5 Hacks to Speed up Streaming

A lot more people are streaming movies today than a year or even a few months ago.

The mass migration from traditional formats to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video has brought us the gift of convenience but also technical hurdles.

As much as streaming is becoming the way to go, one can only enjoy the experience when they stream without pausing, re-buffering, and other interruptions. Thus, there are two major categories of persons that stream movies: those that enjoy the best speeds and those that struggle with getting decent speed when they stream. This article highlights hacks one can implement to move from the latter category to the former category.

Fix plugins: Current browsers are equipped with plugins for a wide array of different purposes. As much as certain plugins can guarantee a higher streaming speed, other plugins can be a drag when one streams. Here’s how to balance the good and bad effects of plugins.

Plugins still have a cost to performance when not in use. When a plugin is inactive but installed, it could affect the user’s streaming speed. Thus, it is important to uninstall all plugins that are not in use as they can negatively affect streaming speed.

Plugins are best when updated. Thus, to achieve high-speed streaming, it is essential to update plugins. Different bugs are typically fixed with the updated versions of plugins, and this ensures smooth streaming as well as less crashes and time-outs.

Clear caches and temporary files: When a person visits a web page, a lot of activities occur behind the scenes to enable the user to view that page. Such activities include the downloading of temporary files. These files are typically deleted by the browser when the web pages are closed before one exits the browser or shuts down the device in the case of a computer.

However, in some cases, one does not close the web pages properly before exiting the browser, and the files which would have been automatically deleted by the browser are stored. The buildup of these files reduces browser performance, which includes streaming tasks. Thus, to ensure the best streaming speed, one must delete temporary files and clear the browser history. That way, the browser activity is not unnecessarily reduced.

Switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet: As much as Wi-Fi is the go-to Internet connection for streaming movies, slow or spotty Wi-Fi can cause streaming issues. With Wi-Fi, one makes wireless connections to their router, and this wireless connection does not offer as much speed as is available on the router to the user. When the wireless connection is swapped for a wired connection such as with Ethernet cable, a user gets the best speeds possible. Let’s say one uses a 10Mb/s router. With a wireless connection to that router, they may receive about 50% of that speed. A wired connection such as with Ethernet cables gives the user at least 70% of the speed of the router. So, all you may need to do is to switch Wi-Fi for Ethernet cables. Your device will get better speeds when you make that switch.

Turn off auto-update features: The different operating systems on devices, from Android to Windows, offer auto-update options. With this option enabled, newer versions of applications are downloaded as soon as they are available with special consent from the user. Thus, when the auto-update feature is turned on, apps could check for updates or update in the background when one engages in other activities such as streaming. This background activity can impair streaming performance.

To stream high-quality videos, it is thus advisable to turn off the auto-update feature. Alternatively, one can check for updates regularly and download updated versions of the apps at the most convenient time.

Reduce device load: This hack is somewhat applicable to other settings. The more individuals that share a resource, the lesser the quantity and quality of the resource each participant will get. Here’s how this “principle” is related to the quality of movies one streams. When many devices are connected to a router, the streaming speed reduces because of the device load. For faster streaming, it is advisable to reduce the device load on a router. So if you’re experiencing issues with streaming, make sure others in the home aren’t using the internet heavily at the same time.

Finally, everyone deserves to stream high-quality videos, and with these hacks, you’re sure to enjoy a better movie-watching experience.

Photo: PresidenciaRD

Privacy Showdown: Firefox vs Chrome

Web Browser Giants

Among many browsers available today, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are the two most popular and prominent web browsers. This was achieved because they both deliver a fast, seamless user experience, whether you are browsing for business, carrying out research, or binge-watching foodie videos on YouTube.

In 2004, Firefox was launched, four years before the initial release date of Chrome. Mozilla runs Firefox, which is a non-profit organization advocating for a “healthy” internet. Mozilla was spawned to build an internet in an open-source protocol that gives everyone access where security and privacy are factored in. This is unlike Chrome’s privacy policy, which engages in storage of your browsing data locally except when you are signed into your Google account, enabling the browser to send the same information to Google.

Chrome also allows 3rd-party websites to gain access to your IP address and use cookies to access information tracked on the site. So if privacy is a priority for you, be aware of the browsers that support websites that enable other companies to track your online activities. You may want to switch to a browser that does not use your data at all and also will not to sell it to advertisers.

Firefox’s private browsing mode also has a feature called “origin referrer trimming,” where the browser automatically deletes the information about which site you’re coming from when you land on the next page. It is obvious that since Mozilla’s motivations are fundamentally different from Google’s, the Firefox developers have leeway to make these privacy-first decisions

If you are not sure which browser to choose for privacy and other factors, additional points to consider are below:

Protecting Your Privacy

The Firefox privacy policy specifies what kind of data can be collected, and what the data is used for, while on the other hand Google is basically a data collection company. So, if you are concerned about Google knowing every aspect of your browsing habits, then Firefox may be a better option.

Mozilla made a call-to-arms in an effort to promote online privacy for internet users in 2014, which is fighting for greater data privacy — ensuring that people know who has and are accessing their data. Mozilla believes in giving the public the choice to decide where their data goes. This is a plus for Firefox which runs the open-source program, so we don’t have to worry about a corporation trying to monitor our movement and online activities we carry out.

Chrome Extensions That Are Also Firefox Extensions

Firefox supports Chrome extensions. Google Chrome, sometime ago was the leader in extensions. However, with Firefox 48, Mozilla provides stable support for WebExtensions, which now allows developers to create extensions once and have them work in multiple browsers – a cross-browser API. With WebExtensions, Chrome extensions are installed by Firefox after Chrome Store Foxified is installed.

Firefox has several unique extensions that are unavailable to Chrome users but Chrome has a larger collection of extensions. One example is Tree Style Tab. This extension lets you organize tabs into a tree-based hierarchy and turns the tab bar into a sidebar that can be shifted around at will.

Synching Browser Data on Your Devices

On the issue of synchronization, with Firefox, all the content on your PC can also be seen on your mobile phone or other devices. You can also use Google’s extensions to get more out of it.

Personalisation Options

You can download and install completely different themes to change the browser’s appearance. This is in addition to tweaking the general appearance and moving features around. You can even create a mirror image, having a similar feel of other browsers with FXChrome and MX4

Unlike the Chrome browser, every one of them looks closely identical, even while it’s running on different devices and operating systems.

Speed versus Battery Usage

Chrome processes webpages faster than Firefox, hence using more of your system CPU than Firefox. Greater usage of CPU generally results in faster load times and smoother performance. However, this is not without a cost. Slightly quicker processing comes at the expense of battery life. Arguably, Firefox is still pretty snappy and is therefore better with respect to battery life since it consumes less power. From the task manager, you will easily identify that several fields are exclusively dedicated to Google browser; this reduces the performance of other open tabs, whereas Firefox allows about three tabs per process. It’s a subtle difference with light use, but power users with top-notch machines will appreciate Google’s approach. Do you value speed over battery life? The choice is yours.

Cloud Data Storage: Actually Private?

Your data is stored on 3rd party servers when you use Google Chrome. If you use Firefox Sync features, Firefox stores your private data on its Sync server as well. However, since the data is encrypted locally only your install of Firefox can decrypt and read it.

Tab-Heavy Users: Hungry for RAM

When you do not have many open tabs Chrome uses less RAM than Firefox. Firefox on the other hand scales better than Chrome the moment you reach about eight tabs or more. So, Firefox is more advantageous for heavy users who are likely to regularly have 20 or more tabs open.

When using Chrome, you are not likely to see each one when many tabs are loaded but while using Mozilla, it has a horizontal scroll that allows you see what’s on screen all the time.

The two applications show different RAM usage when tested in opening multiple tabs, with Firefox showing better performance with more tabs open.

The Verdict

While Chrome and Firefox perform the same basic service, the browsers’ developers approach to their design is quite different in some ways because one organization has to serve an end determined by other organizations, and the other doesn’t. That means Firefox’s privacy mission is in conformity with its users interest. The browser is explicitly designed to help people navigate the convenience versus privacy conundrum.

Note that many Firefox browser extensions are basically built for Chrome. Some of these are notorious for causing the browser to crash, although Mozilla also builds extensions you can use exclusively on Firefox. After the Facebook scandal, Firefox released an extension called the Facebook Container, which allows you to browse Facebook or Instagram normally, but prevents tracking from Facebook, to show its transparency policy.

Ultimately, the choice of browser is up to you and whichever one you choose is determined by your preference and interest. That being said, Firefox is technologically inferior to Chrome in some ways but in terms of privacy Mozilla’s browser takes first place.

Graphic: downloadsource.fr

Top VPN-Ready Routers for your Home Network

Once the domain of networking specialists in a business setting, routers with VPN capabilities built-in are now accessible to everyone.

There are other options for enabling a VPN at the router level. However none are as elegant for the average home user or small business.

You can buy a router from FlashRouters with business-class DD-WRT firmware installed for you or install it yourself. However going this direction isn’t recommended unless you are comfortable with the added complexity it will add to running a home network.

For most people it makes more sense to choose a hardware solution with simple, intuitive firmware that is VPN-ready out of the box.

VPN-Friendly Brands

Many of the top router brands are lagging behind by failing to add VPN features to their products aimed at consumers. Asus and Synology are the exception. Both are consistently releasing feature-rich routers that allow you to easily connect to a VPN service.

This guide focuses on the brands that offer VPN features across their product line. This empowers you to choose a specific router based on your needs. And to make things easier a “top pick” was chosen from both Asus and Synology camps.

Router You Need vs. One You Want

Accessing the Internet through a VPN uses up more of the router’s resources than a regular connection. Consequently, pay special attention to the CPU specs. A dual core processor running at 800 MHz or greater is recommended. This is to ensure the router CPU doesn’t bottleneck the performance of web-browsing, torrents, and downloads.

You need a capable router if you plan to use a VPN, but if taken too far you’ll overpay for a router with horsepower you’ll never tap into. If you live in a very large house, have a big family and/or ISP offering a bleeding-edge connection speed, going high-end may be worth it. However, you don’t need one of the beefiest models just to connect to a VPN.

Asus Wi-Fi Routers

With competitive prices, a wide selection of routers, and deep VPN capabilities across the board, Asus is a good place to start your search.

AsusWRT is the stock firmware preinstalled on Asus routers. It supports OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP encryption protocols.

Although not as cutting-edge on the software side as Synology, Asus knows hardware. They’ve been a major player in computer hardware since 1989.

Asus RT-AC68U (AC1900) (800 MHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC3200 (1.0 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC3100 (1.4 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC5300 (1.4 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus RT-AC86U (AC2900) (1.8 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Asus GT-AC5300 (1.8 GHz – quad core with AES-NI) [Amazon]

Top Pick: Asus RT-AC86U

Despite its playful exterior meant to appeal to gamers, this is a serious router. It’s powerful enough to cover very large homes and brings cutting-edge tech to the masses.

Asus boasts blistering data transfer speeds up to 2900 Mbps. The Wi-Fi signal is transmitted dual-band (2.4 + 5 GHz) via the latest 802.11ac MU-MIMO technology. That’s an impressive feat considering the reasonable price point.

Inside there’s a 1.8 GHz dual core processor, 512 MB of RAM, plus 256 MB of flash storage.

Synology Wi-Fi Routers

Synology is primarily known for their excellent NAS solutions. Nevertheless the company managed to impress tech enthusiasts with their first router, the RT1900AC, and they’ve built upon that foundation by adding the powerhouse RT2600AC and then mesh-friendly MR2200AC.

The easy-to-navigate Synology Control Panel allows you to painlessly setup and connect to a VPN service. There is comprehensive protocol support, which includes OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.

This interface is like a sleek mini-OS dedicated to your router. And it’s a fresh yet familiar approach.

Synology RT1900AC (1.0 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Synology MR2200AC (717 MHz – quad core) [Amazon]

Synology RT2600AC (1.7 GHz – dual core) [Amazon]

Top Pick: Synology RT2600AC

The RT2600AC is Synology’s flagship. It improves on their first router the RT1900AC in every way. A formidable unit and with four antennas, the gargantuan appearance is matched by good performance.

MU-MIMO and the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 standard is supported, giving the router a top speed of 800Mbps and 1733Mbps on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios respectively.

It’s powered by a dual core 1.7 GHz CPU and has 512 MB of DDR3 memory.

Wrapping It Up

Home users are ready for routers with VPN features, but open-source firmware solutions like DD-WRT may not be ready for them. That’s because technical know-how is still needed to gain the rich feature set.

Asus and Synology have managed to balance ease-of-use with advanced features. So while many are focused on router hardware specs, the importance of superior firmware can’t be ignored.

How to Hide your IP on Nintendo Switch (with a VPN)

Switch is packed with great online features.

Challenge a buddy at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with online play. Then use the Smartphone app to send him a playful message after running him off the road.

You can also download classic NES titles, or take advantage of cloud storage to protect your save data.

Not bad for $35 USD a year and light-years ahead of the online features included with Nintendo’s previous consoles: Wii and Wii U.

Top Two Ways to Hide your Identity

Sony’s PS4 and Xbox One allow users to hide their IP by adding a VPN in the console’s OS. Nintendo has no built-in features like this.

Luckily there are other methods to cloak your identity when connecting to Nintendo Switch Online. Simply use the VPN features built into your router or a Windows 10 machine.

First, Choose a VPN Service

A VPN (virtual private network) is needed to connect to the Internet anonymously with Nintendo Switch.

This means you’ll need to sign up to a VPN service to complement your Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Luckily VPNs that are both inexpensive and fast are easy to come by these days.

The top VPNs are reviewed here. Don’t pull the trigger until you compare them all to choose the best one for your needs.

Enabling a Switch VPN with Windows 10

Many will find they’re more comfortable with turning on the VPN for Switch via a PC rather than risking configuration woes by doing it with a router.

Note that your Windows box needs to be able to connect to the Internet wirelessly for this approach to work.

  1. Right click on the Start button. A contextual menu will appear. Select ‘Network Connections’ from this menu.
  2. On the left of the new window you’ll notice list of options below ‘Network & Internet.’ Click on VPN.
  3. Make sure you have signed up with a VPN service and have the login credentials needed to connect to it.
  4. Click on the option to ‘Add a VPN connection’ with a large plus sign next to it.
  5. Complete the form with the info provided to you by your VPN service provider. Click the ‘Save’ button.
  6. If your PC has wireless capability you’ll see a ‘Mobile Hotspot’ option at the left of the window. Change the login info and turn it on. If you’re experiencing any issues, try restarting your machine then opening and closing it until it functions correctly.
  7. Click on ‘Ethernet’ then click ‘Change adapter options’ listed under ‘Related settings.
  8. Right click on the VPN connection you created earlier, then click on ‘Properties.’
  9. Click on the ‘Sharing’ tab. Check the box that states “Allow Other Network Users to Connect…” In the dropdown box for network connections select the desired Wi-Fi hotspot (It might be Local Area Connection* #).

Congrats! You’re ready to use your Nintendo Switch online with your IP address hidden.

Users have also successfully connected their Switch to a VPN via a PC with a wired connection, as well as an Android phone. The instructions are cloudy but you can read more in the replies to this post on Reddit.

Enabling a Switch VPN with your Router

Turning on a VPN service with your router is also a great option, especially if you’re a technically adept user.

The precise steps in configuring the router’s software vary depending on the manufacturer. In essence you need to find the correct place to enter your VPN address, username and password so your hardware can route the Internet connection through the VPN.

Every good VPN provider has a knowledge base on their website that steps you through the process of configuring a wide variety of routers to use their service. It’s recommended that you check this first for the most up-to-date instructions.

Here are links to the support pages associated with some of the best VPN services:

Majora’s Mask

Although Nintendo doesn’t officially provide an interface to utilize a VPN, it’s fairly easy to set up anyhow. It’s basically the same process as hiding the IP on a PC.

This guide should provide everything you need to anonymously dominate at Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and other multiplayer titles.

Best Chrome Extensions that Protect Your Privacy

From ad and tracker blocking, HTTPS, advanced proxy to interfacing with the Tor network, the right extensions can turn Chrome into a dream machine.

It’s time to stop passively allowing corporations, shifty sites and shady third parties to feast on any private data they can manage to grab. Now that you’re on to them, arm yourself with some of the following top privacy-enhancing extensions for your browser.

AdBlock

Browsing history, cookies and other various data is exploited aggressively by Advertisers. So that gas barbeque you showed a fleeting interest in will definitely be showing up again in cube ads – haunting you for days. Changing your privacy settings on the most common offender’s sites makes a difference, but who has the time?

Adblockers are the most popular extensions out there and AdBlock continues to be the dominant force in this arena. Big boys in tech have devised methods to force their ads to display even when AdBlock is enabled. However, it’s still a great way to generally declutter your Web experience.

Ghostery

Almost every major site out there uses cookies and tracking technology, and it builds a profile of you based on your activity. Worse, there are suspicious third parties with malicious agendas far worse then just attempting to sell you the latest widget.

Ghostery finds every instance of trackers embedded on the sites you visit. It then gives you the ability to tailor how you handle these trackers depending on the level of trust you have for the site in question.

HTTPS Everywhere

Major sites have made the switch to beefed-up HTTPS security but many smaller operations haven’t caught up. This means ISPs can easily access your browsing on these sites if laws allow in your country.

Big names in anonymity software EFF and the Tor Project have joined forces to give web users a secure experience on every site. Insecure HTTP sites are automatically converted to secure HTTPS thus preventing surveillance, account hijacking, as well as some varieties of censorship.

Proxy SwitchyOmega

SwitchyOmega provides an alternative to digging though the advanced setting section in Chrome, and the chore of filling and clearing proxies in the config dialog of your OS. This is a powerful, timesaving idea for power users, because just one proxy server will often not get you very far, especially the free variety. Enter all your proxy servers IPs, plus port, protocol, then switch between them quickly with a mere click.

Kronymous

Formerly called KroTor, this extension allows you to access the Tor network. It’s a more advanced alternative to the easy-to-use Tor Browser that requires no configuration and works out of the box. Tinkerers will love the extensive options Kronymous provides, plus the ability to continue using your preferred browser, Chrome.

Cupcake

Cupcake aims to make Tor “the onion router” tastier by giving it a pathway into your web browser. A plain, happy or sad cupcake is displayed depending on the status of the proxy, signifying not in use, in use, or disabled respectively. Chrome users that don’t need the extensive options found in Kronymous may prefer this.

Open in Tor Browser

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, not to mention the least likely to break. Open in Tor Browser is perfect for Chrome users that occasionally want to switch to true incognito mode with Tor Browser when viewing sensitive content. The only catch is you’ll need to install a minimal native client for it to open links correctly in Tor Browser.

Graphic: Sean MacEntee