Technology Update 11/12/18: Resisting Technology

1.  Although I covered the new Mac computers and iPad Pro at length in a blog post for my Apple clients on 11/1 (https://theacronym.com/2018/11/01/recap-of-apples-brooklyn-event/) I wanted to make everyone aware of these new models.   Apple has a new Mac Mini desktop that starts at $799, a Mac Book Air laptop that starts at $1199. If you’re frustrated with Windows and want to go Mac, these are your points of entry.  The iPad Pro is an interesting device.  It has as much or even more raw power than almost any personal computer out there.  It’s extremely portable.  Apple even sells a magnetic keyboard that makes it like a laptop.  With the keyboard, it will cost at least $1000.  For some it could become a primary computer.  For others, the iPad Pro may represent a strong secondary device.   If you can learn to play within its rules, it’s a much simpler device than a desktop Windows or Mac environment.  Don’t forget the regular iPad @ $329.  It is the best value in the Apple family.
2.  With all of this Apple excitement, I don’t want to leave out the Windows world.  New models are out as well.  If you want something like an iPad Pro, that still runs a full version of Windows  — look no further than the new Microsoft Surface 6.   With Windows systems, I will always go back to my clubhouse leaders.   For a premium product, you can’t go wrong with the Dell Latitude 5000/7000 laptop, Lenovo Thinkpad T480, or Thinkpad X1 Carbon.  These are systems built to last.  In terms of desktops, I am still a fan of the Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre systems.   Most of these computers are custom orders and not found in stores.  Occasionally, I do go on a shopping trip with a client at a big box store and last week there was such an occasion that arose.  I didn’t want to pull just anything off the shelf.  At about $500, this HP desktop met my standards.  It looks good on the desk and there was only one junk program that I had to remove.  It is a great option for the budget conscious.  https://www.bestbuy.com/site/hp-pavilion-desktop-intel-core-i3-8gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-128gb-solid-state-drive-hp-finish-in-natural-silver/6290502.p?skuId=6290502
3. Resisting Technology
I know that some of you are hesitant to embrace new technologies offered by the devices you own.  One that I don’t think you should avoid is Apple Pay (or for those of you with Android phones that support it, Android Pay).  Adding your credit or debit card to the Wallet on your iPhone costs you nothing and takes only about 5 minutes to set up for one card, if that.  Stores like Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Stop and Shop, Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s and thousands more will allow you to pay by tapping your phone.  Why should you do it?  If you would already pay with a card, using Apple Pay helps prevent identity theft.  The store never gets your 16 digit card number. It gets a very long, randomized string of numbers.  If a particular store suffers a massive breach, like Target or Home Depot did a few years back, you will be in the driver seat.  The super secure card number you used via Apple Pay cannot come back to zap you.  Your Apple Pay device generates a dynamic security code for each transaction. I use Apple Pay whenever I can.  Check out the Wallet app on your iPhone if you’ve never looked at it.
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Recap of Apple’s Brooklyn Event

So — after months of me telling you that new Macs, with more “consumer” oriented pricing, would be coming that day finally arrived on Tuesday.  I have been very critical of Apple’s 2016 and 2017 laptops, but I am a firm believer in what they did with the new Mac Book Pro laptops released over the summer and also this week’s releases.
The event opened with a tribute to what Tim Cook called the most beloved laptop of all time — the Mac Book Air.  The crowd got really excited.  Apple pundits had doubts over whether they would keep the Mac Book Air line going.  It lives on!   Let me give you a run down of the 3 major product announcements.
Mac Book Air
This 13 inch customer favorite is all new with a high resolution Retina display screen.  It has 2018, 8th generation, Core i5 Intel processors.  There are two USB-C ports on the laptop, both of which could be used for charging.  As these are ports of a new shape, you will need a $10 to $20 adapter to plug in your hard drives, printers, etc.   8 GB of RAM is standard.  Apple claims the Air is made from 100% recycled aluminum.  For the smallest hard drive, 128 GB SSD, the cost is $1199.  I just want to caution you about this size hard drive.   If you are only dealing with documents, this model may work for you.  However, if you are keeping a measurable collection of photos, music, and videos on your internal hard drive — please opt for the 256 GB model (same speed, just more storage) which goes for $1399.   Another option that some of my clients utilize is to put photo and music libraries on a separate external hard drive.    You may wonder, what is the difference between the $1399 Mac Book Air and the $1799 13 inch Mac Book Pro?  The Pro has a faster processor and 4 ports to plug things into instead of two.    I think the Mac Book Air would serve many of my Mac clients well.
Mac Mini
Wow!  They finally did it.  Apple updated their entry level desktop for the first time in 4 years.    For those of you in need of a primer — the Mac Mini is simply a small computer that is about the same size as a cigar box.  You can plug it into a monitor of your choosing ($100-150 model at Best Buy, Amazon works fine) and any USB mouse / keyboard ($30 Macally set from Amazon is A-OK).   Fortunately, the 2018 base model is not the stripped down, sluggish configuration from 2014.  It comes with 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD hard drive, and a Core i3 CPU.   It rings up at $799.  This would be a very adequate model for my typical client.   However once again, if you have a significant collection of pictures or music, you will want to get the 256 GB model for $999 (or should possibly upgrade to the faster i5 processor for $1099).   Should you ever need to add more RAM, the memory (not hard drive) is actually up-gradable.  Thanks Apple!     The Mac Mini has plenty of ports to connect all of your devices — including an HDMI port, 4 USB C / Thunderbolt 3 ports,  2 traditional USB-A ports, and an Ethernet port for hard wired internet.    If you want a reasonably priced Mac desktop, this is your baby.
iPad Pro (A True Computer?)
The iPad Pro was refreshed with all new models that push the screen edge to edge like the iPhone X models.  The smaller model is now 11 inches and the larger model is still 12.9 inches.  The home button has been removed and replaced by Face ID, just like the iPhone X models as well.   Apple claims that the new iPad Pro is more powerful than 92% of personal computers on the market today.   With all of the language used, Apple is really promoting the iPad Pro as a computer.  They showed a graph during the event that showed that more iPads were sold than any other brand of computer over the past year.  One of my clients has already started to use her iPad Pro as her primary personal computer.   Pricing starts at $799 for the 11 inch model (64 GB hard drive), and $999 for the 12.9 inch model.   If you are going Pro, you will probably want to get Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio for $179-199.    For those of you with more basic iPad needs, like occasional e-mail reading, news reading, and media consumption — the $329 iPad is perfect.

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.

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.