Our Leaders Failed Us

#NeverForget

All the warnings and information were readily available to anyone paying attention.

Make Sure Your System Works

Make Sure Your (Password) System Works

Some clients along with yours truly use a sophisticated password manager. At the bare minimum you should have a paper notebook.  And then you should start new notebooks when they get all messed up and full of cross-outs.  However, whether manual or electronic, your system of password keeping is not good unless you regularly test that it works.  It’s just bad data if it doesn’t work.  So I’m suggesting that quarterly (if not more often, with banking and sites you frequent) — you should log into every website you have a password for.   Make sure you have WORKING PASSWORDS.

Common websites you need to check are —

https://my.xfinity.com/

Gmail.com

mail.yahoo.com

ATT Yahoo / att.net, sbcglobal, snet e-mail  https://currently.att.yahoo.com/

You should also try

-Microsoft Office subscription / Microsoft account  https://account.microsoft.com

iCloud.com 

-Your banking / investment websites

-Shopping websites

-Newspapers and publications

**It’s really really bad form to keep passwords in an unencrypted Word or Excel file stored on the computer.  You are setting yourselves up for theft.   Modern versions of Microsoft Office will allow you to save PASSWORD PROTECTED Word and Excel files.  These are somewhat encrypted and the encryption improved in Office 2016 and later.   Still not my favorite – but better than naked files.

Best Tip I Could Give On AOL Mail

(The 1990s is calling and they want their e-mail back.  HA HA.)

All kidding aside for some reason — you may still be using AOL for email.  I had a client last week who got scammed by a bogus e-mail that got through to his AOL account.  3/4 of his messages are SPAM.   His computer ended up being taken over by hackers.  It required a 3 hour appointment with me (and 1 hour follow up today), a complete erasing of the computer and setting it up again.

AOL Mail does not have customizable Spam settings where you could tell it for example to be Stricter about filtering spam.   However…….. we discovered there is a VERY powerful feature in the Options / Mail Settings.    If you are highly bothered by Spam in your AOL account — I strongly suggest turning it on. 

The name of this feature is

Block All Senders Except Contacts

It does exactly that.  Senders who are not in your Contacts will not be able to email you.   If you want to receive email from a particular person — add them to the Contacts.  People whom you’ve previously e-mailed are already in your contacts. 

This feature is in

Options  >> Mail Settings>> Block Senders

*My client is thrilled now as his Spam volume will be cut down by 90% or more.  This will save him from costly mistakes and the hassle of having to close his checking account and re-open a new one. 

Solid Steel Real Deal

Biz Briefing:  Quick Note about Quick Books

Several of my clients are in business for themselves. You may know someone in the same boat whether they run a small office or are more of a self-employed consultant.  Quick Books basically has a monopoly on the market for small business accounting software.  I use it and you probably do too.  Quick Books has grown increasingly unfriendly in recent years.  Business owners used to upgrade their Quick Books about every 4 years.  However, their real goal over the past couple of years has been to push customers into their new Quick Books Online offering.  A functional subscription is about $60 a month (and pricing has gone up on that too).  The desktop or regular Quick Books program (Mac and Windows) was $200-300.  In 2020, it went up to $349 per year.  Next year — wow [ouch] Quick Books desktop is going to be  $799 / year.  I know people holding on to Quick Book Pro 2016 for dear life.   Hold on if you can.  That version of Quick Books (any prior 2020) is considered insecure.  PROTECT THE COMPUTER IT’S ON LIKE FORT KNOX.  The future is QB Online. It’s been great for their bottom line, not ours!

Sad ending to the season for the Mets.   Yankees and Dodgers World Series anyone?

30 Second Tip

When you are having an issue or quick with your devices, try a Restart.  You probably know how to  restart your computer.  However, there is not true restart on the iPhone / iPad.  So, you must Shut Down and then turn it back on.  Settings >> General >> Shut Down.   Then hold the big button on the right side of the iPhone (or top for iPads) for 5 seconds to turn it back on. 

Solid Steel Real Deal

I’ve begun setting up iPhone 14 Pro models for my clients.  So far the ratio is all iPhone 14 Pro and no regular 14’s (but remember I am not down on the plain old 14, having just at 13 myself).  However, there is something special in the hand when I hold the 14 Pro.  The weight and the feel of the stainless steel case is so apparent.  It reminds me of when I hold one of the cheaper Timex watches.  It’s light and made out of brass.  An aluminum watch would feel the same way. However, then think back to the feeling of a watch made out of all stainless steel (or mixed with some gold).  Think of that bracelet with all solid links.  There is precision engineering at work.  It feels like a significant object.  That is my tactile perception of the iPhone 14 Pro.  I haven’t even addressed the camera yet.   The difference between the 14 and the 14 Pro is like really good vs. a knockout. It’s still a bit shocking to me that the price difference is only +$200 for the Pro.  I see value in the $999 price point, especially when the carriers or Apple are willing to give interest free financing. 

Song of the Week

I haven’t done one in a while, so how about a tune you probably haven’t heard, from my favorites.  “More to Life” by Stacie Orrico.   Stacie was a known pop singer in that late 90’s early 2000’s era when Brittney and Christina were the MTV stars.  However, she had a marketing problem.  She wasn’t Christian enough for Christian music, but she was too squeaky clean for the predators of the pop music industry.  So — she ended up becoming a big hit in Japan and Malaysia around 2003 where they valued a singer with high morals.   Sadly, Stacie quit the business.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mRLkwwNb9js

There is a happy ending though.  Today, Stacie is living her dream playing in clubs as a blues singer in the Atlanta area. 

There’s got to be more to life…. than wanting more,

Windows Users–Benefits Of Using One Drive

Though some of you are the exception — the easiest way to make sure you don’t lose files on your Windows — is to have One Drive for Desktop and Documents turned on so it backs up and synchronizes your files.    If you are not using One Drive for your files — maybe it’s time you start.  $6 per month — and it gets you Office 365 (and the latest Word, Excel, etc).  (If I already have you using Carbonite or BackBlaze — you are probably the exception to the rule but we can talk about this next time).  Saving a spreadsheet to One Drive that went missing today saved my client from catastrophic data loss. 

Mac Users–Benefits Of Using iCloud

Though some of you are the exception — the easiest way to make sure you don’t lose files on your Mac — is to have iCloud for Desktop and Documents turned on so it backs up and synchronizes your files.    If you are not using iCloud for your files — maybe it’s time you start. 

(If I already have you using Carbonite or BackBlaze — you are probably the exception to the rule but we can talk about this next time)

The Value Of Anti Virus and Defensive Computing Strategies

(A couple of definitions before we start. I have talked about VPN’s before, with the VPN being a piece of software that runs on your computer (or computing device) that runs your internet traffic through a private tunnel. This can be done for privacy, security or both. DNS is the “phone book” through which you look things up on the internet (domain name system). By default you use the DNS of your internet service provider. If you own your own router, you can set a custom DNS (free option) that blocks most malware.)

The best anti virus is a strategy built around defensive computing practices defensive computing practices

– If I could only choose 2 of the following 3:  (#1) VPN that has a malware block option, (#2) using Quad 9 or similar as the alternate DNS in my router (which blocks about 99 % of known malware domains) for those situations when I don’t have my VPN on or I have browser bypassing my VPN, or (#3) traditional anti virus software…..

…. I would choose the first 2. 

however since it seems like many clients want to have the additional protection of antivirus software…..  you have to remember that the typical clients I serve are older adults either at home or in their businesses who are not very technologically savvy and like a lot of customer service and handholding.   I don’t necessarily put a lot of weight on antivirus rankings and publications that claim to do those rankings because a lot of them are just paid advertisements.

Traditionally — my go to recommendation for Mac AV has been Intego.  They are a French company with local phone support based in Texas. They’ve actually removed viruses from my clients’ computers so that’s why I trust them. The phone support has been excellent when my clients have needed them.

I’ve had good experiences with ESET on the Windows side – and based on my dealings their customer support was located in Southern California even though they are also a European company. I’ve never tried them out on the Mac but I wouldn’t doubt that they are an outstanding product.

Bit Defender has a legendary reputation but I don’t have a lot of real world experience with them. However, it should be known that they provide support by chat, E-mail and phone – so another senior friendly option.   Another Mac Anti-virus that I have found valuable in the past — though they are not necessarily known for providing great customer support for seniors is Avast antivirus. I don’t know if they still do this but they had a habit of scanning websites before you visited them which I thought was great. One time a Mac client was going to upload some sensitive information to his accountants website and avast detected that it was compromised. It led to a startling revelation for the accounting firm.

An antivirus that I would like to try out but haven’t is PC Matic. You may have seen a lot of their ads on TV. They’ve recently expanded to support the Mac and they use a very different strategy than traditional antivirus by blocking you from ever accessing tons of harmful websites.

In conclusion…

1.  Use defensive computing practices, do not click on links or open attachments from people you did not expect to receive them from. Do not re-use passwords. Use an ad blocker in your browsers.

2.  If desired, use a VPN that offers malware blocking meaning they block malware domains as one of the filter options. Personally, I use Windscribe VPN but there are others that do this as well.

3.  It’s impractical to use the VPN 100% of the time. Frankly, some of my clients just won’t use one period. I actually keep mine on pretty much 100% of the time but I’m allowed to exempt certain browsers so I always exempt one browser and therefore my activity in it is outside the VPN. For those situations that is why I have Quad 9 as the DNS in my router because it blocks 99% of malware domains.  Quad 9 is free to use.

4.   Antivirus is great for when strategies one through three fail or when you’re dealing with attachments or files on the computer. I would just make sure that the antivirus that you’re using scans all files opened, and ideally that they do a little scan of websites before you visit them. If customer support matters to you, I have given you a couple options that are better in that area. 90% of my Windows clients just use the built in Microsoft Defender. This anti-virus also features Smart Screen but it really only works if you are using the Edge browser. If you are on Windows and you are not paying for a 3rd party anti-virus – consider making Edge your primary browser. It is Chrome based these days and works very much like Google Chrome.

Big Revelation About Cellular Service

Last week, I gave you a big revelation about Microsoft Word.

This week, I might tell you something pretty interesting (or even disappointing) about cellular service. 

Verizon has just decided to raise the price of legacy plans by at least $12 per month.  Some years back they raised the price by about $20 for those hanging on to the pre-2012 $29 unlimited data plans.   They are also making notable changes right now to their Visible plans.  Visible is one of their brands.   I’m not trying to pick on Verizon here.    ATT and T-Mobile have done similar things over the years.    New features are rolling out and only customers on board with the new plans can get them.   At times, you may not be able to get discounted or “free” phones without newer plans.

The bottom line is they want greater ARPU (average revenue per user).   This is how they are evaluated by the financial world.  So here is the big reveal — when the “no service contract revolution” was ushered in by former T-Mobile CEO John Legere around 7+ years ago, all the carriers followed suit.

While you may have a phone financing deal, you do not have a contract FOR SERVICE.   That goes both ways. Yup!  You are not bound to stay with them for service.   But also — THEY ARE NOT BOUND TO YOU!!

If you are on a plan they no longer offer, they can boot you off of that plan, raise the price or restrict features.   They don’t owe you anything.   Many times, customers are allowed to stay on grandfathered plans but that is not always the case.    There is no right to stay on an outdated plan where everything stays the same always.   It’s a myth.

I will repeat advice previously given.   Buy your phones directly and paid in full if you truly can.  If you need to finance them — finance through Apple, Samsung, or Google.  You will get an unlocked phone.  This way you are not bound by a phone financing deal with the carrier — having a locked phone.  (One exception may be Verizon as they only lock phones for 60 days.  ATT and T-Mobile will lock your phone for the duration of the agreement or until paid off).    By having an unlocked phone – you are free to change carriers when things go wrong.

If you don’t regularly travel outside the country — consider a pre-paid or MVNO plan.  There are terrific deals out there — like an ATT Prepaid plan for $30 a month or Xfinity Mobile and others.  I know all about those “alternative” cell phone plans.  In fact, I wrote a guide for customers in 2010 about them.  Perhaps it’s time for an update.

Retiring My Trusty Dell Laptop

I finally did it!

I came back into the world of Windows as my main computing platform in 2014, after 10 years of being a very loud and proud Mac user.  Apple was generally very good to me but there was a repeated failure with my Mac Book Air that they just couldn’t explain.  It ultimately was a lack of honesty on their part.  So I got an HP Pro Book, a business class laptop, that is about equivalent to a Dell Latitude 5000 series or Thinkpad E series. 

A little more than 18 months later, I was tutoring a student from New Zealand who was originally from Nigeria.  He needed a laptop so I just gave him my Pro Book.   Unlike 2022, where there are basically no deals — there were some screaming deals in late 2015.  I got a $900 + Dell Latitude 5000 series for $386 (wow!) from the Dell Outlet.  I added 16 GB of RAM about 8 months later and a solid state hard drive with a clean install of Windows 10 in fall 2018.  At some point the web cam stopped working, which was definitely not ideal for the Zoomer / Covid 19 era. 

Watch collectors often talk about the “grail watch” in their collection.  This might signify the peak of their hobby or the last watch they ever buy.  My “grail computer” was always a Lenovo Thinkpad T series.  These days they typically sell for $1500 – 2000.   $1500 was certainly a common price in early 2020.  I kept saying to myself if I ever found a SCREAMING deal, I would get one.  I wasn’t seeking just a sale, but a once in a lifetime price.  On the first weekend of January 2020, I found it.   a $2000 Thinkpad T was available new in box on Lenovo.com for a little over $600 + tax.  I took it.

By February 2020, I made it my primary computer moving over all my files — which was rather easy through One Drive, Drop Box and a backup drive.  However, the one thing I did not move over was Quick Books.  That is the accounting software for my business.  I kept procrastinating and delaying some more.  So I kept running this dual computer adventure keeping both laptops on my desk. Covid 19 happened and I delayed further. I got used to this odd existence. 

Finally, over the past few days, I made the move.  I realized that all desktop versions of Quick Books 2012 and later can be re-downloaded.  I backed up my 2 Quick Books files on the old computer.   I installed my copy of 2016 on the Thinkpad.  I then entered my serial numbers.  No issues.  I then RESTORED my backed up company files.  Done deal.   I have finally taken the Dell Latitude off my desk.  I will continue to use it sparingly or as a backup. I may even install Linux on it and learn that operating system a bit.

I have my whole computing life on my Thinkpad T now.  Typing on this keyboard feels to me what it must be like for a master pianist to use a Steinway.  It’s still a dream. 

Microsoft Word Secret Revealed

I’ve been using Microsoft Word for how long — 30 years almost!  You might think you know all the ins and outs of Word.  Today, I confirmed something that has always been true but I think a lot of Word users don’t know and would be shocked by.   Here is the big TRUTH BOMB:   With one exception ** Microsoft Word does not  — absolutely does not — auto save your document.   What?  But — I have always gone into the Word Options (File menu >> Options >> Save and set it to 5 minutes or 10 minutes).    @Look again Word users @   Even I did a double take.   You are saving Auto-Recover information to a certain location on your computer.   That is not the same as auto saving the file every 10 minutes.  Bottom line:  Word does not auto save your file — with one exception.  This Auto-Recover business is about if you were to lose power or Word was to freakishly quit in some sort of computer error — you MIGHT be able to go to the Auto-Recover folder on your computer and retrieve a recent version of your file.  MIGHT is the key word, because I have seen many instances where this does not not happen for my clients. 

Alright, alright.  So I have to keep pressing the save button on my file?  Generally, yes.  What is the exception?    The exception comes if you are saving your files in Microsoft One Drive.   One Drive is a service and a folder on your computer that synchronizes with the cloud.  It is a direct competitor of Dropbox.  It shouldn’t surprise you that it integrates very neatly with Microsoft Word and other Office programs.   One Drive works on Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android.   Don’t want to pay anything?   Don’t have to.  The free tier of One Drive gives you 5 GB of free space — that is good for potentially thousands of Word documents.   When you pay the $6 or $8 a month for Microsoft Office 365 the annual subscription to Office that I set up for many of my clients — you get 1 TB of One Drive space or 1000 GB.   That is more than enough space to likely save your whole digital lives. 

So what I am trying to say here is — if you are doing important work in Word — you should be doing one of 2 things

1) Regularly clicking Save

2) Save your documents in the One Drive folder (One Drive is built into Windows. It has to be installed on a Mac from the App Store.)

I tried looking at alternatives and here is what I found.  In the Pages word processing app on a Mac — files do auto save.   Using Google Docs in the browser — files also auto save.     You may or may not want to use One Drive.  Some of you probably should.   But now you know the truth about Microsoft Word.   One way or another — save your files!!    Utilize a backup system as well.