Ask HTG: Fixing Laptop Time Errors, Monitoring a Wireless Access Point, and Price Comparisons On the Go
Once a week we round up some great reader questions and share the answers with everyone. This week we’re looking at how to fix a laptop that won’t keep time, how to monitor traffic on a wireless access point, and how to comparison shop on the move.
Why Won’t My Laptop Keep Proper Time?
Dear How-To Geek,
My laptop has recently starting having time errors. The displayed time will be off by some hours, I’ll fix it, and then at some point in the future I’ll notice that it’s off again. What gives? The laptop is running Windows 7, if that helps any.
Dear Time Skipper,
There’s very little chance that it has anything to do with your OS or any software on the machine and a rather big chance that it’s hardware related. Your laptop motherboard has a small battery, known as a CMOS battery, attached to it that helps keep the system time when the machine is powered off. Desktops computers also have a similar battery setup on their motherboards.
Unlike desktop batteries, where the battery is simply set into a holder on the motherboard, many laptop’s have the battery attached by a lead which is in turn connected to a battery holder. We’d recommend searching for your laptop model number along with the terms “CMOS battery” or “CMOS replacement” to find both images of the battery and how it is inserted and dealers that can sell you a new one. The last time we had to replace the CMOS battery on a laptop we could order the plain battery for $2 or the battery already fitted in the battery holder, shrink tubed, and ready to plug in for $5. For a few extra bucks it was worth skipping the hassle of pulling apart the old holder, soldering new contacts, and wrapping it up back up in shrink tubing.
How Do I Monitor The Sites Accessed From My Wi-Fi Access Point?
Dear How-To Geek,
I run a small office where all the internet traffic is routed through a single wireless router/access point that feeds into a DSL line and then the greater Internet. I don’t want to filter/block Internet access but as the business owner I would like to keep an eye on what’s going on in my office. Is there a simple way to be able to easily check on the what’s passing through the router?
Dear Curious Cat,
Depending on the model of your router and how much energy you want to invest in this project there are a variety of things you can do. The easiest way to do it would be to set up your router for OpenDNS, a free DNS server alternative that includes extra features like logging (and filtering, should you decide to add that on later). The downside to the router + OpenDNS option is that it logs what’s going on between the network and the internet but you won’t know which person/computer is making the requests.
If you find that there is something you need to investigate and you really need to narrow it down then combing your router’s log files with a program like WallWatcher makes it easy to see which specific computer on the network is making the requests (and when). In our article How to Configure Your Router for Network Wide URL Logging, we outline how to use both techniques. Good luck!
How Can I Use My Android Phone to Save Money Shopping?
Dear How-To Geek,
Over the last few months (and *especially* around Christmas!) I’ve been hearing about shoppers using their smartphones to comparison shop on the go. I have an Android phone (that I’ll admit to not really doing anything fancy or cool with), can I use it to save cash? How exactly does this whole mobile shopping thing work to save all these people money?
Dear Deal Seeker,
It’s really easy to save money on the go if you have a smart phone with a mobile data plan. Let’s give you a hypothetical situation that highlights how handy it can be. You’re at a store. You see a book set you’d like to buy but the location you’re at has it listed for the full retail of $59.95. You pull out your phone, launch a comparison app (like Amazon’s bar code scanner or RedLaser) and you use the camera on your phone to scan the barcode. The app then spits out the price at Amazon (or wherever) and you can see if everyone is selling it for full retail or if you can get it for a lower price. Most likely you can get it for a much lower price and, depending on the application, even order it right then to be shipped to your house. Not everyone is onboard with this kind of shopper-as-deal-sniper method of shopping but we assure you, the ones that are doing the scanning are saving a boatload of money.
Check out our comparison article, Use Your Android Phone to Comparison Shop: 4 Scanner Apps Reviewed, to get a feel for which Android shopping app would fit your needs.
Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer it.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 04/16/12