Technology Update for March 20th

Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.

1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider

For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode.  However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers).  PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not.  They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm.  I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization.  With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone.  You can only imagine the transactions that followed.  This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider.  It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.  I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast.   Stop using the last 4 of your SS#.  Act now.

2. Facebook data collection nightmare

The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network.  By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook.  I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support.  There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook.  However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days.  Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model.  Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests.  Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account.  Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties.   It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.

3. Net Neutrality:  Bye Bye

Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections?  The end is near.  Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes.   If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage.  Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix?  We will charge you more!  You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period.  Use a VPN – a virtual private network.  A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service.  It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically.  There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully.  They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear.  These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.  They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month.  Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.


Breadbasket Technology Update

1.  iPhone Killer?

Since 2009, we have been waiting for a true iPhone killer.  I remember when the first Motorola Droid came out on Verizon.  I remember the futuristic commercials during a Sunday of football games.  However, has any Android phone ever really lived up to the hype? For a while Google has a line of Nexus phones that were the perfect combination of performance and price.  They sold for about $350.  Unfortunately, Google retired the Nexus brand in 2016 and currently sell a line of Pixel phones.  They are priced at the top of the market along with premium Samsung and LG offerings, as well as the iPhone.   While it may or may not be the iPhone killer, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 will be in stores for sale this Friday.  It comes in 5.9 inch (S9) and 6.2 inch (S9+) flavors.   It is available starting at $720 directly from Samsung and $799 from the likes of ATT + Verizon.  DXO Mark claims it has the best smartphone camera ever.  If you are an Android fan, tired of the iPhone, or just want something different — check it out.   It will be the fiercest competitor to the iPhone this year.

2.  A New Version of Windows — Again?

Yes, the 5th major upgrade to Windows 10 should be coming out next month. I thought the Mac was bad with one new version of mac OS each year since 2011.  Microsoft seems bent on delivering two new versions of Windows per year.  That means gigabytes of data get thrown at your computer delivering some new mix of features and security.  Windows 10 is in a really good place right now.  Why mess it up?  I’m telling all my customers, with Windows 10 Pro (ie. the ones that had me order their computers), to turn on the “delay feature update” option in Windows.  Set it to 120 days.  Let the bugs get worked out.  We can deal with this new version of Windows in the summer. I wish Microsoft would open up their ears and listen to customers.

3. One of My Favorite Mac Applications

It’s called Sync Mate.  It applies to some of you, not all of you.  Not all of you sync your Contacts through iCloud.  Some prefer to use Google, not only for email but for contact syncing.  You can sign into your Google account the Mac’s System Preferences and it will sync all of your contacts, but it will not sync groups of contacts.  You may have your contacts divided up, business and personal.  You may have a holiday card list.  Think of Sync Mate as a helper for Contacts on the Mac.   It will sync the groups between your Gmail account and Mac Contacts.  This app comes in free and paid versions.  The free version has always worked for me.

Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet

I was recently asked by a willing buyer, should I get a desktop, laptop, or tablet?

It certainly depends on the user’s habits and preferences.   I think a desktop is wise choice for someone who doesn’t mind doing their work in one place all the time and prefers using a larger screen.   The typical desktop monitor is 22 to 24 inches these days.  The standard high resolution (meaning everything is smaller) can be magnified or scaled up to give you a very comfortable viewing experience. 

Laptops are appropriate for users who want the flexibility to move around a lot (or at least once in a while) and don’t mind a smaller screen.  Some laptops can even be purchased with 17 inch screens, in the Windows world, so there may not even be that much of a compromise.  There is a wide spectrum of quality in the laptop game.  You could pay anywhere from $400 to $2500 for a laptop that works for you.  It simply depends on the purpose and features required.  As a final note on laptops, I will mention that I have had great experiences buying high quality, business class laptops for clients through the Dell and Lenovo outlets over the years.

Tablets (or even Chromebooks) are becoming a more popular choice for a consumer’s computer.  I set up a new iPad for a client over the weekend who will be using her iPad Pro as her primary personal computer.  I worked with a client today who only uses a Chromebook.   With an iPad or Chromebook, you can e-mail, compose documents, share files, edit photos, print (with a compatible printer), shop, do online banking, save files, and organize those files into folders.  Your device will be very SAFE compared to a Windows or Mac system.  However, you may not be able to run your favorite application for X (whatever X is for you).  For example, I like to use a program called The Journal in Windows to write personal journal entries.  I would not be able to use this program on an iPad or a Chromebook.   The greatest benefit to either of these devices is that you can KISS – keep it simple stupid.   As long as you can play within the sandbox, an iPad or Chromebook might just be your future computer.

Windows 10 version 1803: How to delay it

Please read this message carefully and print as a guide, if needed.

It’s hard to believe, but there have actually been 5 new versions of Windows released since July 2015.  All of them have been releases of Windows 10 but each was literally a new version of Windows.  Right now you should all have Windows 10 version 1709.  It first started rolling out to computers (either automatically or by a deliberate upgrade) in October.   Windows 10 version 1803 is right around the corner.  It will start being pushed out in April.  

Here’s what I think.  Windows 10 – 1709 is very stable at the moment.   You can confirm that you have it by pressing Windows key + S on your keyboard and then typing in — winver — and then pressing the Enter key.  

Let’s delay the new upgrade for a while.  Why mess up a good thing?  When all the bugs get worked out after a couple months then it will be time for the new Windows 10 – 1803.   If you forgot what the 1709 or 1803 mean, they refer to the year and month that the version of Windows was finalized.  

Come the summer, July or August, you will be ready for the latest version of Windows 10.  You don’t need to be first in line.

Here is how to delay a feature update (aka a new version of Windows) in Windows 10

1. Start Menu

2. Settings (PC Settings if you are still using the Classic Shell Start Menu)

3. Update & Security

4. Advanced options

5. Under “A feature update includes new capabilities and improvements. It can be deferred for this many days:”

6. Set it to 120

8.  Leave the days at 0 under the “quality update” section

7.  Close the window

Windows 10 is in a good place right now.  Let’s keep it there.  It’s good to have happy computing experiences without having to think too much.  I don’t know why Microsoft thinks they have to push out 2 NEW VERSIONS OF WINDOWS 10 PER YEAR.   Fortunately, we have control over the situation. It’s time to put our foot down.

** Big asterisk:  You can only delay Windows 10 upgrades if you have the Pro version of Windows 10.  If you bought your computer at Best Buy or a big box store, you have the Home (consumer) version.  Unfortunately, you have to take the new versions whenever Microsoft pushes them out.  It can be a real hassle.  If I ordered your computer for you, you have Windows 10 Pro.  You can follow the instructions I gave.

Lesson to be learned: I am not in the business of selling computers. However, I like to place computer orders for my customers by choosing major brands like HP, Dell, and Lenovo. These are not the computers sold in stores.  Let me order your Windows computer for you next time. I choose the Pro version of Windows because of the update delay feature and additional security enhancements. 

Technology Services I Like–February 2018

1.  I found an electrical wizard for you.   I want to tell you about Ryan Eriksson from Eriksson Electric.  He knows his stuff.  Ryan can make sound recommendations but he also believes in respecting the customer’s comfort level.  He has a mind for saving on costs when possible. He believes in embracing modern technologies.  Ryan replaced three ceiling light fixtures in my home over the past few days.   He recommended LED-based fixtures that not only looked great, but are environmentally and budget friendly.   Ryan will let his customers buy their own equipment at Home Depot if they choose.  He even accompanied me on a trip to Home Depot on Friday and did not charge me for the time.   I cannot say enough good things about him.   You can call or text him at 860-236-4352.  You can check out Eriksson on the web at

2. Dropbox — is probably my #1 favorite computer based service of all time.  I have been a user since 2008.  At times I have used the free account and at times I have been a paid customer.   Dropbox gives you 2 GB of storage for free. Through various “bonuses” I have accumulated from them over the years, I have a 7 GB of storage on my free account.  After a quick installation, Dropbox will show up as a folder on your Windows or Mac computer.  Within it you can put multiple sub folders to store your files.   The beauty of Dropbox is that it isn’t really a backup service although you can use it to back up your files.   Dropbox is a file synchronization service.   That means if you put a document titled “Vacation Plans” in your Dropbox folder on your Mac / PC, you can also view that document on your iPhone, Android phone, or iPad where you have the free Dropbox app installed.  You can also easily share files from Dropbox.  Dropbox has never let me down.  Get started at

3.  One Drive — Dropbox is not the only game in town for online file storage and synchronization.  One Drive is Microsoft’s answer.   It can work on all of the device types that Dropbox works on (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android).  One Drive does have a key advantage.  At you can see your files that you have save, but you can also create and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents right there in your web browser.  The online version of Microsoft Office is about 70% as feature rich as the desktop version of Office, but its so convenient.  It probably good enough for most consumer use cases.  And its free.  Maybe you don’t need to buy Office the next time you are required to.  You may be able to get by with .

4.  Google Drive — I should also mention Google Drive which is most comparable to One Drive.  If you have a Google / Gmail account, you should check out Google Drive.  It is an online storage and sync service, but that’s not all.  You can also create and share documents using Docs (Word equivalent), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint).  As with One Drive, you can also collaborate on documents live with other people.   If you and I were working on a proposal together, we could both edit using Google Drive.  Google Drive was first to the game with this collaboration technology, but Microsoft is catching up fast.  Put on your jacket and Drive at

Great Laptops at Big Savings THINK

Just in case you were in the market for a new laptop, I have a deal to pass on to you. If you’ve read my e-mail blasts over the past few years, you know that I like Lenovo’s THINK products (aka the old IBM Computer), Dell’s Latitude line, and the HP Pro Book / Elitebook lines.

I usually do not stray beyond that scope in my recommendations.

For the next few days, you can purchase a Lenovo THINKPAD laptop for 20% off by using the coupon code THINKPADSAVE20 at checkout. They rarely offer deals this good. I have already helped some customers take advantage of this special and I can help you custom configure an order. Of course there are several choices within the THINKPAD line. Here are some that I would steer you toward.

Budget Friendly — THINKPAD L or THINKPAD E

The Standard Bearer – THINKPAD T

Cutting Edge — Thinkpad X1 Carbon

Remember — THINK brand laptops are not sold in local big box stores.