In these interesting times I thought I’d create a round-up of some tips and recommendations for those of you who are looking to improve your technology – whatever your situation. It’s a grab bag of various items I’ve been collecting for a while but I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you. I usually write posts geared towards IT professionals but this post is aimed at people from all walks of life working from home with little IT assistance. If you have any suggestions for other software or tips, please put them in the comments below. ☺
Improving Your Internet Connection
When it comes to networking, bandwidth isn’t everything. Reliability and latency are also required for it to be useful. It can sometimes be preferable to have less bandwidth available but achieve low latency and be reliable. There’s little point to having a 1Gbps that has a huge latency or hardly ever works.
You can use the website SpeedTest to test your internet connection bandwidth and latency. Here are some more points that you should consider:
Wi-Fi is one of the biggest variables that can affect your connection. Wi-Fi is greatly affected by walls, ceilings, and other Wi-Fi signals and interference generated by electronic devices.
The age and quality of the equipment used in your network can also affect the quality of your Wi-Fi signal and network in general.
Connecting via an Ethernet cable will provide the most reliable connection; however, you should consider swapping out older cables for new ones as damage can occur over time and this will affect the quality of the connection.
When troubleshooting network issues, it’s important to check every part of the connection. In some rare cases the network hardware itself on a device could have developed a fault and in the past, I’ve had the networking stack on Windows get corrupted. 😬
When experience internet issues, it’s important to investigate and find out if you are having networking issues in general within your home or whether it’s an external issue. An external issue will be something you need your ISP to investigate, internal network issues are something that you can do something about. 👍
Improving Your DNS Service
DNS is one of the most important parts of networking. There’s a reason it’s a tech meme.
You can control which DNS service provider you use either by changing it on your device (if you are on a network, I wouldn’t recommend this) or on your router or modem. If you change the DNS on your router it will affect all devices connected to it. Here are some DNS services that I can recommended. Both written and video Instruction for changing DNS settings are available on the sites below.
A note about IPv6 – If you don’t know you need it you probably don’t, so don’t worry about it! 👍
IP addresses: 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52
Google provide their own fast DNS service that is extremely popular. Just a quick reminder that before you use Google DNS, remember they are an advertising company and there are other very good alternatives.
Quad9 is focused on security and blocking threats at the DNS level. It’s also the best DNS service to say out loud in the mirror to yourself, in my opinion.
IP addresses: 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
IPv6 addresses: 2620:fe::fe and 2620:fe::9
CloudFlare DNS is geared towards being as fast as possible.
IP addresses: 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124
IPv6 addresses: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
As the name suggests AdGuard is focused on DNS level ad blocking and has the option to block adult sites. AdGuard provides a good level of ad blocking but it will not block ads from streaming services as those ads are provided by the same servers as the content you want to watch. To block those ads later in this article I cover ad blocking web browser externsions.
For “Default” servers (basic ad blocking):
IP addresses: 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52
IPv6 addresses: 2a00:5a60::ad1:0ff and 2a00:5a60::ad2:0ff
For “Family protection” servers (basic adult site blocking):
IP addresses: 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
IPv6 addresses: 2a00:5a60::bad1:0ff and 2a00:5a60::bad2:0ff
IP addresses: 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124
IPv6 addresses: 2a00:5a60::01:ff and 2a00:5a60::02:ff
Online Services Monitor
Down Detector is a great centralised resource for tracking every online service in existence and whether they are experiencing issues. A good way to know whether ‘it’s just you’ or not. Please bare in mind that online services are provided worldwide via various regional data centres so a service could be reported as being down in the US but be up in the UK or it could be down in the UK but due to the time-zone difference and a smaller population, it might not have been reported.
Remote Access Software
AnyDesk is easy to setup and use, it doesn’t even need to be installed. It’s a lot like Team Viewer except with less popups and can be set up to provide secure, unattended access to a computer. Unattended access does require it to be installed, however.
Team Viewer is well known for many reasons (both good and bad), but much like AnyDesk it is easy to use and can provide unattended access to a computer.
Ad Blocking Browser Extensions
If you use a modern browser, it’s very likely it supports extensions. Here are some that will block ads, malware, and other dodgy software that can be loaded via the browser. Even if you keep your anti-virus software up to date, it’s still worth using an ad blocking extension. Layers of security are a good thing! You can easily disable it for specific pages if it blocks a web page element you require. These extensions will also block YouTube ads and other types of streaming media ads. Please consider using these extensions responsibly and allowing ads for specific sites and creators.
Both AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin are very good.
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