Category: Computers

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

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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. 

How to turn on your Flash Player

The Adobe Flash player has been a frequent topic of my client updates for you over the years.
I have covered…
– What it is:  It is a multimedia content player for Windows and Mac.  It is still the video format of choice for many major news and TV sites.  Flash is required to play live or On Demand video from Comcast on your computer.
– Why it needs to be updated:  Malware can infect out of date versions of Flash Player.
– Flash baked in:  For years Google’s Chrome browser has included the ability to play Flash content without having Adobe Flash Player installed separately.  Though few of you probably use it, Microsoft’s new Edge browser in Windows 10 mimics Chrome in this manner.
– The shift to automatic updates: Flash Player for Mac and Windows will update on your systems automatically.   These updates rarely fail.  However, you need to be careful of….
-Fake Flash Player updates:  Never respond to a prompt on your screen asking you to update Flash Player.  This is likely malware.   Should you use the Safari browser or Firefox and need to install Flash or manually update it, the only website you should be going to https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ . Accept no substitutes! Keep in mind that Chrome and Edge keep Flash updated automatically.

– Moving beyond Flash:  The industry is moving beyond the Flash Player.  Even Adobe admits that they have lost the market.  HTML 5 is the preferred player these days and does not require separate software to be installed on our computers. Netflix now uses HTML5 on the computer.  HTML 5 is the standard playback format for iOS and Android devices.
All of those topics are old news for most of us. Should you need a review, I would be happy to speak to you via e-mail or phone.

What’s new:  As the PC (Mac and Windows) is moving further away from the Flash Player, your browsers will now have an “opt-in” policy for playing Flash content.  That means if you go to a video or game site and you want to use Flash, you will have to deliberately turn it on.  Apple and Google are claiming they know what’s best for you by trying to protect you from rogue Flash content.  Should you come across legitimate Flash content that appears to be blocked, you need to know how to turn on Flash in your browser.

For Chrome:  https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/enabling-flash-player-chrome.html

For Safari:  https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/enabling-flash-player-safari.html#safari

For Firefox:  https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/enabling-flash-player-firefox.html

Some of you may have no need to play Flash at all, so if that is you, there is no need to take action at this time. Save this as a resource and cross the bridge when you come to it.

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

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