Small Biz Spotlight – Buddy's Jeans

They don’t make ’em like they used to. Soon that will be true for a great American company.  Since 2009, Buddy’s Jeans have been the only ones I’ve worn.  In an age when a designer pair of jeans can easily be $70 to $100 and an American made pair can go for $200 — Buddy’s have been a true gem.  Jane Little took over the factory in Mississippi in 2002 and has sold the brand in her store ever since.   At $50 per pair, they are hard to beat for men’s jeans.  Unfortunately, Jane made the difficult decision to close the factory.  It seems as though there is still a sizeable inventory left but when they are gone, they’re gone.  I just talked to the staff last week.  So here you go — http://buddysjeans.com/products.html   Odd sizes and lengths are their speciality.  The relaxed fit or original fit are going to be most likely what you want as they are 100% cotton denim.  The “cowboy” jeans are a much more rugged variety.    

Praise for Xfinity Today – 2x

I know it’s very easy to rip Xfinity these days due to price increases (largely because of junk fees) and I rip them with the best of us, but I want to give praise where it is due. I got great service from them today.

I received very prompt support from @ ComcastCares on Twitter (direct message) and had a very informed discussion about my package and options. One thing that I got loud and clear that everyone else should take note of. When you have a contract or an offer and lets say you have services that are for example 79.99 per month and that price is good for 12 or 24 months. Taxes and Fees (like broadcast TV fee, sports fee) could make your monthly bill go up. They are not subject to the contract. I also found out about Super Bowl 4K viewing options (hint — for now the Fox Sports app is required. Xfinity is evaluating other options)

Secondly, I received great service in my local Xfinity Store. It was just remodeled and frankly looks better than my local Apple store but I really get the Apple vibe (all wood look, individual stations for service through out the store, A+ for design). Anyway I had an X1 box and remote that weren’t cooperating upstairs – 2nd box in the house. The rep was so friendly. He gave me the smallest X1 box possible (some call it a satellite box) and did not try to upsell me at all. And the box self configured, no call in on activation was needed.

A Half Mac–Half Windows Bulletin

Social Media Tips of the Week 

I don’t know if you are on Instagram but I decided to sign up a few years ago due to the fact that I had some clients on it who needed me to teach them a thing or two.  I don’t actually post anything on there but I use it to follow personalities in the realm of health and other fields.  It is sort of a “one way Instagram for me.”   On Instagram you can share or view photos from family and friends without the mess of Facebook or nastiness of Twitter.   One account that I like following is @poetic_outlaws.   The account owner always posts timely, thought provoking content from writers who lived on the edge (ie. Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Mary Oliver, Ayn Rand, etc).   If you like a daily dose of stimulating quotes, check it out.


End of Windows 7 

Since half of my clients use a Mac, I did not share this with all of you last week.  However, January 14th marked the end of life for Windows 7.  It will no longer get security update from Microsoft.  Therefore, users should either upgrade to Windows 10 or buy a new computer.   In case you are unaware, Windows 7 was released in late 2009.  It is truly one of the best operating systems of the past 20 years and was the last Windows operating system written solely for the computer (with no tablets or smart stuff in mind).   Here is my somewhat sentimental, somewhat humorous tribute on the passing of Windows 7 — https://theacronym.com/2020/01/15/celebrating-the-life-of-windows-7/


Mac OS 10.15 – Catalina

I think I have discussed this a bit in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to bring it up again with a new spin.  Mac OS 10.15 is the latest yearly operating system released by Apple.  It came out in the fall of 2019.  While browsing the internet and emailing and other basic functions work just about the same as they always have — there are major changes under the hood.  This operating system, coded named Catalina, only runs 64-bit Mac apps.  That means all of the older 32-bit apps will not run in this OS.   If you depend on old software that has never been updated by the developer or software that you are not ready to purchase / learn / install an updated version of — I don’t think Catalina is ready for you right now.   Furthermore, it has come to light that some devices on the Mac — critical ones — like PRINTERS — don’t always play nice with Catalina.  Today, I was all set to recommend a very new model of HP printer to a client.  Then I read that in order to get basic features to work — an app called HP Smart needed to be installed from the Mac App Store.   HP Smart is actually brilliant app in Windows, but has been poorly executed on the Mac thus far.  I’m glad I recommended a different printer.

I believe I have told this to many of you already — but if I have worked on your Mac since the fall — I have actually blocked Mac OS 10.15 from installing.  I did you a favor.  You are fine with OS 10.14 for now.  It is still getting security updates. You are current.   10.14 (aka Mojave) was the OS that came out in late 2018.  Unless there is some feature that you are dying to have in 10.15 Catalina — let’s keep holding off.  We should talk about getting you on the latest Mac OS at the end of 2020 or early 2021 if you are going to stick with your current Mac.  At that time an upgrade to 10.16 will likely be in order.

Coming Soon…

I want to let you know what equipment is truly required to become a cord cutter or at least a video streamer in 2020

Celebrating the Life of Windows 7

You may have seen the “obituaries” in the news in passing, but in case you didn’t, I wanted to let you know that January 14th was the end of life date (EOL) for Windows 7.  It is technically secure right now, but Windows 7 will receive no more security updates from Microsoft.  There will be no more Patch Tuesday — 2nd Tuesday of the month updates that have protected users for more than 10 years.    With the exception of a couple of loose ends that I am tying up, this EOL date didn’t affect many of my clients because I got them all onto Windows 10 in 2015-2016 during that first year.   Some of them have also purchased new computers since then as well. 

I want to take this opportunity to remember Windows 7 as a cherished member of my life.   During the summer of 2009, Microsoft offered a discount to buy Windows 7 in advance.  It was $50.  I jumped on that right away.  (Normal retail pricing for Windows 7 was about $100 to $150).   Windows 7 launched on October 22, 2009.  Naturally, I installed it on day one.   I actually put in on a Mac as a 2nd operating system.   For years, even now, a Mac can support Windows through Boot Camp or other virtualization software.   There were days when I used Windows 7 even more than the Mac OS.   I loved you at first sight Windows 7.     Windows 7 was such an improvement to the unstable Windows Vista and provided a timely refresh to Windows XP which was about 8 years old at the time.   Windows 7 also became “Mac like” in a sense because Microsoft offered some free apps to mimic Apple’s iLife Suite.    Windows 7 users could install Windows Essentials which gave them Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, and a blogging tool called Live Writer.

Windows 7 had one major update or upgrade as I like to call it.  It was called SP1 — service pack one which was released in 2011.  That is quite a contrast to the present era when we get 2 new versions of Windows 10 every year.    The problem with this servicing model was that — lets say it was 2013 or even more recently and Windows had to be re-installed.  Even if you got a Windows 7 disc or USB with the SP1 version, you would need to install ALL OF THE SECURITY UPDATES. from 2011 to the current date of install.  This could take days!   It was really difficult for both the user and their favorite tech support guru.   One of the great features of Windows 10 is that, if your computer needed a reinstallation of Windows 10 today — I could install the latest version Windows 10 – 1909 and only a minimal number of updates would be required.  There is no need to go back and download the original Windows 10 from 2015, followed by endless updates.

Windows 7 — I loved you for your stability and predictability.  When I abandoned the Mac OS as my primary computing platform in early 2014 — I raced for an HP ProBook laptop with Windows 7 Professional.  You were there for me and meant a lot in that time of change.   I will forever miss your Start Menu.   Goodbye old friend!

The End of Deals and The End of CDMA

The End of Deals?

I mentioned how I helped a client save over $500 annually on their Comcast bill last week.  Unfortunately, that might be the last notch I can put in my “service savings belt” for a while.  One thing I predict is that it is going to be harder to strike deals with them in the new year due to their “Vision 2020” campaign.  This is an internal company framework which states that they are not going to give discounts to existing customers like they used to.   The reason why I was able to save the aforementioned client so much was because she was paying for a pricing model that was out of date for the package she had.  There were no contracts or promotions signed up for.   Of course you can save money by cutting services, but when I bring that up not many have an appetite for doing so.  Be flexible, consider competitors, especially those areas of West Hartford where Go Net Speed exists. 

Cell Phone Market Is Changing – Part 2

I see real changes coming to the market toward the end of the year and going forward.   Remember, back in the day, when Verizon was known for those “Can you hear me now?” commercials with Test Man Paul? (He works for Sprint now, go figure!)   Their greatness was built on their CDMA digital calling network which launched in the mid 1990s.  As analog was phased out in the early 2000s, that Verizon CDMA signal was known to penetrate everywhere — especially buildings.   Starting in around 2014, Verizon, ATT and the other carriers began rolling out calling on their LTE data network.  Some would argue that the calls are clearer, but I think the signal just doesn’t have the reach of the old CDMA and legacy calling networks.   ATT shut down their GSM network a few years ago, but they still have 3G calling to fall back on along with LTE.   Verizon’s CDMA calling network will be completely shut down by 01/01/21, after extending the deadline by a year in 2019.

Verizon says the CDMA shutdown is necessary to fully roll out LTE and 5G everywhere.  This is a last call for all of the Verizon people out there.  If you have an iPhone 5s or older, old Android phone (non LTE calling), or old flip phone —  You will need a new device by the end of 2020.   Verizon has no 3G calling network to fall back on. I really wonder if the improvements to the LTE calling network will make up for the elimination of CDMA.  Furthermore,  5G will add new wavelengths and capacity that we can communicate on but 5G phones are cost prohibitive right now and owned by so few.   Wait until Apple starts selling 5G phones, then you know it will be the right time to buy one.  Then you will know that this new technology is ready for everyday use. 

Statement on Mesh Routers

I wanted to issue a clarifying statement on the topic of “Mesh Routers” because someone had questioned whether I was against mesh routers and that I might want to reconsider my position.  

Mesh routers are 2 and 3 unit + router systems that can help to bridge the gaps for WiFI in large homes or homes that may have trouble getting a signal in specific areas.   Well known mesh router brands are Netgear Orbi and Eero.   Xfinity also providers their own mesh solution called XFI pods, make for them by a company called Plume. 

For the record, I am not nor have I ever been against mesh routers.   I have been setting up mesh router systems for clients since 2017.  I have worked with a precursor to the modern day mesh systems (ie. Netgear Powerline) for over 10 years.  In my experience, the mesh systems work in some instances and do not work in others.   If you are in a WiFi challenged situation, it may be worth it to buy a mesh system from a vendor with a good return policy (like Amazon) to try out.   If they don’t work out, you can always go back to your old router system.

Also, keep in mind the cost.  While a good single router is going to cost you approximately $200, a mesh system will cost you $300 to $400 for the Eero or Orbi.   The Xfinity XFI pods are $119 for 3 pods and $199 for 6 pods, depending on the size of the house. You need to be renting a “modern” modem from them (approx $15 per month) to use these specific pods. 

Be flexible.  Be willing to try out a couple of solutions to find what works best for you.

Deals Report and Cell Phone Market Preview

Deals Report

One score and one miss.

I will start with miss first.   I know that some of you are likely looking for a quality laptop this year.  You know how I rave about the Lenovo Thinkpad (IBM’s old line) and the Dell Latitude systems.  In fact they are better than the current crop of Mac Books.   For what seemed like this weekend only, Lenovo was offering an unbelievable $629 price on a fully decked out Thinkpad T480. It was brand new, even though the T480 was the 2018 model.  I wish I could have gotten this information out to you sooner but I just wasn’t able to.  By Monday morning, the price had jumped back to $2029.   This 14 inch laptop is every bit as high quality as a 13 / 15 inch Mac Book Pro and in my opinion better. 

I am pleased to report that I was successful in helping a client save big money on their Comcast bill.  I was able to get them an annualized savings of $576, with monthly pricing going from $268 to $220.  The name of the Comcast package was called Select Triple Play.  The particulars that influenced this deal included a phone modem rented from Comcast ($14 – 15 approx.)  2 cable boxes, and HD service was included in the deal.  The Select Triple Play includes the Digital Preferred cable TV package, one level higher than the “standard” TV package, and Blast internet (300 mbps).   This deal is apparently an everyday price, no strings had to be pulled and no arms had to be twisted.  Fees can go up in the future, as always.   Please see my last update.   In this scenario, the client could save the modem rental charge by buying their own telephone capable modem (approx $200) but it would take about 1.5 years for the cost savings to equal out.  Given that this particular client’s house is known for lightning strikes and modems have been replaced in the past — renting is likely the best option. 

If you are wondering about the Standard Triple Play, pricing will be a little less.   If you can get a promotion guaranteed for 12 or 24 months, pricing will be even lower but you will have to sign a contract on those promos.   What I can say is this, if you are getting all 3 services from Comcast not including any extra packages – $175 to $225 is very normal these days.  As with the computers, promotional packages can be here one week and gone the next. 

Preview:  Cell Phone Market is Changing

I am going to get into this more in a future update.  However, I see the cell phone market changing a lot as we move to the end of 2020 and beyond.  Old networks are being shut down and the carriers are going to rely exclusively on advanced networks like LTE and 5G.  There have been a ton of layoffs and I think this has put a lot of strain on delivering positive customer experiences.  

Based on personal experiences and helping clients, I would say my ranking of best providers in terms of customer service are

1. Consumer Cellular (ATT Network)

2. T-Mobile

3. Xfinity Mobile (there will be some changes coming Feb 1, however)

4. Verizon

*Verizon has really fallen in my opinion.   I also don’t have a lot of data to go off of with ATT directly, that is why I did not mention them.  A provider can have great service on technical merits, but I think what my typical client (age 60+) cares so much about is the level of customer care provided.  No one wants to wait on the phone for 2 or 3 hours to be heard. 

Technically yours,