OK, folks. Listen up! Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the commencement of the invasion at Normandy’s Omaha Beach that would ultimately turn the tides for Allied victory in WWII. General Dwight Eisenhower was informed that casualties could be as high as 75%, but ordered the action regardless. As it turns out, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation determined the number of casualties on the first day of combat at 4,414. Given that 150,000 troops saw action that day, the number could have been much, much higher.
That does not diminish the sacrifice that occurred on June 6, 1944 by one bit. My hat is off to all of those personnel, and to those who were injured or wounded in combat, and to all of their families. My Dad also served in combat in WWII, but in the Pacific theater instead. By the time D-Day rolled around, my Dad was working in the Signal Corps in Manila, in the Philippines, to help restore electrical power to that city. About one month after D-Day, he was seriously burned (and shocked) when a co-worker unintentionally turned on the juice to a 12,000-volt line while my Dad was working on its wiring. He lost most of the skin on his right hand and on the back of his neck, where the current entered (his hand) and exited (his neck). He would be shipped back to the USA, to spend the next four months in recovery and rehab at the famous burn ward at Brooks (then an Army Hospital, now a state-of-the-art Army Medical Center) in San Antonio, TX. One month later, he would meet my Mom, also home from the war for medical treatment, at their mutual hometown of Elizabeth, NJ.
There’s not enough any of us can do or say to recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of all the brave soldiers, men and women, who served our country so faithfully, and so well in this horrible conflict. I’d like to add my thanks and profound appreciation for all of those who served. This goes double for both of my parents, LTC Alfred F. Tittel (USAR, ret, 27 years of active duty) and LT Cecilia K Tittel (nee Kociolek, USAR, honorably discharged in January 1946). Neither of them ever talked very much about their wartime experiences but we could always tell it had touched them deeply, and that they were both honored and grateful to have served their country in time of war and great need.
I’m sitting here at my desk bawling like crazy. As I remember D-Day, this is also a great opportunity to recall and honor my Mom and Dad. Mom passed away on September 11, 2009 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the plot that she will soon share with my Dad. Dad passed away on December 15, 2018 — the same day that Mom was interred at Arlington 9 years before. He’s waiting for his memorial service to join her at Arlington National. Our family is still waiting for Arlington to give us the date for his memorial service, for which Dad requested full military honors, including the caisson and the marching band. The funeral home says it will still be a while yet before we know when that might happen. Whenever it occurs, we’ll be there to honor his passing, and the service that he, my Mom, and all the other soldiers, old and young, also interred there gave this country.
Once again: farewell and thanks to all of them. May you all rest in peace, glory and dignity forever.
The preceding photos are, of course, my Mom and Dad. The photo of Mom was taken in late 1942 or early 1943, just before she was shipped overseas to participate in Operation Torch in Morocco. She would follow the Army through northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), then into Sardinia and Silicy, and onto France before being wounded there in 1944. The photo of my Dad is from the 1990s, in full formal military dress uniform, while attending a gathering of WWII Glider Pilots in Greece, where he was awarded the decoration just under his bowtie for his WWII service.
I got a nice surprise from FedEx last Friday, April 5. An early knock on my door brought a couple of welcome boxes. Courtesy of Jeffrey Witt, Director of Lenovo’s Global Product PR, those boxes housed a couple of 8th Generation i7-based laptops. Mr. Witt graciously acceded to a request I made late in 2018 for a Carbon X1 Extreme, and an X380 of similar vintage. Images and specs will follow, but first, I have another story about some older Lenovo laptops to tell.
A Tale of Two Predecessors
Windows 8 actually has roots back to 2010/2011. By early 2012 Windows 8 was on its way, and technical previews were available. I got hired by Pearson/Que in January to work on a book, Windows 8 in Depth. I also knew Windows 8 was bringing big changes, most notably with the introduction of touch and the tile-based Start Menu. By the end of February, I knew I needed at least one touch-screen unit and one more test machine on which to run Windows 8 Technical Previews. That was the first time I corresponded with Mr. Witt, who was already involved with trade press folks and evals/loaner units. That time around, he helped me get a pretty deep discount on the two machines I bought for my Windows 8 work:
- X220 Tablet: Sandy Bridge i7-2640M Dual Core CPU with Intel HD Graphics 3000, 500 GB spinner, 4 GB RAM, touchscreen, fingerprint scanner. Today, it has a 256 GB Plextor mSATA SSD, 16 GB RAM, and a SATA 256 GB SSD.
- T520 Laptop: Sandy Bridge i7-2640M Dual Core CPU with Intel HD Graphics 3000, Nvidia Quadro NVS 4200M, 500 GB spinner, DVD player, 8 GB RAM, fingerprint scanner. Today, it has a 256 Plextor mSATA SSD, 16 GB RAM, OCX Vertex 4 128 GB SATA SSD, Seagate SATA III 1 TB spinner (replaced the DVD player with a SATA drive module).
I still use both of these machines daily. Considering that they’re now over 7 years old, that’s a real testament to their durability and usability. As I check my Windows Enterprise Desktop blog for Techtarget, I see 41 mentions of the T520, and 58 mentions of the X220 Tablet dating from April 2012 through February 2019. I have really *loved* these machines, and taken them from Windows 7 to 8 to 8.1 all the way to the current build for 1809 (Build 17763.404) on the T520, and the current Insider Preview 1903 (Build 18362.30) on the X 220 Tablet. Until the X1 Carbon Extreme showed up last Friday, the T520 had been my primary “road laptop.” It’s gone on every business trip I’ve been on since I bought it, and many of my personal trips as well. (My Surface Pro 3 and my late, lamented Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 also went along on many, if not most, family vacations.)
Say Hello to the New Kids in Town!
OK then, time for some specs on the new machines. But first, I have to gush about the Carbon X1 Extreme. I think it’s faster and more powerful than my production desktop. My son has completely fallen in love with it and uses it for homework every night. This involves a lot of web surfing, and lots of interaction with various Google platforms elements (Docs, Sheets, and so forth, standard in his school district). He still gets 5-6 hours of battery life out of the machine, which means he can pretty much work untethered. He’s also raved to me about its video playback capabilities. I’ll take his word for it: I’ve had no real time to explore these systems in detail yet:
- X1 Carbon Extreme: Intel 8th Generation i7-8850H (6 cores, 2.6 GHz) with Intel UHD Graphics 630, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4GB, 32 GB RAM, one each Samsung MSLVBxx NVMe 1 TB and 500 GB SSDs, fingerprint scanner and Windows Hello Face recognition, and more. From what I see on Amazon, this machine retails for around $2,600-2,700. It weighs far less than its predecessor, at a svelte 1.84 kg/4 lbs 0.7 oz.
- X380 Yoga: Intel 8th Generation i7-8650U CPU (4 cores. 1.9 GHz) with Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16 GB RAM, Samsung MSLVB10 NVMe 1 TB SSD, fingerprint scanner, and more. Checking Amazon again, I find a typical retail price of around $1,500 for this unit. This one weighs in at 1.6 kg/3 lbs (in round numbers: it’s just a hair under 3 lbs, actually).
It’s really far too early for me to do much more than ooh and aah over the latest laptops in my stable. As I have more time and opportunity to work with them, I’ll be writing about them in more depth. So far, the only thing I miss on the X1 Carbon is an RJ-45 port for direct Ethernet plug-in (but I’ve got a USB 3.0 GbE dongle already anyway, so no biggie; Note added April 9: the unit has a built-in I219-LM GbE NIC–and surprisingly, so does the X380–but you have to buy a special cable to get from its compact proprietary port to an RJ-45. Might be worth acquiring, though). I’m planning to acquire some big (256 GB+) SDXC devices for both machines, to further extend their storage. Another big difference with these newer models is soldered-in RAM (so no memory upgrades). But it’s a tradeoff for their enhanced compactness, I know.
I’ll close with a big THANKS to Mr. Witt and his RTP-based team. I really appreciate the opportunity to work with these machines, and hope to accomplish as many great things with them in the years to come as I’ve done with the T520 and the X220 Tablet. Now, if only i had time to really work them out. . .
Patience has never been one of my leading virtues. Yesterday, while updating my iPhone OS from version 12.1 to 12.2, impatience led me to observe that iPhone Update shows remarkable resilience. Once I’d started the update process over the air. I quickly realized it was going to take a long time to complete the download. At one point, in fact, the time bar said “1 hour remaining.” That’s when I plugged my iPhone into my PC, fired up iTunes, and restarted the update process from there. Indeed the download was MUCH faster to my i7 7700 PC with its near-GbE connection via Spectrum.
All went swimmingly until the machine started its first reboot. It paused forever when the White-on-Black Apple logo appeared on the screen. Figuring that more power to the phone might help speed things up (it didn’t), I disconnected the phone from the PC and plugged it into an nearby iPad charger. Bad move! The update process crashed immediately and I got the “plug back into iTunes, idiot!” screen on the phone shown in the following screenshot:
Egad! I didn’t realize that once you start an update through iTunes, it must run all the way to completion through iTunes. Now I know. Sigh.
Several Interesting Things Happened Next
Thank God for the depth of understanding for human ingenuity/stupidity that the developers who wrote the iOS Update code for Apple baked into the process. The phone’s status screen shows that, even without an OS, it knew enough to show me what to do. On the iTunes side, the program also immediately requested that I reconnect the iPhone via USB so it could attempt repairs. It was smart enough to tell me that it could re-try the update. And if that failed, it could restore the backup which I had fortunately made just before commencing the update process. And if that failed, it said, it could restore my phone to ground zero with a factory reset image. Now THAT’s some quality software engineering.
Of course, now that I know that if I break the USB link between iPhone and PC while an iTunes based update is underway it will then crash, I’ll never do that again. But I was tickled to death to understand that my idiocy wasn’t also rare enough to be unforeseen. I gotta hand it to those Apple update developers. They did a kick-ass job of anticipating what might go wrong during the process, and building in the necessary error-handling smarts to fix things as needed.
All’s Well That Ends Well
I was lucky. The update picked up more or less where it left off and ran to completion. It took a bit longer, overall, than other OTA updates have taken in the past. I neglected to factor in the trade-off between faster download to the PC and USB 2 based file transfer speeds from PC to iPhone. For whatever reason, even though I started out with iTunes through a USB 3 port on my PC, the recovery didn’t work until I plugged the Lightning cable into a USB 2 port. And so it goes here at Chez Tittel, where random bits of lunacy mingle with similar bits of the quotidian. May you learn from my mistake!
Today’s blog post title is more literal than readers may infer. I woke up last night at 12:51 dreaming that my production desktop had been infested. It must’ve been a historical drama of sorts. That’s because it featured a screen takeover scenario. I still remember when you could “catch” viruses and spyware of an interesting sort. They would cause a web browser to spawn an infinitude of Windows. Thus, as I was coming awake, it was from sitting at my keyboard trying to launch an admin command prompt window. It would let me start killing processes and bring the takeover of my desktop to a screeching halt. As Halloween is five days away as I write this, it seems seasonally appropriate in a ghoulish way.
In 2005, when I wrote this book, malware didn’t carry the same risks of financial loss, identity theft, and denial of services that it does today.
Ruminating Over Nightmare On Arbor Drive: Virus Infestation
Back in 2005, I wrote a book for Wiley in its PC Magazine series. It was entitled Fighting Spyware, Viruses and Malware. This title was no best-seller, but it did OK. For me, it was a great excuse to get paid to learn something I needed and wanted to know. In those days, protecting oneself against malware was more straightforward than it is today. The digital world of “cops and robbers” — bad guys trying to foist attacks and steal info of value, good guys doing their best to stymie them — is now more seriously weaponized than in earlier times.
Backup, Backup, Backup
I have a “most important weapon” against malware these days. This is aside from the usual panoply of anti-malware, threat protection, and safe computing practices. I’m talking daily image backups. There’s nothing safer than blowing away the entire preceding and infected or suspect installation, replacing it with a bare metal rebuild. That may not always work against the most insidious of UEFI/BIOS malware or rootkits But it puts paid to everything else. It’s also much faster to restore an image than to clean up after an attack. I’m not inclined to keep a suspect (or infected) image around, either. Macrium Reflect is my weapong of choice. It restores my oldest and slowest PC (a 2013 i5 mobile CPU tablet) in between 15 and 20 minutes. I’ve never been able to get through detection, cleanup and subsequent screening and inspection in under a couple of hours.
“Be careful out there” is as relevant for those who travel the highways and byways of the Internet as it is for the real world. Make sure you’ve got your antimalware act together. Keep a current working backup ready should you need it. Remember also that it’s easier to avoid trouble than to work your way out of it. And for those who observe the holiday, Happy Halloween!
There’s been a lot of complaining about the latest Windows 10 version, 1809, of late. A lot of it appears to be entirely justified, too. But with one exception, my experience with 1809 has been superb. In fact, for the first time I can recall, my post-1809 product PC hits Perfect 10 in Reliability Monitor today. Check this graphic out:
After a few initial hiccups, my reliability on this latest build has been rock-solid. Amazing, in view of history over the past 2-3 years.
Why Say Post-1809 Production PC Hits Perfect 10?
Good question! That latest rise to the top stability index level (10) that Reliability Monitor can report is unprecedented prior to the 1809 install. I would routinely show stability index levels of between 2 and 5. Seldom, if ever, did the value creep much higher. It’s normal for the stability index to reach the top when you don’t use a PC much. (By itself, Windows causes few errors that register in this monitor.) But when you use a machine hard every day — as I do on my production PC, day in and day out — things do go wrong from time to time. And when they do, the stability index usually declines apace.
So this is unexplored and welcome territory for me. I mention it to the world, because I think Win10 1809 may be getting dinged unfairly. Or dinged too much. So here’s a lone but interesting counterexample. It comes from a machine I’ve been using daily since I first put it together back in late 2015/early 2016. Since day 1, the stability index hasn’t gotten above 8 except perhaps once or twice. (It was idle during vacation or business travel.) Upon regular use, it’s seldom climbed about 5, as I said earlier. 15 days into the 1809 install, it’s sitting at a perfect 10 index value. That’s with no errors for the past 10 days. And my usage pattern hasn’t changed at all. My thinking is that 1809 may very well be a better OS than it’s currently believed to be.
But as with all things Windows (10), time will tell!
OK, my long and sometimes odd adventures with Spectre and Meltdown patches are finally concluded. Eight of the nine systems here at Chez Tittel are now patched. That’s as far as I think I’ll ever get because my wife’s PC is built around a Jetway NF9G-QM77 mini-ITX motherboard. Its most current BIOS update is September 2017 from a company for which no word on Spectre/Meltdown updates is available. Thus, for my PCs now eight ninths patched for Spectre Meltdown is as far as I’ll get. It’s been a wild ride. I’d like to document it just a tad to explain what others should be going through, too. Or what they should expect to go through soon.
Steve Gibson’s Inspectre utility finally gives the T520 and its Sandy Bridge CPU a clean (but slow) bill of health.
Getting to PCs Now Seven Eighths Patched for Spectre Meltdown
It all started as we got back from our end-of-year skiing/snowboarding holiday just after New Year’s. Word on these vulnerabilities emerged as soon as January 2. But I didn’t find out until I returned to my desk on January 5. After driving back from the northeastern part of Colorado, I wasn’t ready to deal with a major security flaw. But there it was, and we all had to deal with it. It soon became apparent that Meltdown and Spectre Variant 1 could be handled via OS-level patching (all complete now, thank goodness). However, Spectre v2 required a firmware patch. Or, as it turned out, a series of firmware patches. That’s because the first set for Haswell and Broadwell patches caused as many problems as they were supposed to solve.
The Timeline from Discovery to (Mostly) Mitigated
Here’s a rough timeline for how things unfolded for my PCs, as far as those firmware updates went:
Surface Pro 3 gets a firmware patch 2nd week (1 of 8)
Dell Venue Pro 11 gets a firmware patch late 2nd week (2 of 8)
On 1/15 Intel advises against applying firmware patches
Not much happens with firmware patches
Microsoft issues firmware patch for Skylake, Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake 3/8 (3 of 8)
Dell XPS27 (Haswell) gets a firmware patch 2nd week (4 of 8)
Asrock issues firmware updates for Haswell, Skylake, Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake 3/15 (5&6)
Lenovo issues firmware updates for Haswell, Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge 3/15 (7&8)
Hiccups and Lessons Learned
I have an issue with the Dell Venue Pro following its first semi-successful BIOS/UEFI update. It closed the Spectre v2 vulnerability but left the machine unable to reboot normally. I must pop the battery out and remove the power cord before the unit will boot after a shutdown or restart. Thus, I can’t apply the latest update to the UEFI. Among other things, it is supposed to address that very problem. I’m going to have to find and run a flash utility that works from an alternate boot.
That’s what I did with the two Lenovo laptops. Their Lenovo Windows Flash utility works only in Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8. But I’m running Win10 on those machines. Fortunately, Lenovo also makes the update available in ISO form. It boots to alternate (optical) media and flashes the BIOS from DOS. Even though the Windows utility crashed my Win10 laptops, I eventually booted into DOS to flash them anyway. Along the way, I had to remember to reset boot to support both Legacy and UEFI modes. That’s because DOS is so old, it boots only in legacy mode. On the T520 that was how the machine was set; the X220 Tablet was “UEFI only.” I couldn’t boot to the optical disk until I made that change. Sigh.
One of the Asrock motherboards (Z170 Extreme 7+) delivered the update in a Windows-based flash executable. It was easy to apply. The other, a Z97 Killer Fatal1ty, required using the Instant Flash tool within UEFI. I had to format a USB flash drive to FAT32, unpack the ZIP file to that device, then run the tool from UEFI to apply that update. Took a while, but worked just fine.
No Hiccups Are Nice, Too!
Except for the issue with the Dell Venue Pro and the second UEFI/BIOS update, the Dells and the Surface were by far the easiest to deal with. The Dell Support utility checked for the updates, grabbed them as they became available, and applied them with zero muss and fuss. Ditto for the Surface Pro 3
All in all, while it took longer than I think any of us expected it to, the overall process wasn’t too horrible. Let’s hope this kind of thing doesn’t become too routine, either!
Ok, then. I patrol a large number of websites daily looking for blog fodder and article topics. Many of those sites are ad-financed. Of those, some won’t show themselves in browsers with adblockers turned on. They use a technology called “Adblock Detection” to determine when browsers are blocking ads. If an adblocker is detected they take “corrective measures” to induce visitors to turn ads back on. Of course, I — and many other users — would rather not do this. Thus, we seek out countermeasures. In this case, that means figuring out how to bypass or circumvent adblock detection. And of course, that’s why I entitled this post bypass Adbock Detection gains importance.
Why and How Bypass Adblock Detection Gains Importance
If you visit WindowsCentral.com in a browser with an adblocker turned on you’ll see a message like this, instead of the website’s actual content.
Admiral’s adblock detector keeps adding annoying wrinkles.
[Click image to see full-sized view]
In the past week or so, Admiral has added a new wrinkle to its adblock detector. Previously, one could simply click the “Close” item on the adblock detection notice. Then, it would go away and leave you alone. Now, you can do this and browse for up to 30 seconds (or until you transition to another page on the site). When the timer goes off, or when you open a new page on the same site, you’re presented with the same display. After three or four repetitions, this becomes intolerable. I’d more or less decided to avoid those sites until I realized the dictum in my next heading must hold in this situation, too.
Where’s There’s a Will, There’s a Workaround
Once you learn the terminology — that is, adblock detection and the need for a bypass — there is no shortage of information and advice on how to get around this despicable (but all-too-understandable) behavior. My favorite nostrum for this problem comes from TechJunkie.com (itself, ironically enough, an ad-financed website). I like their solution because it involves very little effort on my part. It does, however, require using Firefox to make this as simple as possible. One need only click File → New Private Window inside Firefox, then surf to the site of one’s choosing from inside that window. The same Admiral window pops up once, but stays quiet when closed after that. Works like a charm.
Drat! I knew a notification asking me to “view an important message regarding the future of this product” for Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector probably wasn’t good news. Once again, I took no pleasure in being right. That’s because the message was that it will soon be time to say “Bye bye Secunia PSI!” (That’s almost how the company entitled their explanatory blog post, too: “It’s time to say goodbye to PSI.”) Here are the relevant screen captures:
Less than two months left before end-of-life comes to Secunia PSI. It’s been a mainstay for me for at least a decade. Bummer!
After Bye Bye Secunia PSI, Then What?
Good question! There’s a Flexera CSI (Corporate Software Inspector), which costs money to obtain. I’ve sent them an email asking about their pricing and availability for 15 seats (I have 8 PCs currently, have had as many as 12 here at Chez Tittel at one time, and want to leave some room for growth). I’m hoping it’s not too horribly expensive, because I really want to keep up with the anywhere from 40-120 applications and apps resident on the local tablets, laptops, and PCs around here. Thanks to the labeling and language on the Flexera website, I’m pretty sure that this fits into their Software Vulnerability Manager product.
But looking around for other drop-in (and free) replacements for PSI, I don’t see a whole lot that provides similar capability with equal ease of use. Sure, there’s the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) but it doesn’t automate patching or fixing the holes that it finds. Then there’s BeyondTrust’s free vulnerability scanner, Retina Network Community. But I see that it requires an IIS server and an MS SQL Server to be installed (and it can’t reside on a domain controller or Small Business Server, either). Sounds like more work that I want to do. But that’s it. All the other programs I read about (see Eric Geier’s 2014 Network World story “6 free network vulnerability scanners” as a typical case in point) either limit the scope or the number of scans you can use their tools for. The level of automation also leaves a lot to be desired.
Hmmmm. This is going to leave an interesting gap in my defenses. Hope it doesn’t prove too time-consuming, effort-laden, and expensive to fill. Sigh.
I strongly recommend the PatchCleaner utility from Australian consulting and software company homedev. It keeps an eye on the contents of the %windir%\Installer directory. Usually, that’s C:\Windows\Installer where the OS stashes installer .msi and patch .msp files. At any given moment, you might need one or more of those files. That’s because they can be called on when patching or installing software components (both Windows and third-party items, in fact). That’s why the developers recommend moving “orphaned” files to another drive/directory rather than deleting them outright. However, the tool will happily delete files when so directed. Here’s some output from the program on my production PC. Examined properly, it should aid readers in understanding HomeDev PatchCleaner.
The bigger box at bottom is the output from the second details item for orphaned files in the small box at top.
What’s Involved in Understanding HomeDev PatchCleaner?
PatchCleaner shows a line of data that conveys some important information. Namely, it discloses what’s in the Installer folder that isn’t necessary. The tool identifies such orphaned files by seeking out references to their names in other executables and OS files. Those that lack such references are considered orphans. In the preceding screencap, this key line reads “9 files are orphaned, 289.66 Mb details…” Clicking on that blue details item produces the orphaned files window shown below. There, I’ve zeroed in on an older installer file for Macrium Reflect (version 6.3.1821, now completely obsolete and out-of-date).
In general, I agree with homedev’s advice to move files from the C:\Windows\Installer directory to another directory. But, as I’ve been watching and working with the program, I’ve observed there is a specific class of items that it is almost certainly safe to delete rather than move. These items can be generically described as “applications that update often.” As shown, Macrium Reflect — which gets monthly updates, give or take — is one of those items. Another includes various Adobe programs such as the Flash Reader or Acrobat DC. These get updated about as frequently as Reflect (but usually take an .msp extension).
On some heavily-patched and infrequently-cleaned PCs, I’ve seen this number exceed 10 GB. My PCs, of course, are kept pretty clean, so mine seldom approach even 1 GB. As “the boss” (my wife, Dina) likes to say “the more often you clean, the less you have to clean up each time.” That’s as true for PCs as it is for her house, where by her grace and kindness I am also allowed to reside.
My son will be 14 in a couple of days. He’s definitely maturing, and developing pretty strong interests of his own. He’s taken over one of my flagship PCs, in fact. We’ve tricked it out as something of a mid-range gaming rig. With a Fatal1ty Z97 motherboard, i7-6700K processor, 32-GB RAM, and m.2 SATA 512 GB Samsung SSD it wasn’t too bad to start out with. But he added a Razer Black Widow Chroma keyboard, a Patriot V570 mouse, and an Asus GeForce GTX 1070Ti. We had to equip it with WiFi, though, because there’s no ready access to wired Ethernet in his room. This led us to a USB WiFi upgrade (described in my 1/14 post, “Time Boosts (New) Wireless Hardware Throughput.” A recent ISP upgrade from 300 Mbps to Gigabit meant this cheap WiFi upgrade spurs more expensive follow-up, though. Let me explain…
Why a Cheap WiFi Upgrade Spurs More Expensive Follow-up
The boy’s also becoming something of a videophile. His favorite shows right now include content available online, some on NetFlix, some on Hulu. We decided to rearrange our video streams and purchase subscriptions to both. At the same time, we bumped our Internet speed as described, and removed our premium video feeds (nobody ever watched them). This freed up enough money to cover both subscriptions and the added cost of Gigabit Internet.
On Friday, a technician came by to drop in a new Gigabit capable cable modem, and a standalone router. That router includes 801.11 1700ac WiFi support. This should’ve bumped the wireless speeds on my son’s machines to unexplored heights. Instead, when I tested his rig it dropped from 90-110 Mbps to under 10 Mbps. It didn’t matter if we used the old Asus or the new Trendnet USB dongles. However, my 802.11ac-equipped Surface Pro 3 when put on his desk, showed upload speeds over 400 Mbps. The technician’s iPad clocked a respectable 140-plus Mbps, and my 6-year-old Lenovo X220 802.11n Tablet got about the same speeds, too.
That’s why we concluded the issue lay with the USB dongles, not the router or its WiFi module. This was puzzling, though, because the older Arris box worked much better with those same devices. But, for whatever reason, they just didn’t jibe well with the new Arris RAC2V1A router. At the technician’s urging, I went back to Fry’s yesterday and purchased a “real” PCI-e 802.11ac NIC with external antennae. It’s an ASUS PCE-AC56, rated at up to 867 Mbps. Normally, it costs $65 but I lucked into a sale at Fry’s for $25 off, and picked it up for around $45 including sales tax. Here’s a product photo:
With some trepidation, I plunked down another $50 to switch from external USB to internale PCI-e WiFi access.
Fortunately, the investment turned out to be well worth it. From prior speeds of 90-100 Mbps on the older router, the new internal NIC started clocking speeds from 450 – 480 Mbps right after we rebooted the PC following its installation. I didn’t realize that the switchover from USB to PCI-e would be so dramatic. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered spending the money on the Trendnet USB adapter in the first place. Now, however, we’ve got a pretty happy gamer upstairs. His wireless speeds today are better than any of our network speeds, wired or wireless, until the upgrade on Friday. Sometimes when a cheap WiFi upgrade spurs more expensive follow-up, the result is a happy ending. This, fortunately, is one of those times!