Tech Q and A: What Routers Can and Can't Do

Tech Q and A: What Routers Can and Can't Do

By A Tech Expert in FoxNews

Asked my Canadian-born wife if they had an equivalent to the 4th of July in Canada.

When she told me that they didn't, I asked her, "What do they put between the 3rd and the 5th?"

Anyway, to all my friends north of the 49th parallel (including a bunch of fellow Nerds!), Happy Canada Day!

Cutting the Wires

Q: I subscribe to Cox Communications' high-speed cable-modem service. What equipment do I need in order to install Wi-Fi throughout my home?

A: A Wi-Fi setup in your home works much the same way as a cordless phone: There's the part that plugs into the phone jack and sends the signal, and one or more handsets that receive the wireless signal.

In the case of a wireless network, you will need a wireless router — which will plug directly into your broadband modem — and each computer will need a wireless adapter or network interface (if one isn't already built in).

Microsoft has a basic tutorial here.

Pay special attention to the three things Microsoft says you ought to configure:

— 1. The SSID, or name of the wireless network ("BriggsLAN," for example, or "GetYourOwnDarnedBroadband"). It can be any name you want. You can even specify that it not be broadcast (effectively making your network invisible) but it's a little more difficult to connect computers to it.

— 2. You should turn on encryption. It comes in several flavors — WEP will allow more devices, especially older ones, to connect, but WPA is the most secure. For the former, will take a passphrase and convert it into a 64 or 128-bit WEP key if your wireless router doesn't do it for you.

For the latter, pick a phrase of at least 14 characters, capitalize the first letter and change some of the vowels to numbers. For example, the first 4 words of the Declaration of Independence are "We hold these truths ...".It could be modified to "W3 h0ld th3s3 truths" to make a fine, easy-to-remember-but-hard-to-crack WPA passphrase.

— 3. Change the router's password.

The installation disk that comes with the router should handle the rest of the configuration chores for you.

Windows XP Death Watch Update

In a story that appeared on NewsFactor last week, Microsoft announced that support for Windows XP will be extended to April 2014.

According to the NewsFactor story, Microsoft Vice President Bill Veghte wrote, "It's true that we will stop selling Windows XP as a retail packaged product and stop licensing it directly to major PC manufacturers."

"But," he said, "customers who still need Windows XP will be able to get it."

• Click here for more on the 'death' of Windows XP, and

• Click here to read how you can still get it pre-installed on some machines anyway.

What Happened to My Sound?

Q: My audio has disappeared! I've checked the speakers (integrated into the monitor) to make sure that they aren't muted, I've checked the sound icon in the taskbar and the volume is turned up. But I get no sound. All the cables are plugged in. What happened, Mr. TechQuestions?

A: The above was from my wife of 34 years. And I can honestly say they have been 10 of the happiest years of my life! She hates that joke, but she is a saint! She would have to be, to put up with me this long!

The answer is that an update from Microsoft killed the sound in some systems — specifically, sound cards which use the AC '97 codec.

How do you tell? Right-click on "My Computer" and select "Manage." Scroll down to "Sound, video and game controllers" and expand the tree (click on the little plus sign).

Look for something that says "AC '97." Right-click that and choose "Properties." Click on the tab marked "Drivers." Click on the button which reads "Roll Back Driver."

Problem solved.

Incidentally, driver updates normally show up as "optional" on the Windows Update Web site. I tend to install them even though they're optional, but it sometimes gets me in trouble.

A good rule for the normal user is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Meaning: Only install optional patches from Microsoft if you're having a problem.

Of course, my personal philosophy is, "If I can't fix it, it probably wasn't broken." But that's grist for another mill.