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Tag: extender

Hands On: Netgear WN2000RPT WiFi Extender

Posted by Alan at 7:21 PM on April 30, 2011

Recently I received a review unit of the Netgear WN2000RPT WiFi Extender.  It’s a tool that I am surprisingly well qualified to test.  You see, we live in an old, restored Victorian and my office, and router, are on the third floor.  However, most life takes place on the first two floors, where a laptop, tablet, and smartphones are in use.  Connectivity is there, it’s just not great.  It’s a long way for a “G” router to throw it’s signal.

The WN2000RPT comes with a simple setup and simple controls.  There are 4 wired ethernet ports on the back, along with a power switch.  On the front, there are five indicators that show your current status.  Colors change from yellow to green based on connection.  Different indicators light based on what you are doing.  It’s very simple and straight-forward in use.  You can place it anywhere that you have at least a small connection to the router.

Find a place to put the extender, plug it in, and turn it on.  Once it makes a connection to your home network the LED indicator will turn green.  Use your device to connect to the extender.  Once connected you will need to open your web browser – it doesn’t matter which one you use, any web browser will work here.  It should open to the site http://www.mywifiext.net  From there the wizard will walk you through a simple set-up process.  Once finished, the network name will change to YourNetworkName-Ext.

Our laptop normally has one or two bars on the first floor – not exactly unusable, but it makes web site load times a bit slower than what they are on the desktop with it’s wired connection.  Of course WiFi can never match ethernet, but it can come reasonably close.

Once I reconnect to the Extender with the laptop I received four full bars.  Web sites loaded much faster – noticeably so.  The extender is sitting in the same room as the laptop – there was one bar when connected to the router, which is two floors overheard.  The WN2000RPT requires very little signal strength to get a foothold and boost the signal up.

To further test the difference the Netgear device could make I used an app on my phone called WiFi Analyzer.  I took a reading near where the laptop and extender were located.  The router is graphed in blue, while the extender if depicted in red.

The Netgear WN2000RPT retails for around $70 – about the same price as a good router.  If you have a relatively small home to cover  – say 2000 square feet – then it’s probably not necessary.  But, if you have larger space that you want to blanket with WiFi, and especially if your are slinging media around, then this is a must-have.  The additional signal strength this device provided was more than noticeable, as you can see in the pictures above.  It has made our first-floor devices much more useful now that we no longer need to walk around looking for the best spot for a signal.

The only drawback I found was with my phone.  While it can see, and “connect” to the extender, unfortunately Android does not support DHCP.  So, even though it “connected”, it could not use the connection.  Since the the laptop and tablet were the major devices involved in our daily home-use, this was only a minor setback.

[UPDATE: In fact, Android DOES support DHCP.  It seems that I needed to visit mywifiext.com with each device to enable, and the I was able to get it working flawlessly]

In the end the Netgear WN2000RPT proved to be more than worth its relatively minor cost.  It provided a significant signal boost and it could do so from almost nothing.  The connection was solid, never dropping out, as some WiFi can do.  And, you can pick one up online for $60-70, so it’s really a great little addition to any home that lacks a quality WiFi signal everywhere.

 

Lawrence Pensack presents two portable 15.4″ inch USB monitors that are designed to extend the desktop real estate of laptop computers. Monitor²Go, which is available in May, is a USB monitor that sells for $279 dollars.

The Field Monitor Pro With Keypad is available now and sells for $289, includes an integrated numeric keypad. Both monitors are DisplayLink Certified.

It is possible to daisy-chain up to 6 of these monitors for maximum high-performance portable screen real estate. Both units fold up into the shape of standard laptop computers to go into standard laptop bags and weigh about 4 pounds. They are powered with their own power adapters.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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The High End Of Media With Vidabox

Posted by Alan at 6:54 PM on September 20, 2010

Vidabox (pronounced Vee-da-box) is a high-end computer/entertainment manufacturer.  This is a comprehensive whole-house solution for those who want the best, but are also willing to pay for it.  The Home Theater PC’s, Media Servers, and Controllers are all top-of-the-line and they are all ready to take your home to the next level.  And, the customer service is top-notch.

If you are looking for an end-to-end solution then this may be where you want to begin.  They have Media Centers, servers, extenders, and accessories.  You’ll still need to go elsewhere for your TV and A/V receiver, but they’d be hard-pressed to compete in that area with such heavyweights as Pioneer, Samsung (for TV’s), Yamaha, and Harman-Kardon (for receivers).

The Media Center PC’s come in a range of options with storage going from 2TB to 18TB, with the higher end being a RAID5 solution.  Blu-Ray drives are standard on all versions, as is Windows 7, built-in card readers, and TV tuner cards.

The servers are rack-mountable and range in storage from 8TB to 44TB.  Like all servers, they are headless – no monitor, keyboard, mouse, or remote is needed.  All servers are RAID-enabled.

They also make extenders with several different models available.  That will allow you to expand your Media Center and server out to your whole home.

But, perhaps my favorite products are the accessories.  A while back I reviewed the wireless keyboard/mouse with RF, which I have used for more than a year and absolutely love.  They also have something called the vController which is compatible with iPad and allows full remote control of your home entertainment system.

This system is not cheap, but if you want products that give you everything possible in today’s world of ever-changing home media then it may be the best solution that money can buy.  Combine it with good TV’s and receivers and you’ll be set.  And Windows Media Center has lots of home automation plug-ins available if you’d like to really expand what all of this hardware can do.

Ending A Relationship

Posted by tomwiles at 10:21 PM on July 1, 2010

Our relationship had always been so full of promise and fun. Being gone so much of the time due to my job was certainly a strain. Even so, when I was around, I didn’t make many demands.

Something was coming between us. Lately I’ve been looking elsewhere and slowly began finding satisfaction on the Internet. The thought of divorce has been crossing my mind over the past few months. It was a painful decision, but I knew it had to be made.

Today I decided it was time to sever our ties.

I’ve been a Dish Network customer for about 10 years – until today.

What came between us? I’ve been experimenting with the idea of getting TV content from various sources on the Internet. I’ve tried connecting both Mac with Front Row and Windows Media Center laptops to an LCD HDTV. A full-fledged computer is very flexible in that it can play virtually any file type, but the clunky, complex hands-on Interface is not designed to be operated from an easy chair. I want as much content as possible integrated into one place.

In the meantime I stumbled across some software called Playon TV available at http://www.playon.tv. The software comes with a 30 day trial and works with the DLNA and UpNP network device standards. The software sells for $39.95. Playon TV is designed to be installed either on a computer or a home server on the home network. Playon TV enables streaming of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Videos, Pandora, etc. to a DNLA/UpNP device like the WD TV Live Plus, X-Box 360, etc. There are also plenty of free third-party plugins for Playon TV that add a mind-boggling and growing variety of content to the Playon TV network share. It works well with my hacked Apple TV with XBMC.

Yesterday I visited my local Best Buy store and bought a Western Digital WD TV Live Plus to connect to the small HDTV in my kitchen. The WD TV Live is a very small set-top box that comes with a small remote control that has an Ethernet port in and an HDMI port out. Straight out of the box it does an excellent job of playing Netflix and is capable of playing back 1080P content. Only the Plus version plays Netflix.

The WD TV Live Plus combined with the Playon TV software convinced me it was time for radical measures. This afternoon I cancelled my Dish Network account and will save $97 dollars per month. I also bought a second WD TV Live Plus unit to connect to my main HDTV/surround sound setup.

At $97 dollars per month savings the two WD TV Live Plus units will have paid for themselves within 3 months.

Can I live without access to Dish Network? I think it’s going to be similar to a few years ago when I dropped my wired phone line. There was a bit of an emotional attachment that I had to let go of, but once I cut the cord it was no big deal.

Pursuit Of The Ultimate Media Extender

Posted by tomwiles at 5:05 PM on June 29, 2010

Hacked Apple TVFor some time now I’ve been experimenting with different ways of getting Internet-based video to my widescreen LCD HD televisions.

Often people think, why not simply hook up a regular desktop computer up to the TV. A desktop computer can be set up to play back virtually any video file type. The problem is, desktop and laptop computers are optimized for use on a desktop, not from a living room chair.

Is the ultimate media extender a set top box of some sort? The trouble with most set top boxes is that they are either walled gardens, or they miss the boat in very important ways.

A media extender should be able to play files stored on a home network, as well as be able to easily stream from services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc. Once set up, everything should be accessible through a simple remote control. Also, for my purposes, I’m willing to pay up to $250 for a box for each television in my house. It should also be able to play ripped DVD collection files that have been ripped to a central home server or network attached storage device.

I’ve hit on an interesting combination that seems to do everything I want it to that involves hacking a standard Apple TV and adding Playon TV server software to another computer on my home network. Playon TV software sells for $39.99.

Recently I purchased a commercial Apple TV hack called ATV Flash, which sells for $49.95. You download either the Windows or Mac version and install it on your computer. When you run the program it will ask you to insert an empty USB memory stick that it will write the installation files to. Then you plug the USB memory stick into your Apple TV and power it up. It will upgrade the Apple TV to be able to play a much wider variety of files, as well as adding Boxee and XMBC playback. It also retains all of the standard Apple TV functionality.

Next, I added the Playon TV software to my HP Windows Home Server. It could have easily been any other computer on my home network that meets the software’s minimum performance requirements. Once Playon TV was installed, I added my credentials for my Netflix account, as well as my Hulu account.

Finally, on my hacked Apple TV I simply start the XBMC application and navigate to UpNP devices on my home network, where Playon TV shows up. I now have access to Hulu and Netflix right on my Apple TV.

The Apple TV itself does not have enough processor horsepower to play back Netflix or Hulu Flash streaming without stuttering and freezing. However, playing it through the Playon TV software causes much of the processing to take place on my Windows Home Server machine, which has plenty of horsepower. Playon TV works by converting the Hulu and Netflix Flash streams into UpNP streams that the hacked Apple TV running XMBC can easily play without stuttering.

So, with this setup I’ve got access to all of my regular iTunes material, including HD and SD video podcasts, as well as a wide variety of streaming material from popular services such as Netflix and Hulu. It would be easy for me to buy additional Apple TV units, apply the ATV Flash hack to them, and attach them to other HDTV’s in my house.