Q: I have a computer upstairs. I have a laptop downstairs. Sometimes I have problems connecting to the internet on my laptop. I get a message “Can’t reach this page. Try a web address. Refresh this page.” Neither works. I click on Details and get “Temporary DNS error.”

I go upstairs to my computer and no problem. The laptop downstairs is connected to the computer via a router upstairs. Any suggestions?

— Harry M. Reichenberg

A: The key issue here is HOW that laptop is connected to the router upstairs. My guess is that it’s a wireless connection?

If that’s so, your problem is likely insufficient signal strength. The range of your Wi-Fi router depends on the Wi-Fi standard it uses, the quality of its antennas, and conditions in your house (how many walls and floors the signal has to move through, and potential sources of interference, such as microwave ovens). If you’ve got the latest 802.11ac equipment for both the router and your laptop, you can still expect connectivity problems if you get beyond about 150 feet, especially if your computer is separated from the router by walls or floors.

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If you’ve already got a good router with 802.11ac and multiple good antennas, your best option is to try adding a Wi-Fi repeater ($20-$150) to your network to extend the router’s signal. My experience with range extenders has been mixed, but generally you get what you pay for. In short, my recommendation is to refrain from skimping on both your router and extender.

Q: I’ve been using Nomorobo for several years now. Although it intercepts a lot of robocalls, over the last year I’ve noticed a lot more robocalls are ringing through. A lot of those numbers are showing a 425 area code and sometimes the name will show “Bellevue” or “Issaquah.” When this started happening, I used to answer after the second ring (since Nomorobo reroutes on the first ring). For months now, if I don’t recognize the name on caller ID, I pick up/hang up rather than let it get picked up by my answering machine (on a landline at home). Am I responding correctly? Is there a way to eliminate these uncaught robocalls?

— Craig

A: Actually, your timing is impeccable. I was just feeling angst over an article in The Washington Post that documented the rise in spam cellphone calls … but never mentioned that there are apps that can block such calls!


And I, like you, tried the Nomorobo app. Like you, I found increasing numbers of spam calls getting through.

The solution I’ve found — and it won’t work for everyone — is to use a call blocking app that allows calls only from people on your “whitelist” to go through. Everyone else is sent to voicemail. By default, your whitelist includes those in your existing list of contacts. The app I use is Calls Blacklist for Android, though there are several available to choose from.

If you’re doing business in which you need to respond immediately to unknown callers, of course, that won’t work. But I’ve found it works great for me. Legitimate callers leave voicemails and I get back to them promptly. Spammers don’t leave voicemails. And I suspect that after multiple unsuccessful attempts to reach me, they may be taking me off their call lists. I think that because the number of blocked calls I get has been dropping.

The same capabilities are available for landlines. Check out Call Control at https://www.callcontrol.com/call-control-home. It offers both spam blocking and white listing.