help yourself

Have you tried turning it off and back on again? ;-)

Maybe you can resolve your problem yourself. Here are some general support queries, along with some (hopefully) helpful information. If you still need help, or want further information, don't hesitate to call us!

The internet is slow

A common issue many of us face is slow internet access. The cause of this can be due to many different things, and sometimes it can be a combination. A little troubleshooting can often identify where the issues are, and how to fix them.

  1. Is the internet slow for everyone, or it is just from one device? If it's one device, then make sure that hasn't run out of memory or resources (a quick reboot can help there)

  2. Is the internet slow in a specific area? If so then it might be poor WiFi signal - sometimes moving the internet router can improve performance.

  3. Is the internet slow at random times? If so then it could be interference - try to work out if there is something happening at the same time. Sometimes it can be an appliance like a microwave causing issues, or even a clash with a neighbours WiFi. This is more common with older WiFi access points - an upgrade to one that supports 5Ghz can resolve this.

In general, slow wifi is due to a combination of factors. Our usage of wifi has increased as people use streaming services such as Netflix, plus the number of access points out there has increased exponentially meaning the radio channels wifi runs on (in particular with the original 2.4Ghz 802.11b/g band) is getting saturated which leads to interference which leads to slow speeds. Changing your service provider default router can help. The best solution is to do what is done in commercial environments, and that is to run with multiple access points from the likes of Cisco. This is however fairly costly and needs some technical knowledge to setup and maintain, so people are now looking at using 'mesh' networks for homes and small businesses - this is basically a number of access points that talk to each other via a dedicated wireless network, and work together to provide the best coverage they can.

I'd currently (2021) recommend UniFi if you want commercial grade coverage without the massive price tag, or for a mesh product the Google Nest Wifi product.

I'm running out of storage

Computers and phones have limited storage. Whenever you take photos, save videos, or documents they take up space. As your computer fills up, it can start to slow down and start to have other issues.

  1. Backup everything. A good solution is to at the very least have an external drive you can copy files to. Many laptops come with backup software, and some external drives come with backup software you can use. Apple laptops have "TimeMachine" which can work well.

  2. Backup everything. Again. One backup is good, two is better. Ideally, the second backup should be in a different format and location. For example your main backup can be at home or in your office, the second backup can be remote such as a cloud service like Google drive. You now have three copies (original, backup, and offsite) of your information and can relax. As an aside, you might want to have a means of taking a backup of critical files and putting it somewhere that is not accessible over the network - then, if files become corrupted, and that corruption is replicated over all your backups, you have a (if slightly out of date) copy of your data available.

  3. What about tapes? Do companies still use tape backups? Well yes, but it's getting rare as disk backup technology is constantly improving. For the most part though, disk is the way to go. For the cheapest disk backup there are services such as Amazon Glacier - but there are drawbacks such as cost and speed to restore data.

I've bought a new laptop or mobile..... how do I move my information?

When you buy a new device, there is the thrill of something new. It's clean, it's fast, it's... well, it's better than what it has replaced. But what about all those old files? The photos? The documents?

  1. Depending on who and where you bought the new device from, they may provide assistance to move the old information across. This is sometimes free, so why not take advantage of that!

  2. One thing to be careful of, is make sure that you have any private data deleted from the old device. Personally I keep the old device for a minimum of a week (just in case something hasn't been copied over, or the new device starts having issues). Then when I'm absolutely sure that I no longer need the old device, I remove all the data from it. If you work for the likes of the FBI there are special tools to do this, or you can resort to physical damage (putting the hard drive of a laptop under a drill press for example), but for most people a reformat is good enough.

  3. Most laptops and phones now come with software to transfer your data to the new device. Some external hard drives also come with backup software that allow you to do the same. I'd recommend using the software that came with your new device and transfer your data to an external drive for backup just in case there's an issue.

Home Automation

A lot of people confuse home automation with simply being able to control certain things like lights and appliances with their 'phone or with voice commands. Yes, there is that but true home automation is much more than a fancy replacement for a remote control. It is making your house 'smart' so that it can do things like:

  1. Have the blinds and curtains in your house open and close depending on the time of day - saving money on light and heating/cooling costs

  2. Have the garden and porch lights turn on automatically when there is movement outside at night - making it easier to get to the front door without falling over, as well as providing security.

  3. Have the lights turn on at different times, making it look like people are home when you are away.

  4. Have the garden sprinklers stop if someone is walking in the garden or, if you hate people, turn the sprinklers on!

How to achieve some of this is the harder part, although it is getting easier. The most reliable system I'd suggest starting with now is Philips Hue. Available from the likes of Amazon and Bunnings, it is rock solid and reliable. It lacks some features, is mainly just for lighting, and also requires a local hub plus is not cheap. It is built to last so there is that - so if you can afford it, then go for that. If you want cheaper, then I'd consider something based on Tuya. This includes the Grid Connect products from Arlec and the Brilliant garden lights (both available from Bunnings), and the Mirabella Genio lights (available from Kmart) - make sure you get the wifi versions, and rather than using their apps try the "Smart Life" app which is from Tuya themselves. If you are a geek, then I'd currently recommend using Home Assistant installed on a dedicated Raspberry Pi - but this does require more effort to setup and maintain so if you want set and forget then it's probably not for you.

If you do want our help with home automation, whether just starting out or with support for an existing system, then definitely we can help you with that. We have experience with most popular systems ranging from Philips Hue, Zigbee, Zwave, Vera, Home Assistant, esphome, Tuya, Xiaomi, Apple Homekit, GoogleHome - even older 'legacy' environments such as X10.

I think I've been hacked!

Don't panic.

  1. Disconnect your pc from the internet. Not sure how? Just turn it off.

  2. Do you have backups? Make sure they are safe, but don't try to access them yet.

  3. Call us.

Security is an incredibly important topic. It is sometimes ignored or left in the 'too hard' basket for even larger companies. This should never be the case, whether it is an individual or a major corporation.

Invest time to improve your understanding of security, and the tools (some paid, some are free) that are available. Learn about password managers - a tool like 1Password, LastPass or BitWarden. This will allow you to have one incredibly secure and complex password that protects a vault of unique passwords for all your accounts. Learn to use two party authentication at the very least with your mobile number, but ideally with an app such as authy. Learn about backups - making them regular, having multiple copies both onsite and offsite. Learn about the methods that hackers gain access to people's information, from skimming personal information from sites like facebook to using social engineering techniques, so you can better protect yourself from them and reduce the risk of being exposed. Learn about VPNs - how they can be used to protect your data from snooping.

As with all things, if you want help from us just call.

Cryptocurrency

I keep hearing about things like bitcoin. Should I care?

Well, if you aren't already interested then probably not. It is technically interesting and does have some unique advantages - for example the technology behind cryptocurrency (the 'blockchain') has the capability to support the distribution and storage of encrypted data over multiple devices globally - making that data resistant to hacking (it's incredibly secure) as well as data loss (it's spread over multiple devices). Real world uses include storage of certifications for medical professionals preventing fraud, and the ability to purchase goods and services internationally without having to worry about currency conversions. How to start?

  1. Open an account with a cryptocurrency exchange. Examples include coinbase, binance, and digitalsurge.

  2. Buy some coins - don't put in more than you can afford. Think of it more like the pokies or Tattslotto - you might win some money, but don't be disappointed if you lose the lot.

  3. For taxation purposes, if you do buy a lot of crypto, then make sure you record everything - when you bought, how much it was, when you sold it, and how much you sold it for. Keep in mind that converting a crypto from one currency to another can also be seen as a capital gain/loss event so record that as well.

  4. Unless you plan to be regularly trading or selling the coins you bought, don't leave the coins in your account with the exchange - this is called a 'hot wallet' and has drawbacks. Exchanges have been hacked and currency lost, plus with some coins you may get extra bonuses if you have them in your own wallet. Proof of Stake crypto currencies, for example, generate additional currency (think of it like interest in a bank account) by delegating wallets to a pool.

i want my own domain

Many people seem to be happy to have an email address like "mybusinessname@hotmail.com" or "snafu2367@gmail.com", but why not get your own domain and email address? This is particularly true for businesses, but is also true for everyone else. It's easy, doesn't cost much, and the hardest part is choosing your domain name.

  1. Choose a domain provider. There are many out there to choose from, all have different features, pros and cons. The basics of how they work are fairly similar though. Expect to pay about $20 per annum for a dotcom domain. Note that you will generally need an abn to get a dotcomau domain.

  2. Buy the domain

  3. Once it is active, go into the mail settings and setup a mail redirect/forward for your name (say "george") to go to your current email address. Whilst you're there, setup another that forwards "*" to your real address as well - this is a "catchall" address so all mail sent to the domain will go to you. Later you can add in more addresses as required.

  4. Setup your website - again, depending on the provider, most will enable you to setup a basic website for free. How basic that website is depends on the provider.

  5. From your current email provider, change your email settings so that you appear to be sending messages from your new address - how you do this varies on the mail provider. Unfortunately not all will allow it, or you need to go through various hoops to achieve it (this is because some spammers have used this feature in the past, so it is frequently restricted).

  6. Optionally, you may choose to setup mail with the domain provider - this is usually an additional cost.

It's all too hard? You'd rather it be done by someone else? Call or email to schedule help remotely or in-person.
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