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The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

In an earlier column I recommended an app named “Vtrace” and suggested that iPad and iPhone users should have this free app installed on their device. I was extremely discouraged when one of my much-appreciated proofreaders emailed me saying: “Fascinating, Charles. I have an iPad but I can see no reason why I would ever want to use this app. Of what practical value has it? Shouldn’t you tell your reader why it is a good thing to use and under what circumstances?”

I am still recommending Vtrace. It is a free app available from the Apple store, but I see now I need to connect the dots and explain why every iPad and iPhone user could find this app useful.

The instrument panel of every automobile is equipped with a fuel gauge that says full, three-quarters, half, quarter, and empty. The reason that gauge is there is to minimize the number of times you end up walking down a deserted highway hoping somebody will give you a ride and hoping it is not too far to the next gas station. Indeed one of the first skills young drivers learn is how to look at that gauge to determine if there is enough gas in the tank to get the car to their destination.

iPhones and iPads have two similar gauges. One for the battery and one for Wi-Fi. The battery gauge is straightforward; when it runs down to empty your iPad goes dark. The other gauge for the Wi-Fi connection is a bit more complicated. Too many people mistakenly assume that if that gauge shows a full-strength Wi-Fi signal available that this automatically means there is a good Internet connection. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The only thing the Wi-Fi icon on your iPad can tell you is that your device is connected to the first connection, nothing further. Using Vtrace you may quickly and easily learn how far along the line your connection to the Internet goes.

If Vtrace shows that your Internet connection fails on the first hop of its route, then it is very possible that your Wi-Fi equipment at your house is at fault. You may need to call your favorite computer support tech to help with this problem.

If Vtrace shows your connection failing after the second or third hop, then it is almost certain the ISP is at fault. Now is the time to call the IPS to report you have determined a fault exists in their network.

And finally, if Vtrace shows your connections are getting out of your house and through your ISP all the way to California or other distant server but getting lost at that point, well, there is nothing you or your ISP can do about that. This is not the time to start tearing your home network apart looking for a fault and not the time to call tech support at your ISP.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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