Wednesday 28 December 2016

Privacy - What Information Is Your Browser Leaking?

Many people think that browsing websites is a fairly anonymous practice. Most people I speak with believe that unless they specifically provide information to a website it doesn't know anything about them except possibly their IP address.

This is a flawed assumption.

Most browsers leak a surprising amount of information about you. Here are a few common items you are probably telling every website you visit, whether you know it or not
  • Your location - not as fine tuned as GPS coordinates, but surprisingly accurate
  • Your operating system
  • Your computer processor, # of cores, battery level
  • What web browser you are using
  • What social networks you are currently logged in to
  • What plugins are installed in your web browser
  • Your internet connection speed and internet provider,
  • The orientation of your device if it's measured. (When I check from my smartphone it tells me what direction I am facing and how much of an angle I am holding my phone at.)
This isn't through any special magic, just using standard code. It is a surprising amount of information though.

Want to see what information you are leaking, and how to stop it? Go to and take a look at the results.

The nice thing with this website is it will offer you suggestions on how to plug the holes if you want. Fair warning, some of the fixes may limit the functionality of other websites.

Happy surfing, and happy holidays!

-The Home Geek.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Extend Your Network With Powerline Adapters

Powerline adapters have been around for a while now in various formats. A powerline adapter lets you use your home's electrical wiring to transmit/receive network traffic to places where you have no other network connection or wifi signal.

Recently I purchased a pair of HooToo AV600 powerline adapters to see how well they worked. HooToo claims speeds of up to 600mb/s can be achieved using their product, and they are safe to use as the pairing process protects the traffic while travelling through your electrical wiring.

To be fair, HooToo does mention the state of your home's electrical wiring will affect performance. In my case I was able to achieve about 65mb/s, just over 10% of the top end claim from HooToo. Given my home was built in the 80's I admit the wiring may not be optimal for ethernet-over-power. 

What I really liked about the HooToo product is it includes a pass-though electrical socket on the front, so you don't actually lose an electrical outlet with their system. Not all powerline adapters do this, so you can lose the ability to plug in a device with some of the competition.

The biggest complaint I had with the HooToo devices is the instructions they ship with for pairing are wrong. HooToo needs to fix this as I'm sure it's led to purchaser frustration. That said, it's not insurmountable.

To pair the devices you plug in the first adapter close to your router or switch and connect an ethernet cable from the adapter to the router/switch.

Next you plug in the second unit wherever you want service in your home. On the unit by your router you press the "Pair" button for about 2 seconds, then go to the 2nd unit. Press the "Pair" button on the second unit for about 2 seconds.

That's it, your units should now be paired and you can plug an ethernet cable in to the 2nd unit and use it to connect a computer, media server, anything you want. 

If you don't have really fast wifi in your home this might be a cheap way to overcome performance barriers without investing in a mesh wifi system.

The HooToo system is expandable, meaning you can purchase and add additional adapters, placing them wherever you want in your home.

Overall I'm happy with the experiment. The pair of adapters cost $50CDN on Amazon, and just under $37USD if you live in the USA.

If you've got just 1 or 2 problem spots connecting a desktop computer or media server this is a pretty inexpensive way to get the speed you need.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Monday 5 December 2016

Ring Video Doorbell - Part 2

I've been running the Ring Video Doorbell for a little while now and I'm a fan. I love the fact that I get alerts when someone starts walking to my door, and another if they press the doorbell.

I really like that I can talk with people even if I'm not home, and that the system captures audio & video for later playback or sharing.

The one surprise I had when I bought the system was a lack of a chime for inside the house.

Most of the time the fact that my smartphone or ipad will go off when someone approaches the door is fine, but occasionally I have need of an actual chime.

It turns out Ring has you covered on this front, for a small fee.

The Ring Chime plugs in to any wall outlet, and you use the Ring app to join it to your WiFi and connect it to the doorbell unit.

Setup was a initially fast, it uses the standard "Ring" music by default, but there are a host of other noises it can make from different musical instruments to simulating barking dogs.

After a brief consultation with my wife we decided to use a traditional doorbell "Ding Dong" sound.

The frustration began to kick in here. No matter what I did the setting wouldn't save.

Finally I read up on how to update the firmware of the device. Turns out it's as simple as unplugging it and then plugging it back in.

I did this, it updated it's firmware, and after that everything began working as it should.

A small kink that Ring could probably communicate better to their clients, but otherwise I have to say I still think it's a fantastic product.

If you're starting to put together your wish list for the holidays, you might want to add the Ring doorbell to it.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek