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.

7 Technology Tips For August

1.  Only buy computers with SSDs (solid state drives).  It’s pretty rare to find a computer without a SSD these days.  All Mac Books have had them since 2012, but not all Mac desktops since 2020.  One of my clients is painfully aware of this.  Sometimes, at the cheaper end of computing, they are still sold with a traditional hard drive.  However, as you can see from the example above, cheap doesn’t have to mean slow.  In the larger sizes like 512 GB or 1 TB — the cost will go up but your stress will go down.  SSD or nothing.

2. The iPhone SE is a good choice for someone who needs Facetime and iMessage but does not want to spend $800 to $100 on an iPhone 13 series model.  Of course, the 13 is better.  Of course, the battery lasts longer.  However, if $429 seems like the most you would pay for a smartphone – the iPhone SE is a solid choice. 

3. The New M2 Mac Book Air – base model 256 GB  – now selling for $1199 has not been well received.  It’s not a keyboard issue or a design issue.  On that particular model, the hard drive is actually slower than the 2020 M1 Mac Book Air.  So — you have to go big or be unhappy here.  Bite the bullet and get the 512 GB M2 Mac Book Air.   It is $1499.   The 2020 M1 model is still sold and may be a good option.  Keep in mind that as it is approaching 2 years old — that may well mean 2 years less of updates than the M2. 

4.  Windows — Windows 10 / 11 does a pretty good job of updating automatically.  However, are you keeping your drivers up to day?   This is the software for your video card, sound card, WiFi.  I went through a trying exercise with a client who could not get WiFi on a 6 year old Dell Desktop.  Once, I downloaded the proper driver from Dell (onto an Android phone — then beamed to the computer, the WiFi worked.   The client had no idea that the manufacturer’s drivers had to be updated separately.  This is not an issue with Macs. 

5.  Don’t be married to your cell phone provider.  Just because Verizon was the best in 2005 (and it really was!!) doesn’t mean it is the best today.  The same could be said for ATT or even T-Mobile.  Be nimble.  Towers are changing.  Verizon has been shutting down towers and building new ones.  ATT has been shutting down towers and doing the same and so has T-Mobile.  You may have thought your coverage was perfect at your home or at your office or XYZ spot that you always go to.   It might change in 2022.  Be nimble means, don’t lock yourself into these long term financing deals on phones where you are stuck with a carrier.  Buy your phone outright or if you need payments — possibly think of the Apple Card — that allows you to finance your iPhone in 24 interest free installments.  Then you can move from carrier to carrier without being tied down by the old ball and chain (a phone contract).

6.   If I wasn’t an iPhone user — which phone would I use?  I would want a pure Android experience with nothing added on.  Today, I would choose a Google Pixel 6A which was just released.  https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_6a?hl=en-US

If I wanted a more upscale experience (like iPhone 13 quality) I would wait for the Pixel 7 which should be released by the fall.

7.  Naming Files —  I have had some instances over the years when I copied my files between different disks on various computers and the dates of the file or folder would change.  This was very annoying.  So I am now in the habit of putting the dates in my file names.   I do a lot of Print to PDF in my internet browser when saving things from my internet browser.    So if I saved a file on July 27th, I will put  “20220727” in the file name.   In some folder, I put the date first in the file name.  This way I know I can sort the files alphabetically but they will also be sorted by date in effect, even if the official date on the file changes. 

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

Read Before Buying A Cell Phone

I’ve been collecting quite a number of stories from clients on poor or questionable experiences at cell phone stores.  I do help clients get set up with new cell phones and yes I  charge normal service rates.  However, I provide a level of competence and honesty that is seldom seen out at those retail stores.  Setting up a smartphone can be like setting up a computer if there is a lot of data involved.    Recently, I’ve had clients tell me…

– plans have been changed

– they were stuck with a more expensive plan

– they were not told a more expensive plan was required to get a free / discounted phone

– discounted phone was not clearly explained in the form of monthly “bill credits” not a straight discount at the time of purchase

– not told that they would have to keep service for 2 (or now even 3) years to get  these monthly credits for your phone discount

I know just about all of the schemes these cellular stores and ultimately their managers can dish out to you through sales staff.   To some extent, I don’t like criticizing these stores.  For the sales people that work there and succeed, this is a place where they can actually make a respectable middle class living.  However, management is getting increasingly unreasonable with their demands.  Customers are being told they need “insurance” or other features added to their accounts.  They are being forced to buy worthless tablets (not even good ones like iPads) and car navigation devices.  When the customers actually figure out what hit them, it’s nasty, like sour milk in the mouth.

However — I  respect that you may want to try to go it alone in cell phone shopping.  A couple of places where I have had decent experiences shopping for phones are

-Apple Store:  for iPhones, obviously.  You can sign up for carrier financing at the Apple Store.

-Verizon Store (Bishops Corner – West Hartford and other locations, operated by Wireless Zone):  They are a step above other Verizon stores I’ve dealt with.  If you actually have them set up your phone — they charge a $40 setup fee — but I’ve seen them spend an hour with customers.

-Xfinity Store:  Obviously you would be signing up for Xfinity Mobile  and have at least their internet service at home.  However, they sell discounted plans and their service utilizes Verizon towers.  There is not a lot they can do to cheat you. 

At this time, I do not have any great AT+T or T-Mobile stores to recommend. If you know of some — let me know.

What I use — I have had the same 2 carriers on my iPhone for 2+ years.  My personal line is with T-Mobile ($70 a month for 2 lines. ).   My business line is with ATT Prepaid ($30 a month, unlimited talk and text, 5 GB of data).   I never try to oversell T-Mobile to my customers even though the price is great for an Unlimited data plan.  There are some areas where Verizon and ATT have better coverage, but the price is hard to beat.  Having ATT as that 2nd line on my iPhone gives me confidence to stick with T-Mobile on Line 1. 

$329 Windows laptop and Windows 11 22H2 Review

1) $329 laptop?

I think the sub $800 computer market is pretty dead and the manufacturers really don’t care about this segment of the market. However, to quote Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco — “even a dog gets a warm piece of the sidewalk sometime.”   Once in a blue moon you might get lucky.  There might be a clearance sale, a loss leader type of sale, or some type of promotion that just lasts for a couple days.   I get asked by clients — I just need a Windows laptop for e-mail, browsing, and Word.  I would like a secondary computer.   I want a laptop to give to a kid or donate to a kid.  I usually don’t have a pick for you.  Today I do

-This Dell Inspiron 3000 – 15 inch — with the Intel Core i3 processor and 128 GB SSD hard drive  is $329 right now at the time of sending this email.

https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/laptops/intel/spd/inspiron-15-3511-laptop/nn3511eyxsh

-If you need a 256 GB hard drive it’s only $120 more @ $449. 

– Couple of other thoughts:  Is it as good as a Thinkpad T, Thinkpad E, Dell Latitude, or HP Pro Book?   Of course not!   But it will get the job done for basic tasks and last a couple of years if you are price sensitive.    Word to the wise — the trackpad (mouse) on cheap laptops is always garbage so plan to use a wired or wireless mouse. 

The Windows 11 Article I Didn’t Have To Write For You

2)  I have been a fan of Paul Thurrott (thurrott.com) who has been writing about the world of Windows for over 20 years.   He has written a lot about how Windows 11 was rushed out last year and has been a mixed bag.  Recently, he went into depth about version 22H2 for Windows 11 (2nd half of ’22) and how it delivers a more complete offering, while still having a few shortcomings.  Here it is, with pictures.  https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-11/270334/windows-11-22h2-review-a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that

My thoughts are I’m not afraid of Windows 11.  I had a client who wanted me to purchase and set up a Windows computer for him.  My preference was to order a Windows 10 system from Dell.  It would have taken about 7 to 10 days.  However he said — I need a computer now, man.  Like tomorrow! My only choice was to go to Best Buy and get him a fairly well equipped HP desktop with monitor for $1000 (on sale — wow). It has Windows 11 and he’ll survive.  Using Word or Chrome — seem just like they always did.  It’s just the menus, the options, the little quirks — the look — are going to be different.  Like Mr. Thurrott says — it’s not as bad as Windows 8

I’m going to install 11 on my Thinkpad when the 22H2 comes out within the next 1 to 2 months.  I’m will install that $6 helper that I have been telling you about — Start 11.   Windows 10 computers are still available by online order.   Any further questions — please ask me.