Thursday, November 20, 2014

Netgear modem refusing an IP address change? Try this...

In my line of work, I install new ADSL modems on an ongoing basis, and I often need to change the default IP address that the modem is setup with.
One of my best sellers is the Netgear DGN2200, however I ran into an odd problem recently which puzzled my poor brain to pieces, until one of the awesome tech support guys at Netgear shed some light on the situation.

The webpage when you setup the modem IP address looks something like this:

It all seems pretty simple - fill in the new IP address, and hit Apply at the bottom.
Done, right?
Not in this case - no matter how many times I tried, the router would reboot, and then revert to the original default "" IP address.
Highly frustrating.

Even Google was clueless - combing through the search results revealed nothing of use.
At the end of my wits, I fell back on the support guys at Netgear - I mean after all, that's what they are there for, surely?

2 words: "Change browsers."

The answer to a problem which became a rather unpleasant throbbing pain in my right temple, was that simple.
Accessing the web interface of the router from Internet Explorer 11 rather than from Chrome, and performing the exact same steps, resulted in a fresh new IP address.

Now if only all IT problems were that simple to fix :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Simple cool stuff to do with the kids during the break...

So the school mid-term break is now in full swing for the parents among us, and after Disney Junior (DSTV channel 309 for those non-parental readers) is all maxxed out, we have to start getting a little bit more creative in terms of stuff to do.

After all, this is meant to be quality time that we should be spending with our kids, is it not?

So it occurred to me that all we really need to do, is go back to basics.
I dusted out the crazy cobwebs in my noggin, and took a trip down memory lane, back to when I was a kid who still held school holidays in high regard.
Man, those were the days - endless weeks of free time, so much free time... where did all the time go?
Does time diminish as one grows older? I guess in a way it does, but that's a subject for another day...

Anyway, I came up with a few simple things from my childhood that often provided hours of entertainment, and which still apply today.
Just because we live in a world full of iPads and WIFI, doesn't mean that our kids can't still enjoy some of the same things that we did while growing up.

Next time you are at a loss for something fun to do, maybe this list will be of some use:

  • Build a puzzle:
    I used to spend hours as a kid on jigsaw puzzles, and they fascinate me to this day.
    The kids also love them, even from a young age.

  • Make some Lego:
    Does anybody not enjoy Lego? 
    From building crazy castles as a kid, to creating massively reinforced cars (only to smash them into the nearest wall), Lego is truly timeless.

    Lego at work.
    Lego at work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Roast marshmallows:
    This one requires some adult supervision obviously, but it's a favourite and generally accompanies any braai as a sweet treat afterwards.
    Avoid contact with clothing...!

  • Swim:
    Kids go nuts for pools in summer. It's that simple.
    If the weather permits and you are fortunate enough to have access to a pool, get in.
    We have some pretty awesome summers here in South Africa, so we may as well make the most of them.

    Blue-water-pool (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Make a fire:
    Lighting up a fire at sunset just does something for the soul. Perhaps somehow it connects us to our ancestral roots, to a time when fire was vital for survival.
    Who knows - all I can say is that even as an adult I still enjoy a good fire, be it a campfire or a small log fire to roast some marshmallows over.

    Just flames
    Just flames (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Stargaze:
    While stoking the fire, why not turn your eyes up to the heavens and pick out some of our celestial neighbours or constellations.
    Apart from the moon, several of the planets in our solar system are easily visible in our night skies, and with dark enough skies and cloudless conditions, even amateur equipment can reveal a surprising amount of detail on objects such as Saturn and Jupiter.
    Pretty awe-inspiring, and appreciated by young and old alike.

    English: Pleiades Star Cluster
    English: Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Create silence:
    Here is one that I struggle with a lot, but which I still try to achieve, however difficult it may be.
    When you get home, switch your cellphone to Silent. It has been ringing all day, with a thousand different people vying for your attention.
    So ask yourself, how many of those people are more important to you than your loved ones?
    It's not easy I know, but in a world where constant noise is the order of the day, a little bit of silence can't be a bad thing. 
If it's an excursion you are looking for, then head over to our other blog - Plebs with Kids, where we review kid-friendly spots in and around Johannesburg.

As I type this post I keep thinking of new things that I want to add to this list, so I guess this post will be a bit of a work in progress.
Can you think of anything that you loved as a kid, that you feel deserves a mention?

Drop me a comment below and maybe I'll add it in :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Get your 50GB of FREE cloud storage...

There are dozens of cloud storage providers out there today who all provide free and paid storage options to new customers.
Putting a copy of your data on the cloud is a great way to guard against potential device failure or loss, however the amount of data that we generate nowadays is rather a lot...

The traditional 2GB free data offering from Dropbox just doesn't cut it anymore - Microsoft moved the goalposts somewhat with their 15GB free offering, but even that will still be used up pretty quickly once you start syncing photos, videos and music to the service.

Enter Mega - launched in 2013, it was founded by the same chap (Kim Dotcom) who founded the now defunct Megaupload in 2005.

Mega essentially operates in the same way as Dropbox - you install a sync client on your PC, and this keeps a dedicated folder on your PC in sync with the Mega servers, to the tune of 50GB of free data.
Now 50GB is a lot of data in an any language, and it pretty much beats any other free offering out there.
I have been trying out the Mega service myself, and it has been fairly painless so far, with a nice web interface to boot.

Give it a shot if you need free cloud storage (and who doesn't?):

Comments welcome - free services like this will hopefully keep the big guys competitive and on their toes, provided that they keep their systems more secure than Apple, that is... ;)
Oh and one last bit of advice - keep your most personal intimate pics off the Cloud, lest they should fall into the wrong hands!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Do not drop your hard drive. You have been warned...

How much data do you generate in a single day?
Between documents, images, videos and other content, I would guess that the figure is somewhere in the tens of megabytes at least, if not hundreds or more.

The amount of data that we generate nowadays is just scary, and the more data we create, the more storage we require to keep it safe.

English: A USB hard drive. This is made by Wes...
English: A USB hard drive. This is made by Western Digital and uses a mini B USB connection for both power and data transfer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The obvious solution? External hard drives.
Cost-effective, portable and convenient - just plug in a USB cable, copy and paste and you are good to go.
Well, that's the idea at least.

While USB hard drives are a great place to put all of your stuff, they are also vulnerable to damage if not handled correctly.
Recently I dealt with several clients who expressed a great deal of surprise when their prized external hard drives suddenly went belly up, nasty clicking sounds and all.
I really feel that hard drives and other similarly sensitive products should ship with a bold disclaimer on the box, something like this:


You get the idea - inside that sleek outer casing, there are platters, heads and other moving parts that when crashed together, can render a hard drive completely dead.
In some cases, even a light knock can damage a drive, and I am amazed that people still find this hard to believe.
I suppose because they have spent a lot of money on the device, they expect it to be tough and able to take some punishment.

Sure, you can find so-called "rugged" hard drives which boast of an increased ability to take a beating, however I certainly wouldn't put my precious data at risk testing one of these devices...

Trust me, hard drives are feeble in careless hands.
So next time you purchase an external USB hard drive, why not spend the extra few bucks and get a second one, just in case Murphy and his minions are lurking somewhere down the road...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What to do if your Apple has run out of USB ports...

All too often nowadays, I come across Apple owners who are at their wits end because they have run out of USB ports.
Well the obvious solution would be to go out and buy a USB hub to upgrade the amount of USB ports, right?

Well thankfully, there is now a far simpler, and indeed cheaper solution which I will outline for you using the images below:

Before: Limited by only 2 USB ports

After: A 3rd USB port has now easily been added to this Apple

Taking a closer look, post-upgrade...

You can take this even further than just one extra USB port of course - in theory you are limited only by the amount of free space available on the Apple itself!
Take note - some discolouration of the new USB port is normal, a few minutes after the upgrade has been completed.

Now don't all thank me at once for saving you a few hundred bucks on a USB hub... :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What will the next "WOW" feature be in smartphones...?

Of late I have noticed that most of the big players in the smartphone game are releasing new phones with obvious improvements over older models, but lacking any real sanity-smashing game-changing new features.

Some may beg to differ, but I am talking about influential features like these:

  • NFC - upon launch it was a biggie, but now this is pretty much a standard;
  • Wireless charging - what no cables? How can this be? Very useful indeed;
  • Hand gestures / facial recognition type technology that are now present in a lot of high-end smartphones;
  • Fingerprint readers - building a seriously solid layer of security into devices that are often full of sensitive info;
So my question is, what's next?
Samsung are generally pretty good at the "wow" stuff, with insanely powerful beast phones powered by V8 motors, and capable of some pretty amazing things... :)

I am also bombarded daily by tech mail ranting on about iPhone 6 this and iPhone 6 that, "new" features (which are nearly all present on competitor devices), how the iPhone 6 will take down all competitors etc... beyond boring really.
In truth, what game-changing and crazy new features has the iPhone 6 got?
Well, there is Apple Pay, which is an attempt at replacing the traditional credit card in order to pay for goods. 
Others have tried (with some success), but I'm not sure how widely adopted it will be, especially after Apple's recent spectacular fail at the hands of hackers, which resulted in the leaking of hundreds celebrity photos - go iCloud, you impenetrable fortress you!
Right, so we know that Apple cannot be trusted to safeguard data. Good luck Apple Pay!

On an unconfirmed note, I have heard rumours of a feature that may find its way onto the next Nokia Lumia flagship, and this one really would be a game-changer if it turned out to be true...:
Solar charging.

We are all at the mercy of cellphone battery capacity nowadays, so if the battery dies, who cares what else your phone can do anyway?
But a device that you can just pop in the sun to revive? Now that's something that I would pay good money for.
Think it's true?

What feature do you think could be added to new smartphones to make your life simpler, or otherwise change the game completely?

Monday, September 22, 2014

The day that Evernote died...

Evernote, for me at least, is the king of all note-taking apps.

Evernote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let's go through some essential features that set it apart from the crowd:

  • Cross platform: This is a biggie - Evernote runs on any device that you may be using, be it Apple, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, PC, Mac... the list goes on.
    You can also access it directly from any web browser of course.
    There is serious power in compatibility.

  • Pricing: The free version offers a lot of functionality, so much so that I only found a need to upgrade from the free plan this month, for reasons that will be covered in this blog post...

  • Evernote offers features that I haven't even started to use yet - scanning through the menu on my PC, I don't even know what some of the features do, but I am guessing that once I start using them, I will find it hard to imagine life without them!

  • Convenience: Instead of trying to remember each and every thing that I did in my day, which customers I visited, time spent on-site, tasks completed etc., I make a point of updating Evernote on my Lumia 920 several times per day, and the data is automatically synced back to the cloud, and then onto each of my other devices when they in turn sync later on.
    Couldn't be any simpler really.
Cloud-based note software is therefore an amazing way in which to keep your life, your devices and indeed your mind in sync, no matter where you are or what device you happen to be using.
It is the perfect, simple, centralized solution... or is it?

For over a year now, I have been using Evernote (free), to make my life simpler by remembering important stuff for me - and it has worked sterlingly well.
Then last week, something decidedly odd and alarming happened which caught me completely off guard, and which turned an otherwise fantastic Monday into one with a distinctly blue hue.

While opening a critical note (I say "critical", since it pertained to information stored for the month that directly affected the bottom line of my business), I discovered that the entire note appeared blank.
The note title was intact, as was a preview of the first 3 lines of the note, but that was it.
No stress, I thought, still reasonably calm at this stage, as I switched over to my phone to access the note there.
Same thing on the phone. Zip, nada, nothing in the note.
Stress level successfully upgraded.

Last ditch to recover data? You guessed it - turn to the oracle of all things - Google.
Oddly, while this particular event appeared to be rather common in search results, no real explanation, solution or fix accompanied any of the articles that I was desperately trawling through.

Attempting to start rebuilding the note from memory only made things worse - the more that I could remember from the scattered bits and pieces haphazardly floating around my brain, the more I realised that the task facing me was near insurmountable - I had stored a lot of data in that note...
It would be safe to say that I was going through unusually high stress levels at that point.

In desperation I continued what now seemed a pointless effort to find any scraps of info online, that may turn the situation around.
Finally, one faint glimmer of hope caught my eye from the far recesses of the web - a feature included in the Evernote Premium (paid) which allows you to roll back to a previous version of any note.
Ah, but I was on the Free plan, so what use would this be to me?
Thankfully, quite a bit, since Evernote actually implements this feature on all new accounts, Free or Premium. 
This means that by upgrading from a free plan to a Premium plan, you can access historical data about your notes, even from the period before you became a Premium user - a massive lifesaver if you are someone like me, who was about to lose most of my remaining sanity due to data loss.

In short, I was able to upgrade to a monthly Premium plan (R 49 per month), and access a version of my lost note that had been saved that same morning, approximately 99% intact.
Stress levels normalised. Meltdown averted.
So what's the point of this post really?
Well, I am an avid cloud service advocate - whenever clients ask me about data storage needs for the future, cloud is always in there somewhere when I respond.

I think that the lesson in all this, is that while the cloud is as reliable, secure and stable as it can possibly be, shit does happen.
Just as external hard drives can be dropped or fail at random, cloud services and syncs can fall over with unpredictable results, and when dealing with your data, unpredictability is a scary thing.
Whichever way you go, be it local storage or the cloud, take precautions and put extra measures in place, within reason obviously.
Duplicate backup drives, store a local copy of your cloud data or make use of multiple cloud storage services.

Whatever you do, have something to fall back on, because when it all goes belly up, data is impossible to replace.

Monday, August 4, 2014

We review the Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker, and it's one decent piece of kit...

So I was fortunate enough to get my grubby paws on a pretty funky piece of techno gadgetry recently, in the form of the Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker.
Everything today is going wireless - I don't even want to start thinking of all of the wonderful things that are probably happening to our brains as a result, but the reality is that people don't really want to use cables unless they absolutely have to.

Wireless audio just makes life so much simpler.
Step into any electronics or audio store today, and you will be amazed at the choice of Bluetooth speakers available, when compared to just a few years ago.
Trouble is, there are a lot of downright cheap and nasty products on the market - great in terms of convenience and portability, but when it comes to performance and sound quality, just not up to scratch.

While one cannot really expect a small Bluetooth speaker to be capable of window smashing bass, it is still possible to achieve a respectable level of audio quality, while retaining portability and decent aesthetics.
The ability to take a beating would also be nice - after all we often want to take our music with us, don't we?

Enter the Turtle Shell 2.0, by Outdoor Tech:

I don't need to be Patrick Jane, to know that you are already hooked by the look of this thing alone.
Outdoor Tech have paid particular attention to design - the angles actually remind me of the Stealth Fighter - I wonder if it is invisible to radar? :)

So is it any good?
Well I won't venture too far into the tech specs now, as much as I usually love to pretend that I know exactly what they mean.
Instead, you can check out all the important details here, while I proceed to provide a first hand account of my experience with the Turtle Shell 2.0.

From the outset, I was not expecting anything tremendous from something so small - the Turtle Shell 2.0 comfortably sits in the palm of your hand (or hands, if your hands are particularly small :)).
It happily travels wherever you need it to, thanks to the nifty carry bag supplied with it, and you don't have to stress about accidental drops or spills - this thing is built tough (it is IP65 dust proof and water resistant - apparently that's good). :)

Bluetooth pairing is beyond basic, and you can expect up to 16 hours of audio (depending on how loud you pump the bass, that is).
If you still don't know what Blueteeth are, there is also a 3.5mm audio port on the side, where you can plug in a walkman, iPod or other audio player.
Charging is via Micro USB, which is fast becoming one of the most popular charging methods - another thumbs up there.

Moving along - once paired up with my Nokia Lumia 920, the thing that (pleasantly) surprised me most about this speaker, is how well it "threw" the sound, even at soft volumes.
That has to be down to the way that Outdoor Tech designed it - apart from the funky look, those angled surfaces serve to direct sound omnidirectionally (I just Googled that to make sure it's a real word).

Bass, mid-range and treble were all of high quality when considering the device size, and I noticed that the speaker volume maxxed out more or less just short of any distortion, without sounding "tinny", like those walkman speakers of old.

3 simple buttons on the side allow you to navigate through your tracks and control the volume, and a standard camera mount underneath allows for various mounting options.
During my time with the Turtle Shell 2.0, I also found myself setting it up wherever I went, just to have some quality sound in the background.
Soft or loud, this little gem excels.

Of course, once the party is over and it's time to get back to business, you can always use the built in microphone to conduct wireless conference calls - another nifty feature thrown in, just to sweeten the deal.
I have to say that in the congested world of Bluetooth Speakers, the Turtle Shell 2.0 totally stands out from the crowd on several fronts:

  • High quality audio
  • Seriously rugged - dust, water and shock resistant
  • Portable
  • Funky design - available in a range of funky colours
  • Feature packed
So here's what you get in the box - they even throw in some cool Outdoor Tech stickers :):

I sure was sad when I had to hand this back.

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