A Mac and iOS Update

1)   Minor macOS (version 10.13.5) and iOS (11.4) updates came out a few weeks ago.  You should have them installed on your respective devices.  I think you know how to grab the updates, but if you didn’t accept the automatic push here is what you need to do.    Mac:  Apple menu (top left) App Store (or open the Mac App Store).  iOS:  Settings > General.

2)  Apple’s big June 4th event:  It was all about software this time, unlike previous years.  No new Macs 😦 There will be new versions of the mac OS and iOS coming later this year, macOS 10.14 and iOS 12.  I expect a release window of September – November.  You can install these upgrades yourself, but as always I will make myself available to do it for you.  I always make sure my clients have a full backup before major software changes.   The new version of the macOS will be compatible with all 2012 and later models.  The new version of iOS will be compatible with the iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPad Mini 2 and later.

My buying advice remains the same as a few weeks ago.  Desktop:  iMac (2017) with the SSD hard drive (custom order) is a go.  Laptop:  Mac Book Air, 13 inch (2017) is my pick right now.  If you are looking for a newer design and faster parts, lets see if they refresh the Mac Book Pros with a better keyboard in the fall.

3) New iPhones:  I’m careful not to give too much attention to speculation.  After all, Apple rumors are a business for some in the technology media.  However, I’ve come across multiple reports from various sources over the past few months concerning the size of the 2018 crop of iPhones.  It seems like they are getting bigger. We could see 5.8 inch, 6.1 inch and even 6.5 inch iPhones.   FYI, the iPhone X has a 5.8 inch screen but looks smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus (5.5 inch screen) because of the slimmer bezel.  I have not seen any reports about new models of the iPhone SE (4 inch last  updated in 2016) and the iPhone 8 (4.7 inch – released in 2017).  Could you get used to a larger phone?

Advertisements

Windows Update: Warnings and Advice

Dear Windows Clients:

I decided to keep this message to my Windows users only, after all why would those with the fruit-flavored computers care about this anyway?

Recap:  Windows 10 – 1803:  How to delay and who can delay

I have been sharing a lot of advice lately about Windows 10 – version 1803.  It is literally the 6th new version of Windows to come out since the original Windows 10 in late July 2015.  Each one, while called Windows 10, has been a new version of Windows thrown at your computer. I think it’s excessive that they want to push 2 versions of Windows 10 per year. It was true last year and it will be the reality for 2018 as well.   In a previous post, I detailed how to delay your “Windows feature updates” (aka new versions of Windows) by 120 days while still letting the security updates come as scheduled.  The post with instructions can be found here.  https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ On every Windows computer that I’ve touched over the past few months, where possible, I’ve implemented the 120 day delay.  Others have followed my lead and set up the delay themselves.

You can only delay new versions if you have the Pro version of Windows 10.  I’ve chosen this for you if I’ve ordered your computer or deliberately flipped the switch to Pro for you.  If you purchased your Windows computer on your own, there is a very high likelihood that you have the Home version of Windows 10. You are forced to take new versions of Windows at Microsoft’s whim.  As you will read below, that can be very dangerous.

A computer rendered useless by 1803

So far I’ve interacted with a couple clients’ computers who have successfully upgraded to 1803.  These systems all happened to be Dell desktops, 2 consumer grade and 1 business class, and ranged from about 4 to 8 years old.  I personally upgraded 2 of them to 1803 and on the 3rd one, I did some maintenance after the fact.  They are fine.  However, I got a very troubling report from a client last week.  Windows 10 1803 made her computer basically inoperable.  The screen was very dark and there was no way of making it brighter.  It definitely seemed like this supposedly ready for primetime version of Windows was not interacting properly with the video display hardware on her computer.  No major changes had been made to the system other than the new version of Windows, which was forced on Windows 10 Home, with no way of delaying it.  I suggested contacting Microsoft as they should take some responsibility for the damage that their mandatory software caused. 

Here is the rather interesting verdict.  The computer, although purchased in 2012 (Dell, consumer laptop), is obsolete. For all I know, it could have been a 2011 laptop that was sold in 2012, but I don’t know for sure.  However, it’s important to realize that each version of Windows 10 is truly a new version, just as if they called it Windows 10, 11, 12, 13, etc.  Each time Microsoft churned out a new iteration they had to decide which hardware they would support (just like Apple does with new versions of mac OS).  Having worked on this computer before I know that I did not have one of the mainstream Intel Core (like Core i3, i5, i7) processors that were common back from approximately 2010 through today.  It featured an Intel chipset that either didn’t sell in great volume or was simply deemed not powerful enough by Microsoft to run Windows 10 1803 effectively.  Fortunately, the Microsoft employee was able to do some special programming and revert the laptop to Windows 1709 (a feature built into Windows) and block all future updates.  I don’t know if security updates are also blocked, but the good thing is that it buys the client a little more time with the computer.

Shame on Microsoft for letting the situation go this far!   When Windows decides to check for new updates (including new versions), they have the power to do a basic hardware scan of the system. They know what Intel chipset (or AMD) is installed inside.  If a particular version of Windows 10 won’t run properly, it should never be pushed out to those particular computers.  Apple certainly does this with their software. Where is the quality control here Microsoft?

Buying advice

With all of this expressed, I recently installed 1803 on my wife’s 10 year old business class Dell Optiplex desktop.  The latest version of Windows 10 runs very well. The Optiplex 330 line from that era was purchased in millions of units by governments and large corporations.  Microsoft knows this and was not about to render it obsolete.   I want to give some general advice here that you can’t go wrong with. Let me order your next Windows 10 computer for you.  If we don’t do it as part of an appointment, I can do it for you over the phone and set it up when it arrives.  I don’t charge more for this service and I don’t make a commission off of the computer. The kind of Windows computers that I order are typically business class systems from the likes of Lenovo, Dell or HP. They are not found in big box stores or on Amazon.  Intel’s CPU’s are currently on the 8th generation of core processors.  An 8th or 7th generation, Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, with at least 8 GB of RAM, and Windows 10 Pro will stand the test of time.  While I can’t promise 10 years, I think you will be happy with its lifespan.  These should be your purchasing parameters.

Delaying 1803 further

Wherever possible, I have delayed or had you delay your Windows 10 – 1803 upgrade by 120 days.  The maximum delay you can impose is 365 days. You will still get security updates because you have left that delay at 0. If you do nothing further, you will probably get 1803 pushed out to your computer sometime in September in Windows 10 Pro.  Following the instructions at https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ I have no problem with you upping the delay to 365 days IF IF IF…. you have an image backup of your system.   If your computer crashes in the next year, you will want to restore to the version of Windows you had and not be forced into Windows 10 1803. An image backup will allow you to do that.   On many of your computers, I have installed my preferred imaging program Macrium Reflect (not a Mac program).  If you know your computer is backing up to an external drive via Macrium Reflect – then go ahead and delay the new version to the max of 365 days. 

If you are not sure if you have an image backup or if you even have Windows 10 Pro, please feel free to ask questions.  Let’s keep our Windows computers running smoothly without forced mandates and outside interference.

Beware Browser Hijacks

Most of you use the Google Chrome browser.  It is my browser of choice as well.  However, this message is still applicable if you use Firefox, Safari, or even Microsoft Edge.

The security threat I see most often these days is the browser hijack.  This does not mean your whole computer had been taken over by malware.  However, your browser has been corrupted.  Your homepage may be unfamiliar to you.  Google searches are being rerouted to a strange search engine.  Its even possible that all of your browser traffic is being intercepted.  Scary stuff!

You can tell if you are being hijacked by searching in the search box of your browser or going to Google.com.  Search for whatever you’d like, “new restaurants Philadelphia” for example.  The results page should CLEARLY come up on a Google page (or possibly Bing if you use the Edge browser).  It should be obvious – clear as day.

If you do not see Google search results, you have a problem.  It’s likely that you have mistakenly installed a bad extension in your browser.   Most often, this is not a crisis requiring the operating system to be reinstalled.

However, your browser history needs to be cleared, the offending extensions need to be removed, and the browser needs to be reset.
Don’t lose hope!

Weekly Technology Update

A. Privacy:  GDPR and Oath.   You may have received a bunch of notices recently detailing the updated privacy policies of various services that you use.  The European Union’s new privacy laws take effect on May 25th.  These regulations are known as GDPR.   They are taking customers’ data a lot more seriously than we are on this side of the pond.  International companies such as Facebook and Google are adhering to these standards even for their American customers.  It’s a solid business practice.  Did you know that you can download all of your Facebook (or Google) data in a single file?  Did you know that you can control how Facebook advertises to you?   GDPR = Good.   To find out more http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/21/technology/gdpr-explained-europe-privacy/index.html

Additionally, some of you who have a Yahoo or AOL account may have received notices about policies from an organization known as Oath.  (My joke is — “zero authorization to violate your privacy,” but I’ll get back on topic.).  Oath is a division of Verizon that oversees both Yahoo and AOL.   Yahoo users may have even been asked to accept the new terms.  You really don’t have a choice if you want to keep using the account.   As a quick primer for those new to the VIP Computer Care family — my favorite free e-mail accounts are Google and Outlook.com.   Customers may choose a paid e-mail account if they want to get actual customer support.  My favorite choices  here are Fastmail ($20 per year), G (G Suite a paid Google account, $5 per month), or Office 365 (a paid e-mail account from Microsoft, $5 per month).

B.  Windows:   I’m still compiling reports of horror stories from users that had bad experiences with the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1803), released on April 30th.  Whenever possible, I have set your Windows computers to a 120 day delay schedule.   Unfortunately, I had to help a customer last weekend who couldn’t delay Windows version upgrades.  He purchased a consumer grade Windows desktop.  I offered the next best thing.  I managed the upgrade for him.  It took 2 hours, which is about what I expected.  With fingers crossed, there were no hiccups.  I am not recommending that I do this proactively for others, at this time, if you have already been set up for a delay.  Ultimately, Microsoft will iron out the wrinkles.  After all, hundreds of millions of business customers rely on Windows.   Version 1803 should be ready for prime time in a few months.  In August, lets talk about upgrading your computer. 

C.  Mac:  Apple’s big annual event, the WWDC, is happening on June 4th.  While it’s not specifically a new hardware event, Apple has been known to release new Macs at this event.   We can only hope that they offer a mea culpa on the Mac Book Pro and their awful keyboards.  At the very least, they could update the Mac Book Air with 2018 innards.  (The 2017 Air, while still my #1 choice at this date and time, features 2015-era parts.)   Additionally, the Mac Mini needs a major refresh.  It has not been updated since October 2014.  Apple needs to keep a $500-600 Mac on the market to welcome new customers into the family. 

When Technology Fails Us

Welcome this installment of my weekly update.   This update is not a tutorial or an introduction to some cool piece of technology that can benefit us.  I want to give you a reminder that the world of tech can be a scary place and that I’m honored to be your navigator in it.   It’s got to get better than this for us.

A.  Windows — The latest version of Windows, Windows 10 version 1803 began rolling out to computers on April 30th.  It’s been a disaster.  I did not know this in advance, but I had the wisdom of telling you to leave well enough alone.  On every computer I have touched over the past few months (when possible), I have set the “feature update” (aka new version of Windows) delay to 120 days.  I say, when possible, because if you have a Windows machine purchased from a big box store there is no option to delay new versions.  PSA: Please let me order your Windows computers for you; I’ll make sure you get the Pro version of Windows.  Just today, Microsoft began blocking the upgrade from installing on certain computers with Intel hard drives.   Can it get any worse?   If it does get worse, I will tell you to change that delay from 120 to 365 days.  There is nothing wrong with staying on the previous version of Windows, version 1709.  It works!

B. Mac — I have shared with you that an iPad Pro may be a viable computing solution for some users.  I have expressed my firm belief in the iMac as one of the best desktops on the market.   Unfortunately, I’ve  also had to discuss the misery of late model Mac Book and Mac Book Pro laptops and their awful keyboards.   Longtime Mac users and pundits alike have panned the keyboards on the Mac Books (since 2015) and Mac Book Pros (since 2016).  It’s an awful experience.  The Mac has plenty to be proud of on the software side, so this is the opposite of Microsoft.   There is a Mac hardware problem!   A few weeks ago an online petition launched demanding a solution to the laptop keyboard problem.  Thousands signed their names.  This week, the Mac faithful are really getting on their soapboxes.  A class action lawsuit has been filed.  The bottom line is — if you need a Mac laptop soon, buy the 2017 Mac Book Air.  It still has a real keyboard and it will be a solid performer for you.

C. Cellular — Finally, this is one problem that I don’t have a solution for (yet).   I read a lot of tech news, guides, and try things out to break them down to make sense for you.  This one just makes me want to take an oatmeal bath.   I will keep this brief and let you read the articles.  There is a private company out there — Securus – that has the ability to track our location down via our cell phones.  Securus is fed customer information by most cellular service providers.  I am not criticizing legitimate surveillance obtained via a warrant. However, this technology has been misused to spy on people who are enemies of authority figures.  In my analysis, only one of the four major cellular providers gave an acceptable answer as to their relationship with Securus (Sprint).  Please read for yourself. 

Links

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/technology/cellphone-tracking-law-enforcement.html

https://www.zdnet.com/article/us-cell-carriers-selling-access-to-real-time-location-data/

Technology Update May 10 2018

My thoughts for you today are …

What would you like your technology to do for you?

What would you like to be simpler with your technology?

How do you feel technology is making your life better?  And how has it let you down?

Please keep in mind:  Most Windows laptops and desktops are upgradable.  Pre-2013 MacBook Pro laptops are also upgradable.  I can upgrade the hard drives and / or RAM to breathe new life into your machine.

With summer coming, we have the increased risk of lightning strikes and power surges.   Some of you have whole house surge protection. GREAT.  The rest of you need quality surge protectors for your electronics.  I will provide Amazon links to models that I like.

– Tripp Lite 10 Outlet  http://a.co/iHkvW5E

– Tripp Lite 8 Outlet https://amzn.to/2wtlDCv

Additionally, whether winter, spring, summer, or fall you should have backups of your important data.  You probably have an external hard drive for a backup of all of your files. How about some flash drives (aka thumb drives) for smaller backups of your favorite folders? Flash drives are today what floppy disks were 20 years ago.  It would never hurt to have certain folders backed up to a flash drive.  Flash drives are also very portable.  You can take them with you. It doesn’t hurt to have a couple of flash drives on hand.  Here is an Amazon link.

Samsung 32 GB https://amzn.to/2rAs159

(San Disk is also a good brand, as are PNY and Kingston)

A warning on older Mac apps

If you’re getting all of the automatic updates to your Mac, you should be on version 10.13.4 right now.   If you’ve been a Mac user for any length of time, you may start to get pop up messages saying that the app you are trying to open is not optimized for your Mac.   Don’t worry, you can still open and use that app — FOR NOW.

Macs have featured 64 bit processors for years.  Your mac OS software is also 64 bit.  However apps designed to the old 32 bit standard have been allowed to exist until the present time.  In the very near future, 32 bit apps will be blocked.   I don’t know all of the software that each of you have installed on your Macs, but it is possible that you have some of the old apps.   Two that I know for sure are Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2011.  The solution to that problem is easy — upgrade to Office 2016. 

If and when you are prevented from using 32 bit apps on your Mac, you will have 2 choices.

1) See if if you can live without the app

2) Upgrade to a more modern version of the app