The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying

New Year – New You

What would you like to improve in your technology picture this year?  How can I help you get more out of your devices and services?  What would you like to learn? Some areas that clients have mentioned to me already include:

-Using a password manager (finally)

-Breaking free of cable TV

-Learning how to use streaming video services (ie. Netflix + Amazon Prime)

-Upgrading the 4 or 5 year old iPhone / iPad to a newer model

-Upgrading to a new Mac now that Apple has released new consumer level models for the first time in years

Please let me know how I can partner with you on this journey.  I am ready and willing to be deployed. 

Cord Cutting Intro – Wrap Up

We had some substantial discussions about cord cutting over the past two weeks as a result of my Parts 1 and 2 e-mails on this topic.  Don’t hesitate to ask me about your situation.  I think the cord cutting movement will experience major growth in 2019.  One of our local talk radio shows, which usually has a political focus, devoted 3 hours to the idea of breaking free from these $200+ bills last week.   The bottom line is, I think it is possible to get down to an Internet + cord cutting TV service combination for about $110 a month (approx $70 + $40).  As for home phone — you may choose to go without, you can move it to a service like Magic Jack (as I have done $40 / year), or even move that number to the phone company.   And just remember, if you are not ready to be a cord cutter yet — you can always be a streamer.  Trying to drive a hard bargain and cutting features to save money on your existing cable package is another option.  Contact me for a cord cutting assessment. 

And on to this week’s feature —

The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying

You can buy your new smart phone from the Apple Store.  You could go direct through Android device manufacturers like One Plus, Google, or Motorola.  Buying an unlocked phone on Amazon may be an option too.  Best Buy sells a handful of unlocked phones and also ones connected with carriers like Verizon and ATT.  However, a significant percentage of customers (my clients included) go to one of their carrier’s stores.  If you might want to change your plan or take advantage of carrier specific promotions, shopping at an ATT Store, Verizon store, or T Mobile store may be the way to go.  I’m not telling you that you should or shouldn’t.  One thing I can say in their favor is that the salesperson jobs there are career positions.  These are not traditional retail (ie. Apple) or big box store jobs that pay at a level where the worker needs to work 2 or 3 jobs to possibly survive in the community where the store is located.  The sales professionals in carrier stores are commissioned.   You may have never known this, but if you purchase your phone there the salesperson will not make much of a commission unless you buy a few accessories with your phone.  It seems weird to me, because the acquisition of a customer who will pay bills month after month has to have value to the company.  However, this is the way compensation works.  Very often, we do purchase accessories with our new phones.   A case, car charger, and screen protector can be very helpful add-ons.    On the other hand, you may be like me.   You might be the type to buy your phone accessories from Amazon that they don’t have in carrier stores.  That’s ok too.  All I am saying is that this is food for thought.  If you shop for phones in your carrier’s store, it is a good idea to consider buying your accessories there.  You won’t have to wait for them either. 

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Cord Cutting Part 2

Cord Cutting Part 2:  How Much Speed Do You Need?


Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).

Equipment Required

You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service.   Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box).   Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients.   Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku.   With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere). 

How Much Speed Do You Need?

If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work.  However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video.  With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction).  I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed.  You certainly can if you like.  I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company.  It works!   Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings:  if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.)   The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter. 

Packages

It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered.  I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed.  Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel.  She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels.  In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting.  While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.”   If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package.  That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups.    Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package.  The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis.  On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.

Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much.  Internet is the only thing that matters.  You will be getting your TV elsewhere.

Conclusion

Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already).   Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you.  You may just want to rent some movies from time to time.   Be a streamer!    Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience.   A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels.   With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month.   If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on.   You are not locked down.  You have choices.   Welcome to 2019!

Snip, snip.

ATT E-Mail Account Support Scam

I’ve dealt with this a couple of times now so I wanted to bring it to your attention again. 

The AT&T support “scam” is not new to me. I am going to use quotation marks around that word because I can’t say whether it was true fraud or just deceptive business practices. The story goes something like this. A local internet customer (either with Frontier or now the cable company) has an old @att.net, @sbcglobal.net, or @snet.net e-mail address. They have problems with the account. These e-mails were provided through a partnership of ATT and Yahoo in the past. Frontier did not take over the e-mail accounts and legitimately, they are not servicing them. So, the customer such as calls ATT for support after searching for the phone number on the internet.  I have to stop right there and say that they may not have truly reached ATT.  Therefore, “ATT” doesn’t really want to deal with it so they recommend an outside firm that charges anywhere from $200 to $800 for support with the ATT e-mail account and perhaps other computer issues. In my opinion, the ATT employee that made this referral may have been doing this unofficially, without the blessing of ATT. Either way, it is shady to me. The calls may be routed to India. The customer gives them access to their computer.

If it were me, I would want a professional to examine my computer to see if there were any traces of access that “ATT” or the other firm still had to my computer. I would back up my data and then I would do a “clean install” of Windows or mac OS for security purposes to truly eliminate all threats. This procedure takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Cord Cutting Part 1: Introduction

I deal with a very diverse buffet of client issues over the course of a month:  residential consumer concerns, small business, non-profit, Mac, Windows, iPhone, (some) Android, buying and setting up new equipment, overhauling old computers (software + hardware), teaching clients new skills, helping organize  one’s digital life, and so on.  One topic of great client interest lately has been CORD CUTTING.   When appropriate, I have become a big proponent of it.  In a brief session, 1 to 2 hours usually, I can help WILLING  clients (usually they approach me) gain a lot of peace of mind and major savings by cutting out traditional pay TV and moving to a streaming or free (yes free) strategy. 

Over this week and next, I am going to share with you about cord cutting.  Even if you think you would never cut back on your cable / satellite pay TV services, I think you will learn something over these next 2 updates.  You may develop an interest in trying streaming video because you are probably an Amazon Prime member. Your eyes may be opened to the power of the internet connection.  Finally, you may find these e-mails valuable for a friend or family member.

Cord Cutting

There may be some different definitions of this concept out there, but for me it boils down to 3 possibilities.

A.  Cutting traditional pay TV services entirely and switching to a streaming,  channel based live-TV replacement

B.  Cutting back on traditional pay TV services and augmenting with a streaming video service like Amazon Prime or Netflix

C. Cutting traditional pay TV services and relying on free over the air TV for local networks (and possibly adding Prime or Netflix too)

*Let me just stop right there and say, if all you care about is local channels like ABC, CBS, local FOX, PBS, etc — there is a good chance you can pick up 10-15 free channels in the Hartford area with a simple indoor antenna.  To boot, as long as you get a good signal, the picture will be BETTER than you would get from cable for those local channels.  


Channel Based Live TV Streaming Services

There are about services that come to mind:  Hulu TV, You Tube TV (a real TV service, not the same as regular You Tube videos), Sling TV, Sony VUE, and Direct TV now.  The cost is about $40 a month.  Dozens of channels are included, even locals, and sports.   Premium channels like HBO and Showtime can be added for an extra charge.

Real Life Examples

The clients I have worked with have all canceled their cable  / satellite TV service. A good internet package was maintained (either with the phone or cable company). They may or may not have kept home phone service.  While sort of a separate topic, if home phone is of little importance to you but you want to keep the number, I can get you on a $40 a year (not month, year) plan.   All clients are over 70 and in some cases over 80 years old.  They chose Hulu TV (but you should choose You Tube TV if you want the Red Sox channel).  They get their local stations included for $40 a month. 

Become A Streamer

After getting this intro, you may be in this camp:  I don’t want to change my TV package but I want to watch Amazon Prime Video and or Netflix on the TV.  Great I can help with that too. 

Next Week:  Cord Cutting Part 2

I will incorporate topics such as  — How Much Speed Do You Need?, equipment required, and your questions.   Please ask so that I can make this as complete as possible.

If you are ready, my “scissors” are ready.  Let’s cut.

Windows 10 1809 Ready


New Version of Windows is Here

With all of the tech news and concerns of the fall, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the NEWEST VERSION OF WINDOWS 10.  Microsoft released its second, completely new version of Windows 10 for 2018 back in November.   The version # 1809 refers to the fact that it was finalized in the 9th month of 2018.  It did not come out right away because a small portion of Windows users had bugs with the new release.  The “kinks in the hose” have been worked out and Windows 10 – 1809 is ready to go.  I updated my 2015 era Dell laptop last night.  My computer didn’t skip a beat.  All is well. 

Those of you who could, per my past instructions,  likely have your Windows Update settings configured for a 3 month delay on “feature updates” (new versions of Windows). So, you should expect 1809 to be pushed out to your computer beginning in February.  You should simply let your computer go to sleep at night.  Keep it plugged into power.   Do not shut it down.  This strategy insures that you get all of the ordinary Windows security updates as well.    Make sure you have a backup system in place and it is working (I think I have set one up for most of you, but please ask).

With that said, about 4 GB of data will be thrown at your computer during this process.  In rare cases, these upgrades go south.  By letting me manage the installation for you, I will make sure that you have the necessary precautions in place and will update related software after the new version of Windows is installed.  With a typical customer, this process takes about 2 hours per computer. 

Consider A Faster Hard Drive for Your PC

Since the summer, I have helped many Windows clients replace the original SLOW hard drive in their computers with a fast solid state drive (SSD).  The performance is literally about 4 times or more faster.   On a 1 to 4 year old computer, I think this is a very wise move.  Windows is truly optimized for SSDs at this time.  Prices on SSDs have never been better — usually running from $65 to $100 for a typical customer based on current Amazon pricing.    I can easily upgrade your hard drive at the time I upgrade your Windows installation.  You will say — “wow this seems like a new computer.” 

Printing a Copy of Last Pass Passwords

When stressing to my clients the need to use a password manager — I mention my 2 favorites  – 1Password and Last Pass.   I have been using both for years.  Overall, I think 1Password is better because it is an actual program on the computer, not only an “embedded app” in the browser (like Chrome or Firefox).

Having a printed copy of your passwords is very important. Unfortunately, 1Password for Windows does not let you easily print out a list of all passwords (while their Mac version does).   Therefore, for clients that are exclusively Windows users — I highly recommend Last Pass. 

If you have never printed a copy of your Last Pass passwords or its been a while — complete this short exercise today.

Open your browser

Click Last Pass button

Sign in if necessary

Click Last Pass button

Click More Options

Click Print

Click Sites

(Last Pass may ask you to sign in with your master password again)

Site data will decrypt and appear on screen

You can then print this page (or pages out) like any other web page

**Note: please repeat if you have stored secure notes in LP and want to print them out — instead of “Click Sites”, it would be “Click Notes”

Honesty Is Job 1

I learned a lot recently about customer service and through the car buying process. It provided a time of great reflection.  My experiences made me think about how I run my business. While I have never marketed honesty as one of my leading qualities, I am going to really put it out there going forward because my industry along with so many others are filled with thieves.  No one ever has to question what I charge.  It is posted publicly on my website westhartfordtechsupport.com/rates .  If it ever changes, I’ll let you know.  My rate for all new customers after 1/1/18 covers any portion of the first hour and billing by the half hour after that.  If I have to come and just plug something in or fix a quick item, I charge for one hour. If we cover 5 things in 60 minutes, I will charge for one hour.  (Clients that were part of the VIP family prior to 1/1/18, pay a slightly discounted rate for time beyond 1 hour).  For major jobs that might span 8 to 10 hours in a day or turn into multi-day or week-long jobs, I will give you a “job rate.”  I am not known for ordering products and reselling them. I do not want to get involved in the tax issue or the implied warranty. I regularly order products and new computers for customers, either through direct payment or reimbursement for actual cost of expenses. I provide services in setting them up. I will charge for time spent shopping and researching products. I am a service provider.  While I can’t steal this line because it has been trademarked, in addition to consumers, I am in business to serve small business and small non-profits.  Honesty is job #1 with me. You’ll always know where you stand.