Urgent Windows Update

It’s been a long time since I had an urgent Windows Update message for you.   As you may nor may not remember me telling you — Microsoft puts out monthly security updates every 2nd Tuesday of the month.   By letting your computer simply go to sleep (plugged in for a laptop) you computer should just automatically install the updates.  You never really need to Shut Down your computer (unless you are going on an airplane or will be away for a week or more).    Anyway, sometimes the automatic update system fails or you may be in the habit of shutting your computer off.


Microsoft really wants to make sure you have this week’s update.  It’s so urgent that this story hit the mainstream news last night.   Here is what you need to do.


Click your Start Menu

Go to Settings

Go to  Update & Security

Check For Updates

Restart if and when asked.

Apple Card

*Disclaimer:  This is not an endorsement of the Apple Card or for anyone to take on revolving lines of credit.   With that said, Apple is getting into the credit card game.   There has been an Apple Rewards Visa for years (most recently offered through Barclay’s Bank), but with the new Apple Card, the world’s most beloved technology company is taking a much greater degree of control over the process.   Let’s start with some basic facts.   Credit is being granted to customers through Goldman Sachs.   Yes, you read that right.  They are not merely an institutional investment bank anymore.  Goldman has branched into consumer finance in recent years by offering high yield savings accounts and personal loans through its Marcus brand.  The Apple Card card is a Mastercard.  Apple designed the physical card, which, apparently has a very nice titanium feel to it.   Apple was very involved in the entire process.  In fact they are saying the Apple Card is “offered by us, not banks.”   Security is the highest priority.   There will be no printed number on the card, no expiration date, and no 3 digit code.  There will be no signature on the card.  You can still use it in stores via the chip readers.   On your iPhone, iPad or Mac, you will be able to use the card with any merchant that accepts Apple Pay.   So yes, the card will only be relevant for online shopping for those of you who have one or more of those devices.  Interest rates range from pretty good for those of you who have high credit scores, to very average for those with lower scores.   A check of your Trans Union credit report is required for approval (for those of you who may have a credit freeze in place), but reports have come out that credit scores as low as 620 are getting approved.   Never have I read this much “buzz” in my life about a new credit card on the market.  Customers will be able to accumulate rewards for purchases with Apple.   Let’s see how successful Apple is with this venture.  On one hand, I don’t think they want to encourage irresponsible debt, but they are also doing things with this instrument that other banks are not.  It’s a unique card. The application has been opened up to a limited audience at this time (via the Wallet app) with general availability coming soon.

Best Stuff Out There

I haven’t shared one of these in a while — but I wanted to let you know what I think are the best devices out there.   I am thinking of my typical client — not a video gamer or a professional video editor.  I think these would work well for most of you out there. 

-Desktop Computer 

* 1st choice – Mac Mini — Apple FINALLY revised the Mac Mini last year after not refreshing the Mac Mini since late 2014.  It’s full of ports to plug things into in the back and comes with the FAST hard drive by default (unlike the iMac).  You do need to provide your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but these won’t cost a fortune.  A $100 to $150 monitor on Amazon will be just fine, as will a 3rd party Apple compatible keyboard. 

* Close 2nd – Dell Optiplex 5000 or 7000 series, Lenovo Think Centre desktops — when custom ordered and appropriately equipped — these systems are rock solid and will stand the test of time

-Laptop Computer

* Lenovo Thinkpad T series or X1 Carbon (current models) – These laptops have the best typing experience imaginable.  They are business class systems and you get to deal with Lenovo’s US based support

* Close 2nd – Dell Latitude 5000 or 7000 series — These business class systems will not disappoint.  They are plain looking but packed with power and durability.  You may even be able to snag a super price from the Dell Outlet. 

* Close 3rd – Lenovo Thinkpad L or E series (current models) – They offer the same keyboards as their more expensive siblings, but they are slightly heavier and are a little bit lower grade in terms of the materials.  For a decent laptop under $1000, I highly recommend them. 

(Leaving Apple out was not an oversight on my part!)

-Smartphone

* Premium –  iPhone XR — I think there is no comparison for a premium smartphone.   Most of my clients do not need the advanced features of the XS or XS Max.  It is Apple’s best selling smartphone.

* Budget – Google Pixel 3a – At under $400 – You can’t go wrong with this model.  It is probably better than the significantly more expensive Pixel 3. 

-Tablet

– iPad (2018) or iPad Air (2019) — No explanation needed.   There are no significant  Android tablets to speak of.  iPad Pro is only necessary if you really plan to use it as your primary computer. 


Official Announcement: Verizon Delays Shutdown of CDMA Calling Network

https://www.verizonwireless.com/support/knowledge-base-218813/

This is an update to the announcement I have shared with you before.  Verizon has been relying on an older calling network called CDMA for at least 20 years.  About 5 years ago, they sought to supplement this with a more advanced calling network known as LTE.   If you look at the top of your smartphones, you often see the letters “LTE” when you are not on your home based WIFI.  Verizon first announced sometime in 2017 that they were shutting down the CDMA network at the end of 2019.   I first started making you aware of this earlier this year.  Notable phones like the iPhone 5s and older do not support LTE calling, likewise with older flip phones.  As of a few months ago, Verizon stopped activating phones that do not support the newer technology.  I helped several of you upgrade to newer phones on the Verizon network (be it with Verizon, Xfinity Mobile, or even Great Call / Jitterbug).  I don’t regret that for one minute because you are all set for the future.  In light of the fact that they have many customers with older phones, especially businesses, Verizon has delayed the shutdown of the old network by 1 year — to the end of 2020.  You still cannot activate a new CDMA calling only device should your device die.  It is definitely time to upgrade if you are on an older device.  You just have a bit longer to do it.  LTE calling capable iPhones, Android phones, and yes — flip phones, are widely available. 

When Your Search No Longer Says Google

Massive viruses still take over entire computers or networks in the world of computing at large, but most of the “infections” I deal with in terms of my clients are confined to the browser.  That’s a good thing actually.  It means that the problem is limited in scope.   A browser redirect / hijack is as clear as day to me.  You need to know how to spot it as well.  When you search in the search box / address bar at the top of your browser (be it Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, etc)  and the results page is not  a Google page you have a problem.    Virtually 100% of my clients have Google set as their default search engine.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is the standard option in most browsers.   However, when your search shows some weird “searchXYZ” in the address (or somewhere on the page) it means that your browser has been corrupted.   Your searches are being captured.  It’s also possible that everything you typed in your browser, including passwords and other sensitive information, has been transmitted to an unauthorized 3rd party since the date of the infection.  This is a serious situation.

You need to reset your browser and remove the offending extensions.  If you can’t do these tasks, ask for help.  At that point, Google searching should return to normal. 

With this said, there are other legitimate search engines out there. One that has come into the spotlight over the past few years is Duck Duck Go.   Unlike Google, DDG is making privacy and a lack of censorship their top priorities.   Apple has partnered with DDG by making it a default search option on the Safari browser.   When you search for places on DDG, the results come up in Apple Maps.   You don’t have to make DDG your default search engine to use it.  You can simply go to https://duckduckgo.com/ and search at your leisure.   While I still use Google for looking up local businesses and phone numbers, I am a big fan of Duck Duck Go. 

Be Versatile In Using Technology

This is a follow up to a previous update, with some specific tips. Eventually, the way you normally do something is going to go wrong. Outlook is going to fail you, Apple Mail (Mac or iOS) is going to fail you, your browser of choice (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc) is going to fail you. Gmail may even fail you. There will be a time when you need to reply to or send out a key e-mail. You may have a contract or a statement to print out and your browser starts acting goofy. You will have that instance where you need to do something meaningful to you and what should be simple seems like a technological roadblock.

At least once a month, try doing what you normally do a different way. If you usually use a separate e-mail application to read your mail — try going to the web mail client of your provider. Reply to messages and send new ones out. Test it out. Check to see what contacts are stored there. Depending on your provider, you will be going to
Comcast.net
Gmail.com
Yahoo.com
Outlook.com (for Hotmail and @outlook.com addresses)
portal.office.com (for Office 365 workplace e-mail accounts provided by Microsoft)
iCloud.com
webmail.aol.com
or possibly another website depending on your provider

Furthermore, make sure you have a 2nd e-mail address that you can send and receive from. Simply changing how you access the account may not fix your problem. A second address gives you a communication lifeline.

In addition to your primary browser which is likely going to be Chrome, Safari or Firefox — at least once a month, use another browser on your computer. You may be opening up one of the aforementioned 3 or possibly Microsoft Edge (on a Windows computer). Check your Start Menu (Windows) or Applications folder (Mac) for that secondary browser. If you need to download and install another browser, here are some relevant links.
Firefox.com
https://www.google.com/chrome/
Brave

Get comfortable trying alternative methods of performing routine tasks. Your willingness to be flexible can really help you out when you are in a jam.

Control of Technology in the Hands of Too Few?

I am concerned about this issue and I know many of you are too.   An increasing amount of space in both traditional and online media has been given to the great power that so few companies have.  There was a big NY Times article on the subject not long ago.   We are talking about it at work.  We bemoan the technological giants with friends.  I could write a ton on the matter at hand, but I want to keep it simple, give you something to nibble on, and invite your thoughts.

As great as Google Assistant is, this story gave me cause for concern.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/05/google-gmail-purchase-history-cant-be-deleted.html

When you delete an item, it should be gone.  However, Google still has access to it in this instance. 

So who I am I really talking about when I say the “technological giants” ?   Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter,  Apple and Microsoft. 

Consider Facebook’s power in social media and messaging.   Facebook.com, Facebook Messenger, What’s App, and Instagram!  Wow.   With the exception of traditional text messages, and Apple’s iMessage (blue messages on your iPhone) platform, that is such as large chunk of our digital experience.   Facebook owns all of it.

I like to put Apple and Microsoft in a different sub group within the powers that be.  They primarily sell stuff that we use.  Yes they engage in some data collection an analysis, but Facebook, Google, and Twitter feast off of user information.  (With the exception of some Google business services), you don’t really pay for anything from these three.  They are in the business of harvesting information for the purpose of selling ads.      Amazon is the most well known online retailer.  They also have a massive division that provides paid data management services to businesses.   Yet, they know everything about our shopping habits.  I’m sure they can share some data with manufacturers.  Their control of merchandise can make or break a new product or upstart company. 

Consider this hypothetical.  You really are a big advocate for this one diet.  And there are a couple of books that are like “the bible” for your program of eating.  However, this diet is controversial.  You don’t have any local bookstores you can go to.  Amazon is the place to buy the books for this program.  You often shop there to buy new copies for the support group you run.  Some food lobby starts putting pressure on Amazon to stop carrying these books.  A health association chimes in.  Amazon decides to stop carrying the books.  It becomes much harder to easily disseminate the required information. 

Ultimately, Amazon is a private bookstore. They can choose to carry the volumes they want.  The problem is — for some Amazon is the only choice.  They have put so many of our cherished local bookstores out of business. 

Just something to think about!   What are you going to do to combat THEIR power?  Use a VPN?   Use paid e-mail service?  What about searching on DuckDuckGo.com instead of Google? 

How Old Should I Go?

Verizon PSA

I just wanted to make this announcement one more time because it came up in the past week.  Verizon is shutting down their legacy CDMA calling network on 1/1/2020.  If you are on the Verizon network (including 3rd party providers) and have an iPhone 5s or older or an old flip phone or an older Android phone — you need to upgrade.   Please ask for help if needed.    This announcement does not affect ATT or T-Mobile customers

How Old Should I Go?

I had conversations with several clients last week about getting new iPhones or smartphones in general.  I get asked, which iPhone should I get?  Firstly you have to remember that Apple is really not competing on price.  They will claim that their devices are just better and offer a premium user experience.  If you buy an iPhone, you are buying a computer for your pocket and a device that is priced like a computer.  I knew that some of the major carriers were still selling the iPhone 6s, possibly for a price in the $200s or maybe through some hocus pocus for “FREE”.  It came to my attention that there may even be some iPhone 6 models for sale as new.  WOW.  I think its a shame that they are doing this.  Here is the thing, even if an iPhone 6s was produced last year or this year, it is a 2015 era phone.   It features 4 year old technology.   I know what you might say — well, I don’t need all of the newest features so this will probably work great for me.   It might!   However, remember that Apple does not support iPhones with feature and security updates after about 5 years.   Starting this fall, the iPhone 6 will no longer receive the new version of iOS.  The iPhone 6s will still receive the new software.  Next year, it may not.  So if you buy an iPhone 6s now, you may only be buying an iPhone for 1 year. 

If you really want an iPhone — the oldest I would go at this point is an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.   That was released in September 2017.  It is also the last iPhone that supports the traditional design with the Home Button.  All newer iPhones have no home button, you simply swipe on the screen to mimic the home button.  Most clients learn this in about 1 day or so.  No big deal.  So if you buy an iPhone 8 now, you are likely buying an iPhone that will be good for 3 years provided you don’t break it or it doesn’t slow down to a point where you can’t use it enjoyably anymore.  In general, I think an iPhone XR would be best (unless you really want the camera superiority of the XS or XS Max and want to pay for it), but an 8 will be just fine.  Keep in mind, new models will be coming out in September (based on Apple’s past track record). 

There are many great less expensive phones too.  I think the new Google Pixel 3a is the best phone you can buy for under $400.  https://store.google.com/product/pixel_3a  It works on all the major carriers and can also be used on Google’s FI cellular service which starts at $20 per month. 

The Moto G7 Power from Motorola is $250 and is also a very powerful phone for the price.  If battery life is your thing, this phone is like the Energizer bunny. 

The carriers sell several inexpensive Android smartphones between $100 and $200.   Some of these phones are OK, while others are not great.  It depends on your needs and what you want to do.   If its just calling, texting, a little e-mailing, and Google searching — a less expensive Android phone will probably work out just fine.   Keep in mind, these Android phones are usually 2 to 3 year phones. 

** There is one asterisk I want to put on this conversation**  I don’t know if they have changed their policy in the last month or 2, but to the best of my knowledge, ATT has been very nasty about not allowing clients to use all the features of their phones IF THEY DON’T PURCHASE THE PHONE DIRECTLY FROM THEM.   iPhones will be fine.  But if you buy an Android phone directly from the company that made it or from a 3rd party, they may not be willing to activate LTE calling or WiFi calling.   I think that’s just plain wrong.  Verizon and T-Mobile customers have less of these issues.      A phone is a phone, a network is a network.   With that said, I do not have major problems with ATT as a network.   Their service is quite adequate across the country.