Tag: family computing

Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad G50-70 laptop


I am reviewing the Lenovo G50-70 15” laptop which is a model that Lenovo are pitching as an affordable model for families to consider as the household laptop or a student who is wanting one to use for their studies and party life.

There are three different variants of this laptop model with this one offering an Intel i5 processor, 4Gb on the RAM and 500Gb on the hard disk. It also comes with AMD discrete graphics that work alongside the Intel integrated graphics in an “overdrive” fashion.

There is a cheaper variant that uses an Intel i3 processor and integrated graphics only while the premium variant offers an Intel i7 processor, the full discrete graphics treatment along with 8Gb on the RAM and 1Tb on the hard disk.

Lenovo Thinkpad G50-70 Laptop

– this configuration
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel i5-4200U cheaper
Intel i3-4005U
extra cost
Intel i7-4500U
RAM 4 Gb
extra cost:
8 Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 500Gb hard disk
extra cost:
1 Tb hard disk
DVD-RW burner, SDHC card reader
variants available
Display Subsystem AMD Radeon R5 M230 discrete graphics +
Intel HD integrated graphics

Intel HD4400 integrated graphics
2Gb Display memory
Screen 15” widescreen
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Dolby Digital Plus
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet 10/100 Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Modems Dial-up or wireless broadband
Connectivity USB 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
Video HDMI output, VGA
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack, digital output via HDMI
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

The Lenovo G50-70 Series is a well-built regular laptop with a charcoal grey finish like other products. It also exhibits the same level of durability that is associated with that name.

This unit hasn’t had heat build-up and you may be able to work with it on your knees. As well, I haven’t heard a fan kick in frequently while it is in operation.

User Interface

The Lenovo G50’s keyboard uses a chiclet design but is laid out for accurate touch-typing. It feels responsive and hard this having the proper tactile feedback. The function keys are offered as a default function without you needing to press the Fn key to gain that function – Alt-F4 to close a program is still Alt-F4 rather than Alt-Fn-F4.

The trackpad does its job properly but can, like most trackpads, be susceptible to being triggered accidentally in a bout of touch-typing. Personally, I would have a trackpad ovverride switch for those of us who use mice or do a long bout of touch-typing.

Audio and Video

Lenovo Thinkpd G50 laptop - Left-hand-side view - VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0

Left-hand-side view – VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0

Thanks to the use of dedicated graphics infrastructure, I would expect this variant of the Lenovo G50-70 to come up well with multimedia and games and it did so when I ran the DVD to test its battery runtime. Like most consumer laptops, there is the issue of a glossy screen which can perplex some users.

Audio, altuough being equipped with Dolby tuning, is typical for most laptops – small speakers that contest with other circuitry for sounding space.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Lenovo Thinkpad G50 laptop -Right-hand side view - Audio jack, SD card reader, USB 3.0. DVD burner

Right-hand side view – Audio jack, SD card reader, USB 3.0. DVD burner

The Lenovo G50 comes with 3 USB ports, two ofhich are USB 3.0 ports along with an audio in-out socket. You could connect it to external video displays and projectors using the HDMI or VGA sockets which can also suit use with older monitors and economy data projectors.

For network connectivity, you can connect to a wired Ethernet network using a “clothespeg-style” Ethernet connector similar to what has been used with the HP Envy4 series of computers and the Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider convertible connector. But the wired connection can only go up to 100Mbps which doesn’t allow for today’s next-generation broadband requirements. The Wi-Fi segment is a single-band 802.11g/n setup which will suit most home, work and coffee-shop wireless networks while you have Bluetooth 4.0 Low-Energy (Bluetooth Smart Ready) operation for wireless peripherals.

The 500Gb hard disk has the right capacity for most users and I am pleased that the whole series comes with a DVD burner, something that is starting to disappear in this day and age as far as secondary storage is concerned. Think of kids watching DVDs on the long journey, being able to share data via a very cheap optical disk or even loading some retail-box software like games still delivered on optical disk.

Battery life

The Lenovo G50’s battery life was very typical for most “mainstream” laptops where it could work for a long time on basic tasks but not so well for multimedia tasks. This was aided by the implementation of a dual-graphics setup which can be configured to prefer the integrated graphics for battery use.

I even run this for one and a half hours playing a DVD before the battery gave up the ghost. This was to see how it would handle activities like playing multimedia content while “on the road”.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Lenovo G50 Series could benefit from having a full Gigabit Ethernet port for wired networks while it could have at least dual-band 8802.11n Wi-Fi network abilities which would be now considered for today’s networks with the imminent arrival of next-generation broadband.

As well, for a family laptop, it could benefit from the same keyboard and trackpad design that the Thinkpad laptop range implement due to the ruggedness that was effectively built in to these models. This could be augmented with an override switch so you are not always triggering the trackpad.


Lenovo Thinkpad G50-70 laptop lidview

Unassuming lid view

The Lenovo G50-70 Series is really the laptop equivalent of a middle-of-the-road “family car” like a Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore sedan in Australia and New Zealand.  It is available in a range of models that can “do the job”with one offering baseline functionality, one offering what most people want and a premium model that has “all the fruit”. It is infact one of a few I would recommend for a household to consider as a candidate for the “family laptop” or for someone to consider as a personal “all-purpose” laptop.

Most families and students after this model could get by with the mid-tier package that I reviewed with it being able to do most “across-the-board” computing tasks.Those who are seeking performance or on-board storage capacity may find it better to head for the top-shelf model.

Attention: Look at this article to know how to remove the Superfish Visual Discovery adware from this machine.

Gadget List–Best bets for setting the family house up for the Internet


You may have read “Is it worth it to put full broadband in the family house”, which is an article that I wrote about going about setting up a fully-fledged home-network setup with wireline broadband at a house which ends up a “common property” for a family. Typically this place may be a house resided in by one or both of the parents or an occasionally-occupied “resource” property like a holiday house or city apartment.

Here I raised issues like the amount of “online” activity that would take place at this location, the availability of the full broadhand services including the packages and what kind of hardware to get if you go about this.

Your home network

Full broadband service

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

A router that is part of a full broadband service

Firstly, identify whether there is either a landline telephone service or a cable TV service in place at the “Family House”. To the same extent, it is worth identifying whether next-generation broadband is available at this location.

A landline telephone service with a regular telephone may be considered highly important due to the desire for a robust ermergency contact arrangement and will be essential to the operation of a medical-alert system if you are dealing with elderly parents who are at a fragile point in their life.

Here, look at the information provided by the telephone service provider or cable-TV company for packages which include the broadband Internet service along with the telephone or cable-TV service.  Some of these packages may also integrate mobile service for your parents or relatives living there. This is more so when you have elderly parents who are loyal to a particular service provider for most of their lives and are hesitant to change providers.

The cheapest Internet-service packages may only suit very casual Internet use such as daily email checking and Web-browsing where regular use of online games (Facebook games, MiniClip, MSN Games, etc) or multimedia (YouTube, Spotify, etc) aren’t part of that activity. A mid-tier service may be more relevant with a busy household, or regular use of Internet-based communications and entertainment like Skype, YouTube, Spotify or Internet radio is expected to be the order of the day. This also includes a “Family House” situation that has relatives or friends who are regularly stopping by as part of business travel or you have teenagers and young adults who regularly visit that location.

Internet Gateway Devices

This is an important piece of equipment when you are getting the “Family House” on to a full broadband service. Here, if you are supplying your own modem router for a cable or ADSL service, you can opt for “wires-only” / “bring-your-own-device” services where the provider can enable the device at the office rather than supplying the equipment.

Most modest retail-grade broadband routers and ADSL modem routers with simultaneous 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi LAN connectivity and four Ethernet LAN sockets would answer this need. If next-generation broadband is becoming very imminent, I would suggest that the router being purchased has Ethernet WAN connectivity and preferably have Gigabit Ethernet connectivity throughout.

You can get by with carrier-supplied equipment if it is known to work to a similar standard to the retail-supplied equipment. For example, if you are in France, you could get by with one of the newer triple-play “n-boxes” offered by Free or any of the other carriers there.

Network equipment

HomePlug AV segment

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch connected

The WD LiveWire HomePlug AV switch that fills in the network gap

A good practice with setting up the home network in this location is to create a HomePlug AV segment which uses the house’s AC wiring as its medium. This can be compliant to either the HomePlug AV 200Mbps standard or the newer HomePlug AV 500Mbps standard. The advantage of this medium is that it works on a wired medium without you needing to lay new wires, thus allowing you to set up a reliable semi-permanent network for fixed devices.

You can get going with this by purchasing a HomePlug AV kit and connecting one of the adaptors to the router and the other to another network device that uses an Ethernet connection in another room. These adaptors simply plug in to the nearest power outlet.

Here, the HomePlug AV multi-port switches like the WD LiveWire can come in to their own with clusters of AV equipment such as the TVs. This device provides a single on-ramp to the HomePlug AV segment for equipment like a smart TV, PVR and Blu-Ray player. As well, a spare single-port or multi-port “homeplug” adaptor can come in handy when you need to bring in a network-capable device on an “ad-hoc” basis. The example that I outline below is the situation where an adult child brings around a games console to either entertain the grandchildren or show off a game to his brothers.

HomePlug AV adaptor

A typical HomePlug AV adaptor that is worth keeping as a spare

Improving the Wi-Fi wireless segment

You may find that you don’t get good Wi-Fi wireless coverage across the house. This may be due to construction issues such as a thick brick or stone wall or extensive use of metal in the construction of a wall. Even the use of some heat-reflecting materials like Pilkington glass treatment or aluminium-lined insulation may affect radio waves that are part of a Wi-Fi wireless network.

You can answer this problem through the use of a Wi-Fi access point that is connected to your Internet router via a wired backbone such as the HomePlug AV segment. Infact there are some access points that connect directly to a HomePlug AV segment and effectively do their job as an extension access point.

On the other hand, you can repurpose an older router with the same wireless-network technology as your current Internet router as an access point. Here, you have to disable DHCP and allocate it a unique IP address within your network.

Computer equipment

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet

Sony VAIO Duo 11

Most portable and transportable computer equipment can work well in the “family house” to underscore the notion of lifestyle computing there. Here, I am thinking of the idea of using these computers around the house and out in the garden to manage email, news, media and similar activities.

  • Apple iPad (tablet, iOS, 10” 4:3 screen)
  • HP Envy x2 (detachable tablet, Windows 8, 11” widescreen) – review
  • Dell XPS 12 (convertible notebook, Windows 8, 11” widescreen)
  • Sony VAIO Duo 11 (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 11” widescreen ) – review
  • Toshiba Satellite U920t (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 12” widescreen)
  • Sony VAIO Duo 13 (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 13” widescreen)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (tablet, Android, 10” widescreen) – review
  • Sony VAIO Tap 20 (adaptable all-in-one tablet, Windows 8, 20” widescreen)
    Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

    Sony VAIO Tap 20 – an example of an “adaptive all-in-one” computer


  • HP Envy Rove 20 (adaptable all-in-one tablet, Windows 8, 20” widescreen)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 series (tablet, Android, 8.9” widescreen)
  • Google Nexus 10 Series (tablet, Android, 10” widescreen)


Network-capable multifunction printers work well for turning out hard-copy documents. Here, features like the availability of extra-yield cartridges as an option and auto-duplex (double-sided) printing are a must. As well, pay attention to units that use four or more ink cartridges and make sure that you can choose between standard-capacity and high-capacity cartridges so you can choose the capacity that suits the amount of usage your machine is going to have but cater for particular seasons of use.

Fax-capable printers can work as a good substitute to those economy “plain-paper” fax machines that use a thermal-transfer ribbon to print on to the paper which can be costly to run.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one inkjet printer

  • HP Envy 120 inkjet all-in-one (review) – a neat stylish all-in-one with duplex printing and its own email address
  • HP Photosmart 7520 inkjet all-in-one with fax – an elegant option that can offers photo printing, colour faxing and separately-replaceable cartridges so you can get rid of that old half-dead costly-to-run fax
  • Brother DCP-J925DW inkjet all-in-one without fax (review)  – an elegant machine that has basic A4 duplex print and a photo tray
  • Brother MFC-J825DW inkjet all-in-one with fax – similar to the DCP-J925DW but is equipped with the colour fax functionalityBrother DCP-J925DW multi-function printer
  • Brother MFC-J4410DW inkjet all-in-one – low-tier version of the MFC-J4710DW reviewed on this site

DLNA Home Media Network

The home network offers up plenty of resources for entertainment and, in some cases, communications. Here, it could be to create a reserve of content that can be “pulled up” and played at a moment’s notice or you simply pulling in content from an online resource like a catch-up TV service, Spotify or an Internet stream hosted by a radio station in your home country or country you love so much.

Network Attached Storage with DLNA

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS - an example of an entry-level NAS

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS

A network-attached storage device allows you to store and retrieve data via the network without having to keep a computer switched on all the time. Similarly, the computer doesn’t underperform due to it handling data that it keeps for other devices.

The ability to use common standards to add and view content is very important. For example, using the SMB standards to transfer content to and from a NAS is important if you use a portable computer based on a regular-computing operating system like Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Similarly, you can add a file manager to most Android and iOS devices so you can transfer files out between these devices and a NAS.

The DLNA requirement is important for whenever you want to gain access to audio, photo and video files from that smart TV or Blu-Ray player.

  • WD MyBook Live
  • Seagate Central
  • Seagate GoFlex Home (review)

Some Internet gateway devices have the ability to be connected to a USB hard disk and work also as a network-attached storage device. These typically provide SMB-compliant file transfer from regular computers and also have DLNA and / or iTunes media server functionality.

TV or video peripheral with DLNA and / or Skype

Here, I am covering either Internet-enabled TV sets which come in to their own if the goal is to upgrade one of the TV sets, especially any set installed in any of the main living areas. On the other hand, I would recommend using Internet-enabled video peripherals like Blu-Ray players / home-theatre systems, games consoles or Skype cameras where a TV is working very well and satisfying the current needs for the area it is installed in.

  • Most recently-built Samsung, Sony, LG or Panasonic smart TVs. These sets come with online video, DLNA player / renderer, and Skype functionality on most currently-built units, if not all of the units of the popular screen sizes. You could even consider the Skype cameras that the manufacturers make available for these sets so you can run them as a large-screen Skype videoconferencing terminal which is a feature I recommend for families separated by distance.
  • Panasonic Blu-Ray players especially the DMP-BDT220 which offers Skype and DLNA at a reasonable price for a good-quality machine even with the TY-CC20W Skype camera. The Panasonci SCC-BT480 Blu-Ray home-theatre system and similar models in the Panasonic lineup are enabled for Skype and DLNA, which can be of value if you are factoring in a home theatre system with the speakers in to the equation. These use the same Panasonic Skype camera to work as a Skype terminal and exploit the speakers so you can hear the people whom you are talking to clearly. More expensive models in this lineup offer the Viera Cast smart-TV functionality so you can enable other TVs to become smart TVs and have access to online content.
  • The Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray player (review)
    Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

    Sony BDP-S390 Network Blu-Ray Player – a Blu-Ray player that adds DLNA to an existing TV

    and the newer Sony Blu-Ray home-theatre systems add smart-TV functionality and DLNA connectivity to existing TV sets. But they don’t offer Skype connectivity which may put you back if you are thinking of Skype on your TV at affordable costs. The mid-range and premium Sony Blu-Ray players also are Skype ready with the same optional Sony camera if you are considering this function for your TV set.

  • The Logitech TV Cam HD Skype camera which simply adds Skype functionality to most flat-screen TVs.

Games consoles

Sony PS3 games console

Sony PS3 games console – best brought around as needed

You may think of keeping a games console connected to a TV at the “Family House” but this may work if you have a TV in a secondary lounge area and the console is going to be used by the grandchildren. On the other hand, one of the adult children who owns a games console can bring it to the “Family House” on an as-needed basis and connect it up to the TV there especially if the idea is to entertain the younger children.

But they would need to have it be part of the “Family House’s” home network and this setup routine for the Wi-Fi network only needs to be done the first time a Wi-Fi-equipped console is used there. On the other hand, the previously-mentioned spare “homeplug” can come in handy for linking a console that has an Ethernet socket on it to the home network. Of course, some older people may find that the games console would be difficult to use, including playing a game or navigating the user interface. These are best used when you are with the younger people who regularly play games on these devices.

Network-enabled music systems, wireless speakers and receivers

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled micro music system

Sony CMT-MX750Ni 3-piece music system

These music-system and receiver suggestions can fit the bill of you want something that can play content held on the DLNA-capable NAS or take advantage of online media resources such as Spotify or the “new short wave” i.e. Internet radio.

  • Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system. (review) This system has FM and DAB+ for regular broadcast radio, a CD player as well as an iPod dock. But it can work with DLNA-hosted media content as well as online music services including Internet radio.
  • Sony CMT-SBT300WB music system – This is anther 3-piece music system that follows on from the CMT-MX750Ni music system but uses Bluetooth local connectivity as an audio path as well as being able to connect to your home network and supporting AirPlay functionality for Apple devices.
  • Denon CEOL and CEOL Piccolo music systems (review).
    Denon CEOL music system (Image courtesy of Denon)

    Denon CEOL music system

    These systems work as part of the DLNA Home Media Network and can pull in online music sources including Internet radio and Spotify. They also have an iPod dock and support Apple AirPlay but the CEOL also has a CD player and FM radio tuner.

  • Onkyo TX-8050 Stereo receiver. If you are thinking of a stereo receiver rather than a home-theatre surround receiver, this Onkyo unit can also provide access to
  • Most home-theatre surround-sound receivers that are placed in the mid-tier of the market also come with home network abilities including DLNA, Spotify, Internet radio and the like.  But listening to audio-focused content on a lot of these systems typically requires you to use the TV to navigate for the content.
  • Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock (review).
    Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

    Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

    This is one of a few iPhone speaker docks that connect to the home network as a wireless speaker for Airplay and DLNA-capable mobile devices or an Internet radio, yet yield that high-grade sound.

  • Boston Acoustics MC-i200 Air wireless speaker (review). One of a few wireless speakers that excel on the sound but works primarily with your home network.
  • Denon Cocoon speaker docks – A more affordable speaker-dock setup that doubles as an Internet radio or can accept the popular iPhone 4S or iPod Classic.
  • Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker (review) – A DLNA / AirPlay wireless speaker that can be used around the house and doubles as an Internet radio
  • Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker (review) – A highly-portable DLNA / AirPlay wireless speaker with Internet radio functionality that runs on its own batteries thus being appealing for the garden or other outdoor use.

Network audio devices

NAD C448 network media tuner

NAD C448 network media tuner connected to an amplifier

These units can be connected to a regular stereo or home-theatre system via a vacant line-level input to serve as an audio-focused network media player. They also have an integrated broadcast-radio tuner which you may use in lieu of the FM or AM tuner that is part of your system or could replace a regular tuner component for broadcast-radio reception.

  • Sangean WFT-1 FM/DAB+/Internet network audio tuner – An economical way to add digital broadcast radio, Internet radio and network-hosted audio to your sound system
  • NAD C448 FM/AM/DAB+/Internet network audio tuner – The first “full-band” hi-fi tuner and network audio adaptor with serious hi-fi credentials
  • Onkyo T-4070 FM/AM/DAB+ Internet network audio tuner – Onkyo’s “full-band” tuner and network media adaptor for the hi-fi system
  • Denon DNP-720AE FM/AM/Internet network audio tuner – A similar “FM/AM/Internet” tuner with network media playback for the hi-fi system.
  • Yamaha CD-N500 Network CD player – This CD player can come in handy with a sound system or speaker dock by being able to play CDs as well as tuning in to Internet radio or playing content held on your network-attached storage


Of course, there are better and newer devices that would fill the needs for a house that either serves as an older parent’s residence or commonly-resource property as well as a family hub.

Is it worth it to put full broadband in the “family house”?

What is the “Family House”?

The “Family house” is typically a  house, that is usually resided in by one or two older parents where the children have “left the nest”. The adult children and their grandchildren regularly visit this house to see the parents and, in most cases, they stay in this house on a temporary basis. In a lot of situations, family friends will end up visiting or staying over at this house in the company of the family members.

Such situations typically include the children who normally are out of town coming in to town for business, leisure or to attend family events; the children seeking temporary accommodation while their house is being built or renovated, or are between houses. It may also include the “family house” being close to a place of study which a grandchild is enrolled at and the grandchild stays there while completing a course of study. As well, the parents typically end up caring for the very young grandchildren in this house while their children work or undertake other activities.

This concept may also extend to any occasional-use accommodation that the family shares responsibility in maintaining, like city apartments or holiday / seasonal houses. In the latter situation, a household or the whole family ends up staying in this accommodation.

Common practice with IT at these locations

Compaq Presario CQ42

Compaq Presario CQ42 entry-level laptop

In these places, there may not be an intention to have full Internet service at these houses because the main householder may not be a regular Internet user. But what can happen is that other people in the house make regular use of the Internet. This would typically be achieved through each device that other people bring in using a mobile-broadband service for their Internet.

A small number of portable devices that someone owns can be served with this kind of Internet connection using a “Mi-Fi” mobile router or a smartphone that implements a “personal hotspot” mode.

A significant cost difference

But this may only work best with one rarely-used device on the premises. This is because most of the wireless-broadband services work on bandwidth that is narrower than wireline broadband services like cable-modem or ADSL services.

As well, the tariff charts for these services are typically more expensive than most of the wireline broadband services. Here, you end up paying more for the same bandwidth allowance and usage quota than you would for a cable or ADSL broadband service of equivalent standard or, for the same money you pay for a wireless-broadband service, you would obtain more bandwidth and usage quota.

Should I establish the full home network here?

It would be worth it to establish the full home network with a fixed broadband service if there is at least one Internet terminal that is used regularly by at least one of the parents, a relative or another regular houseguest. The Internet terminal, which can be a desktop, “all-in-one” or laptop / notebook computer or a tablet MID like the iPad, can be either owned by the parent or a regular houseguest like the grandchild who is staying regularly at that location.

The Internet deals commonly available

The common marketing practices amongst most wireline broadband Internet providers who run a voice telephony or multichannel pay-TV service is to offer a sweet deal where the customer benefits from reduced service costs if they have their telephony or TV service provisioned by this Internet provider. Some of these deals are provided as “triple-play” packages especially if all services come through the one physical line.

If you are in a highly competitive Internet-service market like UK, Australia or France, you may find these deals being offered at some very attractive prices that make you not even think twice about signing up.

I often suggest that people take advantage of these abovementioned offers when choosing their Internet service for these locations because this may help with saving money on this service. These deals will usually be advertised in brochures that accompany the regular bill for the phone or pay-TV service that they currently are subscribed to.

In some houses where there are older people who don’t use the internet frequently, one or more younger people who make use of the Internet could incite the older people to make increased use of the Internet. This can be done by the younger person sharing their computer with them, demonstrating various Internet and computing skills and assisting the older person with these skills.

As well, you may find that there are new media paths being opened up by a home network associated with a wireline Internet service in the “family house”. Examples of this include use of Internet radios that pick up the Web feeds of overseas and obscure radio stations as well as access to Internet TV through the use of a compatible TV or set-top box and music, pictures or video on-demand through the house with cost-effective equipment.

It also includes the like of Netflix or Spotify as content services; along with TV stations offering catch-up / video-on-demand services that can even be viewed through the big-screen TV with an appropriate set-top box.

Who should bear the extra costs

Issues that may come up include whether the houseguests like the children should cover any extra costs associated with use of a full broadband Internet service at the “family house” if the main householder isn’t the one using that service. This may be of little impact to the guests because the wireline broadband services will be relatively cheaper than running a wireless broadband service which just services one computer.

Establishing the full home network

The network-Internet “edge”

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

You may have to make sure that you use a wireless router if you have a laptop computer or other portable Internet device on the premises as the network-Internet “edge”. Most of these devices are for sale at very affordable prices and you could get one through your Internet service provider as part of your broadband Internet deal. As well, I have written a buyer’s guide about the entry-level wireless routers. The limitation with most of the units supplied by your Internet service provider is that they may yield average performance and may not offer the functionality as a retail-supplied unit.

Assuring proper wireless coverage

Some houses that have interior walls made out of double-brick or stone may have problems when it comes to operating a wireless network. This is something I have touched on in this Website many times and can be handled with an auxiliary access point installed in the area where wireless-network coverage is below par and connected to the router via an Ethernet or HomePlug wired backbone as explained here.

Or pay attention to newer distributed-WiFi setups that are increasingly being offered by many network-hardware manufacturers and Internet service providers. They will have a router and at least another access-point module and are designed to be simple to set up and manage and spread the Wi-Fi coverage around the house. Most of these setups rely on you using a particular range of equipment offered by the same manufacturer but pay attention to devices that are compatible with Wi-Fi EasyMesh technology. These will allow you to use equipment offered by different manufacturers as long as it works to this standard. If you are in Australia and sign up to fixed broadband service through Telstra, you may find that your Smart Modem Generation 2 modem-router that they supply you supports Wi-Fi EasyMesh.

It is also worth knowing about how to encompass outbuildings like bungalows in to the scope of the home network, a reality which will be of importance for country or outer-urban properties. Here, I have written a good feature article on how to achieve this goal in a manner that is best suited to your particular scenario.


As well, when you need to install or upgrade the printer, you may need to go for a unit that has network connectivity of some sort. If the main computer device happens to be a tablet computer, you may have to look at a printer that is supported by an app or the tablet’s operating system. You may also have to make sure your printer supports AirPrint and Mopria driver-free printing functionality so it can print from mobile devices running iOS or Android.

Brother DCP-J562DW multifunction printer positioning image

Brother DCP-J562DW multi-function printer

You don’t have to have a machine with all the “bells and whistles” if it is not going to be used regularly – here an economy-level network capable printer may just suffice. Even so, you should prefer a printer that uses separate colour cartridges rather than the tri-colour cartridge because you won’t be wasting colour ink if one colour runs out.

There is an exception if the house has a regularly-used fax machine. Here, you could replace the fax machine with a network-enabled multifunction printer which has integrated fax capabilities. Again, these would be much more cheaper to run than the typical older “thermal-belt-driven” fax machines that some households still consider as fax machines.

Network-attached storage devices

It may be worth considering the purchase of a one-disk network-attached-storage device at a later time as the network is used more. This may allow for pooling of common files like driver files for various peripherals as well as a backup storage for data held on one or more of the computers.

As well, most of these devices provide media-server functionality for Apple iTunes and standards-based DLNA setups so that your pictures, videos and music can be “pulled up” on demand. This may work well as a central media store which can be used as a way of “offloading” the media from a computer’s hard disk or making it available to everyone at all times without the need to have a computer on all the time.

This function will become more relevant as more consumer AV equipment becomes equipped with some form of network connectivity and is able to play or show AV content from the Internet or media servers like these network-attached storage devices. Infact I have covered this topic very heavily on this site and you can look at this article here as it pertains to these devices as media servers.


I would recommend that you look at the value of providing a full home network with wireline broadband service to the “family house” if you notice that there is a strong likelihood of regular Internet use there.


This article has been updated on September 2020 to encompass newer trends affecting Internet at the “family bouse” including distributed Wi-Fi setups, more online audio and video and printers supporting AirPrint and Mopria.

Social-networking sites help families in touch

 Networking sites help families in touch | The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

My comments on this topic

This article describes how the social-networking site is existing in the context of keeping the family in touch. A common but obvious application may be a teenager who is travelling overseas during “gap year” or a child who is on an exchange-student placement or similar program wanting to keep “home” up to date with whatever is going on during their travels.

Similarly, some users use these services as another tool to keep in touch with long-distance relatives and friends. This can help in reducing the number of long-distance phone calls needed to keep in regular touch.

The article talked of the possibility of parents doing something embarrassing on the teenager’s Facebook or MySpace page such as putting up embarrassing photos best reserved for the 21st or making embarrassing comments about the child’s status updates or photos, which could lead to parents and teenagers not establishing the electronic friendships that are part of the social networking service. It talked of adopting a “look but don’t touch” attitude to these pages and only commenting if you have something witty to say for example. If you do need to contact them directly, use the social-networking service’s direct-messaging function or, if they are online, use the text chat function. These techniques can also be used to set up a VoIP chat session using Skype, Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger.

Other key factors that I have observed is the technological confidence barrier that exists between the young and the old, especially those didn’t experience computer technology in their younger lifetime. This is often exacerbated through fears of privacy abuse, the shock of others knowing your wider circle of friends and relatives amongst other things when using a social-network site.

Similarly, some of these social networks are now partnering with most application and content-delivery platforms to provide a direct interface to electronic picture frames, smartphones / PDAs, set-top boxes and similar devices. This may be in the form of a “widget” or server-updated slide; direct-link to a suitably-sized Web front; or a client-side application; and can allow a summary view of what is going on with Facebook from these devices. Some of the applications may allow a quick update or photo upload from the device’s user interface. These can be useful for monitoring what is going on with your family at all times without needing to visit the desktop or laptop computer regularly.

Once you can understand what the social network site is all about, you can then use it as another tool for keeping your family circle together.