Windows Vista & WiFi Saga Continues

That Gateway laptop with Windows Vista that I had so much trouble with was back under my typing fingers again today. I finally had it working perfectly with the new NetGear router, so it was time to see if it would connect to the older Dell WiFi router.

Drum roll, please…. No. Same garbage. Connect up, no DHCP address. Set an alternate IP address. Still cannot even ping the router, even though Vista is saying that the WiFi is connected with “local” connectivity (but no internet).

So I hooked up the NetGear and deleted all reference to the Dell. It worked perfectly.

Solution? Any skeet shooters among you? Pull! There goes the old Dell WiFi router into the trash. Let’s tidy up the cabling for the new NetGear. I love to save people money as much as the next guy, but there’s a time when you just have say enoughs enough.

The Dell WiFi router works just fine with XP laptops, just not Vista apparently.

Faster External Storage for Your Laptop – eSATA II

For many laptop users, USB 2.0 or Firewire offer fast enough speeds for external storage. For others, though, 400mbps just isn’t fast enough.

My work with the MBox and ProTools is one example. ProTools recommends recording music to a non system hard drive – tough to do on a laptop unless you’re talking external. Yet tech support specifically states that USB is NOT fast enough.

Welcome eSATA. I love eSATA external hard drive enclosures, the one from Vantec I’ve written about in the past. But how do you connect eSATA to your laptop?

Easy, now anyway. SIIG makes an expresscard adapter that sells for less than $70. The card slides right in to a slim ExpressCard/34 slot and features two eSATA ports stacked on top of each other. The controller housed inside supports a standard second-gen feature set, including 3 Gbps transfer speeds, Native Command Queuing, hot plugging, and support for drives that exceed 137GB.

If you want the latest and the fastest, go eSATA.

No Excuse Not to Have Data Backup

Data backup on my mind again.

Here I am at a yard sale, typing on my laptop, connected to a wireless router (wirelessly) which is connected to the internet with Motorola Canopy wireless gear and an antenna on the roof of my truck. (I’m a director at the local telco and I’m trying to promote our wireless internet service.)

Things are a touch slow right now, so I thought I’d comment on the movie “Duplex” we watched last night.

Ben Stiller is working on his laptop trying to complete his book with the deadline looming. Naturally, something happens to the laptop just after he finishes the novel. He’s been working on this project for months and has not even one backup.

Wait, you’re saying, it’s just a movie. People in real life don’t do stuff that stupid. Well, you’d be wrong my friend. I’ve mentioned before the bright, ambitious college student whose hard drive crashed with her semester thesis on it – nary a backup to be found.

Thumb drives are just too cheap, too convenient, not to have multiple copies of important data.

For better data backup, check out Acronis True Image. Does a great job of picking up just important stuff if that’s all you want; does an even better job at imaging the entire drive to an external hard drive – also incredibly cheap.

Leave Computer On or Shut Off?

I get this question all the time, and apparently so does the Yahoo Tech Guy.

He does a pretty good job of explaining it here.

I agree with him on the hibernate. Half the time it doesn’t work right, and at that point why not just reboot anyway.

Standby works ok if you won’t be gone long, otherwise shut it off.

I recommend a reboot once per day anyway to make up for Window’s sometimes shoddy housekeeping, but don’t be turning it on and off multiple times in a day.

Windows Vista WiFi Connection – Not a No Brainer

The other day I wrote about a problem connecting a new Gateway laptop with Windows Vista Home Premium (the sticker on the laptop said “Vista Basic”) to wireless networks – WiFi and Vista Problems.

With or without WiFi security, the Vista laptop would connect, but not obtain a DHCP address. Interestingly, setting an address manually would not work either. Yesterday, after getting the same results on a new Netgear router and an hour googling and trying anything I can think of, I got it to work.

I have no idea if it is coincidence or not, but after I set an address in the “alternative” tab on the IPv4 properties and disabled IPv6 (which alone did not work), the laptop picked up an address and started working!

I rebooted; it still worked. I removed the alternative address, rebooted, and it still worked. Rebooted again – just for good measure – and the WiFi again connected and picked up a DHCP address.

Vista is definitely not quite as straightforward in connecting to WiFi networks as XP is; however, at least it does not automatically connect to unprotected networks. Vista treats unsecured WiFi as it should – suspiciously.

Windows Vista, A Cheap Computer, and Vista Ready Boost

Another tale of the cheap computer today. Now, again, I like inexpensive, but I HATE cheap – there is a difference!

My friends at the local ISP were talking about a customer who had just received a new PC as a gift from family members. This speed demon was equipped with Vista Basic (no flashy Aero interface) and only 512MB RAM; probably a 5400 rpm hard drive as well (should have 7200).

This person was complaining that her internet was slow. No, her PC was slow. When, after 5 minutes from boot time there are still icons loading in the system tray, that indicates 2 problems:

  • Cheap hardware
  • Too much “free” software trying to load up (hint: uninstall what you don’t need)
  • Probably a hog anti virus program (McAfee or Symantec Norton, the worst I’ve found)

The cheap hardware MIGHT benefit, since it’s Vista, from a memory upgrade via Ready Boost. If you won’t spring for the real stuff (system RAM, that is), then be advised that certain flash memory, be it SD cards or USB sticks, can act as additional RAM in Windows Vista. This is called Ready Boost. Now, the flash memory MUST be Ready Boost compatible. If it doesn’t say, don’t count on it.

Is Ready Boost RAM as good as system RAM? No, but it’s better than swapping to the hard disk, especially if the hard disk is a pukey 5400 rpm jobby.

This SanDisk 2GB Cruzer Micro USB 2.0 w/ Ready Boost is supposed to be on sale this week at —- for $9.29 after $20 mail in rebate.

With a laptop, you might opt for an SD Card for your Ready Boost since it can be inserted and just left there – it doesn’t stick out of the unit at all.

Either way, if your Vista PC is struggling, it’s worth a try.

WEP is Dead – Secure Your WiFi With WPA, WPA2

I have written before about securing your WiFi network. I overcome the standard arguments of

  • There is nothing on my network worth anything
  • I don’t care if someone uses my bandwidth
  • It’s too hard

with the news that someone engaging in illegal activity on YOUR WiFi will get the police at YOUR door. And at the too hard part I respond “go to my website” and “ever heard of Google?”.

No one listens but I have long complained about new WiFi devices supporting only WEP. Isn’t it an oxymoron (emphasis on the moron) that many newer security cameras only support WEP?

No WiFi router I know of will support multiple security protocols simultaneously, so that means you have to reduce your WiFi security to the lowest common denominator. And WEP stinks.

Here’s the proof that WEP is dead.

Do you think, after reading the article, that cracking WEP is more complicated than anyone in your neighborhood can accomplish? Maybe, since kids can be lazy. And if you live in the USA, rest easy. We have very few engineering students these days. Most of the world’s engineers are currently being trained in China. 9/11 took care of that. We don’t allow ambitious foreigners in anymore; just persistent crop workers (although we need those too, I’m told).

There is no excuse in the industry for being so slow to convert to WPA and WPA2. And for not building devices capable of security upgrades. But the consumer doesn’t demand it, so…

WEP is good for only one thing. It keeps the uninitiated, who unwisely have their laptop configured to automatically connect to any open WiFi signal (including hacker honey pots), from automatically connecting to yours.

But if someone wants to steal bandwidth, or engage in illegal internet activity, WEP is useless at stopping them. Unless of course, your neighbor has obliged by keeping his WiFi open, thus sparing you by providing an even easier target.