Category: Computers

Tech Update 7/17/18

Switchers

Since I support both platforms, Mac and Windows, I have regularly dealt with clients who switched between the two over the years.  Users make the jump from Windows to Mac or the other way around for various reasons:  cost, desire to run a specific application, or even frustration with a particular brand.   I think I speak for a lot of us by saying we do most of our “work” in the browser (be it Safari, Chrome, or Firefox).  Unlike a decade ago, the Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Office are very much on par today.   Therefore, if the browser and Microsoft Office were the only two things that mattered, you could use either a Mac or Windows PC.  Well, our lives are a little bit more complicated than that.  The greatest impediments to switching, even when you really want to, are PLATFORM SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS.   The proprietary app that comes to mind is Apple Photos (formerly known as iPhoto, pre-2015).  No Windows version exists.  If you have just a bunch of loose, unorganized photos on a Mac — switching to Windows is not a big deal.  However, if those photos were organized into dozens of albums in the Photos application, switching becomes a real mess.  A Mac user probably has an iPhone or an iPad (or both).  Their photos are likely backed up to iCloud Photo Library.  The good news is that those photos can be managed on the iCloud.com, web version of Photos from a Windows PC or in the Photos iOS app.  If it’s just a matter of organizing and sharing them, this is possible for a Mac to Windows switcher.  Truth be told, when there are thousands or tens of thousands of photos in Photos  and you have divided them into MULTIPLE PHOTOS LIBRARIES — there is no turning back.  You really have to stay with the Mac.  Hard core Windows users run into the same dilemma.  You may have have a Windows-only program that you can’t live with out, but you really want to use Mac hardware.  There is a simple answer.  For the past decade plus, Mac owners have been able to run Windows on their systems.  Windows can be run separately or inside the mac OS.  I serve the flexible and the die hards.

New Mac Laptops

I have shared in the past about the tragedy of the 2016-17 Mac Book Pro laptops.  I have gone into even greater lengths about the problems, specifically the keyboards, with my Mac clients.  Just to recap, there are lawsuits and official Apple Repair Program in place.  Well, well.  That’s changed last Thursday.  Apple came out with new 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pro models.  The keyboard is not totally different, but is improved.  For specific details on the 2018 keyboards, see this.  https://www.macrumors.com/2018/07/13/ifixit-butterfly-keyboard-silicone-barrier/  Given this fix and that the processors are a big leap forward, I am giving the greenlight on the 2018 MacBook Pros.   The new models start at $1799 and I think that one (13 inch) in particular would be plenty of computing power for the kind of client that I serve.  The question I have is — what will become of the lower priced Mac Book Pros?  If you go to Apple.com, you will see that the 13 inch Pro actually starts at $1299.  However, the $1299 and $1499 models were not updated last week.   Is Apple just going to sell of the remaining stock and not revamp these models?  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t touch them in their 2017 configurations.  The word on the street is that Apple should be coming out with a new consumer focused laptop, perhaps even at a $999 price point, in the fall.  Fingers crossed.  I think that such a Mac would also be very appealing to my clients.  Keep in mind that the two current “consumer” models, the Mac Book Air and Mac Book are priced at $999 and $1299 respectively. 

Update on Windows 10 – 1803

I thoroughly researched the latest version of Windows 10 – version 1803 — that began rolling out to users worldwide on April 30th.  There were a small but significant number of problems.  I relayed the horror story that one of my clients had to go through with this upgrade.  Sadly, she found out after the fact that her PC was not compatible.  However, Microsoft has had time to make this right.   There have been three months of regular, 2nd Tuesday, Windows updates since 4/30 and even some additional updates to button things up.  Microsoft said recently — version 1803 is Ready for Business.  OK then. I decided to put them to the test.  I upgraded my Dell Latitude laptop on Monday.  No hiccups.  It runs like it always has.  Some of you have put the 120 delay on the “feature updates” (new versions of Windows).  You can leave it in place.  This new version will likely get pushed out to you in early September.

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Windows Update: Warnings and Advice

Dear Windows Clients:

I decided to keep this message to my Windows users only, after all why would those with the fruit-flavored computers care about this anyway?

Recap:  Windows 10 – 1803:  How to delay and who can delay

I have been sharing a lot of advice lately about Windows 10 – version 1803.  It is literally the 6th new version of Windows to come out since the original Windows 10 in late July 2015.  Each one, while called Windows 10, has been a new version of Windows thrown at your computer. I think it’s excessive that they want to push 2 versions of Windows 10 per year. It was true last year and it will be the reality for 2018 as well.   In a previous post, I detailed how to delay your “Windows feature updates” (aka new versions of Windows) by 120 days while still letting the security updates come as scheduled.  The post with instructions can be found here.  https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ On every Windows computer that I’ve touched over the past few months, where possible, I’ve implemented the 120 day delay.  Others have followed my lead and set up the delay themselves.

You can only delay new versions if you have the Pro version of Windows 10.  I’ve chosen this for you if I’ve ordered your computer or deliberately flipped the switch to Pro for you.  If you purchased your Windows computer on your own, there is a very high likelihood that you have the Home version of Windows 10. You are forced to take new versions of Windows at Microsoft’s whim.  As you will read below, that can be very dangerous.

A computer rendered useless by 1803

So far I’ve interacted with a couple clients’ computers who have successfully upgraded to 1803.  These systems all happened to be Dell desktops, 2 consumer grade and 1 business class, and ranged from about 4 to 8 years old.  I personally upgraded 2 of them to 1803 and on the 3rd one, I did some maintenance after the fact.  They are fine.  However, I got a very troubling report from a client last week.  Windows 10 1803 made her computer basically inoperable.  The screen was very dark and there was no way of making it brighter.  It definitely seemed like this supposedly ready for primetime version of Windows was not interacting properly with the video display hardware on her computer.  No major changes had been made to the system other than the new version of Windows, which was forced on Windows 10 Home, with no way of delaying it.  I suggested contacting Microsoft as they should take some responsibility for the damage that their mandatory software caused. 

Here is the rather interesting verdict.  The computer, although purchased in 2012 (Dell, consumer laptop), is obsolete. For all I know, it could have been a 2011 laptop that was sold in 2012, but I don’t know for sure.  However, it’s important to realize that each version of Windows 10 is truly a new version, just as if they called it Windows 10, 11, 12, 13, etc.  Each time Microsoft churned out a new iteration they had to decide which hardware they would support (just like Apple does with new versions of mac OS).  Having worked on this computer before I know that I did not have one of the mainstream Intel Core (like Core i3, i5, i7) processors that were common back from approximately 2010 through today.  It featured an Intel chipset that either didn’t sell in great volume or was simply deemed not powerful enough by Microsoft to run Windows 10 1803 effectively.  Fortunately, the Microsoft employee was able to do some special programming and revert the laptop to Windows 1709 (a feature built into Windows) and block all future updates.  I don’t know if security updates are also blocked, but the good thing is that it buys the client a little more time with the computer.

Shame on Microsoft for letting the situation go this far!   When Windows decides to check for new updates (including new versions), they have the power to do a basic hardware scan of the system. They know what Intel chipset (or AMD) is installed inside.  If a particular version of Windows 10 won’t run properly, it should never be pushed out to those particular computers.  Apple certainly does this with their software. Where is the quality control here Microsoft?

Buying advice

With all of this expressed, I recently installed 1803 on my wife’s 10 year old business class Dell Optiplex desktop.  The latest version of Windows 10 runs very well. The Optiplex 330 line from that era was purchased in millions of units by governments and large corporations.  Microsoft knows this and was not about to render it obsolete.   I want to give some general advice here that you can’t go wrong with. Let me order your next Windows 10 computer for you.  If we don’t do it as part of an appointment, I can do it for you over the phone and set it up when it arrives.  I don’t charge more for this service and I don’t make a commission off of the computer. The kind of Windows computers that I order are typically business class systems from the likes of Lenovo, Dell or HP. They are not found in big box stores or on Amazon.  Intel’s CPU’s are currently on the 8th generation of core processors.  An 8th or 7th generation, Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, with at least 8 GB of RAM, and Windows 10 Pro will stand the test of time.  While I can’t promise 10 years, I think you will be happy with its lifespan.  These should be your purchasing parameters.

Delaying 1803 further

Wherever possible, I have delayed or had you delay your Windows 10 – 1803 upgrade by 120 days.  The maximum delay you can impose is 365 days. You will still get security updates because you have left that delay at 0. If you do nothing further, you will probably get 1803 pushed out to your computer sometime in September in Windows 10 Pro.  Following the instructions at https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ I have no problem with you upping the delay to 365 days IF IF IF…. you have an image backup of your system.   If your computer crashes in the next year, you will want to restore to the version of Windows you had and not be forced into Windows 10 1803. An image backup will allow you to do that.   On many of your computers, I have installed my preferred imaging program Macrium Reflect (not a Mac program).  If you know your computer is backing up to an external drive via Macrium Reflect – then go ahead and delay the new version to the max of 365 days. 

If you are not sure if you have an image backup or if you even have Windows 10 Pro, please feel free to ask questions.  Let’s keep our Windows computers running smoothly without forced mandates and outside interference.

When Technology Fails Us

Welcome this installment of my weekly update.   This update is not a tutorial or an introduction to some cool piece of technology that can benefit us.  I want to give you a reminder that the world of tech can be a scary place and that I’m honored to be your navigator in it.   It’s got to get better than this for us.

A.  Windows — The latest version of Windows, Windows 10 version 1803 began rolling out to computers on April 30th.  It’s been a disaster.  I did not know this in advance, but I had the wisdom of telling you to leave well enough alone.  On every computer I have touched over the past few months (when possible), I have set the “feature update” (aka new version of Windows) delay to 120 days.  I say, when possible, because if you have a Windows machine purchased from a big box store there is no option to delay new versions.  PSA: Please let me order your Windows computers for you; I’ll make sure you get the Pro version of Windows.  Just today, Microsoft began blocking the upgrade from installing on certain computers with Intel hard drives.   Can it get any worse?   If it does get worse, I will tell you to change that delay from 120 to 365 days.  There is nothing wrong with staying on the previous version of Windows, version 1709.  It works!

B. Mac — I have shared with you that an iPad Pro may be a viable computing solution for some users.  I have expressed my firm belief in the iMac as one of the best desktops on the market.   Unfortunately, I’ve  also had to discuss the misery of late model Mac Book and Mac Book Pro laptops and their awful keyboards.   Longtime Mac users and pundits alike have panned the keyboards on the Mac Books (since 2015) and Mac Book Pros (since 2016).  It’s an awful experience.  The Mac has plenty to be proud of on the software side, so this is the opposite of Microsoft.   There is a Mac hardware problem!   A few weeks ago an online petition launched demanding a solution to the laptop keyboard problem.  Thousands signed their names.  This week, the Mac faithful are really getting on their soapboxes.  A class action lawsuit has been filed.  The bottom line is — if you need a Mac laptop soon, buy the 2017 Mac Book Air.  It still has a real keyboard and it will be a solid performer for you.

C. Cellular — Finally, this is one problem that I don’t have a solution for (yet).   I read a lot of tech news, guides, and try things out to break them down to make sense for you.  This one just makes me want to take an oatmeal bath.   I will keep this brief and let you read the articles.  There is a private company out there — Securus – that has the ability to track our location down via our cell phones.  Securus is fed customer information by most cellular service providers.  I am not criticizing legitimate surveillance obtained via a warrant. However, this technology has been misused to spy on people who are enemies of authority figures.  In my analysis, only one of the four major cellular providers gave an acceptable answer as to their relationship with Securus (Sprint).  Please read for yourself. 

Links

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/technology/cellphone-tracking-law-enforcement.html

https://www.zdnet.com/article/us-cell-carriers-selling-access-to-real-time-location-data/

Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet

I was recently asked by a willing buyer, should I get a desktop, laptop, or tablet?

It certainly depends on the user’s habits and preferences.   I think a desktop is wise choice for someone who doesn’t mind doing their work in one place all the time and prefers using a larger screen.   The typical desktop monitor is 22 to 24 inches these days.  The standard high resolution (meaning everything is smaller) can be magnified or scaled up to give you a very comfortable viewing experience. 

Laptops are appropriate for users who want the flexibility to move around a lot (or at least once in a while) and don’t mind a smaller screen.  Some laptops can even be purchased with 17 inch screens, in the Windows world, so there may not even be that much of a compromise.  There is a wide spectrum of quality in the laptop game.  You could pay anywhere from $400 to $2500 for a laptop that works for you.  It simply depends on the purpose and features required.  As a final note on laptops, I will mention that I have had great experiences buying high quality, business class laptops for clients through the Dell and Lenovo outlets over the years.

Tablets (or even Chromebooks) are becoming a more popular choice for a consumer’s computer.  I set up a new iPad for a client over the weekend who will be using her iPad Pro as her primary personal computer.  I worked with a client today who only uses a Chromebook.   With an iPad or Chromebook, you can e-mail, compose documents, share files, edit photos, print (with a compatible printer), shop, do online banking, save files, and organize those files into folders.  Your device will be very SAFE compared to a Windows or Mac system.  However, you may not be able to run your favorite application for X (whatever X is for you).  For example, I like to use a program called The Journal in Windows to write personal journal entries.  I would not be able to use this program on an iPad or a Chromebook.   The greatest benefit to either of these devices is that you can KISS – keep it simple stupid.   As long as you can play within the sandbox, an iPad or Chromebook might just be your future computer.

Technology Services I Like–February 2018

1.  I found an electrical wizard for you.   I want to tell you about Ryan Eriksson from Eriksson Electric.  He knows his stuff.  Ryan can make sound recommendations but he also believes in respecting the customer’s comfort level.  He has a mind for saving on costs when possible. He believes in embracing modern technologies.  Ryan replaced three ceiling light fixtures in my home over the past few days.   He recommended LED-based fixtures that not only looked great, but are environmentally and budget friendly.   Ryan will let his customers buy their own equipment at Home Depot if they choose.  He even accompanied me on a trip to Home Depot on Friday and did not charge me for the time.   I cannot say enough good things about him.   You can call or text him at 860-236-4352.  You can check out Eriksson on the web at http://erikssonelectric.com/

2. Dropbox — is probably my #1 favorite computer based service of all time.  I have been a user since 2008.  At times I have used the free account and at times I have been a paid customer.   Dropbox gives you 2 GB of storage for free. Through various “bonuses” I have accumulated from them over the years, I have a 7 GB of storage on my free account.  After a quick installation, Dropbox will show up as a folder on your Windows or Mac computer.  Within it you can put multiple sub folders to store your files.   The beauty of Dropbox is that it isn’t really a backup service although you can use it to back up your files.   Dropbox is a file synchronization service.   That means if you put a document titled “Vacation Plans” in your Dropbox folder on your Mac / PC, you can also view that document on your iPhone, Android phone, or iPad where you have the free Dropbox app installed.  You can also easily share files from Dropbox.  Dropbox has never let me down.  Get started at https://www.dropbox.com/

3.  One Drive — Dropbox is not the only game in town for online file storage and synchronization.  One Drive is Microsoft’s answer.   It can work on all of the device types that Dropbox works on (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android).  One Drive does have a key advantage.  At https://onedrive.com you can see your files that you have save, but you can also create and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents right there in your web browser.  The online version of Microsoft Office is about 70% as feature rich as the desktop version of Office, but its so convenient.  It probably good enough for most consumer use cases.  And its free.  Maybe you don’t need to buy Office the next time you are required to.  You may be able to get by with https://onedrive.com .

4.  Google Drive — I should also mention Google Drive which is most comparable to One Drive.  If you have a Google / Gmail account, you should check out Google Drive.  It is an online storage and sync service, but that’s not all.  You can also create and share documents using Docs (Word equivalent), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint).  As with One Drive, you can also collaborate on documents live with other people.   If you and I were working on a proposal together, we could both edit using Google Drive.  Google Drive was first to the game with this collaboration technology, but Microsoft is catching up fast.  Put on your jacket and Drive at https://drive.google.com

Technology Update 12/12/17

As the year draws to a close, I start thinking about best and worst experiences with technology.

Laptop Mag is a website that puts out in depth reviews of laptops all year.  Just this week, they published an article on the best laptop keyboards of 2017.  Some of you need to type a lot of documents or emails on your laptop.  You may not use your laptop so much for media consumption, but see it as a productivity device.  For you the keyboard is going to be very important.   Laptop Mag did not try all of the laptops on the market, but they have seen enough of them to make some serious recommendations at various price points should the keyboard be a deciding factor.  It’s no surprise that Lenovo’s Thinkpad T series comes in at #1.  The Thinkpad line is put out by IBM’s former business computer division which is based in North Carolina.  Their keyboards are a typist’s dream.    A $299 Chromebook also makes the list.   While Dell’s business class Latitude 5000 and 7000 series laptops are not included, I would definitely move them to the front row of the class.   Interestingly enough, Apple’s 2017 Mac Book Pros are not on here.  Apple did make minor improvements to the keyboards this year compared to their pitiful 2016 cousins, but they cannot compare to the typing experience of the 2009 – 2015 Mac Book Pros or even the Mac Book Air — which is still being sold.  Check out the article for yourself for the complete survey. https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/best-laptop-keyboards

It is going to be a “worst experience” for you if your computer crashes and you don’t have a proper backup of your data.  In addition to online backup and sync services that you may use, an external hard drive is an essential component of your backup scheme.  How usable is your data if your backup drive is no good?   Therefore, if your drive is more than 3 years old, you need to buy a new one.  While there are other brands I can recommend, you really can’t go wrong with a WD My Passport.  They are easy to buy and priced right.   A 1 or 2 TB model should serve most of your needs.  Here are the Amazon links for easy purchasing. 

Windows formatted:  http://amzn.to/2z5BCGb

Mac formatted:   http://amzn.to/2yk9Xh6

Storm alert–unplugging things and power cycling

With some bad thunder and lightning sweeping the northeast tonight, I just want to make sure that you are taking proper precautions.   I have no problem if you just want to unplug your expensive electronic devices for a while.   However, if you are going to leave them plugged in, please use good surge protector.   These surge protectors are rated in joules.  That measures the force they can withstand in the event of a surge. 

I really like the Tripp Lite surge protectors.  You can see this 8 outlet model on my Amazon Store.  4 and 6 outlet models are available. 

http://astore.amazon.com/vicoca0a-20/detail/B0000511U7

This is also a good one made by APC.

http://astore.amazon.com/vicoca0a-20/detail/B0012YLTR6

Both of those are rated for over 3000 joules. 

Your internet may go off intermittently on nights like tonight or you just may want to take it offline.  When plugging your internet and router back in,

1)  plug the power to your modem back in first and wait about 5 minutes

2)  then plug the router back in and wait about 5 minutes

If your devices cannot use the internet after that, your internet is still likely down.

Keep in mind that devices get zapped all of the time.   You may want to talk to your electrician about “whole house surge protection.”  I have been told that this is a solution in the hundreds, not thousands, and it really works.