iPhone Users Positive Review of Pixel 4a

I don’t have many clients that are really into Android anymore, but I wanted to share this review that is quite positive from an iPhone loyalist who tried Google’s new Pixel 4a.   In my opinion, its the no brainer Android phone choice @ $349.

I should add that the 4a supports 2 phone lines (regular SIM + eSIM) should you need that feature.

Published in PC World and Mac World — Sept 8, 2020

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3574016/apple-iphone-se-vs-google-pixel-4a-size-display-camera-features.html

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

5G – Here And Getting Closer

I outlined some basics on the new 5G towers a few weeks ago, but I wanted to simplify and add to it as well.  Basically there are two 5G technologies being deployed in this country at the moment, sub-6 and mmWave.  T-Mobile and ATT are going mostly with the sub-6, which will reach more people.  Verizon is going with mmWave, which is even faster but restricted to specific spots like stadiums, stations, or a place like Times Square.  Consequently, Verizon is way behind.  Ultimately, all of these carriers will deploy a mix of both types of 5G towers.  If you are due for a new phone, I am going to give you my opinion as to when 5G should mean something to you.  This does not mean give up on your carrier or that your carrier is bad or that you need to throw out your 6 month old phone to get a 5G phone.  I’ve uttered no such words.   I got a real life test of 5G on the T-Mobile network in Boston last week.   My wife’s 5G Samsung clocked in at double the speed of my iPhone 11.   Therefore, if you are a T-Mobile customer — I would say the time to buy a 5G phone (again if you are phone shopping) would be as soon as these iPhone 12 models come out.  Then you will have a mix of low end phones like the Revvl 5G, or the Samsungs, and the iPhones to choose from — all with 5G.   ATT is at the middle of the pack.  Their 5G is not as widely deployed as T-Mobiles, but they are getting there.  If you still want to save some money by buying that iPhone SE, go for it.  But by 2021, early next year, I think you should definitely be considering a 5G phone if you are phone shopping.   With Verizon, on the other hand, I think there is no rush to get a 5G phone — probably until the 2nd half of next year.  Ultimately, two years from now, Verizon may end up having the best 5G network.  Slow and steady wins the race?  We hope or they hope!  Rumor has it that only the super expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max model will even be able to communicate with Verizon’s mmWave towers.  The other 3 models coming out this fall will not.  If I were a Verizon customer, 5G wouldn’t even be a part of my thought process yet.  (And yes, you can still buy any of the other iPhone 12 models to use with Verizon’s existing network.)

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

Fall is the busy season in my business and in the world of personal technology.  We will see new iPhones before the end of October, perhaps in two separate launches for the 4 models expected to be released.  New Apple Watches as well as iPads (possibly) will be coming out next week from Apple.   There will be brand new computers from Microsoft, including a reported “moderately priced” Surface laptop.  Wait there’s more!   Apple is coming out with a brand new macOS 11 which is supposed to be the biggest deal for the Mac in 20 years since OS X came out.  Finally, ioS 14 / iPad OS 14 will be here quite soon. Let’s make sure you have a backup first.  And for my students in the back of the class, if you have a 5+ year old Verizon flip phone (iPhone 5s or 5c too), it’s time to get a new one.  Verizon is retiring its old calling network on 12/31/2020.  Your old phone will be a paperweight.  What a season we can have together — I’m looking forward to being there for you, every step of the way!  Now you know why I get excited about the fall!!

The Future of Movies

Google Pixel 4a

If you are really into Google services, like Gmail and all they offer — you may want to consider their new Pixel 4a Android phone.   It has been priced to compete squarely with Apple’s new mid-range iPhone SE.  Google even beats the price by $50, coming in at $349.  The 4a works on all major carriers.  Here is a sneak peek — https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_4a

The Future Of Movies

Who is going to the movies?  I haven’t since last fall.  Are 15 cent tickets from AMC going to lure you in?  Have you heard of any big summer releases?  Crickets are chirping here.  Here is what Disney is doing through their Disney + app for the soon to be released Mulan movie.   They are going to release it in the app on the same day it hits the theater — for a premium charge of $30.   I was wondering when this would happen.  I know that even under normal circumstances, it could really crimp the movie theaters’ business, but this day was going to come sooner or later.  I think more new movies will come out, but I think Xfinity On Demand, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime should all get in on this cutting edge content delivery model.  Instead of 3 people going to a theater, that may or may not be safe, you pay $30 (or $40 or whatever) and watch it at home.  You can make yourself an iced tea and skip the diabetic coma soda and $10 popcorn.  It’s a win win.  Of course, not every app will have every  new movie.  There are going to be exclusive deals.  It would be nice if there is just a “movie theater app” and you don’t have to pay monthly but you can just buy individual movies that interest you.  Day 1 new movies — coming soon to a home theater near you!

Supporting You In The Storm

This week reminded me of the 2 storms in 2011 when many of us lost power from 3 days during the summer storm to more than a week in the “October Surprise.”  I’ll never forget driving completely blind in the snow one night trying to go the 3 to 4 miles from my apartment down the road where several family members lived.  I was lost in a blizzard, running on faith.

The big difference in 2020 was, I never lost power or internet.  I must be in a good location as far electrical reliability is concerned because in the 5+ years we have lived here, we have never lost power in any storm.  As much as I like to criticize Comcast, I got them to install a separate line in 2015 directly from my modem to the street.  Since then, my connection has been trouble free.

However, I have heard from some of you.  I know you are in bad shape.  You may have no power, no internet, or power, but are lacking internet. I want to support you in whatever way I can, possibly to help you to in the current crisis and to prepare for the future. 

Ideas

-Just as was the case back in 2011, I think some of you may want to have a hard line / POTS telephone line with the phone company.  This coupled with a corded phone can provide a real sense of security and companionship during a difficult time.  Part of the problem is so many of us have moved to internet based phone lines from the cable company  and even the phone company.  Internet based phones do you ZERO good during a power outage.  If you have a battery backup, that line may last you 8 hours.  An old fashioned telephone line will still work unless the line is damaged.   Your neighborhood may have had the traditional lines torn out. You may never be able to get that back, but you may.  Consider what helps you sleep at night.

-Do you have the right cell phone provider?  Have you been able to make and receive calls easily?  Have you had trouble getting cellular data?

-Would you like to create a “hotspot” from your smartphone or get a little hotspot box so that you can connect your other devices like your laptop and tablet to the internet when your hard wired internet is down?

-Would you be interested in a cellular iPad so you have a computer like device that connects to the internet even when you have no WiFi?

Critical Password Practices

I had to deal with another security breach last week. It could happen to anyone.  Accounts get hacked.  Passwords are guessed.  Bad guys keep trying until they get it right.  These scammers will even try to make up fake email accounts and impersonate you if they have extra motivation to deceive.  In this one instance I got called out to deal with, the hacker was probably in China but they were clever enough to make it seem like they were hacking from the USA.   You don’t want this to happen to you right?


You cannot MUST NOT reuse passwords for multiple websites / services.   Each account needs a separate password.  A password should be easy for you to remember and hard for others to guess.  It should not contain family members’ names.  It should not contain your street name, street number, or year of birth.  Do a Google Search on yourself.  Your password should not contain any key words that come up in that search.  You could use a password manager like 1Password or Last Pass.  However, this requires learning a new tool and I know not all of you are prepared to do this.  You could use a random password generator tool, creating passwords of 12 characters or longer.   https://www.random.org/passwords/  is a tool I have used with clients repeatedly over the years.  If you are still saying this isn’t for you, OK, so at the very least you should do the following.  Create a memorable base that you will use over and over again, then put a unique ending that helps you identify each site.  Record everything in a password notebook at the very least.   For example, let’s say you attended Camp Redwoods as a child and no one else knows that.  Your password for Microsoft could be   — ILoveCampRedwoods20msft — and then you could repeat this formula  over and over again.  That would be a bare minimum, but acceptable strategy.   Each password should ideally be 12 to 14+ characters long.  Personally speaking, I have started making my passwords 25 – 30 characters long whenever possible. ( This is very easy with a password manager.) 

How to check for suspicious logins to Comcast Xfinity email account

I have now had 2 clients in the past year who’ve had their Comcast email accounts broken into.  Scams were attempted and some damage was done. 

They have now put out a tool so you can see all of the login attempts on your Comcast account with the past 30 days.  If you suspect anything or are just curious — you should sign into this website with your Comcast e-mail address and password.


https://security-console.identity.xfinity.com/

It worked very well for me with a client yesterday.  We determined that her account was hacked by someone accessing the internet through a server in Seattle, WA. 

One more tip — make sure that your Comcast email password is not the same as ANY OTHER password you use.

Clearing Out Those Computer Gremlins

How are you? Staying during this heat wave?    I am open for business and look forward to my sessions with you this week whether in person or virtual.  Did you know that you might have $43 in Junk Fees on your cable bill?  Read on to find out…..

Clearing Out Those Computer Gremlins

Here is some good and simple advice for you.  While it’s very convenient to let the computer go to sleep, so that you get all of the updates and can wake it up quickly — SHUT IT DOWN COMPLETELY — ONCE A WEEK.   It can be for a few minutes. It can be overnight, your choice.   But just completely shut it down.  I think that will just help to clear all the cobwebs and gremlins out.   It’s good therapy for the device.   You can even do this with your smartphones and tablets.  Give them a complete shut down, at least once a week.

Comcast B.S. Fees

(And by B.S. — I mean big secret).  In is unbelievable what they are allowed to get away with. I was explaining this to a customer recently, but if you have 3 services with Comcast / Xfinity (or even just TV + internet) you are probably paying about $43 in extra  fees that they never tell you about up front.   Here is a breakdown of those fees:

1) there is a $14.95 broadcast TV fee (this is the fee they charge for re-transmitting local channels like local CBS, local NBC, local FOX (which is different than FOX NEWS which a paid cable channel), local ABC, local PBS (CPTV), and a few others.  In the past local stations did not get paid by the cable company, but if my brain serves me correctly there  was a legal / regulatory decision about 10+ years ago that made this possible.

2) Whether you watch sports or not (and if you do there will be baseball, basketball and hockey starting in about 1 week) — there is a Regional Sports fee of $8.75 per month.   They have a few packages that don’t have sports but if you type in the channel # or say “ESPN” to the voice remote, and it comes up, you have the sports channels

3) for your Xfinity Gateway — that is your modem / router / phone adapter , the white box…they charge a monthly rental of about $14

4)  They also now charge about $5 per month for your primary cable box.  It used to be free.   They also charge about $10 each for additional digital outlets (TV’s) but I am not factoring that in here.  For now you can save on that fee by using a Roku as your cable box.  They are not charging for that YET. 

The only one of these fees you can truly avoid is #3.  You can buy your own modem.  A decent one like the Netgear CM700 is about $110 give or take plus a router..  However, if you have phone services with Xfinity, you will need a modem that supports this.  Those modems cost more.    Those could be $200-250 with wireless router functionality built in.  Or $100 for a modem plus voice (current Best Buy price)  + a router of your choosing.   Decent single routers are usually $100 to $200.   If you do the math on $14 per month, you would generally see that owning your own equipment pays for itself in 2 years or less.  However, if you are prone to a lot of electrical surges and cable outages (which I do not experience) – it may be worth paying that $14 a month.  Personally speaking, I have owned my own modem / router since 2012 and I have never looked back.  I replaced the equipment with a new modem and router in 2018. 

If you have a different cable or home telecom company — check your bill.  How many B.S. fees do you have?

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

Computer Picks

I represent about an equal number of Windows vs. Mac clients.  A few are iPad or Chromebook only.  I just wanted to say that if you are not absolutely locked in to particular apps on the Mac or you might be turned off by some of Apple’s decisions with the Mac or leery of the upcoming processor transition — you could probably do really well with a solid business class Windows desktop or laptop.   Excluding any possible discounts or outlet purchases, I think you can get a nice system for $800 to $900.  These computers cannot be purchased in stores. I know how to order them and have been doing so for years.   The kind of computers I have in mind are often repairable and upgradable — serviceable is the word I am looking for.  There is a reason why the State, the big hospital systems, and big insurance companies buy these computers by the hundreds (if not thousands) — they stand the test of time.  They’re not buying Macs.  It’s just something to keep in mind.    With that said, I have helped Mac clients switch to Windows and Windows clients switch to Mac.  I am a versatile provider of technology consulting services, with no preconceived notion that one platform is best for all clients. 

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

I am talking about data prioritization with your cell phone plan.  I have touched on this in the past, but I wanted to revisit it.  Did you know that some of you might have prioritized data with your carrier and some of you may not?   There is an order of data — when on a congested tower — where some users will be given preferred access and others may be slowed down or get slowed down to a crawl.   (Prioritization is different than being capped or throttled.   A cap would be — you get 5 GB of total data per month and you are totally cut off after that. A throttle would be — we limit all traffic to 5 mb/s even if you can get a faster speed in theory.  Some plans are throttled to a very slow speed after reaching the cap.)   But what I really wanted to address here is the idea of prioritization.   You might be out and about trying to book a restaurant order or launch the Maps app or even buy some clothing for quick online pickup — then your phone just slows to a crawl.  It’s possible that  you are being deprioritized.   There may be a lot of other users on that tower with priority over you.  There is a good chance that it won’t happen to you.  It might be congestion, however you just might not have the “top banana” priority.   I haven’t heard of it happening a lot locally, but there are definitely parts of the country that are oversaturated on Verizon towers, ATT towers, etc.   They have no choice but to route traffic with a certain order. 

Let me just state a couple examples to help you clear up the confusion.  If you get a monthly bill and you are on an older Verizon / ATT plan and you get like 2 GB of data per month, 4 GB, 8 GB — you are prioritized.    If you have the first tier of Verizon’s new unlimited plans known as Start or Go unlimited – you are always deprioritized.   Again, it may never be a problem for you. I just want you to know.   The next level of Verizon’s unlimited plans tells customers they can be deprioritized after 25 GB of use (which is probably a lot more than most of you would use in a given month).   Prepaid plans are generally always deprioritized, although ATT Prepaid has some exceptions. 

Is Cord Cutting No Longer A Value Proposition?

(I am sending this to my special sub group of clients that cut traditional pay TV about 18 months ago and went with Hulu’ Live TV offering; I am also sending this message to a few others who have talked about cutting the cord or found other ways of doing so). 

So the one thing I wanted to say is — THE COST OF CONTENT IS GOING UP.  There are very few power brokers in control of all of this content.  A layman’s explanation of it would be something like this.   CBS:   Viacom / Paramount (and all of their channels),   Comcast:  NBC, NBC Sports, USA Network, etc.,  then don’t forget Disney — ABC / ESPN, and of course ATT — Time Warner / HBO.   There is also the Fox kingdom as well and all of their outlets. 

So let’s say you are the cable company, the satellite company, Hulu Live TV, You Tube TV — you have to make deals for all of that content.  And if you are the content provider, you cut  your deals with each service.   Do you think the prices are going down?  Of course not.   With more people staying  home perhaps for a very long time or forever, with sports being held without spectators, could those prices be going down?  NEVER.   Content deals are often described as $ per customer.   It would not surprise me if with some services that ESPN is getting paid $5 per customer.  You can see how this all adds up. 

Comcast / Xfinity is less likely to cut deals with their customers, except for brand new customers.   Hulu Live TV raised its prices to $55 last year.  You Tube TV raised its prices to $50 last year, and they admitted based on all of their content deals that at that rate they were only making $1 per customer per month.   You might ask why would they even bother being in business for a $1 profit per month?  The reason is Google owns You Tube and they can afford to be a disruptor.   Well, now it’s the customers who are feeling a little disruption.  You Tube TV announced that they are raising prices to $65 per month.  The good and bad thing about no contracts is — the price can go up any time, but the customer is free to leave at any time.   I would not be surprised if Hulu Live TV raises their prices soon, but maybe not.  We’ll see. 

As you can see the value proposition of the live TV replacement services isn’t quite what it used to be.  There are other choices besides Hulu + You Tube TV — although those 2 are widely praised for being the best.    There is ATT TV Now ( formerly DirecTV now).  Their base package is $55 per month.  Then there is Sling TV.  You may have seen their corny TV ads.  They are priced lower, but offer fewer channels. 

Now I know some of you have chosen to go with an antenna for free TV and other free options like CBS News Network (which is a free streaming channel).  Those may work out.  The price is right. 

Then you have to factor in all of the on demand streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Disney Plus.   This could all get very expensive, but it could all be very meaningful as we are enjoying our content at home more.  Amazon Prime Video just launched a new feature where you can watch their stuff with other people in a “party” format at different locations.  I think that’s really cool.

So ultimately, I just want you to be aware   — 1) content isn’t cheap,  2)  the streaming services are disruptors to the entrenched cable companies and they can’t operate in the red forever if they want to stay with us, and 3)  you are likely not tied down by long contracts, so be free to hop around and try different options.