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Welcome to the Pittsburgh Tech Guy!  Your local source for good, dependable technical support and information!  Keep up with the latest Tech news here!

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Friday
Apr202018

Cord-cutting is hitting the cable companies where it hurts most: Money

As it’s been extensively documented for the last year, cord-cutting streaming services are coming for the cable companies. Pay TV subscriptions are down by record numbers nearly every quarter, more and more people are subscribing to TV services, and the “never cable” generation is growing up and replacing their cable-subscribing parents.

But so far, one thing has bolstered the traditional pay TV industry: revenue. Streaming services are much cheaper than cable or satellite bundles, so even if the new services are stealing subscribers, the rate of decline of the cable industry is still disguised by fat bottom lines. According to the 2018 ” Battle for the American Couch Potato” report from Convergence Research Group, that’s not going to be the case forever.

Convergence’s annual report, which is now in its 12th year, highlights the difference in revenue growth between the streaming and traditional pay TV industries:

We estimate US OTT access revenue (based on 55 OTT
providers led by Netflix) grew 41% to $11.9 billion in 2017,
forecast $16.6 billion for 2018, and $27.6 billion for 2020.

We estimate 2017 US Cable, Satellite, Telco TV access (not
including OTT) revenue grew 1% to $107.6 billion ($94.30/mo.
ARPU), and forecast $107.4 billion (97.90/mo. ARPU) for 2018.

Streaming service revenue grew by 41% last year, while pay TV flatlined in real terms. Given a few years, the analysts expect pay TV to be in revenue decline, and streaming services to be way up. The only reason traditional pay TV revenues aren’t in free-fall already is because prices (especially including fees!) have been steadily creeping up while the quality of programming is staying the same, and with the number of cheap streaming services entering the market, that’s not a sustainable business model.

The report also predicts the effect that this will have on the industry. “The gloves are off,” it proclaims, saying that “programmers now directly compete against their traditional TV access and independent OTT buyers that rival in terms of content spend. Amazon, Apple, DAZN, Facebook, Google and Netflix all have the money muscle to finance their own productions or outbid on programming including major
sporting franchises. ”

It also predicts that programmers are going to move more and more towards direct-to-consumer business models, rather than going through resellers. Disney is planning a direct-to-consumer Netflix competitor to launch next year, and direct streaming services like HBO Now and CBS All Access are becoming increasingly popular.

Friday
Apr202018

How to Improve WiFi Signal: Boost Your Your Router’s WiFi Range

1. Move The Router

If your ISP set up the router in your home, there is no guarantee that they found the best place for it. Most people settle with putting the router next to the most easily accessibly power outlet or wherever they can restart it easily. Sometimes the emphasis is on aesthetics instead of functionality. A router should not be placed;

  • Next to a stove, fridge, microwave, or other such electric appliances
  • Next to anything that is metal e.g. that vase your aunt got you when she came back from vacation
  • Inside a cabinet or any sort of case that makes it look less ugly
  • Anything metal e.g. don’t put it on a metal shelf or a metal stool

Find a place that’s suitable and somewhat in the middle of your house so that the WiFi signal reaches all the rooms. This one is going to be hard to manage with perfect precision but you can move the router out of a bedroom and into the hallway at the very least.

2. Change The Channel

A router isn’t the only wireless device in your home. If you live in a building, your neighbors probably have internet and a wireless router as well. Their router, your router, and most wireless devices all use the same frequency to transmit a signal. The default frequency is 2.5Ghz and it is divided into smaller bands. Without getting too technical, some bands or channels overlap when they transmit a signal. Within the 2.5Ghz frequency, you should select the 1, 6, and 11 channel as there is no overlapping there. If your router uses the 5Ghz frequency,  you have more bands to choose from. You can select the 36, 40, 44, 48, 149, 153, 157 and 161 bands to boost the signal.

You will need to access the admin panel of your router to change the channel.

3. Upgrade Antenna

Some routers don’t have antenna but those that do often have ones that can be replaced. If your router doesn’t have an antenna, ask your ISP to provide you one that does. You might need to tell them the router in your home doesn’t work as well to get them to change it and it might not be easy to get the exact replacement you want. If your router does have an antenna or two and they can be replaced, considering upgrading them. Buying an antenna is much cheaper than buying a new router and it will make a noticeable difference.

4. Upgrade Firmware

Check if your router’s firmware is in need of an upgrade. If a new version is available, upgrade to it. You might be surprised but this can actually improve the performance of your router. The firmware might patch problems or improve the overall performance of the hardware it’s running on and result in a stronger WiFi signal.

5. Signal Boosters And Access Points

We’re getting into hardware improvements here. You can buy signal boosters and install them to boost the WiFi signal in your home. They aren’t expensive and will resolve most signal problems. If a booster isn’t doing the trick, you can supplement it by adding an access point or two. It can be particularly useful if you need your WiFi signal to reach two or more floors e.g. both the basement and the attic.

Conclusion

If your router is particularly old, you might want to invest in a newer model. You don’t need to get the latest model that’s available but your router model shouldn’t be obsolete. Additionally, you should refrain from using hacks like beer cans or metal mesh make-shift antenna to boost the signal. There’s a popular hack that encourages users to use concave metal objects like cans to boost the signal. While this does amplify the signal, somewhat, it does so in one direction. If you only need to use the WiFi in one particular part of the house, see if you can just move your router there. If you want to disburse the signal more evenly, this hack isn’t for you.

When you’re looking for the best place to place your router, take the help of a signal mapping app. It will be able to tell you the signal strength that various parts of your house are getting from the router in its current position.

Friday
Apr202018

What Is The Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?

Chrome made a major change in one of its recent versions; it now blocks HTTP websites. When users visit a website that is still on HTTP, Chrome blocks it and tells users it’s not secure. Websites that are using HTTPS though are given a clean bill of health. This begs the question as to what HTTP is, and why HTTPS is preferred over it.

HTTP vs HTTPS

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s used to send information between two systems and is most commonly used between a web server and an end user computer.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It too is used to send information between systems but securely so. The secure part is why Chrome allows these websites to load but blocks the ones still using HTTP.

HTTPS wasn’t always around. In the very early days of the internet, HTTP was all web developers had to work with. This protocol was developed in 1965 and HTTPS only came along in 1994. That’s almost three decades of HTTP being the only transfer protocol there was. For a long time though, it didn’t matter much. The internet as we know it today didn’t exist. It wasn’t widely available and accessible by everyone because personal devices, and even internet connections were expensive and hard to gain access to.

It wasn’t just internet penetration rates that negated the need for having a more secure way to send and receive information between two systems. It also had to do with the nature of information that was sent. With the spread of email via universities, there was a genuine need for the information that was sent to be secure. The internet continued to mature and with the arrival of eCommerce banks began to integrate their payments methods with online stores. Information had to be sent securely and there had to be a way to do it.

HTTPS, SSL, And TSL

HTTPS initially used the Secure Socket Layer protocol to safely transmit data. SSL was developed for this very purpose. Initially, it was used by online eCommerce websites and payment gateways like Paypal however today an unsecure website can be used to inject malware in your browser, and even spread it to your system which is why websites are moving to HTTPS.

It’s also worth mentioning that Secure Socket Layer itself has evolved since it was first developed. It’s been replaced by Transport Layer Security (TLS). TLS provides a much better level of security and protects privacy. Today, the need for security isn’t just to keep sensitive information from being stolen but also against being tracked which is why the security protocol had to be updated.

Identify HTTPS And HTTP Websites

If you use Chrome and visit an HTTP website, it simply won’t let you visit it. You will have the option to ignore the warning but that warning is the surest sign that the website doesn’t use HTTPS.

If you use a different browser, one that doesn’t automatically block HTTP websites, you can still easily identify if a website is on HTTP or HTTPS. To check, look at the address bar. You will see two major markers that tell you a website is secure.

Monday
Apr022018

What Is the IPCONFIG Utility in Windows

The Ipconfig utility in Windows is a small, exceptionally useful utility that lets you find your current system’s IP address.

A lot of users think ipconfig is a command prompt command but is in fact a Windows utility that you run from the Command Prompt. In addition to giving you the IP address of the current computer, it also gives you the IP address of your router, your MAC address, and lets you flush your DNS, among other things. It works with several other command line options to give you this information.

You can run the ipconfig command in a normal command prompt window i.e. you don’t need administrative rights to run it.

If you run the ipconfig command with no additional command line options, it will list every single network interface, including virtual network adapters. For your LAN and WiFi adapter, it will give you the local IP address. If you’re connected to the internet via WiFi, you will see the IPv6 and subnet mask values under it. For an Ethernet adapter that isn’t connected to a network, you won’t see any of this information. It will simply tell you that the adapter isn’t connected. Virtual adapters, whether they’re connected or not, will have both an IPv6 and IPv4 address as well as a subnet mask value.

Ipconfig Command Line Options

The ipconfig utility in Windows has the following additional command line options that you can use it with.

ipconfig /all: This command lists IP information for every single network adapter on your system. Unlike the simple ipconfig command, this command shows additional information like whether or not DHCP is enabled, the IP address of the DHCP servers, your local IPv6 address, and when your DHCP lease was obtained, and when it will expire, among other things. You can also use this command to find the physical i.e. MAC address for your system.

ipconfig /release: This command lets you give up your current IP address. When you run this command, your system’s IP address, whatever it is, is freed up so other devices on the network can use it.

ipconfig /renew: This command is usually run right after the ipconfig /release command. Once the ipconfig /release command has ‘given up’ an IP address, your system will need a new one. This command allows your system to get a new IP address. This option, along with the previous one is what you need to run to resolve the ‘IP address conflict’ error you might get sometimes.

ipconfig /showclassid: This allows you to view DHCP class IDs. These class IDs are normally configured for particular applications on a network. As an average user, you won’t be concerned with them at all.

ipconfig /setclassid: This command option is used with the previous ipconfig /showclassid option to set the DHCP class ID.

ipconfig /displaydns: This option allows you to display the DNS cache. The DNS cache is a record of public websites that you’ve visited. It’s a local copy of the website and its public IP address. Basically, when you type www.google.com in your browser, your DNS cache already knows where to find this website because its IP address is saved in the cache.

ipconfig /flushdns: The DNS isn’t omnipotent. It’s prone to saving incorrect information which in turn prevent you from accessing websites. This command lets you flush i.e. clear the DNS cache in Windows and build a new one.

ipconfig /registerdns: This option lets you update your DNS settings. If the DNS has failed to register a name or has failed to connect to a DHCP server, this command can resolve the problem by registering the DNS again.

Wednesday
Mar072018

Wow, Geek Squad has been snitching on you all these years....Anyone surprised?

Geek Squad employees have been working as FBI informants for more than a decade, newly released documents show, revealing a much closer relationship between the two organizations than formerly reported.

While we’d previously known some of the Best Buy workers alerted law enforcement whenever they found illegal material like child pornography on customers’ hard drives, the new documents show that the FBI met with the Geek Squad team at least as early as 2008 and apparently viewed some workers as paid informants.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents last year and released them on Tuesday. The Bureau refused to confirm or deny if it has similar relationships with other electronics repair companies. 

The documents indicate Geek Squad technicians only flagged federal agents when they found child pornography on a client’s computer, so it’s hard to be too upset. Nevertheless, it raises concerning questions about potential violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

Seeking to calm fears, a Best Buy spokesperson told HuffPost in an emailed statement that their technicians do not actively search for such content and only discover it inadvertently. But in at least one instance, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Per the EFF, an illicit image found on the hard drive of Mark Rettenmaier, a California doctor who dropped off his computer at a Best Buy in 2011, was stored on unallocated space on the disk that “typically requires forensic software to find.”

Rettenmaier was tried in 2017 on felony child pornography charges, but the case was thrown out after U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the FBI warrant that allowed the search of Rettenmaier’s home ― a warrant granted based on the image found by Geek Squad ― was obtained via “false and misleading statements.”

EFF documents show this wasn’t a one-off case, and that the FBI handled numerous incidents in similar fashion after being alerted by Geek Squad technicians at the company’s repair facility in Kentucky. (The company’s Kentucky Geek Squad City facility handles more serious repairs, including work like data recovery that could require them to sift through a customer’s data.)

Records uncovered as a result of the Rettenmaier case show the Bureau had “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” from 2007-2012, and that some Geek Squad employees were paid between $500 and $1,000 for their help. At least one Geek Squad technician attempted to give the money back and was rebuffed.

In an emailed statement to HuffPost, Best Buy sought to temper concerns about possibly illegal searches, saying the company has both a moral and, in some cases, legal obligation to alert authorities when employees find child pornography ― as it does “nearly 100 times a year.”

Customers are also made aware of the policy in writing prior to Geek Squad beginning any repair.

“As a company, we have not sought or received training from law enforcement in how to search for child pornography,” the company said. “Our policies prohibit employees from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem. In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do — and not do — in these circumstances.”

“We have learned that four employees may have received payment after turning over alleged child pornography to the FBI,” the company continued. “Any decision to accept payment was in very poor judgement and inconsistent with our training and policies. Three of these employees are no longer with the company and the fourth has been reprimanded and reassigned.”

Sunday
Mar042018

Cord-cutting just hit another record, and cable companies are in denial

The pay TV industry is in the midst of a huge change. Half a million pay TV customers cancelled their contracts in the last three months of 2017 alone, analysts at MoffettNathanson Research calculated this week. That makes a drop of 3.4% from the same period a year earlier, the biggest change since 2010.

This is an undeniably huge deal for the pay TV industry, but executives are still in denial, claiming that streaming services are going to take the place of cable and make everything just fine.

If you look at the numbers, you can see where they’re coming from. MoffettNathanson estimated that nearly 4.6 million customers subscribed to the five leading internet TV services, led by Sling TV, which has 2.2 million customers, a growth of 47 percent year-on-year. Any kind of paying media company would kill for that kind of growth. DirecTV Now, AT&T’s streaming service, has also been off to a flying start, and Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV keep growing. With Disney set to launch its own streaming service next year, the future seems bright for customers who want to ditch cable.

But for the pay TV industry that’s used to monster profits, streaming TV doesn’t promise such a rosy future. The average streaming bundle costs right around $40, with a few add-ons possible for premium content channels like Showtime or HBO. The average cable package, on the other hand, is a little north of $100.

The price difference isn’t because cable companies are able to negotiate cheaper deals with the content owners. It’s because most of those streaming packages are available nationwide, whereas most people are limited to whichever cable company owns their regional monopoly. Competition is keeping the price of streaming services right down to the actual cost of those channels — and in some cases, industry sources have told us that companies are losing money. Especially when you consider bundle deals, like the discount AT&T gives wireless subscribers on DirecTV Now, streaming services might have subscribers, but they’re not generating much profit.

As cable TV stops being a profitable industry, you can expect the cable companies to double down on their last existing revenue stream: home internet. Streaming services are only competitive thanks to the internet, which provides widespread distribution without any regional lock-in, for now at least. A cynic would say that cable companies can see the future coming, and their vigorous hatred of strong net neutrality enforcement is paving the way for streaming TV services to be locked in, much like Charter is doing with its new streaming service.

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