Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for the month of OCTOBER 2014





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Wednesday DECEMBER 3, 2014 Meeting
  Thanks for making the 2013/2014 season a success. The Computer Club will continue with meetings in December. In the meantime there will be a monthly e-mail and bulletin. Near the end of each month the email announcement will be sent out with a link to the bulletin that is published on the Computer Club web site


Trails End Computer Club

Lesson 12 - - Trails End WiFi

Make an effort to understand the works of our WiFi system and what you can do to improve your connection and speed.

There are 3 challenges to using a satisfactory WiFi connection and there are many things you can do to improve it.

1. Signal Strength: With the upgrades of towers, radios, antennas and internet connection, the park has provided  a premium and up to date system to work with. The towers are well spaced out for optimum coverage. The 4 radios installed on each tower are not only powerful but also use the latest technology for best connection. There are 4 antennas on each tower and are panel type with directional transmit and receive. Each radio/antenna combination beams a signal in the direction of a few homes.
Then where are the weak points:
A. The radio in our computers. Our radios typically have 28 mw of power, (1/40th of a watt). This is fine for what our computers were designed for (WiFi in the home, office, coffee shop, restaurant, library or airport), all indoors without our challenges.
B. Technology for WiFi has changed over the last few years. We now have 2 bands our radios may work with. The older UHF (Ultra High Frequency), (2.4 GHz) has 9 channels. The newer (802.11N) SHF (Super High Frequency), (5.0 GHZ) also has 9 channels. Many of us do not have the newest (802.11N) built into our radios. Being that the channels overlap, only 3 channels are typically used.
C. Large trees with a lot of moisture in their leaves will absorb a lot of radio energy if they are located between your computer and the antenna on the nearby tower.
D. The signal will not penetrate metal surfaces including siding and roof as well as cement fiber siding as found on some newer mobile homes, althought it may penetrate windows. It may be possible to place the radio or an antenna on a window sill and receive good reception.

2. Interference: The SHF (802.11N) is immune to interference coming from our very powerful microwave ovens, portable telephones, light fixtures and many other devices we use every day.
A. By using a modern radio (802.11N) you will substantially reduce local interference.

3. Speed: The FCC has recently set a benchmark of 10 Mbps (Million Bits Per Second). Goal being that end users could download data at 4 Mbps and to upload  at 1 Mbps. They are now working on gigabits per second.
Trails End is planning to turn on the Fiber Optics connection in October 2014. Currently we are using Time Warner cable and dividing that bandwidth among the WiFi users. It is not known to me what speed we will get. Fiber Optics is capable of 100,000,000 giga bits per second. That is far more than we can expect. Each person in the park is scheduled to receive no more than about 3 Mbps.

What can we do to upgrade our computers to the standards now available at Trails End?

alfaIf your computer came with Windows 8 or is less than 3 years old, you probably have a radio using 802.11N. Any older computer, you probably have an older radio. Regardless of what radio your computer contains, the following device will most likely improve your WiFi connection dramatically.
The Alfa 802.11G USB wireless long range radio is available in several models from 1000 to 5000 mw of power which makes the transmitter between 40 and 200 times more powerful than the radio in your computer. Mostly in the range of $30.00 to $40.00 at various on line stores including Amazon.
Just make sure you are getting a model with an (N) at the end as 802.11N. As long as the N is at the end it will work with the latest technology as we have at Trails End as well as being backward compatible to work on older WiFi systems.
To my knowledge, this is the simplest item to improve WiFi connection and speed.

Other considerations:
1. You may attach an outdoor antenna to the Alfa radio above. The Hawking corner antenna is directional, may be pointed towards the WiFi source.
2. A repeater could be used to capture the outdoor signal and repeat that signal indoors. Would also capture the indoor signal and repeat it outdoors.

Harold  Buechky,  First published 8/28/14

IraNew 2015 Security Suites Released, and Bargains are Available

by Ira Wilsker



            As normally happens shortly after Labor Day, most of the major security software publishers have released the 2015 versions of their security software products.  As is common, most of these newly released upgrades and updates incorporate greater protection then the previous versions, as well as new or improved safeguards against types of threats that have appeared in the past year, or otherwise have become a greater security threat than in the past.  Several of the security suites now include protection for portable devices, such as smart phones and tablets, password managers that work across multiple platforms, and other enhanced features.

            Notice in the above paragraph that I explicitly used the words "security suite" rather than just the more traditional "antivirus" software, which is also available from most of the security software publishers.  Most of the security software publishers take advantage of the blissful ignorance or traditional software purchasing patterns of countless computer users, and still publish and sell a minimally protective antivirus only product at the lowest price of any of their current offerings.  At computer club meetings, listening to shoppers in the big box stores, students, and others, I still frequently hear that the users' have only antivirus software installed, rather than a more comprehensive, and usually more expensive suite of security products. 

            Many personal computer users, both novice and experienced, have heard for years that computer viruses are dangerous, which they may very well be.  While viruses were the primary computing security threat several years ago, today according to published reports, computer viruses only make up about 14% of contemporary threats.  Those who have only antivirus software installed, even if from a reputable publisher and continuously updated, lack protection from about 86% of the current threats.  It is a false economy to save money by purchasing minimal protection, but then suffering substantial losses in time and money when machines are infected by malware.  I have been asked to clean the malware from countless computers, and it is common to hear the lament from the purloined user, "But I don't understand how it got infected; I have <name brand> antivirus software which is frequently updated.  Shouldn't it have stopped the infection and takeover of my computer?"  Sadly, the answer is no, because in almost all cases the malware was not a traditional virus which would have likely been blocked, but one of the six times more common malware threats that are not blocked by traditional antivirus software.

            In order to appeal to different price points in the retail market, most security software publishers publish several different products, each progressively offering more protection and security, and an ascending price for the more comprehensive products. In some cases, some of the software publishers produce relatively expensive 'top of the line" products that are so feature rich that they often may contain products and services that many users will never use.  It is up to the user to intelligently decide which level of protection is most appropriate, and balance that protection against the cost of the service.  If purchased at retail, the boxes containing the software almost always have a chart displaying the comparative features and levels of protection of each of the types of security software published by that company.

            As an example of the differences in features and costs, I compared the features and prices of the different versions of the 2015 offerings from TrendMicro.  In full disclosure, I have been a satisfied user of TrendMicro products for many years.  While there are several iterations of coverage, including the number of PCs and other devices protected, TrendMicro is now offering four major versions in its 2015 product line.  These products range from the most basic and least expensive "Antivirus and Security", to "Internet Security", to "Maximum Security" (the level of protection that I use), to the top of the line "Premium Security".  Each product offering includes all of the protections of the lesser offerings, but adds more features and functionality, albeit at a generally higher price.  In terms of price, please keep in mind that "MSRP" or list price is commonly charged, but almost all security products are often available from some sellers deeply discounted, even as low as "free after rebate" from some of the big box electronics and office supply stores.

            In terms of TrendMicro, the most basic level of protection is the "Antivirus plus Security" which retails in the $30 - $40 range, and covers 1 PC for 1 year, and includes cloud based protection from viruses and malware that is continuously kept up to date when connected to the internet.  Other than minimal protection, this basic product also includes some basic identity theft protection that may block phishing emails; this is the limit on this minimal level of protection.  The second tier of protection, commonly called "Internet Security" in the industry, includes all of the more basic features, but adds utilities to improve system performance, parental controls (controls the online activities of children), helps manage online reputation on social networking services, controls which desktop applications can be accessed by children, and scans for and recommends privacy settings on social networking services (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn).  This second tier of protection, which many pundits consider a minimal level of protection, retails from $60 - $80 for 3 computers for one year.

            For those desiring additional features and functionally, as well as protection for smart devices including Android and iOS phones and tablets, a "Maximum Security" product is available which includes all of the above features, but also adds a secure password manager that can be utilized across devices; a secure browser for safe online banking and shopping; identifies installed apps on portable devices that may be involved in "data stealing"; helps find lost or stolen portable devices; backs up, shares,  and restores contacts between devices; and offers 5GB of secured backup storage in the cloud.  A license for any combination of three devices for one year ranges from $67 - $90.  The "Premium Security" features are almost identical to the Maximum version, but it offers 25GB of cloud storage, and five licenses for any combination of devices for $75 - $100.

            Other security software publishers offer somewhat similar protection at different levels.  One very highly rated, but not very well known publisher of security software, BitDefender, offers three levels of protection, "Antivirus Plus 2015" ($60, 3 PCs, 1 year), "Internet Security" ($80, 3 PCs, 1 year), and "Total Security" ($90, 3 PCs, 1 year).  The basic Antivirus Plus 2015 offers comprehensive protection from malware, performance enhancement utilities, secured online banking and shopping, a secure payment wallet, and secure browsing.  The Internet Security 2015 also includes an two-way firewall, Parental Controls, and a cloud based Anti-Spam function.  The top of the line Total Security 2015 adds secure online storage, device anti-theft capabilities (especially useful on laptop computers), and file encryption.

            One of the perennial market leaders in retail sales for many years, McAfee offers a variety of product and service levels that offer protection for a variety and number of devices.  As is common among its competitors, McAfee offers a minimal featured "McAfee AntiVirus Plus", which protects one computer for $35 - $50; this version offers protection against viruses and malware, and can optimize the PC.  The "Total Protection" has the basic feature set of the AntiVirus, but adds family protection (parental controls), a spam filter, protection from online threats including hackers and thieves, and social networking protection; this version retails for $90 and is licensed to run on three PCs.  McAfee offers "McAfee All Access" which has a one year license for an unlimited number of devices, including PCs, MACs, smart phones, and tablets; and an integral password manager. McAfee All Access retails for $100, but is available directly from McAfee for half-price, $50.  "McAfee LiveSafe" offers the same unlimited, multi-platform device protection, but adds cloud storage and access to 'McAfee Security Advisors" for $80.

            Other security software publishers such as Symantec/Norton, and Kaspersky, offer somewhat similar levels of protection at generally completive prices.  While there may be some variation in the naming of the products from the different suppliers, most of the publishers offer somewhat similar levels of protection among their respective offerings.

            It would not be typical of me to close a column without telling about deals which may be currently available, including both deeply discounted, and free security suites.  As far as free security suites that are often very comparable in features and protection to the commercial (paid) suites, one of the most reliable listings is in section 2.3 of Gizmo's "Probably the Best Free Security List in the World - Part I".  Among the reviewed and rated free security suites are offerings from ZoneAlarm, Agnitum (Outpost), Comodo, Forticlient, Roboscan, and 5nine Cloud Security for Hyper-V Free Edition.  Again, in terms of full disclosure, I have personally installed Agnitum's Outpost Security Suite on many computers where the user stated a preference for a free comprehensive security suite rather than a paid suite.

            As far as getting legitimate deals on commercial security software suites, there are many opportunities available to those who may seek them out, and many of these offerings are fleeting, as they are often only available for a very limited time, but they tend to periodically reappear.  One of the most popular deals on the major suites can be found at the local big box electronics and office supply stores, such as Fry's, OfficeDepot (OfficeMax), Staples, MEI MicroCenter, and similar outlets. Almost every week, in their respective newspapers advertisements, each of these retailers has deeply discounted deals and high value rebates for security suites.  For example, one of my favorite big box stores is offering this week (probably will be different when you read this):  Kaspersky Internet Security 2015, 1 PC license, regularly $50 in store, free after $25 mail in rebate, and another $25 upgrade rebate (if qualified); AVG Ultimate 2015, unlimited devices, 2 year license, regular in store price $85, on sale (no rebate) for $35; Norton 360 2014, 3 PCs - 1 year license, regularly $90 in store for $40 (no rebate).

            For those who do not have the time or inclination to watch the weekly newspaper ads, the shopping bot site, which is continuously updated, ( lists some of the best currently available security software deals.  As I type this, has a listing linked to a free 6 month license and download for BitDefender Internet Security 2015, available directly from BitDefender at . Another daily deal website, is currently offering a 3 computer, 1 year license and download for the top of the line BitDefender Total Security 2015, regularly $90 for $15 (  In recent days, the website has had free or deeply discounted deals (now expired) on security suites from Kaspersky, Panda, and other reputable publishers of commercial security software.  Bargain hunters who like software (and other) deals should consider the free daily email subscription from DealNews and ShareWareOnSale.

 advertisment           There is still another way to get deeply discounted security suites, and that is from online sites such as eBay.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who intentionally purchase the "Free After Rebate" deals from the big box stores, tear off the UPC code from the otherwise sealed box, and then resell the sealed boxes that cost them virtually nothing after rebate for whatever they can get for them.  Sometimes the sellers, who typically have very high eBay ratings for reliability, will simply scan the license or registration code from the sealed software CD, and email the registration code, rather than ship the box.  The user can then download the latest version directly from the publisher, and register it with the purchased code.  Reputable sellers will then destroy the original registration code so it cannot be illicitly resold.  I have twice demonstrated this process to the local computer club, resulting in several of the members successfully getting super deals on major name brand security suites which downloaded and registered without any problems.  Also be aware that by policy, most of the major publishers allow for an unused registration code from a previous version to be used to register a new version.  For example, I recently assisted someone who purchased on eBay a 1 year, 3 PC license for Trend Micro Maximum Security 2014 for only $7.50; he downloaded directly from TrendMicro the newly released 2015 version of Maximum Security, and proceeded to install a properly registered 2015 version on 2 PCs and one Android smart phone, all (in his words) "Without a hitch".

            Now that performance drags have been dramatically reduced in the newer security suites, and the protection capabilities greatly enhanced, there is no valid reason not to use a comprehensive security suite on a PC, MAC, Android, or iOS device.  The threat landscape is very real; with good quality, free and deeply discounted security suites readily available, there is no reason to leave our machines vulnerable to attack.

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