Warning and Apology

At this time I am warning all clients and readers — DO NOT TAKE ANY MRNA VACCINES. If you never have, don’t start. If you have — NO MORE.

I apologize for not issuing such a warning earlier and for the potential harm my silence has caused.

Read The Fine Print – Lessons 1-3

Read The Fine Print #1:   — All Wheel Drive Cars

Subarus are known for pioneering all wheel drive technology.  However, Audi may have predated them and have an equally powerful AWD system.  There are even Honda SVUs with all wheel drive.  This technology is meant to give you more grip on the road and may be slightly better in challenging conditions.  I know that I certainly appreciate this feature in my Subaru.  However — if you have an all wheel drive car — you need to keep up with TIRE MAINTENANCE.  Overall, if you keep your car for a long time your total cost of tires  will very likely be more than a 2WD vehicle.   Unless it’s soon after a set of new tires, an unrepairable flat in one tire will require you to REPLACE ALL 4 TIRES.   I got kind of upset when a family member got 4 tires replaced on her Subaru and the shop did not offer a warranty.  It was precisely for this reason.  If one tire goes bad, they all have to be replaced.  A “free tire” somewhere can always be manipulated and the other 3 tires can be jacked up in price.  This dealer actually was legit. Furthermore, Tire rotation is extremely important.   If it’s $5 or $10 extra or whatever reasonable cost to get the tires rotated with each oil change — do it.  Do not decline it.  I’ve fallen victim to my own high tech / brand loyalty beliefs of having my oil changes done with a brand of oil that I select (either Mobil 1 or Royal Purple).  It may all be smoke and mirrors because the dealer uses synthetic anyway.  I was not having rotations done with my oil changes.  I should have been going back every 5,000 miles to my tire dealer, which did offer me free rotations. I did not.  Consequently, my front wheel bearings wore out.  I need them replaced along with a new set of tires, though I have gotten almost 3 years and a significant # of miles out of my current tires.  Lessons learned.

Read The Fine Print #2:  Home Solar

Solar powered homes are only going to increase. There may be environmental reasons or financial reasons such as divorcing from the electric company or both.  The sales force for one of the big players was aggressively canvassing my neighborhood today.  I don’t plan on signing up in the near future, but I have studied the consumer aspect of  residential solar A LOT over the past several years (and I will admit I do not know as much about the environmental benefit).  Solar may or may not be a good choice for you.   There are good companies out there and bad ones.  Three of the biggest that come to mind around here are Tesla, Sunrun, and Trinity.  I am definitely not endorsing any of them.  All claims have to be scrutinized.  These are the questions I would be asking:

-When the rep comes to your house and you get an offer — do not sign it on day one.  Say you want to look at it and you will contact them again.  If they demand agreement on that day — see ya, goodbye!   As a friendly advisor (not legal advice) I would be willing to look at any deal you are presented with.  ( If you need an attorney’s input, I know one that specializes in consumer law. )

– Your solar sales rep should be asking for the last 12 months of your electric bills to gauge your average usage.   If they don’t care enough about you to know this much detail  — show them the door  C-ya.

– Be very leery of claims that you are getting this system FOR FREE.  That seems hyped up to me and an embellishment.  There are a lot of adverts going around on social media — personalized for your state and town (private eyes, they’re watching you….) telling you about some great free solar system.  However, let’s say the system itself is a proper one and you can get your electricity bill down to zero. There is still likely going to be a loan or lease payment for the solar system unless you are buying it outright.  As I described it to someone recently, so you save $300 on your electric bill and pay $300  a month for the solar system.  It’s in one hand and out of the other. 

– Tax credit: These solar companies like to tempt you with a big tax credit.  There is currently a 30% federal tax credit on these systems with the average cost of the system being $21,000.  This means a tax credit of about $6100.  Please run any potential credit you are told about by your CPA.  You need to be paying at least $6000 in taxes over the next 5 years to be taking advantage of this credit.  (It can be spread over those 5 years.)   If your solar system is leased or part of a PPA you do not get the credit.  

– Servicing:  Will the installer provide service after the sale?  If they go out of business are there independent companies that can provide servicing?

– Energy storage:  What happens on cloudy days?  What happens when your panels are covered with snow?  The good news is that the panels are often installed at an angle.  Furthermore, you can purchase a battery system for storage to go along with your panels but this could easily add 10k to the cost.  These are just things to keep in mind and questions you should be asking. 

Read the Fine Print #3 — Cell Phone Deals

I won’t make this too long and I would be happy to review any deals that come your way.  Remember my long-standing offer.  I will help you remotely pick out and order your next smartphone and have it shipped to you at no charge for this pre-purchase consultation,  if you will pay me to set it up for you.  I do a much more thorough job than the stores with no gimmicks.    $800 off?  FREE phone?   Ask about those bill credits?  Are you on the latest plan to be able to take advantage of those deals?  More often than not, I just like to give my clients the straight skinny.  A premium smartphone these days is going to be an $800 to $1100 proposition (could be more come Fall 2023), but you can likely take advantage of interest free financing. 

Microsoft Edge Browser – Consumer Choice

Edge Updates

Microsoft’s browser in Windows 10 and 11 is called Edge.  It’s actually a great browser, built now off of Google Chrome (without all the Google services built in).  However — what I don’t like is Microsoft is REALLY DESPERATE to FORCE you to switch to Edge.  Do not switch default browser to Edge, unless you really want to use Edge.   Nothing wrong with Edge but — principle of it.   Keep using Firefox and Chrome if that is your intent.  If you are prompted to switch (which does happen about every 3 months), Say NO if that is your wish.  It’s really annoying that Microsoft does this.  There have been numerous instances where I get to a client’s computer.  And they say “My internet is not working”  or “I don’t have my passwords” or “my bookmarks are different.” This is all because they switched to Edge and they didn’t know it. 

A Windows 11 Hiccup

Microsoft pushed out an important update for Windows 11 called 22H2 Moment 2 on or around 3/14.  The best way to get Windows updates with Windows 10 or 11 is to just plug your computer in (or leave it plugged in for a desktop) and just let it go to sleep at night.  I really cringe when I find out clients are literally SHUTTING DOWN their computer 3, 4, 5 times a day.  No need and not optimal.   However, this recent update for Windows 11 has caused some super fast hard drives (like you would find in a lot of laptops and some high spec desktops) to slow down.   It’s not all computers in the world but enough that people are complaining.

The affected computers are still usable however.  In the recent history of Windows, there have been some bad or botched updates for Windows 7, Windows 8, and even Windows 10.  Usually Microsoft will push out a fix quickly.  That is why it is so important to let your computer be in that sleep mode when not using it so it will get the updates.  You may want to go to settings and check for Updates if you think you have not been getting updates lately or have me check at the next appointment.

You never have to be the first one to jump to a brand new version of Windows — like Windows 11 when it first comes out.  However, the monthly minor updates are all about security and quality fixes.  You should be getting them.

My March 2023 Thoughts On Windows 11

It’s getting better and I think the way it looks and feels today is the version that Microsoft should have come out with when it was released as an unfinished product (my words) in the Fall of 2021.  Boy was it brutal. At this point, Windows 11 feels mainstream to me.

Standard menu items like Google Chrome, the Edge browser, Word, Excel, Outlook, and Firefox work just fine. 

There is no rush to adopt Windows 11 however.  Microsoft will keep bugging Windows 10 users.  If you are a Windows 10 Pro user — there is some programming I can do to tone down the bugging. The absolute drop dead date for Windows 10 will be Oct 2025.  At that point if you have a pre 2018 computer (*with a couple exceptions) you will be buying or have bought a new computer.  If you have a 2018 and later computer (generally Intel 8th gen or equivalent processor) you will need to upgrade to Windows 11 by that date (or Windows 12 or whatever the next one is called). 

I just helped a business client upgrade to Windows 11 last week.  It was a very smooth process and everything seems to be working just fine.  We are mindful of the 10 day grace period to roll back to Windows 10 — just in case.

My greatest fear for anyone upgrading to Windows 11  is old software.   Outdated, unsupported, obsolete programs that ran perfectly in Windows 10 — may not run well or at all in Windows 11.  There is a chance they work just fine but you may want to ask yourself why you are hanging on to those old versions first.   A big potential hang up that comes to mind is older versions of Quick Books Pro (desktop).  The truth of the matter is that as of 2023, I believe any version of Quick Books desktop prior to 2020 is considered unsupported.  That is the reality check.  It may still work but it is susceptible to security attacks and also being partially / fully disabled by Windows updates in the future. I am saying this not to cast stones but as someone who also uses an older version of Quick Books.  The purchase price for Quick Books 2023 is $549 per year (no more one time purchases) and they even make this hard to get because Intuit / Quick Books whole objective here is to get you to subscribe to Quick Books Online — where a functional version will cost you about $55 / month, at a minimum.    Tying this back into the Windows 11 discussion — I am holding off on upgrading one of my computers to Windows 11 because of the Quick Books issue.  Eventually I will have to bite the bullet on a modern version of Quick Books, but I am trying to delay it as long as possible.  However, even with all of my cynicism — I do get Intuit’s point.  They are saying isn’t your bookkeeping worth at least $50 / month to you on average.  I’m sure when really pressed most business owners would say — of course.   There aren’t many good alternatives.

If you don’t have the issue of older software to worry about and you are sticking to the browsers and Microsoft Office — I don’t think Windows 11 is something to fear — especially with a new computer. 

Decaf And Computer Security

Get A Perfect Cup of Decaf When You Are Out

Going back a few years, it became cool to use the phrase “life hacks” to talk about an innovative or unique way of doing something.  I like a good cup of coffee and I don’t usually keep decaf in the house, but if I go out in the afternoon I want a decaf.  However, on multiple occasions I have literally been left with a bad taste in my mouth.  I have found various Dunkins putting decaf in a carafe just hoping it would stay warm, sitting there for hours.  Here is how to beat getting a stale decaf cuppa.  Go into Dunkin or Starbucks and ask for a “decaf Americano” in the size that you want.  Both places have decaf expresso beans.  You will get a custom made cup of coffee made just for you.  It’s fresh! I got a medium decaf Americano at Dunkin for 3.64. 

Computer Security Briefing – Current Events

Since I dealt with two of these in the past week, one more serious than the other — I have to put you on heightened alert. I helped a client on Thursday that had a browser hijack on her computer. It told her she had a “VIRUS.”  You will be on the internet, seemingly on a safe website and some security message will take over your screen.   This one was masquerading as Microsoft  -but Microsoft was not involved at all.  The phone number was a toll free number purchased by a scammer.  I traced it to a graphics design biz in upstate New York, but they could have just been a front for a real India based tech support scam. 

Remember my warning that I have sent out to you in multiple Decembers — Microsoft, Google, Apple, Pay Pal or Facebook  WILL NOT (repeat the WILL NOT in your mind) pop up with a phone number on your computer asking you to pay for support.  NEVER EVER. 

(I don’t see too many of you with those paper strips I sent out taped to the desk near your computer.  May want to reconsider.) 

Take a look at the attached picture.  It is a picture of a scam. (Totally safe to open as it’s just a picture)  The scenario depicted is as fake as a “Rawlecks” sold on the street in Chinatown. 

Song of the Week

Here is a 1988 performance of “From a Distance” by Nanci Griffith

It was the favorite song of my 4th grade class.  🙂

Trusting First Instinct and The Complete Menu

Happy rainy Friday.  Just want to let everyone know that I don’t have any classified documents in my garage, in the trunk of my old Camry or otherwise.  I didn’t tell anyone to lie about it [wagging finger] not even one time.

Biz Briefing:  Trusting My First Instinct

I got involved with a new (business) client over the past 2 months.  One of my business advisors told me not to get involved.  I didn’t listen.  I knew from the get go it was going to be a combative, if not hostile situation.  I then thought I am going to ask for a $1500 non refundable retainer and a few other conditions.  I didn’t listen to myself.  I got talked out of it.  99% of my client interactions are wonderful and warm situations.  My loose, warm, no hard line policies have worked for me for years.  However, the hard core business world isn’t always meant for teddy bears.  I don’t have contracts or service agreements. I don’t even think I would have the resources to pay someone to draw them up.  I ended up getting $burned$ by this situation. Lesson learned  I have got to stick to those warm and friendly encounters and trust my instinct on negative vibes that I get. Not every potential client is a match.

The Complete Menu

So now I want to talk about many of the services I can offer for you….

1. Comprehensive pre-purchase consultations for computers, iPhones, iPads — I will provide these services at no charge, including help with ordering if a client is going to have me set up their device for them.   If the client wants to set it up themselves or just wants a report to contemplate for later — I simply bill for my time.

2. Set up of computers, smartphones, tablets, printers.

3. Set up of TV’s that don’t need to be mounted — including setting up streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV +) and streaming players (Fire Stick, Roku,  Google TV, Apple TV)

4.  Virus / Malware / Adware — computer security mitigation — including reports for your bank when required

5.  Freeze Credit Reports  – give yourself the ultimate protection

6. General computer / technology troubleshooting  (note – I do not personally replace screens on iPhones or laptops, but I can take your devices and get this done for you)

7.  Back Up —  backing up your data and establishing a backup plan

8.  Computer / Technology Training — Whether you are staying for extra-credit or sitting in the back of the class — I believe you have the power to learn

9. Set up new WiFi routers — especially the newer mesh WiFi systems (ie. Eero)

10.  Computer updates and resets — upgrade an existing operating system or wipe and reinstall

11.  New E-mail address / custom private email address — Whether you want to start fresh with a new free address or you want a custom e-mail like you@yorudomain(dot).com — I can help you get this done.

Updated Thoughts On Last Pass Breach

I just want to let you know my updated thoughts on this — now that I am more fully aware of what is going on.   Some of you I have helped move to another password manager 1Password or Bit Warden.  It’s entirely possible that you may want to stay with Last Pass and while they are not a company I would continue paying $36 a year to — it’s not the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of (better then keeping passwords in an unprotected Word document on the computer, as some of my clients do.) 

If I were to give this situation a score I’m giving it a 5.5 out of 10, with 0 being nothing doing – walking to the sidewalk is a risk and 10 being nuclear disaster, call the lawyers. (However, I’m sure Last pass will be sued.)

Up until Thursday 12/22, Last Pass was a very respected commercial password manager, seen as an industry leader and widely praised among security experts — FOR YEARS.  Other competitors include 1Password, Dashlane, and Bit Warden.  In addition to personal use, Last Pass had a lot of corporate customers as well.  It’s estimated that there were as many as 37 million Last Pass accounts, just to give you an idea of their reach.  I had been a paying Last Pass customer since 2013. I think I first got started with formal password managers with 1Password back in 2010.  Back then I was primarily a Mac user.  I wanted to become fluent in both systems, so what I did for several years was keep my personal and business passwords in 1Password but keep all passwords related to my Master’s degree and the industry I was exploring in Last Pass.  Eventually around 2016-2017, I moved all of my passwords into Last Pass.  It wasn’t a better or worse situation, but since I was already paying for a Last Pass subscription and 1Password moved to a subscription model — I didn’t want to pay for a subscription to both.   The way I used to see things, I would recommend 1Password if a client was all Apple and and I would recommend Last Pass if there was a Windows device involved.  However, out in the wild there were plenty of Apple-only geeks out there that used Last Pass.  Today, it really doesn’t matter — both managers work fine on Windows and Mac interchangeably. 

Ending my story and back to the matter at hand — about a month ago Last Pass revealed that they discovered a minor security breach from back in August where no sensitive (ie. un-encrypted) data was revealed.   Companies are attacked all the time — insurance companies, the state government, etc, etc.  We never hear about it.  It’s like a vandal who breaks glass in a store but doesn’t steal locked goods.  It happens all the time.  Technically under the GDPR (European privacy laws, which are stricter than US), I believe notification is not required if ENCRYPTED data is stolen.  In general if data is truly well encrypted, it could take hackers multiple lifetimes — 1000s of years — to crack the data.  No one thought much of Last Pass’ previous announcement.  It’s nice that they let everyone know.

Then they made an announcement on 12/22.  Now that I have clarity on the breach, I want to be very specific.  These evil hackers did not have an active intrusion into Last Pass servers where they were running amok through customer data at the present time — like active shooters running through a mall — pardon the analogy.  The hackers breached a backup of Last Pass customer data that was connected to an employee’s computer in August 2022.  It all goes back to that breach.  It was an incident more than 4 months ago isolated to that point in time.

BUT BUT BUT — Last Pass’ claim to fame all these years was its ZERO KNOWLEDGE policy.   All customer data is locked with the Master Password right?  So the hackers got a big lump of coal, right?   Sadly — not true!!

While customers’ Master passwords and password data and secure notes WERE encrypted – customer names, email addresses and URL’s (meaning each website address they had a password for) WERE NOT encrypted.  Last Pass never let customers know this.  They certainly implied otherwise with that Zero Knowledge policy. 

It has not been revealed how many of the 37 million accounts’ data was stolen.  Logic would lead one to believe that this one employee did not have a backup of all of these accounts, but conservative estimates are perilous.  All customers should assume they were in the batch of stolen data.  The other key thing to remember is that this breach happened over 4 months ago and there haven’t been massive, widespread attacks against Last Pass customers.  According to experienced IT security professionals that I have interacted with over the past few days, this would indicate some sort of nation-state actor, likely looking to target specific individuals, such as their citizens or enemies. 

I think Last Pass failed on the communication front.  What did they know and when did they know it?   I do believe them that password data is secure if those passwords were protected with a secure Master Password. HOWEVER, some customers may have had WEAK master passwords. Uh-oh. Last Pass also failed in not having ALL data in a customer profile be encrypted. 

In conclusion, whether you are staying with Last Pass or moving to another password manager — you need a new master password and also the specific password for ALL SITES (all logins) need to be changed.  This will take you some time.  Do it deliberately and patiently.  Password managers like 1Password and Last Pass have a random password generator if you do not want to create your own.  I believe in also keeping a hard copy in a notebook as well.   I also like this tool for creating random passwords  https://www.random.org/passwords/  — your new passwords should be at the very bare minimum 12 characters long and ideally 14 to 16 characters plus, compliant with the website itself.  Some sites will not let you do 20 character passwords.

If there is any more help I can provide on this  — please let me know.

PS.  In case you are wondering — what password manager do your clients use the most?   They use the very limited password managers built into Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.  They are fraught with their own peril, in my opinion.  Frankly, many of my customers have dozens and dozens of insecure passwords.  So they have their passwords stored in a “manager” they don’t really use or maintain. 

Done With Last Pass and Two Holiday Gifts

Before I get to the holiday cheer — i need to tell you about a serious SECURITY INCIDENT.  I’m just going to get to the point.  I can no longer faithfully recommend Last Pass as a password manager.  Never putting all the eggs in one basket, I have recommended Last Pass and 1Password over the years as paid password managers to manage your treasured credentials.  Last Pass has now suffered its 2nd security breach in about a month.  The first one was minor, however in the latest incident customer credentials were accessed.  I can’t sugar coat this.  As of right now your passwords were not breached but user names, e-mail addresses,  billing addresses were.  So if the bad guy has  your user name and e-mail address — while they can’t get into your accounts necessarily just yet — they are a lot closer.  Last Pass was a great company when Joe Siegrest ran it.  He sold it about 7 years ago to Log Me In.  They were still good for a while.  It’s gone really off track.

I really haven’t publicized it, but since February I have used a password manager called Bit Warden.   If you are using Last Pass, your credentials can be exported to either  1Password ($36 per year) or Bit Warden ($10 per year).  Don’t make the decision based on price either.  You will want to choose one of these and then delete your info off of Last Pass as soon as possible.  I am available over the weekend, Monday or Tuesday to help you with this.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Here Are My Holiday Gifts For you

#1 Alternative Electric Supplier — Look at your last Eversource electric bill.  If you are using 400 + kwh (kilowatt hours) per month right now, you will save money by changing electric suppliers  via the website energizect.com  .  You will still only get one Eversource bill per month.  

– Effective Jan. 1 — the Generation charge portion of your bill will double.  No joke  12 to 24 cents per kwh.

– Eversource does not profit off of generation.  They don’t care if you use an alternate generation company. 

– Unlike the “bad news” you might have heard about alternative suppliers 3 to 4 years ago, it’s a totally different ballgame now after laws were changed in 2020.  We the consumers are in control

-Best rates I was able to find right now are in the 16 to 17 range per kwh with 2 to 3 year guarantees on pricing.   It’s really a 1 way contract with the supplier guaranteeing you.   6 month, 12, or 18 months from now — if you want to change to another supplier or back to Eversource as your supplier — NO PROBLEM.  No penalty.

Examples of savings:

* I’m going to be saving $38 per month (use gas heat) by choosing Xoom as my supplier.

*My brother is going to be saving $50 per month (gas heat) by choosing Direct Energy as his supplier

*A client with electric heat in her condo (yikes!) is going to be saving $120 to $140 a month by choosing Xoom

*Just today – I saved a client $41 a month (oil heat) by choosing Xoom as his electric supplier.  This client’s annualized savings today paid for his Apple Watch. 🙂

And if Eversource’s new rate stays the same or goes up starting on July 1st — you could save even more in the summer months with that AC blasting.

No fees to switch  — one Eversource bill  — energizect.com  – you can do this!!

#2 Gift:  Some of you guys think this is funny or do not cut this page into strips to put on your fridge, near your phone and on your computer.  Please do.  I had several clients  get ripped off this year or near ripped off with infected computers.    Do you think you are so smart that you wouldn’t fall for a scam e-mail or phone call?  Think again.   I am an expert in helping older adults learn.  Older adults need reminders and reinforcement.    I have attached a 1 sheet document to print out — my $1000 Holiday Gift.   Use it  — pass it on.  It’s been updated for 2022 with some newer scams that I’ve dealt with.

In closing….

This may be my last update of the year — so I’ll close with this.   We need to take a lesson from Actor Tim Robbins and simply be kinder to each other.   The past 3 years have been a hyped up, hopped up time with a lot of division and demonization.  We do business together, we shop together, we exercise together, and attend events together.  I don’t exclude clients because of medical choices, politics, signs in the yard or whatever.  Co-existence does not confer agreement, but what I am really saying is everyone around here should do a better job of tolerating others.   Paraphrasing health guru Max Lugavere — eat more protein, less sugar, exercise more, and turn off the news.

Those are my new year’s resolutions!!

Have a joyful Christmas and Hanukkah!

Time To Update Your Mac–12.6.1

I just spent some time with a client on Saturday and the primary issue was — even on a current model M1 iMac — the software (mac OS) needed to be updated and it hadn’t been updated in months.  The system was on mac OS 12 but it was an older version  12.4.  The latest installment of 12 is 12.6.1.    As much as I say — leave things to the automatic updates — sometimes it doesn’t go that way.

I don’t want anyone updating to mac OS 13 yet (perhaps a few months later would be fine), but Apple does give you the option of just updating to a newer version of OS 12. 

Doing the Update

Some of you can probably do this on your own.  Others, like my 94 year old client on Saturday, will want my help.  Although this was not a brand new OS version, it was a significant update and took 1 hour. 

1. Click on the Apple Menu in the top left of your screen

2. Click System Preferences

3. On the window that appears, click Software Update

4.  On the next screen you will probably see a big button to upgrade to OS 13. YOU DON’T WANT THAT.

5.  Right below in smaller font there will be a section allowing you to do other updates — that’s what you want.    Therein you should see the opportunity to get 12.6.1

Make sure your Mac is plugged in (laptop) and backed up before any updates.  Go for it!!

Make Sure Your System Works

Make Sure Your (Password) System Works

Some clients along with yours truly use a sophisticated password manager. At the bare minimum you should have a paper notebook.  And then you should start new notebooks when they get all messed up and full of cross-outs.  However, whether manual or electronic, your system of password keeping is not good unless you regularly test that it works.  It’s just bad data if it doesn’t work.  So I’m suggesting that quarterly (if not more often, with banking and sites you frequent) — you should log into every website you have a password for.   Make sure you have WORKING PASSWORDS.

Common websites you need to check are —




ATT Yahoo / att.net, sbcglobal, snet e-mail  https://currently.att.yahoo.com/

You should also try

-Microsoft Office subscription / Microsoft account  https://account.microsoft.com


-Your banking / investment websites

-Shopping websites

-Newspapers and publications

**It’s really really bad form to keep passwords in an unencrypted Word or Excel file stored on the computer.  You are setting yourselves up for theft.   Modern versions of Microsoft Office will allow you to save PASSWORD PROTECTED Word and Excel files.  These are somewhat encrypted and the encryption improved in Office 2016 and later.   Still not my favorite – but better than naked files.