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Chromebooks, dual-band routers, undo and more

Tech Talk

 

September 29, 2018

Greg Cunningham

What's a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is an inexpensive laptop, designed to be used while connected to the internet. Most of your applications and all of your files are stored online.

Why are they inexpensive? Chromebooks don't run on a Windows or Mac operating system, so they don't have to pay the Microsoft or Apple "tax." Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Google's operating system. Chromebooks run just fine on hardware that either Windows or macOS would struggle with.

Naturally, things made by Google like to use other things made by Google, so Chromebooks use Google's suite of applications by default (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.) and usually need a WiFi connection to operate. And the whole thing works best if you have and use a Google account.

Chromebooks have been around since 2011 and for a long time they were limited to applications you could download from the Chrome Store. Since late 2016, some Chromebooks can run Android apps from the Google Play Store.

So, who are Chromebooks for? Kids just getting their first computer, and people who never really got the hang of a Windows or Mac computer do well, but there are few things to consider:

You can't take it with you – since your files are stored online, when you don't have a WiFi connection you lose access to your photos, podcasts, books, and music library until you get that WiFi connection back. And no, you can't store stuff on your Chromebook. Most have less onboard memory than your phone, that's why the emphasis is on online storage.

Printing needs WiFi – If your home printer doesn't do WiFi or you're stuck without a WiFi connection, then you can't print from a Chromebook.

Multitasking, just say no – Unlike macOS or Windows, ChromeOS only has basic multi-window support, not true multitasking. If you want to have a lot of apps open and switch between them, ChromeOS isn't there yet.

Gaming – Just don't go there. Chromebooks don't have the storage, processing power, or graphics capabilities to play A-list titles, you'll still need a Windows gaming laptop or better yet, a Windows desktop.

What's a dual-band WiFi router?

Dual-band routers offer WiFi connections on two different frequencies, or bands.

Older routers used the 2.4 GHz band to connect devices. The long wavelength of the 2.4 GHz band allows for good signal through walls and floors and can cover a long range, but it's slow and crowded. Other devices in your home also operate in the 2.4 GHz band; these include old cordless phones, garage door openers, Bluetooth, baby monitors, even microwave ovens. A dropped WiFi connection can be due to 2.4 GHz band congestion.

The newer 5 GHz band relieves the congestion issues of the 2.4 GHz band and allows for higher speeds on your WiFi connection. Because the 5 GHz wavelength is short, it has a much shorter range than the 2.4 GHz wavelength.

So:

• 2.4 GHz = longer range but slower speeds

• 5 GHz = shorter range but higher speeds

• All modern routers use the original 2.4 GHz band and the 5GHz band.

Undo

Did you know that almost all computers and applications have a command that will undo the last thing you did. Whether it was accidentally erasing most of the presentation you're working on, cutting yourself out of your vacation photos or deleting your budget entries from last year, you can roll back your changes.

How? CTRL+Z on Windows computers and CMD + Z on Macs.

It works in almost every app or program and even in File Explorer and Finder.

What's taking up all the space on my hard drive?

WinDirStat has been the go-to program for seeing where all your hard drive space has gone, but there's a new kid on the block, WizTree.

Why switch? Wiztree reads the Master File Table directly and is super fast.

Here's the link if you want to try it out: http://www.antibody-software.com/web/software/software/wiztree-finds-the-files-and-folders-using-the-most-disk-space-on-your-hard-drive/.

Elsewhere sounds

Do you ever wish you could listen to birds singing, or rain and thunder, or maybe a crackling fire instead of those gloppy allergy-attack sounds coming from across the room? Well, now you can. Go to http://www.asoftmurmur.com/ and dial up your own mix of sounds and noises. Heck, you can even set it to a coffee shop if you want. Or, a coffee shop on fire with waves and birds singing. Not that I did that. As far you know.

A good question...

A father was trying to explain to his 6-year-old daughter how much technology had changed. He pointed to their brand-new desktop computer and told her that when he was in college, a computer with the same amount of power would have been the size of a house.

Wide-eyed, his daughter asked, "How big was the mouse?"

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.

 
 

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