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Home internet tune-up, Netflix with friends

Tech Talk

 

May 23, 2020

Greg Cunningham

We're all spending more time at home these days, and for many people, that means spending more time online. Whether on Zoom conference calls, Google Classroom assignments, trying to level up in your video game or some quality binge-watching, we're online more now than we were last year. Here's how to make sure you're getting the most from your internet connection.

Go get your latest internet bill and look up out how much speed you are paying for. In Tehachapi, internet plans range from 1-3 Megabits per second (Mbps) up to 1000 Mbps. Once you've got the number from your bill, open a browser on your computer (Edge, Firefox, Chrome, any browser will work) and check your current internet speed by typing in http://www.fast.com or http://www.speedtest.net. If your current speed is only half (or less) than the speed you are paying for, there are few things to try before making an angry call to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Turn off or unplug your modem and router, wait a bit, then turn them back on or plug them back in. What are modems and routers? They're those blinky-light boxes the installer put somewhere near your computer or TV. You may have two of them, a modem and a separate router, or only one, a modem with a built-in router. Either way, unplug them and then plug them back in. It's called power cycling and can often make your internet speedy again.

Once all the lights are blinking again, run another speed test in your computer browser. Is your speed closer to what your bill says you're paying for? Yay, you fixed it. But if your speed still is not right, there are few more things to do before we make that angry call to your ISP.

Turn off any other devices that might be using your connection: Other computers, phones, tablets, TVs, gaming consoles, home security systems, Alexa devices, and rerun the speed test. Is your speed better? Probably not much better, but at least we checked, and now we know nothing in your house is eating your internet connection.

Okay, it might be time to make that call to technical support at your ISP. Let them know the steps you have already been through, but they may have you do some or all of them again while you are on the line.

While you're on the line with them, ask them how old their equipment at your house is. Things do go bad over time, and older modems/routers may not be fast enough for today's internet speeds. Have them replace their equipment.

Netflix with friends

Remember when we used to have friends over to watch Netflix and react to whatever movie or show we were watching? Good times.

But those good times are gone, right? Now we are socially distant knots of humanity watching Netflix alone in our castles, our window shades flickering with the pulse of scene changes on our TVs.

But wait, Netflix remembers the good old days and has released Netflix Party (NP)! The Netflix Party Chrome extension creates a chatroom where you and your friends can watch the same Netflix show or movie at the same time, in real-time. You can skip parts of the show or movie, get another episode going and send messages to each other.

Since NP is a Chrome browser extension, you will need to use a computer to set up your Netflix party instead of your TV. Your TV doesn't have a keyboard for sending messages anyway.

Install NP on your computer by going to http://www.netflixparty.com or searching for Netflix Party in your Chrome browser. Install the extension and look for the grayed-out NP icon in the upper right corner of your browser, near the three dots menu.

Have your friends install the same extension, the same way, on their computers.

To start a Netflix watching party, open http://www.netflix.com, and sign in. Pick something to watch with your friends. When Netflix starts playing your choice, click on the now-red NP icon in the upper right corner of Chrome and click Start the party. If you want to be the party dictator, check the "Only I Have Control" option. Leave it unchecked if you do not mind someone else controlling the party.

Now, onscreen you will see a link for your chatroom/party. Copy the link and send it to your friends. Once they open the link, they will need to click on their NP icon to join the chatroom and watch what you are watching.

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 [email protected]

 
 

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