Fax Is Back and T-Mobile Update

Here are a couple of Bonus Features for you today.

Fax Is Back

With one company in particular and actually a couple of parties, I have been doing a lot of faxing lately.  I haven’t had a true home phone with the phone company since 2012.  From 2012-2016, I had a service called VOIPo for my home phone.  Basically I plugged an adapter into my router and then positioned a couple of cordless phones throughout the home.  At some point in my time as a customer, they allowed me to upload scanned documents (or computer created documents) and they would fax them out for me.  In mid-2016, I decided that I didn’t really need the fax perk anymore and changed to a well known internet based home phone called Magic Jack.  As I have shared before, I pay a whopping $40 per year for my home phone and use it for all of 5 minutes a month.  Ultimately, I cannot fax with Magic Jack.  So what did I do?   I signed up with Humble Fax for $10 / month and no long term contract.   This service gave me a local fax number.  It allows me to scan documents to the computer and upload them to my Humble Fax portal.  I can then compose a little cover page and send the fax out.  It’s awesome.  I can also receive faxes and get them delivered to my e-mail. 

Still Rockin’ With T-Mobile

The subject of T-Mobile came up with a client recently and I just wanted to say that I am pleased to report that my wife and I still love them, 14 months later.  They are the best big tech / telecom company I have ever dealt with.  We are on the 2 for $70 / unlimited age 55+ plan.  Only one person on the plan needs to be 55 or older.  Our price includes all taxes and junk fees.  As for the promises delivered on, here are the major ones.  When we ported in from Verizon, they promised to pay off our phones.  We each had a year remaining and about $600 total left on our phone loans.  Within 14 days, I got a virtual Mastercard with the exact payoff amount loaded so that I could pay off Verizon.   My wife is a big fan of the Samsung Galaxy phones and not an iPhone user.  When the Galaxy S20 orders started in February, she was all in.  The prices went up this year and the S20 was $999.  However, it became more palatable when T-Mobile (through some kind of arrangement with Samsung) promised to give my wife $500 for her 2 year old Galaxy S9+.  That phone only has a street value of about $150, approximately.   About 3 weeks after receiving the phone in early March, T-Mobile delivered.  $95 was given to us as a Bill Credit.  $405 was put on a pre-paid Mastercard.  I was then able to take that Mastercard and pay it all on my wife’s phone loan, knocking it down by 40%.  Promises made, promises kept!   If you are interested in that 2 for $70 plan, I can talk with you about it.  It may not be for everyone and if you have the right iPhone (2018 models and later), I think I can set you up with a “bridge the gap” strategy to make this work optimally. 

Watch Out For Google Search Results

Learning About New (to me) Old Technologies During the Pandemic

I will never own a Rolex, or a Tudor, or an Omega.  However, I was given a Seiko — made in Japan — watch for my big birthday last month that was roughly $160.  It sparked an intense period of learning for me.  I became fascinated in these tools for our wrists that are able to keep time and produce 21,000 + vibrations per hour WITHOUT a battery.  I am referring to watches with a mechanical movement, whether they be automatic, hand wound or both.  (Of course, there are wonderful quartz watches out there with batteries too.)  Over the past 6 weeks, I think I have become quite knowledgeable on the sub-$500 watch market.  There are awesome watches you can get out there for under $300 and in some cases under $200 as well.  I haven’t found a way to incorporate this newfound love into my business as some kind of formal proposition, but I would definitely be willing to discuss this arena with you informally by e-mail or perhaps at the back end of an appointment. 

Some insights I would be able to share with you include… There are many fine watches out there with Japanese movements.  It is possible to get affordable Swiss made watches.  I can help you understand the difference between a grey market watch and one from an authorized seller. (My Seiko came from a grey market store in NYC that also has an authorized division as well.)  Sometimes the right strap can make all the difference on a watch, especially a nylon “NATO” strap.  I don’t think we should think of watches by traditional gender distinctions.  A lot of so-called ladies watches are very stylish but not functional.  Why can’t a lady wear a nice man’s watch?  Of course she can!  There are so many possibilities if we think outside the watch box.  There are a lot of garbage watches coming out of China, but I can let you know about the one Chinese made watch that “watch people” really admire.

Watch Out For Google Search Results

Over the past couple years, I have seen some clients come up with bad luck on Google search results.  It often starts with Googling for a phone number for customer service for a particular company.  While Google has improved this type of searching and can often provide you with an obvious and legitimate number, you have to deal with paid search listings.  I have tried to install ad blockers for all of you on your browsers and shown you how to turn that ad blocker on and off.  However, if you do not have an ad blocker installed you are going to see at least 3 search results from Google that are ads.  They should be clearly identified.  However, you may not notice what you are looking at.  Please be careful.  Unfortunately, scam companies have been buying up key word ads from Google.  So that when you search for XYZ bank customer service or Frontier customer service (for example), those first few results may not be what you are looking for.  You will have to scroll beyond the sponsored listings to truly find what you want.  Goggler beware!

The Good Keyboards Are Back for ALL Mac Laptops

It’s been a while since I did a Macs Only update.  Today, I come bearing good news.  We can totally erase that dark 2015 – 2019 era with the awful butterfly keyboards on Mac laptops.  My clients were let down by those keyboards (hence the 4 year warranty if you are still stuck with one) and I have read accounts from owners who had to have the keyboard replaced 4 and 5 times.  This was all done in the name of “design” to save a couple of millimeters.  It started when Apple released a new 12 inch Mac Book in 2015.  Then the butterfly spread to the Mac Book Pros in 2016.  The Mac Book Air was revived in 2018 with a better version of the flawed keyboard.  Now we know it was still flawed.  Thanks Apple.

Tim Cook & Co. began to turn it around last year with the release of the 2019 – 16 inch Mac Book Pro.  However, this system starts at about $2400 and is not one that my clients would typically consider.   Fast forward to late March, Apple unveiled a new Mac Book Air sporting a keyboard with the traditional “scissor” switches, dubbed the Magic Keyboard.  Half a millimeter more in key travel makes all the difference in the world.  Finally, this week, the process has come full circle.  The 13 inch Mac Book Pro — a model that many if you have — was updated with the new keyboard.  It starts at $1299.   So that leaves one real question:

Which 13 inch Mac Book (2020) do you buy?

As I have shared previously, the 2020 Mac Book Air (13 inch) starts at $999.  However, it comes with a processor that you really don’t want.  So to get it well equipped with the i5 processor ( a MUST) it is $100 more for a total of $1099.  The Mac Book Pro 13 starts at $1299, but it comes with an i5 processor released in 2019.   I have actually looked at the specs of both i5 processors and they are comparable.  If you wanted to keep the costs down, I would suggest going with the $1099 Mac Book Air.  However, if you are looking for more of a premium system that would be best suited for running many asks at once — I would encourage you to consider the next tier up in the Mac Book Pro 13 lineup.  That model features the latest i5 processors and is priced at $1799.  However, I would suggest that one only if you really think you need it.  I think that that the $1099 model would get the job done, especially with its newly doubled 256 GB hard drive, for most of the typical buyers that I work with.   Both the Air and the Pro 13 have a headphone jack and two USB C – Thunderbolt 3 ports.  Both models start with 256 GB hard drives. The Pro is slightly thicker. 

I have told a lot of you to hold off until those new keyboards are available.  Some of you couldn’t wait because you had failed or failing Macs.  However if you have made it this far, you have the green light from me.   I can set up new Macs remotely.   I am also coming out of exile for in person appointments beginning on May 18th. 

For your review

https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/

https://www.apple.com/us-hed/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro/13-inch

Not The Password Boy Who Cried Wolf–Part 127

I hear the birds chirping outside my window, but then again it’s unlike any other May Day in my lifetime.  My cherry blossom tree already bloomed for the year. Hope you’re starting to see those signs of spring as well.


Devices Update

-The new iPhone SE is a winning release for Apple. I will be doing my first remote setups for clients over the next week or so.  You could also buy it to hold for later.  At $399 it is more powerful than almost any Android phone on the market.  Whether you order directly from Apple or from your carrier, you can ask me which is best for you.  In many instances there are interest free payments available.  I think a lot of buyers will just purchase it outright.  Drawbacks?  I thought of one since last week and while it certainly isn’t a minus for me, it may be for some people.  The iPhone SE does not have 5G cellular technology.  Of course, no iPhone on the market has 5G right now.  The new more expensive “iPhone 12” models released in the fall will almost certainly have 5G.  Don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this extreme value.

– 2020 Mac Book Air — I mentioned a few weeks ago that Apple has finally brought back the old keyboard design on their consumer focused Mac Books and that if you need a Mac Book, you can go ahead and strongly consider the new Air.  https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/   When you choose the base model at $999 ($899 with education discount), you will want to make 1 upgrade during the checkout.  PLEASE – choose the i5 processor for a $100 upgrade.  It’s well worth it.  So for $1099, you have an awesome Mac. 

Not The Password Boy Who Cried Wolf – Part 127

I’ve sent out e-mails like this before.  That is why I am calling it Part 127.  I get these sad stories from clients every so often.   An e-mail account has been compromised.  Requests for payment or money were sent out.  Someone didn’t screen the request properly and actually sent the money.  During this time of Covid19, the scammers have not rested.  This is peak season for them.   Some hackers have software that just keeps guessing at e-mail passwords until they can “crack” them.  The easier your password is, the better the chance that they will crack it quickly.  However, major e-mail providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft do have systems in place that lock the account after an excessive number of tries.   Yet, if your password is super easy to guess — it’s not going to help you anyway. 

One thing I have noticed during this “stay safe, stay at home” period is that many of you have terrible passwords.  You don’t take this seriously at all.  Think of all of the services you have that can be broken into if a bad actor were to get into your e-mail account.   Here are a few BEST PRACTICES that I have tried to teach to clients over the past 5 years or so.  Unfortunately, I don’t think many are making the grade on this topic. 

3 Ways to Create Better Passwords — Choose 1

-use a professional password manager — like Last Pass, 1Password, or Dashlane. (of course this involves learning a new piece of software and not everyone wants to do this).

– Use a random password generator.  Set length to 12 or greater — and you will get totally randomized passwords to PRINT OUT.  This is a tool I frequently use with clients   https://www.random.org/passwords/

-Finally — a client can come up with their own if they use a good formula  — secure base plus specific ending for each site.   Again, it should be something easy for you to remember, hard for others to guess.    Let’s say for example not many people know I like John Denver music.

My base might be — “Leavingonajetplane”

My password for Microsoft might be Leavingonajetplane20msft

My password for Google might be Leavingonajetplane19goog

And so on.

Again, those would be good passwords, if no one could associate me with that base.


Extra Credit:   And while you have some time — if you do online banking — why don’t you call your bank’s help # and ask them this question.  It’s a very simple one.  What are you doing — beyond my user name and password — to protect my account?   Is there a 2nd factor?  Is there some other security measure? What do they offer beyond user name and password?

A Call For Creativity In These Times

What I have been so impressed by is the creativity that other businesses are showing at this time.  I’m really happy that smaller markets like Fitzgerald’s, Highland Park, Stew Leonard’s and others are stepping up and keeping the shelves stocked, when some of the more “big box” and corporate type stores have been perpetually cleaned out.  It just seems to me like $5 / 20 roll toilet paper, $1 hand soap, and $2 hand sanitizer are not sustainable during times of insane demand or hoarding.  However, stores that sell these items at sustainable prices have them.   One Hartford business that has really impressed me by how they have met a consumer need is Hartford Flavor on Arbor St.  They are known for producing fine hard liquor but these days they have used their capacity to make hand sanitizer.  They take one customer at a time up the stairs at their headquarters.  They have also donated a bunch of their product to front line workers.   As you probably know commercial food suppliers are really having a tough go of it.  Eggs and other staples are being trashed across the country.  Sysco, a company that provides food to many restaurants we love, is now offering personal pickup two days a week for individual customers at their Rocky Hill warehouse.  Some businesses have really been devastated and may never recover but I think it’s important to recognize those who are creating new supply channels during these wild times. 

iPhone SE Taking Off Like A Rocket

I discussed the release of this phone with you last week.  It is going to be a huge seller for Apple and depending on where you order from, the wait is already a couple weeks for delivery.  This phone is so much better than the 2016 iPhone SE.  It has a “normal” size screen that iPhone users have been used to since 2014 and of course at $399, it is priced to move. I will share a tid bit that I read in one of the tech publications this week.  They said that even though this phone is $399, it has a more powerful processor than just about any Android phone on the market, including those costing more than double.   Some of my clients have purchased this phone already and will do a remote setup with me (which I expect to take 1 to 1.5 hours if you are keeping score at home).  Others are purchasing and holding it for later so that we can set it up together under better circumstances.  Either option is fine by me with any device you want to purchase.  

I also want to answer another question that I have gotten — what’s the catch? I think it’s a great question.  Since Steve Jobs launched the iMac  in 1998, Apple has performed with near genius precision at the unveiling of one product after another.  They have had few duds.  Apple’s original intent with the SE was probably to capture buyers who for some reason have held onto their iPhone 6, 6s and 7 and possibly 8’s (for those who bought it early on as it was a fall 2017 phone).  They decided on this release sometime last year, not because of Covid 19, but the fact that it is happening now when a $1000 phone seems so out of sight for many laid off or downsized workers — makes Apple seem brilliant.  I think they will also win over some % of Android users because this is a can’t lose price point.   So who is the iPhone SE not for?  If you see yourself as a semi-pro photographer, you will likely want a phone from the iPhone 11 series, and probably a Pro model.  The camera on the SE is a single camera, definitely as good as the iPhone 8.  Another person who the SE is not for is someone who wants two cellular lines on one phone.   Starting with the 2018 models, all iPhone X series and 11 series support two lines.  This can be a very useful feature, especially in the case of business and personal.

Older iPhone? The $399 iPhone SE Is For You

It feels like March 2016 again only better.   Apple — overpriced?  An Apple Tax to buy all of those Apple products?  Not right now.  First of all, they came out with a 2020 Mac Book Air a few weeks ago, with the good keyboard and LOWERED the price to $999.  Apple knows that buyers are scared and budgets are constrained.  So what did they do?  They released a $399 iPhone SE on Wednesday, with the SAME CPU inside as the iPhone 11 / Pro.

I am not making this up. It is 100% for real.  In March 2016, they first launched the SE line @ $399. However it was a really small 4.0 inch design based off of the 2013 iPhone 5s.  I bought one that summer and used it as my daily driver for more than 18 months.  The SE is back and better than ever.  The screen is now 4.7 inches.  If you have an iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8 — the new SE is the same size and timeless design put out by Apple back in 2014.  Especially if you are still using a 6 (which will not get any more updates), 6s or 7 — this phone purchase is a no brainer.  Do it!   You may just choose to buy it outright or you could do interest free payments with your carrier for $16.66 a month for 24 months.

$699 iPhone 11?   $999 iPhone 11 Pro?  Unless you need to have 2 phone lines on 1 phone or some of the advanced features, you probably don’t need that more expensive phone.   An iPhone SE would suit most of my clients just fine. 

Thoughts On Zoom Controversy

Over the past few days, I have read all the bad news about Zoom.  Between updates they put out from Thursday until today, they have corrected all of the issues.  It is alarming some of the flaws they had which are nicely detailed in this WSJ article  https://www.wsj.com/articles/zoom-ceo-i-really-messed-up-on-security-as-coronavirus-drove-video-tools-appeal-11586031129?shareToken=stf921d7c733df40db8c49d2a934d7ada2

However, I also think that as the fresh new kid on the block — Zoom’s success irritated established players that would benefit even from a 10% to 20% downfall from Zoom — Microsoft (with Teams and Skype) and Cisco with Web Ex.   One of the interesting facts about all of this is that one of the lead engineers at the original Web Ex, prior to Cisco’s $3 billion purchase in 2007 was Eric Yuan.  He is the founder of Zoom.     Zoom’s goal was to make live conferencing easy, even without an account.  Unfortunately — when conference rooms were created without passwords (no longer the default as of 4/5/20) anyone could enter them and harass people.   However, a heckler could walk into an AA meeting or a meeting between students and professors in a lecture hall.  Zoom in some ways mimicked real life. 

Joining a Web Ex meeting is really not that much different than joining a Zoom meeting.  It often involves opening a link and an application launching.  The controls and options are laid out in different places.  New life is being breathed into Skype as they have a now have an account-less meeting option.   The online meeting / conference space will see shifts in preferences as companies respond to potential threats.  I hope Zoom can rebound from this.  However, there is no doubt that stumbling by one entity creates opportunities for others.