How to Rebroadcast a Weak Wifi Signal

routerThere may be a time when you have access to a wireless network in one part of your house, but just can’t get it anywhere else.  This isn’t a big deal if you own the network (you can buy another access point or wireless repeater), but if you don’t own the network, this guide will show you how to extend your free coverage.

What’s the purpose of this, you might ask?  In my case, I can connect to several wireless networks in my bedroom where my PC is located.  Unfortunately, I can’t access those networks in my living room where my Xbox 360 is located.  The technique presented in this guide allowed me to use my PC to pick up a wireless signal, share it with my PC’s Ethernet connection, and then rebroadcast it with a router.

What You’ll Need:

  • A working wireless connection
  • A computer running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 with an unused Ethernet port
  • A configured wireless router set to DHCP mode (I’ll be using a WRT54GL with Tomato firmware, but anything will work).  Every router is different, so make sure you configure your router’s settings (SSID, security, etc) before you begin this guide.
  • An Ethernet cable

Windows XP

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network Connections.
    rebroadcast_wifi_networkconnXP
  4. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  5. Click the Advanced tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingXP

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  6. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  7. Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click the Properties button.
    rebroadcast_wifi_tcpipXP
  8. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettings
  9. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows Vista

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, right click the Network icon in the system tray and select Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_sharingcenterVista
  4. Click Manage network connections on the left side of the window.
    network_rebroadcast_managenetworksVista
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_allowsharingVista

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

Windows 7

  1. Connect your wireless router to your PC’s unused Ethernet port with an Ethernet cable.  Make sure to connect the cable to the source or internet port on your router, not one of the numbered outputs.
    router_back
  2. Power the wireless router.
  3. In Windows, click the Network icon in the system tray and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_opennetworkswin7
  4. Click Change adapter settings on the left side of the screen.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_changesettingswin7
  5. Right click your wireless connection and select Properties.
  6. Click the Sharing tab and select “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection”.  This will allow your computer’s Ethernet port to access your wireless internet connection.  Click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_enablesharingwin7

    1. If you don’t see an option for sharing your connection, verify that you have a second connection enabled on your computer.
  7. You now need to give your Ethernet connection a static IP address.  In the Network Connections window again, right click your Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  8. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the Properties button.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_staticipwin7
  9. Select Use the following IP address: and provide an address.  I arbitrarily used 192.168.137.1.  Set ‘Subnet Mask:’ to 255.255.255.0.  Leave the DNS settings blank and click OK.
    network_rebroadcast_wifi_ipsettingswin7
  10. Your rebroadcasted wireless network will now be up and running!

While rebroadcasting a weak signal does give you better access to a wireless network, it does have some inherent disadvantages.  Port forwarding will now be twice as complex, and there will most likely be a high amount of network latency induced.  That being said, I didn’t personally notice much of a difference browsing the internet on my laptop or using Xbox Live.

Have any other ideas for accessing wifi on the cheap?  Let us know in the comments.

How To: Verify Your Windows 7 ISO is Legitimate

win7validatorWith literally dozens of copies of the Windows 7 ISO floating around the internet (and countless more once the RTM is inevitably leaked) – it has become increasingly important to verify your copy is legitimate before installation.  Verifying your ISO not only lets you know that you have the correct file, it also protects you from viruses or trojans that could be hidden in a illegitimate copy.

To verify your Windows 7 ISO, download the Windows 7 ISO Verifier (no installation required).  You can then drag and drop your ISO onto the executable or double click it and browse to the ISO’s location.  After a few minutes, you will be notified if your version is legitimate.

win7validator_checkingThe application works by generating a hash from your ISO and comparing it to a list of known good hashes (which are stored online so you won’t have to redownload the application when the list updates).

The Windows 7 ISO Verifier was created by Long Zhen and Sven Groot and is a free download for Windows.  [Download]

Newsflash: Windows 7 Pre-Orders Start June 26

Win7PreOrderStarting June 26th, the Microsoft offers page will have a list of retailers offering a pre-order of Windows 7 so you can get a copy before anybody else at half price.   If you want to be put on the pre-order list be sure to act fast, because Microsoft says quantities will be limited.

Not sure if your computer is ready to run Windows 7?  Check our our guide to see if your computer can handle it.

Let us know about your Windows 7 experiences so far, or if you plan on pre-ordering by commenting below.

How To: Install Windows 7 and Keep Your Current OS (Dual Boot)

windows7featured2Now that you can download and install the Windows 7 Release Candidate for free, many people are anxious to give it a try but aren’t quite ready to install it as their primary operating system.  The easiest and safest way to test out the new version of Windows is to install it in a virtual machine, but that typically limits the virtual system’s resources and doesn’t always give you the full experience.

An alternative method is to install Windows 7 while keeping your current operating system installed, which is referred to as dual booting.  This allows you to choose which operating system you want to use each time you start up the computer, and allows both systems to make full use of your computer’s resources.

Note: This guide will require you to install an operating system, modify hard drive partitions, and potentially use a LiveCD.  If you’ve never done any of these things before, it might be best for you to follow our guide on how to install Windows 7 on a virtual machine instead.

1.  Download and Burn Windows 7

win7_rc_cdDownload the Windows 7 Release Candidate ISO from Microsoft’s Customer Preview Program website (you will need to log in with your Windows Live ID before you can download the file).  This file is an image of the installation disc which can be burned directly to a blank DVD.

I recommend using ImgBurn (free, Windows) to burn the file.

If your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive (or any optical drive, for that matter) it is possible to run the installation disc from a bootable USB hard drive or a bootable USB flash drive as well.

2.  Partition your Hard Drive

Partitions are individual storage areas within your hard drive (think of them as hard drives within a hard drive), and to install Windows 7 you’ll need to free up some space.  To do this, we will be reducing  the size of your original partition and creating a new partition to hold Windows 7.  This procedure will vary by operating system, so I’ll provide details on a few popular ones.

Note: Partitioning your hard drive can potentially result in loss of data if something goes wrong.  Make sure to back up all important data before proceeding!

Windows XP / Linux

In this guide I’ll be using the free, open source GParted LiveCD to modify and create partitions.  LiveCDs are special versions of an operating system that can be used directly from the disk – no installation required.

For more detailed information on modifying partitions with GParted (with lots of pictures), check out HowtoForge’s guide.

  1. Download the GParted LiveCD and burn it to a CD.
  2. With the CD still in your computer’s optical drive, reboot your computer and choose to boot from the CD.
  3. Select your main partition (you may only have one) and resize it you have enough extra space to hold Windows 7.
    1. I recommend providing Windows 7 with at least 20 GB, so subtract your current size by at least 20480 MB.
  4. In the empty space that resulted from the resizing, create a new NTFS partition and give it a name.
  5. Click the Apply button to execute the changes.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista includes an impressive partition management tool, although it is fairly well hidden.  To shrink your current partition and create a new partition for Windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel –> System and Security –> Administrative Tools: Create and format hard disk partitions.
    win7dualboot
  2. Right click the partition you would like to resize and click ‘Shrink’.
    win7dualboot_shrink

    1. I recommend providing Windows 7 with at least 20 GB, so subtract your current size by at least 20480 MB.
  3. Click Shrink to resize the partition.
  4. Right click the newly created space and select ‘New Simple Volume’.
  5. Set ‘File System’ to NTFS and name the volume.
    win7dualboot_format

3.  Install Windows 7

Now that you’ve done all that work, the rest of the process is fairly straightforward.  Insert your newly burned Windows 7 DVD into your optical drive and reboot your computer.  Be sure to choose to boot from the disk if prompted.

When going through the initial installation steps, you will be prompted to choose an installation type.  Select ‘Custom (advanced)’, which will allow you to select the Windows 7 partition you created in Step 2.  Be careful when choosing the installation partition because that partition will be formatted before installation and all previous data will be lost.

win7dualboot_installwindows

Windows 7 will take some time to install and your computer may restart several times.  You will need to enter your license key as well as some initial setup information during this process.

4.  Dual Booting

Windows XP / Vista

If you installed Windows 7 with Windows XP or Windows Vista on your computer, you’re already finished!

Next time you start up your computer, you will be presented with a special menu that will let you choose which operating system to run.

win7dualboot_dualbootmenu

Linux

Since the Windows Boot Manager only recognizes Windows-based operating systems, you won’t be able to access your Linux distribution temporarily.  If you were using the GRUB bootloader before installing Windows 7, it will have lost priority to the Windows Boot Manager and will no longer be visible when you start up your computer.

To restore the GRUB bootloader, follow these steps:

  1. Boot into your Linux distribution’s LiveCD.
  2. Open the Terminal application and enter the following commands:
    1. sudo grub
    2. find /boot/grub/stage1
      1. This command will identify where GRUB is currently installed and may be needed in the next step.
    3. root (hd0,0)
      1. Note that (hd0,0) refers to the hard drive and partition where you originally installed the GRUB bootloader.  If you don’t know where GRUB is located, use the location you found in Step 2.
    4. setup (hd0)
    5. quit

GRUB will now be re-enabled, but it won’t know where your Windows 7 partition is located since you installed it after you originally installed Linux.

To add Windows 7 to your GRUB bootloader:

  1. In Terminal, enter the following command:
    1. sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst (If your GRUB configuration file is located somewhere else, point to that file.  Mine was located at /media/disk/boot/grub/menu.lst)
  2. Locate the example section for Windows installations (it will be commented out with #’s as shown below):
    # title   Windows 95/98/NT/2000
    # root   (hd0,0)
    # makeactive
    # chainloader   +1
  3. Uncomment this section by removing the #’s and change the second line ‘root (hd0,0)’ to the partition where you installed Windows 7.
    1. For example:  If you installed Windows 7 on your first hard drive on partition 4, the command would be ‘root (hd0,4)‘.  If you are unsure of your partitions, launch gparted from Terminal with the sudo gparted command.
  4. Save this file and reboot your computer.

Congratulations!  GRUB Should now be restored and let you choose either operating system when you boot up your computer.

How To: Create A New Folder With A Keyboard Shortcut in Windows 7

win7newfolderhotkeyOne of the features I have always wanted in Windows is the ability to create a new folder with a keyboard shortcut.  This simple feature was available in my first operating system, Mac OS 7, and I’ve habitually tried it with every version of Windows I’ve used since.  Finally, Windows 7 contains this fantastic shortcut.

To create a new folder with a keyboard shortcut in Windows 7, press CTRL + SHIFT + N.

While this may not be life-changing news, it’s a great to see Microsoft finally adding a quick way to create a new folder.

[Win. 7 – New Folder Keyboard Shortcut]

Installing Windows 7 On A Virtual Machine

Previously, I suggested that if you wanted to test out the newly released Windows 7 RC, that it may be a good idea to test it on a Virtual Machine.  In this article I will go into the details of virtual machine installation process for Windows 7 on two common pieces of virtualization software, VMware Server and VirtualBox.

Important: Before installing virtual machine software or a virtual machine, make sure that you system has the appropriate resources to handle such tasks.  A virtual machine is a computer sharing the same resources that your current operating system and programs are using.  If you allow a virtual machine too much access to system resources, a very unstable system will result.

Before You Begin

You will begin by downloading the Windows 7 RC ISO.  After downloading the ISO, select the virtualization software that you would like to use, either VirtualBox or VMware Server.  For this guide, I will be using both VirtualBox 2.2.4 and VMware Server 1.0.9.

Install the virtualization software of your choice.  Once you have the virtualization software installed, you can proceed to the steps below that pertain to your choice:

Installing Windows 7 on Virtual Box

  1. Start VirtualBox.
  2. Click the New button click Next.
  3. Enter information as shown below:
  4. vb2

  5. Set the amount of physical RAM to dedicate to your virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  6. Select Create New Hard Disk and click Next.
  7. vb4

  8. Click Next.
  9. Select Dynamically expanding storage and click Next.  (Dynamically expanding storage initially occupies a very small space on your physical hard drive.  It will then grow up to the size specified as your virtual machine claims disk space.)
  10. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk.  I chose 20 GB for my drive.
  11. Click Next and finish.
  12. Click the Settings button and the screen below will appear:
  13. vb8

  14. Click CD/DVD-ROM on the left side.
  15. Click the ISO Image File button and select the location of your recently downloaded Windows 7 ISO image.
  16. vb9

  17. Once the ISO image has been selected, click Ok.
  18. Click the Start button to boot the virtual machine.
  19. vb10

  20. Once the virtual machine has been started, it will boot from the ISO image that you mounted in the CD/DVD drive.
  21. Follow the remainder of the steps to install Windows 7 onto the virtual machine.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  22. When the installation has completed, you will be presented with the Windows 7 desktop as shown below.
  23. vb21

  24. Now that Windows 7 has been installed on to the virtual machine, it is important to install Guest Addons.  Guest Addons install the appropriate drivers and other software to make interaction with the virtual machine easier.
  25. From the VirtualBox menu, select Devices -> Install Guest Addons.
  26. Click Run and Yes at the next screens, respectively.
  27. Install the software into the virtual machine with the preselected default settings.
  28. When asked, install the software devices as shown below:
  29. vb28

  30. When finished, reboot the virtual machine and you can now begin using Windows 7.

Installing Windows 7 on VMware Server 1.0.9

  1. Start VMware Server 1.0.9.
  2. Select File -> New -> Virtual Machine.
  3. vm1

  4. Click Next.
  5. Select the Custom button and click Next.
  6. Select the Microsoft Windows button and Windows Vista (Experimental) from the drop down menu as shown:
  7. vm4

  8. On the next window, give your virtual machine a name, select the location to save the virtual machine, and click Next.
  9. Click Next on the next two windows as these settings are not necessary for most people.
  10. In the next screen, choose how many cores you want to dedicate to your virtual machine (one or two).  Only one is necessary although two may improve virtual machine performance.
  11. Set the amount of memory for the virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  12. Click Next to select Bridged Networking.  (NAT will also work.)
  13. vm10

  14. Click Next to use the preselected LSI Logic SCSI adapter.
  15. Select the Create a New Virtual Disk button and click Next.
  16. Click Next to use the SCSI Adapter.
  17. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk and uncheck the Allocate All Disk Space Now check box.  If this is not done, VMware server will proceed to create a file of the size you specified.
  18. vm14

  19. In the next window, specify a name for your newly created virtual hard drive and click Next.
  20. You will now be brought back to the initial VMware Server window.
  21. Click Edit Virtual Machine Settings on the left side.  The window below will be shown:
  22. vm16

  23. Click the CD-ROM on the left side and select the Use ISO Image button on the right.
  24. Click Browse and navigate to the location of the Windows 7 ISO DVD image that you previously downloaded and click OK.
  25. Click ‘Start This Virtual Machine’ and proceed through the Windows installation.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  26. Select VM -> Install VMware Tools.
  27. vm17

  28. Click Install and proceed through the installation.
  29. Select the Typical Install button when prompted to choose installation method.
  30. Once the VMware Tools installation has completed, reboot the virtual machine to begin using Windows 7.

You should now be running Windows 7 in a virtual machine.  In this environment, you will be able to test Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system without permanently installing it on your current system.

How To: Change The Default Location of Documents, Pictures, and Music Folders in Windows

Saving your documents, pictures, and music to a separate partition from your operating system is a great practice to follow because it makes installing/reinstalling an operating system easier, allows you to access your files from a different operating system, and helps save your data in the event of a hard drive failure.

This guide will show you how to set the new location of these new directories in your operating system so your files get saved in the correct locations and your start menu links work correctly.

Windows XP/Vista

  1. Right click the directory you would like to change in your start menu and select Properties.
    filelocations_xp_startmenu
  2. Click the ‘Move’ button and select the location of your new directory.
    filelocations_xp_move
  3. Click OK to save your changes.
  4. You may be prompted  with ‘Do you want to move all the files from the old location to the new location’, click yes.
  5. Repeat for any additional folders (Music, Pictures) you would like to change.

Windows 7

  1. Right click the directory you would like to change in your Start Menu and select Properties.filelocations_startmenu
  2. Click the ‘Include a folder…’ button and choose the location of your new directory.
    filelocations_properties
  3. Select the newly added directory and click the ‘Set save location’ button to make it the default storage location.
    filelocations_savelocation
  4. Optional: Remove the original default directory (to avoid confusion if you don’t plan on using it).
  5. Repeat for any remaining folders (Music, Pictures, etc).

A great feature in Windows 7 is that it will automatically add your new Music directory to the Windows Media Player 12 “watch folders”, allowing it to load your entire music library without having to change any additional settings.

How To: Try Ubuntu Using Wubi

wubi-1Many people are interested in trying Ubuntu – a popular Linux distribution – but are unfamiliar with terms such as “partition” and “dual-boot” and how to perform those actions on their systems.  Although partitioning a drive is reasonably simple, it’s not always the best or easiest choice to make when deciding to install Ubuntu on your PC.

Wubi Installer is an extremely simple and safe way to try out Ubuntu.  After downloading Wubi Installer from the official website, just double click the executable like any other Windows program.  You’ll be presented with a setup screen that automatically selects your local drive (C: for most users), installation size, desktop environment (Ubuntu), and language.  You’re left to fill in a username for the OS and a password if you wish to have one.  The username must be all lower-case for the installation to work correctly.  Now all that’s left to do is click Install.

The appropriate version of Ubuntu will be downloaded and installed on your hard drive in a complete and separate folder within your Windows installation, which means that there’s no need to mess around with partitioning your hard drive or using a boot loader.  If you want to use an older Ubuntu installation (or simply don’t feel like waiting for Wubi to download Ubuntu) you can download any version of an Ubuntu ISO file and place it in the same folder as the Wubi.exe before you run the program.  Wubi will recognize the ISO and use it for installing the operating system so there’s no wait for downloading.

Following the setup instructions for Ubuntu is easy and will only take a few minutes.  From this point on, you will be given the option of choosing to boot into your Windows installation or Ubuntu whenever you turn your computer on.  There’s a short timer that will automatically boot into Windows unless you use the navigation keys to make your choice of operating system to load up.

wubi-2

While Wubi is impressive, it’s not perfect.  Wubi’s Hibernate and Suspend modes do not function yet, and may even be removed in future releases.  Having the ext3 file system settled within Windows’ NTFS  file system has also been problematic for people who have hard rebooted their computers.

Lastly, you may experience slightly slower disk performance, especially if you install Wubi on an older, slower machine.  It’s very unlikely that you’ll notice a difference, but the best way to avoid problems with disk performance is to make sure to allocate enough space in the Wubi setup screen, and defragment your entire hard drive before installing.  It’s recommended that you set aside a minimum of 10 gigabytes for a new installation, but the Wubi Installer should automatically choose an installation size to accommodate the new OS.

If you notice that Ubuntu is taking up too much space on your hard drive (or if you just don’t care for it) Wubi makes the uninstallation process easy as well.  Navigate to Control Panel/Programs/Programs and Features to remove it just like any other Windows program.

wubi-3

Trying Ubuntu has never been easier for Windows users, and most problems can be avoided by following the recommendations I listed above.  I certainly encourage using Wubi to test drive Ubuntu because it is very safe and easy to use.  Perhaps after trying Ubuntu, you’ll decide to take on a fully untethered installation in the future.

Let us know if you’ve tried Wubi, or any other thoughts by commenting down below!

Hulu Desktop Lets You Watch TV Online Without The Browser

huludesktopthumbHulu – the mega-popular TV and movie streaming site backed by NBC, Fox, and others – has just launched a desktop application for both Windows and Mac that allows you to stream all Hulu content on your PC.

Hulu Desktop adds support for Windows Media Center and Apple remotes, which will allow you to treat your PC as an entertainment center.  Like the Hulu website, Hulu Desktop requires Adobe Flash to be installed – however, the application is written natively for Windows and Apple so no other software is required.

One of the biggest benefits Hulu Desktop provides is the ability to turn your TV-connected computer into a replacement for cable TV.  Hulu broadcasts many mainstream TV shows about a day after they air, and by hooking your computer to a TV you’ll be able to watch them just like you would if you were paying for cable.

Hulu Desktop is currently in beta and is a part of Hulu’s newly-launched Labs site.  Even if you don’t have your computer connected to a TV, Hulu Desktop still provides an improved viewing experience without having to rely on your web browser.  For an overview of the software, check out the video below:

Hulu Desktop is a free download for Windows and Mac. [Download: Windows or Mac]

System Requirements:

PC

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 1.8GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124

Mac

  • Intel Pentium Core Duo 2.4GHz (or equivalent)
  • At least 2.0 GB RAM
  • Mac OS v10.4 (Tiger) or later
  • 2 Mbps Internet connection or greater
  • Flash 9.0.124

How To: Figure Out What svchost.exe Is Actually Doing

svchostthumWindows XP/Vista:  If you’ve ever dug around in your Windows Task Manager (available by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + ESC and clicking the Processes tab), you no doubt have noticed multiple instances of a process called svchost.exe.  Not only is the title of this process ambiguous, it typically exists as System, Network Service, and Local Service resources.

So what exactly are these processes doing, and are they safe to kill?  Svchost Process Analyzer is a free (and portable – no installation required) application that will analyze and identify all of the services that are currently running under the guise of svchost.exe.

How is this useful, then?  Although it isn’t typically safe to kill any svchost processes, many viruses and trojans (such as the Conficker worm) embed themselves into this process to avoid detection.  Even if you don’t find any malware in your svchost process, it still is interesting seeing what exactly your system is doing behind the scenes.

svchost4details

Svchost Process Analyzer is a tiny (400 kb), free download for all flavors of Windows.  [Download]