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Kim Komando column: Boosting home Wi-Fi signal can be easy, cheap fix

11:15 AM, Jul. 23, 2013  |  Comments
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Q: When I'm on the first floor of my home, my wireless signal is fine. However, it's a lot buggier when I'm on the second floor. Would a wireless repeater fix this?

A: It would, and you can find them for $30 or so online. You should try a few other fixes before you spend money, though. Try placing the router as close to the center of the house as you can get. It helps to place the router on a shelf or bookcase, and keep it away from walls and metal objects. In your router's settings menu, change the channel your router uses. The instructions are in your manual. This will decrease interference from other nearby routers. Use NetStumbler to see what channels nearby routers are using so you can pick a different one.

Q: I take a lot of photos with my phone. I'm tired of moving them to my computer to edit them, though. Are there any good photo-editing apps?

A: I know a few. If you want traditional cropping and retouching, look into apps like Snapseed, Photo Editing by Aviary or Photoshop Express. These have the style and many of the features of desktop photo editors. If you're looking for something quicker, you can use favorites like Instagram or similar filtering apps. These can add a unique look and feel to your photos that would take more effort to pull off in a desktop program. Once you've edited your photos, you can upload them to your social networks right from the app.

Q: My computer takes a long time to boot. Should I buy a solid-state drive to speed things up?

A: You can, but I bet you can speed up those boot times with a few free tweaks. Start with Autoruns. This program will analyze the programs that run when you first start your computer. It will help you turn off the ones you don't need without touching the ones you do. If that doesn't give back enough speed, try programs like Startup Delayer or TopWinPrio. These let you schedule when programs start so they don't all start at once. That reduces the strain on your computer and makes it more responsive.

Q: I'm going to take a trip to Italy soon. Are there any sites that can help me learn a foreign language for free?

A: There are plenty. Sites like Digital Dialects and BBC Languages allow you to play games and do other interesting activities to learn languages. There are more traditional learning methods, too. For example, FSI Languages has language courses developed for U.S. diplomats and soldiers. Of course, the best way to learn a language is through frequent practice. That's why I like LiveMocha. It's a social network that lets you teach someone your native language while they teach you theirs.

- Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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