June 12, 2012

How to Safely Share Media Files from your Vista Computer

If you have an old Vista computer that is lying unused, you can make good use of it by setting it up as a media file server for your home. As Windows is not known for being a secure desktop, you want to implement a secure sharing using a strong password. You don't want your neighbors to be playing or copying your own music and video files in their computer.

To be able to implement this project, we need three things to be taken care of. First, we need to setup a manually configured IP address for the server computer. Second, we need to use a new regular account that nobody uses except for the sharing of media files. Thirdly, we need to gather all the media files of the family and put them in the proper folders of the regular computer account that will be used for sharing. The server computer should not be used by anyone else except for file sharing so all former accounts in this computer should be deleted.

What is the advantage of sharing media files? First, we want to save money by not having duplicate media files in the family. If one member of the family has already a copy of a certain media file, another member should not be getting his or her own copy. However, not all media file of each family member can be shared. Each member is to submit to the designated server administrator the files that he or she wants to share. The designated server administrator should then copy the media files on the folders of the account that will be used for file sharing.

Secondly, media files consume a lot of hard disk space and by storing these files on an unused computer, we can free up more storage space on the disk drives of each individual computer. Everyone is thus afforded the opportunity to enjoy the media that each family member has. Alternatively, one family member can be assigned the task of procuring media for the whole family. Each family member makes known the media that she wants and if there are a good number of requests for this media, he acquires the file and places is on the media server.

You can start the work by logging in on the Vista computer with an Administrator account and setup a manually configured IP address for this computer. How to do this is a fairly complex undertaking that cannot be fully discussed here. There is an article in this website that can guide you on how to perform this task correctly. Messing this activity up can result in network errors that can negatively impact the effectiveness of your network. The IP address that should be assigned to this computer must not be included in the range of IP addresses distributed by your DHCP server. If you see an error message saying there is duplicate address in the network, then this activity has not been done correctly.

While logged on Administrator, create a new regular user and name it Share. This is the account that will be used for file sharing. We cannot use an account that is being used by another person for then all the files that this person is working on will be exposed to everyone in the network. This account is not going to be used except for the sharing of media files. Make sure that you make up a very strong password for this account. I suggest that you make a password that is not shorter than 10 characters and should include big and small letters as well as numbers and special characters.

Once the account is created, the server administrator can copy the initial set of media files to the respective folders in the Share account. He can create the folder structure that he thinks is best fitted for the media collection that the family has. Music files should be placed on the Music folder and video files on the Video folder. Other folders may be created based on other classifications like podcasts for example.

Now we can create the network environment that can enable file sharing to be implemented. This would be the simplest of all the tasks that needs to be done. Open your Vista computer's control panel, click on Network and Internet, and then click on Network and Sharing Center. On the Sharing and Discovery portion of the panel, turn on Network discovery by clicking on the downward pointing arrow and then clicking the Apply button. Do the same fot File sharing. Lastly, make sure that Password protected sharing is turned on and if not turn it on using the same procedure as in Network discovery and File sharing.

Now your old Vista computer is ready to serve media files for the whole family. Check if the shares are working by logging on another Windows computer and on Windows Explorer, click on Network or Network Neighborhood and then look for the name of the Vista computer and double click it until the sample media files are displayed. Double click on a file to play it. If the shares are working, then you can let everyone in the family know the password for accessing the media files on the server. This password should be kept as a family secret.



June 10, 2012

How to Perform Network Related Tasks in Windows Vista

Network tasks are essential components of any computer's operating system. When you need to share files or connect to the Internet, you need to setup the network components that would support such activities. However, the different tools that you can use to facilitate efficient networking are scattered in various places in Windows Vista.

You should make it a point to know what tool you can use and at the same time know where to find the tools that you need. Here are a few how to's on how you can perform network related tasks in Windows vista. Most of these task will require that you logon to your computer using an Administrator account.

Find What the MAC Address of your Wireless Adapter is

Open a command prompt and type the command ipconfig /all. On the results, look for the wireless LAN adapter and follow the line that says Physical Address. Those six sets of letters and numbers is the MAC address or the machine address of your computer's wireless adapter.

Find Out your Computer's Hostname and its IP Address

Open a command prompt and type ipconfig /all. The name opposite Host Name is your computer's hostname or the name it uses to identify itself in the network. Go down to the Wireless LAN adapter portion and look for a series of four decimal numbers separated by dots opposite the label IPv4 Address. This is the IP address that your computer is using to communicate with other computers in the network.

Where to Manually Setup your Computer's IP Address

Open your computer's control panel, then click on Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center. On the left panel, click on Manage network connections and on the window that will come up, highlight Wireless Network Connection, right click it, and then click on Properties. On the next window, click on Internet Protocol version 4 and then click on Properties.

How to Make you Computer Use an Alternate DNS Server

Follow the above procedure for setting up your computer's IP address manually. Note that Obtain an IP address automatically is selected and at the lower part of the panel, click on Use the following DNS server addresses to select it. Enter the two IP addresses that you want your computer to use in looking up the IP addresses of the websites that you want to visit.

How to Setup your Computer for Windows File Sharing

Open your control panel, click on Network and Internet, and then click on Network and Sharing Center. Under the Sharing and Discovery portion, turn on both Network discovery and File sharing by clicking on the downward pointing arrow opposite each. This would be enough if you just want to share your folder for read access only. If you want to be able to create and delete files on the folder that you're sharing, you need to turn on also Password protected sharing.

Where to Go to Find What's Wrong with your Network Connection

Open your control panel, click on Network and Internet, and then click on Network and Sharing Center. On the diagram shown, click on the problem indicators to find out more information on how the connection problem can be resolved. You would be given several options on how the problem could be solved. Choose the one that you think would lead you toward the resolution of the problem. If nothing works, try restarting your computer.

Tell your Computer to Use a Preferred Wireless Network

Open your control panel, click on Network and Internet, and then click on Network and Sharing Center. On the left panel, click on Manage wireless networks and on the window that comes up next, move the network that you want to use to the topmost part of the list. While here, you can also remove networks that you don't want to use by deleting them from the list.

Find Out What Wireless Network Adapter your Computer is Using

Open your control panel, then click on Hardware and Sound, then click on Device Manager. Click on the plus sign to the left of Network adapters and you can check what wireless adapter your computer is using.

Turn your Wireless Adapter On or Off

Open your control panel, click on Mobile PC, and then click on Windows Mobility Center. Look for Wireless Network and click on the button that says Turn wireless on or off. Close all control panel windows when finished.

Setup your Firewall to allow an Application to Access your Computer

Open your control panel, click on Security, and then click on Windows Firewall. Click on the Change settings link and on the panel that will come up, click on the Exceptions button. If your application is shown on the list, put a check mark opposite it and click on the OK button. If not, click on the Add program or Add port whichever is preferable to you based on what information you have. This can potentially put your computer at risk from attacks from the Internet so care should be taken in changing the settings of your firewall.



June 9, 2012

Understanding Wireless Connection Problems in your Home Network

Wireless connection problems will generally fall within three broad areas of operation in your home network: the computer, the wireless router, and the Internet Service Provider. This article describes the things that could go wrong in each of these major areas of failure. Consequently, your troubleshooting effort should start with the computer you're using, then proceed to your wireless router, and lastly the networking equipment in your Internet Service Provider.

If you're using a computer that runs on a Windows operating system. you'll be more likely to experience connection problems than if you're using one that is based on Linux or the Unix operating system. I have used both Windows Vista and different Linux distributions on my laptop and connection troubles occur mostly when I'm using Vista rather than a Linux distribution.

In most cases, home computers running in a wireless network are setup to get Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from a Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) server running on the wireless router. In Vista, the computer attempts to get IP addresses from the router and after several failed attempts, it gives up and uses an IP address that may not work on your network. Forcing the Vista computer to request again for network addresses on a few times will work but most of the time, a restart of the computer is necessary to succeed in getting the needed IP addresses.

The Linux platform it seems is better designed to navigate the different situations that can occur in a network setting and is more aggressive in getting the needed IP addresses. In my Android tablet, for example, Android is not going to stop trying to get an IP address until it gets one. When the tablet sleeps, it gives up its IP address and when it wakes up, it again will continuously attempt to get those addresses from the DHCP server until it succeeds in getting the required addresses.

I'm currently using Linux Mint as replacement for my Vista operating system in my laptop and I have never experienced the lost connections that I frequently get when using Windows Vista. I'm not intimately familiar with the programs that are running the network connections between my laptop and my wireless router but it appears that Linux Mint is able to play better with the programs in my wireless router which for all I know may be running a stripped down Linux system. What I did with my Windows Vista is set it up with manually configured IP addresses by getting one address from the address space that is not being distributed by my wireless router.

On the wireless router's side, the most common cause of loss of connection is similar to that of the computer running on the home network. Somehow after several failed attempts, the router simply gives up trying to get a valid IP address and subnet mask for it to be able to communicate with the rest of the Internet. Here, the solution is very simple. You just need to access your router using your laptop and check if it was able to get a valid IP address that can be routed in the Internet.

When your computer and your wireless router are connected but you can't access the Internet, check that your wireless router has a valid Internet address. If the address shown are all zeros, then it was not able to get one so you have to manually tell your router to get one. You can do this by clicking on the renew button or connect button whichever is present in your router's web interface page. After a while, you'll notice that your router was able to get the needed addresses and the blanks for addresses are filled with those it got from the router at your Internet Service Provider. You should be able to surf the Internet now from the browser in your laptop.

If there is still a problem, the fault may now lie on the equipment at the office of your Internet Service Provider. At this point, you can't do much except to wait until the people there are able to resolve their connectivity problem. You can call the service numbers of your Internet Service Provider and inquire if they are experiencing connectivity problems. The fact that your laptop is able to connect with the router tells you that there is no connection problem between your laptop and your wireless router. The fact that your router was able to get an IP address from your Internet Service Provider tells you that your connection with your provider is okay. The most probable reason at this point is trouble at your Internet Service Provider's end. You just have to wait until they are able to resolve the connection problem at their end.



June 6, 2012

Share Files Between your Vista Laptop and your Android Tablet

You may be one of those who have purchased an Android tablet in order to complement your Vista laptop on Internet research and downloading or to perform other tasks that could be more easily performed using a tablet computer. In such a case, you may want to be able to access files in your Vista laptop from your tablet or the other way around. You may also want to transfer files between the two computers.

During the olden days of computing and before networks became ubiquitous, there came a phenomenon called the sneaker net wherein people (supposedly wearing sneakers on their feet) go from one computer to another carrying a diskette by which files are copied from one computer to another. Those bygone days are gone forever but you can still appreciate the sneaker net's usefulness when it comes to moving large files as you will note later.

There is an Android app that you can install in your tablet and use to connect to your folders and files in your Vista laptop. It is called AndSMB and you can download, install and use it freely on your Android tablet. To setup file sharing between your Vista laptop and your Android tablet, you have to install AndSMB on your tablet, setup your Vista laptop for file sharing, and create a connection in your AndSMB tablet app. From here, you can freely transfer files to and from the two computers with ease.

First go to your Android tablet and open Google Play. Search for the AndSMB app and install it in your tablet. Turn on your Vista laptop and login using the Administrator account. Open your Vista's control panel and click on Network and Internet. Click on Network and Sharing Center and near the bottom of the window, click on the downward arrow opposite network discovery. Click on Turn on network discovery and then click on the Apply button. Do the same for File sharing. While on this window, check that Password protected sharing is turned on and if not, turn it on also. Close all your Vista's control panel windows.

To make a safer file transfer to work, you need to have a regular account in your Vista laptop that uses a password to logon. If your account has no password, go to the Control Panel and set up a password for the computer account that you're using. Always use a regular account for file sharing. Never use a folder that belongs to the Administrator for file sharing purposes. Once all of these requirements are met, then your Vista laptop is ready for file sharing with your Android tablet.

In you Android tablet, run the AndSMB app and tap on the Add button. Go back to your Vista laptop and open again its control panel. Click on System and Maintenance and then click on System. Find out from here your Vista laptop's computer name and copy it exactly as it appears here to the blank opposite Hostname in your Android tablet. On the blanks opposite Username and Password, type in your Vista logon user name and password exactly as you're using them on your Vista laptop. On the Local dir portion of your tablet's panel tap on the browse button and navigate to the Download folder in your sdcard device.

Tap the OK button and on the blank space opposite Remote dir, tap the browse button. Tap the Users folder and then tap on your Vista laptop's logon name. Tap Downloads from the folders that will be shown and when the Downloads folder is selected, tap on the OK button. Tap the Save button and type a good name for the connection and tap on the Ok button twice. Now whenever you want to transfer files from the two folders on your Vista laptop and your Android tablet, turn on your Vista laptop and login to it and then turn on your Android tablet and open the AndSMB app. On your Android tablet, select the connection that you want and tap on the Connect button.

Tap on the Device file browser or the SMB file browser depending on what type of file transfer you want to make. To copy from your Android tablet to your Vista laptop, tap on the file you want to move and then click on the Upload button. To do the reverse, tap the SMB file browser, tap on the file you want to copy to your Android tablet, then tap on the Download button.

This will work fairly well on small files. However, when transferring large files, the transfer speed is a little slow since it's using the network to move the files from one location to another. When copying large files, I advise you to go back to the sneaker net method but this time using your USB pen drive for this purpose. It would be a lot quicker to move large files this way than to use your file sharing connection.

If something goes wrong, check that your Vista laptop's name. your user name, and your password are all correctly entered on the connection panel in your Android tablet. Sometimes, it takes a while for the network to ready itself for file sharing so give it a little more time to set itself up.