Most “Mac-like” Windows Laptops
I had this conversation with a client lately. We were trying to come up with Windows based alternatives to the Mac Book Air. While there may be others worth of mention, here is my list, in no particular order.
Microsoft Surface 2 Laptop (currently available at a bargain holiday price)
And if you want an alternative to the $2700 15 inch Mac Book Pro, check out the Dell XPS 15 ($1500-ish models are worthy alternatives).
Saving on Services
For a couple of years, I’ve told you that it is possible to save big on your home communications package (ie. with the cable company) if you know how to do it. If you just have one service with them or signed a new agreement 2 months ago — there is not much hope I can offer you at the moment. However, I have been at peace with my cable company (Comcast) since 2014 by making some sacrifices and making 2 year agreements. The package I have with Comcast is called Internet Pro Plus. I get a very fast Internet package, digital economy TV (which includes all local channels, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg, A+E, USA, History channel, Food Network, and others), plus HBO. My TV package does not include regional sports networks, ESPN or Fox Sports. Home phone does not matter in my household, although we do pay for that with a separate provider at $40 per year (WOW!!!). I do not pay a modem rental fee with Comcast. I have my own modem and router. With 3 TV’s, I pay a total, including taxes of $112.xx per month. If only 1 or 2 TV’s were involved, the price would be less. If your bill makes smoke come out of your ears, there may be something you can do about it.
I have a real client example of serious savings. I recently met with a client who was receiving TV, phone, and Internet from Cox (generally a fine company in my opinion). However, their bill almost made me fall over. It was about $323 a month. Unbelievable!! That’s a car payment. While my best success has always been negotiating with Comcast, I suggest we give it a try. I was able to get them savings of $36 per month. That comes out to about $432 per year. They were thrilled.
If you think I may be able to help you in this area, let me know about your current package.
Apple in the News
I just wanted to touch on this briefly because there has been a lot of negative financial news lately. Some of you have probably taken a hit ($$) with AAPL. Financial reports and consumer reality don’t always match. There is nothing substandard about Apple’s latest products. Their quality is among the best on the market. A certain segment of the population is upset because Apple is not going to report unit sales of iPhones anymore. It also seems like the starting prices of iPhones, iPad Pros, Mac Minis, Mac Book Airs, and even Mac Book Pros are going up. Sell less at higher prices and you still do as well on the bottom line may have been their thinking. Multiple reports have said that Apple has cut orders for the iPhone X product line. I saw one source that stated that iPhone 8 orders were being increased. Could there be a rebellion against removing the home button? A desire for a sub $600 premium phone (not $750 or $999)? Weakness in China and India? All of these could be true. However, my clients who have iPhone X models love them. They got used to the slightly different user experience in days or within one day. They certainly appreciate the camera. I’ll end on this note — If you stack the Mac Mini against a premium Windows desktop like the Dell XPS – it is priced appropriately for its features. The Mac Book Air 2018 is also a pound for pound match with its closest Windows contenders in the ring — the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
I saw some amazing deals on Black Friday at Best Buy on Thursday night. There were 50 inch Samsung and LG 4K HDR TVs for $327. 55 inch models were $397. These were not top of the line models, but when paired with a soundbar (a must for most new TVs), they represented an awesome value. Best Buy also had Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro 6 tablet computer with a keyboard for $799 or $999 depending on hard drive size. The popular Instant Pot 6 quart slow cooker extraordinaire was priced at $60-$70 by multiple outlets. Macy’s had Martha Stewart bedding priced at 65% off. Lord and Taylor offered some low cost but very stylish ladies handbags at 60% off. In some cases, but not always, orders could be placed online to avoid the retail experience. Now that Cyber Monday is upon us here are some deals of note:
Amazon Fire Stick (watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV) – $25
Amazon Echo Dot (small “Hey Alexa” speaker) 3rd generation + Ring Video Doorbell – $139
50 inch Westinghouse TV 4K with HDR – $199
Amazon Fire HD8 tablet – $50
(Items found on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com)
I am sure you can find many more great deals on these and other websites throughout the day on Monday.
Always Black Friday at Stub Hub
I had the joy of going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert this weekend. I have never been to a major rock or metal show in my life, although I have seen Jimmy Buffet on multiple occasions. All I can say is WOW! They left it all on the stage and performed for 2.5 hours. The best part of the experience was that I saved 2/3 off the regular price using StubHub.com. It is a very reputable site (and app) where ticket holders go to sell their unneeded tickets. I’ve used this service in the past with much success. The key to big savings is, have a desire to attend an event but also be OK with not going, be in close proximity, and make a decision at the last minute. We were less than 1 hour from the site of the show and we purchased our tickets with 2 hours to go. The regular price for two tickets would have been $180 and we paid $60.08, including fees.
A TV show that I enjoyed watching used to advertise new episodes by saying “ripped from the headlines.” For this update, I will start with — ripped from the customer files…
Your computer files can be so valuable. You may need documents for legal purposes. You may require samples of your work for future career endeavors or to get a deal completed. Important photos can help you create promotional materials for or commemorate an event. Your files are evidence — possibly of something exemplary or even wrongdoing.
My point here is that separations happen. Employment ends. You may be forced off of the board of your HOA or community organization. Business partners become entangled in disputes. Friendships and marriages terminate. Hard drives fail. Fires destroy homes.
Cloud based backup services like Carbonite or Backblaze, even iCloud, are useful tools. If you are running a computer with a desktop operating system like Windows or mac OS, and have important files on there, you should also have an external hard drive that backs up your entire system automatically. Services like Dropbox and One Drive that allow you to store and synchronize selected folders can also play a key role in your technology scheme. Today’s modern cloud based e-mail services can hold messages and attachments spanning many years worth of communications.
However, if this data really matters to you, you should think about manually making physical copies of certain items on a periodic basis. If your life, career, or project depends on it — protect yourself. iPhones and iPads can be plugged into a Mac or Windows computer and backed up locally to that machine through Apple’s free iTunes software. Love it or hate it, Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail program (Windows or Mac) can be used to back up all of your e-mail into a single file. Again, if it’s critical to you, a periodic archive may be a good idea. Who could forget floppy disks from 25 years ago? Today, we use flash disks (or thumb drives) to copy smaller batches of files and folders. These disks are cheap. It would not hurt to have a few on hand (or an additional external hard drive) to copy specific items when the situation arises. Here are Samsung 32 GB flash drives on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-BAR-Plus-32GB-Champagne/dp/B07BPHML28/ref=dp_ob_title_ce
Multiple copies never hurt. There are potential dangers with living our technological lives on autopilot.