Bogus Comcast Email Warning

Just wanted to send this out to you my Comcast / Xfinity clients:

I have gotten a couple of reports of an email making the rounds telling my clients that they need to update their Comcast email from version 9 to version 12 or something like that.

It is totally fake!  This isn’t AOL from 2001.  Comcast does not publicize a version number of their email system.

Remember the things I always taught you about examining fake emails.  Look at the sender.  In this case — the sender was using a Gmail address.   Would real Comcast do that?   No way!

Secondly check out the link they want to send you to.   Just point to it, don’t click it.  In this case it was a mysterious foreign website — not a Comcast(dot)net or xfinity(dot)com or anything like that.   

I don’t want you to make an expensive mistake.

Dealing With Comcast Anger

I remember having an open ticket with Xfinity support reps from late December 2019.  After months and months, I did not hear back.  I contacted @ Comcast Cares on Twitter and got prompt feedback.   I know a lot of people have gripes with this company.  The biggest thing I have to remind myself and others is — the days of big deals are over.   Get real familiar with that price list that comes out twice a year (check your online billing if you don’t get a paper bill).  Get familiar with THAT price for your service or services, add on the necessary fees (ugh) and that is what you should expect to pay.  Promotions aren’t what they used to be.  That era of deal making is fading.  Consider other options if they exist.  Slowly I am coming to a place of peace with it.  I seriously think this company should go with a one price model like TMobile.  I think that would help to alleviate a lot of the anger.

Comcast Hammering Us In A Pandemic

I hear that 80’s rock song that goes  “we’re not gonna take it anymore” playing in the background.    Where is the breaking point folks?   What is your limit to how much you are willing to pay this company? 

I could have written a book (or at least an e-book) about all of the deals I negotiated for myself and clients with Comcast / aka Xfinity between 2014 and 2019. I had the method down to a science.  Just like LL Bean (a far more reputable company), Comcast has caught on to customers exploiting the system.  2020 has been the year of the crackdown.  Most of you probably have electronic billing with them.  However it’s really important to log onto my.xfinity.com with your email and password at least a few times a year because they will post the Price List at least once or twice.  Get real familiar with those prices because once these promotions get completely eliminated, which is the direction they are going in, you will pay THAT price.  Don’t forget to add in all of the JUNK FEES, like broadcast fee, sports fee, cable box fee and about 13% in taxes on the TV (not internet) portion of the bill. 

There are two key points that I want to make here, one that is reflected on the price list and one that isn’t.  1)  Effective 1/1, Comcast is imposing a “data cap” for its New England customers for the first time.  They have had these caps for the internet across the country for years.  You can also look at this as — you will not get truly Unlimited internet for the price you were promised.  Comcast claims this will only impact the 5% heaviest internet users (by data use, not your weight on the scale LOL).  I don’t know if I believe them.  The cap is going to be set at 1.2 TB (terabytes) or 1200 GB a month.  That is a lot of data.   However for a family of four that is Zooming all day during the work day, streaming TV / Netflix / Amazon Prime in their free time, and playing online video games – it is an easy threshold to exceed.   If you are by yourself and just do basic internet and email most of the time, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  However, you will probably want to check your data usage and it can easily be done by going to this page, https://customer.xfinity.com/#/services/internet    and scroll down to the bottom.   In my household, we consistently use about 450 GB of data per month or 0.45 TB.  We should be all set, but I have seen many reports of Comcast rigging the meter against customers when the data caps are in place.  What is their end game?  Well, they are going to charge big overage charges for violators.  However, they will gladly allow you to remedy the problem BY PAYING MORE.  How kind of them.  If other markets are any indicator, you can now get “truly unlimited” internet by paying $30 more.  However if you rent a (lousy) modem from them, you can beat the caps for about $25 (modem rental plus $10 upcharge).  It’s a money grab…… because they can.

2) This one really got to me yesterday.  I received an email with a link to a price list saying that my bill would be going up effective 12/20/2020.  Since my bill came out on the 18th, the increases will take effect on my next bill.  If you are Internet only (and not under a contract), you may be seeing a price increase of $3 per month.   Sadly, TV customers are in for the real gouge!   Broadcast TV Fee (what they collect to offset what local stations charge them to transmit the channels) is going up by $5.   Regional Sports channel fee?  Going up by $2.  (Again, Comcast would say that they are simply collecting more to reflect the increase in costs of what they pay out to these networks).   The cost of your cable box will also be going up by more than $2.  So that is $9 increases right there.   However, if you have a 2nd (or 3rd) cable box in the house, that charge is dropping by $2, so the box charges may even out.   These companies can charge whatever they want, but the same fees just went up 2 years ago.  Now they are hitting us again.

What I think is so wrong is that Comcast thinks they have the right to increase the fees on customers ALREADY UNDER CONTRACT.   I agreed to a contract that expires in June 2021. I am bound to it.  There are penalties if I cancel early.  Yet they think they can change the price.  Comcast would say —  that fees can always be increased and they are not part of the contract.  This is my biggest gripe.   In January, I talked to a lawyer from Comcast about big picture issues and legislative concerns.  He gave me his personal cell phone number and said I could call him any time.  Perhaps I should do this.  Some of you are lawyers, you might be married to a lawyer, or you may just be ticked off like I am.   

How much is too much for cable services?   In areas where the phone company has fiber optic service or there is an independent  fiber choice, you may have an alternative.  Call the lawyers, call Executive Relations, and call the Retentions department.  

Give them that line that Dee Snider sang so well “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”

Mac OS 10.11 Big Sur–Do Not Install Now

It’s been a while since I did one of these.  As with many technology concerns, I want to achieve a balance between hyping something new and ignoring it completely.  With that said, I don’t want clients to be taken by surprise. 

Facts:  A new version of the Mac operating system was released a few days ago.  It is known as “Big Sur” — aka mac OS 11.  Make no mistake about the numbering.  if you recall the versions of mac OS for about 20 years have been called 10.x.   Most recently we’ve had 10.15 that came out last year (Catalina).  By calling Big Sur version 11 and not 10.16, Apple is signifying the future is here.  They are as committed to the Mac as ever, but they have built the platform for the next generation.  If you are just using Mail and Safari (or Chrome) you won’t notice major changes.  There could be little quirks that trip you up, however.

Starting anytime now you are going to be bothered / prompted to install Big Sur (mac OS 11).   As it just came out a few days ago, I’m still considering this experimental software even though Apple would beg to differ with my assessment.  Big Sur is compatible with most Macs 2013-14 and later, depending on the model.   DO NOT INSTALL MAC OS 11 / BIG SUR RIGHT NOW. 

Once we get to version 11.1 or 11.2 or even later — a couple ++ months from now, then it probably will be safe to install.   It was a good 6 months or more when I finally urged clients to install Mac OS 10.15.   As always, I am available to assist with these major upgrade jobs. 


Last year and into this year — I was able to program your Macs to ignore the last big upgrade until it was an appropriate time to install it.   With a small update earlier this year — Apple took away your ability to do that.   (There are some Business utilities that could be installed to do the blocking but most consumers are not going to go that far. )   So sadly, the Mac has gotten a little less friendly to use.  It seems like they are forcing you to take software that is not ready for prime time. 

Just remember — no need to travel to Big Sur today.  I’ll let you know when you should get your boarding passes ready. 

Mac-Not Going Anywhere

Happy Veterans Day.  Thank you to all who served.


Fruit of the Week

I think I have found my new favorite fruit, but you’ll be hard pressed to find it in a conventional grocery store. I am talking about the Japanese pomelo.  I have to confess I am a bit of a grapefruit snob.  The Japanese pomelo has a lime green outer skin and is about the size of a large grapefruit.  It’s color gives a false impression that it’s very sour but my taste buds would put it somewhere in between a pink grapefruit and an orange.  I’m glad I bought 6 when I could.


New Macs Are Out — To Be Delivered Soon

Apple did it again.  They had their third major product unveiling in as many months.  As I mentioned last week, they are in the process of releasing Macs with CPUs (and GPUs — graphics processing units) that are created totally in-house.  Apple has done this for years with the iPhones and iPads.  Since 2006, Apple has sold Macs with Intel CPUs.   Welcome to the new era of “Macs with M1 chips”.   New Mac Book Airs, Mac Book Pros, and Mac Minis are available for pre order.  They will run Intel Mac software without a major performance hit.  Apple seems to be as committed to the Mac as ever.  Pricing starts at $699 for the Mini (a desktop),  $999 for the Mac Book Air, and $1299 for the Pro.  These represent the same pricing on the 2 laptops and $100 less on the Mac Mini.  Born in 1984, Macs are not going anywhere.

Update 11/03/2020

Small Biz Spotlight

(Unsolicited)  If you don’t believe in Chiropractors, you have my permission to skip this section.  I realize that some in the profession have made dubious claims.  However, many of us out there  feel that chiropractic care helps us feel better and move our joints more freely. If this is how you feel, please let me introduce you to Dr. Rick Araya of West Hartford, CT.  Dr. Rick is a straight shooter. He doesn’t try to rope you into some $5000 treatment plan with a bunch of gimmicks.  He runs his business like I run mine.  If you want to pay by the visit – you can pay $45 per visit (even less if you are 65 and older).   He doesn’t waste your time by doing massage, lighting candles, or any of that stuff.  Most follow up visits are 5 to 10 minutes – in and out.   As an advocate for senior consumers, I can’t think of a better chiropractor — if that’s your thing.  To learn more – http://goodchiro.net and if you go let Dr. Rick know I sent you.

Another Apple Event

Apple is really hitting it out of the park this year.  Last week there was a report of record Mac sales — powered by all models but especially the Mac Book Pro.  According to Bloomberg, Apple will be holding their 3rd big event in as many months next week.  They are expected to release new Mac Books this time with their own CPUs (just like the iPhone and iPad).  This will be the 3rd processor transition in the Mac’s history.  In 1995, they went to IBM Power PC chips and in 2006 Apple migrated to the current Intel architecture (just like PC’s).  Apple feels that they can deliver a better Mac when they control the entire manufacturing process and that is just what they are doing.   Are your Intel Macs junk now?  Of course not.   Even if you are buying a new Mac before early – mid next year you may still want to get an Intel Mac.  However, Macs with Apple silicon inside will be with us soon and are here to stay.   Rumor has it that Apple will continue to support current Intel Macs with updates for about 5 years from a certain date (to be announced).  I don’t think this will be a painful transition. 


Black Friday – Holiday Shopping

Black Friday is coming early this year. Traditional stores and online sellers are slow rolling their deals.   While the discounts on Apple products may be in the low hundreds of dollars, there are bound to be terrific deals on other items.  Just today I helped some clients order Thinkpad X1 and T laptops ( every bit as good as a Mac) that are normally about $2000 plus, for $999.  Those deals are going to be gone by the time you read this.  I will be your scout for other bargains.  Keep in mind, as long as there is no wall mounting required I can help you set up most TV’s as well.   For as rotten as the cable company can be, there is nothing quite like a new TV with an X1 cable box and voice remote from Xfinity.  You can speak and have it take to you any channel or available movie.

Windows 10 Users–You Need A Backup

(If you don’t have important files on your PC — if you use it to surf the Internet and check email only — this doesn’t apply to you.  Perhaps you could forward it to another Windows user). 

However, I know that most of you have important files on your Windows PC.  They could be work files, documents, proposals, and photos.

I’m giving you a true report from the field here and let you know that the recent BIG UPDATE to Windows 10 (version 2004) that has been installing on your computers over the past couple months has created A FEW problems.  Well over 90% have been smooth sailing.  But — there are 2 that I can think of — that were a big problem.   In both cases — the computers needed to be erased and have Windows 10 reinstalled.   In one situation — it didn’t matter.  In the other situation, the client was in a tough spot because there were important work documents and no backup. 

You can avoid this all together — by having a backup system in place.  This might be an external hard drive.  It might be an online file storage service like One Drive or Dropbox.  Or you may even want to consider an all encompassing online backup service like Carbonite or Backblaze for about $6 per month. 

Updates and Upgrades do fail from time to time.   Windows may have to be reinstalled.  You may need several hours of help from someone like me when this happens.   Having a backup of important files makes your life SO MUCH easier.

iPhone 12 Event

Apple had their big virtual iPhone 12 event today.  I just got finished watching it live.  I know that some of you are in the market for new iPhones, so I wanted to give you the skinny.  Apple unveiled 4 new iPhone 12 models.   The 12 Mini ($699), the 12 ($799), the 12 Pro ($999) and the 12 Pro Max ($1099).   The giant Max actually clocks in at a price reduction from last year’s model. 

The iPhone 12 — 6.1 inches is expected to be the biggest seller of the bunch, sporting the same screen size as the 2018 iPhone XR and 2019 iPhone 11, although fitting everything into a tighter body.   The iPhone 12 Pro is actually larger than the iPhone X (2017),  XS (2018), and 11 Pro (2019), so that might be a consideration for you. 

The 12 Mini is for those iPhone who want the smallest possible size, however the actual screen is larger than the iPhone 6 – models and the overall 2020 SE model. The body is smaller than those previous phones.

All of the new iPhone 12 models support 5G in both the “normal” and ultra wide band frequencies.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago 5G is just getting of the ground, so you are really future proofing yourself with these iPhone 12 devices.   And of course, if you want a budget friendly iPhone with a familiar look the SE @ $399 is still a great choice.

Simplifying Routines

Technical Tip

Don’t put your gear on top of other devices that are charging.  If your laptop is charging at night, don’t leave your phone or anything electronic on top of it.  I think this would apply to other mechanical devices as well. I developed a bad habit of placing the Seiko watch I got for my Big Birthday earlier this year on top of a closed laptop at night. Well well, the watch became demagnetized.  It’s in the shop now. 😦 

Biz Briefing

I am trying my best to weather the Covid 19 storm and also prepare for possible changes in operations once the weather gets colder.  I am doing about 2/3 of appointments in person right now, but if we have to go mostly remote, let’s make sure we are prepared.  With the vast majority of you, we are already set up to do Quick Assist (Windows) or Team Viewer and Zoom (Windows or Mac).  If for some reason you think you are not set up to do a remote session with me, I can help you get set up at no charge by phone or when I am in the area. 

Simplifying Routines

I describe myself as someone who provides I.T. consulting and tutoring  with a teacher’s heart.  After all, I was once a certified teacher and have a Masters in Education.  (And would you believe I am getting calls to come back in for school based positions? I told them, no thanks! I am not working in a classroom and jeopardizing my clients’ health.)  I try to incorporate a teacher’s spirit in what I do. This makes me so different than the I.T. Guy from the big box store or some nerd driving around in a VW Bug. 

I have gotten a great feel for how older adults learn and process information.  The teacher in me believes in high standards and expectations.  I want to take you into expanded portals of possibility.  You might think your potential is at ground level.  I have my sights set on the stars.  I think if we end up somewhere in between, you will be able to get a lot out of your technology. 

One of my goals going forward is to help you simplify routines through sequences of brief, memorable steps.  When working with a client recently, I broke down emailing scanned documents to

-Scan

-Save

-Attach

Keyboard shortcuts are another way to simplify tasks. 

Want to create a new folder for your files?

In the File Explorer (Finder – Mac), create a new folder by pressing Ctrl (Cmd – Mac) Shift + N

iPhone Users Positive Review of Pixel 4a

I don’t have many clients that are really into Android anymore, but I wanted to share this review that is quite positive from an iPhone loyalist who tried Google’s new Pixel 4a.   In my opinion, its the no brainer Android phone choice @ $349.

I should add that the 4a supports 2 phone lines (regular SIM + eSIM) should you need that feature.

Published in PC World and Mac World — Sept 8, 2020

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3574016/apple-iphone-se-vs-google-pixel-4a-size-display-camera-features.html