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!

 

 

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All I want for Christmas…

Money-Gift-PoundsAs Christmas approaches, the pile of gift catalogues on my desk grows as I search for interesting and exciting presents for everyone on my list. However most of my nieces and nephews, being tricky teens, just ask for money, which on the one hand is nice and easy, but on the other, a little bit dull. I tend to feel that even a gift voucher shows a little more thought.

FlybikeSome quick research into the UK gift voucher market revealed that I’m not alone in that thought, with the total spend on vouchers in 2013 reaching £5 billion – that’s about the same size as the perfume market. It’s not just ‘book tokens’ anymore – I’ve bought Westfield vouchers, Comedy Club vouchers, or the hot favourite for my dare-devil nephew, a voucher to take you for a day ‘fly-biking’ – it looks awesome!

I find the hardest group to buy gifts for are the older generation who seem to have everything they could possibly want or need. Last year the siblings clubbed together to buy an iPad for my father, but he hardly uses it – mostly because he is a bit scared of pressing the wrong button and deleting everything! VoucherWith that in mind, Fingertips has come up with the perfect solution – we’ve launched our own gift vouchers. They make an ideal present for a friend or family member who needs a bit of a guiding hand with their home technology. You can buy vouchers for one, two or three hours with a Tipster, by which time even the most low-tech person will be able to send emails, download apps to their iPad, or catch up with Strictly on the BBC iPlayer. Order yours by calling us on 020 8994 7773, or come to find us at the Chiswick PopUp tomorrow at the Barley Mow Centre in Chiswick.

Please note that we can only make home visits to customers in London, so if your Mum lives in Scotland or Southampton, I’m afraid we won’t be able to help her.

Time to upgrade your Windows

windows 10You’ve been so brave, gritting your teeth and just getting on with it, but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel; you just need to wait until the end of July and then life will be so much clearer …I’m talking of course about the perils of working with Windows 8 for the last 3 years, and the forthcoming launch of Windows 10 on July 29th.

For most of us, the launch of a new operating system is often a bit like a game of ‘spot the difference’. But when Windows 8 came along it was like learning a completely new language, with many of the functions I was used to on my computer seeming to be completely hidden. Gradually I’ve found out how it works, but that doesn’t mean I like it. So the good news is that the new operating system reflects the style of Windows 7 and one of the best things is that it incorporates that old favourite – a Start menu!

There are lots of good new features of Windows 10, so I’ve picked out a handful to give you a flavour.

Start menu
1. The Start menu is back – from here you can find the controls for turning your PC off (it sounds obvious but it was one of the hardest things to find with Windows 8), your most used apps, settings and File Explorer. The Start menu also features ‘live tiles’ which look  like Windows 8 – this means you can see what is happening in your most used apps, things like news updates, weather, calendar and mail.

Action center
2. There are no more ‘Charms’ (phew!) but instead you’ve got an Action Center. This is where you can switch your bluetooth or wifi on or off, switch on airplane mode amongst other things; if you’ve got an iPhone, it’s like the Control Centre.

edge13. New internet browser – Internet Explorer is being replaced with Microsoft Edge and according to the reviews it’s much easier to use and faster to load pages. I also like the way they have kept the logo very similar to the old one, so that it’s easy to find. You’ll be able to move your favourite and bookmarked sites to Edge when you upgrade.

Cortana1

4. Cortana – this is like Siri on Apple products – it’s a virtual assistant that can help you find things, either on your computer or on the wider web. For example, you can type in ‘what will the weather be like today’ or ‘show me an Indian restaurant in Chiswick’ and up will come various answers. You can also use Cortana by speaking to your phone, tablet or computer.

multitasking5. Multi-tasking is much easier – if you’re working in a few different apps at once, you can now have up to 4 apps showing on your desktop at once, which means much less flipping from one to another.

If you’re currently running Windows 8, 8.1 or Windows 7 you can upgrade for free within the first 12 months after launch. If you have an older version of Windows you will need to pay for it (we think this will be around £80) and do a ‘clean install’ – if you don’t know what that means, give us a call and we’ll help!

In one review I read, the new operating system was aptly described like this: “If Windows 8 was the steepest learning curve imaginable, Windows 10 is like meeting a great friend you once knew – it’s just they’ve bought some new clothes of which you really do approve.”

One final note of warning – operating systems take a long time to develop and once they launch there will be more updates all the time, to iron out little glitches. As we wrote here  a year or so ago, it’s sometimes worth waiting a month or two before diving in to a new upgrade, just to make sure you get the version with the fewest bugs.

A new site for Chiswick

11.5.cI’ve been a Chiswick resident for nearly 20 years now, and I’m quite smug about how great it is. I love all the fantastic restaurants and independent shops, the lovely parks, Chiswick House and of course the river, but it’s really the people who make Chiswick so great, famous, infamous or otherwise.

So I was thrilled to discover The Chiswick Calendar (our co-sponsors at the recent Bedford Park Festival) and to meet the editor Bridget Osborne. I asked her to tell me a bit about the website so that I could pass it on to all my lovely Chiswickian customers (apologies to those of you who don’t live here – you can still visit!) Here’s what Bridget told me:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 15.22.28

The Chiswick Calendar home page

Chiswick is a vibrant and beautiful place to live. The Chiswick Calendar is an events / listings website which will tell you what’s going on in the area on a daily basis. With a different beautiful photograph of Chiswick featured on the home page each day, you can use it as a computer desk diary as well as a resource to find out everything, from where to find live jazz in the area to what to do with children in school holidays.

Our video features celebrate Chiswick life: its inhabitants, institutions and enterprises. We regularly preview new plays on at the Tabard theatre and report on cultural events like the Bedford Park Festival and Artists At Home weekend, talking to the people who make Chiswick such an interesting place to live.

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What do you think of it so far?

We also put on our own events. In ‘What do you think of it so far?’ on Monday 13 July at the Tabard theatre, two celebrated political journalists who live locally – Peter Oborne and Julia Langdon – discuss the new government. Next month come and meet local authors at Waterstones on Monday 10 August, and learn how to use your camera better on a photography walk round Chiswick with professional photographer Dan Clarke on Sunday16 August, or come and meet us at the Chiswick Book Festival in September.

The Chiswick Calendar is a small team of creative people whose skills include documentary film making and website design. Bridget worked for many years as a BBC TV and radio journalist, and her team can also produce short videos for a website, helping you to tell a story about your business or project. 

Chiswick houseIf you’re a local resident and you’d like to have your photos of Chiswick featured on the home page of The Chiswick Calendar, just send them in to the site (click here) and you could join the ranks of famous Chiswick residents (even if it’s just for a day).

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.

Heads in the Cloud

10.10.3Last week Apple released a new update to their current ‘Yosemite’ operating system – it’s rather catchily named ‘ten point ten point 3’ or 10.10.3. For those of you who aren’t clear what an operating system does, it’s the software that runs your computer, and every so often the manufacturers send out updates to improve (hopefully) the way you can use your device.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 16.57.40Apart from a few ‘back office’ updates that help with stability and security on your computer, this operating system (OS) update is mostly focused on the Photos application, which in theory replaces iPhoto as the best way for Mac users to organise, edit and share their photos – more on that in a minute. There has also been a lot in the tech press about the addition of around 300 new ’emoji’ characters  which allow you to choose a skin tone for the various smiley face-type icons. To access the emoji, just press the combination of cmd+ctrl+space in any text entry field (i.e. a document or a text, or indeed a blog post). Find the emoji you want to use and click on it to show the variants. Sadly though, as one reader pointed out, there is still no red-head option.

photos_iconAs I mentioned, the major part of this update is the release of Photos. At first glance it won’t look that different from iPhoto, but there are some clever new ways in which Photos now works to synchronise your images across all your devices.


Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.57.541. Organisation – the new Photos app works in a way that you might be familiar with if you have photos on your iPhone or iPad – the pictures are organised according to the time and location they were taken, to create ‘Moments’. By zooming in or out with one click, you can have a yearly overview of all your photos (as above). You can also view your photos according to the type of image – panorama, photo bursts or even movies – and as before, you can create your own albums easily.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 18.01.282. Editing – according to Apple, the new app allows more detailed editing than iPhoto did; for most of us, the ‘enhance’ button will be enough to automatically adjust exposure problems and make the colours look better, but if you want to make more specific adjustments you can use the simple sliders for colour, light and black and white, as well as fun filters, cropping, red-eye removal and other retouch options.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.17.053. Sharing – if you want to post the latest baby photos on Facebook or quickly send a picture of your new shoes in a text message, just use the sharing button in the top right of the Photos app. This isn’t really new, but the thing that Apple are most excited about is the iCloud Photo Sharing option, that is linked to …

4. …iCloud Photo Library – this is a new feature from Apple that brilliantly syncs all your pictures across all your iThings. Once you switch on iCloud Photo Library (in Settings), your photos will be uploaded to your iCloud account, and any photo taken on any device will be automatically saved to the library and available to view on all your other Apple devices.Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.55.19

The biggest advantage of this new way of storing photos is that you don’t have to take up precious storage space on your computer, phone or iPad; iCloud Photo Library automatically stores the original, high resolution images in the cloud, and you can access the pictures on your phone or iPad wherever you are.  The downside (inevitably) is that you need to pay for the storage space if your photo library is bigger than the 5GB you get free (I’ve got about 13,000 photos which is around 40MB). You don’t have to switch on this feature – you can store the photos on your computer as before, but of course there is a trade off in terms of being able to access them anywhere.

Here’s my usual health warning – before you update your OS, make sure you have everything on your computer backed up. 99.5 times out of 100 everything will be fine but once in a while, a software update can cause things to go a little haywire, so it’s a good idea to be safe. Once you have completed the update, you’ll find your existing iPhoto library transfers seamlessly across to the new Photos app, and you can start having fun with your pictures again 😃

A trip down memory lane

Old betterWhat do you buy as a birthday present for an elderly parent who has everything? On my travels through the options – a personalized jigsaw puzzle, a heart-shaped perfume atomizer, putting their name to a star – I was spectacularly uninspired. But then a friend suggested a brilliant idea – a personal memoir, put together by a company called Lifescape memoirs.

The idea behind this is that everyone has a story to tell; you don’t have to be famous or rich to have had an interesting life, nor do you need to have achieved great things. For your family and friends, the moments that make up everyday life, the challenges of ‘normal’ living, can be just as fascinating. I know I formed a whole new opinion of my mother after finding out some of her earlier memories….

So I had a chat with Graham Booth, who runs Lifescape, and asked him how it works.

4-mum-spread_med_hr“A personal memoir is one of the most valuable legacies that anyone can pass on to their family, but it can be so difficult to know how to begin. So we’ve found a way to help people organise their memories and put them together in a beautiful book, complete with photos.

“We give each person a guide that explains the process, and an iPod on which to record their life story. It may seem daunting at first, but once they find their voice, it is an incredibly rewarding experience for the narrator.

“Once the recordings are received, we transcribe and edit them, split it all into chapters and add in any scanned photos. The book is printed and bound, having agreed on a design and materials.

whife_smaller_med“We print 10 copies of the book, which would usually be around 120 pages, and it’s illustrated with your own photos, in a custom-designed hard back cover.

Graham can also help to create the memoir by doing a series of interviews with the ‘narrator’, to give them more guidance about what to talk about and keep them on the right track. Here’s a link to the website if you want to get in touch or find out more. www.lifescapememoirs.co.uk

Happy 2On the subject of birthdays, Fingertips is two years old this week. We’ve got some way to go before we’ll be producing a memoir, but I’m very proud to have made it this far!