Category Archives: Residential

Networking your home is the gift that keeps on giving

In this day and age, no one should have to put up with slow streaming devices, drops and dead zones within their home. But, calling your Internet Provider and increasing your Internet speed isn’t going to resolve these issues, since the problems generally exist within the home due to the home’s physical structure and your service provider won’t help you. Fortunately using a combination of wired & wireless products, your problems can be resolved.

Once you’ve got your network running smoothly, upgrading your video and audio products inside the home is the next step. Many people put #2 before #1 mostly because it is easier to go out and buy a TV and sound system, then it is to get your network in order. Unfortunately, what happens is that you don’t get the quality out of those new products because all those Smart features are working at a snail’s pace. If you’ve just bought a gaming device, you will really feel the effects of a poor network infrastructure as today’s games require a strong bandwidth.
After you’ve got your home’s internal electronics system in order, you might consider venturing outside to look at outdoor WiFi, audio, video and even cameras. We spend more time in our homes than ever before. You deserve to have your electronic purchases working at peak performance.

Wired vs. Wi-Fi?

When people call us for help in improving their Wi-Fi in their home, sometimes there is a Wi-Fi solution and sometimes the best solution is hard wiring. In most cases, a combination of both hard wiring and Wi-Fi is the best choice. Here are six things we discuss and look at within the home to determine what will work best for the customer.

1. Mobility: The number one reason to choose Wi-Fi over a wired set up is mobility. If you are going to move your device around the house, then you need the flexibility of the Wi-Fi. Laptop computers, iPads and cell phones need a strong wireless set up. Devices that stay put should be hardwired. They include PCs, Televisions and sometimes the audio (in-wall and in-ceiling should be hardwired). When it comes to audio, you can combine wired & wireless by expanding a wired audio set up with products such as Sonos, that permit you to go wireless, therefore expanding your music coverage within the home.

2. Aesthetics: If you have a fully decorated room and now want to have it wired, cuts will need to be made into the drywall to route the cabling from one point to the next. Most residential walls have wood studs 16” apart, so to move horizontally around a room, studs are in the way and wiring has to go through the stud (thus the need to cut the drywall at the stud). If you don’t want your walls cut open, then the best time to hard wire a room is either during a remodeling or just before you decide to redecorate, i.e. so the drywall repair can be covered with spackle & paint.

3. Security: If a client works from home or runs a business from home we generally recommend hard wiring for the company computer. A lot of companies will not allow employees to Telework when using a Wi-Fi connection at home due to the inherent security risk.

4. Airtime: This is a term that is rarely heard but is the most important part of Wi-Fi performance. All devices share the radio transmission of a Wi-Fi network that they are connected to with the other connected devices. Airtime is the amount of time a device uses the radio for sending and receiving data. The more devices there are on a Wi-Fi network, the more contention there is for Airtime. If a device is an Airtime hog, ( a smart TV streaming Netflix, gaming system playing a multiplayer game, etc.) then the performance of all other connected devices will suffer. There is a common misconception that Bandwidth from your internet provider is the problem. Nine out of ten times the problem is with Airtime contention, not Bandwidth.

5. Bandwidth: Naturally the more devices you have on your network, the more bandwidth is used. If you have a house full of kids gaming and using Wi-Fi for the phones, homework and music, you may find when you sit down to use your own device that the speed is very slow. The solution can be either wiring some devices or additional Wi-Fi access points to increase the bandwidth capabilities. You may be surprised at what bandwidth you actually need to operate your household network. Typically you can operate on a lot less than you think, when the infrastructure is designed correctly.

6. Structure of home: Some homes just don’t make it easy to use Wi-Fi. The construction of the walls, the # of levels and the layout of the home can make it nearly impossible for your single router to handle all the signals that are attempting to access it. Wiring upper level rooms and adding Access Points can help. (Access Point is the correct term for the radio transmitter/receiver for Wi-Fi)

A good network infrastructure adds immediate value to your home and adds value when you are ready to sell. Millennials are very tech savvy and will be looking at how well they can access their electronic devices. Most likely they will not care as much about the cable outlet as they will not use traditional cable services but they will be VERY interested in a house with a robust network infrastructure.

Comparing Amazon Echo, Google Home and the new Apple HomePod

Consumers now have 3 strong choices for voice-controlled devices in their home, so we will give you a taste of each and where their strengths lie. Essentially these devices perform functions that include Voice assistant, i.e. answering questions, instructing smart home devices such as lighting, HVAC, security and controlling music. We will discuss each of those, avoiding the way each device looks as that is a personal preference.

Voice assistant

Amazon Echo has Alexa as the assistant. It is capable of understanding simple commands, or even a series of commands, but they’re less conversational in that you’ll have to engage the full question each time (there’s no follow-on pronoun understanding at present). Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and learns all the time. The more you use the Echo, the more Alexa will adapt to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

Google Home will let you ask Google anything, thanks to its Google Assistant AI and can converse (recognize pronouns) and answer complex questions as well. It can also read the relevant part of webpages back to you. Google Assistant on Google Home is the same as Assistant on Android phones.

Apple’s HomePod utilizes the Siri assistant, the very same as in its iPhones, iPads and Mac. In addition to answering your questions, the assistant learns your personal preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across tens of thousands of playlists from Apple Music. You can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, traffic, and weather. Apple’s SiriKit also enables third-party app support.

Smart home

Amazon Echo can respond to your voice commands and control any Alexa-enabled products, such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more. Some products work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub or “middle man” app, though the Echo Plus device gets rid of the hub or middle man app requirement.

Google Home can be a control centre for your entire home, because it has access to Google Assistant. Not only will this let you do the basics like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists, but it will also connect to your smart home devices and it includes support for popular network systems. That means you will be able to control smart lights, switches, doors, and more.

Apple HomePod is the hub to control HomeKit-enabled devices, such as turning on Philips Hue lights, without the need for an iPad or Apple TV to act as the hub Still, being a HomeKit device means HomePod can fit into the same roles as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, controlling other devices.


Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker, so it can play music and be controlled from any device that supports Bluetooth audio streaming. By default it will talk to Amazon Music, but other sources, such as Spotify, are controllable. Echo is a single speaker with one 0.6-inch tweeter and one 2.5-inch woofer so the sound is limited. It is possible to link Echo to a more powerful music system.

Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that can stream music directly from the cloud. Google Home doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll need to use apps and services with it that support Google Cast. Home features dual side-facing passive radiators in its compact form so sounds plenty loud with fair sound quality.

Apple’s HomePod, which offers AirPlay 2 from your devices, or the ability to stream from cloud music services like Apple Music (Spotify and others are available, just as they are on iPhone). Unfortunately, there is no Bluetooth, but that’s of no issue with AirPlay 2. HomePod is a far larger speaker with a lot more going on inside, including seven tweeters for 360-degree sound output, and a 4-inch woofer to handle bass, therefore producing a much better sound than Echo and Home.

Source: Pocketlint. Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What’s the difference?
Elyse Betters and Dan Grabham | 6 February 2018.

What to do when your Home Technology is not working

Try these at-home troubleshooting techniques

Before you schedule a service call, we encourage you to attempt to resolve the problem yourself. Here are some basic ways to troubleshoot your problem. If the problem cannot be resolved, please call our office to schedule an appointment for a service call.

1) Check that the power plug is plugged in. Yes, this sounds common sense, but if you know you didn’t unplug the electronic device, you may assume it is plugged in, when in fact a cleaning person, child or other member of the family may have unplugged it. A lot of components have power cords with multiple connection points. It starts with a power cord that is plugged into the wall outlet. That cord plugs into an external power supply. A separate cord from the power supply plugs into the device. Check the entire connection chain.

2) Check that the cables are tightly secured. Reseating (unplugging and plugging back in) the cables can resolve the problem. If components were moved even slightly, a cable could have come loose, especially HDMI video cables. Obviously, if a cable is lying on the floor, it most likely came fully out and needs to be re-attached. Otherwise, just push each cable gently into the component to ensure it is secure.

3) Reset electronics. To reset any electronic device, you need to turn it off completely, i.e. power it down either by unplugging it or turning off your surge protector, not just hitting the power button of the remote or on the device. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn on or plug back in. This can resolve problems caused by power sags/ surges & updates that did not restart the device properly.
4) Reset your router. If your communications carrier had even a short blip in their service, your router may have been impacted. Go to the router, find the power source and turn it off. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn it back on.

5) Testing to see if your TV is broken. If it doesn’t come on at all and is plugged in, it is dead. If it comes on but the picture is not normal, it is may be broken. It could be a loose cable or a problem with your cable/satellite service. Check to be sure you have cable/satellite service at other TVs, as you don’t want to consider it broken if cable is down or your cable box is broken. If you can’t get your channels to change with the remote, use the buttons on the front of the cable/satellite box. The problem may be with the remote.

6) Testing to see if your component is broken. Most components either work or they don’t. Try the power reset described above. If you are using a universal remote control try using the specific remote that came with the device to see if it functions correctly. For example; for a Blu-ray DVD player, use the Blu-ray/DVD remote, turn it on & off, open the disk tray.

7) Testing to see if your remote control is broken. The number one thing to check is that the batteries are fresh/charged and that they are seated properly in the remote. Remotes take a lot of abuse. If it gets dropped on the floor the batteries could have come loose or unseated just enough to cause the remote to act strangely. If the equipment is being operated behind closed cabinet doors then there is a secondary device that facilitates that function. It could be either a separate electronic device that talks specifically to the remote or a universal IR relay system. Both use little “emitters” that are attached to the devices that they are controlling like the cable box. These emitters sometimes get knocked off or the adhesive holding it on has failed. Just placing the emitter back on the unit may fix the problem. Additionally there is an IR sensor that is usually attached to the front of the TV. This also may fall off and needs to be reattached.

8) Reset network. If you have more than a single network device resetting your network when it isn’t operating correctly can take more than just resetting the router. All devices such as network switches, wireless network extenders, etc. need to be reset. As a general rule of thumb turn everything off first and leave it off. Start with the cable modem (router if you have Fios) and power it on. Wait 1-2 minutes then power on the router. (already done if you have Fios) Wait about 1-2 minutes then start powering on the network switches and wireless extenders. If you follow that sequence then all of the settings will be exchanged properly between devices and the network will have a clean start.

We highly suggest you print this article out and keep it somewhere handy so that you have it should you need to troubleshoot.

KRACK Attack!

By now you may have heard about a newly found vulnerability in Wi-Fi security called KRACK and may be wondering what it means to you. Without going too far down the technical rabbit hole, I’ll try to explain the risk.

KRACK is the industry short name for Key Reinstallation Attacks. A discovery was made back in July by researchers in a White Hat (the good guys) hacking lab that showed how the encryption of network traffic using WPA2 security could be negated. They passed their findings on to the appropriate government agencies and manufacturers who then took action to correct the problem with firmware/product updates. This past Monday they made the public aware of the problem with the encryption protocol.

What did not happen was some explanation of what it means to the general public. Since it is only applicable to Wi-Fi networks, the first thing to know is that anyone who wants to break the encryption must be in range of the Wi-Fi signal. If they can’t see the Wi-Fi then they can’t exploit the problem. The second thing is that the Wi-Fi password is required to begin the KRACK attack. If the hacker does not have the password then they cannot kick off the hack. Because of those 2 things, the risk to most folks is minimal.

There are a few things that can be done to protect yourself from KRACK. First, install the updates when you are notified of them. This is very important as the problem affects ALL devices. Every PC, Mac, smart phone, thermostat, washer & dryer, etc. with Wi-Fi capabilities has the problem. FYI companies like Microsoft released a patch for the Windows operating system on Tuesday with their monthly updates. Others will follow suit shortly. Again, install the updates.

Second, when logging into a website be sure that you are doing so with HTTPS, not HTTP. HTTPS encrypts the data between your device and the server that you are communicating. You will see this in the address bar of the browser. The address of the website should begin with HTTPS://. With this you will also see a little lock symbol adjacent to the address. These mean that your data is encrypted and not sent in readable text.

My take on KRACK. Since the hacker must be on the Wi-Fi network, the exposure is reduced for most people. Businesses with multiple Wi-Fi networks as part of their total IT systems are more exposed than consumers because of that configuration/environment. Essentially, if you update your devices you will be protected. This problem has been around since the WPA2 encryption language was written many years ago. It only took so long to discover it because the encryption protocol has been doing its job keeping things encrypted and secure. That will not change.

My biggest concern is what will happen to your components when the Internet service providers push out updates to their equipment. As was mentioned earlier, ALL equipment has this problem. Every router from Comcast, Cox Communications and Verizon has this issue. If the carriers push out updates in the middle of the night, things that were working the day prior may have problems the next morning. Let’s hope all goes smoothly on their end with these updates.