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Getting Along With Your Computer

Wireless untangled

Wireless Networks are everywhere. But … what IS WiFi, anyway? And what is Bluetooth? And why does your Bluetooth speaker work fine with your iPod but your computer won’t see it? This week I’ll try to untangle wireless technology for you.

 

What is WiFi and why should I care?

WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to connect devices to the Internet. Computers, smartphones, game consoles, tablets, eReaders and smart TVs are all examples of devices that use WiFi.

We use a router to create a Local Area Network. Your wireless devices connect to the router with WiFi. The router uses a modem to connect your devices to the Internet. A single box sometimes contains both a router and a modem.

If you have one desktop computer which you never move, you can simply connect that computer to a modem and be done with it. But if you also have an iPad, smartphone, wireless printer, Xbox, or Kindle/Kobo, you need a WiFi connection. Do your visitors bring this stuff with them? You need WiFi.


How do I get WiFi?

You might already have WiFi. If you have one of the newer boxes from Shaw or Telus, you probably have WiFi whether you’re using it or not. Check with your provider. If you still have just a modem, you can get a combination router/modem from Telus or Shaw, or you can install your own router and create your Local Area Network including WiFi.


Wait, I have a wireless mouse? Does that mean I have WiFi?

No. Wireless mice and keyboards don’t use the same frequencies or the same wireless technology as WiFi. That’s actually a good thing because it means less clutter on the frequencies that you use to connect to the Internet.

If you have a wireless mouse and/or keyboard with a little transceiver in a USB port and you notice a reddish light from the mouse, that mouse is using infrared technology. You already know this technology from changing the TV channels with a remote. But wait, there’s more.
 

You can connect devices to your computer with Bluetooth

Newer computers and most Apple computers use Bluetooth technology to connect mice and keyboards. Confusingly enough, this is yet another wireless technology. But it’s one that you are already familiar with! Hands-free car phone speakers and those annoying hands-free headsets that flash blue use Bluetooth.

With Bluetooth you can connect mice, keyboards, wireless speakers, phones, headsets, and many other devices to your Bluetooth-equipped computer. Windows 8.1 has the capability fired up and ready to go. Most older computers require an inexpensive adapter to make Bluetooth work. Once you have the adapter plugged into a USB port and the drivers loaded, that same adapter will handle any Bluetooth device you can throw at it.


Is there an easy way to keep all this straight?

Kind of. Remember that WiFi is for connecting devices to a network and the Internet. Devices that connect to a computer (or to each other) do it with Bluetooth or infrared wireless technology, not WiFi.

With a wireless mouse that’s pretty easy to understand: You’re not connecting your mouse to the Internet; you’re connecting it to a computer. But what about a tablet? You might use Bluetooth to connect it to a keyboard AND WiFi to connect to a network which takes it to the Internet. Same device, different kinds of wireless!

Enjoy your wireless technology, whatever kind of wireless technology it is! If you want to learn more, take a look at the links below.

Links

WiFi Wikipedia Article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi

Bluetooth vs WiFi http://www.diffen.com/difference/Bluetooth_vs_Wifi

Bluetooth Adapter http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F25Z0FS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00F25Z0FS&linkCode=as2&tag=miketechshow-20&linkId=LK4SX4GRJKWBISGK

Add a Bluetooth Device to your (Windows 7) computer http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/add-a-bluetooth-enabled-device-to-your-computer

Bluetooth Wikipedia Article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.
 



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Hello!

Firefox Hello is a great way to chat with another person. It’s free, and it’s easy and you don’t need to create accounts or sign in.

Speaking of free, you can get more than one year of free coverage from you Avast! antivirus.

 

Hello, Firefox Hello!

Would you like a dead simple way to conduct a video chat without both of you having to sign up for the same service? If you love Skype but your best long distance friend is all about FaceTime, or neither of you has the patience to deal with Google Hangouts, you probably don’t do much video chatting.

But now you can. With version 34, Firefox is rolling out Firefox Hello. You click on the Hello button, share a link with someone, and when that person clicks on the link you’re chatting. Only the person initiating the call needs Firefox. The person you send the link to can use any modern browser (except Internet Explorer). I have tested Firefox Hello from my Firefox browser to a Chrome browser on an Android phone and to Chrome and Firefox on computers. It works perfectly.

Firefox Hello is just out of Beta and is being rolled out gradually. You can easily check to see if you already have it. If you don’t, I’ll show you how you can get it now.

First, make sure you have at least version 34 of Firefox. (Instructions here: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/find-what-version-firefox-you-are-using).

Next, see if you already have Hello. Do you see a little cartoon bubble in your Firefox toolbar? If so, you’re good to go. If not, check to see if it’s available but just not visible.

  • Click on the Menu button
  • Click on Customize
  • If the Hello icon is present, drag it up to the top of your Firefox window
  • You’re good to go

If you don’t see it anywhere, you haven’t received it yet. You can get it like this:

  • Open a new Firefox tab
  • Type about:config in the address bar (no spaces)
  • Agree to be careful
  • In the Search bar, type throttled
  • In the loop.throttled entry, click to change from true to false
  • Restart Firefox

Now follow that first set of instructions to get the Hello icon into your tool bar.

Ready to give it a try? Click on the Hello button and you’ll see a link. At this point you can either create a Firefox account or not. If you create one you’ll be able to add contacts (if they create an account, too) but there’s really no need to do this. You can simply click on Email and send the link to the person you want to chat with, or click Copy and paste the link into an instant message.

When the recipient clicks on that link, Firefox Hello will play an insistent little tune at you until you connect. You and your friend can communicate with video and/or audio.

 

Stay with your free Avast antivirus

I like and recommend Avast! Free antivirus. It’s a great product because it works well and because it includes two useful components, the Browser Cleaner and Software Updates. When you install and register the product you get a year’s worth of free protection. About a month before your year is up, Avast! pops up a little window notifying you that your protection will expire.

They make it very easy to upgrade to a paid version of the product, but you don’t need to do that. You simply need to renew your free version! It’s not easy to figure that out, so I made a short screen cast, that takes you through the process.

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

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I like these things

Readers and customers often ask me what program or system I use to solve a problem or accomplish some task. Here’s a short list of the things I like. I hope you find something here you like too!

 

Evernote

Evernote is a secure place to store bits of information in a way that makes that information insanely simple to retrieve whenever you need it. I use it every day on my phone and on my computers. I am an Evernote evangelist.

Store text, pictures, website addresses, snippets of information from websites, voice memos, videos, scanned documents and handwriting. Be as organized or disorganized as you like. Forget about a filing system. Evernote is like a huge shoebox into which you empty your pockets every time you think about it. But you don’t have to root around in that shoebox trying to find something; Evernote’s powerful search will find it for you, even if you don’t get around to tagging or organizing your stuff.

Use Evernote from your browser, from a program on your computer or an app on your phone or tablet. It works on PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices. It’s free, with the option for more storage space and features in paid accounts. I used the free version for years and years before finally upgrading to a paid account. Start here: https://evernote.com/, learn more here: https://evernote.com/getting_started/, and here: http://youtu.be/0X2338G-N60.


Google Calendar

After Evernote, Google Calendar is the tool I use most. Google Calendar is a web-based service where I keep my schedule. I can see the calendar on my phone and on any computer with an internet connection. I can add, edit, delete and get reminders for every scheduled event. I share my calendar with my husband, and he has the power to make appointments for me. If you call for an appointment, he’ll add it to the schedule on the website and that information instantly syncs with the calendar on my phone. Sometimes I get reminders for things I didn’t even know I was scheduled for!

Here’s Google’s explanation of Calendar: https://support.google.com/calendar/answer/2465776?hl=en.

You’ll need a Google account, and you need to make sure you understand how to make the calendar and events private (or make them public, if that’s what you want to do). I should add that I also keep a little book with appointments, too, just because I don’t entirely trust the Internet or connectivity. It’s always good to have a backup!

 
WinPatrol

WinPatrol detects and prevents changes to important Windows settings. The website explains:

You’ll be notified if unwanted programs are set to automatically run, if a toolbar has been added to Internet Explorer, if your home page, search provider or other internal configurations change. When a new Service or ActiveX component is detected it may be part of a legitimate program. WinPatrol will make sure and if it isn’t, you can tell WinPatrol to disable it.

Just adding a program won’t cause a notification but when a program is configured to run without your knowledge, WinPatrol will let you confirm the change is expected.

It does this without slowing down your computer, and that is just the beginning. See this page for a list of features: http://www.winpatrol.com/compare.html. You’ll notice a comparison between the free and paid versions. The free version is very powerful. I have many customers using it. I use the paid version. For a very reasonable price I bought the lifetime license that allows me to use it on every computer I own. WinPatrol adds one more layer of security to your computers. I recommend it highly. You’ll find it here: http://www.winpatrol.com/.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Setting up a new computer

A good deal of the new business here at Computer Care Kelowna comes from people who have tried to set up a computer with Windows 8.1 on it and gotten a little lost. If you only set up a new computer every couple of years, you’re in for a wild ride when it comes to Windows 8.1. But fear not! Here’s a list of things you can do to make setup easier.

 

Use a Microsoft Account

Windows 8 needs a Microsoft Account to function properly. A Microsoft Account is an email address and password that you use to sign in to a Windows 8 computer, and to access certain Microsoft services even when you’re not on a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft provides this video explanation: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-in-what-is-microsoft-account. You might already have one, or you might need to create one. See the first item in this previous column for a fuller explanation: http://rlis.com/columns/column452.htm.

If you (or “someone”) already created a local user account, you can convert it to a Microsoft Account once you have one. Follow the instructions here: http://acer-au.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/26308/~/convert-a-local-account-to-a-microsoft-account .

Do not use the built-in Mail app in Windows 8.1

It’s just a piece of junk. If you can even get it to work a little bit, you’re unlikely to get all your mail all the time. There are good alternatives, most of them free.

Use a web-based email like Outlook.com or Gmail, and check your email in your web browser. You don’t need an app or a program to use a web email address. You just need a working internet connection and a browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) You won’t believe how much simpler your life will be from now on.

Use Outlook --- not Outlook.com which is a web email, or Outlook Express which died a lingering death with the demise of XP. Outlook is an email program that is part of Microsoft Office, and you have to pay for it. If that doesn’t appeal to you, keep reading.

Use Windows Live Mail, a free program that is part of Windows Essentials 2012. The download is here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/essentials. You can download just the email program, or you can include the PhotoGallery and MovieMaker applications. This program is free. You can tweak the settings to make it work the way you want. In general it works well, but some customers have reported crashes. See the second item in this column: http://rlis.com/columns/column476.htm. Since I wrote that column, a customer told me that she contacted McAfee support to help with a problem related to her antivirus program. When McAfee applied a patch to fix THAT problem, the crashing email problem also cleared up. That might be a coincidence, but I do know that two other customers who have problems with Windows Live Mail crashing are also using Mcafee antivirus products.

So if you’re using Mcafee and you just want things to work for crying out loud, you can use Thunderbird as your email program. Thunderbird comes from the same people who brought us the Firefox browser, and can be downloaded from this safe link: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/download.


Have your password and your account information handy

You will save yourself a heaping pile of anguish by having your passwords FOR EVERYTHING handy. Your email passwords, your banking passwords, the password and login for the antivirus you just renewed and now want to transfer to your new computer, the user name and password for Skype. Make sure you know those or know how to reset them. From a time-consuming point of view, it’s better to have them than to reset them. And if you plan on connecting wirelessly, have your WiFi and router information available, too.


Call for help if you get stuck!

If you’re trying to set something up, connect things together, install something, or print something and it’s just not working…stop. Get some help. Maybe you can get in touch with the support people for whatever you’re having trouble with. If not, call your own technical support. I know I’ll be working right through the holiday season. I hope these tips will help you enjoy yours.

Happy New Year!

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Read more Computers articles

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About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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