College Freshmen: Send Your Parents a Tech Support Care Package

Once the youngest child leaves for college, Mom and Dad will likely spend more than a few hours at home, staring at their computer monitor and trying to figure out what the heck just happened. You were, after all, their built-in tech support… so what are they supposed to do now that you\’ve gone off and left them?

OK, we know there are services they can call, but let\’s face it—they\’ve gotten used to you making it all better. Why not send Mom and Dad a tech support care package? Here are a few tips for creating one, whether they have formally asked for it (yet) or not.

Putting It Together

If your parents lean more toward the analytical side, you may want to create a flow chart to outline the more common tech support problems and the solutions to those challenges. Otherwise, use a cheap journal, notebook or flash card set. Since you know they\’re likely to be stressed when they actually begin using it, throw in a couple of bags of chamomile tea and a stress ball. Neatly place the items in a little bag, or if you want to be a bit more fancy, go for a decorative basket.

Common Tech Support Questions and Answers

We know there are certain things that trip your parents up, again and again. Here are a few common questions that might pop up throughout the semester, along with the answers:

Log-in Problems. The answer to \”I can\’t log in\” is usually found behind that pesky caps lock button. Remind your parents that passwords are case-sensitive. However, email hackers are on the rise so if your parents are getting an error message that points to a potential breach, have them contact the help desk for the email provider or software program they are using. Teach them how to figure authentic emails with simple guidelines such as not clicking unfamiliar websites and unsolicited offers.

Slow Computer. There are a couple of potential problems, so let\’s go with the simpler one first. If they have multiple windows open, instruct your parents to ask themselves if they need to have all those windows running at the same time. Once they\’ve closed any unnecessary windows, if the computer is still running slowly, it\’s possible they will need step-by-step guidance on how to delete cookies. You can also automate this simple task using built-in OS scheduler.

Computer Inexplicably Shut Down. If the computer suddenly shuts down, it\’s often due to overheating or faulty power supply. Have them give it a rest for about an hour, then try again. If the problem continues a new power supply might be needed. Take note that dust attributes to quicker degradation of power supply fan or any moving mechanism inside the computer so during the off-time, have them regularly clean any visible dust.

Of course I can go on and expand this list but you get the idea. When you send the support package your parents will dearly appreciate it and you will not worry how they are keeping up with technology. The next time they call or visit you can spend more time on things that really matters.

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Genius EasyPen F610E – Inexpensive Graphics Tablet

Genius EasyPen F610E

I always wanted to buy a graphics tablet or digitizer. Many moons ago, I love painting and sketching but due to priorities and other growing interests, it seems that it has become a suppressed talent. I also could not justify how much this costs back then. However, over the years it has become less and less expensive to that point that buying a graphic tablet today is more practical than ever to advance your creativity.

Sketch with Precision

I am reviewing EasyPen F610E from Genius and it is probably the most bang-for-the-buck graphics tablet you can get in this price range now.

The first thing that caught my attention is how wide the working area is — 6.25\” x 10\”. It should be more than enough for artists who works on big monitors with 16:9 ratio resolution. As a serious amateur photographer, I find this very practical for post processing workflow.

The device comes with a cordless pen, a pen holder and 8 programmable macro keys on the side that you can use as shortcuts for increased efficiency. It is also very thin and portable as it weighs only 515 grams.

With high sensitivity of 2048 levels pen pressure and fine 4000 LPI resolution it is on par with more expensive brands in the market. You can draw pretty much how you would draw on a traditional canvas or paper with precision using this device. To add even more value Genius EasyPen F610E comes with bundled software. It comes with Corel Painter Essentials 4 which inspires you to draw and sketch like a pro.

Overall Genius EasyPen F610E is a great valuable for this graphic tablet size and price. If you are going to buy your first graphic tablet you probably won\’t regret getting this one.

Sketch with Precision

Genius EasyPen F610E
6.25” x 10” Slim Pen Tablet

The EasyPen F610E, an extra slim graphic tablet from Genius, gives you the creative freedom to draw, sketch and design with precision. This 6.25”x 10” graphic tablet has a wide working area for the most popular monitor sizes.

With a fine 4000 lines per inch (LPI) resolution and a responsive 200 report rates per second (RPS), EasyPen F610E features responsive and precise controls perfect for intricate drawings. The cordless pen which doubles as a mouse is pressure sensitive with 2048 pressure levels, making brush strokes thicker or thinner depending on how hard the stylus is pressed, similar to traditional painting. Offering great value, the EasyPen F610E is comparable to more expensive graphics tablets.

For added productivity and greater tablet experience, the package is bundled with powerful but easy-to-use Corel Painter Essentials 4 making it easy to create, paint and edit photos on both Windows and Mac platforms.

The Genius EasyPen F610E is available through accredited resellers of MSI-ECS and retails at PhP4,990. For more information, please email [email protected]

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New Mac Pro – Small, Radical and Innovative

New Mac Pro (2013)

For a long time I thought Apple is not making new Mac Pro anymore but in WWDC 2013 Apple revealed an entirely new Mac Pro with radical cylinder design. It is a big departure from \”cheese grater\” Mac Pro and much smaller too.

Apple considered all the elements that makes a \”pro\” computer such as graphics, storage, expansion slots, processing power, memory and so much more.

Small

Only 9.9 inches tall and 6.6 inches wide (diameter). You\’ll be surprised that it has a lot of expansions available. It has 802.11ac and bluetooth 4.0  wireless connectivity as well as numerous I/O connections including 6 thunderbolt ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, 4 USB 3 ports and 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Radical

If you remember the \”sunflower\” iMac with a hemisphere base, this doesn\’t look very odd at all. There are varying opinions with the design but you either love it or you hate it. Some people makes fun of its shape — that it looks like a vacuum cleaner.

However, when I first saw it the first thing that came to my mind is R2-D2 and other Star Wars astromech droids.

I\’m sure there are several people out there planning to mod this new Mac Pro into R2-D2 already.

Innovative

The new Mac Pro has dual GPUs, PCI Express-based flash storage, Thunderbolt 2, new-gen Intel Xeon processors and 4k video support.

The processor can support up to 12 cores and compared to the old Mac Pro, the new Mac Pro is 2x faster in floating-point performance, delivering up to 40GB/s of PCI-express 3 bandwidth. The memory supports 4-channel DDR3 memory at 1866MHz bus speed and could delivery up to 60 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Graphics is not neglected in the new Mac Pro as it can deliver up to 7 teraflops of computer power thanks to Dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs with 6GB of dedicated VRAM. With its arsenal of dual GPUs it can power 3 ultra HD (4k) resolution display.

The black aluminum enclosure gives the new Mac Pro an odd shape but for a practical reason. It houses a unified thermal core which enable the unit to use a single piece of extruded aluminum in triangular shape that maximizes the airflow as well as thermal capacity using only a single fan. It looks very neat and is one of a kind.

When looking at the thermal core design, I could not help but notice the resemblance it has with Darth Vader\’s mask. I don\’t know if Apple is inspired so much to push the boundaries of computing that it is getting design cues from sci-fi movies like Star Wars. I am excited with this new development and I think Apple did a great job here.

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May the force be with you!

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TV Goes Mobile: Apple TV & iOS Power Up!

As a leader in technology innovation, Apple makes the news when it changes its products. So devoted to the company are its users that even rumors and speculation tend to send the digital media into overdrive. And when Tim Cook, Apple\’s CEO, starts hinting of upcoming changes to operating systems and products, the media hype machine kicks into full effect and ears perk straight up.

iOS 7

Apple fans are fully aware that the next generation of iPhones, iPads and other Apple products are likely to feature a new iOS system. Tim Cook remarked in an All Things D interview that the latest iOS system will improve the relationship between hardware, software and customer service, something Apple customers expect. Although the previous generations of the iOS system were innovative, the expectations for the latest software and hardware are much higher than before since the late Steve Jobs stepped down and Cook hinted the next system will have major improvements.

Apple TV Sales

The most interesting aspect of the interview concerned Apple’s plans for television. Apple has sold roughly 13 million Apple TVs since it was originally developed, noted Engadget.com. Since Apple TV is not the primary innovation from the company, the large number of sales and the rapid growth over the last year was surprising.The company did not realize that the hockey-puck sized television attachment would generate a high level of interest.

Due to the growing number of Apple TV sales, it is not surprising that the CEO hinted about big plans for the future. Engadget.com suggested that Apple plans to take part in the changing dynamics of television that companies like Netflix and Amazon are working on now.

The Future of the Products

Cook stated that the TV is long overdue for an upgrade and the company has a vision for the future of TV, noted Business Insider. While he did not give specifics about the innovations the company is planning to unveil in the future, he did give enough hints to tantalize Apple customers. The vision for television and the improvements to the iOS system are only a part of the grand scheme that will result in a greater television experience.

DirectTVDeal.com suggests that video streaming has changed the television viewing experience, but Apple’s CEO noted during the interview that it is still possible to make improvements. The current Apple TV provides the opportunity to enjoy iTunes movies and works with video streaming companies like Netflix. According to Apple.com, it also syncs with the iOS systems via AirPlay, so it is possible to enjoy games and apps from an iPhone, iPad or other Apple products on the larger screen of a television.

The future of the television experience is likely to improve on the current AirPlay system and the streaming options. According to USA Today, voice and gestures might be an upcoming feature of the newer system. It is possible that the newer iOS system and Apple TV will work on adjusting the Siri system for better voice control. The publication suggests that gestures might be an option, but it would need reworking the entire system to include sensors, which might make it a little bulky.

Watching television on the Apple TV might be a better experience than using voice commands and gestures to communicate with the system. USA Today suggests Apple TV might incorporate apps into the television viewing experience. Instead of watching cable or flipping through a large number of channels, the system will offer only the channels that viewers are most interested in watching.

Innovation is a key part of Apple\’s approach to reaching customers. Although the details are not yet available, hints on the technology are giving a clear image of the possibilities.

image by deerkoski

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Formally Announced in the USA

Samsung have formally announced and dated their new flagship smartphone, Samsung Galaxy S4, and announced that it will reach American hands on April 30th. It arrives just in time to tempt those who haven\’t yet reached for the HTC One and are waiting it out to see what Samsung pulls out of its magician\’s top hat, as the company has built a reputation for innovation and quality over the years and has released a string of popular handsets.

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Not that other manufacturers haven\’t, of course – but you\’d have to feel a little stressed knowing you were facing off against this beast of a machine. With two gigabytes of RAM, a 5\” screen (a cheeky wink towards the current 4.7\” trend) and full HD on its display, the Galaxy S4 is a serious contender for being branded the best handset of 2013.

The impressing thing about Samsung\’s launch will be its inevitable competition with other handsets as it sets out to demonstrate just what sets the manufacturer apart. Then again, given Samsung manufactures the tech for at least one other major competitor, it\’s worth thinking about the level of capability they possess when it comes to building smartphones, tablets and the like.

The initial reviews are starting to come in, although they\’re no more than first looks, but the initial impression from critics is that they\’re, well, impressed. There\’s a lot to compete with here, bearing in mind that the Galaxy S4  follows on from the SII and S3, both extremely popular high-quality phones in their own right, both of them still happily in use by Samsung fans even now, which is unusual for the smartphone market.

The S4 itself has many noticeable improvements, such as facial recognition technology, an improved camera, and a larger and higher-resolution screen. It also comes with an extremely thin layer of glass over the screen itself, which helps keep the form factor of the device down while allowing you to feel like you\’re interacting with the screen more directly than on handsets with thicker glass.

There are other little innovative touches, too, such as Smart Look, which pauses video when the phone works out you\’re not looking at the screen, Sound and Shot, which records nine seconds of audio with the photo you\’ve just taken (not a unique feature but a nice one nonetheless), and of course the quality of the camera itself whether you\’re recording video or taking snapshots of the world around you. The S4 indeed has quite the formidable feature set, and when it hits the USA at the end of April it will be interesting to see how the competition reacts to such a desirable phone.

It seems like this year is definitely the year of smartphones that are set to push the bar regardless of which manufacturer they\’re from, and as Samsung and HTC step up as rivals to Apple in terms of innovation and quality, it\’ll be exciting to see who comes out on top in the end, especially if it drives these companies to produce more impressive handsets in an attempt to beat one another.

Editor\’s note: Samsung Galaxy S4 will hit the Philippine market this week and local telcos will have their separate launches in the coming weeks, too, so stay tuned for more information.

\"AllieAbout the Author:

Allie Cooper is a writer interested in gadgets, fashion, mobile handsets and social media trends. Aside from blogging she is a fan of playing on computer games and she\’s always available on Twitter.

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Zoolz Home Review – Easy to Use Cold Storage Cloud Back-Up

Zoolz Home Free & Premium

Zoolz comes in 3 different editions – Zoolz Home Free, Zoolz Home Premium and Zoolz Business. Both Home Premium and Business editions comes in several pricing packages.  In this review I will focus on Zoolz Home editions, Free and Premium.

Although not as popular as other mainstream cloud backup services, Zoolz is a product of Genie9 that has offered back up services to home and businesses users for a long time already. Other products of Genie9 includes Genie Backup Manager, Genie Timeline and G Cloud Backup for Android.

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Zoolz uses only the best cloud storage available so it uses Amazon AWS Glacier for cold storage technology. To make the deal sweeter, Zoolz is offering 100 GB FREE storage for the first 1,000,000 users and whoever gets it will be able to use the free storage for a lifetime.

Enter vexite1 and get 5% off when you upgrade to Zoolz Home Premium 100GB 

Features

All editions of Zoolz come with modern encryption method for both file transfer and storage. I will discuss the security details later on. Take note that for all Home versions, restore time takes 3-5 hours after initiation due to the nature of cold storage technology.

You can refer to the comparison table below to see the difference between Zoolz Business, Home Premium and Home Free.

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Home Free version only allows backup interval of 45 minutes but premium allows more frequent scan interval — as frequent as every 5 minutes. It also allows setting scheduled backups and full scan interval, as well as scheduled backup by date. Premium supports file type, file size and date filters.

In Home Premium, you can also throttle upload bandwidth and set when the throttling schedule will apply. Two more modes are added in Premium as well — presentation mode which pauses backup while displaying presentation, playing games or watching movies, and battery saving mode which saves battery when your laptop is running on batteries by reducing the resources required by Zoolz client app to reduce power consumption. It will completely stop and only monitor changes if the battery level is critical. You can also allow Zoolz Home Premium to only upload files when using specific connection. For instance, you can prevent Zoolz from backing up if you are connected to 3G/4G connection.

Business version has all the premium features with additional business features such as file sharing, direct upload to Zoolz website, backup policies, server backup, adding users with bulk upload tool and smart selections. Smart selection is one important features for business users because it offers pre-configured selection of most important items on your computer and it makes backing up important data easier. For example, selecting \”email\” will ensure that all .pst files are backed up. Selecting \”Office Files\” will scan all .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, .xls, .xlsx and other recognizable Microsoft Office suite files.

Although not mentioned in the comparison table Zoolz can also back-up external and network drives.

Ease of Use

I find Zoolz surprisingly easy to use. In less than 5 minutes you can download Zoolz installer, install the Windows client, run it and start your back up immediately. Below is a slideshow of the entire sign up process and getting started with Zoolz Home.

RAW and image preview is supported so Zoolz is also pegged as a back-up solution for photographers. There are very few cloud services that offer RAW support so if you are a photographer and you wish to back-up RAW and be able to preview them as well, Zoolz is one of the best out there.

Working on Zoolz Windows client is very intuitive and it kinds of reminds me the Windows 8 interface. It supports Windows XP SP3 and more recent release of Windows including Windows 8. It also supports Windows servers and both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. At the moment Mac is not supported but Zoolz will support it in the near future.

Zoolz offers free mobile app called Zoolz Go. According to Zoolz technical support, the mobile app is intended for Zoolz Business only but I am able to use it in my Zoolz Home account. Take note that you can\’t do anything with the files if you are only using cold storage which the only option available for Zoolz Home. You could view the files but to fully use the mobile app you need to get instant storage which is only available for Business users.

Web access is not as robust as Dropbox, Box or Skydrive and it does not offer any integration with 3rd party services yet. You can open documents and certain files with Google docs but other than that there are no immediate integration with other cloud backup solutions. Navigating the website could be confusing sometimes because it is easy to forget the tabs for Home and Business is different but once you are logged in, the interface is consistent and easy to understand.

Zoolz Home Free is only limited to 1 user but you can use up to two computers. This an added value if you wish to move or restore an old machine backup to a new computer. You don\’t need to transfer the license or worry about extra fee at all. If you need to issue multiple user access you need to upgrade to premium for additional user access.

Security

In terms of reliability, Genie9 is in the backup business for more than 13 years already so you should feel more confident knowing that they have been around even before the cloud bandwagon started.

Zoolz security is using top-notch military grade encryption. I think that some of the security layer is redundant but that is good news for extra paranoid users.

Zoolz website and client software is hardened against hacking attacks. Amazon S3 uses AES-256 server-side encryption and the actual files are encrypted with military grade 256-AES encryption, too. Transfers are secured using SSL  and the only time files are decrypted is only on authorized machines.

Storage Space

Zoolz is very generous in providing free storage space. Take advantage of the free 100 GB storage now and worry about upgrading later. I think it is a good strategy knowing that most users who will outgrow the free 100 GB storage will likely upgrade to paid Zoolz packages.

Cold Storage technology is cheap. While there is an obvious advantage in value but it trades off restore time speed. The actual upload and download of files is as quick as any other services but the duration to prepare restoration is much slower compared to instant cloud storage services.

Pricing

I have plotted the storage to pricing ratio of popular cloud backup services.  Anything above the diagonal line is deemed to have more value per dollar spent. Take note that I did not include services with unlimited back-up storage because it will skew the graph too much even if I set a theoretical limit. In order to compare relative pricing per GB, I used Dropbox Free/Pro, Skydrive, Box Business and Google Drive.

The area of the circles are directly proportional to the number of users per account. The smallest circle is equals to 1 user per account.

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Zoolz Home Premium starts at $19.92 per year with 100 GB storage. As you can see, Zoolz Home is able to offer more competitive pricing than any paid services from Google Drive, Skydrive, Dropbox Pro and Box Business.

I already mentioned the restore speed trade off but I doubt many users will be crashing their computers everyday. Therefore, for budget conscious consumers, Zoolz Home gives greater value than most popular cloud storage solution mentioned.

Enter vexite1 and get 5% off when you upgrade to Zoolz Home Premium 100GB

Support

Zoolz seems to be consistent with the support structure of Genie9. You can always contact the sales hotline but there is no 24/7 hotline for technical support. What you get is a well documented and updated help center wiki as well as email forms that  are routed to sales and technical support group. In most situations I can find what I need from the help center. Given that Zoolz is easy of use, there is very little reason to call Zoolz for technical support.  Google Drive, Dropbox Pro and Box do not offer voice support as well but if you compare Zoolz to customer-centric cloud back-up companies you start to wonder why they don\’t offer telephone hotline.

I have tested the technical support form and the technical support team is able answer my inquiries in about 30 minutes. I did not test the consistency but I am happy that support is very responsive.

Summary

To wrap this up, Zoolz Home Free is a steal if you are after cost-effective solution for personal computer back-up. You also get the free 100 GB storage if you are one of the first 1 million registered user. Using cold storage technology Zoolz is able to offer cheaper price per GB without sacrificing security and ease of use. Zoolz is using Amazon Glacier for cold storage technology so it is very reliable. Users should not be discouraged with the delayed restoration period if the purpose of the back-up is for archiving only. This is great for artists, photographers and videographers who wish to keep a safe and secured copy of their work in the cloud. It is definitely a must-try service for cloud storage enthusiasts alike.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVRZB5lJir8

Use my special coupon vexite2 to get 5% for Zoolz Business with 50 GB instant storage and 100 GB cold storage.

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Buffalo AirStation Pro 802.11n – Business-Class Wireless AP

Buffalo AirStation Pro 802.11n

Two new Buffalo business-class wireless access points are now available locally – Bufallo AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point and AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Concurrent Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point.

You probably don\’t need these in your house unless you live in a mansion. However, if you own a business you should consider getting a business-class wireless Access Point (simply wireless AP).

I think this is the first time I mentioned AP in my blog so let\’s define what is an AP first.

We are used to having a modem, router and access point rolled into one device that comes with our DSL or cable internet connection so no one cares what an AP or a router is, unless you\’re a geek. Technically speaking a wireless AP will only extend your wireless range so that you can connect to a network and get internet access. By itself, an AP cannot connect to the internet. Router on the other hand is the device responsible to your internet connection and can be configured as an AP or it comes with a wireless AP attached to it so that you can connect wirelessly. An AP cannot function as a router.

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When you go to malls or big offices and you see boxy devices hanging from the ceiling with antenna, they are most-likely wireless AP.

Going back to Bufallo AirStation Pro, the only real difference between the two Buffalo AirStation Pro 802.11n AP models is that the first one has selectable Dual band support which means you can select either 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz frequencies at 300 MBbps max. The other one has a concurrent dual band technology, or in other terms MIMO, that creates  two separate wireless network on 5 Ghz and 2.4 Ghz frequencies at 300 MBbps max each.

These Buffalo AirStation wireless AP also feature plenum-rated chassis which means you can place these wireless AP inside a plenum (air vents or just about any place up the ceiling where air circulates). That also means they are extra though. They also support Power over Ethernet (PoE) so you can power these devices with Ethernet cables where power  cables can\’t reach.

Buffalo expands wireless offering with new business-class wireless access points

Buffalo Technology, a global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of wired and wireless networking and network and direct attached storage solutions, today announced two new enterprise-class wireless access points, AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point and AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Concurrent Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point. Designed for professional deployments, these AirStation Pro wireless APs offer robust and secure dual band wireless networks with business-class features and the convenience of Power over Ethernet (PoE).

Buffalo\’s AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point provides high performance 802.11n speeds and coverage, with selectable operation on one of two available bands, 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. The AirStation Pro 802.11n Gigabit Concurrent Dual Band PoE Wireless Access Point offers simultaneous operation on two concurrent bands for greater networking capacity and flexibility. AirStation Pro wireless APs are designed for deployment in professional settings and offer users a lineup of business-class features:

  • Integrated Power over Ethernet (PoE): 802.11af PoE allows the device to be powered without an AC power source for easy installation and placement, even on high ceilings, drop ceilings, walls and other locations where power may not be available. By using a PoE switch, users can install the AP anywhere they can run an Ethernet cable.
  • Plenum-Rated Chassis: AirStation Pro APs feature plenum-rated chassis and multiple mounting options for greater flexibility in installation locations, enabling users to safely install these units above ceiling tiles.
  • Multi-SSID / VLAN Tagging: Administrators can easily create multiple SSIDs with different security passphrases for easy network segmentation and added security. Network administrators can assign each SSID a VLAN tag to specify what network access that SSID receives.
  • Wireless Distribution System: WDS allows users to easily extend coverage of their wireless network by interconnecting multiple access points. Easily bridge a WLAN spanning multiple buildings or expand coverage in a home to hard to reach locations.
  • Removable Antennas: Easily add high gain antennas for longer range, wireless bridging or backhaul solutions. AirStation Pro APs use industry-standard RP-SMA connectors, compatible with readily available third-party solutions.
  • 802.1X RADIUS Authentication Support: Provides enterprise-grade access restrictions, helping to keep unauthorized users out. By moving authentication to a backend RADIUS server, only specified and authorized wireless devices are permitted to connect to the wireless network.

Buffalo AirStation wireless access points are available through MSI-ECS Phils. Inc.  For availability and pricing, please call 688-3180 or email [email protected]

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