CT Big List and Dealing With Technology Stress


** Brief correction
:  While I did watch and listen to Apple’s WWDC keynote address live and then combined the best of reliable sources and my own analysis for you, I left out one key equipment compatibility detail.   The late 2015 iPhone models — 6s and 6s Plus — WILL be compatible with iOS 13 that comes out this fall.  I had originally told you iPhone SE and later.   Essentially the SE (a small, 4.0 inch iPhone released in March 2016) has the same processor as the 6s family.  It makes sense then that the 6s models are still kosher.  If you have a 6s, I’m not saying that you have to get a new phone.   You may still want to get a new one (because of age, declining functionality etc) or you may want to get the battery replaced.  I will support you in those decisions.  iPhone 6 is a different story — it is not going to work with iOS 13.  As for iPads, my initial report was correct.  iPad Air 2 (2014) and iPad Mini 4 (2015) and later are supported.  The original iPad Air (2013) and previous models will not be supported. 

PSA:  This is not a scam. It comes directly from the CT State Treasurer’s Office.  You should check out the CT Big List.   This is where funds from all closed and forgotten bank accounts, insurance policies, and other funds (like mortgage rebates) go to.  I have found clients names on the list in the past.  Some of you are currently on the list. You do not have to pay anyone for claiming your missing funds. If your name comes up in the search, simply follow the steps, print out the form, get it notarized and you will get your funds.  Your bank will most likely notarize for you for free.  There are hundreds of millions of $$ available to CT residents.  It’s YOUR money.  https://www.ctbiglist.com/

PSA 2:   Since I have had a handful of clients who have been hacked recently  — mostly because of insecure and re-used passwords and also some instances of bad browser extensions — I want to share this again.    If a “bad guy”  gets your e-mail messages and your contacts, there is nothing to stop them from e-mailing your contacts over and over again asking for money and trying to scam them.   You can change your e-mail address (and maybe you should, at least for the defense of “I don’t use that account anymore”) but even still, that person can impersonate you and make it look like messages are coming from your old address or even a new address that seems to be you.  The bad guy may continue to harass you.  Don’t take it too seriously.  Don’t give in.  Think about it this way — if a drug dealer knows he can make a lot of money selling on one street corner — he is going to keep going back to that street corner until it becomes unprofitable.   If a scammer has been successful at obtaining gift cards or cash from your contacts — he will hit them up again and again.   Common logic tells you that once people stop giving in, the scammer will get bored and move on to other victims. 

Dealing With Technology Stress

Here are a couple of simple steps to help you work around frustrating situations with technology

1.  Have you tried turning the device off or closing the software application and restarting it?

2.  Have you tried doing IT a different way? For example — if your e-mail account is not working in the Mail app on your phone or computer — have you tried going directly to Gmail.com, or Yahoo.com or Comcast.net to check your e-mail?  Have you tried using a different browser?   Instead of Chrome — try Firefox or Safari (You should have more than one browser on your computer).  Once a month, make it a point to try out alternatives to common tasks so you are not stuck.

3. Strange pop up on the screen from “Microsoft Support”  talking to you with a phone number to call?   Quit the browser or turn the computer off.  Ask for help from a legitimate resource if you can’t get out of it.

4.  Put the devices down or turn them off — take a walk —- >> Go out for a while.   Talk to real people.  Do something that doesn’t give you stress!  Remember how life used to be?  All you needed was a quartz wristwatch, a wallet, and some family or friends to have a good time.

Review of Apple’s Big Event | Time for New Phones and Tablets?

This event has already been reported in the mainstream media, usually in snippets and soundbites. Clients have already asked me to clarify the confusion. I wanted to break their “state of the state” address into a very specific focus for you — 1) What it means for your Macs, 2) What it means for your iPhones / iPads, and 3) What it means for iTunes. Feel free to print this out or save this e-mail or share with your Mac / iOS using friends. This info will still be valid in the fall and ongoing.

Apple held their WWDC keynote address on Monday. Aside from a new Mac Pro desktop (which is intended for designers, people in video production, and engineers — users outside my typical client demographic), this event was all about software. Like clockwork, Apple is coming out with a brand new version of iOS and macOS. These are the BIG annual upgrades that I often tell you about. They will be available in the late summer / early fall. These will be known as iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. Apple is essentially “forking off” the software for the iPad and calling it iPadOS. This will be coming out in the fall for existing, compatible iPads as well. As I told one client today, ALL OF THE NEW SOFTWARE WILL BE FREE. These new editions of the respective operating systems offer guidance as to which Macs and iOS devices will no longer be supported.

For the Macs that you need to know about — macOS 10.15 will support
Mac Book Pro – 2012 and later
Mac Book Air – 2012 and later
iMac – 2012 and later
Mac Mini – 2012 and later
*Usually my rule of thumb is, when it’s the first version of the macOS that does not support your Mac — you have a little time.  Once its the next full year and it’s that second version of the mac OS that doesn’t support your system — you really need to get a new Mac.  (For example, if you have a 2011 Mac Book Pro (and some of you do), macOS 10.14 (2018 version) was the first one your Mac did not support.  If this Mac is still in operation, you should be thinking about a new Mac once the new software comes out in the fall. Take a deep breath, you don’t have to make a purchase exactly on that date.)  Of course, this only applies if you are going to stay with a Mac.  Alternatively, you can upgrade to a new computer whenever you want.  If your Mac is getting slow or if it fails, you may not be waiting until the end of its software life cycle.
 
As for the iPhones and iPads 
iOS 13 / iPad OS will support
iPhone SE and later (the 2015 iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are not included).  iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are OK.
iPad Mini 4 and later
iPad Air 2 (2014 model) and later
*With the iPhones and iPads, you can see they are not supported as long as the Macs.  This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when these device are no longer supported it’s time to get an new device.   So, you can see essentially, that the iPhones and iPads are 4-5 year devices (from initial release).  They may break; you may be unhappy with the performance, so in that case you can upgrade on more frequent intervals if needed.   From this compatibility / obsolescence schedule, I hope you can see that there is no point in buying a 2 or 3 year old iPhone.  That’s why the carrier or Apple are offering them for next to nothing.   I think it’s a sin that Verizon stores were recently offering the 2015 iPhone 6s for “0 dollars”. They are selling paperweights!   I know many of you have iPhone 6 or 6s models or even the original iPad Air.  It’s time to start thinking about upgrading.   And, you can certainly wait until one of the new models comes out in the fall.

iTunes is Going Away – Sort of 
One of the other big announcements was that Apple is replacing iTunes in macOS 10.15 with 3 apps — Music, Podcasts, Apple TV.   Most of the music synchronization, purchasing, organization, and iOS device management will take place in the Music app on the Mac.  Windows users — do not fear.   iTunes will still be available and remain your destination for all of these tasks on the Windows platform for the foreseeable future.

Technology Update 6/1/19 – Internet Deals

Current Comcast Deal
Most of my clients are Comcast customers. I know that it is tough to keep up with their promotions. They come and go with no set schedule. I know that it feels weird or even wrong to have to keep calling them on a yearly or bi-annual basis to ask about a new promotion. When you contact them, an appropriate promotion may not be available. A week later, you may be a very happy person. I always get asked about ways to save on the bill. I have said in the past — you may have to make some compromises. They have a current promotion for those of you who want Internet and TV only. Do not try to add anything to it. It is called the Standard Double Play HD promo. With this package you will get an extremely fast internet speed, plus their Standard TV plan (not Limited Basic). You will get local channels, sports channels, cable news networks, and entertainment channels like USA, TNT, FX, Lifetime, Hallmark. The base price of the package is $59.99. Of course you have to factor in the $10 Broadcast TV fee (local channels) and regional sports fee (8.25). I am basing this on Connecticut prices. The cost for 1 TV is about $90 a month. The cost for 2 TV’s comes out to just under $100 a month. I think this is a good offer if you are looking to hit that $100 price point. It is valid for 1 year. Then of course, you will have to renegotiate. That’s the name of the game. One more thing, you will have to contact the Retentions department to get this promo. You need to call and say you want to "cancel service". Official Comcast representatives can also make these kinds of offers through a private message on the discussion website Reddit. For as big as they are, they have gotten really modern in offering support. This deal should be good for new customers as well.

Apple’s Big Event
Apple is hosting their annual WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) next week. The big keynote will happen at the beginning of the week. I’m not really expecting new devices as they have already released new iPads, iMacs and Mac Book Pros this year. However, I think there will be announcements about the future of the Mac. I expect to see more convergence between iPad and Mac. One rumor that has come on pretty strong over the past 24 hours is that Apple will be retiring iTunes software in favor of a Music app (same as iPhone / iPad). You may remember iTunes as a music manager but it was also an iPhone manager. It was great for making local backups of your iOS device to the computer. It could also be used to restore an iOS device from the backup. I hope that functionality is kept because it has been very useful in my efforts to help you. I will have more to report in my next update.

Brief Android Update – Late May 2019

Dear Android Clients — the proud and few:

I just want to let you know that Google has come out with a new Android phone (directly) that brings back memories of its great Nexus phones from 2013 and 2015. Back then Google had a line of phones called Nexus. They were middle of the market priced phones (sub $400) but they were very aspirational. I think they were a good alternative to the iPhone. Google deviated from the plan in 2014 by releasing a huge Nexus 6 phone that was made by Motorola. It’s hard to remember this, but Google actually owned Motorola for a few years. 2015 brought us the Nexus 5X and its larger brother the 6P. Unfortunately, they did not keep the Nexus line going and have been going with a high end Pixel line of phones since late 2016.

A few weeks ago — Google gave us a glimpse of the glory days. They released a Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. They are priced a lot like Nexus phones at $399 and $479 respectively. They are being sold directly by Google and by major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile. These phones have a great camera and retain the traditional headphone jack. Google will support them with software updates for 3 years, which is a better guarantee than you will get from almost any Android phone maker.

Other lower cost Android phones for 2019 that I like are the Moto G7 or G7 Power from Motorola (motorola.com). The Power has a huge battery if you like that sort of thing. Both phones are priced under $300. Skip the G7 Play. It is less capable than the other two. Unfortunately, Motorola does not make a guarantee about updates. So for just a little more $$ it seems like that Google Pixel 3a is a better deal.

I don’t have a lot to say about Android devices these days because 90% of my clients use iPhones for their smartphone. I have to stay invested in this market because these are the clients that are going to regularly have me come out and help them with phone issues in significant numbers. In my heart though, I am with you. The Android platform was my first entry way into the smartphone world back in 2010. I think there is more flexibility to do tasks in multiple ways with Android. It’s more computer like than the iPhone in that regard. I miss my favorite Android app – Doggcatcher.

Android 9 is the current version these days. Not all older phones will upgrade to this version. When Google releases a new version of Android, the Google devices get it right away, also some devices that are branded Android One will get it promptly (like newer Nokia phones). The better Android phones will guarantee security updates for a period of time, like 2 or 3 years. Sadly, because there is not uniformity among Android device manufacturers, certain phones will never get the updates they need.

Switching Service Providers

A Word on Updates
Last week Apple put out minor but significant updates for the iPhone and iPad (iOS version 12.3) and the Mac.   You can go ahead and do these updates if they were not automatically installed.   Reading the bullet points that Apple provides does not do the updates justice.  These notes may make you think the updates are not relevant. Not true.  There are always security fixes that they don’t advertise (because Apple devices don’t have security problems, right? LOL).  As far as the iPhone goes, there was a major feature relevant to my cell phone carrier that was disabled the day the update came out.   When I finally installed the update 36 hours later, the feature was restored instantly.  iOS updates should be installed promptly.
WiFi Calling
This feature — available on all late model iPhones and most newer Android phones — has been a lifesaver for several clients.  The feature does not cost you anything and is offered by all major providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.  If your cellular signal is weak at home or at a particular location, you can route all calls over your WiFi network.   This can make your phone very capable.   Avoid dropped calls and the need to change providers.
And that brings us to this week’s feature.
 
Switching Service Providers
This write up is not a sales pitch.  I am not asking you to switch with me.  I want to provide an honest review of switching to T-Mobile from Verizon Wireless.  The switch happened during the first week of March.  I had been part of the “Big Red” (Verizon) family, with limited interruptions, going back to 1999 when I got my first cell phone.  Back then they were known as Bell Atlantic Mobile.  I always trusted that Verizon had the best network in more places across the country.  I still believe that statement to be true in terms of total coverage, with AT&T being a close second.  However, I did my research.  I took in a lot of data points about how T-Mobile coverage improved since 2013, when their merger with ATT failed and they were given billions of $$ in compensation.   Those funds were used to build a better network and played into T-Mobile marketing themselves as “the Un-Carrier.”  My wife and I did not switch our lines because we would have significantly more on regular monthly pricing.   With that said, our service cost is $120 a month and no additional taxes versus $170 a month for a comparably adequate Verizon plan that does not include taxes.  The main reasons for switching were
-The potential for a less expensive international plan:  My wife was about to embark on a 21 day international trip that would have required a $210 charge due to 21 days of Travel Passes (at $10 / day).  T-Mobile offers free international on their ONE unlimited plans.
-The promise that we could continue to use our Verizon smart phones and that T-Mobile would pay off the balances on our device payment plans with Verizon.  This promotion was known as “Get out of the Red” and was only available to Verizon switchers.
I am pleased to say that T-Mobile came through with their promises.  We submitted our final Verizon bill at the time of sign up and although it took me a few extra days to submit the installment contract on my phone specifically, T-Mobile provided us with 2 prepaid Mastercards within 15 days to pay off our $300 +  balances with Verizon.  Someone may wonder why they would even do this in the first place.   T-Mobile recognizes there is an acquisition cost for new customers.  They make this very public and use it to benefit new recruits.    Next, I want to say that T-Mobile has some of the best customer service I have ever received from a company in the realm of technology services.   While their phone based support has been fine, I have received outstanding service when I have contacted them numerous times via private messages on Twitter and Facebook.   Using those 2 platforms puts you in touch with their TForce team.  They really care.
Drawbacks?
T-Mobile offers free international service in many countries with their ONE plans @ a speed of 128 kbps.  To give you an idea of what that speed means, the dial up internet connection you used 20 years ago was 56 kbps. It is adequate for messaging apps and e-mails only.   Paying $15 more a month for a T-Mobile ONE Plus plan will gets you 256 kbps international speeds.  Many of you could probably get by with that.  However, my wife likes to do data based voice and video calls on What’s App when she travels as well as play A LOT of You Tube.  Those speeds were not going to cut it.  Fortunately, T-Mobile offers two more options for those who need the ultimate in high speed international data.  For $50 a month, they give you 15 GB of 4G LTE data.  This is comparable with the best speeds offered here in the U.S.  On day 3 of her trip, I added the plan to the account.  It worked.  At $50 vs $210 with Verizon, I guess you can say that it was still a victory.    Back home — on state roads in rural parts of CT, I was surprised that T-Mobile had good service.  However, I found some places off the beaten path with no service.  I like to listen to podcasts and often download new episodes when I am out walking or getting into the car away from home.  In the places I frequent, I have noticed those downloads to take longer than when I was with Verizon.   Furthermore, while T-Mobile coverage inside buildings is improving and will improve even more in the near future when local TV stations change frequencies — I have noticed some in building data service to be lacking.   These minor issues did not usually affect basic Google searching or calling.
My bottom line conclusions are –  great customer service, promises kept, better prices, big improvement in recent years, some rural coverage gaps, slower downloads on cellular data, and somewhat worse penetration inside buildings in certain areas.  
Teacher’s Letter Grade:  B+

Hacks and Non-Scams

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY

I want to talk about hacks and non-scams this week, but first I want to clarify a point I made last week about Frontier. Several of you have contacted me on my commentary.

I was really speaking to Internet service only when I referred to the troubles I have had on behalf of customers with Frontier. In general, whether it’s Comcast, Cox, Charter, etc. – I think the customer will have a better technical Internet experience (faster / more reliable) than with the phone company, especially when you own your own router. Areas that ATT had upgraded to fiber optic, prior to the sale to Frontier, and the very limited fiber optic areas that Frontier has added — may be an exception. These neighborhoods make money for the phone company. They will pay attention to you. If Frontier has come through for you when issues came up, by all means stay with them. However, if you are on an older “copper phone line” based Internet plan and want to do streaming video and fiber optic is not available — cable may be the only way. Cable services are generally not cheaper (after the first year or first 2 years promo you may get), but in the case of Comcast you get many ways to consume your content including watching TV on iPad, computer, and smart phone. Comcast’s phone service is internet based (as is Frontier’s fiber optic, non copper, service). This means that you may not have service during a power outage. However, you can answer home phone calls and check voicemails from your smart phone with Comcast’s Xfinity Connect app.

Hacks
I want to acknowledge that some customers had their e-mail accounts hacked in recent weeks. The incidents were all unrelated. The outcomes can be devastating and quite embarrassing. E-mails get sent out on behalf of you, asking recipients for a favor. Of course, gift cards to specific stores are requested. Sadly, gift cards were purchased and in some cases the #’s were given out to the scammers. Passwords had to be changed. Recipients had to be contacted. One good thing that came out of this was that I learned Comcast has a way to retrieve recently deleted e-mails. I haven’t been too high on using an @comcast.net address in recent years, but if that is how you like to e-mail — by all means — keep doing it. One client was hacked and had all recent messages deleted. Through the Xfinity Connect web mail interface, clicking a special button provided the option to restore these e-mails. Hackers love to take your contacts and delete them. I like the idea of syncing all contacts with an iCloud or Gmail account. If your contacts REALLY matter to you, you should also make manual exports of your contacts on a periodic basis. I can’t say it enough, but please do not use the same password for multiple e-mail accounts. Turn on 2 factor authentication for your accounts whenever possible.

Non-Scams

I don’t know if you have shopped a lot at B&H Photo and Video over the years, but I have. I have purchased many Macs for clients from them. Not only does this NYC superstore have the designation of being an Apple Authorized Reseller, they have an extensive supply of photo and electronics equipment. I often refer to B&H as the “Best Buy of NYC”, but that doesn’t really do them justice. They are local and prices are usually very competitive. I will continue to use them in the future. UNFORTUNATELY, I received an e-mail on Monday from their CEO which was placed in my spam folder. It seemed very scammy. Basically, Mr. Horowitz wanted to give customers a preview of the real e-mail he would send out the next day about his special plan to help us all avoid sales tax. As you may or may not be aware, a Supreme Court decision in 2018 mandated that online retailers must collect sales tax, even when they don’t physically operate in given states. Consequently, B&H was negatively impacted by this. The initial email from B&H was a bit uncomfortable and generated a lot of chatter online. On Tuesday, I received a second e-mail from the CEO. It was also routed to my spam folder. Essentially B&H rolled out its own store credit card, called Payboo (who came up with this name?). With all purchases made using the card, shoppers will receive a statement credit equal to their sales tax. Some stores offer 10% off your first purchase. Some do 0% financing for 6 months. The sales tax refund scheme is B&H’s way of leveraging their financing arrangement. I think this announcement and the multiple e-mails could have been handled differently. Yes, I will continue to use and recommend B&H. I’ll pass on Payboo.

Not As Good As They Used To Be

A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge.   This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.

The starting price of an iPhone is now $749.  It used to be $649 not that long ago.   The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model.   Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost?  It may be a little of both.

Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers.  One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be.  They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only.  However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same.   Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services.  Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle.   The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore.  Watch out!  Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals.   Overseas “customer service”?  I don’t even want to get started with that today.

Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball.   A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently.  As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore.  And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant).  Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore.  Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved.  Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app.  It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up.  I am ready when you are ready.  You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV).   I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap.  Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV.  However, you will have to learn something new.

And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.  

It’s not as good as it used to be.