Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Minute Tips for a Very Geeky Christmas

Still struggling with your Christmas shopping? Well, you’ve come to the right place; our annual last minute gift guide will help you get over the goal line. There’s something here for every budget, and all items are readily available and guaranteed to please that special geek in your life.

Apple iPad mini

The hot gift for 2012, nuff said. $329 and up at Apple Stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, basically everywhere. Comes with the new Lightning to USB cable and a USB power adaptor.

Apple 7th gen iPod nano

As it says on their website, it’s been completely renanoed. The widescreen and video are back after a failure to report for duty in the 6th Gen version. Bluetooth, Nike + support and a pedometer function have been added. It’s got a touch screen, FM radio with live pause, 16GB of storage for your music, videos, photos and contacts, and it comes in a plethora of colors. I think this is their best version yet.

$149 at Apple stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, basically everywhere, best selection of colors is the Apple Store. Comes with a set of the new Apple EarPods and a Lightning to USB cable.

Belkin YourType Bluetooth Keyboard/Folio for iPad

Touch screens are amazing, but sometimes you just need a keyboard. There’s a bunch of them on the market this year, but I like Belkin’s best. It has a responsive, well designed removable keyboard with 60 hour active battery life, and the folio adjusts for multiple landscape and portrait iPad viewing angles. Comes with a micro USB cable for recharging.

$79 to $99 at Target, Walmart, Best Buy

Logitech Harmony® 650 Remote

Love the Harmony remotes, hate the prices. The top end models go for $250 to $350; too rich for my blood, but the 650 can be found for as low as $50. It’s got a color screen, controls up to 5 devices, and supports over 5000 brands. Connect it to your PC via USB cable and let Logitech’s online software walk you through configuring it for one click activities, and their constantly updated database ensures this remote will be able to keep up with your component changes for quite a while.

$49.99 to $79.99 at Best Buy, Home Depot

Bluetooth Speaker Systems

Forget the docks and cables; you can wirelessly stream music from your Bluetooth enabled phone, iPod or laptop to a wide variety of Bluetooth speakers and receivers available in every price range. From the HDMX Jam at $44, to my favorite, the Bose Soundlink II at $299, there’s a lot of options here.

$44 to $299 at Apple stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, these things are everywhere this year.

iTunes Cards

Every Christmas we pick up a couple of 3 packs of the $10 iTunes cards, they make great stocking stuffers and they’re good to have on hand for emergency gifting. Available everywhere. $10 and up.

Google Play Cards

Finally, prepaid gift cards for Android users, what a concept! Available at Target, Walmart, Staples and Radio Shack. $10 and up.

That’s it, there’s something here for every budget, and they’re all “swoop in and grab” kinda presents. It will take you longer to find a parking spot than to find and purchase any of these items, so get it in gear and let’s wrap this thing up!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Choosing a New Internet Provider?

Be sure you ask the right questions.

I’ve gotten a couple of calls in recent months from family and friends who have changed providers and suddenly found themselves without Wi-Fi. I always start by asking them the same questions;

Does your new router/cable modem have Wi-Fi? To which they usually answer; how can I tell?

Okay, did your new provider leave you with Wi-Fi credentials, ie: SSID and WEP Key/Password, and if not, is that info listed on the router’s label? The answer to this is usually; hmmm, there’s a lot of numbers on the label…

At this point I politely cut them off and say; I’m going to need to stop by. When I do, I often find that their new gear doesn’t support Wi-Fi, and it seems to happen most often when people switch over to Comcast.

I’ve got Verizon FiOS at home, and you know what they say; once you go glass, you never go back, but some people don’t have that option. If your only choice is between Verizon DSL and Comcast Broadband, sooner or later you’re going to make the switch to Broadband.

The problem is, Verizon provides Wi-Fi with all of their products; get internet service, get Wi-Fi. With Comcast, it seems you need to specifically ask for Wi-Fi, as their standard cable modem doesn’t have built in Wi-Fi, only their “Advanced Wireless Gateway” does, and if you don’t ask, oh well…

Smart phones, tablets, laptops, smart TV’s, we’ve become very dependant on Wi-Fi these days. It’s become ubiquitous, something we expect and take for granted. Data invisibly streaming all over the place; it’s amazing when you stop to think about it.

Whoosh; there go our Thanksgiving pictures on their way up to my wife’s iPad, buzzing past me as I sit wirelessly streaming my iTunes library to my entertainment center. It’s a brave new world.

As I said, we really take it for granted, until someone pulls the plug, that is. When the Wi-Fi goes down, or you lose it when you switch providers, it’s a real problem, but not an insurmountable one.

Comcast will ship you their Wireless Gateway, for a fee, if you find yourself in this position and you call and complain, or you can just set up your own Wi-Fi router, which I recommend. It’s relatively easy, and is a more flexible solution for homes/businesses that present Wi-Fi coverage difficulties.

Below are some links to previous posts on both our website and blog that will help you setup and tweak your basic home network and boost your Wi-Fi signal, but the most important takeaway here is; when you’re thinking of switching providers, ask them if they provide Wi-Fi.

Choosing a provider

Setting up a home network

Wireless Network Settings and Solutions