Technology Update 10/12/18

I am not going to make this update overly complicated for you, but I want to deliver value in brevity.

Naming Your Files
Remember back 25 years ago? We could only give our files 8 character names. That was very limiting. Today we can be quite descriptive. Ultimately, please remember my two simple rules when naming your files. I think these really help when moving files between different types of media and with online backup services.
-Do not spaces in your file names or punctuation. You may use hyphens – or an underscore _ .
-While 8 characters may be too short, try to keep your file names to a reasonable length. 20 characters or less seems reasonable.
** Additionally, you may want to put dates in your file and folder names to help keep them organized. I have seen computers that change the timestamp of a file with no rhyme or reason. In these cases, the traditional sort by date will not work. Do not name the item "May292018_MyFile". It should be "20180529_MyFile".

Backup: Self Assessment
– (Some of you just use your computer as a dumb terminal to get on the internet and check e-mail in Chrome (or another browser). If so, this segment is not for you.")
-However, if you have files that you don’t want to lose — what is your backup system? Do you have multiple methods of backup? Can you name them?
-Are your e-mails backed up on a server somewhere?
-If you need help completing this quiz, please ask the professor.

I look forward to serving you.

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Technology Update 10/03/18: An Absolute Liar

The world of technology is really disgusting at times, with its scams and trickery.  I’m here to help you make sense of it, to provide some I.T. therapy.  We have to fight back or at least mount a strong defense.
** Want to get one quick point out of the way:  No new consumer focused Macs have been announced yet.  I expect laptops and desktops, along with a new iPad Pro by the end of the month ***
Fake E-Mails and Calls – A Lesson for All
I made an emergency visit to a client earlier this week.  The report I got was that a SPAM email was opened and then calls started pouring in from “Microsoft.” Then the client claimed to have found the number for Microsoft and called them with a message and an expectation of a call back.  This really had my wheels turning.  The client used a Microsoft email account (Outlook.com, formerly known as Hotmail.com).  When I got there, I saw what had happened.  The email talked about an email upgrade in 2018.  To be fair, sometimes Microsoft or other email providers do upgrade their services and let users know the details.  However, the e-mail was sloppily composed.  It was as if an elementary student decided to try out size 48 font.   Furthermore, the sender’s address was @outlook.com.  An official e-mail from Microsoft would never look like this.   It seemed like the mere opening of the e-mail triggered the sender to make a phone call to my client.  The sender did not work for Microsoft.  They are an absolute liar!   Then my client searched through the MSN.com website for a Microsoft phone number, using the Bing search engine. Stuff like this wants to make me pull my fingernails out.   They were asked to log into a Microsoft partner website on a Microsoft.com website address, then receive a call back.  Calls were made to and from a phone number with a 425 area code.  It’s very convenient that that area code pertains to the part of the country where Microsoft is headquartered.  When I arrived, the client was waiting on a call back from the 425 number.   I investigated the phone number and the advice I gathered said to avoid it and do not take the calls.   Therefore, the second call after the initial scam call was very suspicious. Another liar?  It doesn’t even matter at this point. With the right software, bad actors can pretend to use legitimate numbers.
Due to the fact that my client used a Microsoft e-mail account and they logged into Windows 10 with this account (the default option these days), and was logged into the Edge browser with it as well, I immediately had them change the password to the account.  I also ran a malware scan on the computer and found no infections.  The client is already using one of my strategies to defeat scam calls — a cheap answering machine with an external speaker.  Taking it to the next level, a call blocker can be used as well.  This model gets outstanding reviews on Amazon and blocks up to 2000 numbers. https://amzn.to/2OyFwzG   An upgraded model that blocks 5000 numbers costs a few $$ more.
 
In less than one hour, I helped to restore sanity to a troubling situation.  Had a different career path worked out for me, I would have become a psychotherapist.  Right now, I’m just happy to be your technology therapist.  🙂
Bottom line:  Microsoft, Google or Apple are not going to call you.  In some cases, these companies will call you after a case has already been opened.  With the exception of Apple, which makes their support number public, do not go Googling numbers for Microsoft and Google.  I have seen this end in pain too many times.  Also — leave SPAM e-mails alone unless you are sure it was mistakenly placed there.
Musical pick of the week:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnVUKES-mDE

 

10 Best Android Phones of All Time

With it being the 10th anniversary — how about the 10 best Android phones?

https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/09/25/10-years-android-phones-ten-important-handsets-last-decade/

That OG Droid (meaning original Droid) from Verizon in 2009 was amazing and featured almost Apple like marketing. They went after the iPhone head on. It was so meaningful in the success of Android in the US. It was the fall of 2009 and Verizon didn’t get the iPhone until almost 18 months later. (It was an ATT exclusive for almost the first 4 years). Verizon customers were stuck on blackberries for the most point until that time.

I personally think the Nexus 5 should be on there also. It was sold by Google starting in late 2013. It worked on all major carriers and proved that inexpensive didn’t have to mean cheap. It sold for $349. The Nexus 6 sold by Google the following year was a dud, but the Nexus 5x (and larger cousin 6P) that went on sale in late 2015 were the beautiful "grand finale" for Google’s mid-ranged price, very competitive phones.

These days — Google competes directly with the iPhone for premium priced $700-1000 phones. They really need a winner with the Pixel 3 that is coming out in 2 weeks. Given that Apple is pricing the iPhone XR at $749 — I think its going to be really hard for a premium Android phone to sell for more than that unless there are actual features to justify the price.

Technology Update 9/25/18 – Cyber Security

Small Business Spotlight
Before I get started with my feature for this week, I want to say that I appreciate your support of my small business.  In turn, I provide service to other small businesses and non-profit organizations.  From time to time, I want to use this platform to promote clients’ organizations that are doing good in our community.  This week, the Spotlight focuses on Jennings Smith and Associates (JSA).   Bill Smith and his team at JSA have been in the field of law enforcement and specifically private investigations for decades.   JSA serves law firms, business and individuals with full confidentiality and precision.  As many of my clients are connected to the legal profession, I have attached a professional brochure of JSA’s services specifically for this community.  Additionally, they offer a full menu of services for individuals that can be found at jsainvestigations.com .  Bill Smith is also the founder of American School Safety and has been a thought leader in this field for 20 years, having appeared numerous times on local radio and TV.    Should you need his assistance, please reach out to Bill directly at jsainvestigations.com
If you would like your organization to be featured in an upcoming Spotlight, let me know.
Cyber Security Tips for Ordinary Folks — That Means Us
** I was recently asked to prepare some talking points for a speaker at a community center event on cyber security.  Once I came up with this list, I knew I had to share it with you. : ) **
Passwords
-Create a separate password for each website you use
-No website should EVER have the same password as your e-mail account
-Ideally, you should use a password manager such as 1Password or Last Pass that will help you create long, randomized passwords.  Safari on the Mac also offers this feature and Google Chrome does as well.
-In lieu of letting a password manager create your passwords, think of an easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess, “base,” for all of your passwords, then put a unique identifier at the end of each specific password.  For example — your Microsoft account password could have the letters “ms” or “msft” at the end of your base.
Two Factor Authentication
-Wherever possible, enable two factor authentication with your online accounts
-This will require you to periodically enter a code in addition to your password to log into these services
-These codes are texted to your cell phone or provided by a code authenticator app
-It becomes significantly harder for a bad actor to log into  your account because they don’t physically have your cell phone or code authenticator
-Examples of websites that allow you to setup 2 factor authentication are — Apple / iCloud, Google, Yahoo, Outlook.com / Microsoft account, Bank of America, and many more
Credit Freezes
-Unless you are regularly applying for credit or having your credit bureaus checked — freeze your credit reports!
-Thanks to a new law – the  Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act — effective Sept 21st,  it is now free to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports with Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.

Technology Update 9/12/18 – Apple Event Recap

New iPhones
Apple took the wrapper off of two premium iPhones today, the iPhone Xs (10 s) and 10s Max featuring Super Retina screens and better cameras than ever before.  As I shared previously, the phones feature edge to edge screens, with diagonal screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.5 inches.    Due to there being almost no bezel on the phones, the overall size of the phone is very comparable to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus respectively.    Apple is also offering a brand new iPhone Xr, with a traditional LCD screen which also pushes to the edges of the phone. It is 6.1 inches diagonally and comes in multiple colors. The Xr offers a very good camera, whereas the Xs models offer magnificent cameras.  Pricing (64 GB models):  iPhone Xr $749,iPhone Xs $999, iPhone Xs Max $1099.   All new models do not have home buttons.  I think you can easily learn the basic functionality in a day.  However, if you demand the traditional home button, the iPhone 8 is still available at a reduced cost ($599).
Ordering opens up on Friday, September 14th for the Xs and Xs Max.  The Xr model can be ordered starting Oct. 19th.  As I mentioned before, I can order you new iPhone for you for delivery at no charge if you have me come out to set it up for you.  Please contact me.  I’ll be ready to place your orders starting on Friday.
Apple Watches
Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 today.  The new models offer large watch faces, while pushing the screen closer to the edges.  They will offer more accurate tracking of exercise including swimming.  Series 4 can also detect falls, enhancing your personal safety.  Furthermore, it is also designed to recognize atrial fibrillation (AFIB) and offers the owners the first over-the-counter ECG (electrocardiogram).  The new Apple watches start at $399 and can be ordered starting on Sept 14th.

New Versions of IOS and the Mac OS

New versions of the operating system for the iPhone / iPad and Mac will be available very soon.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th. If you are going to be doing the upgrade on your phone, please make sure you have a full backup.  I am available for upgrade appointments starting on Sept. 24th.     If you are uncomfortable with doing it on your own, I will ensure you have a guided and safe experience.   Let’s set something up.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th.
Macs
There were no new Macs announced today.  I expect a direct product release or another Apple event within the next month.   At that time we should see a new Mac Mini desktop (Apple’s least expensive Mac) and some lower cost “consumer” Mac laptops.   As of right now, my recommendations are the 2018 Mac Book Pro 13 ($1799) and a custom ordered 2017 iMac ($1499 for one with a real SSD hard drive).  I expect my list of “VIP approved” Macs to expand when the new models are released.

Is That E-Mail Really From You?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously. This is an excellent topic and I wrote a blog post on it.    Please click the link to read more.  theacronym.com/2018/09/12/e-mail-authenticity/

E-mail authenticity

Was that e-mail really from you?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously.
I guess I could start by saying that my business e-mail account has never been hacked.  With that said, this fact would not stop a bad actor from an account pretending to be me.  With the right e-mail program you can make the “From” address anything you want.  However, they would need my address book.  I send all of my group e-mail out as BCC (which means that you don’t see all of the recipients).  That address book is stored in the cloud in an account protected by two factor authentication (something you should have enabled on your iCloud, Google, and Microsoft accounts used with e-mail / contacts).  Further enhancing security, my second factor is not my phone number, meaning I authenticate by something more secure than a text message.  My contacts are locally stored on 3 devices – a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet.  All three of those are locked with encryption.  Considering all of this, it would be pretty hard for a bad actor to send an e-mail to all of my clients.   I should also add that I almost always use one of three salutations in my e-mail updates:   Dear Clients and Computer Students (for all clients), Dear Mac Family, and Dear Windows Clients, depending on the group I am addressing.  Great question!  Thanks for asking.