Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Future-proofing Your Home Network

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | BLOG | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 3, # 87 - Sep 3, 2009 - Issue # 96 
 Future-proofing Your Home Network

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Future-proofing Your Home Network
    • Follow-up: Windows Live MovieMaker
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Take command: command-prompt tips for Windows pros
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • Get the Vista SP2 Application Compatibility Update
    • How to kill multiple processes
    • Boot Camp 3.0 makes it easier to run Windows on a Mac
    • Longing for the retro style Start menu in Windows 7?
  5. Vista Security
    • "Mandatory" security patch for Live Messenger
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Two Internet Explorers in 64 bit Vista
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Menu bar and/or toolbar missing in IE
    • EFS encrypted files don't get backed up
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Windows 7 "showstopper bug" just FUD
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Show Classic Menus and Toolbars Instead of Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

Editor's Corner

Future-proofing Your Home Network

I remember the days when only ubergeeks had networks in their homes (heck, I remember the days when only ubergeeks had computers in their homes, but I hate to admit to being that old). Once upon a time, it wasn't all that easy to do - or at least, to do it right. Either you did a lot of climbing up in the attic to run cables through the walls (which always involved a good deal of swearing as you inevitably ran into obstacles that prevented dropping the lines exactly where you wanted them) or you took the ugly way out and ran them around the room, tacking them to baseboards with special little clamps.

Of course, if you had plenty of money, you could pay somebody else to make the cable drops, but it could cost well over a thousand dollars to get a large house wired with outlets in most rooms. If you happened to be building a house, it was much easier and cheaper to have them put the Ethernet in the walls while they were open.

Today, many people who know very little about technology have home networks. In fact, I have some friends who have home networks and didn't even know it (they knew their computers could "see" each other; they just didn't know it was a network). Setting up a small network has gotten easier on the software side, with each successive version of Windows. Back in the days of Windows 9x, it took a bit of tweaking to get things working, but connecting to a network with XP, Vista or Windows 7 is a pretty straightforward process. I'm still a little amazed every time I install a new OS and find myself on the Internet immediately, without having to jump through any hoops.

Many people are running home networks without an Ethernet cable in sight. Instead, they're using wi-fi technology. Wireless has come a long way in the last few years, too. Almost all laptops come with wireless network adapters built in, and you can get USB wi-fi adapters that you can plug into your desktop computer without even opening the case. Many broadband providers give you a wireless router so you don't even have to buy a WAP (wireless access point) to plug into the network.

Wireless is great for roaming around the house with your notebook or netbook, and it's a good solution in situations where there is just no way to cost-effectively run cable to a particular location, but Ethernet is still the networking media of choice for those in the know. With the advent of 802.11n standards, wi-fi is not as slow as it used to be - with a typical throughput of 70 to 144 Mbps, it gives you bandwidth similar to 100 Mbps Ethernet. However, even at its theoretical maximum bit rate of 600 Mbps, it's only a little over half as fast as gigabit Ethernet, which is quickly becoming the new standard.

Some folks will argue that home users don't need gigabit speeds but I disagree. In fact, home users today often need to transfer larger files than many business users, because they use their computers for entertainment purposes - which means large video, graphics and audio files. Many businesses work mostly with document files, which are generally smaller. And with more and more homes moving to IP for their TV and phones, bandwidth needs can only go in one direction: up.

But speed isn't the only advantage Ethernet has over wireless. Reliability is another big factor. Wi-fi transmits over radio signals, and there are many other signals out there that can interfere and block or slow down the transmissions. We had to try several locations for our 802.11n WAP in order to get maximum throughput rates in various parts of the house. We have no such problems with our Ethernet connections; they just work and provide consistent speeds. No worry about what materials the walls are made of. Even having a person standing between your wi-fi enabled computer and the WAP can cause your network throughput to drop.

Security is another issue where wired wins over wireless. People are becoming more aware regarding wi-fi security and fewer are running their wireless networks unsecured now, but it's still a fact that the signals themselves can often be picked up from a laptop in a car on the street outside your home. Thus it's important to use strong encryption methods (such as WPA2) to prevent "war drivers" from stealing your bandwidth or worse, accessing files on your home network. Ethernet is more like Las Vegas: what happens on the Ethernet stays on the Ethernet (it is possible to tap into the cable, of course, but the cable is likely to all be within the walls of your home so the only feasible way "in" is usually via the Internet).

If Ethernet is good, is fiber optic better? I recently had a friend who's building a new home ask if I thought he should wire it with fiber instead of copper (Ethernet). We hear a lot about how great fiber is and "fiber to the curb" is a sought after amenity as it enables high speed Internet services such as Verizon's FiOS. Fiber inside the house is a different matter, though.

You can get fiber optic network adapters, but they're expensive. Most are made for servers, and can cost $600-3000. The least expensive are around $75-100, whereas you can get a new gigabit Ethernet adapter through Amazon for less than $10. Most of the fiber optic switches that I found are made for connecting two networks together over fiber, and then connecting computers to the network using Ethernet. There are no fiber optic switches made for the consumer market that I could find. And the fiber optic cable itself is more expensive and more difficult to work with than copper Ethernet. So although fiber can provide greater throughput (the low cost adapters were rated from 1000 to 2120 Mbps), using fiber for a home network doesn't seem to be worth the added cost and complexity at this time.

If you're putting in network cabling now, I'd recommend using one of the highest available grades of Ethernet cable, Cat6a or Cat7. Both can support 10Gb Ethernet. A higher grade, Cat7a, theoretically supports up to 100Gb but the standard is still in the draft stage. Remember that wired and wireless networking are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to choose one or the other. Our home network consists of a wired gigabit Ethernet network with multiple subnets to create security boundaries, as well as two wireless networks - one for the use of our laptops that belong to the Windows domain and the other for guests' laptops to allow them to connect to the Internet without posing a security risk to our internal network. You can get as fancy - or as simple - as you want when it comes to home networking today.

Tell us what you think. Is wireless "good enough" for your networking needs? Or do you insist on Ethernet for the fastest and most reliable and secure home network? Are wi-fi or older (and less expensive) 100Mbps Ethernet fast enough for you, or does your need for speed require gigabit transfer rates? If you were building a house today, would you bother to have it wired with Ethernet, or would you just go with all wi-fi? How about other networking technologies, such as those that use the power lines or telephone wiring within your house? Anybody using those? Tell us about your experiences. We invite you to discuss your networking choices in our forum at

Follow-up: Windows Live MovieMaker

In last week's editorial, I did a mini-review of the final version of Windows Live MovieMaker, the successor to the Windows MovieMaker application that comes with Vista. In the forum discussion, some readers noted that they prefer Camtasia Studio. I like Camtasia, too; for doing screen capture presentations, it can't be beat. That's something that MovieMaker was never intended to do. But Camtasia Studio costs $299 so saying it's better than a free program like MovieMaker makes me think, "well, I should hope so."

As I mentioned in the original article, there are many more sophisticated options for editing video. Adobe Premiere Pro (current version CS4) is another one. It will even output to Blu-ray disc and you can search the spoken dialog to find a scene or location within a scene. It costs $799. There is a consumer version, Premiere Elements 7, for $139.

Comparing Windows MovieMaker to those products is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. It makes more sense to compare it to other free (or included with the operating system) programs such as its predecessor or Apple's iMovie, and in that venue, it holds its own very well.

Another forum participant brought up the problem of digital cameras that record in .MOV (Apple QuickTime) format. There are dozens of programs you can use to convert .MOV files to .AVI or .WMV files, some of which sell for $30 or so and others that are freeware. Just do a web search for "convert .mov" to find them.

Thanks to all of you who took part in this discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. - Henry Ford

About the time we can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends. - Herbert Hoover

If you owe the bank $100, that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem. - J. Paul Getty

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Cool Tools


What was that password again? Organize password and order info with RoboForm. Saves me a ton of time and hassle! Secure password storage:
Poke around the site. There is a free version

WhiteSmoke 2009 is an innovative proofreading and editing tool with a single aim - to help you write better.
Click here for Whitesmoke writing tool

Backblaze is the no fuss solution to getting all your data backed up online securely, easily, automatically, and for only $5/month for unlimited storage.
Get BackBlaze started on your backup right now

Search for a driver and you get a ton of Driver Software offers instead. But how do you know which one is good? Try Driver Genious 9.0. Free scan.
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Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.
Speed up my Vista!

Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.
Start saving your data with GoodSync today

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions
Download a free eval here

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back!
Start killing background tasks and speed me up with the eval version right away

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Take command: command-prompt tips for Windows pros

Do you prefer the simplicity and speed of the command prompt over the Windows GUI, at least for some tasks? Did you know that you can use the Function keys from the command prompt to speed up working with the prompt? For instance, F3 will retype the last command you entered. Find out about this and other command-line tips by watching Bill Detwiler's video on how to become a command-prompt ninja, at

How to: Using the New Vista Features

Get the Vista SP2 Application Compatibility Update

In August, Microsoft released an application compatibility update for Vista systems with Service Pack 2, which helps to deal with compatibility problems that you might encounter with various software applications. The upgrade can block the running of programs that have known compatibility problems ("hard block") or just notify you that there is a compatibility problem but let you go ahead and run the program ("soft block"). Find out more, and how to get it, here:

How to kill multiple processes

Have you ever had IE or Chrome or some other program freeze up (it seems to be especially common with web browsers) and you couldn't get it to close by clicking the X? So you open Task Manager, go to the Processes tab and proceed to kill the process (for example, iexplore.exe) but you find there are half a dozen or more of them. Don't you wish you could kill them all at once instead of having to right-click each one and select to end it? Well, you can. Here's how:
  1. Click the Start button.
  2. In the Search box, type cmd to open the command window.
  3. At the command prompt, type: taskkill /F /IM /T
    For example, to kill all instances of the IE process, you would type: taskkill /F /IM iexplore.exe /T

Boot Camp 3.0 makes it easier to run Windows on a Mac

Okay, admit it. You love the Apple hardware - but you still prefer the Windows OS. You can buy a cool Macbook Air and install Vista or Windows 7 on it to dual boot with OS X, using Apple's Boot Camp utility. And the new version of Boot Camp includes the drivers to run either 32 bit or 64 bit Windows 7. Find out more about it here:

Longing for the retro style Start menu in Windows 7?

I can't imagine why, but apparently there are some folks out there who prefer the old classic (pre-Vista) Start menu for Windows. One complaint I've received from a few readers about Windows 7 is the lack of the ability to use that Start menu. Well, now there is a third party program that will bring it back. It's called CSMenu, it's free, and you can download it here:

Vista Security

"Mandatory" security patch for Live Messenger

Due to a vulnerability in the Windows Live Messenger IM program, Microsoft is planning to distribute a "mandatory" fix later this month. The versions affected are WLM 8.1 and 8.5. In mid-September, all users of these versions will be required to upgrade WLM. If you don't, you won't be able to continue to sign in. Read more here:

Vista Question Corner

Two Internet Explorers in 64 bit Vista

I just recently got a new computer that has Vista (64 bit) installed. Why are there two links for Internet Explorer in the Start menu? One says Internet Explorer (64-bit) and the other just says Internet Explorer. I assume it's 32 bit? Why do I need both? - Ellis J.

The 63 bit version of Vista does include both a 32 and a 64 bit version of IE. The shortcut in the Quick Launch bar runs the 32 bit version by default. Applications that require a lot of memory may perform better in 64 bit versions. However, one big drawback for the web browser is that you can't install Adobe Flash on the 64 bit browser. That means you can't play videos on YouTube and other sites that use Flash. Thus you will probably need to run the 32 bit version at least some of the time.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Menu bar and/or toolbar missing in IE

If you open Internet Explorer in Vista (or XP) and find that the menu bar, toolbar or both are missing, it's probably caused by a corrupted value in the registry. You can edit the registry to fix the problem, or run the "Fix It" wizard in KB article 962963. Note that after you fix it, the toolbar will be reset to its default configuration, so you'll lose any customizations you might have made. To find out more, see:

EFS encrypted files don't get backed up

When you back up your data using the Back Up Files option in Vista's Backup and Restore Center, you will find that any files you might have encrypted with the Encrypting File System (EFS) won't be backed up. That's because this option doesn't support backing up EFS files. However, you can work around this by using the Back Up Computer option to do a full image backup instead. To learn more, see KB article 934172 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Windows 7 "showstopper bug" just FUD

Some tech journalists who have a flair for the dramatic have been talking about a possible bug in the final code of Windows 7 that, under some circumstances, could cause the system to crash - calling it a "showstopper." Steve Sinofsky of Microsoft disputes that characterization, as do some Windows 7 testers such as Ed Bott. You can read more about it here:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Show Classic Menus and Toolbars Instead of Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon

Here's a great find. We've been looking for a product just like this and here it is. Are you frustrated by endless searches for features on the Ribbon? Download and install this software and easily use the familiar main menu and the standard and formatting toolbars of Office 2003. All of the new features in Microsoft Office 2007 have been added to the classic menu and toolbars. Supports all languages that are supported by Microsoft Office 2007: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and more. VistaNews readers can download the free evaluation here and try out this fantastic product.

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