MVCUG Meeting Notes
August 10, 2019
Well, it took me a week, but I finally got this done. Thanks to all who attended our monthly meeting last Saturday. We had a full house for a special presentation, “Home Networking Demystified.” Following are a few notes with web links for further information...
Tips & Favorites
- In the interest of time there were no prepared tips of the month, but John opened up the floor for the sharing of favorites.
- Mike started off with a security tip. After a short story about a person whose Social Security checks were hijacked by someone who was able to log into this person’s Social Security account online to have the payments mailed someplace else, Mike suggested that even if you are not old enough for Social Security benefits, go to SSA.gov and register to keep ahead of trolls who may be able to find your Social Security number and other personal information online. It was also suggested to set up direct deposit for your benefits when the time comes.
- On a related note, John warned that if you get a phone call from someone claiming to calling from the “social security department,” it’s a scam. [Aside: I received one of these on the Monday after the meeting. ~Barry]
- Maureen show ’n’ telled us about her Halo battery (Amazon link). It can jump start a car, has USB ports for charing laptops, phones, and other gadgets, and a regular three-pronged power outlet to plug in anything else that needs power/charging. It can be carried on commercial airlines, too..
- Carolyn told us about a book (than John wholeheartedly recommended as well) titled Infinite Powers: The Story of Calculus - The Language of the Universe by Steven Strogatz.
We had a short general question and answer period. There was only one question. Nick asked how to confirm that all his Apple devices are on iCloud and syncing his contacts? Here are the steps John provided:
- Log into the same Apple ID on all devices.
- Make sure iCloud is configured to to sync contacts.
- Add a new or dummy contact on one device
- Wait at least 20 minutes (up to 24 hours, but it rarely takes that long).
- See if the new or dummy contact appears on the other devices.
If the contact populates to all devices, it’s working.
Computer Lexicon Term(s) of the Month
Since the main topic is full of terms, John did not have any other terms to share.
To explore the lexicon of computer jargon, take a look at Computer Hope.
Main Topic Notes:
Computer Networking Demytified
Here’s an abbreviated review.
First, what is a network? You can read the Wikipedia page if you’d like. But simply put, a network is a group of connected computers that share resources and exchange information.
The Internet is a network. The Internet is the “cloud.”
Components of a Home Network
- Short for modulator/demodulator, a modem is a hardware device that allows a computer to send and receive information over outside telephone or cable lines. When sending a signal, the device converts ("modulates") your digital data to a different signal, and transmits it over your cable or telephone lines to your Internet service provider (ISP); the two main kinds of modems in use today are:
- Cable modem
- Uses coaxial connection from cable TV provider to provide you with a very fast Internet connection.
- DSL modem
- Uses the phone lines to provide your Internet connection, but many times slower than a cable modem.
- A router is a hardware device that connects to the modem and routes traffic to and from the Internet to multiple devices in your home via copper wires
- Wireless Router
- A wireless router is a hardware device that connects to the modem and routes traffic to and from the Internet to multiple devices in your home via radio (Wi-Fi). Also, they may provide standard wired routing for a small number of wired network devices.
- A switch is a hardware device that directs your network traffic on your home network but is often not capable of much more. Your router may combine the capabilities of a router and a switch, or you may have a dedicated switch separate from your router.
Some ISPs may provide, or you may purchase, a single piece of hardware that includes both a modem and router, often with Wi-Fi capability.
Speeds & Checking Speed
John shared a brief history of wireless protocol standards and their speeds. Then suggested software to test your own speeds so you can compare what you are paying for with what you are actually getting. Check out Speedtest by Ookla. It can be run in any browser on any PC, or there are native apps for all platforms.
Extending Your Home Network
There are two basic ways to extend a Wi-Fi network.
- Add another wireless router to create a subnetwork to cover areas that are not adequately covered by a single wireless router.
- Use a mesh network, which uses nodes that intelligently communicate with each other and every device on the network to provide the best coverage and speed in every area the mesh covers.
Note: John recommends the Linksys Velop 4400 mesh system. A couple of other mesh network vendors of note are eero and Netgear Orbi. There are at least a dozen others. Here’s an article by networking guru Dave Hamilton about choosing a mesh network for your home.
Always use network security on you home network. This means choosing an encryption protocol and setting a password. This ensures that the traffic on your network is encrypted and protects your network from outsiders stealing your Internet connection/bandwidth.
There are basically three encryption protocols used today that you may choose from when setting up your router.
- Wired Equivalent Privacy — This is an outdated protocol and should not be used because it is incredibly easy to break. It’s still an option for some older devices that can only use it, but it’s unlikely you will have anything that requires WEP on your home network, so skip it.
- Wi-Fi Protected Access — This protocol was developed and used as a temporary enhancement to WEP, but is fairly easy to break these days. If you only have a choice between WEP and this, use WPA.
- Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2 — This protocol uses much better encryption than the previous ones in this list. It’s the one to choose for your home network.
Yes, Virginia, there is a WPA3 protocol. Although we did not go over that in the meeting—aside from the question being asked—here straight from the Wi-Fi Alliance is an article about Wi-Fi security that provides more information about this latest encryption protocol.
If you are traveling, the common advice is to be very careful about using public W-Fi networks. If you don’t have to enter a password to use Wi-Fi, then the network is not encrypted and all the traffic is sent “in the clear” and could be read by anyone else on the network with the right kind of software tools. If you are just surfing the web and not logging in to any accounts there is less to worry about. But don’t do any shopping, banking, or log into any websites while using an unencrypted public Wi-Fi network — your credit/debit cards, user names, passwords, and bank information could be vulnerable.
Another option when traveling is to use a small Wi-Fi router often known as a hotel or travel router. John travels a lot and he uses the TP-Link N300 (an Amazon Choice).
Well, that just about covers it. We hope you can join us next month on Saturday, September 14 for our annual election of officers and topic planning meeting. We’ll likely have an extended general Q & A session as well. Please come and be prepared to tell us what you would like to learn about in the coming 11 months (October 2019 through August 2020).
Barry “Bazza” Midgorden
Vice President (macOS)
Mountain View Computer Users Group
Sierra Vista, Arizona