New smart Wi-Fi Router review – Linksys EA2700

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Since the last time I looked at home Routers, home networking has gotten more complex. These days, folks are hooking up almost everything to their home network, either wired or wirelessly: game consoles, audio systems, tablets, handheld gaming devices… the list goes on. And older routers have occasionally been cranky when mixing brands and types — causing more network headaches.

That being said, home networking just got much easier with the recent introduction of the new smart Wi-Fi router lineup from Linksys.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be looking at three members of this linup — starting with the powerful Linksys EA2700.

Continue reading “New smart Wi-Fi Router review – Linksys EA2700”

Speed up your Internet experience by using the right DNS server

Last week I saw this LifeHacker article (via AppleInsider) about NameBench, a window utility that tests the speed of your system’s DNS servers.

And I was wondering if my DNS was as fast as it could be…

Previously, I’d switched my DNS services over to OpenDNS, a free alternate DNS Provider that adds value as:

  • Ultra-reliable, globally-distributed network
  • Industry-leading Web content filtering
  • Easy to use for families, schools, and businesses of all sizes

Google also has free public DNS services available, which NameBench scans and includes in the results.

But recently I’d noticed that often videos and other streaming media just wouldn’t play back smoothly, so after reading this bit in the life hacker article I thought I’d give NameBench a try.

“When millions of users all tap into the same DNS server addresses to resolve domain names, as Google DNS does by design, Akamai and other CDNs route content to those users along the same path, preventing the network from working optimally. This causes problems not only for Apple’s iTunes, but also any other media streaming or download service that uses a similar CDN strategy to distribute downloads.”

As an added benefit, NameBench checks to see if your DNS servers are vulnurable up to security standards, and if your DNS requests are being censored or redirected (WikiLeaks, for example).

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WOW.
According to NameBench, By switching back to my ISP, I’d get an amazing DNS speed improvement of over 100%!! Remember, this doesn’t speed up my internet connection, just the speed that the Internet translates domain names into those cryptic Internet IP addresses.

So, by making the recommended changes to my systems DNS settings, NameBench was happy with my settings. Now to see if I actually notice any improvement…

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In Real Life.
Well, I’m not too sure if I am noticing any difference yet or not. There’s so many different factors that can contribute to network speed that one change rarely makes a huge difference.

But still, every small improvement you make adds up, and contributes to a more efficient online experience.
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Fat lady sings. Winners announced soon.

Thus endith my first blog contest. And a very cool ride it was.

My good friends at Clickfree, a Canadian backup technology company, agreed to provide the prizes (Clickfree Transformer SE) for a blog contest challenging folks to provide there best (or worst I guess) backup horror story.

I’ve received some rather good entries. Check out the comments in the original post for the entire list, but here’s a couple of excerpts to give you the idea:

In a multi-developer game development environment:

We updated our local SVN repos and tried to work with the new changes that we were all mak­ing (plus unknow­ingly the changes this other guy made)… only the game ended up crash­ing. It worked fine before this latest update and no one was sup­posed to have made any changes that would cause this prob­lem, and yet, here it was, the game was crash­ing. Franticly we looked at all the changes “we” had made for the prob­lem (remem­ber we did not know this guy had checked any­thing in) and argue­ments rose over who was at fault of this issue (oddly no one fingered the par­tic­u­lar pro­gram­mer in ques­tion since we didn’t know he had com­mit­ted any­thing, plus it was 4am and no one was think­ing straight).

Stolen Grad-student Thesis data:

I got a frantic call from a grad stu­dent once, say­ing that someone had broken in and stolen his com­puter with all his thesis data and his 3/4 fin­ished draft thesis — two years of data col­lec­tion research and writ­ing gone!

Winners?

In the next week or so I’ll be reviewing the entries and notifying the winners. And yes, there will be a blog post about it. Stay tuned!

How to backup files across a network easily

Before I start, a friendly reminder that you only have a day left to enter the contest for a free Click­free Trans­former backup system. Tell me a backup horror story.

It’s one thing to backup the files on your local computer and another to backup files stored on other computers on your network, or Network Attached Storage drives or servers.

In the first case, odds are you simply drag and drop files and folders that are important to you to a blank CD or DVD and burn your backup.

In the latter, well, usually a much more complex process with dedicated backup software is required.

Recently I grabbed a Clickfree Transformer SE to do some simple backup work on my desktop and laptop computers. Basically, the Clickfree Transformer plugs into a USB port. Then you plug a USB Hard Drive into the Transformer SE.

And the magic begins. The software quickly scans your local system and copies important documents, photos, media and other files to the USB drive attached to the Transformer SE.

But back to the theme of this post, ‘backing up files across a network easily’. Basically there’s two things you need to do.

Mapping your network drives

First, you have to have ‘mapped’ the network drives containing files to be backed up. Mapping the drive is a simple process that tells your local Windows operating system to treat the network drive as if it is a local drive — even assigning a drive letter to the network drive.

Microsoft has a pretty good walkthrough on mapping drives in Windows XP. The process for Vista and Windows 7 is very similar.

Configuring the Clickfree Transformer SE
And this process is pretty simple. First, you have to get to the Clickfree backup configuration screens.

If you’ve seen a backup run, then you know there’s a countdown prior to the process beginning. When you cancel that countdown, you abort the current backup. But you also now have the ability to configure your backup by selecting which drives (local or mapped network) and file types you want to back up.

This is important because it’s possible, when backing up mapped network drives, to try and backup more files than you have drive space available for…should  you try and backup your entire photo, video, and music libraries to one drive, for example. If this happens, then the backup also fails to the configuration screens, allowing you to tweak the config so you can fit the backup on the drive.

Ready to roll?
And that’s all there is to it. The next time your backup runs, either manually or automatically, files on those mapped network drives will be backed up along with the ones on your local computer drives. Of course, depending on how much you’re backing up, you may need to split the backup across a couple of drives 🙂

How to add a network activity monitor to Windows 7

I like Windows 7. But there’s one thing that I noticed missing right off the top, a network activity monitor in the Taskbar.

Sure, you could ad a gadget/widget thingie to the desktop, but when you’re working on something, odds are you’re at full-screen resoulution and the monitor is behind whatever y ou’re working on.

Well, thanks to this cool little site (and the pointer from Download Squad) Windows 7 now has a working taskbar-mounted network activity monitor, complete with animated blinking screen. To quote the developer:

This utility is a standalone executable. Run the program, you’ll see a new system tray icon.

Now you can monitor your network traffic in Windows 7 using XP-like ‘two monitors’ icon in the System Tray.

To customize program settings right click the mouse on the System Tray icon.

Pretty straightforward, and functional. And light weight! The Network Activity Indicator for Windows 7 weighs in at a tiny 57kb download.

You can download it here

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Sponsored post – Lunchster helps you organize your lunch dates

The following is a sponsored post, commissioned by Lunchster, via Izea. Though this is a paid post, the words and ideas below are mine.

Hooking up with friends for lunch has always been a bit of a challenge for me, and I’ve always been looking for a way to make it easier. I don’t often write sponsored posts on my blog, but this opportunity came up and it looks like an application I’ll use, so of course I wanted to share 😉

Lunchster launched (sorry) in beta today at DEMO fall ’09, a conference / tradeshow where, in the words of the conference organizers:

Each company is given just six minutes on the DEMO stage to truly demonstrate how their product will change the world. No PowerPoint or flashy corporate presentations allowed. Just the founders and the technologies many are staking their careers on… it doesn’t get any more straightforward and fast paced than that.

Time for Lunchster
Basically, Lunchster acts as virtual assistant that coordinates lunch dates between me and my friends using email, online calendaring programs (Google Calendar, etc) and even Facebook.

The process works like this:

  1. Sign up and log into Lunchster
  2. Either let Lunchster import your contact list, or manually enter email addresses of your lunch-mates
  3. Select a time, date and place for your lunch
  4. Confirm and send out the invitations

Lunchster does the rest. All your contacts will receive email invitations to your lunch, and can reply accordingly. If a date doesn’t work out, all contacts can tweak the lunch date or decline. Lunchster does all the work and you don’t have to coordinate email, IM, tweets, etc. It’s all in Lunchster.

My Take-away
Lunchster is cool. The interface is a little rough around the edges, but I really liked the way I could set up a lunch appointment — the application uses Yelp! to aid with restaurant choice, and works with my existing calendaring tools (Google Calendar and Outlook).

I’m not a big fan of allowing applications free access to my contact list (though Lunchster does say in multiple places that they don’t save my password, etc). Big points to Lunchster for allowing me to manually enter my lunch-buddies email addresses.

I guess the hard part for me is to get into the habit of using another application. As long as I remember to use it, I’ll use Lunchster the next time I need to coordinate a lunch.

You can join the Lunchster beta (it seems open) or follow @lunchster on Twitter, to keep up to date.

The preceding was a sponsored post for Lunchster.
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