Retiring My Trusty Dell Laptop

I finally did it!

I came back into the world of Windows as my main computing platform in 2014, after 10 years of being a very loud and proud Mac user.  Apple was generally very good to me but there was a repeated failure with my Mac Book Air that they just couldn’t explain.  It ultimately was a lack of honesty on their part.  So I got an HP Pro Book, a business class laptop, that is about equivalent to a Dell Latitude 5000 series or Thinkpad E series. 

A little more than 18 months later, I was tutoring a student from New Zealand who was originally from Nigeria.  He needed a laptop so I just gave him my Pro Book.   Unlike 2022, where there are basically no deals — there were some screaming deals in late 2015.  I got a $900 + Dell Latitude 5000 series for $386 (wow!) from the Dell Outlet.  I added 16 GB of RAM about 8 months later and a solid state hard drive with a clean install of Windows 10 in fall 2018.  At some point the web cam stopped working, which was definitely not ideal for the Zoomer / Covid 19 era. 

Watch collectors often talk about the “grail watch” in their collection.  This might signify the peak of their hobby or the last watch they ever buy.  My “grail computer” was always a Lenovo Thinkpad T series.  These days they typically sell for $1500 – 2000.   $1500 was certainly a common price in early 2020.  I kept saying to myself if I ever found a SCREAMING deal, I would get one.  I wasn’t seeking just a sale, but a once in a lifetime price.  On the first weekend of January 2020, I found it.   a $2000 Thinkpad T was available new in box on Lenovo.com for a little over $600 + tax.  I took it.

By February 2020, I made it my primary computer moving over all my files — which was rather easy through One Drive, Drop Box and a backup drive.  However, the one thing I did not move over was Quick Books.  That is the accounting software for my business.  I kept procrastinating and delaying some more.  So I kept running this dual computer adventure keeping both laptops on my desk. Covid 19 happened and I delayed further. I got used to this odd existence. 

Finally, over the past few days, I made the move.  I realized that all desktop versions of Quick Books 2012 and later can be re-downloaded.  I backed up my 2 Quick Books files on the old computer.   I installed my copy of 2016 on the Thinkpad.  I then entered my serial numbers.  No issues.  I then RESTORED my backed up company files.  Done deal.   I have finally taken the Dell Latitude off my desk.  I will continue to use it sparingly or as a backup. I may even install Linux on it and learn that operating system a bit.

I have my whole computing life on my Thinkpad T now.  Typing on this keyboard feels to me what it must be like for a master pianist to use a Steinway.  It’s still a dream. 

7 Technology Tips For August

1.  Only buy computers with SSDs (solid state drives).  It’s pretty rare to find a computer without a SSD these days.  All Mac Books have had them since 2012, but not all Mac desktops since 2020.  One of my clients is painfully aware of this.  Sometimes, at the cheaper end of computing, they are still sold with a traditional hard drive.  However, as you can see from the example above, cheap doesn’t have to mean slow.  In the larger sizes like 512 GB or 1 TB — the cost will go up but your stress will go down.  SSD or nothing.

2. The iPhone SE is a good choice for someone who needs Facetime and iMessage but does not want to spend $800 to $100 on an iPhone 13 series model.  Of course, the 13 is better.  Of course, the battery lasts longer.  However, if $429 seems like the most you would pay for a smartphone – the iPhone SE is a solid choice. 

3. The New M2 Mac Book Air – base model 256 GB  – now selling for $1199 has not been well received.  It’s not a keyboard issue or a design issue.  On that particular model, the hard drive is actually slower than the 2020 M1 Mac Book Air.  So — you have to go big or be unhappy here.  Bite the bullet and get the 512 GB M2 Mac Book Air.   It is $1499.   The 2020 M1 model is still sold and may be a good option.  Keep in mind that as it is approaching 2 years old — that may well mean 2 years less of updates than the M2. 

4.  Windows — Windows 10 / 11 does a pretty good job of updating automatically.  However, are you keeping your drivers up to day?   This is the software for your video card, sound card, WiFi.  I went through a trying exercise with a client who could not get WiFi on a 6 year old Dell Desktop.  Once, I downloaded the proper driver from Dell (onto an Android phone — then beamed to the computer, the WiFi worked.   The client had no idea that the manufacturer’s drivers had to be updated separately.  This is not an issue with Macs. 

5.  Don’t be married to your cell phone provider.  Just because Verizon was the best in 2005 (and it really was!!) doesn’t mean it is the best today.  The same could be said for ATT or even T-Mobile.  Be nimble.  Towers are changing.  Verizon has been shutting down towers and building new ones.  ATT has been shutting down towers and doing the same and so has T-Mobile.  You may have thought your coverage was perfect at your home or at your office or XYZ spot that you always go to.   It might change in 2022.  Be nimble means, don’t lock yourself into these long term financing deals on phones where you are stuck with a carrier.  Buy your phone outright or if you need payments — possibly think of the Apple Card — that allows you to finance your iPhone in 24 interest free installments.  Then you can move from carrier to carrier without being tied down by the old ball and chain (a phone contract).

6.   If I wasn’t an iPhone user — which phone would I use?  I would want a pure Android experience with nothing added on.  Today, I would choose a Google Pixel 6A which was just released.  https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_6a?hl=en-US

If I wanted a more upscale experience (like iPhone 13 quality) I would wait for the Pixel 7 which should be released by the fall.

7.  Naming Files —  I have had some instances over the years when I copied my files between different disks on various computers and the dates of the file or folder would change.  This was very annoying.  So I am now in the habit of putting the dates in my file names.   I do a lot of Print to PDF in my internet browser when saving things from my internet browser.    So if I saved a file on July 27th, I will put  “20220727” in the file name.   In some folder, I put the date first in the file name.  This way I know I can sort the files alphabetically but they will also be sorted by date in effect, even if the official date on the file changes. 

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

I’ve been collecting quite a number of stories from clients on poor or questionable experiences at cell phone stores.  I do help clients get set up with new cell phones and yes I  charge normal service rates.  However, I provide a level of competence and honesty that is seldom seen out at those retail stores.  Setting up a smartphone can be like setting up a computer if there is a lot of data involved.    Recently, I’ve had clients tell me…

– plans have been changed

– they were stuck with a more expensive plan

– they were not told a more expensive plan was required to get a free / discounted phone

– discounted phone was not clearly explained in the form of monthly “bill credits” not a straight discount at the time of purchase

– not told that they would have to keep service for 2 (or now even 3) years to get  these monthly credits for your phone discount

I know just about all of the schemes these cellular stores and ultimately their managers can dish out to you through sales staff.   To some extent, I don’t like criticizing these stores.  For the sales people that work there and succeed, this is a place where they can actually make a respectable middle class living.  However, management is getting increasingly unreasonable with their demands.  Customers are being told they need “insurance” or other features added to their accounts.  They are being forced to buy worthless tablets (not even good ones like iPads) and car navigation devices.  When the customers actually figure out what hit them, it’s nasty, like sour milk in the mouth.

However — I  respect that you may want to try to go it alone in cell phone shopping.  A couple of places where I have had decent experiences shopping for phones are

-Apple Store:  for iPhones, obviously.  You can sign up for carrier financing at the Apple Store.

-Verizon Store (Bishops Corner – West Hartford and other locations, operated by Wireless Zone):  They are a step above other Verizon stores I’ve dealt with.  If you actually have them set up your phone — they charge a $40 setup fee — but I’ve seen them spend an hour with customers.

-Xfinity Store:  Obviously you would be signing up for Xfinity Mobile  and have at least their internet service at home.  However, they sell discounted plans and their service utilizes Verizon towers.  There is not a lot they can do to cheat you. 

At this time, I do not have any great AT+T or T-Mobile stores to recommend. If you know of some — let me know.

What I use — I have had the same 2 carriers on my iPhone for 2+ years.  My personal line is with T-Mobile ($70 a month for 2 lines. ).   My business line is with ATT Prepaid ($30 a month, unlimited talk and text, 5 GB of data).   I never try to oversell T-Mobile to my customers even though the price is great for an Unlimited data plan.  There are some areas where Verizon and ATT have better coverage, but the price is hard to beat.  Having ATT as that 2nd line on my iPhone gives me confidence to stick with T-Mobile on Line 1. 

$329 Windows laptop and Windows 11 22H2 Review

1) $329 laptop?

I think the sub $800 computer market is pretty dead and the manufacturers really don’t care about this segment of the market. However, to quote Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco — “even a dog gets a warm piece of the sidewalk sometime.”   Once in a blue moon you might get lucky.  There might be a clearance sale, a loss leader type of sale, or some type of promotion that just lasts for a couple days.   I get asked by clients — I just need a Windows laptop for e-mail, browsing, and Word.  I would like a secondary computer.   I want a laptop to give to a kid or donate to a kid.  I usually don’t have a pick for you.  Today I do

-This Dell Inspiron 3000 – 15 inch — with the Intel Core i3 processor and 128 GB SSD hard drive  is $329 right now at the time of sending this email.

https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/laptops/intel/spd/inspiron-15-3511-laptop/nn3511eyxsh

-If you need a 256 GB hard drive it’s only $120 more @ $449. 

– Couple of other thoughts:  Is it as good as a Thinkpad T, Thinkpad E, Dell Latitude, or HP Pro Book?   Of course not!   But it will get the job done for basic tasks and last a couple of years if you are price sensitive.    Word to the wise — the trackpad (mouse) on cheap laptops is always garbage so plan to use a wired or wireless mouse. 

The Windows 11 Article I Didn’t Have To Write For You

2)  I have been a fan of Paul Thurrott (thurrott.com) who has been writing about the world of Windows for over 20 years.   He has written a lot about how Windows 11 was rushed out last year and has been a mixed bag.  Recently, he went into depth about version 22H2 for Windows 11 (2nd half of ’22) and how it delivers a more complete offering, while still having a few shortcomings.  Here it is, with pictures.  https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-11/270334/windows-11-22h2-review-a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that

My thoughts are I’m not afraid of Windows 11.  I had a client who wanted me to purchase and set up a Windows computer for him.  My preference was to order a Windows 10 system from Dell.  It would have taken about 7 to 10 days.  However he said — I need a computer now, man.  Like tomorrow! My only choice was to go to Best Buy and get him a fairly well equipped HP desktop with monitor for $1000 (on sale — wow). It has Windows 11 and he’ll survive.  Using Word or Chrome — seem just like they always did.  It’s just the menus, the options, the little quirks — the look — are going to be different.  Like Mr. Thurrott says — it’s not as bad as Windows 8

I’m going to install 11 on my Thinkpad when the 22H2 comes out within the next 1 to 2 months.  I’m will install that $6 helper that I have been telling you about — Start 11.   Windows 10 computers are still available by online order.   Any further questions — please ask me.

New M2 Mac Book Airs

Apple indeed released new Mac Book Airs yesterday.  They feature significantly improved M2 processors.   If you are shopping for a new Mac Book Air — these would be the ones to get.  However, even Apple customers cannot avoid inflation.    The prices have gone up to $1199 for the 256 GB hard drive model and $1499 for the 512 GB model (up from $999 and 1249 previously).  The larger hard drive model is most appropriate if there are a lot of photos and music involved.  There is also a 1 TB offering for an additional cost.

Apple is still going to sell the M1 Mac Book Air in 256 GB as a starter model for $999, however now that this model is 1.5 years old — that will mean a 1.5 year shorter lifespan with software updates.  I would only recommend this one if a client absolutely needed to save that $200.   M2 Mac Book Air should be the first choice.

New Mac Book Airs Probably Coming Monday

*I didn’t get an invite to the Bilderberg Group meeting in D.C. this weekend, so alas this is a working Saturday for me and I have an important update. 

The Mac Book Air M1 has been a very successful release for Apple has it marked their first laptop with the new in house processors.   The Air M1 has made my clients really happy  as well and has been the most satisfying Apple laptop for them in years.

However, the current model is getting a little old as Apple product cycles go.  It was released in Nov. 2020.   Apple’s WWDC (world wide developer conference) starts on Monday and there is a VERY GOOD chance that they will be announcing an updated Mac Book Air with a new M series chip.

My best advice.   Wait until Monday, feel free to ask me about the developments.  You can probably learn about new releases on Monday afternoon from sites like macworld.com or macrumors.com .   Hold off on buying that Air, there is probably a new one right around the corner.

05/18/22 – What Is The Apple Card?

I paid $4.59 for gas yesterday.  According to a major bank, the average may be $6.20 by summer.  A discount grocer I shop at used to sell eggs for $1.19.  They are now $2.45.  I don’t think these issues are going away any time soon.  The valleys of life sometimes entail living with the consequences of others’ (poor) decisions.  2022 is going to be one of those times.

but there are — Stories of Hope

My 89 year old great aunt and 94 year old grandmother recently have recovered from Covid 19 after getting infected about 1 month ago.  Recovery is possible, common, and likely.  Both took the new anti-viral medications.  I believe early treatment is essential, whether you take conventional or unconventional paths.  Once again you are able to order 8 free tests for your household. It takes a minute to fill out the form.  Here is another tool for your tool bag.  

COVID.gov/tests – Free at-home COVID-19 tests

Computer Speed Up Specialist

Do you have a 3 to 7 year old Windows computer that is starting to get a little slow?   Are you put off by the supply shortages and the cost of buying a new computer?   I think I may have an answer for you.   Unlike modern Macs, that have all soldered in unremovable parts — most Windows systems have a replaceable hard drive.  If your system seems that slow, you can likely benefit from a replacement with a solid state drive (SSD).  I make sure your files are backed up and then re-install Windows and your essential programs and copy your files back on to the computer.  This is a real jolt in the arm for your PC and it likely feels faster than when the computer was new.  These jobs can take as  little as 2 hours.  I just did one last week for a client that was 3 hours.   When choosing your next computer, only get one with an SSD in the future.  The Windows and Mac operating systems are meant for SSDs, in fact it is not possible to buy a Mac without one. 

Apple Card

Welcome to the world of high tech finance, I suppose.  For years, customers have always been able to finance an Apple product and get a certain number of interest free payments, at least on their first purchase.  Most recently, shoppers were offered a Barclays Apple Rewards Visa.  However, in 2019 Apple decided to take things in house and offer their own Mastercard called the Apple Card.  Apple is putting their name on it and demanding certain standards, but the banking back end is provided by the consumer division of Goldman Sachs. 

Why might someone want the Apple Card?

Well you get a card made out of titanium that is heavy and makes you feel important.  (Come on, that’s not a valid reason!) OK, getting serious here — the Apple Card seems like a valid choice for customers that regularly shop from Apple.  There is 3% cash back on all Apple purchases.  Interest free financing can also be used with all Apple purchases.  Furthermore, the card is automatically added to the Wallet app on the iPhone.   For any “tap to pay” situation, there is 2% cash back.   (There is also 1% cash back whenever you use the physical card).  The card can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted.  The full card number is not printed on your card.  It can be looked up in the Wallet app and a new number can be issued in the event of a security issue.

How to apply?

You apply using the Wallet app on your iPhone.  It’s very simple and takes about 5 minutes.

Who is this not for?

The Apple Card is not for someone who wants paper statements or to send in a check every month.  You really need an iPhone to be a card member.  You will make your payments through the Wallet app or by logging on to a website on the computer with your Apple ID and password. 

Comcast Gems and Basket of Tips

I hope it’s not a mundane Monday for you.

Going to the Movies – Thurs Apr 28 545 PM

For the first time in 2 years, I’m going to the movies.  WOW.  The great thing is that I don’t have to leave my home.  There is going to be an in person premiere of “Keeper of Time” at the SVA Theater in NYC on Thursday.  However, unlike typical theaters, viewers can watch virtually anywhere in the world at the same time.  This 90 minute documentary looks at why we measure time and why we care.  It also profiles four of the highest level watchmakers in the world.  You can find out more and see a 2 minute preview at https://www.keeperoftimemovie.com/home#about .  Tickets are $20 + $4 service fee.  I’ve got my virtual ticket and will be watching on my computer.  Hope to see you there.  Feel free to text me during or after the film if you want to discuss.

Gems of Comcast Services

Continuing with the streaming theme…..

If you need help with any other kinds of streaming such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV Plus, especially for the baseball games, let me know.  I’m finding that many of my clients that have Comcast / Xfinity for their cable TV provider are finding it especially easy to play services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and others.  The Xfinity X1 remote has a microphone.  Holding down the phone will easily allow you to bring up those services by  name.  If you give the cable box permission (which I think is fine), you can also allow it to display results from the streaming services within the results of other On Demand programming.  My typical senior clients LOVE that microphone button on the remote.  It opens up a whole world of possibilities and usability.  It’s one of the gems of their increasingly expensive service.    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Cox cable has a similar remote that you can talk to. 

Roku Is the Best

If you don’t pay for TV or even if you do, having a separate streaming box might be a good idea.  I tend to prefer the Roku.  I have been a Roku user since 2011 or 2012.   It connects to all the major streaming services.  Modern Roku’s are also capable of Apple Air Play (direct beaming from iPhones, iPads, and Macs).  And in a room, like my bedroom, with no cable outlet — I can use the Roku as a virtual cable box for Comcast / Xfinity.

Basket of Tips

1)  I can’t stream?  Can I? Do you think I am capable? Am I too old?  I think you can!!  If you can master these 5 or 6 basic buttons on a remote, you will be streaming like a pro in no time

* The Directional Arrows*

Up — Down — Left — Right

OK,  Back, Exit, Home

>>>You’ve got this!!

2) There are TVs with the Roku platform actually built into it.  As long as is a current year model or last year — it may be a good deal if you need a new TV.  3 years old would be terrible.  I am a bit old school and I still like a separate Roku box or stick with my TV I am not a huge fan of built in Smart TV platforms but my wife uses built in You Tube all the time

3)  By the way — if you watch You Tube all the time — you probably want  You Tube Premium (which is not the same as You Tube TV).  You Tube is getting more aggressive about showing ads.  You either need an ad blocker on the computer or phone (which I use religiously) or sign up for You Tube Premium at $12.99 a month.  No Ads!!  It also gets you unlimited You Tube Music (formerly called Google Play Music.

Tips From Others — Tips 4 and 5 come from what I have learned out in the field

4) In an ongoing discrimination case involving a local police department one officer was asked if he had made a pact or an agreement with another party.   He was ordered to turn over his phone.  “No problem your honor — but I delete my text messages every night.”   Wow!!  As your digital privacy advocate — I love that!!  If you are concerned about this type of thing, you have my permission to erase your tracks like this.

5)  Want to prevent digital intruders or from that computer being ONLINE all night?  You can turn off WiFi or put your device in Airplane Mode every once in a while.  I don’t do this all the time.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it every night as updates are important but I would be OK with doing this some of the time or most of the time as some of my clients do. 

Windoze 11? Putting Computer Shopping In Perspective

I’m still trying to keep an open mind about Windows 11.  At best I think it will be the most secure operating system Microsoft has ever offered. At worst, it could be another Vista or Windows 8.   For Chrome, Word, shopping, paying bills, and banking Windows 11 is just fine.  Many new computers sold today come with Windows 11.  However, if you still want a new computer with Windows 10 — I can find one for you.  Quantities may be limited and you have to be ready to order now.  My general guidance is as follows — a  passable / average / perhaps above average system — $900 or so,   good to great system $1500, and top of the line $2000-2200.  (Keep in mind that a Mac Book Air with 512 GB hard drive costs $1249 and a Mac Book Pro 14 costs $1999).   I just ordered one of those top tier models, a Thinkpad X1 Yoga touchscreen laptop, with a client.  It came to $2257 with tax and we are super excited about setting it up.