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Verizon Wireless, LG VX6100, & LG VX8300

July 22, 2007 by debbie T | Wireless

Since March, I was eligible to upgrade my Verizon Wireless cell phone (LG VX6100), under the New Every Two promotion. I briefly researched online, and when I went to the store, I decided to upgrade to the LG VX8300. This required me to sign a new 2 year contract.

Likable LG VX8300

I was happy with the LG VX8300; the display is bright and colorful, and I liked that there was a microSD slot. Basically, it was an updated version of my previous phone.

The LG VX8300 Negatives

There were a few things that annoyed me. The menu (Verizon Wireless standard menu system) is not as intuitive as the default LG menu system in my LG VX6100. The phone’s available ringtones are horrid. I missed my old ringtones, and I hate the selection that Verizon Wireless offers on their pay site.

I use the speakerphone 90% of the time, and although the speakers sounded quite good, the way I hold my phone, I felt like I was blocking the two little side speakers with my fingers.

The biggest negative was that I had to sign a new two year Verizon Wireless contract. Since the iPhone announcement months ago, I had a nagging feeling that should remain “contract-free” – so I could be free to change providers at any time if something new and cool was announced.

So, I returned the cell phone on Friday, and reverted to my old LG VX6100 phone. I feel relieved that I am contract-free once again.

I ordered a new battery for the LG VX6100 from AccessoryGeeks.com, and since I already had a USB data cable, I will connect to the hard drive to mess with my saved photos & ringtones. (More on this in a new article) – I think this phone will be good for at least another year, and by then who knows what cool products will be available.

Configuring a Linksys Router

April 13, 2007 by debbie T | ComputersInternetWeb DesignWirelessWordPress

(updated 2008-11-9)

My friend Jenn is having a tough time properly configuring her Linksys wireless router, so I told her I would write a tutorial. (waving to Jenn!) Hopefully this will help her, and anyone else in need. I suggest printing this tutorial to follow along easier.

First off, let me state that I am not a security expert, so please take everything in this tutorial with a grain of salt. 😉 My router is a Linksys WRT54G wireless router, and I am using Comcast for broadband internet access. If someone is using DSL or a different router model, then settings might be slightly different.

For lots more information on wireless security, I recommend the podcast “Security Now” with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. Along with the audio podcast, there are also text transcripts for each show. For specific wifi discussion, locate podcasts from 2005 – episodes 10 through 13.

Let’s get started

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Wireless Internet Access Through Floors and Walls

March 17, 2006 by debbie T | ComputersInternetWireless

Recently, I asked my mom if she would like to try sharing the high-speed cable Internet that my sister has upstairs in her bedroom.

At first, I was considering running Ethernet outside the upstairs window & into the window in her office downstairs. Gosh that would require a lot of wiring, but initially I didn’t think wireless access would be possible.

I started researching, and learned that wireless-G access is much better reaching through walls and floors than wireless-B.

So I figured I would give it a shot; if the signal was too low, I could always consider adding a repeater to strengthen the signal.

Since I loved my new Linksys WRT54GS, I started looking at the sales flyers. I found the WRT54G (v5) at Staples for $50.

Note: I really don’t think the speed booster router was necessary. I did purchase the speed booster version for our home, but only because it had a better price at that time, and I liked the reviews better than the plain G. But basically, I am pretty sure that both routers are exactly the same, except one has the speed booster.

Along with the router, I needed a wireless adapter hardware for her desktop. I admit I am hardware challenged, so I really didn’t want to install a PCI wireless adapter. I opted for the WUSB54G (v4) USB network adapter from Linksys, but I bought the Linksys PCI adapter just in case the USB adapter didn’t work well. (Each were $50.) The reviews on the USB adapter were very mixed, in fact reviews were not so good for any USB network adapter.

To save time, I configured the router at my house with WPA2 Personal security (with a strong password,) Universal Plug ‘N Play disabled, firewall enabled, and a new administration password. Then I brought it over to my Mom’s.

Once it was plugged into my sister’s system upstairs, I plugged the USB network adapter into my Mom’s system. Hmm, it wasn’t working, so let’s read the directions. Uh oh, do not plug in the adapter until the software from the CD is installed. Gee, I guess I should have read the instructions first.

So, I uninstalled the driver Windows XP installed, and unplugged the adapter. After installing the drivers on the CD, I plugged in the network adapter again. In my opinion, the interface is a little awkward and unintuitive. When the network was found, a dialog box appeared with password text box. It took two tries, but I did finally connect.

Initially, the signal fluctuated from 60% to 70%, so we experimented with placement of the USB adapter and router (upstairs). Eventually, the signal strength moved to 80%.

When I have more time, I might go over there and experiment a little more. After reading the User Guide online, it appears I can forgo the Linksys connection monitor, and use Win XP’s monitor instead. It might be easier to do that. One night my Mom noticed another signal (40%) on the list of available networks, and I want to ensure that she cannot accidentally connect to any other open networks in the area. I know XP can be configured to not add every network to your list of preferred connections.

Bottom line, my mom loves the speed, and my Dad is even thrilled to be going online. It was a good upgrade for them and I recommend both the Linksys WRT54G router and WUSB54G USB Network Adapter.

Linksys WRT54GS Router

February 1, 2006 by debbie T | ComputersInternetMac SoftwareWireless

I received our new Linksys router (WRT54GS v2) today from Staples. The reviews online seemed positive, more positive than the WRT54G (without SpeedBooster.) I didn’t actually have a chance to read the details on the box until it was delivered, but I noticed it stated that the SpeedBooster is only available for Win 2000 and XP, so it really wasn’t going to do much for my PowerBook. But, I did get it at a good price after rebates and discounts, so it really didn’t matter.

I didn’t install any software on the CD; I did open the manual in the Doc folder.

I hooked up the router to my Powerbook using a wired Ethernet connection. I pointed my browser to the admin page and signed in as username (leave blank) with “admin” for password – this is information is in the instruction pdf document on the CD.

First, in Admin>Management, I changed the password to the router, and while I was on that page, I disabled Universal Plug n Play (UPnP)

On Setup>Basic Setup, I chose “Automatic Configuration DHCP) and selected my time zone. Save Settings. This automatically set the IP Addresses, etc.

On the Wireless tab, I carefully read through each of the sections and made my setting choices. I set it for WPA, and created my secure password.

If you need to learn more about specific settings, there is a “more” link found under the brief text explanation on the far right of the page. I was impressed with the Setup Help.

I browsed though each of the settings pages. Most areas I left at default.

I downloade and upgraded the firmware, and like the D-Link firmware upgrade, as it updated, a popup box stating the script stopped, and asked if I wanted to continue or stop. I think this must be a Mac OS X problem or something. Anyway, I tried clicking Continue a few times, and it just kept popping back up again. Then I reluctantly chose Stop, and it was the right choice, because the update finished.

After the upgrade, I lost the Internet connection, but I checked the troubleshooting section of the pdf manual, and figured out how to release and renew the IP Address. That worked and my connection was back.

Since I kept the same SSID and password, I connected easily with wifi on the Powerbook. Then I connected with our Toshiba laptop using an older Netgear MA521 card, and it seems to work just fine. I didn’t surf very long, but I test it by removing the wifi card and after I reinserted, it connected again. In the past, we would sometimes have to reboot Windows.

Compared to the D-Link, I like this Linksys router much better. I found the help explanations easy to understand, and the menus are organized very well. All in all, I am happy with my purchase.

NOTE on return of D-Link router: For security, I reset the D-Link router to default settings. I really don’t think it would have mattered, since they would probably have to reset the router anyway to sign into admin, but it made me feel better. I had actually set up the new Linksys and packed away the D-Link before I realized I didn’t reset. But I just grabbed our laptop, and connected directly to the D-Link Ethernet port. No need to connect to the Cable modem, since all I needed to do was access the admin area.

New D-Link Router (DI-524)

January 29, 2006 by debbie T | ComputersInternetWireless

UPDATE: 01/30/06 – I usually post my updates at the bottom of my articles, but this one is going to the top. My husband had major problems accessing the Internet on his Windows laptop, and I found some web sites were loading painfully slow, while others were fine.

I called D-Link’s customer support. It was disappointing to hear what the tech support guy told me. They don’t recommend WPA security on this router, they only “really” support WEP. EEEK! WPA support was my whole reason for purchasing a new router, and why would it state on the box that WPA was a router feature if they weren’t intending to support it!?!

I asked about other routers, and he said that any of them from the DI-624 upward, would fully support WPA.

Anyway, it really makes me very mad now that I am thinking about it. I guess they just take old crappy routers and slap in a firmware update so they can call it “WiFi Certified” – blah.

So, bottom line is I will be taking my router back to Office Max. The LinkSys routers are on sale, and since that is the brand I really wanted, I will spend a little extra for one of their better models.

End of update!

I picked up a new wireless router the other day. I found the D-Link DI-524 at OfficeMax for a really good price (around $20) so I grabbed it.

Reviews online were mixed, but I figured I would give it a shot.

Set up using the wizard was easy, but the wizard does not cover a lot of settings, including enabling WPA, so it is best to work through each page manually. Thankfully I have prior experience with routers, but for those that don’t, it can be a very daunting assignment.

On the Home>Wireless page, I enabled wireless connectivity, named SSID, chose a channel, left the default for Mixed mode & enabled SSID broadcast. I enabled WPA as PSK and created a very strong, impossible to memorize passkey.

Then I took a look at the Advanced tab. I was initially confused with the Firewall Rules configuration. I wasn’t sure if this needed to be enabled, or did NAT take care of my firewall needs. After running the Shields Up tests over at GRC.com, I realized I was in fairly good shape, and my NAT protection was working.

Shields Up brought a few security details to my attention. By default, my router left Port 113 closed, but not hidden. I found a tutorial on D-link’s support pages to stealth Port 113 and it worked! I don’t know if I will have connection problems in the future, but it is easy to reverse if needed.

Shields Up also let me know that my system was responding to pings. I found a setting on the Tools>Misc page to block WAN Pings. Also, on the Tools>Misc page, I disabled Universal PlugNPlay (UPNP). My security settings now passed the Shields Up tests!

On the Firmware page, I tried to update to the December, 2005 firmware, but a message kept popping up that there was a problem with the script. I have a feeling that it is because I am on a Mac. There was a warning to NOT use a wireless connection to download and update the firmware, so I had to connect by Ethernet. I will have to connect our Windows laptop and maybe that will work.

Extra Notes: I found a helpful web site called PortForward.com that offers Port Forwarding instructions for tons of different routers.