A reader wrote: "I upgraded my router!" Wow. I'm impressed. I never think to do that.
An old, outdated router can slow down your Wi-Fi, disrupt your connections and leave your network vulnerable to security risks. But setup can be a "colossal pain," the reader said. Fortunately, he discovered that all he had to do was change the new router's settings to match the old one's. "A definite aha moment!" I've never paid for a new router. My internet service provider, AT&T, will send out a new one for free if the old one has problems, which has only happened once. Maybe I haven't needed one because I "only" have 11 internet-connected devices.
The reader has more than 40 smart devices, not counting phones. "I have three TiVos, about a dozen TP-Link smart plugs, three cameras, nine computers, a few tablets and some Kindles," he said, in addition to "printers, TVs, Amazon Fire Sticks and a sad little Roku." To get faster internet, he bought a refurbished Netgear AC3200 Nighthawk Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router for $90 from Amazon's discount site, "Woot." It really sped things up compared to his old ASUS, he said. He credits its "triband" feature, which lets devices talk to one another without using the internet.
I looked up his Netgear model and found that it came out in 2014, two years before his old ASUS router. When I told him that, he immediately thought about returning it. But later he decided to keep it. Who cares about a router's age if it's faster than the one you have?
According to recent reports in TheVerge, PCMag, HowtoGeek and LifeSavvy, the best budget router is the TP-Link AX3000, for around $110 on Amazon. CNET chose the TP-Link Archer AX21, $80 on Amazon.
TRUSTING AMAZON REVIEWS
To figure out whether an Amazon review is trustworthy, copy and paste the review's web address at ReviewMeta.com.
For example, the Yeedi robot vacuum got an overall passing grade for the quality of its reviews. One was singled out as the most trusted: It gave the vacuum five stars. ReviewMeta also has other data. I especially appreciated the info on questionable reviewers. They're the ones whose reviews are normally rejected.
A reader said he got a realistic-looking email describing a $4,600 order from Amazon. "My heart skipped a beat."
Then he got a phone call asking him about it. He hung up, but "out of curiosity, I redialed the number." It belonged to a local woman who had nothing to do with the scam. "These crooks had my home landline number and (were spoofing) the lady's cell number to try to make it look legit," he said. Bottom line: You can never be too careful.
THE NEW CHROME SIDEBAR
I love the new sidebar in Google Chrome. To see it on your computer, open Chrome and click the partially-shaded rectangle at the top right of the screen. You'll get a "Reading list" and a "Bookmarks" list.
To add a page to your reading list, click "Reading list," then "Add current tab." When you're finished with the web page, click the check mark to add it to "Pages You've Read." Scroll down to the bottom of the reading list page to see it. In the bookmarks tab, you can drag your newest bookmarks to the top of the list to make them easier to find.
You get 15 gigabytes of free storage in your Google account, a combination of Google Drive, Google Photos and Gmail. But if you're running out of space, consider using Mozilla Thunderbird to store your Gmail in folders on your computer, making them available offline.
Start by going to Thunderbird.net to download and install the free email program. Then, under "local," create a new folder for mail stored on your computer. Once my first 10,000 emails were in the inbox, I selected all and dragged them to my local mail folder. They'll always be on my computer now, ready to view in Thunderbird even if I delete them in Gmail. It's funny to see email going back to 2004.
To print something from the web, without getting all the extra links and ads, go to PrintFriendly.com and paste in the website address. Alternatively, use Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Brave or Vivaldi. These web browsers will also strip out all the extraneous stuff for you. Firefox and Microsoft Edge will leave it all in.
In the last column, I mentioned the free "Stack" app for organizing documents, such as your vax card or driver's license, making them easy to find again. An alert reader pointed out that Stack is Android only.
Here's a workaround. Take photos of your IDs on your iPhone or iPad and store them in the Google Drive app, a free download in the in the iPhone or iPad App Store. To organize your documents, do a Google search on "how to organize files in Google Drive on iPhone." Using Google Drive is especially helpful if you've run out of storage on your iPhone as well as in iCloud.
EASIER ON THE EYES
Windows "Night Light" suffuses the screen with a soft orange light, getting you ready for bed time, instead of the glare of bright white. To find it, type "night light" into the search bar in Windows. Click it when it comes up and put it on a schedule, or accept the default setting.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.