Not As Good As They Used To Be

A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge.   This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.

The starting price of an iPhone is now $749.  It used to be $649 not that long ago.   The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model.   Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost?  It may be a little of both.

Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers.  One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be.  They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only.  However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same.   Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services.  Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle.   The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore.  Watch out!  Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals.   Overseas “customer service”?  I don’t even want to get started with that today.

Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball.   A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently.  As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore.  And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant).  Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore.  Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved.  Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app.  It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up.  I am ready when you are ready.  You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV).   I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap.  Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV.  However, you will have to learn something new.

And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.  

It’s not as good as it used to be.

Ripped from the Customer Files

A popular TV show used to run promotional spots saying this week’s episode is “ripped from the headlines.”  This update is chock full of valuable info.  You may want to print it out for digestion in small bites.

Ripped from the Customer Files

Not Selling Window Dressing

A new client recently approached me and inquired if I could do any maintenance procedures to make the computer a little faster.  I DID NOT rush out with little care, acting in an overconfident manner, simply to generate a 1 hour appointment for myself.   I gave the client a proper “triage” over the phone.   We talked for a half hour.  I took a mental note of key facts, the most important being that it was a Toshiba laptop.   Toshiba was a big name in the history of laptops and consumer electronics in general.  In fact, they were a big seller at Best Buy up until about 6 or 7 years ago.  Since that time, I don’t know any clients that have bought them.  I don’t see them at the stores.  I knew the computer had to be at least 6 years old.  In fact it is and possibly a little older.  I really put the CARE in VIP Computer Care.   On a slow computer, you could certainly back up the data and reinstall the operating system (Windows or Mac).  You could replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive).  Both of those would likely be at least 3 hour jobs.  I explained how I thought those would be reasonable on a 3 or 4 year old computer, but I don’t think I would want those done on my 6+ year old computer.  A software only solution doesn’t make up for bad or degrading hardware.  Solid State Drives have been wonderful for many of my clients but they don’t negate the fact that the rest of the computer is subject to failure.   I emphasized that the best thing to do would be to buy a new computer and that in the $500s to $600s, the safest bet is a business class system from the Dell or Lenovo outlet (not sold in stores).   At the right time, the client will have me set up this new computer for them. 

Rather than try to gain a customer for one visit, I established what I believe can be a long term relationship.  It’s my nature; it’s who I am.  ūüôā

Group Emails

But I was just sending e-mails to a church prayer group!!  I worked with a client recently that literally had their Google account temporarily suspended for inappropriate activity.  The client is 80 years old!!  What were they doing?  How bad could it really be?   Here are some lessons.  A lot of us send group e-mails.   You are receiving this message as a part of a group email.    With personal accounts especially, inappropriate composition of the message could trigger some red flags.   Here are some good tips.   With a group e-mail…

1. Put yourself in the To field

2.  Put your recipients in the CC or BCC field.  (CC if you want everyone to see each other’s addresses, BCC if you want the list of recipients to remain private.)  I always send my messages out via BCC. 

3.  If your list of recipients approaches 50, sent out 2 (or more) emails with distinct groups of contacts

4.  Even with these precautions, you may still have an issue with e-mail going into the SPAM folder of the recipients

4a. You may want to consider a paid e-mail address for your business, club, or group (i.e Microsoft / Google) for about $5 per month

4b.  You may want to consider an easy to use newsletter e-mailing service like Mail Chimp.  Mail Chimp has a free option for small businesses, groups, and non profits.


The Simplicity of the Chromebook

I was with a client recently who uses a Chromebook as her primary computer.   Chromebooks are amazing (along with their desktop sister -Chromebox).  A Chromebook is a limited computer but the safest one you can buy.   Think of what you can do in your computer’s browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari).   I am pondering online banking, shopping, e-mailing, searching Google, letter writing, and other tasks.  You can do all of those things on a Chromebook.  You can’t do anything else.  There are no programs. It runs the Chrome browser — that’s it.  It’s operating system is called Chrome OS, not Windows or Mac.  The Chromebook has graduated beyond those 11 inch $200 devices you may have seen 5 years ago.  There are mid range ($500’s) and even high end Chromebooks available now.  A Chromebook is a great secondary computer, for example to take some stress off or extend the life of your primary computer.  It may be a primary computer for some.   There are lots of options out there, but if you are looking to dip your toes, I think this Lenovo model makes an excellent starter Chromebook (amazon link)  https://amzn.to/2UN3RoK

So the real story here was that the client’s Chromebook was corrupted.   After entering the login password — a wheel on the screen kept spinning and spinning.   In plain, English the operating system was messed up.  On a Windows or Mac system, resetting the operating system and copying the files back might be a 2 to 3 hour ordeal (or longer if lots of files were involved).   How long did resetting the Chromebook take?   5 minutes.  No joke!


Free Credit Reports and Credit Freezes

I meet clients all the time who are worried about their credit reports being jeopardized because of security breaches with department stores, utilities local governments, and other entities.   You have worked a lifetime of building up that near perfect credit score — why leave anything to chance?   I think I mentioned it about a year and a half ago but I can help you obtain your free credit reports (via the only site authorized by the U.S. government) and if need be, place security freeze on all 3 of your credit reports.  We can typically accomplish this in a 1 hour session.   Please be advised that should you need to apply for credit in the future, you will have to log onto the website of the bureau being checked and unfreeze that credit report for a few days or however long is needed (your lender may also be willing to do this for you also).   That process takes all of 5 minutes.   I will make sure you have all of the passwords and user names needed to successfully manage your credit freezes.  Remember, I do not hold onto customer passwords. 

Updates and Services

I don’t have any major product or service announcements to tell you about other than…

-An update came out for both the iPad and iPhone last week.  Even if the FEATURES don’t interest you, the update contains many security and stability fixes that are essential.   With your device plugged into power, please go to to Settings >> General >> Software Update.  Follow the prompts to complete your update, if you haven’t already. 

-Windows 10 version 1809 is being fully deployed to just about all computers right now.  This is the major new version of Windows that was finalized in the Fall of 2018.   If you are prompted to install it, make sure you are closed out of all of your work.  Go for it.    Eek!  The next new version of Windows 10 is right around the corner. 

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know about some services that I offer that may be new to you. 

Shopping Assistant – I can research product options for you before our appointment, during, or we can even go shopping for gear together.  Can you say — technology field trip?   There are many instances where I can order products for you (ie. Amazon, Best Buy) and bring them to our next appointment.  I do not charge a markup on the items themselves, but I will bill you for my time to go to the store, etc.  Unless it’s multiple shopping destinations involved – usually this amounts to a half hour charge added on to the appointment billing. 

Collages – I started making photo collages when some family members wanted to create a framed poster (20 x 30) for my sister’s bridal shower last summer.  I found a program that allowed me to create the perfect memory.   You may want a collage for your own digital collection, perhaps to create a record of multiple people or items, moments in time, or to give as a gift.   I can create a collage for you with anywhere from 2 to 16 photos.   The collage will be saved as a normal picture file.   Then you can take it and order prints of an appropriate size (with my help or by yourself).  I have attached a sample of my work to this e-mail.   Your collage need not have words on it, if that is your preference.   Note:  this collage was a challenge because not all of the photos were from the digital era.  None the less, all were quite happy with the result. 

Cellular Services  – Here is another niche service that may be just what the doctor ordered in your time of need.   Do you need a temporary cell phone number?   Do you need a US # for an international visitor or just a local number for someone staying with you for a while?  Do you know someone going through a divorce or who is looking to branch off from the family plan in some way?  I have the answer.   I have SIM cards for cellular providers that operate on all of the major networks — Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile.  In short order, I can generate a new # for you or convert (port) your existing number to the new service.   I will pop the SIM card in your phone, you will pay for the first month of service (typically $30 to $50 depending on the plan) and you will be good to go.  For light use cases or an emergency phone, I also have per minute rate options I could set you up with. 

News Flash:  I read an article recently about a major big box store (that rhymes with “Sophus Repo”) having to pay the federal government $30 million in a settlement because they were running a tech support scam on their customers.  They were luring them in with a “free malware check,” and then telling almost everyone they needed an expensive malware cleaning whether they truly needed it or not.   You won’t get those scams with me.   Thank you for supporting small business — the HEARTBEAT OF AMERICA. 

Technology Appetizers

Welcome to this week’s installment of my Update.¬† Hope you’ve enjoyed the La Croix seltzer.¬† My servers will be around with the technology appetizers for you.¬† ¬†Oh, here comes the first one….
1. Samsung’s new S10 smartphones (S10e, S10, S10+) appear to be selling well.¬† As I mentioned before, if you are sick of the iPhone or want to try a phone of that caliber with a slightly different look and feel — this would be the one to grab.¬† In general, my clients are iPhone users.¬† However, there are some Android enthusiasts among us.¬† Others simply don’t want to get involved with Apple products or prefer an Android phone (like the Galaxy S) for very specific reasons.¬† The two that I can think of are — better voice dictation (no doubt) and better cameras in some instances.¬† ¬†I am glad Apple has followed their lead by offering promotions (either directly or through carriers) if you buy a new iPhone and trade an old one in. In a mature industry, Apple can’t sit on its hands.
Oh boy, this tray looks a little stale.
2. Password Problems:¬† I’m still coming across customers who are using weak passwords or who don’t take password security seriously.¬† It’s really frustrating after I keep bringing up this topic over and over again.¬† Passwords should be different for EVERY WEBSITE.¬† Sensitive passwords should be changed at least every 6 months.¬† If you have trouble coming up with one, start with a secure “base” for each website and add a unique ending to each one.¬† ¬†Think of something that is easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.¬† A password manager (whether manual or electronic) is critical.¬† Some of you use browser based password managers — in Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.¬† The teacher in me will give you a passing grade for that.¬† Take advantage of the features offered, such as when they suggest a secure password.¬† Make sure you know how to look up the passwords in the browser.¬† Better yet, if passwords really matter to you, use a paid password manager such as 1Password or Last Pass.¬† ¬†If you are at the back of the class, you are using a paper based password manager.¬† At the very least — keep this organized.¬†¬†
Look here comes another round of…..
3.¬† Apple News:¬† Apple had their event on Monday.¬† Some analysts have called it a big dud.¬† One thing is for sure, Apple is getting deeper into the media business.¬† They are now offering Apple News¬†+ on iPhone, iPad and Mac.¬† ¬†It will cost $9.99 / mo after the free 1st month.¬† You will get access to leading newspapers like the WSJ and LA Times along with a library of major magazines.¬† Major papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post have declined to participate.¬† ¬†However, the real entree was Apple TV+.¬† ¬†This umbrella service will include Apple’s existing catalog of TV shows and movies for rent, plus original programming (similar to Netflix), plus easy access to cable channels and premium channels.¬† It will not only be available on Apple TV boxes (overpriced with a terrible remote if you ask me) but also on other streaming boxes like Roku (great) and smart TV’s.¬† ¬†It all sounds very exciting.¬† It could very well be the ultimate portal for cord cutters.¬† ¬† But — there’s a big but — what is the price?
They didn’t say. What?¬† That will be mentioned later.¬† ¬†And this was an Apple event?¬† ¬† It seems so half baked.¬† I think they are still making their content deals with the various channels and content providers.¬† It wasn’t all ironed out yet.¬† ¬†It will be very interesting to see how competitive they are with You Tube TV and Hulu Live TV — the leaders in the clubhouse that charge $40 to $45 per month.¬† ¬† One thing is certain, Apple wants to make this available to as many people as possible and not only those who own Apple hardware.¬† Let’s wait and see.
Hope you have a safe drive home.  Thanks for stopping by this little gathering.

New iPads and Macs – The Product Matrix

*For expert technology consultations in the Hartford, CT area — specializing in age 55+ (residential consumers, their businesses, and non-profits) – contact VIP Computer Care today 860-656-6439.¬† Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android.¬† We transform lives through technology!¬† Prepare to be excited and encouraged.*
New Stuff From Apple
Apple launched a silent refresh of some major products this week.¬† There was no big event, no streaming video broadcast.¬† It really makes me wonder what they will reveal at their March 25th event.¬† Hmm. TV Service?¬† Well on to the sure things —
For the first time since the fall of 2015, Apple has updated the iPad Mini and they want it to be known as just the iPad Mini, but some are calling it the iPad Mini 5.  This is the perfect iPad for those of you who want to use it as more of a reader, to check emails, maybe do some surfing and messaging or who just otherwise think that the 9.7 inch iPad is too large.  In a bit of a surprise, Apple is keeping the price the same at $399 for the 7.9 inch device, while the regular 9.7 inch iPad is still $329.  Very interesting, but I think it will be well received.
Apple also brought back a name from the past — and released an updated iPad Air (aka. iPad Air 3).¬† The iPad Air name has not been used on a new product since the iPad Air 2 came out in the fall of 2014.¬† At that time, it was seen as Apple’s standard 9.7 inch iPad.¬† This time around, the 2019 iPad Air is positioned as a mid-tier iPad and starts at $499.¬† It sports a 10.5 inch screen.¬† It has a more powerful processor than the regular $329 iPad and also can be used with the Smart Keyboard.¬† Old name, new parts, and the previous $499 price.¬† Got that on your scorecard?
iPad Product Matrix
With these new iPads, it’s really important to have the cheat sheet for this current family of iPads.¬† Here is how I keep them straight:
* iPad – 9.7 inch – starts at $329
* iPad Mini – 7.9 inch – starts at $399
* iPad Air – 10.5 inch – starts at $499
* iPad Pro – 11 inch and 12.9 inch – starts at $799
My thoughts¬†— I think the iPad progresses from being more of a tablet to a computer as you go up in the various price levels.¬† I have clients that are using their iPads as their primary computers.¬† As long as you can live within their limitations, they can be a fine option, but for many will still be a secondary computing device.¬† iPads are simpler than a Windows or Mac computer.¬† They are safer.¬† On the models that allow for the Smart Keyboard, they are more laptop like than ever.¬† I memorably stated a little over a year ago that an iPad Pro with a keyboard is the “best Mac” offered.¬† ¬†I said this as we were just coming off of horrific 2016-17 Mac Books.¬† Apple redeemed themselves with strong 2018 Mac Book Pro and Mac Book Air offerings.¬† However, it’s clear that they are offering us a competing computer universe called the iPad.¬† ¬†If it’s calling you, make the most of it. I would like to help.
New Macs
Apple also put out a refresh of their beloved iMac desktops.¬† ¬†We hadn’t seen new models since 2017.¬† The 2019 all-in-ones certainly do not reinvent the wheel but offer the current generation of Intel processors.¬† I will always tell it to you as I see it with technology.¬† The iMacs are the only Macs that are still sold with traditional spinning hard drives as the base option.¬† These are hard drives are QUITE SLOW.¬† I refuse to let you get stuck with them.¬† If you are an iPhone or iPad user and are accustomed to how responsive they are,¬† you need an iMac with at least the Fusion hard drive or ideally, the SSD hard drive.¬† ¬† So here is the rundown:
*The entry level  21.5 inch, $1099 iMac is not the one you want because it has the bad screen, the slow hard drive, and the 2017 processors.
*The next level of the 21.5 inch iMac comes with the gorgeous 4K screen and new processors (check!) but comes with the criminally slow hard drive @ $1299.
How to overcome this?
-Do a custom order from Apple with the fusion 1 TB hard drive ($100) or the 256 GB ($200) SSD drive.  Among these choices are where you should focus your vision.  Stay away from store bought iMacs!
-Of course, Apple still sells a VERY LARGE 27 inch iMac, fully updated as well, but I think the sweet spot lies in that mid-level 21.5 inch model with the upgraded hard drive — for my typical client.

Things I Didn’t Tell You


Verizon CDMA Network Shutdown – Part 2

1.  A few weeks ago I mentioned how Verizon is shutting down their CDMA calling network by the end of the year.  At that point, they will only support LTE calling (aka. VoLTE or voice over LTE).  All newer smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and later support LTE calling. The iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c do not.  Most of their newer Android phones also support this feature.  Even the new flip phones that Verizon sells allow you to call on the new network.  The issue of whether their LTE calling network is as well built out as their “gold standard” CDMA network will be a topic for another time.  For now all you need to know is that you may need to replace older phones on the Verizon network.  

I was asked by a client, what about Tracfone?   Tracfone is a service brand known as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that provides their own customer service, but utilizes the cell phone towers of the major providers (Verizon, ATT, Sprint, or TMobile).  Each Tracfone phone operates on one of those four networks.   If that network is Verizon, and the phone does not support LTE calling, you will need to replace your phone as well. 

If you need help figuring out what network you are on or know you need to replace your phone, please ask for assistance.

Two Phone Lines on 1 iPhone

2.  I mentioned this briefly a few months ago, but I want to let you know something very special about the 2018 iPhones:  Xr, Xs, and Xs Max.  You can you use two cellular lines on a single iPhone.   Those iPhone models come with a physical sim slot (that holds a card that your phone uses to communicate with the cellular network) and an eSim (essentially a serial # that can be given to the cellular provider for activation with a phone line).  The eSim is a virtual sim card permanently embedded into the phone.   More and more carriers are supporting the eSim technology.   I can think of scenarios where having two lines on one phone could be very useful

– Personal and business

– Primary number and backup number

– Cell and home (converted to a cell number)

– Local number and out of state number (perhaps in the area where you have a vacation home)

– Here is one that you may not have thought of:  Carrier A where you are saving a lot of money (maybe a T-Mobile Prepaid / Metro PCS) and then Carrier B, ie. a Verizon MVNO (like Xfintiy Mobile at $12 per month) because you want to have the Verizon network as a backup in case you don’t have coverage in remote areas with Carrier A. 

Having 2 lines on one iPhone can offer a lot of functionality.  If you want to do this, let’s work together and get it done.

Security Update–Google Chrome–Important

Google discovered a major security flaw in Chrome and the put out an update for it on Thursday.

In the upper right hand corner of the browser window — you should see a big GREEN ARROW.   Please click it and choose the update option.  The update will get applied and Chrome will re-open in about 2 minutes or less. 

If you don’t see the arrow — it means you probably already have the update.   But to be sure — click on the “3 dot menu” in the upper right (where you go to get Chrome settings).  Click Help — click About Google Chrome.   Version  # should be 72.0.3626.121