Category: Buying Advice

Recommended Systems–Late May 2017

Recommended Systems (as of May 27, 2017):
VIP Computer Care faithfully recommends……

Mac
Apple iMac (2015 models – HD or Retina — only with upgrade to Flash Storage)
Apple MacBook Pro – 13 and 15 inch (2016 models)
*VIP believes that you should buy  3 year Apple Care Warranty with all Mac computers. 
** Buy Macs with an SSD (Flash Storage) only. 

Windows (current models)

Dell Optiplex desktops
Dell Precision workstation desktops
Dell Latitude (5000, 7000 series)  laptops. 
Dell XPS 13 – 13 inch ultrabook laptop

Lenovo Thinkpad X Series – 12.5 inch laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon -14 inch ultrabook
Lenovo Thinkpad W – 15 inch workstation laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad T 14 and 15 inch laptops
Lenovo Thinkpad L 14 and 15 inch laptops
Lenovo (desktop) ThinkCentre M series

HP Spectre x360

Microsoft
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – 12.5 inch
Microsoft Surface Laptop w/ upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
VIP also recommends Microsoft Signature PC’s from the Microsoft Store with at least 4 GB of RAM + Intel Pentium, i3, i5, i7 processors

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Windows Update: Lenovo is my new Dell

For years, and years, I recommended Dell as my go to computer brand for those desiring a Windows based PC. Today, I will tell you — NO MORE.

A brief history lesson: Lenovo purchased IBM’s PC business back in 2005. IBM continued to provide design assistance to them for several years after that. Lenovo has taken something great and made it better.

Lenovo has U.S. operations in North Carolina and at some time this year, they will even start building one of their laptops in the U.S.

My endorsement only covers their Think line of products, for example their ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktops. Lesser Lenovo systems like the Idea Pad and computers simply called Lenovo followed by a model number are pieces of crap. I have been in this business for over 15 years; I’ve earned the right to say that.

Since most people are going laptops these day, you’ll be pleased to know that Lenovo has Thinkpads in every price range.
– smaller ultra portable laptop, 11.6 inches – x131 is $500
– mid-range, well constructed laptop, – the Edge is about $650

– ready for work, durable, a world leader – the T series will run you about $900
– thin, lightweight, Apple-like – X1 Carbon – $1400

These Thinkpads come with a one year warranty. I would encourage all customers to look at Lenovo’s 3 year extended warranty for about $200. They do honor their commitments. However, the choice on the warranty is yours. Please don’t be upset if you get the bad banana in the batch and it dies after a year. FYI, the ThinkCentre desktops start in the $500 range.

Lenovo’s Think products can be ordered at lenovo.com or by calling them. I can also endorse purchasing Windows computers through Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/store

I seek out the best, so you can have the best!

Updated List of Recommended Computers

I want you to have the best when it comes to technology. The best doesn’t always mean spending more but it means you being treated with respect when you need to deal with the manufacturer. I’ve been extremely conservative with the models and makers I’ve suggested over the years and I will continue to be very deliberate before I make additions.

Apple: Let me get the easy part out of the way first. Apple is the only company that makes Macs. The only choice is where to buy yours from. I advise my clients to buy from either B&H Photo Video of NYC www.bhphotovideo.com (an Apple authorized reseller) or the online Apple Store http://store.apple.com

Windows: I’ll stick to laptops here because these are what most of you are buying.

– Lenovo.com: Thinkpad T series, Thinkpad X1 Carbon, Thinkpad X200 series, Thinkpad Edge

– Microsoft Signature PC’s (various manufacturers) from http://store.microsoft.com or Staples.com (most computers from Staples ARE NOT part of the Signature program, check and verify)

– Dell ** I’m still asking you to hold off on considering Dell until their corporate reorganization is complete. There is a chance that warranties many not be honored when the “new Dell” emerges. I hope to be able to faithfully recommend them in the near future.

*** Manufacturer extended warranties with an onsite support (or local drop off – Apple only) option are usually a good bet. Stay away from aftermarket / 3rd party warranties. The only good one I know in the world of electronics is Square Trade, which is offered on most Amazon and eBay purchases.

– If you would like a Desktop recommendation, please ask!
Lenovo ThinkCentre desktops would be a good choice. Check out Lenovo.com

OEM or Replacement Printer Cartridges

Printer ink (or toner) is expensive — there is no way of getting around that.
Typically most residential and home office computer users have one of two types of printers:   a color ink jet (prints color + black and white)   or monochrome laser (prints black and white only).      The printer may be single function — printing only   or multi-function — handling duties such as printing, copying, and scanning.   Some multi-function printers also add a fourth function, faxing.  Just as an example, for the past four years I have used a multi-function printer made that is Dell branded.  (It was actually made by Samsung, but that point is not relevant).  This model is a monochrome laser and prints, copies, scans, and faxes.  I’ve been happy with getting four years out of it; I doubt this printer will make 5 years.

The trend in how these things are sold is troubling.   $80 printers are common, even multi-function models can be had for under $100.  However, the black and color cartridges combined might also cost $80.   Furthermore, these cartridges won’t get you more than a couple hundred prints.   WOW.   For laser printers, the cartridges are referred to as toner cartridges.   They might get you 2000 to 5000 prints, but will cost upwards of $100 or more.

First you should decide — do I need to print in color in a regular basis?   In our family, we decided a long time ago that we don’t.  For the few times a year that we need color, we will gladly print those items out at Kinko’s (Fed Ex Office) or Staples.   Laser printers give you the lowest cost per print.  However, I know many of you like to print an occasional photo, a letter or an invitation with color, etc.   It used to be that the inkjet printers were made for consumers (at a lower cost) and laser printers were made for business.  However, the lines are now blurred.  Inkjet printers generally cost less, but laser printers have also gotten really affordable in recent years.  As with so many consumer decisions, you are going to have choose what works best for you.

I’ve helped clients set up several printers over the past year.  Two that I like over all others are the Brother MFC 7860DW (a multi function monochrome laser)  and the Epson WorkForce 845 (a multi function color inkjet).  Based on Amazon’s prices, they are $250 and $140 respectively.  FYI, there may be newer models of each printer that have been released this year.

HOWEVER — nearly in ALL CASES I never recommend buying replacement (aftermarket)  ink / toner.   Avoid Brand X or store brand re-manufactured cartridges.   They may not work properly and could damage your printer.  The only alternative to OEM branded cartridges that I’ve found remotely legitimate has been CarrotInk(dot)com.   They’ve been serving customers for over 10 years.  Once I had an issue with a laser cartridge I purchase from them and they promptly sent me a new one at no charge.  Still, given that Amazon usually has good pricing on name brand cartridges and free shipping for orders over $25 I hesitate to recommend after market products.

Your Questions Answered

1.  Capturing a screen shot:   sometimes you’ll want to do this.   Perhaps you want to show me whats on your screen in the process of getting help.  You might want to take a screen shot to compare notes with another person, for example if you both have the same program open and they claim you are not seeing the same thing.   Perhaps you want to capture what is on your screen exactly as it looks for some type of evidentiary or archival reason.   This is easy.   I will cover both Windows and Mac scenarios.

Windows:     traditionally on most Windows computers — there has been a Print Screen button on your keyboard.    Press it.  Then open up a program like Microsoft Word (or equivalent) and then   Paste from the Edit menu (or Paste Special).   Your screen image will appear in the document.   You may want to print in Landscape mode (wide) to get the screen shoot to appear all on one page.     In Windows 7, there is a an additional way to capture a screen shot.  On your start menu — look for Snipping Tool.   If it isn’t obviously its in All Programs >> Accessories.    This allows you to drag a window around what you want to capture.  It then saves the image as a picture file on your screen.   You can then save that image and do what you want with it.

 

Mac:   There is a great utility baked into the Mac called Grab.  I use it often; in fact I keep it in my dock for easy access.    To open Grab for the first time, open Finder >> Utilities >> Grab.    Click on the Capture menu at the top and then chose whether you want to capture just a selection (of your choosing), a window (a particular program’s window), or the whole screen.    After the screen shot is taken, a picture file opens on your screen.  From there you can save it, e-mail it or print it.

 

2.   Dealing with a troubling spam e-mail message:    it happens.   Someone told me they received an e-mail telling them they had ordered something and a tracking number was even provided in the e-mail.  It wasn’t even a valid tracking number with the shipper.    So what’s the deal?    The senders of this message are likely located in Jamaica, Nigeria, or perhaps an eastern european country.  They would like nothing more  than for you to engage them in discussion.   DON’T.   Doing so will expose you to financial harm and possibly harassment.    Just as there is troubling postal mail from time to time or chain letters asking for money to be sent to the next link, there are even more sophisticated e-mail scams.   It isn’t a good idea to respond to the postal mail and it isn’t a good idea to respond to the junk e-mail.

 

A couple of tips:   Use one e-mail address for real correspondence and another e-mail address for online shopping, newsletter subscriptions, and other things you sign up for.     It would be wise to use the personal correspondence e-mail for secure things like banking as well.      Your real e-mail account should be one that you pay for or have a high degree of control over.   This could include one connected to your internet service or one that you pay for separately.  If you are looking to establish a new personal (or business) e-mail address that has some accountability associated with it, consider Google Apps ($5 a month / $50 per year) or PoBox.com @ $50 per year.

 

3.    I believe I’ve touched on this once before — but it bears repeating because at different times we are all shopping for something.    THERE IS NO MORE WHITE APPLE MAC BOOK LAPTOP FOR $999.  It’s been off the market for one year.  It came in a “standard” screen size of 13.3 inches and was not some cut rate starter model.  It was a great deal.    Apple phased that out and replaced it with the 11.6 inch Mac Book Air  for $999.       In my opinion, this is more of a toy than any thing else.  It might be a laptop for OCCASIONAL USE but not for getting work done on.   The screen is too small and without a laptop stand there will be some serious neck strain.    So you really have 2 choices for a standard sized Mac laptop — at 13.3 inches:

 

Mac Book Pro   13  – $1199 to $1499

Mac Book Air 13  –  same pricing

 

4.   Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit:     Apple scored a major victory against Samsung on Friday for patent infringement.    Interestingly enough Samsung’s tablets were judged not to have violated patents related to the iPad.     For those of you who are out of the loop on this — Samsung is the #1 seller of Android phones — an iPhone rival.     The lawsuit did not cover Samsung’s latest blockbuster phone – the Galaxy S III  which has sold over 10 million units since it was released in June.    Again for those of you who do not know — Android is the software on the phone and was designed by Google.    The software on an iPhone is called iOS.   Why didn’t Apple sue Google (yet) ?    Google actually provides the software to companies that make Android phones like Motorola, Samsung, and HTC — for FREE.  However, Google does profit from it in other ways.  If you have an older Samsung Android phone — Samsung may be pushing a software update out to you to ensure compliance with patent law.    Do I still think some people should consider an Android phone?   Yes.   Especially if you are connected with many Google services — you will probably like a GOOD Android phone better.   Keep in mind there are many bad Android phones on the market.   If you were the type that liked to tinker with a car in your younger days — you’ll like an Android.   If you want the best deal out of the box with no tinkering — you’ll prefer an iPhone.  If you want a phone with a physical keyboard — you’ll want an Android phone.

The Upcoming Windows 8

Just wanted to share this with you all about Windows 8 which will be released in late summer / sometime in the fall.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reflects on what Windows 8 will mean for the company and all of us.

http://www.bgr.com/2012/05/23/microsoft-windows-8-steve-ballmer/

I stand by previous advice on Windows 8 based on what you are using now…

Windows 7  — you do not need Windows 8 anytime soon, but can upgrade to it if there is a feature, application in it, or something that you can only do in Windows 8 that makes you want it.

Windows Vista — you are the ones who are really on the fence.  You’ve chugged along with error messages and stalls for a few years with Vista. However, you may want to get a few more years out of your computer.  Then Windows 8 seems like a worthy upgrade. On the flip side, your Vista machine is 3 to 5 years old already so you are possibly on the brink of considering a new computer anyway.  In that case, Windows 8 will come with your new computer that is ordered after it is released.

Windows XP —  time to bail, go Windows 8  or new computer with Windows 8 !