Geeks on Tour Newsletter 8/4/07: GPS/Mapping Software, The #1 way to improve Wi-Fi, Scan your computer with Onecare
Published: Sat, 08/04/07
Geeks On Tour Newsletter August 4, 2007
GPS and Mapping Software
Jim and I are in serious travel mode. It's been 2,000 miles and $776 in gas since we left Fort Lauderdale 2 weeks ago. We use the Microsoft Mappoint software (like Streets and Trips) on Jim's laptop with the Earthmate GPS receiver. I would not travel without some kind of GPS and mapping software. It's hard to express the comfort it gives us to know *exactly* where we are at all times, especially when we have no idea where we are! And, I'm sure it helps keep peace in our marriage that neither of us has to rely on the other for directions.
Jim has the laptop resting on the center console of the dashboard and bungied in. It's very nice to have the large laptop screen. It takes only a quick glance to see how far it is to the next turn. Lots of travelers are now using the little dashboard GPS units from Garmin, Magellan or TomTom. They're probably easier to use, but the small screen would be a drawback in my opinion.
We actually did a few 'tourist' activities in the last week, I hope you check our blog at www.GeeksOnTour.blogspot.com once in a while to see our photos and stories. I'm including video once in a while now too. We visited a Civil War Battleground in Springfield, Missouri; the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri; and the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska.
You know you can always see exactly where we are by clicking on the link at the right sidebar of the Blog. It says, 'About the Geeks: Where are we now?'
The #1 Best Thing to Improve your Wi-Fi Internet connection.
This is a topic that has received a LOT of coverage. If you look on the 'Articles' page of our website, you'll see a listing of 23 articles about Wi-Fi and at least 7 of them discuss what you can do to make it work better. There are lots of factors in Wi-Fi, and you don't have control over many of them. What you DO have control over is your own system, and the best thing you can own is a USB type of Wi-Fi adapter. You need a USB adapter if you know you're near a Wi-Fi hotspot, but you see little or no signal at your computer. Or, there is enough signal to get connected, but the speed fluctuates and even drops you. If you plug in a USB type of adapter, you can position that adapter in the best location and, almost always, improve the quality of your connection.
What exactly is the product I'm recommending? Well, there are lots of them. I sometimes hear people refer to them as 'boosters', but they're really not. They stand on their own, they don't 'boost' another piece of equipment. Most people today use the Wi-Fi capability that is built in to their computer. What I'm saying is, 'Turn the built-in feature OFF, and plug in a USB adapter to use instead. The table below shows some samples from the Web. Our current favorite is the Engenius because it is high-powered (200milliwats) and because you can attach an external antenna if you want even more. If you want me to show you how to turn off your built-in Wi-Fi, go to our website at www.geeksontour.com, see the section in the left sidebar for 'Computer Training Videos'? Click on the 'More ' section and you should see 'Turn off your Internal Wi-Fi'.
There have been times when we have sold adapters ourselves, but it's rare, the products and suppliers just change too frequently for our taste! You can find these online at the websites noted, or just go to any computer and networking supply store and ask for a USB Wireless Network Adapter. 802.11(b or g) is the technical specification that means Wi-Fi and 2.4 gigaherz is the Wi-Fi standard frequency. USB simply refers to the way it connects to your computer - thru a USB port.
Don't be swayed by the claims of faster speeds - e.g. 'B's are 11mbps and 'G's are 54mbps - those speeds are only referring to 'within the local network' speeds. Once you start browsing the Internet, you will be limited to the Internet connection speed which will be less than 3mbps. When looking at detailed specifications, power and range are much more important than speed. Almost any USB adapter will be an improvement over your internal because you can position it to have the clearest line-of-site to the Wi-Fi Hotspot's Access point.
If you are close to the Hotspot's access point, you shouldn't need the USB adapter. Your built-in Wi-Fi will work fine if you're within 150 feet or so and have no obstructions. If that's not the case, and you're having trouble, a USB wireless adapter will help.
If you're coming to the FMCA convention in Redmond, please attend our 'High Speed Internet on the Road' seminar Monday 10am in Seminar 8 or Thursday at 8am in Seminar 4. We discuss this in detail. If not, you can download the seminar handout from our website (www.geeksontour.com) on the Articles page.
Safe Computing: Scan for Everything
It's an unfortunate fact of computing life today that there's all sorts of nasty stuff that can get into your computer and slow it down or do other damage. You need to have anti-virus software running at all times, as well as a anti-spyware software. You can read our recommendations for these programs in our seminar handout "Practice Safe Computing." If you're coming to the FMCA convention, this seminar will be held on Tuesday at 3pm in Seminar 4.
What I want you to know about now is a way to 'double-check' that all your anti-badware software is working. A way to scan your computer for all sorts of problems at once, and fix any problems that it finds. It's from Microsoft, and it's free. It's called Live Onecare and it is web-based. If your computer has access to the Internet, you can run an up-to-date scan. Just go to www.onecare.live.com and click on 'Safety Scanner.' Unlike some other free web-based scans, Onecare will also fix any problems it finds. It scans and fixes registry problems as well. The registry is Windows' administration database. Every time you install a program, some information is stored in the registry. Every time you uninstall, that information *should* be removed, but it often is not. A registry full of garbage can cause problems for your computer.
If you'd like me to show you how to run Onecare - you can view the Geeks On Tour video tutorial.
That's all for now. If you're coming to the FMCA convention in Redmond, please come to our seminars! We're presenting 6 different computer-related seminars. The complete schedule is posted on the home page of our website, and at www.FMCA.com on the Redmond Convention page.
Thanks for reading. Your next issue will be in a couple weeks. Any questions, please email us.