Video streaming requires proper speed and equipment.

Video streaming has rapidly become one of the most popular ways for people to enjoy movies, television and web-based entertainment. Add-on devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV have made it easier than ever for companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to provide content to subscribers.

These devices connect to the television and stream on-demand video content directly from the internet using the subscriber’s wireless broadband service. As overall use expands, so does available content. No longer are users limited to paid subscription movies and TV shows. Most devices offer channel pages from which the user can pick a wide variety of programs ranging from news to free movies and television shows. Before buying one of these set-top streaming devices, however, consumers should be aware of the technical requirements and the differences between each.

Roku and Fire and Apple! Oh My!

Starting with the devices themselves, the Roku (pronounced, “Row-koo,”), Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are similar in operation. Priced from $29 to $80, depending on the model, these devices offer the user direct access to on-demand services through a menu-based interface and a familiar-looking “TV remote.”

Each plugs into the television via HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) or standard RCA audio/visual cable connectors. It’s important to note, however, that these devices are designed to be used on modern, flat-panel television sets with built-in HDMI connectivity and RCA A/V ports may not be available on all models.

On screen, users can scroll through a channel selection including access to paid subscriptions like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as free movie and TV content from channels like Popcorn and Crackle. The device must be registered to synchronize accounts with the content provider but once completed the interface is fairly user friendly across the board.

One newcomer, Google’s “Chromecast” device, is different than the others. Instead of streaming directly to the television, Chromecast users send video content from an app installed on a tablet, smartphone or computer to a receiver connected to the television.

It’s All About Speed

Before purchasing one of these devices, however, users should check to make certain their broadband service and wireless Internet hardware are capable of supporting high definition, streaming video. (Internet connection suggestions for streaming HD movies http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/fast-internet-connection-for-streaming-hd-movies1.htm)

Here are Netflix Internet connection speed recommendations for video streaming:

  • 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Standard Definition (SD) quality
  • 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for High Definition (HD) quality
  • 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

As for video quality, according to Netflix, high definition movies and television will, “Play in 720p or better with a fast enough internet connection.”

One of the best ways to check Internet connection speeds at SpeedTest.net – http://www.speedtest.net/. From a Wi-Fi-connected computer or tablet and run the test to determine Internet connection speed. If the connection speed does not meet the minimums shown, it’s likely that an upgrade will be needed if possible.

Cable / DSL Alternatives May Limit Streaming

In some areas, DSL and high-speed cable broadband are not available but there are often satellite and cellular options. Verizon Wireless currently offers, but does not widely promote, its home Internet/telephone package called, “Verizon Home Fusion,” a high-speed broadband service that generally works wherever there is a good 4G cellular signal.

Unfortunately, there is a data limit and low connection speed in real-time application. (Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. Technicians have recorded the connection speed of Verizon Home Fusion download at less than 2.0 Mbps in southeast Greene County, Ohio.) Such a low speed would impede a video streaming device and, if it did, just a few movies could quickly bump the user into an overage charge.

Router Facts

Some Internet service providers include everything needed for wireless access, while others require the subscriber to purchase a router separately. Either way, it needs to be a good one. Technically, the router does little more than provide a way for multiple networks to interact, but, in this case, it provides streaming video devices direct access to the Internet. Routers range in price from $30 through $250 and come in array of configurations.

Price has only minor bearing on the quality of the router. Inexpensive routers made by companies like DLink and Netgear can last for many years and function adequately. Many routers designed more for home use, have internal broadcast antennas. But in situations where greater signal is required, those with external antenna can often prove more effective and access point devices can also provide additional range.

Regardless of the device, it should have good security to prevent others from accessing the service or network, as well as the best range and strongest signal possible. If the router being used is several years old, consider replacing it since technology and features have changed considerable, even in the last year or so.

What Next?

Video streaming through a set-top device can provide a great entertainment alternative and at very low cost. However, with all of the choices available, it’s important to know the lay of the land, on and offline. Before buying, check out the product links included in this article and be sure to review Internet connection speeds. It’s also important to check the television set and make sure it has the proper connectors for these devices.

Watch the full TV interview from WDTN-TV2′s “LIVING DAYTON” program…

Posted in Apple, Computers, High Tech, Microsoft, Uncategorized, Windows | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

30th Anniversary of the Apple Macintosh

Steve Jobs introduces the first Apple Macintosh to shareholders, 1984.  (Terry Schmitt/UPI /Landov)

By Gery L. Deer

On January 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the world to the first Apple Macintosh computer. Just two days earlier, the famous “1984-themed” Ridley Scott Apple commercial (watch below) ran during the Super Bowl battle between the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Raiders. Apple already had a few other products out there, the Apple II, the Apple III (which pretty much flopped) and the Apple LISA, designed for business use. But at more than $10,000 each, most companies didn’t see the value in the LISA and it was tanking as well. Apple was in trouble and Jobs’ latest masterpiece almost didn’t happen.

But as radio commentator Paul Harvey would have said, you already know, “the rest of the story.” The Macintosh became the tough act to follow, but follow they did and the little, beige box with the friendly, “Hello” on its screen changed the way computers are built today. Thirty years later, Steve Jobs is gone and Apple’s shine might have dulled a bit, but they certainly set the stage for the innovation of personal technology. Of course, the script is constantly being re-written.

According to the website, EveryMac.com, the original Apple Macintosh (128k) featured an 8 MHz 68000 processor, 128k (128,000 bytes) of RAM (Random Access Memory), and a 400k (400,000 bytes) disk drive, packaged up in a small, all-in-one, portable case with a 9-inch monochrome display.

To put that into modern tech perspective, the iPhone 3, released only a couple of years ago and already obsolete, boasted 8GB (gigabytes) of RAM. That’s, 8,000,000 bytes or just about 62-times the memory of the first Mac computer. Apple’s smartphones also feature processing speeds that make the original desktop computer look like a pocket calculator. Add to that video and audio quality on the iPhone superior even to most television cameras of that era and all weighing in at less than 5 ounces. It’s safe to say, technology has certainly come a long way.

The concept of the “Mac” was simple, to get people focused on using the computer rather than just trying to get it to work properly. Sporting a new graphical user interface (“borrowed” from Xerox copiers) the user no longer needed to know how to use DOS (Disk Operating System) commands just to make the Mac do something. Clicking a mouse button instead of keying in strings of code gave the computer a friendlier, approachable appeal.

Of course, it wasn’t “that” friendly, as Admiral Kirk’s intrepid engineer, Mr. Scott, discovered in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when he picked up a Mac mouse and tried to make friends with it – “Hello, computer?” Well, Scotty, unfortunately, audio interaction was still a few years down the road.

But the first Mac did have some other great features, most of which became standard on every computer as time went on. Much of that technology is outdated now, like the 1.44 MB (megabyte) 3 ½-inch floppy disk, but were a big deal when the average hard disk was the size of a shoebox and held only 10 MB.

Another of the first Mac’s basic features was WYSIWYG printing, pronounced “wizzy-wig” and short for “What You See Is What You Get.” (See, techno-babble really isn’t always so high-tech and cryptic, sometimes it’s downright simple.) In software development, it means that the programmer can see exactly what will be produced from a series of code.

But when applied to desktop publishing, for example, WYSIWYG is a slang reference for the code that allows the user to see on the screen exactly what a document will look like once it is printed. It’s a feature pretty much expected now but back then, it was a major innovation. Many IBM-platform software programs tried to do it, but it was irregular and unpredictable. Apple got it to work.

The Commodore 64, shown with Commodore Brand color monitor and a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drive. All components were sold separately, with the computer base starting at around $200 USD.

When it was released, the largest home-market competitor to the Apple computer was not an IBM, but the Commodore 64. The little grey keyboard that used the household television for a monitor featured a 64,000 byte memory, tape and 5 ¼-inch floppy drives and countless pre-programmed software packages. Its price was less than $200 in America, and, at the time, only the Atari 2600 game console was considered competition for the family-friendly, British-made system.

Although the Commodore featured a game cartridge port and the first startup system that didn’t require the user to insert a disk before powering it on, it still needed programming and command codes. As soon as its features were understandable to a public who, to that point, didn’t even understand what “memory” was, the Apple Macintosh shot to the top of the computer sales charts.

Here was a machine that the average, middle-class family could afford and use. It wasn’t like buying a car; more like buying a television. As the Mac grew more popular, other computer companies followed suit with graphic interface systems, mouse control and continual upgrades to memory, processing speed and audio-visual quality. And then there was … Microsoft.

Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen (left) and Bill Gates Circa 1980.

Bill Gates’ fledgling computer company had hit pay dirt in 1980 with MS DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), the software that brought IBM computers to life. But, they had yet to make a real mark anywhere but with big business and Gates knew the company wouldn’t survive without a piece of the home use market. To keep up with the massive success of the Mac, Microsoft introduced the first independent version of Windows 1.0 in November of 1985.

Since that time the self-segregation between Windows and Apple users has grown into a cultural divide. Windows users are seen to be uptight, stuffed-shirt business types, while Apple breeds the look and persona of the artist, undisciplined and burning their neckties in the streets. Technical differences caused the rift for the most part, but today, there’s little one of the operating systems can do that the other cannot.

Regardless of the cultural differences, Apple set the stage for the home computer market and continues to be the “hip and cool” product line. Although the iPhone is Apple’s current flagship product, followed by the iPad tablet computer, it has fallen behind in sales over the last few years, owning just short of 40-percent of the cell market.

No one knows what will be next for Apple, but it’s clear the company’s innovative reputation has suffered since the death of its most influential founder. Still, there are plenty of innovations waiting to be made in the world of personal technology and it’s unlikely the company will lose the loyal following of users anytime soon.

Here’s the Ridley Scott-directed, Apple Macintosh Commercial that first aired during the 1984 Super Bowl.

Here is the little-known video of a young Steve Jobs introducing the 1984 Apple Macintosh.

 

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. was one of the first IT service companies to provide support for both IBM / Windows and Apple Mac computers. Call today (937) 902-4857.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips to help thwart malicious bugs on your computer

The technological battle of the bugs is as never ending as is the continued onslaught of viruses and worms that constantly threaten your computer. According to some of the leading anti-virus software manufacturers, an estimated 70,000 new threats are discovered every day.

Some of these malicious programs are created to generate money, others are done for sport. Either way, they mean the same thing to the consumer – disaster. But here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

First, the best line of defense starts in the chair with the user. Avoid opening email from unknown senders, particularly those with attachments. Be careful where you click on an unfamiliar website.

There are also some malware programs which display real-looking Windows error or security messages. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, get some help. Don’t click on anything you don’t understand, and be sure to read carefully every message your computer displays.

Next, make sure to regularly back up your data. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the best idea to back up your system files like MS Windows or other basic operating programs. Your attention and time should be on backing up critical data like Word documents, photos, presentations, work product and other important information. Most computers have restoration software that will return the machine to its “out of the box” condition, but you may need to create the disks from your computer. If you are concerned about how to restore the computer to its original state in the event of a catastrophic event, contact an IT specialist or check with your manufacturer’s information.

Next, you should always have an updated anti-virus program running on your computer. Often, people downplay the idea of a free anti-virus software, but any anti-virus is better than none. The AVG brand of free anti-virus is effective and easy to manage. But, as with any free software, you have to be careful when you install it to pay attention to every message window and check box offered. If not, you may be subjecting your computer to a ton of add-on applications like browser tool bars, trial software and other junk you really don’t need or want.

Your choice of anti-virus package should also include an anti-malware feature. Malware is malicious software that runs in the background of your computer, latching onto specific functions and hijacking key operations like the ability to get online or run some applications properly.

Malware causes most of the problems that affect the speed and efficiency of a computer’s operation, particularly when working online. In fact, it’s far more likely your computer will be infiltrated by a malicious software than hit by a virus. Once your machine is infected with serious malware programs, removing them can be difficult and expensive. Sometimes it’s impossible and the machine must be restored to its original condition.

If you choose a paid anti-virus product, the average price is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 – $70 for something like Symantec’s “Norton,” McAfee or Bit Defender, depending on the features and media provided. Truthfully, they are all pretty much the same, but it seems that McAfee is less “user friendly” than some of the others so keep that in mind when choosing a package.

Consider also the option to buy the package as a download, but also purchase the re-installation CD. Generally, the CD has emergency boot scan programs on it that will help you recover your computer in the event of a virus or malware attack.

Avoid add-ons to these packages that include things like “pc tune-up” or “operating system management” programs. These programs interfere with the normal operation of your computer’s self-correcting system and cause your computer to run slower and less efficiently. A fire wall is OK, but make sure your Windows firewall is disabled so the two do not conflict. Most packages turn it off automatically in favor of their own program.

Visit our online store for purchase of Anti-Virus and other support materials!

Or call us for help with protecting your valuable technology investment from virus and malware infestations! Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. – 937-902-4857.

INEXPENSIVE WEB HOSTING, GREAT SERVICE.

Posted in Apple, Computers, High Tech, Microsoft, Uncategorized, Windows | Leave a comment