apple support page.

So, you’ve upgraded to iOS 8 and nothing much seems to have changed on the face of it. Here are some highlights – and things to watch out for:

photo search1. Photos – an excellent new search function: go to your Photos app and touch the search icon (a little magnifying glass), then type in what you are looking for – such as ‘Jan 2012’, ‘Spain’ or ‘Chiswick’ – and all the relevant photos will be shown.

If you delete a photo, it isn’t immediately removed from your phone or iPad – it goes to a ‘Recently deleted‘ folder for 30 days; from here you can either permanently delete it, or if you change your mind, you can restore it to an album.

 

 

2. Email – flag, move or delete emails with just a sideways swipe – if you just quickly swipe to the left it’ll delete straightaway, so be a bit careful with this or you’ll be hunting in your trash folder more often than you’d like.

You can set up notifications for when someone replies to an important mail: touch the flag icon at the bottom of the mail, touch ‘notify me‘ then ‘notify me again. Then as soon as you get a reply, a message will appear on your screen to let you know.

New contacts from email: if you get an email from a new contact or someone who has changed their details, a box will appear at the top of the mail when you open it, giving you the option to ignore or add to contacts – so simple!

Family sharing3. Family sharing – this is big news for Apple and should be a really useful function, especially if you have a number of iThings in your family and you want to keep track of who is buying what. Family sharing means that up to 6 people can share purchases from the iTunes store without sharing an Apple ID. Once you’ve set up who is in your family, you can share photos and calendars too. The best thing is once you enable ‘Ask to Buy‘ you will be sent a request when your children want to buy from iTunes, iBooks or the App Store. You have control because you hold the purse strings.App request

4. Messages – predictive text is the big new innovation here – your phone or iPad will ‘learn’ how you communicate with different people in both messages and emails, and provide suggestions for your next word as you type. If you find this slightly annoying, you can switch it off – go to SettingsGeneralKeyboard and slide the button next to Predictive to off (no green showing)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 16.27.17You can also share your location using Messages now – if you’re meeting a friend and they can’t find you, just go to Details in your Messages conversation and choose ‘send  my current location‘ if you are staying still, or ‘share my location‘ if you are moving around. Your friend will receive a map and can find directions to you, or track where you are going.

5. Apple Tips – there are loads more new functions we Tipscould tell you about, but Apple probably do it best. So have a look at a new app that will have popped up on your device when you upgraded to iOS8 – imaginatively called Tips. Here you’ll find lots more information about how to get the most out of your device, and Apple will be updating it over time, so keep watching it!

 

 

The Cloud with a silver lining

So you’re off on holiday for half term and you want to take the entire series of Breaking Bad to watch on your iPad (just incase the weather is terrible). The problem is you’ve only got 1GB left on your iPad so you can’t fit it all on. There is a solution though – in the Cloud.

We’ve all heard the term “Cloud” computing but how can it help you watch your favourite TV shows? In essence, the Cloud gives you access to loads of content that you can’t squeeze on to your devices, by storing films, songs and files on a computer that you reach via the Internet. If you’re an Apple user, you can access your stored media through iCloud, and for Android users, Google Drive does the same.

cloudWhat makes the Cloud so great is that you don’t need to download the film you want to watch on to the computer (or iPad/iPhone/tablet); you merely need to have access to the Internet. Apple and Google provide these services for free (up to a certain amount of storage) because it encourages their customers to buy from their online stores – the iTunes store or Google Play.

If, on the other hand, you’re off on holiday and you want to watch Breaking Bad during the flight, you can download it to your iPad or computer. Then simply wipe it from the device after you’ve watched it, to free up space. Don’t forget, the purchase is always linked to your account, so you still own the programmes, and you can still stream it once you’re connected to wi-fi. Google drive

Another great thing about the Cloud is that if you were to buy a TV show on the iPad and start watching the first 24 minutes of it, but then you want to go across to another device (linked to the same account), you’ll be able to continue right from where you left off.

icloudTo use to all this clever functionality, just make sure that you have your device settings configured correctly; on an iPhone or iPad, go to the Settings menu, choose ‘iTunes & App Store’ and switch the slider to green for Music and Videos.

For Android users, go to SettingsAccountsGoogle [your username]. Then locate ‘Drive’ in the list of things your device can sync to and make sure it is ticked. That way, anything in your Google Drive account can be accessed via your phone or tablet.

Happy half term!

Something phishy?

phishingYesterday I received an email from Lloyds Bank, telling me that my account will be frozen and my funds put on hold, unless I sort out my password, that has been entered incorrectly 5 times. The email asked me to download a file that would allow me to confirm my details and so release my funds. The strange thing is that I don’t even bank with Lloyds, and I’m sure that if I did, their email address wouldn’t be ‘Lloyds-Bank@mac.com’.

Luckily I’d been researching for this post about phishing scams so I was aware that this is exactly the sort of email to be wary of. Anyone with an email address is liable to receive these ‘spam’ or ‘phishing’ emails, that try to plant a virus in your computer and in one way or another, take your personal data to commit identity theft. There are all sorts of different scams that try to do this, so here are some tips for what to look out for and how to avoid accidentally having your personal security breached.

  1. Be careful of emails that come from unrecognised senders, emails that ask you to confirm personal information or that aren’t personalised. Don’t let alarming messages panic you into downloading something that could be a virus.
  1. banksNever click on a link or an attachment in an email from someone you’re unsure of. An email may look as though it is from your bank or credit card company, but in reality banks will phone you or send a letter if they think there is a problem with your account. If you want to check that everything is fine with your bank account or credit card, either log in to your account on their website directly or give them a ring. They will appreciate hearing about these scams too.
  1. secure-web-site-lock-iconNever send your personal data such as bank account passwords or other financial information in an email. If you need to communicate this sort of stuff, only do it on a website that you know is secure – look for a lock icon in the browser status bar, or check that the URL (website address) starts with “https:” where ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Generally banking websites don’t ask you for your whole password, just selected characters from it.
  1. Don’t be fooled by “Your chance to win” scams. Lots of phishing emails now entice you to click on links that promise ‘a free iPad’ or ‘a luxury holiday for two’ – these could embed a virus into your computer that allows the scammer to follow your keystrokes to access your innermost secrets. The only winner from these emails is the crook.
  1. Make sure you’ve set up some security on your computer. There are many ways to set up firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus software – some of which are free with your computer software, others you need to pay for. But the £10 – £60 you’ll spend is well worth it when you consider what a phishing scam could cost you in both cash and hassle.

I’ll be having a look at computer security in this blog soon, so look out for that if you want more information. Or just give us a call to discuss what you need.

Don’t fall into the In App trap

bike raceKeeping the kids occupied in a restaurant or on a train journey is a lot easier now that most of us have smartphones or iPads. But increasingly there is the risk that they’ll enter a new world, upgrade their character or even buy a better weapon – any of which could land you with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the month.

So why is this and what can you do about it?

photo copyIt’s all about in-app purchases. These are optional extras inside a game (or any app) that may include extra levels, extra items to increase a function within gameplay or you can simply pay to remove intrusive adverts that appear within the app.

Do I have to buy the ‘in-app purchases’?

No.  An in-app purchase may offer the ability to speed something up but if you’re patient, you don’t need to pay for these items.  If you don’t mind adverts popping up when you complete a level or earn the weapon you need to fight that villain – the game will continue to be free.

As a result of some recent controversy involving both Apple and Google and the ease of accidentally racking up huge bills, there are now simple ways to switch off or restrict the ability to make in-app purchases – here’s how:

photoOn the iPhone:

Open SETTINGS, go to GENERAL

Go to RESTRICTIONS

Tap ENABLE RESTRICTIONS

You’ll be asked to enter your PASSCODE ( or set one up if you haven’t already)

Now you’ll be able to turn the IN APP Purchases option to   OFF as shown.

Set PINOn Android devices:

Go to the Google PLAY STORE app

Enter the MENU

Open SETTINGS

Under USER CONTROLS select SET OR CHANGE PIN.

Enter your PIN or set one if necessary

Choose USE PIN FOR PURCHASES

That’s it!

WIth thanks to this week’s guest blogger Nick Hutson, Tipster since September 2013.

 

 

Update today to prevent hacking

ipad and iphoneThose of us who love our Apple devices, for the way they all play together so nicely and are so simple to use, can sometimes be a bit smug about their invulnerability to viruses. (see our earlier post: Happy new mac). That may be true, but it was revealed this week that Apple had ‘seriously dropped the ball’ on security and that iPhones and iPads running the iOS 7 operating system and laptops running OS X have been vulnerable to hacking.

This meant that if you were browsing the Internet when out and about, hackers could potentially intercept your personal and security information on its way to various websites, such as banking sites or Facebook.

The good news is that Apple has issued software updates for both operating systems, and these have fixed the problem. If you have noticed your Apple computer or mobile device asking you to update the software – do it now! It’s always a good idea to install Apple’s updates when they come out, (see our earlier post:Don’t download that update yet) and this one is really important to protect your online security and prevent identity theft.

If you aren’t sure how to find out whether you have the most up-to-date software, follow these simple steps:

photoOn a mobile device, go to Settings – General – Software Update. Your device will tell you if you need to install the update and will walk you through the steps; the latest version is iOS 7.0.6.

On a laptop, click on the Apple icon in the top left of your screen and go to ‘Software Update’. This will open a new window in which you will see if any updates are available. The latest version is 10.9.2.

Once you’re up-to-date, you can browse the Internet with wild abandon, confident that Apple’s encryption systems will be keeping your information secure.