Category: Consumers

Technology Update 11/12/18: Resisting Technology

1.  Although I covered the new Mac computers and iPad Pro at length in a blog post for my Apple clients on 11/1 (https://theacronym.com/2018/11/01/recap-of-apples-brooklyn-event/) I wanted to make everyone aware of these new models.   Apple has a new Mac Mini desktop that starts at $799, a Mac Book Air laptop that starts at $1199. If you’re frustrated with Windows and want to go Mac, these are your points of entry.  The iPad Pro is an interesting device.  It has as much or even more raw power than almost any personal computer out there.  It’s extremely portable.  Apple even sells a magnetic keyboard that makes it like a laptop.  With the keyboard, it will cost at least $1000.  For some it could become a primary computer.  For others, the iPad Pro may represent a strong secondary device.   If you can learn to play within its rules, it’s a much simpler device than a desktop Windows or Mac environment.  Don’t forget the regular iPad @ $329.  It is the best value in the Apple family.
2.  With all of this Apple excitement, I don’t want to leave out the Windows world.  New models are out as well.  If you want something like an iPad Pro, that still runs a full version of Windows  — look no further than the new Microsoft Surface 6.   With Windows systems, I will always go back to my clubhouse leaders.   For a premium product, you can’t go wrong with the Dell Latitude 5000/7000 laptop, Lenovo Thinkpad T480, or Thinkpad X1 Carbon.  These are systems built to last.  In terms of desktops, I am still a fan of the Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre systems.   Most of these computers are custom orders and not found in stores.  Occasionally, I do go on a shopping trip with a client at a big box store and last week there was such an occasion that arose.  I didn’t want to pull just anything off the shelf.  At about $500, this HP desktop met my standards.  It looks good on the desk and there was only one junk program that I had to remove.  It is a great option for the budget conscious.  https://www.bestbuy.com/site/hp-pavilion-desktop-intel-core-i3-8gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-128gb-solid-state-drive-hp-finish-in-natural-silver/6290502.p?skuId=6290502
3. Resisting Technology
I know that some of you are hesitant to embrace new technologies offered by the devices you own.  One that I don’t think you should avoid is Apple Pay (or for those of you with Android phones that support it, Android Pay).  Adding your credit or debit card to the Wallet on your iPhone costs you nothing and takes only about 5 minutes to set up for one card, if that.  Stores like Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Stop and Shop, Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s and thousands more will allow you to pay by tapping your phone.  Why should you do it?  If you would already pay with a card, using Apple Pay helps prevent identity theft.  The store never gets your 16 digit card number. It gets a very long, randomized string of numbers.  If a particular store suffers a massive breach, like Target or Home Depot did a few years back, you will be in the driver seat.  The super secure card number you used via Apple Pay cannot come back to zap you.  Your Apple Pay device generates a dynamic security code for each transaction. I use Apple Pay whenever I can.  Check out the Wallet app on your iPhone if you’ve never looked at it.
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Technology Update 10/03/18: An Absolute Liar

The world of technology is really disgusting at times, with its scams and trickery.  I’m here to help you make sense of it, to provide some I.T. therapy.  We have to fight back or at least mount a strong defense.
** Want to get one quick point out of the way:  No new consumer focused Macs have been announced yet.  I expect laptops and desktops, along with a new iPad Pro by the end of the month ***
Fake E-Mails and Calls – A Lesson for All
I made an emergency visit to a client earlier this week.  The report I got was that a SPAM email was opened and then calls started pouring in from “Microsoft.” Then the client claimed to have found the number for Microsoft and called them with a message and an expectation of a call back.  This really had my wheels turning.  The client used a Microsoft email account (Outlook.com, formerly known as Hotmail.com).  When I got there, I saw what had happened.  The email talked about an email upgrade in 2018.  To be fair, sometimes Microsoft or other email providers do upgrade their services and let users know the details.  However, the e-mail was sloppily composed.  It was as if an elementary student decided to try out size 48 font.   Furthermore, the sender’s address was @outlook.com.  An official e-mail from Microsoft would never look like this.   It seemed like the mere opening of the e-mail triggered the sender to make a phone call to my client.  The sender did not work for Microsoft.  They are an absolute liar!   Then my client searched through the MSN.com website for a Microsoft phone number, using the Bing search engine. Stuff like this wants to make me pull my fingernails out.   They were asked to log into a Microsoft partner website on a Microsoft.com website address, then receive a call back.  Calls were made to and from a phone number with a 425 area code.  It’s very convenient that that area code pertains to the part of the country where Microsoft is headquartered.  When I arrived, the client was waiting on a call back from the 425 number.   I investigated the phone number and the advice I gathered said to avoid it and do not take the calls.   Therefore, the second call after the initial scam call was very suspicious. Another liar?  It doesn’t even matter at this point. With the right software, bad actors can pretend to use legitimate numbers.
Due to the fact that my client used a Microsoft e-mail account and they logged into Windows 10 with this account (the default option these days), and was logged into the Edge browser with it as well, I immediately had them change the password to the account.  I also ran a malware scan on the computer and found no infections.  The client is already using one of my strategies to defeat scam calls — a cheap answering machine with an external speaker.  Taking it to the next level, a call blocker can be used as well.  This model gets outstanding reviews on Amazon and blocks up to 2000 numbers. https://amzn.to/2OyFwzG   An upgraded model that blocks 5000 numbers costs a few $$ more.
 
In less than one hour, I helped to restore sanity to a troubling situation.  Had a different career path worked out for me, I would have become a psychotherapist.  Right now, I’m just happy to be your technology therapist.  🙂
Bottom line:  Microsoft, Google or Apple are not going to call you.  In some cases, these companies will call you after a case has already been opened.  With the exception of Apple, which makes their support number public, do not go Googling numbers for Microsoft and Google.  I have seen this end in pain too many times.  Also — leave SPAM e-mails alone unless you are sure it was mistakenly placed there.
Musical pick of the week:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnVUKES-mDE

 

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.

E-mail authenticity

Was that e-mail really from you?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously.
I guess I could start by saying that my business e-mail account has never been hacked.  With that said, this fact would not stop a bad actor from an account pretending to be me.  With the right e-mail program you can make the “From” address anything you want.  However, they would need my address book.  I send all of my group e-mail out as BCC (which means that you don’t see all of the recipients).  That address book is stored in the cloud in an account protected by two factor authentication (something you should have enabled on your iCloud, Google, and Microsoft accounts used with e-mail / contacts).  Further enhancing security, my second factor is not my phone number, meaning I authenticate by something more secure than a text message.  My contacts are locally stored on 3 devices – a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet.  All three of those are locked with encryption.  Considering all of this, it would be pretty hard for a bad actor to send an e-mail to all of my clients.   I should also add that I almost always use one of three salutations in my e-mail updates:   Dear Clients and Computer Students (for all clients), Dear Mac Family, and Dear Windows Clients, depending on the group I am addressing.  Great question!  Thanks for asking.

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.)

Technology Update 8/21/18

Windows – Version 1809
Microsoft is in the process of finalizing yet ANOTHER version of Windows called Windows 10 1809.  This is the second new version of Windows to come across our desks this year. (Enough is enough right?) Some of you haven’t even received the previous version yet, 1803.  If you set the 120 day delay, as I instructed before, 1803 should get pushed out to you soon.  By keeping that delay in place, you will get version 1809 sometime in late 2018 / early 2019.   I think Microsoft is learning something from these upgrades.  Don’t worry, even if you are still on 1803 (or the previous 1709 for the time being), you will continue to get routine monthly security updates.    (Note:  I’m trying to delineate the language I use with you.  I’m using the word “update” to refer to minor patches or fixes and “upgrade” to refer to new versions.)
New Macs for Us
I’ve deciphered yesterday’s news from Bloomberg and the corresponding commentary.  It looks like some consumer focused Macs are coming our way soon.  By soon, I mean between any day now and October.   First I want to share that a new Mac Mini should be available in the near future.  It’s about time.  Apple hasn’t released a new Mini since October 2014.  The Mac Mini was the gateway into the Mac family.  It was sold as a small desktop computer only, about the size of a cigar box.  Customers could then plug in any keyboard, mouse, and monitor they wish.  An overpriced monitor from the Apple store was not required.  A $150 monitor from Amazon or a big box store was perfect companion.  It’s great to read that the legacy of the Mac Mini is continuing.  I doubt that the pricing will be as low as the previous generation ($499 to start), but even in the $700-999 range it will be aimed squarely at the typical client that I serve.  More importantly, it seems that Apple is going to keep the Mac Book Air line going.  I honestly think that the Air (which hasn’t changed in design since 2010) is the greatest laptop of the past 10 years (with the Lenovo Thinkpad T being a close second).  According to Bloomberg, it will continue to be 13 inches and will sport slimmer bezels.  It should be a big hit for Apple.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts at $999.  I think it would be a very appropriate choice for my clients.  I will provide more information down the road.
Managing Photos – iPhone and Windows
(Hope this doesn’t read like one of those “Chose Your Adventure” books.)   I have a good number of clients who are Apple all the way.  If that is you, you probably allow the iPhone to automatically upload your photos to iCloud.  Then you manage your photos in the Photos app on the Mac (while certainly using the iPhone or iPad for smaller management tasks).  A few may still choose to do things the long way, connecting your iPhone (or camera) with a cable to your Mac and then importing them into Photos or the photo manager of your choice.  The same can be done in Windows, into the photo manager of your choice as Photos is a Mac only app.  Windows and Mac users may also choose to back up their photos in duplicate to Google Photos or Amazon’s Prime Photos.   Both of these options are automatic and free with the proper apps installed.  Having an additional copy of those previous memories is never a bad idea.   However, you may wonder — what is the easiest way to manage and share my photos if I am an iPhone and Windows user?
Naturally, you could do some of this from the iPhone itself.  However, you will inevitably want to do some management tasks on the computer.  If you are backing up those photos to iCloud  Photo Library (the default option), you can best access those images at iCloud.com in your browser.  That should be your go to interface.   Of course, everyone’s use case is different.  Not all of my clients use iCloud Photo Library and I am flexible enough to support clients with varying “what works best” scenarios.
Happy computing!!