Category: Acronym Update

Remote Appointments Only Effective 3/23

Per the Governor’s recent order announced at the press conference today — I will be following the stay at home policy effective Monday 3/23 and therefore will be conducting all business REMOTELY as of that time.  I really appreciate all of your support of my small business this week.  From work at home clients, to setups for tele-medicine, to setting up new phone lines, cell phones, TV’s and routers — we have covered it all.   I will still make myself available for appointments at your location Saturday 3/21 and Sunday 3/22 — but let’s keep it online if we can.

When we do remote appointments, I will be more of the friendly teacher and directing you on what to do, but that is good because it will also help you know more about the inner workings of your devices.   Truth be told, I have been offering even complex consultations  — remotely — for years.  I have even set up entire computers with clients via remote technology.

Of course you know that I offer remote support via e-mail and text message (not the best — but it works sometimes if you are good at following static, steps based instruction),  phone (better), but where I think we can really shine is through the remote assistance screen sharing apps that I employ.   I am all set up for Quick Assist (Windows 10), Zoom and Skype (Windows or Mac) to help you in real-life-like appointments.

If there is a need for a product to get shipped to me for a little setup and then for me to mail it off to you — I will offer that service.   For the remote sessions, I bill for a 1/2 hour for anything up to 1/2 hour and then by the 1/2 hour rounded up after that.   If you really want to you can send a check, but what is easiest for both of us is just for you to pay with a credit card over the phone.  I have a credit card terminal on my computer — and can just process your payment as you read it to me. An e-mail receipt will follow.     I hope this “stay at home” policy will end soon, but for now, we are going with a safety first approach until the restrictions end.  PS.  If you are using a desktop computer only with no web cam or microphone — I can try to find one for you.  They are getting hard to find.

Real Life Tech Support Story: Part 1 of 2

**  When experiencing multiple problems at one time — it’s critical to take a moment to think about the following.   Are both of my problems related or are they entirely separate?   It’s also fine to ask yourself am I just imagining things?  You’re not crazy.   Simply stated, the two issues I was having were 1)  slowness and apparent overheating from my MacBook (my primary computer) and 2)  internet connectivity issues.  Audio and video would start and stop or about every 3rd or 4th website that I loaded would not open.  I really thought they were interrelated.  However, one factored caused me to firmly believe that they were distinct problems:   ALL OF OUR COMPUTERS WERE HAVING INTERNET CONNECTIVITY ISSUES.

1)  Problems with the MacBook….
There is a reason why I only recommend the MacBooks, Lenovo T series, or Dell Latitude E64xx / 65xx series.  When problems arise and the customer has a valid warranty — these companies stand behind their products!!   Does this mean I won’t help a customer who has a different laptop?  No of course not.  However, if you say to me — I’m going to buy what you recommend –then  those are the 3 product lines I would steer you toward.  It should be noted that the Dell Latitudes come with the a 3 year warranty standard, but on the Lenovo and MacBook models the 3 year warranty requires you to purchase an upgrade — an upgrade that is well worth it.   On the Dell and Lenovo laptops — their warranties — offer you the option of sending a technician to you.  The MacBook’s warranty (known as Apple Care) – requires you to bring the computer to an Apple Store or authorized service center.   If you had a full sized desktop, like a big tower, I’m not totally sure an extended warranty is necessary.  For specialty desktops like the iMac, the Mac Mini, and all laptops that you expect to get 3 to 4 years out of please buy the appropriate manufacturer warranty (not 3rd party) with onsite or local service.     Why?   Laptops have little parts.  These parts may be soldered on inside and may not be something that I could easily replace for you.   Failure of one of these parts may require the entire motherboard to be replaced which could cost $500 or  more!!   However, your warranty would cover that.   Hardware issues I deal with on laptops (especially out of warranty and abused  laptops) include hard drive upgrades / replacements, memory upgrades / replacements, many keyboard replacements, and most battery replacements.  I also deal with software issues on laptops, which typically ARE NOT covered by the warranty.

You should be aware that Apple as well as Lenovo, Dell, and others include some type of hardware testing tools with their laptops (and probably desktops as well).   These tools may come in the form of a CD or software already installed on your computer.  Apple’s included tools are called Apple Hardware Test.     I ran these tests and came up with two error codes.  Apple doesn’t give an explanation of the codes, however I was able to figure our the general nature of the codes by doing a Google search.  They were related to FAILING TEMPERATURE SENSORS.  People who had similar problems were advised on various websites to bring their laptops in for repair.

I felt confident because I bought this laptop in April 2010 and DID get the 3 year AppleCare warranty.  Upon doing just some basic tests on my computer, the Apple Store technician found out something that suspected but was not the cause of my problems.  — I had a failing battery.  Laptop batteries are NOT cheap.  They typically cost $100 or more.  Apple’s extended warranty will cover the battery, with Dell and Lenovo I believe you need to purchase additional coverage for this.  I saved $168 by having my warranty.  Unlike many other laptops, Apple’s batteries are NOT user replaceable.   The technician could not diagnose the temperature sensor issues on the fly, but he said their technicians would run an extensive hardware test 3x and replace whatever needed replacing.   All of these repairs would be covered.  It may take them 24 hours (or possibly longer) to finish this but I left being a VERY happy customer.

Google’s new privacy policy takes effect tomorrow 

Just wanted to let clients know once again that Google is changing their privacy policy, effective tomorrow.   The company claims that this actually gives customers more privacy.  In a nutshell they are simply collecting non-identifiable data from all the Google services you use into one profile for use in internal improvements and to help them better market advertisements.

So for example — instead of them knowing we have one customer, age 35, male, from Hartford, CT who watches You Tube videos on Michael Jackson  and a customer age 35, male, from Hartford who subscribes to the New York Times news feed in Google Reader …..

Google will now see that oh yes, we have a customer, age 35, male, from Hartford who likes Michael Jackson videos and subscribes to the NY Times news feed.

PERSONALLY,  this new privacy policy is not changing how I use Google services at all.    However, the above article from Mac World (applicable to both Macs and Windows) will tell you how to tidy up your Google services or delete them entirely.

I’ve said for a while now that I believe Gmail is the best free e-mail account on the planet.

I believe that for those of you who want to own a custom e-mail address  ie.  yourname(at)yourowndomain(dot)com,  Google’s Google Apps option ($10 to $60 per year) is one of the best ways to do this as it gives you the same Gmail experience.

The White MacBook is Dead

The White MacBook is dead,  long live the White MacBook !!

Apple’s entry level consumer laptop, the (white) MacBook is no longer being sold.  Article from the Wall St. Journal’s All Things Digital blog included above.    This was the model that most “typical consumers” were seeking.  It was plastic and sold for under $1000.   It was sold from 2006 until the present time.

I am fortunate enough to have owned two of these.  The first one was purchased in 2008 and is still being used by a customer out in the Denver area.   I am typing this e-mail on a late 2009 model MacBook, which I purchased from Apple in April 2010.

Your choice now for a sub-$1000 laptop from Apple is the 11.6 inch MacBook Air  at $999.    If you do go this route PLEASE get an ergonomic  stand for your laptop.   You may strain your neck because of the smaller screen size.  The late white Mac Book was a 13.3 inch model.     If you do want that fuller sized screen, you will be looking at the 13.3 inch MacBook pro, which will run you $1199.     Both the Air and the Pro feature an all metal exterior.    To those looking for a LARGE MacBook Pro, the 15.4 inch and 17 inch models are still sold.    They carry a LARGE price too.  No offense intended.

New Years Resolutions For Your Computer

Happy New Year Everyone!!
Whether you are a Mac user or a Windows user — here are some things you really need to consider for 2012, if you haven’t already…

1. Backup, backup, backup

I can’t stress this topic again and will make a point of it at every appointment we have in the new year if you don’t have a good backup system in place.  With that said, if you use your computer for e-mail and internet ONLY and check your email on the internet (web based)  — your need for a backup system is greatly diminished.

There are two types of backup systems A) physical – to an external hard drive and B) virtual — to an online backup server.   I would suggest that you must do A. and if you are really serious about your backups you may want to have a second physical backup and do B) the online backup.

– If there are multiple computers in your home that would benefit from regular backups I would strongly suggest a backup drive that is connected to your Internet router that will allow everyone to back up to it automatically.  There is one such product I have in mind —
the APPLE Time Capsule  —
The 2 GB Time Capsule sells for $299 and is compatible with computers running Windows XP (SP3) and later  and Mac OS 10.5.7 and later.  Occasionally there are Time Capsules on sale in the Deals section of the Apple Store website (ex. $229 – $249).

– If you want an extra backup on your own personal computer or only have one computer to back up — then just purchase an external hard drive that you plug into your system — typically via USB.   Top choices in this product line are sold by LaCie and Other World Computing.  They will work on both Mac and Windows computers.

Macs with OS 10.5 and up benefit from having Time Machine built in — an automatic backup software that is easy to use.  Windows 7 also has backup software built in that will suffice for most.     Windows XP and Vista do not have great backup software built in for a single external hard drive.  Please feel free to ask about this or check out one of the Lacie hard drives below, which includes backup software.

For specific models of single external hard drives I would recommend….

**Steer clear of bargain basement external hard drives sold by Seagate, Western Digital and other big box store brands  UNLESS they will back their product with a 3-year warranty.

-If you are really serious about your backups, you should consider an online backup service to go with your hard drive based backup.  One service and one service only comes to mind.  CARBONITE.  You have have heard it advertised over the radio.   They are a U.S. based company and charge $60 per year.    Mac and Windows compatible.   They have excellent e-mail based support.  Use the promo code “RUSH” when purchasing to get 14 months instead of a 12 month subscription.

2.  Anti Virus and Security Software

2011 became the year when Mac users really need to take security seriously, for the first time in a long time.  Since viruses and malware are still less of a threat on the whole for Mac users, I will address you first.   At the very least please consider the WONDERFUL  anti-virus program made available for FREE by Sophos.  If you are not going to buy a program — then use this one.  Please!   (Power PC or Intel Macs – 10.4 or later)

However, if you are a Mac user and want a security program with actual support when something goes wrong —  then choose Virus Barrier by Intego    This is a great solution for a single Mac.  Please see the write up on Sophos below, if you have 3 computers including one or more Macs.

-And now on to what you really want to know — What security programs do you recommend for Windows?  Well I recommend one that is going to support their customers when something goes wrong — so that you only have to bring in a specialist like me as a last line of defense.

A year ago, I recommended  ESET, Kaspersky and AVAST as  fine choices in the area of Windows protection.  I don’t recommend the free Norton provided by Comcast, McAfee or any other products.  Very few of these companies provide phone support when something goes wrong.

Today, I can only faithfully recommend 2 products for Windows systems or Windows / Mac mixed environments.

Kaspersky — They have provided security suite software for a long time.  They provide prompt e-mail based support when you have registration and installation issues.   They provide phone based support when you have an actual attack on your computer.
Recommended product:  One Universal Security

$99.95 / per year, covers up to 5 Windows / Mac computers.      (If you are only securing Windows computers, their Internet Security product is about $20 less per year.)

Sophos — mentioned above in the Mac section, Sophos has been providing security solutions for businesses with very positive reviews for many years.  Their U.S. headquarters is in Burlington, MA.  They provide 24/7 phone support.  Sophos Computer Security is meant for environments of 3 computers or more (Windows or Mac) but there is no reason that precludes you from using it in your home.

Recommended product:  Sophos Computer Security   $124 per year, total,  for 3 computers.  Extra computers can be protected for an additional fee.

This e-mail has been chock full of information, so I will leave it as is for right now.   Please feel free to ask me about Backups and Anti Virus solutions and how I can implement something to work for you!!