Posts Tagged ‘network’

Cool Home Automation: Wifi bathroom scale does more than just blurt out your weight!

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The Withings Body scale is not your mother's bathroom scale!

Although the phrase “home automation” has been around for over a decade, its meaning is still unclear for many who tend to think of it only in terms of large-scale green home projects, or whole-house entertainment systems and the like.  What most folks don’t realize is that a quiet revolution has been taking place as designers and manufacturers have begun connecting ordinary household objects from thermostats to refrigerators, to bathroom scales to the home wifi network, and more importantly, have been taking the power of the PC, Smartphone, and tablet, and turning these classic consumer products into dynamos of information and assistance.

One such object is the bathroom scale.  It wasn’t so long ago that most of us (meaning us middle-agers) can still remember when the bathroom scale was a creaking mechanical beast with a difficult-to-read weight chart and a little thumbwheel underneath for zeroing it.  Then sometime in the mid-eighties (mid nineties? it’s all such a jumble to this old geek), the bathroom scale went digital and, provided the batteries didn’t go dead, became self-zeroing and gave you a nice bright readout, easily visible from 4-6 feet away without having to stoop or squint.  And so it was until recently when a company called Withings introduced the wifi-connected bathroom scale.

Okay, so if you’re anything like me you might be thinking: Why do I need my scale to be wifi connected? So I can weigh myself in the bathroom then run to my computer to see how much I weigh? How is this progress? Oh wait, I see, I can see my weight on my smart phone or tablet?  Does the scale take into account the added weight of my Android or iPad?  Maybe that’s the kind of thinking that has me blogging about other people’s inventions instead of being the inventor myself…

Well so let’s talk about someone else’s invention for a minute  shall we?  Because the Withings Body scale is so much more than my simplistic imaginings would have lead to.  You see, the real value of having a wifi scale isn’t the scale itself. Although it is a sleek marvel of high-tech design, the real wow-factor in this product is the app behind the mechanism. You know what I mean when I say app right? That little program that’s designed for your smart phone, tablet, or PC. The brains behind the scale that does so much more than just tell you what you weigh today.

connects to major platforms

Charting weight and body mass index on PC, iphone, iPad, and Android makes the Withings Body scale an integral part of a fitness regimen

The Withings scale is complimented by apps for all major platforms, and provides sophisticated tools that show you your weight, Body Mass Index, and a bunch of other cool measurements in a graphical layout featuring performance over time and ties into weight management and fitness program goals that not only provide valuable data, milestones, and achievements to you, but can also be shared instantly with your doctor or your coach. Of course, if you just want to know your weight, it will tell you that too, but when it comes to home automation, it’s companies like Withings that are reshaping the future of interconnected devices.

for more info, check out Withings on the web at www.withings.com

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geek housecallsThis article was written by , Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

 

 

 

 

Slow computer woes? You’re not alone…

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Why is my computer so slow?

This turtle is way cuter and way less aggravating than your slow computer!

This turtle is faster, cuter, and definitely less aggravating than your slow computer!

Ever sit waiting forever for a web page to open wonder why your PC is so %#@#@* sluggish?!

Slow computer performance is easily the #1 complaint voiced by home computer users everywhere and spans the entire range of PC brands and vintages, that is to say, it doesn’t matter what brand of PC you have, or how old it is, most home computer users experience performance slowdowns within six months of getting a new computer or having a system cleanup performed.  Talk about aggravating!  Here’s a little info about what may be going on and what you can do about it…

- click for full article here -

Hurricane’s a-comin’ – Act now to prevent EXPEN$IVE damage to home computers and other high-tech stuff!

Friday, August 26th, 2011

In the category: Wait, what??

Is there possibly any angle on hurricane Irene that hasn’t already been thoroughly dragged out and beaten to death by the media? Why yes, yes there is…

Okay, pop quiz:  What is the most likely outcome of hurricane Irene that will have the biggest impact on the most people?  Flooding? Well, that could happen, but what about damage to lawn furniture? No wait, downed tree limbs! THAT will  happen to a lot of people right? (you’re getting warmer!)  Yes, downed tree limbs, and entire trees too, and invariably what do these hurtling hunks of hickory (and other species) drag down in their flight to Terra Firma? You got it!     POWER LINES!  (da da DAAAAAA!)

Dead computer joins statistics for hurricane Irene damage.

I can't believe I didn't take Geek Housecalls' advice and unplug this thing before the hurricane...

 

So let’s talk about your computers and other high-tech gadgets (like expensive flat screen TVs) for a minute… nothing like a sudden power outage to corrupt the file system on your hard drive rendering it unreadable, but that problem, usually easily recoverable by companies like Geek Housecalls, pales in comparison to the possible physical damage to your computers and other high-tech electronics from the surge that occurs when the power to entire neighborhoods is abruptly restored.  Sure, you might have a surge protector, even an expensive one that boasts some kind of product replacement insurance, but trust me -  In the unpredictable world of restoring power to the grid, your best protection against expensive damage is to have your most susceptible electronics off the grid (read: unplugged) until after power is reliably restored to your neighborhood. And by “reliably,” I mean don’t rush to plug everything back in at the first inkling of power. Give it a half hour or longer to make sure it’s going to stay on.

Okay so let’s review:

  1. Before the storm hits, say, saturday night before turning in for the night, unplug your expensive electronics.
  2. Don’t forget ‘expensive electronics’ is not limited to tvs and computers. Play it safe by also unplugging stereo systems, video game systems, and network routers.  Basically, anything that contains a microprocessor is more susceptible to surge damage than old-fashioned electric stuff like toasters and can openers (of course even though it probably is controlled by a microprocessor, I’m not going to advise you to unplug your refrigerator…)
  3. Don’t go crazy, you don’t need to disassemble your entire network and home entertainment wiring, just unplug the power cords.
  4. After the power comes back on, wait a while to make sure it’s going to stay on before plugging back in.
  5. And finally, don’t miss the opportunity while your kids aren’t under the spell of technology, to sit around the dining room table and have a good old-fashioned game of scrabble…

Oh yeah, and if the controls and digital display on your fridge go crazy after the power comes back on, don’t worry, usually rebooting the fridge will solve that problem. Just unplug it for a minute or two then plug it back in.  It will reboot, self test, and likely return to normal :)

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geek housecallsThis article was written by Andy Trask, Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

 

Your Home Internet Is Down. Is it You or Them?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

A sordid tale of brainwashing, intrigue, and woe.

Does this sound familiar? The workday is over, dinner is cleared, and now for a little “me” time – time to relax, go online, and catch up on emails, chat with friends on facebook, or maybe play that epic game of Bejeweled Blitz. Except the Internet has other plans for you tonight and, instead of your favorite website popping up, you are greeted by a long pause, twirling hourglass arrows, and finally the dreaded PAGE NOT FOUND error. Okay no problem right? You can handle this, it’s happened before. Off you go under the desk, into the closet or down to the basement. Because you know where your router is hiding, and you know that all you need to do is pull the plug on it for a few minutes and it will spring back to life, rewarding you for your technological savvy by magically solving all connection problems and almost immediately granting you and your family renewed access to the Internet….

Right?… Right??? (ahem!)

Okay, reality check time. Sometimes it’s not going to be that simple, and unfortunately for most folks, this is the start of a series of long and painful phone conversations with your Internet provider. Long, because they work from scripts that need to be churned through until the gods of technology are sufficiently satisfied that there really is something wrong (and it’s not just that you forgot to plug in your computer). And painful because more often than not they’ll walk you through completely dismantling your home network only to conclude after 2 hours, that “it must be a problem with your computer.”

Aaaargh!

Oh yeah, and don’t expect them to help you get your home network back in order.

One particular provider of DSL service (suffice it to say, their name begins with V) has elevated blaming the end-user’s computer into an artform. So much so that I had a recent call from a customer who asked that I bring a new ethernet card for his computer because, according to tech support at V, his bad ethernet card must be the reason why he couldn’t connect to the internet. So I showed up with ethernet card in hand to find that there was nothing wrong with his ethernet port. What’s more, I immediately observed that the ETHERNET light on his DSL modem remained lit even when the ethernet cable was completely disconnected from it. Now I’ll warrant that even non-geeks can pretty quickly figure out that when the ethernet light that comes on to tell you you’re connected, stays on even when you’re not connected, well, there’s probably something wrong with that DSL modem!

But just to make sure, I whip out my trusty laptop and hook it up to the DSL modem, and as expected, no connection. Very convincing, but I’m a techno-conservative, so I even ditch his ethernet cable in favor of my own which I know is good. Still no connection from the DSL modem. So let’s review the facts; we have two computers, neither of which will get a signal from the DSL modem. We’ve tried two different cables, and, oh yeah, the modem has this little indicator light quirk where the light tells us it’s connected even when it’s not. What do the rocket scientists and non-geeks alike all conclude? The DSL modem is bad!

“Let’s call V,” I say to the customer, “they need to replace your DSL modem.”
“Oh no,” he replies, “I’ve already been on the phone with them for 2 hours and they said the modem is fine and it’s a problem with my computer”

I have visions of this poor guy at the mercy of some script-droning tech in Deli, and I can’t help but feel he’s been the victim of brainwashing.

So I call V and get through the formalities of who, where, and what, then into the queue where I am 3rd in line to talk to a tech. Then my moment arrives and I try to speak as clearly as possible: “Hi. I need to replace this DSL modem. It will not connect to the PC and the ethernet indicator light stays on even when the ethernet cable is disconnected. I have tried connecting with two different PCs, and two different cables and have also tried resetting the DSL modem several times. Can I get this modem replaced?”

…interminable pause…

From half a world away: “I’m very sorry to hear this, I will be happy to help you. Now can you tell me what lights are lit on the modem?”

Oy…

I then proceeded through an hour of testing and connecting, reconnecting, swapping cables, PCs, and resetting of the DSL modem. All stuff I had already done, but despite this was not able to persuade the tech to abandon his script and skip straight to GO so we could collect a new modem. As we moved into the second hour of dialogue, I felt my brain melting, but with herculean effort stayed alert enough to eventually guide the tech all the way through the logic to the point where he finally agreed the modem was bad and needed to be replaced.

So in the end, the customer got a new DSL modem and the problem solved, but for weeks afterward I kept finding myself thinking about the colossal waste of time, effort, and money, spent for me to go through that pointless troubleshooting process when I knew all along that the problem was the modem, and then I began to formulate a plan for how I could cut the process short next time. Next time when the tech starts the troubleshooting process by asking what lights are lit up on the modem, it will go something like this:

tech: “I’m very sorry to hear this, I will be happy to help you. Now can you tell me what lights are lit on the modem?”

me: “none”

tech: “no lights are on?”

me: “nope”

tech: “is it plugged in?”

me: “yep, and I also tried plugging it into a different outlet.”

tech: “Okay, we will have to replace your modem…”

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ghc-logo-341w-x-482hThis article was written by Andy Trask, Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

Lucky Wellesley Family Finds Andy and Dave on Their Doorstep With an iPad!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
Andy (L) and Dave (R) hand over "the goods" to Charlie and Cindy Brown

Andy (L) and Dave (R) hand over "the goods" to Charlie and Cindy Brown

When Cindy Brown received an email from Geek Housecalls telling her that her family had won the Geeksgiving grand prize drawing for an Apple iPad, her first reaction was: “is this real?”  And who can blame her?  With so many supposedly free iPads spattered across seemingly every website in contests and giveaways, it’s hard to decipher what’s real and what’s just a come-on. So Cindy called her husband Charlie (at that time on assignment in Dubai UAE), and he gave her sensible advice; “If it’s from Geek Housecalls, it must be real, but call them and ask.”  (I like that… trust but verify.)

So that morning, Cindy called Geek Housecalls and talked to Andy who greeted her with “Congratulations Cindy! You really won the Geek Housecalls iPad!”

It wasn't long before youngest daughter Sally, staked her claim on the new iPad by connecting it to her MacBook and syncing with iTunes. Mom and Dad and sister Joanna look on as Sally explains the finer points of iPad ownership.

Sally Brown quickly stakes her claim in the new iPad, demonstrating to Mom, Dad, and sister Joanna how to connect to her MacBook and sync up with iTunes.

Cindy and Charles Brown and their daughters Joanna and Sally have been customers of Geek Housecalls since 2004 when they first contacted Geek Housecalls for help with a couple Windows laptops that were having trouble accessing their wireless network, and one that was freezing up on them frequently.  After their first service call, they knew they had found their perfect home computer support team, and have used Geek Housecalls ever since.  While they started out like many families with all Microsoft Windows PCs and laptop computers, more recently, Cindy decided to take the plunge into the Apple world and got Macbooks for herself and her daughters.  They were pleasantly surprised to learn that Geek Housecalls services both Windows and Mac computers and had one of our ‘hybrid’ PC/MAC geeks out to assist with set up and wireless networking, as well as data transfer from the older Windows computers to their new Macs.  And it was one such service call in November of 2010 that got the Browns entered into the Geeksgiving contest.

And what would a grand prize celebration be without balloons in /Geek Housecalls' signature yellow, white, and teal?

And what would a grand prize celebration be without balloons in Geek Housecalls' signature yellow, white, and teal?

Geeksgiving is a contest Geek Housecalls holds each year around Thanksgiving time and generally involves giveaways to customers and mail-in entrants. In the  first-ever Geeksgiving in 2009, Geek Housecalls gave away ‘turkeys’ in the form of supermarket gift cards to dozens of daily winners and held a grand prize drawing for an Acer One Netbook computer. The 2010 Geeksgiving celebration included weekly winners of Geek Housecalls Gift certificates valued at $150 worth of service, and of course our grand prize was the iPad that went to the Browns.

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So don’t be in too much of a hurry to discard that email from Geek Housecalls announcing this years’s Geeksgiving. The next winner could be you!

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Geek Housecalls is the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home, contact Geek Housecalls via the web.  And for your small business IT support needs, find out why our Geek Office Solutions division is growing rapidly with small business customers finding out just how good it is to have a team of professonals on hand for both reactive support needs as well as important pro-active planning and prevention!

 

Toll free:               1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)

 

 

BEFORE YOU PANIC! Why is your laptop suddenly reporting “no wireless networks available” ??

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

geekablog-logoMy daughter moved into her freshman dorm last week and within two days called me in a panic because her brand spankin’ new Dell laptop was suddenly unable to “see” the college’s campus-wide wifi  network.  Of course, because I’m her dad, her first call was to me, and fortunately, because I’m a geek, I immediately knew what was going on and how to solve it.  But this got me thinking about all the other dads (you know… the non-geek dads) who at this very moment could be getting the same call from their own college or high-school student, so dads (and moms!), read up for your chance to be the hero…

Most laptop computers with built in wifi networking have some means of turning off that feature when not needed as a way of conserving battery life.  There are a few different approaches that manufacturers take to doing this. 

  1. Some laptops have a very tiny (and often difficult to find) sliding microswitch located somewhere along the side or front of the unit. 
  2. Some laptops have what’s called a “soft switch” where pressing a special combination of keystrokes toggles the wifi feature on and off.  This is usually a combination of the Function (Fn or Func) key along with another key that has a symbol looking like an antenna or radio waves on it.
  3. A third approach is a separate dedicated “wifi” or “wireless” (or equivilent icon) button usually above the keyboard or near the power button that toggles this feature on or off.

In almost all cases, there is a wifi indicator light of some sort that would be either lit or not lit to indicate whether wifi is enabled or disabled on your laptop. This indicator light is sometimes located near the power or battery light, but may be located near the switch in question, especially if your unit has the microswitch design. In some cases, particularly with the dedicated wifi button, the button itself lights up to indicated when wifi is enabled.

When wifi is disabled or turned off via one of these switches, the Windows operating system doesn’t “know” that it’s been turned off, it only “knows” that it no longer is able to detect any wireless networks, and thus the error message.  To solve, turn wifi back on. Newer laptops will likely connect immediately on their own.  Older laptops may need to be cajoled into connecting by right-clicking the wireless network connection icon down in the corner near the clock and choosing “view available wireless networks.”

And as it turned out, my daughter’s moment of panic was short-lived as we quickly found that her laptop did indeed have a tiny microswitch located along the right side of her laptop, that she had probably bumped to the off postion while sliding her laptop into or out of her backpack!

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ghc-logo-341w-x-482hThis article was written by Andy Trask, Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)