March 2023

As interesting innovations and news for March 2023 are a little thin on the ground. We thought it might be useful to document the maintenance regime that we use on our home network. However before we begin, we are going to reference a recent techradar article where it was noted that both macOS and iOS have a number of serious vulnerabilities. While these vulnerabilities have been patched, they do require that you update to MacOS 13.2 and iOS 16.3. So before you do anything else, we recommend that you check your Apple products are up to date and are using the latest firmware and security patches.

Spring cleaning your network

While you should be performing regular (at least once a month) maintenance checks on your home network. It’s very easy to forget or just not bother. So were going to try and encourage you to at least once a year do a spot of tech spring cleaning.

Just like any other device connected to the internet, you should be regularly checking your router is running with the latest firmware. However, if your router is no longer supported by its manufacturer, or is over 10 years old. You may want to consider replacing it with a new one.

As WiFi 6 and 6e routers are now starting to appear at more sensible prices, and they can improve your wireless signal. It might be a good time to consider an upgrade. However, if your router was supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), check that you can replace it or see if they might be willing to upgrade your existing router for free.

Firewall check

Let’s be honest, most people know that they should be using a firewall, but probably don’t really understand why. This is mostly because once a firewall has been setup, its not really all that interesting or exciting. Instead, as a typical firewall just acts as a barrier between a home network and the rest of the internet. Once the firewall on a router has been enabled, most people forget to regularly check it.

However after updating your router, we recommend that you also quickly check that your firewall is working correctly. While it’s highly unlikely that an update will break a routers firewall. It does no harm to check your firewall using something like Shields up by Gibson Research Corporation.

Check your broadband speeds

After checking that your router is up to date, you need to make sure that your internet connection is running at the speeds you expect. While in most instances, you will find you have an internet speed test tool built into your router. If your router does not have this feature, using Ookla’s Speedtest is a good way to test the speed of your internet connection.

If you do find that your internet connection is slower than what you expect. Try rebooting your router, and checking all its cables, as a frayed cable will affect the speed and reliability of your internet connection. Then if your internet speeds still have not improved, try contacting your Internet Service Provider and see if they can help. At very least they should be able to run a line test to your house.

See about getting cheaper Internet

Also don’t forget internet prices in the UK will be going up in March, so if you do need to contact your ISP. Make sure you check when your current contract expires, then see if you can get a deal on a new contract at a cheaper price. We found that as our 18 month contract had expired, we were able to haggle and get a new contract at half the price of the old one.

Check your home network for unusual activity

You should find that your router has a way to monitor network traffic, and in some instances can also be configured to limit the amount of bandwidth a specific device can use. Not only will this help limit bandwidth congestion in your home network. It is also a way to spot if a device has been compromised with malware or spyware.

While all computers will periodically use network bandwidth to check the time, or download an update. It should not be constantly using large amounts of bandwidth. So if we switch on a computer, and leave it idle. Through our router we can then monitor if that idle computer is using bandwidth. Then if it is, by using Task Manager on that computer, we can try and work out what services or applications are running in the back ground using up network bandwidth.

Check for malware viruses and spyware

While Apple like to give the impression that macOS does not get viruses or malware, in truth macOS is running an anti-virus application called XProtect in the background. So as both Windows and macOS have built in anti-virus applications, having to manually perform anti-malware and virus checks is probably not as important as it once was. However for Windows users, it does no harm to periodically run a full anti-malware check on your computer.

Check what devices are connecting to your network

As a general rule, a home network can handle roughly 256 devices. However you will often find a wireless router is only able to handle a maximum of around 64 devices. So as most routers will have a rudimentary way to monitor devices connected to a network. As part of our spring clean we like to check to see what devices are connected to our network, and see if any can be removed.

You might find that this is a good way to make a little money, as completing this sort of review can identify devices that may have become redundant over time. So we were pleasantly surprised when we reviewed our home network, and found a couple of old devices that we could sell.

Test your backups

Finally, as part of our spring clean, we check that we can restore files from our backups. While we use a Synology NAS to make full backups of all our data. Over time a backup can become corrupted. So we like to restore a small selection of random files and folders from our backup, just to make sure that our backups are working.

Also, as it is really easy to forget or make a mistake when you have to do something that you only part remember, and are under pressure to fix. We find that by periodically testing our backups, we have a good way to refresh our memory.

Youtube Postings

Recently we purchased and built a DIY Framework laptop, which was a fun experience that we thought we would share. So for the next four Fridays of this month we will be posting our DIY Framework laptop mini series to YouTube. Then because this month has five Fridays, at the end of the month we will be posting the next video in our series on setting up a Synology NAS.

Website Postings

If you don’t want to wait to see all of our Framework laptop mini series. You can see all episodes on our website before they are release on Youtube. These videos will also for a short time be advert free, so our website is the best place to see our newest content.

For the rest of the month we will be continuing our series relating to Linux Development Environment. So we will show you how you Install Gimp along with a video on how you perform a Powerwash on a Chromebook. Then so that we do not neglect Windows users, we will be posting a video on how you can permanently enable Windows 11 battery saver. Our final video for the month will be for our subscribers, so we will look at how you create user accounts on a Synology NAS.

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