Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ask HTG: Finding Good Airline Seats, Leaving Monitors On To Save Energy, and Extending Your Network with a Wireless Repeater

Once a week we round up some of the reader letters we’ve answered and share them with the greater audience. This week we’re looking at how to find great airline seats, whether or not you should turn your monitors off, and extending your network with a wireless repeater.

How Can I Find Good Airline Seats?

Dear How-To Geek,
This might not be the most geeky of questions but it’s one that has been on my mind all season. I got great air fare prices for my Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s flights but I had absolutely horrible seats. Surely there has to be a geeky solution to picking the actual seats? I use great resources like Expedia and Kayak to find cheap tickets but I’m at a lost for making sure I don’t end up with the (!*%iest seat on the whole plane!
Cramped in Coach
Dear Cramped,
Well you can thank your traveling stars, we have a perfect tool for you. The next time you’re picking out tickets, hit up SeatGuru. You can browse it full-size at home while buying your tickets or hit up the mobile site if you’re standing at the ticket counter about to request a seat change. We promise you’ll be blown away by the level of detail. SeatGuru doesn’t just give you basic information like whether or not you’re going to get a window seat, you get a full diagram of the plane with detailed notes that cover everything from seat angle, leg room, and in-seat amenities (like power jacks). They even include details like which seats are missing under-seat storage due to the presence of equipment conduits. Their catalog includes all domestic US carriers, the majority of international carriers, and over 700 different air craft models.

Should I Leave My HDTV and Computer Monitors On to Save Money?

Dear How-To Geek,
I’ve heard so many conflicting accounts regarding energy consumption and televisions/computer monitors. Should I turn them off when not in use or leave them on? Does it really take more energy to start them up than it does to leave them running?
Energy Confused in Cordova
Dear Energy Confused,
The whole takes-more-energy to start thing is a myth. That said we’re going to answer your question in two parts. First, regarding HDTV sets. TV sets have no power save/sleep mode like computer monitors so it’s best to turn them off if you’re going to be away from them for more than a quick bathroom break and snack run. Although modern HDTV sets are quite efficient (the 65” monster in our lounge consumes less energy than a 75 watt light bulb) there’s absolutely no reason to leave them on if you’re not actively watching them—consider it the same as turning off the lights when you leave the room.
Monitors are a slightly different story. Depending on your monitor size and design (LED versus CFL backlighting, brightness settings, etc.) energy consumption can range between 16-160 watts. If your monitor is Energy Star compliant it must consume 1 watt or less while turned off and 2 watts or less while in sleep/standby mode. If you set your monitors to have an aggressive sleep mode (say, they go into sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity) you might as well leave them on all the time. Given the off chance that you’ll forget to turn them off once in awhile the total net savings over a year leaving them on but with aggressive power saving modes versus trying to remember to turn them off at every turn, you’ll come out ahead by letting the computer manage them for you.
If you don’t have an Energy Star monitor, however, it’s best you get in the habit of turning the monitor off whenever you get up from the computer. Non-Energy Star monitors can have erratic standby power consumption—one model might fall within Energy Star guidelines with a light 0.5 watt consumption and another might pull down 15-20 watts in standby). If you’re deathly curious you can always order a P3 Kill-A-Watt electricity monitor to check out the actual power consumption for all your devices.

How Can I Extend My Wi-Fi Network Using Extra Wi-Fi Routers?

Dear How-To Geek,
I have my primary Wi-Fi router and I picked up an additional 2 Wi-Fi routers. How can I go about extending the Wi-Fi signal/internet access from the primary router to these new secondary routers? I have some dead spots around the house I’d like to fill in (like in the garage). I’m comfortable upgrading the router firmware to Tomato but I’m not sure where to go from there.
Wi-Fi Extending in El Paso
Dear Wi-Fi Extending,
Your problem is already 99% solved. You have a Wi-Fi router, you have two extra Wi-Fi routers you can use to extend your network, and you’re comfortable installing 3rd party firmware. All that’s left to do is flip on the “Repeater” mode in the secondary routers. We have a guide to doing so in DD-WRT here; you should read over that to get a feel for the whole process. For the two repeater Wi-Fi nodes, you’ll want to log into them via the Tomato administration panel, navigate to Basic –> Network –> Wireless and then in the Wireless section toggle them from Access Point mode to Wireless Ethernet Bridge—the difference between Wireless Client and Wireless Ethernet Bridge is that in Bridge mode the repeater inherits the settings of the primary router which cuts down on configuration and firewall tweaking. Once you select Wireless Ethernet Bridge make sure to match the SSID, Channel, and Security settings in the repeaters to the primary router (i.e. if the primary SSID is HotSpot, on Channel 6, and WPA security with the password Ro0zring, then you need to plug all those settings in the the repeaters during the configuration process).