Monday, December 6, 2010

4G is Arriving!

Do your local cell towers seem more crowded and sprouting more antennas? Verizon has just activated their 4G/LTE network; it is yet another entry in a field which is becoming crowded. 4G is a term for "cellular wireless internet" (aka DATA) which on average is about 10 times faster than existing 3G data connections and competitive in speed with basic DSL internet connections. Clear® already has their WiMax/4G network which even works at home at speeds of 6.0Mbps down/1.0 Mbps up (check their map to ensure you're near one of the towers, else you'll get much slower 3G speeds!). Which 4G (roaming or at home) is right for you?

ISP Bundles

It's becoming more complicated (and EXPENSIVE) to have internet service separated from cable TV and phone service. Comcast® and AT&T® both have triple bundles where you get the basics of all 3 services for about $99 per month. But what if you just want internet? Son Jeff recently bought a house in Wheaton, and was interested in only having internet service along with a Digital TV antenna for local channels. He thought he could save some money by streaming video (with commercials) from websites such as , and especially live sports (www.ESPN3.COM). If you're going to stream video, a basic internet download connection at speeds of 2Mbps or less won't really be enough, especially if your 'target' is a 40" HD-TV. Plan on paying $50 - $60 per month just for an internet connection with enough speed for video streaming. You may think a DSL connection costs less, but it requires a standard AT&T phone line, and Jeff wanted to rely on his cell phone for that. Clear's WiMax® service for home seemed to fit well ($45/mo, 6.0Mbps down/1.0 Mbps up), until we found that it's not on ESPN3.COM's list of internet service providers. Neither is my 3G Verizon Wireless MiFi. Comcast wants $59.95/month for internet alone, $69.99 for internet + basic TV, and another $10/mo for High Definition.

And you thought CELL phone plans were complicated (and expensive) between minutes, text messages, and now Data plans!

Net-net, if you haven't yet combined your services to save money, it's probably time to do so.

More Tablets

There are pluses and minuses to Samsung's Galaxy Tablet (middle image). Biggest plus is a slightly lower cost. A smaller screen (7") makes it easier to hold than an iPad, but -- it's smaller! Biggest minus -- it crashes a lot more than Apple's iPad.

To date the Galaxy Tablet has shipped over 1 million units (much of that "filling" the sales channel). iPad has sold over 8 million since April, and is #1 on every kid's holiday wish list.

If' you're trying to decide, the old rule of thumb is: "Look at the applications first". To complicate this, it's not just Windows vs Mac -- an Apple iPad is NOT a Mac, it's "iOS", which covers iPhone & iPod Touch as well. Galaxy Tab is "Android" which has an entirely different set of applications for smartphones and tablets. And then there's the Blackberry OS, Microsoft's latecomer "Windows Mobile 7", and HP/Palm's fading WebOS/PalmOS. For an application developer who has to convert applications from one 'platform' to another, which one would you choose first... and then second? Right! iOS first, and Android second.

A word of warning: even Google cautions Android won't be fully tablet ready until v3.0 next year)...;txt
...and vendors such as Lenovo, LG and Acer, are timing their own tablet releases to coincide with Android 3.0...
...and next year there will also be tablets from HP (WebOS) and Blackberry (the "PlayBook").

Smartphones with cameras have already caused a 16% decline in sales of basic "point and shoot" cameras. As Tablet applications become more sophisticated, this all spells trouble for PC sales ... and Microsoft revenue/profits.

Future Smartphone Concept

For years the automotive world has had 'concept cars' incorporating advances in technology and design. Well, here's a generic 'concept smartphone' from Mozilla Labs® (the Firefox people). I know, you may think your current smartphone is a concept only because you don't know how to use all the features! What's a Pico Projector and why would a smartphone need TWO of them? Watch this 2.5 min video below (either link).

A next generation smartphone incorporating the features shown IMHO might completely replace desktop/laptop/netbook computers as we know them today.
PCWorld® doesn't think we'll see dual Pico Projectors in next year's iPhone......
...but at the pace things happen, you never know.

From today's science fiction to tomorrow's products, Professional Nerds® is Delivering 21st Century Technology™

DNS - IBM (it's better manual!)

This is an old joke from my IBM days where "IBM" means "It's Better Manual". Recently Comcast had an internet outage where their internet was working...
...but their DNS (domain name servers) were down. The internet operates on IP addresses, for example, and DNS translates these to website names, such as With the DNS down, all of your Favorites/Bookmark website names could not be translated to IP addresses, and you'd get a message: "Internet Explorer cannot find the webpage".

Your Router usually gets a DNS address automatically along with your IP address. On both the router and the PC's DNS settings, change the DNS checkbox from automatic to manual. Use the big DNS server from Google®: For your second choice, another good DNS is from Level 3 Communications®: For a laptop, make sure you change the DNS settings for BOTH wired and wireless -- they're independent of each other.

Manually setting the DNS on the PC (both wired and wirelessly) also protects you against "DNS poisoning" where a virus on one PC used a router's default ID/pw to change the DNS. The remaining PCs on 'automatic DNS' became "sitting ducks" because the automatic poisoned DNS would not allow critical/security updates and virus signature updates for security software.

Friday, October 29, 2010

An Internet Geography Lesson

Compare the geography of the Internet in 2007 vs 2010. In 2007 MySpace ruled, and Facebook was a penninsula. Not only has that flipped, but Farmville (a Facebook game) has more usage than MySpace. See the geography maps here:

What are buyers doing with their iPads ???

‎8 million iPads sold to date. WalMart starts selling them 10/28/10. Verizon starts bundling the basic iPad with their wireless MiFi. However, at least 1/3 of users have never downloaded any additional apps (not even free ones). So, what are people doing with them?

Yet another new Android-based tablet

Last week Amazon announced that Kindle owners would be able to lend certain books (based on publisher consent), and now Barnes & Noble announces the $249 NookColor. The catch: it's a compormise. Altho Android-based and 1/2 the cost of an iPad, it won't run all Android apps, bat...tery life is way shorter than E-Ink (but comparable to iPad), no 3G version (WiFi only), and like iPad/netbook/laptops, you can't read the screen in bright sunlight.

History repeating itself

Today's Android-based E-Reader/Tablet announcements remind me of the early 1980s and all of the not-quite compatible PC clones. Most of the vendors didn't make it. Anyone remember Eagle PC and Columbia PC ?

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Here you Have' Virus Tries to Delete Your Security Software

'Here you Have' Virus Tries to Delete Your Security Software

The infected link in emails "Here you have" or "Just for you" has been taken down, but the worm which spams your email address book is still spreading. Once one person clicks on an infected link, this worm can spread to other computers in the home or business via network connections.

Monday, August 16, 2010

DLNA - Digital Living Network Alliance

You’re going to be hearing more about a new acronym -- DLNA…..

….especially in reference to HD-TVs, Blu-Ray players, etc. New models of these devices already incorporate wired or wireless Internet networking, to access online services such as NetFlix video streaming. But in addition to a “Networking Blu-Ray player or Wifi networking HD-TV”, you’ll see references that these devices are also ‘DLNA-enabled’.

Essentially this means that home entertainment devices with networking can also access stored video/music/photos on home computer equipment. Microsoft is part of this group, interestingly Apple is not. Other members include AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Cisco/Linksys (see above for complete list).

So far, over 8,000 devices have been certified for DLNA.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More Reliable Internet

Internet outages can happen to ANY internet supplier -- AT&T T1, AT&T DSL, Comcast, Wowway, etc. -- affecting thousands of customers. But end user outages and interruptions can also occur, making you think your ISP(internet service provider)'s service is less reliable than it really is.

To the average person, "internet infrastructure" is about as sexy as the plumbing at home. But I think the time has come to pay some attention to it, as your internet infrastructure will be your 21st Century foundation. If it doesn't work well, then all the things you'll want to connect to it won't work well -- or at all! And it doesn't have to be costly -- doing a few things right will enable you to enjoy all those useful 21st Century technologies which are becoming available.

First of all, you need high speed internet from Comcast, AT&T, or Wowway. With AT&T, make sure your DSL is a minimum of 3Mbps download so you qualify for free security software (for 4-10 PCs). If you have Comcast or AT&T U-Verse, you're all set.

Then, most people will want a wireless (WiFi) router to give fast wireless internet to laptops, netbooks, iPod Touch, Kindle readers, and wireless printers. Again, this is included with AT&T U-Verse. For AT&T DSL users, get one of AT&T's 2Wire Gateways. For others, the best router I like right now is the Netgear WNR3500L. About $80, has gigabit ethernet, and fast wireless N300 capability.

Plugging your internet infrastructure (cable/dsl modem and router) into a surge protecting power strip protects your equipment against damaging surges or over-voltages of electricity. But while electrical undervoltages can also damage the equipment (particularly power transformers), they can also cause your networking gear to lock up and stop working. The usual solution to this is to unplug the equipment for 5-10 seconds, and then plug it back in.

But as the number of wired and wireless devices in your home or office grows, the best solution is to get a small battery backup UPS (uninterruptible power source, starts about $50 for 200 watts) to plug your networking equipment into. This will feed a constant stream of power to your devices, regardless of whether or not the battery is being recharged from wall power. Your networking devices will sail uninterrupted through power surges, brownouts, "blips", and even short duration outages (ie 30-45 minutes with a small battery).

With a UPS Battery making your infrastructure reliable, you can confidently add 21st Century internet devices and services (ie digital phone service, iPod Touch, streaming NetFlix to your HD-TV) to your home or office, knowing that your internet signal will be there for them.

Note: You CAN get larger capacity UPS units which will power a PC or server along with your networking gear. Larger units also include a monitoring cable and software, so that when the battery has 5 minutes of capacity left, it will automatically (and gracefully!) shutdown your PC. See your Professional Nerd for more details and answers to your questions.


If you've noticed the closing of Blockbuster Video stores, it's because of NetFlix. They are the service which will mail movie discs to/from your home, charging a flat monthly fee and no late charges.

If you're not interested in snail-mailing discs, you MAY be interested in NetFlix's latest offer -- unlimited video streaming for $9 per month. Personally I think THIS offer is going to do to HBO and Showtime, what mailing discs already did to Blockbuster.

Video streaming means delivering movies real-time via your high-speed internet connection. With a single NetFlix account you can watch movies of your choice on the internet device of your choice. This means PC, Mac, and personal devices such as iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad.

To use this with your big screen TV, it too has to have an internet connection. Some of the latest HD-TV models are internet/WiFi (home wireless internet) ready. To others, you can easily attach a laptop via VGA/HDMI connection. But the most interesting (and inexpensive) way to do this, is to purchase a "networking" Blu-Ray player. Prices have bees steadily falling to where a 'wired' networking Blu-Ray player such as the Panasonic DMP-BD65 are now $120 from CompUSA stores. Like a PC, this requires an ethernet wire between your high speed internet router and where you'll have the Blu-Ray next to your big screen TV. For $40 more, CompUSA can sell you a Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-Ray player with built-in WiFi (home wireless internet), so you don't need to run a wire from your router.

With devices like these attached to your big-screen TV, just use it's remote to setup your NetFlix account, ignore the DVD queue, and start searching for and adding items of interest to your 'Instant Queue'.

A networking HD-TV/Blu-Ray player has a fully functional web browser which can also be used for web surfing as well as viewing live TV internet streaming, and stored YouTube videos.

Professional Nerds - Delivering 21st Century Technology !

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Epson photo printing direct from iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad

Instead of making your next printer yet another HP, the 75 million iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad owners should consider an Epson printer (see supported models below) and Epson's free "Epson iPrint" application for printing photos directly from your device.

Many of you know that I'm a fan of Epson printers such as the Artisan 810 (print/copy/scan/fax w/wireless networking), and that I own (and love) last year's model, the Artisan 800. The Artisan paper tray has 2 levels built-in; you can have 8.5x11" plain paper AND photo paper (3.5x5, 4x6, or 5x7) loaded at the same time. Plus you won't have all the cumbersome buttons; the Artisan printers have a large touchpad with 'soft keys' as well as photo preview. Artisan 810 lists for $299, but shop around, you can find them on sale for $199. If you really want a 2nd paper tray (for envelopes and other things, they're available for $25 including shipping).

Supported Epson printers with Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections (USB not supported for Epson iPrint):
* Artisan® 700, 710, 800, 810
* Epson Stylus® NX420, NX510, NX515
* WorkForce® 310, 520, 600, 610, 615

Friday, June 11, 2010

All charged up!

You KNOW it's going to be a good day when you awake early from a refreshing night of sleep, have a good breakfast to start the day right..... and when all of your 'devices' have been recharging all night long! Somehow the list keeps getting longer, and in my case that includes:
- Blackberry Storm2 smartphone
- BlueAnt bluetooth headset (announces Caller ID number for incoming calls!)
- Dell XPS Studio laptop computer
- Apple iPad (32GB WiFi only)

Miss recharging any one of these, and your 21st Century life will suffer! Just yesterday afternoon I was on hold with a support line somewhere in India. My headset had been beeping, indicating that it was about to die, and just after it did, my cell phone battery indicator went 'red'! Had it also died, I would have lost the call, and had to get back in line to wait 'on hold with India' yet another time! I was able to plug the phone into a USB charger on my laptop before it died, but it was a short cord, and I looked very funny leaning over the laptop keyboard and holding the phone in my hand.

I still like the fact that my iPad just sips electricity - 10 hours of battery life, and I only recharge it every 2-3 days, rather than nightly like everything else. Steve Jobs and Apple may be onto something here. In the marketing wars between the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid, Blackberry Storm2, Palm Pre, and various iterations of Windows Mobile, I can say without a doubt that the one phone I had with Windows Mobile just guzzled electricity. I'd even got an expanded battery "bulge" for it, and it still barely lasted 1 day.

So don't forget about battery life when looking for your next smartphone or other device. If you run out of battery before you run out of day, you'll just find yourself with the added stress of fumbling amongst various car chargers and laptop USB adapters to keep enough juice in the devices so your 21st Century LIFE keeps moving forward!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

iPad Mania

When I first saw the announcement of Apple's iPad back in February, what flashed into my mind was a scene from the 1968 movie: "2001" where the astronauts are 'reading the newspaper' using an electronic device called a 'newspad'. I knew I had to have one, not only because people will be asking me about it, but I needed first-hand experiences of the iPad's value, both business and personal. OK, ok, for me, it's also a tax write-off!

SETTING EXPECTATIONS: An iPad is a VIEWER whose battery lasts TEN HOURS. It's NOT a 'computer' ie a laptop or netbook replacement. The 1.0 iPad is missing some things, however not only does it open other doors, Apple sold over ONE MILLION of them in the first 30 days -- and that's just in the USA! Net-net, I expect that most wanted features WILL be added.

Like laptops and netbooks, all iPads have WiFi wireless internet. In addition to the basic type, there's also a "3G" model which has both WiFi and 'always-on' cellular-based internet access for $30 per month. Both types have 16GB of solid-state 'disk' (aka SSD) storage (no rotating disk drives) and enhanced models come with 32GB or 64GB of SSD.

Since 3G iPads are scarce and I already have a MiFi 3G wireless router from Verizon, I chose the non-3G iPad, but with 32GB of SSD. iPad's have a very nice 'virtual' keyboard built-in, and I added a Mac wireless Bluetooth keyboard for experimentation (3 weeks later it's hardly been used).

As with iPhone, iPod, and iTouch, the iTunes software on your PC or Mac is the basis for adding content to the iPad, whether it be music, photos, or videos. I synchronized a bunch of family photos and took the iPad to Mother's Day dinner where Mary and Grandma Novak enjoyed them very much. Son Jeff used the iPad with the MiFi 3G to show GrandPa Novak about Facebook. I took this photo with my Blackberry phone, uploaded it to Facebook, and they were viewing it two minutes later.

Even the base models with 16GB, iPad requires about 3GB of overhead, so there's still a LOT of storage for music, electronic books (including FREE as well as Amazon Kindle purchases), and photos. But there's more -- a DVD movie can be "ripped" and sync'd, and only requires 1.3GB each ( $35). In addition to synchronizing via iTunes, iPads can get your own "cloud shared" files via DropBox (, first 2GB free). So who cares if there's no direct USB port on the iPad?

There are many free apps, but I've bought 4 which I find very useful:
1) GoodReader ($1) for viewing MS Word, Acrobat PDF, and many more types of files
2) Keynote ($10) which converts and displays PowerPoint presentations
3) iPad to VGA ($29) external video connector (iPad resolution is 1024x768).
4) LogMeIn Ignition ($30) which lets your iPad remotely control another computer.

Son Jeff the music teacher has already tried the iPad for turning sheet music pages while piano playing!

So there you have it. An ultra-light, ultra-thin content viewer with WiFi and/or 3G internet, useful applications, plenty of storage, and a battery which lasts 10 hours. Thumbs UP !

Problems playing videos

Ever tried to play a video on your computer, and while you could hear the sound, you couldn't see the picture? What your viewer/player software (such as Windows Media Player) is missing is a ‘codec’ – that’s a COmpression/DECompression algorithm your videos were originally encoded with. While you could spend time converting the videos to another format, it may be MUCH easier just to add additional CODECs to your machine.

Here are two free resources:

A) Safely download and install the KLite Mega CODEC collection from File Hippo:

B) Now go to the DIVX website and download their free package which includes a player and a video converter, but most importantly, an additional collection of CODECs which also can be used with other viewers such as the built-in Windows Media Player.

Full DIVX details here:

Between these two, you should be able to play your videos in Windows Media Player without having to spend lots of time converting files -- but THAT is the subject of another post!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Printing gibberish from certain web pages

If you’re getting gibberish when printing certain web pages to a laser printer, the problem is that the web page content providers have changed to a font which the laser printer doesn’t have built-in. The solution is to go into the Printer folder, right-click on the printer, and left-click Printer Preferences. The FONT setting may be on an 'Advanced' tab (varies from manufacturer to manufacturer). Anyway, change the Font default of using resident fonts, to always downloading the font info along with the web page content.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Changing over from one ISP (internet service provider, such as AT&T or Comcast) to another usually means leaving the vendor's email address behind. And a new vendor's email address domain (such as “” or may also be left behind in the future due to yet another ISP change. So go ahead and switch NOW to free Google GMAIL accounts. Your new GMAIL account can be configured to pull in your existing ISP email until such time as that address is no longer valid.

And, GMAIL can be setup to pull in email from multiple email accounts, so it’s the perfect basis to go with, even if in the future you add your own website and email domain name.

So, map out which email addresses you are using now, and plan for ONE conversion, which will last forever.

PS - Did I mention that free GMAIL accounts have excellent virus/spam filtering, and come with almost 8GB of inbox space? That's like over 5,000 floppy disks full of data!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Security software expiration email

Comcast and AT&T users who use their free McAfee Internet Security should IGNORE any renewal emails from McAfee (or Norton). You DON'T need to pay for renewal – you should be getting it free from AT&T or Comcast. This email notification may be about an old paid-for McAfee/Norton subscription or one which was included with a new computer. Take a look at your PC. Look for the McAfee icon in the lower right ‘system tray’. If it looks like this: and doesn’t have anything obscuring it like this: then your security subscription on the machine is probably OK.

To verify, double-left-click the McAfee icon in the lower-right system tray, and the McAfee Security Center should come up.

Mine is from Comcast, yours might say AT&T (depending on who your internet provider is). If your McAfee Security Center has your internet provider's name on it and you see the big green checkmark like above, that tells you you’re OK.

If the McAfee Security Center does NOT say AT&T (or Comcast), then it’s an original paid-for version from McAfee or Dell, which has indeed expired. But you should NOT pay to renew it! Instead, go to the Control Panel, Add/Remove programs, and REMOVE the expired McAfee. After restarting your PC, click here to download and install your free McAfee from AT&T. Comcast users click here to download and install your free McAfee from Comcast.

Comcast users will need an "" email address and password to authorize the download/install. AT&T users will need the PRIMARY users "", "", or "" email address and password to authorize the download/install.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Does your DSL seem slow?

I recently came across a client who was having poor internet performance. His service was rated by AT&T as 6,016 Mbps download and 768 Mbps upload. But when we measured it with Speakeasy's Speedtest website (which usually shows about 80% of rated speed), it only showed 900/650 download and upload!

The client had had DSL for a while. Unlike cable internet, DSL shares the phone line with your house phone. When you first installed it, you were given a kit of DSL filters for wall and desk phones. In this case, the client had added both a cordless phone as well as an All-In-One printer with a FAX line, but neither had DSL filters. Once we added the appropriate filters, the speed bounced back to normal.

The Moral is: When DSL shares a line, EVERY PHONE AND FAX DEVICE NEEDS A FILTER!

You can check your rated DSL speed by looking at your AT&T phone bill, or by logging onto you network's DSL modem (one of these should work):
AT&T DSL Modem
AT&T 2WIRE Router (new)
AT&T 2WIRE Router (old)
AT&T 2WIRE Router (old-alternate)

Here are some other Internet Speed Test websites:
AT&T Yahoo! Speed Test
Comcast Speed Test - The Global Broadband Speed Test

Update your software!

Computerworld: Attacks show Google runs Microsoft's IE
The Atlantic: Chinese hackers attacked Google via older Internet Explorer v6

This recent hack into Google corporate data shows the vulnerability of unpatched software. According to Microsoft, many Google machines still hadn't upgraded from Internet Explorer v6 to v7 or v8, and the v6 machines were exploited. Of course if you run an alternate browser such as Mozilla Firefox, that would have stopped this attack as well. The message?

When requested, APPLY UPDATES TO SOFTWARE UPDATES FROM MICROSOFT, ADOBE, SUN, as well as your computer and printer manufacturer (ie Dell, HP, etc).
Microsoft Windows
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Adobe Flash Player
SUN's Java website plumbing

Install Mozilla Firefox

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New MagicJack Femtocell at CES

A femtocell is a very small cellular tower for the home. I’ve been watching and waiting for affordable femtocell technology for some time. Magic Jack's offering requires a broadband connection and a GSM-compatible phone. The consumer's smartphone should also be internet WiFi capable, and they should also have at least in-home WiFi-G wireless internet.

“U.S. carriers have been selling and experimenting with devices that act similarly to the wireless magicJack. They're called "femtocells." Like the magicJack, they use the carrier's licensed spectrum to connect to a phone, then route the calls over a home broadband connection. They improve coverage inside the home and offload capacity from the carrier's towers.”

So, users of phones with GSM for voice may now have improved signal strength inside their home, and free daytime cellular “minutes” when their GSM phone is routed thru the MagicJack Femtocell device. However, experience and experimentation is needed to show what this means for data. Of course, if the user’s GSM device is a smartphone with WiFi capability, in-home WiFi will take care of the internet browsing portion.

There will probably be legal challenges for YMax/MagicJack, in that the new device uses, without permission, radio frequencies for which cellular carriers have paid billions of dollars for exclusive licenses. YMax says the device is legal because wireless spectrum licenses don't extend into the home. OK, that’s home users. What about business offices? We don’t know yet.

IMHO this is a ‘disruptive’ new technology which means opportunity for others to capitalize on in 2010+ At the very least, competition from YMax/MagicJack should alter the business models of the cellular carriers to some extent. Meanwhile, I’m planning that my next Smartphone be GSM-compatible world phone (not just a Verizon CDMA/TDMA type) – just in case.

Thought you’d be interested.