Category: Computers

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.
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Technology Update 9/4/18

New iPhones For Real – VIP Service
Apple’s iPhone event will be held on Sept 12th.  I believe pre-orders will start that Friday and shipments will commence a week later.  I mentioned the three sizes of the new phones in my last update — think small, medium and LARGE — with the medium being the least expensive.  I expect pricing to be somewhere along the lines of $700, $900, and $1100.  If its been many years since you’ve purchased an iPhone, you could buy the phone outright but what I think 90% of customers do is take advantage of the interest free financing with your cell phone carrier or Apple.  Take the phone price, divide by 24, and that’s your monthly cost.   I will offer my iPhone Ordering Service to you once again.  If you are going to have me set up your iPhone, I will order it for you over the phone at no extra charge.   I look forward to helping you get your new device.
 
Upgrading Computers
One of the nice things about 2012 (and earlier) Mac Book Pros and MOST Windows computers is that the hardware can be upgraded.  The hard drive can be replaced to give you more and faster storage.  Memory (RAM) can often be increased to allow smoother moment to moment operations.  Sold state hard drives (SSDs) are cheaper than ever before.  Contact me to find out if its possible / worth it to perform an upgrade to your existing machine and what the costs would be.  I will take great care to back up your data and then give you a “clean install” of the Mac / Windows operating system.  If you’ve had your computer for at least three years and want to keep it going, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.
Remote Support
I want to make clients, especially those new to the VIP family, aware that I offer remote support for simple Windows and Mac issues that may not require in in-person visit.  With Windows 10, I make use of the built in Quick Assist application.  With Mac users, I utilize Skype.  Do not worry, I’m not interested in seeing your beautiful face after you had a night of poor sleep.  I strictly use the screen sharing Skype feature.  For remote appointments, I bill in half hour increments. I will ask you to pay at the end of the session by directing you to my payment page or taking a credit /debit card from you over the phone.    Other remote services I have offered for clients in the past include comprehensive research and answering of questions in report style format, constructing / editing simple websites and social media profiles, and document / image conversion.

Technology Update 8/28/18

Start With a Tip
Some clients tell me, I love your updates but I only understand 1/3 of it.  One client told me recently, I just realized I have a Mac.  It’s the teacher training within me that seeks to set a high bar.  Transformations may not be instant, but it is my goal to raise your technological competence over time.  Have you ever heard your plumber, electrician, or carpenter say that to you?  That’s why I’m special and I value our special relationship. 
—-> Copy and paste text — the need comes up all the time — from one e-mail to another, from an e-mail to a Word document, from one Word document to another, or how about from a web page to an email or word document.  The sequence is very simple.   Windows:  Highlight text with mouse >> Ctrl C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Ctrl V.   Mac: Highlight text with mouse >> Command C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Command V.   ** Caveat:  Copying text from a web page to another application can present problems. Web based text is often heavily formatted. I have always told clients who are doing this to keep their computer’s “text editor” open to use it as a conduit.   In Windows, the built in text editor is called Notepad (part of Windows since 1985); on the Mac it’s called Text Edit.  In this workflow, you would copy the text from the website, paste it in the text editor (remove the formatting if necessary) and then copy and paste it into its destination.  Getting familiar with your system’s text editor has other benefits as well.  You may not always need to open up the large and often slow Microsoft Word.  Notepad and Text Edit handle light word processing tasks just fine.
Catalog Those Files
Occasionally, I come across a situation where a client has all of their files stored on multiple hard drives, with folders located here, there, and everywhere.  It may be a good thing to have these files spread out, but please remember to have backups of originals (ideally using multiple methods).  However, there may be times when you want to consolidate.  You may be wondering, what is where?  So that no data is lost, you really need to establish a catalog for your files.  These are not backup applications; they are solely Windows and Mac utilities for making a master catalog.  They are under $40 each.  For Windows — it’s simply Win Catalog https://www.wincatalog.com/.     For Mac — Neo Finder http://www.cdfinder.de/.   Avoid data loss!
The New iPhones Are Really Coming – September of My Years
The cat is slowly jumping out of the bag.  Apple is going to have an iPhone event in mid-September.  Like clockwork, pre-orders will start a few days later.  The new phones will begin shipping about a week after that.  So I want you to look at your current iPhone, diagonally please. You may want to get out a ruler or a tape measure.  The screen sizes of the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, and 8 are 4.7 inches.  The iPhone 6 Plus, 6s +, 7+, and 8+ are 5.5 inches.  If you have an iPhone X, you measure in at 5.8 inches.  (If you are on the iPhone SE, 4.0 inches, I doubt Apple is updating this form factor but keep enjoying the phone by all means.)  The 2018 models will all have the visual aesthetics of the iPhone X, meaning the screen will push to the edges of the phone. There will be no home button (you swipe up from the middle, bottom to get the home button functionality).  The model names are not set in stone.  There will be a “new iPhone X” measuring 5.8 inches.  This is not that much larger than the iPhone 6 – 8.  This will be the middle priced model.  There will also be a “6.1 inch iPhone.” This will be the least expensive model.  The size will be similar overall to the iPhone 6 Plus – 8 Plus.  For those who want a “large and in charge” phone, there will also be an “iPhone X Plus” coming in at 6.5 inches.  That’s almost like a small tablet if you ask me and it will be the most expensive.  Keeping these design changes in mind, you may want to pick up one of the current 8 or 8 Plus models if you want the traditional home button and do not want to take the minimal amount of time required to learn the new functions.  With that in mind, Apple is going all in with the iPhone X design motif for all.
(Sent while listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela – Look them up on the music app of your choice. Great stuff.)

The Joy of Mice

I’ll briefly touch on Apple vs. Google for a moment.  At times we only see the world and the world of technology from our American perspective.  In the U.S., Apple makes itself out to be the fearless defender of our privacy.   The iPhone is totally encrypted.  iMessages are encrypted.  (iCloud backups?  Another topic for another time.)  Apple stood behind its principles of privacy so strongly that they would not unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters.  We view Google on the other hand with some skepticism.  Search for free.  Gmail for free.  Can it really be free?  How much of my data are they harvesting in exchange for free services? Putting on my international thinking cap, until yesterday, I had a different take.  Apple recently started putting iCloud data from Chinese customers on servers in China, per a request from the Chinese government.  Apple will take apps out of the App Store that offend Beijing.  Google on the other hand did not give in.  They did not bend to censorship.  Until now.  This article https://theintercept.com/2018/08/01/google-china-search-engine-censorship/  claims that Google is developing a search engine with China’s blessing that filters out terms such as human rights or Tienanmen Square 1989, for example.   The ethics of technology…… food for thought!
The Joy of Mice
Desktop users have no choice, but I frequently recommend that my laptop toting clients use a mouse as well.  Laptop trackpads can be inconsistent.  MacBooks are generally the best in that regard and while Windows laptops have come a long way, they are still in second place.  I realized this week that using a good mouse with a laptop can restore a sense of confidence while operating a portable computer.  I literally dusted off my Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic mouse (circa 2014) and began using it.  It restored a sense of joy in computing.  How is your mouse?  Do you need a new one?  Do you want to make your laptop or desktop experience better?  Do you want to go laptop but fear the trackpad?  Here are some mice to consider with Amazon links.
Classic Intellimouse – This is Microsoft’s classic wired mouse that was recently re-released as a new product.  It is WIRED and is Mac and Windows compatible.  It has a hand friendly curved shape.   On sale now.  https://amzn.to/2O4PkgT
Sculpt Ergonomic — This is a wireless Microsoft mouse.  It could work on either Mac or Windows, but is more geared toward desktop use.  It is a large mouse and seems to fit my hand so well.    I have been told by friends this week, “I want that mouse.”  https://amzn.to/2vbC96S
Vertical — This is a newer design that makes you grip the mouse in the “handshake position.”   Proponents of the concept claim it significantly reduces hand strain.  The best of the bunch seems to be made by Anker.  Mac and Windows compatible. It’s priced to sell.  https://amzn.to/2LKkgX2
Trackball — They say once you go trackball, you never go back.  I have met people who swear by them.  The mouse does not move around on your desk.  You roll the ball to move the cursor and then click on the buttons to make your selection.  Check out the Kensington Expert (Mac + Windows, wired or wireless) https://amzn.to/2vc1bTv  or the Logitech M570 (Mac + Windows, wireless) https://amzn.to/2v9qaqG

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.

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/