Hardware and Communications Tips

Read these 13 Hardware and Communications Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Home Office tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How secure are Cable Modems and DSL Lines?

Cable vs. DSL: Security

Both Cable and DSL lines are open as long as your computer is turned on. That has certain security ramifications. DSL providers will assign you a fixed IP address; a cable company typically assigns you a "floating" IP address, each time you log on. The "floating" address probably gives you a bit of added security from hackers, but you'll want to get a personal firewall system, just to be on the safe side.

   
What´s the trend for wireless home networks?

Growth in home networks

Where do you fit in? Most new homes are already wired with cable. Most older homes are not. Some experts predict that as many as 30 million homes will have home computer networks, and as many as 35-40% of those will be wireless.

   
Why should I buy a computer at a local retail store?

Face time when buying your computer

I've purchased thousands of dollars worth of books, software and other items online. And I've used the Internet extensively to research the systems I've planned on buying. But when it comes to buying the box, I've always gone down to the local retail store and bought something off the shelf. Why? I guess it's because my computer is the piece of equipment I will be interacting with on a daily basis, and there really is nothing like face-time, even for a home office worker. So when I buy a computer, I like to get to know my machine.

   
What kind of long distance plan is best for me?

Your long distance provider

There are seemingly dozens of long distance providers out there. What kind of caller are you? If you don't make many long distance calls, look for a plan that has the lowest cents-per-minute fee you can find, with no monthly fee for the plan. If you make more calls, however, you may benefit from a plan that has a monthly fee, but an even lower cents-per-minute rate.

   
When should I buy a flat-screen monitor?

Flat screens save space

It may soon be time to ditch the big old CRT monitor in favor of a flat-screen LCD monitor. Some can be purchased for less than $500, and prices are falling fast. Not only does the flat-screen take up less space, but the image is a lot sharper. The bad news is that you'll have to find something to do with all that extra free desk space.

   
Should I buy a Macintosh or a PC?

Mac vs. PC

I have owned both systems over the years, and I currently own one of each. The Mac is great for desktop publishing, and programs like Microsoft Office for Mac have made interactivity with the PC world a much easier thing to deal with. But for every day business purposes, I have found that a Windows-based PC to be indispensable.

   
Which is faster, a Cable modem or DSL?

Cable vs. DSL: Speed

Both promise "blazing speed," and you may need it. Cable speed diminishes if there are more users in the neighborhood; DSL speed diminishes the further you are from the phone company. If both are available in your area, you may want to take advantage of "free installation services" to test one against the other.

   
What´s the status of wireless home networks?

Wireless networks?

Wireless home networks are almost available. The technology exists now, and in fact, it may be easier to set up a wireless network than to cable our home. The "wireless access point," which is actually an antenna, can operate at 1.5 mbps, which is about the same speed as a typical T1 connection.

   
What kinds of high speed internet access are available to me?

What kind of high speed access?

For now, there are two types of high speed Internet access: cable and DSL. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

   
What are some of the difficulties with wireless home networks?

Wireless tangles

Wireless home networks have several drawbacks. Sometimes the products are difficult to configure. Interference is a big problem as well; signals can be disrupted by a variety of sources, including wireless phones. And finally, security may be an issue. However, each of these difficulties can be overcome, and you may soon see a flood of wireless networking options available on the market.

   
How easy is it to run cable for a home network?

Wiring yourself?

Experts recommend running network cables through walls. Even though it involves some drilling, it eliminates the need to cross doorways with cables (either under a threshold, which can create a tripping hazard, or above the moulding., which can be unsightly.)

Also, be sure NEVER to run cables through an air conditioning ducts or electrical conduit. This may be a violation of building codes, and it may invalidate some kinds of fire insurance.

   
How do I save money on my phone service?

Saving money on your phone bill

There's really only one way to save money on your phone bill; that involves watching your bills closely, then calling your phone company and asking them for ways to re-configure your telephone service. When I was starting out, I relied on a caller ID service, so that I could decide whether or not to pick up an incoming call (and put my current conversation on hold). However, as I used this service less and less, it made sense for me to drop it, and save a few dollars every month instead.

   
Who has the lowest prices on computers?

"Dude, you're gettin' a Dell"

Dell computer was founded by an individual who sold computers via mail order from a college dorm room. Today Dell is the largest individual supplier of personal computers, and during the recent economic downturn, they sought to build market share by selling systems at lower prices. If you're looking for an "inexpensive" system, you may want to look to Dell.

   
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