Socket Visits the OSP Expo in Denver, CO


Four of our team members traveled out to Denver this week for the OSP Expo. They’ll be meeting with other information and communications technology vendors, as well as learning about the latest developments and best practices in the telecom industry.
  
Over 70 providers, from more than 30 countries, are expected to have representatives in attendance at the expo this year. It’s a great opportunity to learn about some of the challenges facing telecom providers internationally, as well as unique perspectives from other regional ISPs similar to Socket.
 
As we continue to expand our fiber network, it's crucial for our team members to continue learning about the field and all the latest developments. They plan to attend training sessions on testing fiber, network design and regulatory issues. 
 
We can't wait to hear what they've learned! More importantly, we can't wait to put that information to use in the coming months to help grow our network across mid-Missouri. 
 

Watch Out For Pop-Up Survey Scams!


We’ve recently gotten some reports of a pop-up claiming to offer free gifts or prizes on Socket’s behalf. These are 100% scams, and are not tied to Socket in any way.
 
Unfortunately, these types of scams are relatively common, and not limited to using just Socket’s name to elicit trust. Here’s some ways to spot this scam and similar ones:
 

Don't click it! This scammer is just using a template with fill-in-the-blank spaces.
This ad is NOT from Socket.

How it works:
 
Most people are aware that pop-up ads can be suspicious. So scammers attempt to make their ads look legitimate by adding in some personalized information – either related to a site you’ve recently visited, or information that can be gathered through your IP address. This info includes general geographic information (like your city or zip code), as well as your Internet service provider.
 
However, these ads can’t get too detailed – they still have to be generic enough to apply to everyone the scammer might want to target. So all this personalized information will be fill-in-the-blank. If a pop-up is claiming to be from a company you trust, but doesn’t include any logos or information other than a fill-in-the-blank company name, it’s probably a scam.
 
Other warning signs:
 
Not all survey scams will look exactly like this one. But there are a few things many of them share in common:
 

  • “Too good to be true”: Getting a free iPhone in exchange for a five minute survey is an incredible deal – one that should make you suspicious. Always be cautious of sites that offer any sort of prize. If they really had that sort of money, their ad would probably look a little more professional.
  • Missing Info: Is there an "About Us" page, or a physical address where you could find this company? Look for some sort of proof that the company actually exists, and isn't just a single webpage that could disappear overnight.
  • Generic: Rather than try for personalized information, some scammers will use “details” that actually apply to nearly everyone. For instance, scammers love mentioning your recent visit to Walmart.
  • Payment Required: Never, ever, ever enter in your credit card number or banking information. You should never have to give someone money in order to receive a prize. (No, not even for shipping and handling.)

Finally, if in doubt, call the company in question from a verifiable phone number. A few minutes could save you an identity theft headache.
 
Curious about some other tricks we've seen spammers try to use? Check out our previous post on phishers.

Still Having WiFi Problems? Try This!


Having WiFi woes? There are a variety of reasons your wireless speeds might be suffering, but if you’ve exhausted the abilities of WiFi extenders or just how close you can sit to your router, there’s another option for improving network performance.
 
Bear with us – while it can sound a bit technical, it really just breaks down to there being two kinds of WiFi networks. Not so bad, right?
 
There are two main frequency ranges used in WiFi networks – 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. While 2.4Ghz is far more common, there are certain advantages (and disadvantages) to using the 5Ghz range. Here’s a simple breakdown of how they differ:
 

2.4Ghz – A WiFi network operating on a 2.4Ghz frequency can broadcast very far, and isn’t affected much by walls, floors, or other physical barriers in your home. What does affect it, though, is everything else operating on that frequency. Many household items, like garage openers, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, use this same frequency – not to mention every other WiFi network nearby.
 
Houses are usually far enough apart that this isn’t an issue, but if you’re in an apartment building, dozens of separate WiFi networks and devices that close together can lead to mutually assured slow speeds.
 
5Ghz – This frequency doesn’t have the congestion issues that plague 2.4Ghz, meaning that even in a crowded building, your WiFi will work great (even as your neighbors bemoan their dropped connections).
 
However, because the frequency is higher, your network’s range is going to be much smaller. Additionally, you may find that physical barriers like walls or doors can have a noticeable difference on your signal strength.

 
If it sounds like 5Ghz is a better fit for your home WiFi network, there are two main things you’ll need to make sure of before you make the switch; your router needs to be able to support 5Ghz, and your devices need to be able to receive it.
 
Most routers are either 2.4Ghz only, or they are dual-band (meaning they support both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz). Check for the term “dual-band” on your router’s packaging, or do a quick Google search for your specific router model number.
 
What can be more difficult to determine is whether or not your devices can receive it. For many consumer electronics, it’s hit or miss; for instance, the iPad and many laptops produced in the last two years are dual-band. However, the iPhone, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and older laptops are not.
 
If you don’t have a lot of devices and still want to try out a 5Ghz network, USB adapters are available for your laptop that look a lot like a thumbdrive. Of course, you’ll then have a long bit of plastic perpetually sticking out of the side of your device.
 
If your WiFi issues are severe enough, that may be a fair tradeoff.

March 31st is World Backup Day!


In honor of World Backup Day, it’s a good time to double-check that all your important documents and files are saved and duplicated somewhere safe.
 
Backing up your computer, while occasionally time-consuming, is not too difficult (and certainly faster than trying to recover your stuff after a disaster!). However, many people only associate back-ups with computers… and you’re way more likely to send your cell phone through the washing machine than your laptop.
 
If you have valuable photos or other files on your phone or tablet, make sure those are backed up, too! Don’t worry – it’s usually not as much info as is on your computer, so this process can be as simple as “drag and drop.”
 

USB Drive – One simple way to make a physical backup is to copy all of your important files to a removable thumb drive. Place this somewhere safe, or use this to copy all of your files over to another device (like your computer).
 
Many smaller devices don’t have regular USB ports, but these days, it’s much easier to find a Micro USB flashdrive. Many, like these, can connect to either type of port. Make sure to go back every few weeks to add any new or updated files.
 
Cloud Storage – If you use a cloud storage service on your mobile device (and these days, one is usually included), you may already have some form of backup. If not, it’s easy to set up. Any files you add will then be stored online, ready to download back if you need them. Additionally, it makes it easy to access these files on any other devices you own.
 
Some free, common services include Google Drive and Dropbox. There are some storage limits on free accounts, but if you’d like to back up all your devices, premium accounts are also available.

 
Just a little effort now can save you a world of heartache if your devices are lost or stolen. To see some stats on how often these things happen, or to take the pledge to protect your stuff, visit www.worldbackupday.com.

Eliminate the WiFi "Black Hole" in Your Home


Almost everyone has experienced the dreaded WiFi “black hole” in the house, the place where you just can’t get a good signal. There are a few reasons why this happens, but luckily we have some recommendations to help.
 
First: The Why

Your home’s wireless Internet likely works via a wireless router, which uses your Internet connection to send data over the air waves. The air brings friction and interference that a hard-wired connection eliminates. As a result, your speeds will naturally slow down some over a wireless connection. The signal also gets weaker as your device (computer, tablet or television) gets farther from the router. This is typically an issue with your equipment, not your service provider.
 
Next: What to Do

Luckily, a few simple things can help with your black hole woes.
 
First, check your equipment. Older devices and routers aren’t capable of the same speeds as newer ones. If you lease your router from your Internet provider and are having trouble, ask about a replacement. But remember, a new router won’t do much good if your devices are more than a few years old.  
 
Second, consider moving your router. Since proximity results in a better, stronger connection, see if you can put your router in the area where you spend most of your time online. If you have DSL service, try moving your equipment to a different jack. If you have fiber services, moving equipment will be trickier, but it might be worth looking into.
 
But, what if you want to watch streaming TV in an upstairs bedroom at the same time the kids are playing the iPad in the basement? There are several neat little gadgets you can get to help boost the WiFi signal around your home.
 
Repeaters

Repeaters take the wireless signal and boost it from your router, helping bring stronger WiFi coverage to more areas. You simply plug the device into a power outlet in the area where you struggle to get a signal. Then connect the repeater to the router with the press of a button.
 
Click here to find wireless repeaters available from Amazon.
 
Home Hot Spot

The home hot spot functions in a similar way. Like a repeater, it comes with a WiFi extender which plugs into a power outlet.  The home hot spot, however, comes with Ethernet ports. That means you can hard-wire a device (like a smart TV) using a wired connection, eliminating the additional “over the air” signal loss. This would be your best option if you knew you wanted to hard-wire a device into the hot spot.
 
Click here to find home hot spots available from Amazon.
 
While it’s always ideal to hard-wire your devices directly to a modem or router to get the best possible speeds, wireless Internet provides so much more convenience and portability. With a few simple changes, you might just eliminate that WiFi “black hole” and get better connectivity throughout your home.

There’s a New USB Cable – And Get Used To Seeing It


By now, the USB cable, in all its many variations, has become commonplace. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single electronic device in your house that doesn’t feature at least one port. However, finding the matching cable can be a pain – and if you find yourself fumbling through a nest of cords to find the one your smartphone plugs into, you’re not alone.
 
Last week, Apple created headlines when it announced that its new laptop would feature only one (yes, one) USB port, which would also double as the power input. However, Apple went a step further and bet all its chips on a new standard – the USB Type C.
 
Wait, “Type C?”
 
The USB Type A – that is, the connector you find most often on laptops and computers – has been a gold standard since its inception in the late 90s. The use of USB thumb-drives only served to make this more commonplace, as they’re handy, portable, and can generally be plugged into most any computer.
 
The USB Type B connector is a more square-looking plug, and is generally used for larger, power-consuming devices. You probably have one of these on your printer or scanner – it’s how the printer receives both information and power.
 
Next came the Mini and Micro connectors; you’ll know these as the plugs that match your smartphone or smaller electronic devices. As it turned out, smartphones started becoming so thin that USB ports simply couldn’t fit. While the Mini is still in use, the Micro is more popular, especially with newer products.

From left to right: the Micro, Mini, Type-B, Type-A female, and the classic Type-A male connector.

 
So – that brings us to the USB Type C. A few of the problems it hopes to solve:
 

  • Size: It’s thin, and only about a third of the size of the original Type-A connector.
  • Universal: Theoretically, once it takes off, you’ll be able to use it on any new device. Plus, both ends will be the same. No more searching for the “right” end of the cord.
  • Reversible: Speaking of the “right” end, it will also be able to plug in from either orientation. No more rotating the cord or trying to figure out if it’s upside down.
  • Power: Unlike the old connectors, Type C can either send or receive power – and in much higher wattages than the old cables. You could use the same cable to charge either your laptop or your phone.

So far, the two high-profile devices using this new connector are the Google Chromebook Pixel (released in 2013) and the upcoming Apple Macbook. Both companies are also selling USB Type-A to Type-C converters for a little over $15.
 
How long until the new standard takes off? Here’s hoping that it’s sooner than later – we’ve got a tangled mess of cords to sort through in the meantime.

New Net Neutrality Proposal from the FCC


Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed what are arguably the strongest net neutrality rules to date – classifying Internet service as a utility, which would allow it to be regulated in much the same way as phone service.
 
While the full text has not been released yet, here’s what it looks like the proposal will do, based on the summary given:
 

  • Internet services providers cannot block or slow down content.
  • Service providers also cannot speed up or prioritize content in exchange for payment.
  • The proposal will NOT apply any sort of pricing regulation, fees or new taxes on Internet service.

While there is also no specific ban on data caps or throttling, the FCC would be able to intervene when those tactics are used to “harm consumers or competitors.” We’ll probably have to wait for the full proposal text to learn exactly what that means.
 
The FCC is scheduled to vote on this proposal at the end of the month – you can read the full statement from Chairman Tom Wheeler here.

Don't Fall for These Facebook Hoaxes!


Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. And definitely don't believe everything you read on Facebook! Here's a few of the latest hoaxes to float around on social media:

Keep Facebook from owning your photos (with legal mumbo-jumbo)!
 
This hoax has made a revival as of the new year, but it’s actually a few years old. Due to a “policy change,” Facebook is (supposedly) claiming ownership of everything you’ve ever posted to the site, including all photos. However, you can exempt yourself from this policy change by copy/pasting a wall of legal jargon to your Facebook page.
 
The problem is, there hasn’t been a policy change. Back in 2012, when this hoax first made the rounds, Facebook clarified that it hadn’t claimed copyright over anything, photos or otherwise.
 
Even if this hoax were true, that wall of text your friends are posting still wouldn’t do anything. Signing up for Facebook means accepting their terms of service – and you can’t just change that by posting something saying you don’t agree after the fact.
 
Facebook Now Requires an ID
 
Primarily spread through private message, this hoax made the claim that all users would have to submit a photocopy of an ID or birth certificate in order to keep their page. Users who did not comply, or users who had a name other than the one listed on their ID, would have their pages deleted.
 
This hoax pops up every few years, usually with nothing more than the deadline updated. First, no “official” Facebook notification is going to come in the form of a private message from Mark Zuckerburg. Second, the message is missing what should be the most important information – where to send your photocopied personal info.
 
(This is really for the best – and honestly, it’s probably only a matter of time before someone tries spreading this hoax as a way of collecting social security numbers!)
 
If Facebook really does have an important announcement, don’t worry – they’ll send you an official email instead.
 
Facebook is charging for service!
 
Here it is – the hoax so widespread that Facebook actually altered its homepage to combat it. Facebook has openly stated that at no point are they ever going to charge users to access their service.  And they’re not just saying that to be nice – financially, it would make no sense for them to do so.
 
Facebook makes their money by selling targeted ad space. The more information they have (for example, your interests, gender and age) the more valuable that information is to advertisers. But in order to acquire that information, they need users. Lots of them.
 
In other words, Facebook only makes money if you’re on their site. They have every incentive to make access free – and keep it that way.
 
Have you been forwarded any dubious Facebook claims lately? Let us know!

A Year In Review - Google Searches of 2014


At the end of each year, Google releases a compilation of the year's top searches. Which stories captured our attention, and what questions were we asking?

Here's a sampling of Google's year in review - to further explore all of the information available, visit www.google.com/trends.

Top Searches - US Top Searches - Global

 
 

Top Youtube Videos - Global Top Donation Searches - US

Do You Have a Weather Emergency Plan?


Hopefully this winter will be fairly mild, and snowstorms won’t be a worry. But we’ve had a few storms in recent memory that have made it difficult for employees to travel to work. When that happens, how do you keep business going as usual?
 
For some businesses (like ours), it’s actually fairly easy to stay open – even if no one’s able to leave their house. For instance, two years ago during a winter storm, only a handful of our call center employees were able to make it to the office. But with the help of our hosted phone system, the majority of our staff were able to answer calls and work from home. Our customers never noticed.
 
Because Hosted PBX functions from the cloud, rather than as a traditional phone system, there are multiple ways to route calls in the event of a weather emergency. From virtual phones on their laptops to seamless call forwarding, our employees were able to answer calls just as they would from work. And with the addition of VPN, our employees had everything they needed… plus the ability to work in pajamas.
 
If your business needs to answer the phone no matter what, make sure you know what your weather emergency plan is. Need some help coming up with one, or not sure what your options are? We’d love to help – give one of our business representatives a call at 1-800-SOCKET-3. Someone (probably not in pajamas) will be happy to walk you through your options.

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Who is Socket

Founded in 1994, Socket is a Missouri-based telephone and Internet service provider with the largest service area in the state.

Socket is a privately held company that provides families and businesses a choice for local and long-distance phone and Internet service. We combine the highest quality customer service with in-depth technical knowledge.

Our network serves more than 20,000 residents and businesses in more than 400 Missouri cities, and our customers enjoy simple billing and quick, friendly service.
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