What Are Computer Ports? The Input and Output Interfaces in Computer Networking

All computers, whether they’re laptops or desktop computers, Windows, Macs, Linux or any other operating system, have ports. Ports can be physical and virtual. A standard computer has both types of ports — subsequently both having their own specific functions. Ports, whether they’re physical or virtual, are how devices,  peripherals, computer networks or software, interact and communicate with eachother.

Today we decided toget deep into it and explain — the easy way, so that everyone understands — the all sorts of computer ports and the issues that may arise from using them.

Physical Computer Ports

Physical computer ports are the ones users are more familiar with. The USB port or the HDMI port are common examples of physical computer ports. Both types of ports are found on both Macs and PC. The ports might follow different standards e.g. you might have a few USB 3.0 ports and maybe one USB 2.0 port on your system but there functions are otherwise standardized.

Virtual Computer Ports

Virtual computer ports are used by network devices to interact with each other. They’re used via services that run on a computer and that can send data or listen for incoming requests. Network ports are identified by their numbers and some ports are reserved for a specific service. For example, SSH usually uses port 22, while FTP uses port 20 or 21.

Your router has virtual ports that allow it to direct traffic to the different devices on the network. If, for example, you have network printer and you send a document to print, your router will send the command to the printer via internal ports. On the surface of it, it appears that the router is only using the IP address of the printer to send the print command but virtual ports are at work making sure the correct IP address receives the print command.

Port Issues

Both physical and virtual computer ports come with their own set of problems. With physical ports, the problems are often straight forward while virtual ports have problems that are often difficult to detect and still more difficult to fix.

Physical Port Issues

Physical ports are prone to physical damage such as being punctured with a pin or being damaged when a laptop is dropped. All ports can suffer water damage. Some ports might be damaged if they’re suddenly supplied too much power. Power surge damage is most likely to occur with USB ports. If you connect a device that uses more power than a USB port can provide, it might cause a power surge. Some USB ports are smart enough to be able to disable themselves if this happens, much like a circuit breaker, but others might be damaged.

Virtual Port Issues

Virtual ports can’t be damaged themselves however they pose security risks to the systems they belong to. Most attacks look for and target open, unsecured ports. The most common remedy in this case is often a firewall which restricts the traffic/information that passes through a port. A firewall may generate several false flags which is better than it letting something malicious slip through. Firewalls on both your system and your network are necessary to make sure your virtual ports are secure.

Fortunately, it isn’t easy to just open a virtual port. The dedicated ports that are open are already being used by your router or some other device. All other ports are closed by default and have to be opened with command line utilities or other such tools.

Read What Are Computer Ports? The Input and Output Interfaces in Computer Networking by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How To Add ‘Open With’ To The Top Of The Context Menu In Windows 10

Windows lets you set a default app for a file type. If you like to open all PNG files in IrfanView, you have the option to set it as the default. Once you’ve done that, you can double-click a PNG file and it will always open in IrfanView. You can still open the file in other apps via the Open With option in the right-click context menu. Unfortunately. this option isn’t at the top of the options in the context menu, and it isn’t just below the Open option. It’s pushed far lower than it should be and often apps can add their own options above it. You can use a little Windows registry key to add Open With to the top of the context menu.

Add ‘Open With’ To The Top

This registry hack comes from Superuser JosefZ.

Open Notepad and paste the following. Save it with the name OpenWith, and the REG extension.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\.OpenWith]
"Position"="Top"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\.OpenWith\command]
@="{09799AFB-AD67-11d1-ABCD-00C04FC30936}"

Run the file with admin rights, and accept the on-screen warning. Once it’s been added, right-click any file, and you will see Open With at the top. Select it, and you will see the default Windows app picker menu that lets you select an app to open the file with.

You can still double-click a file and open it in the default app assigned to it. This registry edit will not interfere with the default functionality for opening files. Apps add their own options to the context menu will not be able to push this option further down the menu.

If you decide you don’t need this option anymore, go to the following location, and delete the key you added.

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\.OpenWith

This little hack isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you prefer the Open option to remain at the top or you prefer a different option appear at the top. This is hack is for anyone that needs to open the same file type in multiple apps and doesn’t want to be bothered going through a rather long list of options to find the right one.

You may have noticed that after adding this key to the registry, the default Open With option doesn’t go away. This key doesn’t do anything to it which is why it remains where it is regardless if you’ve added the key or not. Touching the default Windows Open With option is probably a bad idea anyway. This registry file adds a new option that you can delete any time without worrying about breaking anything.

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How To Magnify Text Input Fields In Windows 10

Tech companies, big and small, have been trying to make life on the whole easier for people with disabilities. The improvements target minor disabilities to major ones. Visual impairments are something Apple, Microsoft, and Google all try to work with by providing users with options to make using their respective products easier. On Windows 10, you have a navigator that helps you use the OS if you’re visually impaired, as well as a neat magnifying tool. Bigtype is a free Windows app that can magnify text input fields if the magnifier tool is too much for you.

Magnify Text Input Fields

Download Bigtype and run the app. You can change the zoom depth from the settings, and the size of the magnifying lens. Once you’re done, click Save, and minimize the app.

When you type in a text field, it will magnify only that part of it.

As per tests, this app works with Notepad, file Save as fields asking you to enter a name for the file, and the location bar in File Explorer. It doesn’t work with Chrome’s URL bar. The magnifier remains in the top left corner though since this is the first version of the app, perhaps it will improve in the next few versions.

Windows Limitations

Windows 10 lets you increase the size of text on an OS level. Unfortunately, this often results in blurred text in some apps, and it doesn’t seem to apply to fields like the Save as field. There’s also a scaling option in Windows 10 but it has the same limitations.

Microsoft does need to add more options for the visually impaired and it needs to make them as customizeable as possible. This is easier said than done of course. To give users fine control over what objects are magnified, there would need to be serious OS level changes and something will likely break during the process.

Personal Use

This app is likely something I’ll be trying out long term. I have severe myopia and while I can use large thumbnails, high level scaling, and zoom to work more easily, I do need to squint hard at the Save as fields and the location bar. This utility may be small but it does meet a very specific need that Windows 10 doesn’t. I can’t count the number of times I’ve typed something incorrectly simply because I had trouble seeing it clearly.

The built-in options are often overkill for me because I can see the UI elements and they’re often far easier to distinguish than text.

Read How To Magnify Text Input Fields In Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How To Enable Hyper-V In Windows 10

Hyper-V allows virtual machines to run on a Windows system. It is possible to run virtual machines without Hyper-V however, it makes things much easier. For one, it allows a VM to get direct access to the hardware on your system. As you can imagine, not everyone needs to run a VM which is why Hyper-V isn’t always on by default on most systems. If you’re about to run a VM, it a good idea to check if Hyper-V is enabled. If it isn’t, we’ll show you how to enable Hyper-V.

Hyper-V Requirements

Hyper-V is a Microsoft service that requires certain hardware to run. In a nutshell, the following are the basic requirements for Hyper-V support

  • An Intel or AMD CPU that supports virtualization and Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • A 64-bit version of Windows 10 or Windows 8/8.1
  • 4GB RAM

Check Hyper-V Support

There are two different ways to check if your system supports Hyper-V. The first, and the easiest method is to check in Task Manager.

Open Task Manager and go to the Performance tab. Select CPU from the column on the right, and look below the graph depicting CPU usage. You should see an option called ‘Virtualization’. It will either be enabled or disabled. If you do not see this option, your CPU does not support Hyper-V.

The second method which will also tell you if your CPU supports SLAT or not is to use Microsoft’s Coreinfo utility.

Download the utility and extract it. Open Command Prompt with admin rights, and use the cd command to go to the extracted folder. Run the following command. The output will tell you if your CPU supports Hyper-V or not.

coreinfo.exe –v

Enable Hyper-V

Assuming you ran the above checks and your system supports Hyper-V, you may still need to enable it. You cannot enable Hyper-V from inside Windows 10. This is a BIOS settings which means you need to access BIOS in order to enable Hyper-V.

The BIOS layout is not the same on all desktops and laptops. You will need to explore it to find the option. Some BIOS might have a dedicated Virtualization tab, while others might have placed the option under Advanced Settings, or Security.

All you need to do is find the option in BIOS, tap Enter to select it, and use the Up/Down arrow keys to change Disabled to Enabled. After that, tap the F10 key to save the change, and boot your system like normal.

Use the same checks in the previous section to make sure you’ve correctly enabled Hyper-V and you’re good to go.

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What Is Bandwidth: How Much Do I Need Each Month?

Bandwidth is understood synonymously with internet speed. The more you bandwidth you get, the faster internet you have. Equating bandwidth with internet speed is alright in laymen terms but you need to understand what speed is when it comes to sending and receiving information online.

When we talk about cars and their speed, or when we describe speed limits we refer to them in miles per hour, or kilometers per hour. Bandwidth is like that except, the units are different. Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be sent or received in one second.

Digital information is expressed in bits. Bandwidth is expressed as Mbps i.e. Megabits per second and a megabit is 60 million bits. Mbps is the standard unit for measuring bandwidth for broadband networks however, Ethernet networks can support much higher speeds and their bandwidth is sometimes expressed in Gbps i.e. Gigabits per second. Some broadband networks, especially those built using fiber optic cables can also support gigabits per second speeds.

Slow Vs Fast Internet

Slow and fast internet are again expressed in terms of speed i.e. 4Mbps is slower than 20Mbps. The numbers make it fairly easy to understand but what exactly happens, on a slightly technical level, when you have faster internet? Let’s expand on our car analogy from the previous section.

Let’s say there’s a one-way road with two lanes. Traffic can move in two lanes simultaneously. If the road is expanded and two more lanes are added, traffic can move twice as fast, assuming all cars are travelling at the same speed. Bandwidth is a lot like that. When you have 4Mbps bandwidth, you have 120 millions bits moving in one second. When you have 20Mbps, you have 1200 million bits moving per second.

Another popular analogy used to explain bandwidth is that of a tap. If you open a faucet half-way, less water comes out. This is your ‘slow’ internet i.e. low bandwidth. If you open a faucet all the way, more water comes out and this is your fast i.e. high bandwidth.

Slow and fast internet requirements are subject to how an internet connection is used. For example, if you’ve got one or two devices using the same connection, low bandwidth will meet most if not all of your needs. If you have far more devices and you intend to game online or binge on Netflix you’re going to need a much faster connection.

Bandwidth & Data Caps

Bandwidth always comes with data caps imposed by your ISP and your cellular network. A data cap limits how much information can be sent over a period of time. This period of time, usually a month defined by your billing period, dictates how much information can be sent and received.

Remember that bandwidth is essentially information travelling at a certain speed. ISPs and cellular networks impose data caps for three reasons;

  • To prevent network congestion
  • To prevent improper/unethical use of the network
  • To make money when they upsell the next data plan with a higher data cap

There is always a business side to data caps but not all data caps are bad so long as they’re reasonable and your ISP or cellular network allows you to roll over any remaining data to the next billing cycle.

A data cap of 80GB per month means that in one month, you can download 80GB of data. If you cross 80GB, you will have to pay for the additional data that you download. It’s also worth mentioning that data caps and bandwidth speeds aren’t just for downloads. They apply to uploads. Home users are less concerned with upload speeds and data caps on how much data they can upload but it matters a great deal to businesses that will likely upload a considerable amount of data on a regular basis e.g. when they back up data. This is why ISPs have separate data plans for  home users and businesses.

Bandwidth & Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is a very contentious topic at the moment and you might wonder what it has to do with bandwidth. At present all internet access i.e. everything you download and upload is treated the same. This means that you can download an email attachment or watch Netflix at the same speed. Your ISP treats all your internet activity the exact same way and this is net neutrality in the plainest of terms.

When net neutrality is limited, it allows ISPs to throttle your bandwidth depending on what you use your internet connection for. This means that if you have a 20Mbps connection, you can use it to download an email attachment but when you try to watch Netflix, your ISP will throttle the bandwidth speed to something much lower since you’re downloading media. In order to stream media, you will have to pay more more i.e. buy a different or separate data plan.

Read What Is Bandwidth: How Much Do I Need Each Month? by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter