Be Versatile In Using Technology

This is a follow up to a previous update, with some specific tips. Eventually, the way you normally do something is going to go wrong. Outlook is going to fail you, Apple Mail (Mac or iOS) is going to fail you, your browser of choice (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc) is going to fail you. Gmail may even fail you. There will be a time when you need to reply to or send out a key e-mail. You may have a contract or a statement to print out and your browser starts acting goofy. You will have that instance where you need to do something meaningful to you and what should be simple seems like a technological roadblock.

At least once a month, try doing what you normally do a different way. If you usually use a separate e-mail application to read your mail — try going to the web mail client of your provider. Reply to messages and send new ones out. Test it out. Check to see what contacts are stored there. Depending on your provider, you will be going to
Comcast.net
Gmail.com
Yahoo.com
Outlook.com (for Hotmail and @outlook.com addresses)
portal.office.com (for Office 365 workplace e-mail accounts provided by Microsoft)
iCloud.com
webmail.aol.com
or possibly another website depending on your provider

Furthermore, make sure you have a 2nd e-mail address that you can send and receive from. Simply changing how you access the account may not fix your problem. A second address gives you a communication lifeline.

In addition to your primary browser which is likely going to be Chrome, Safari or Firefox — at least once a month, use another browser on your computer. You may be opening up one of the aforementioned 3 or possibly Microsoft Edge (on a Windows computer). Check your Start Menu (Windows) or Applications folder (Mac) for that secondary browser. If you need to download and install another browser, here are some relevant links.
Firefox.com
https://www.google.com/chrome/
Brave

Get comfortable trying alternative methods of performing routine tasks. Your willingness to be flexible can really help you out when you are in a jam.

Control of Technology in the Hands of Too Few?

I am concerned about this issue and I know many of you are too.   An increasing amount of space in both traditional and online media has been given to the great power that so few companies have.  There was a big NY Times article on the subject not long ago.   We are talking about it at work.  We bemoan the technological giants with friends.  I could write a ton on the matter at hand, but I want to keep it simple, give you something to nibble on, and invite your thoughts.

As great as Google Assistant is, this story gave me cause for concern.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/05/google-gmail-purchase-history-cant-be-deleted.html

When you delete an item, it should be gone.  However, Google still has access to it in this instance. 

So who I am I really talking about when I say the “technological giants” ?   Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter,  Apple and Microsoft. 

Consider Facebook’s power in social media and messaging.   Facebook.com, Facebook Messenger, What’s App, and Instagram!  Wow.   With the exception of traditional text messages, and Apple’s iMessage (blue messages on your iPhone) platform, that is such as large chunk of our digital experience.   Facebook owns all of it.

I like to put Apple and Microsoft in a different sub group within the powers that be.  They primarily sell stuff that we use.  Yes they engage in some data collection an analysis, but Facebook, Google, and Twitter feast off of user information.  (With the exception of some Google business services), you don’t really pay for anything from these three.  They are in the business of harvesting information for the purpose of selling ads.      Amazon is the most well known online retailer.  They also have a massive division that provides paid data management services to businesses.   Yet, they know everything about our shopping habits.  I’m sure they can share some data with manufacturers.  Their control of merchandise can make or break a new product or upstart company. 

Consider this hypothetical.  You really are a big advocate for this one diet.  And there are a couple of books that are like “the bible” for your program of eating.  However, this diet is controversial.  You don’t have any local bookstores you can go to.  Amazon is the place to buy the books for this program.  You often shop there to buy new copies for the support group you run.  Some food lobby starts putting pressure on Amazon to stop carrying these books.  A health association chimes in.  Amazon decides to stop carrying the books.  It becomes much harder to easily disseminate the required information. 

Ultimately, Amazon is a private bookstore. They can choose to carry the volumes they want.  The problem is — for some Amazon is the only choice.  They have put so many of our cherished local bookstores out of business. 

Just something to think about!   What are you going to do to combat THEIR power?  Use a VPN?   Use paid e-mail service?  What about searching on DuckDuckGo.com instead of Google? 

How Old Should I Go?

Verizon PSA

I just wanted to make this announcement one more time because it came up in the past week.  Verizon is shutting down their legacy CDMA calling network on 1/1/2020.  If you are on the Verizon network (including 3rd party providers) and have an iPhone 5s or older or an old flip phone or an older Android phone — you need to upgrade.   Please ask for help if needed.    This announcement does not affect ATT or T-Mobile customers

How Old Should I Go?

I had conversations with several clients last week about getting new iPhones or smartphones in general.  I get asked, which iPhone should I get?  Firstly you have to remember that Apple is really not competing on price.  They will claim that their devices are just better and offer a premium user experience.  If you buy an iPhone, you are buying a computer for your pocket and a device that is priced like a computer.  I knew that some of the major carriers were still selling the iPhone 6s, possibly for a price in the $200s or maybe through some hocus pocus for “FREE”.  It came to my attention that there may even be some iPhone 6 models for sale as new.  WOW.  I think its a shame that they are doing this.  Here is the thing, even if an iPhone 6s was produced last year or this year, it is a 2015 era phone.   It features 4 year old technology.   I know what you might say — well, I don’t need all of the newest features so this will probably work great for me.   It might!   However, remember that Apple does not support iPhones with feature and security updates after about 5 years.   Starting this fall, the iPhone 6 will no longer receive the new version of iOS.  The iPhone 6s will still receive the new software.  Next year, it may not.  So if you buy an iPhone 6s now, you may only be buying an iPhone for 1 year. 

If you really want an iPhone — the oldest I would go at this point is an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.   That was released in September 2017.  It is also the last iPhone that supports the traditional design with the Home Button.  All newer iPhones have no home button, you simply swipe on the screen to mimic the home button.  Most clients learn this in about 1 day or so.  No big deal.  So if you buy an iPhone 8 now, you are likely buying an iPhone that will be good for 3 years provided you don’t break it or it doesn’t slow down to a point where you can’t use it enjoyably anymore.  In general, I think an iPhone XR would be best (unless you really want the camera superiority of the XS or XS Max and want to pay for it), but an 8 will be just fine.  Keep in mind, new models will be coming out in September (based on Apple’s past track record). 

There are many great less expensive phones too.  I think the new Google Pixel 3a is the best phone you can buy for under $400.  https://store.google.com/product/pixel_3a  It works on all the major carriers and can also be used on Google’s FI cellular service which starts at $20 per month. 

The Moto G7 Power from Motorola is $250 and is also a very powerful phone for the price.  If battery life is your thing, this phone is like the Energizer bunny. 

The carriers sell several inexpensive Android smartphones between $100 and $200.   Some of these phones are OK, while others are not great.  It depends on your needs and what you want to do.   If its just calling, texting, a little e-mailing, and Google searching — a less expensive Android phone will probably work out just fine.   Keep in mind, these Android phones are usually 2 to 3 year phones. 

** There is one asterisk I want to put on this conversation**  I don’t know if they have changed their policy in the last month or 2, but to the best of my knowledge, ATT has been very nasty about not allowing clients to use all the features of their phones IF THEY DON’T PURCHASE THE PHONE DIRECTLY FROM THEM.   iPhones will be fine.  But if you buy an Android phone directly from the company that made it or from a 3rd party, they may not be willing to activate LTE calling or WiFi calling.   I think that’s just plain wrong.  Verizon and T-Mobile customers have less of these issues.      A phone is a phone, a network is a network.   With that said, I do not have major problems with ATT as a network.   Their service is quite adequate across the country. 

CT Big List and Dealing With Technology Stress


** Brief correction
:  While I did watch and listen to Apple’s WWDC keynote address live and then combined the best of reliable sources and my own analysis for you, I left out one key equipment compatibility detail.   The late 2015 iPhone models — 6s and 6s Plus — WILL be compatible with iOS 13 that comes out this fall.  I had originally told you iPhone SE and later.   Essentially the SE (a small, 4.0 inch iPhone released in March 2016) has the same processor as the 6s family.  It makes sense then that the 6s models are still kosher.  If you have a 6s, I’m not saying that you have to get a new phone.   You may still want to get a new one (because of age, declining functionality etc) or you may want to get the battery replaced.  I will support you in those decisions.  iPhone 6 is a different story — it is not going to work with iOS 13.  As for iPads, my initial report was correct.  iPad Air 2 (2014) and iPad Mini 4 (2015) and later are supported.  The original iPad Air (2013) and previous models will not be supported. 

PSA:  This is not a scam. It comes directly from the CT State Treasurer’s Office.  You should check out the CT Big List.   This is where funds from all closed and forgotten bank accounts, insurance policies, and other funds (like mortgage rebates) go to.  I have found clients names on the list in the past.  Some of you are currently on the list. You do not have to pay anyone for claiming your missing funds. If your name comes up in the search, simply follow the steps, print out the form, get it notarized and you will get your funds.  Your bank will most likely notarize for you for free.  There are hundreds of millions of $$ available to CT residents.  It’s YOUR money.  https://www.ctbiglist.com/

PSA 2:   Since I have had a handful of clients who have been hacked recently  — mostly because of insecure and re-used passwords and also some instances of bad browser extensions — I want to share this again.    If a “bad guy”  gets your e-mail messages and your contacts, there is nothing to stop them from e-mailing your contacts over and over again asking for money and trying to scam them.   You can change your e-mail address (and maybe you should, at least for the defense of “I don’t use that account anymore”) but even still, that person can impersonate you and make it look like messages are coming from your old address or even a new address that seems to be you.  The bad guy may continue to harass you.  Don’t take it too seriously.  Don’t give in.  Think about it this way — if a drug dealer knows he can make a lot of money selling on one street corner — he is going to keep going back to that street corner until it becomes unprofitable.   If a scammer has been successful at obtaining gift cards or cash from your contacts — he will hit them up again and again.   Common logic tells you that once people stop giving in, the scammer will get bored and move on to other victims. 

Dealing With Technology Stress

Here are a couple of simple steps to help you work around frustrating situations with technology

1.  Have you tried turning the device off or closing the software application and restarting it?

2.  Have you tried doing IT a different way? For example — if your e-mail account is not working in the Mail app on your phone or computer — have you tried going directly to Gmail.com, or Yahoo.com or Comcast.net to check your e-mail?  Have you tried using a different browser?   Instead of Chrome — try Firefox or Safari (You should have more than one browser on your computer).  Once a month, make it a point to try out alternatives to common tasks so you are not stuck.

3. Strange pop up on the screen from “Microsoft Support”  talking to you with a phone number to call?   Quit the browser or turn the computer off.  Ask for help from a legitimate resource if you can’t get out of it.

4.  Put the devices down or turn them off — take a walk —- >> Go out for a while.   Talk to real people.  Do something that doesn’t give you stress!  Remember how life used to be?  All you needed was a quartz wristwatch, a wallet, and some family or friends to have a good time.

Review of Apple’s Big Event | Time for New Phones and Tablets?

This event has already been reported in the mainstream media, usually in snippets and soundbites. Clients have already asked me to clarify the confusion. I wanted to break their “state of the state” address into a very specific focus for you — 1) What it means for your Macs, 2) What it means for your iPhones / iPads, and 3) What it means for iTunes. Feel free to print this out or save this e-mail or share with your Mac / iOS using friends. This info will still be valid in the fall and ongoing.

Apple held their WWDC keynote address on Monday. Aside from a new Mac Pro desktop (which is intended for designers, people in video production, and engineers — users outside my typical client demographic), this event was all about software. Like clockwork, Apple is coming out with a brand new version of iOS and macOS. These are the BIG annual upgrades that I often tell you about. They will be available in the late summer / early fall. These will be known as iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. Apple is essentially “forking off” the software for the iPad and calling it iPadOS. This will be coming out in the fall for existing, compatible iPads as well. As I told one client today, ALL OF THE NEW SOFTWARE WILL BE FREE. These new editions of the respective operating systems offer guidance as to which Macs and iOS devices will no longer be supported.

For the Macs that you need to know about — macOS 10.15 will support
Mac Book Pro – 2012 and later
Mac Book Air – 2012 and later
iMac – 2012 and later
Mac Mini – 2012 and later
*Usually my rule of thumb is, when it’s the first version of the macOS that does not support your Mac — you have a little time.  Once its the next full year and it’s that second version of the mac OS that doesn’t support your system — you really need to get a new Mac.  (For example, if you have a 2011 Mac Book Pro (and some of you do), macOS 10.14 (2018 version) was the first one your Mac did not support.  If this Mac is still in operation, you should be thinking about a new Mac once the new software comes out in the fall. Take a deep breath, you don’t have to make a purchase exactly on that date.)  Of course, this only applies if you are going to stay with a Mac.  Alternatively, you can upgrade to a new computer whenever you want.  If your Mac is getting slow or if it fails, you may not be waiting until the end of its software life cycle.
 
As for the iPhones and iPads 
iOS 13 / iPad OS will support
iPhone SE and later (the 2015 iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are not included).  iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are OK.
iPad Mini 4 and later
iPad Air 2 (2014 model) and later
*With the iPhones and iPads, you can see they are not supported as long as the Macs.  This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when these device are no longer supported it’s time to get an new device.   So, you can see essentially, that the iPhones and iPads are 4-5 year devices (from initial release).  They may break; you may be unhappy with the performance, so in that case you can upgrade on more frequent intervals if needed.   From this compatibility / obsolescence schedule, I hope you can see that there is no point in buying a 2 or 3 year old iPhone.  That’s why the carrier or Apple are offering them for next to nothing.   I think it’s a sin that Verizon stores were recently offering the 2015 iPhone 6s for “0 dollars”. They are selling paperweights!   I know many of you have iPhone 6 or 6s models or even the original iPad Air.  It’s time to start thinking about upgrading.   And, you can certainly wait until one of the new models comes out in the fall.

iTunes is Going Away – Sort of 
One of the other big announcements was that Apple is replacing iTunes in macOS 10.15 with 3 apps — Music, Podcasts, Apple TV.   Most of the music synchronization, purchasing, organization, and iOS device management will take place in the Music app on the Mac.  Windows users — do not fear.   iTunes will still be available and remain your destination for all of these tasks on the Windows platform for the foreseeable future.

Technology Update 6/1/19 – Internet Deals

Current Comcast Deal
Most of my clients are Comcast customers. I know that it is tough to keep up with their promotions. They come and go with no set schedule. I know that it feels weird or even wrong to have to keep calling them on a yearly or bi-annual basis to ask about a new promotion. When you contact them, an appropriate promotion may not be available. A week later, you may be a very happy person. I always get asked about ways to save on the bill. I have said in the past — you may have to make some compromises. They have a current promotion for those of you who want Internet and TV only. Do not try to add anything to it. It is called the Standard Double Play HD promo. With this package you will get an extremely fast internet speed, plus their Standard TV plan (not Limited Basic). You will get local channels, sports channels, cable news networks, and entertainment channels like USA, TNT, FX, Lifetime, Hallmark. The base price of the package is $59.99. Of course you have to factor in the $10 Broadcast TV fee (local channels) and regional sports fee (8.25). I am basing this on Connecticut prices. The cost for 1 TV is about $90 a month. The cost for 2 TV’s comes out to just under $100 a month. I think this is a good offer if you are looking to hit that $100 price point. It is valid for 1 year. Then of course, you will have to renegotiate. That’s the name of the game. One more thing, you will have to contact the Retentions department to get this promo. You need to call and say you want to "cancel service". Official Comcast representatives can also make these kinds of offers through a private message on the discussion website Reddit. For as big as they are, they have gotten really modern in offering support. This deal should be good for new customers as well.

Apple’s Big Event
Apple is hosting their annual WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) next week. The big keynote will happen at the beginning of the week. I’m not really expecting new devices as they have already released new iPads, iMacs and Mac Book Pros this year. However, I think there will be announcements about the future of the Mac. I expect to see more convergence between iPad and Mac. One rumor that has come on pretty strong over the past 24 hours is that Apple will be retiring iTunes software in favor of a Music app (same as iPhone / iPad). You may remember iTunes as a music manager but it was also an iPhone manager. It was great for making local backups of your iOS device to the computer. It could also be used to restore an iOS device from the backup. I hope that functionality is kept because it has been very useful in my efforts to help you. I will have more to report in my next update.

Brief Android Update – Late May 2019

Dear Android Clients — the proud and few:

I just want to let you know that Google has come out with a new Android phone (directly) that brings back memories of its great Nexus phones from 2013 and 2015. Back then Google had a line of phones called Nexus. They were middle of the market priced phones (sub $400) but they were very aspirational. I think they were a good alternative to the iPhone. Google deviated from the plan in 2014 by releasing a huge Nexus 6 phone that was made by Motorola. It’s hard to remember this, but Google actually owned Motorola for a few years. 2015 brought us the Nexus 5X and its larger brother the 6P. Unfortunately, they did not keep the Nexus line going and have been going with a high end Pixel line of phones since late 2016.

A few weeks ago — Google gave us a glimpse of the glory days. They released a Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. They are priced a lot like Nexus phones at $399 and $479 respectively. They are being sold directly by Google and by major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile. These phones have a great camera and retain the traditional headphone jack. Google will support them with software updates for 3 years, which is a better guarantee than you will get from almost any Android phone maker.

Other lower cost Android phones for 2019 that I like are the Moto G7 or G7 Power from Motorola (motorola.com). The Power has a huge battery if you like that sort of thing. Both phones are priced under $300. Skip the G7 Play. It is less capable than the other two. Unfortunately, Motorola does not make a guarantee about updates. So for just a little more $$ it seems like that Google Pixel 3a is a better deal.

I don’t have a lot to say about Android devices these days because 90% of my clients use iPhones for their smartphone. I have to stay invested in this market because these are the clients that are going to regularly have me come out and help them with phone issues in significant numbers. In my heart though, I am with you. The Android platform was my first entry way into the smartphone world back in 2010. I think there is more flexibility to do tasks in multiple ways with Android. It’s more computer like than the iPhone in that regard. I miss my favorite Android app – Doggcatcher.

Android 9 is the current version these days. Not all older phones will upgrade to this version. When Google releases a new version of Android, the Google devices get it right away, also some devices that are branded Android One will get it promptly (like newer Nokia phones). The better Android phones will guarantee security updates for a period of time, like 2 or 3 years. Sadly, because there is not uniformity among Android device manufacturers, certain phones will never get the updates they need.