Category: Consumers

The Value Of Anti Virus and Defensive Computing Strategies

(A couple of definitions before we start. I have talked about VPN’s before, with the VPN being a piece of software that runs on your computer (or computing device) that runs your internet traffic through a private tunnel. This can be done for privacy, security or both. DNS is the “phone book” through which you look things up on the internet (domain name system). By default you use the DNS of your internet service provider. If you own your own router, you can set a custom DNS (free option) that blocks most malware.)

The best anti virus is a strategy built around defensive computing practices defensive computing practices

– If I could only choose 2 of the following 3:  (#1) VPN that has a malware block option, (#2) using Quad 9 or similar as the alternate DNS in my router (which blocks about 99 % of known malware domains) for those situations when I don’t have my VPN on or I have browser bypassing my VPN, or (#3) traditional anti virus software…..

…. I would choose the first 2. 

however since it seems like many clients want to have the additional protection of antivirus software…..  you have to remember that the typical clients I serve are older adults either at home or in their businesses who are not very technologically savvy and like a lot of customer service and handholding.   I don’t necessarily put a lot of weight on antivirus rankings and publications that claim to do those rankings because a lot of them are just paid advertisements.

Traditionally — my go to recommendation for Mac AV has been Intego.  They are a French company with local phone support based in Texas. They’ve actually removed viruses from my clients’ computers so that’s why I trust them. The phone support has been excellent when my clients have needed them.

I’ve had good experiences with ESET on the Windows side – and based on my dealings their customer support was located in Southern California even though they are also a European company. I’ve never tried them out on the Mac but I wouldn’t doubt that they are an outstanding product.

Bit Defender has a legendary reputation but I don’t have a lot of real world experience with them. However, it should be known that they provide support by chat, E-mail and phone – so another senior friendly option.   Another Mac Anti-virus that I have found valuable in the past — though they are not necessarily known for providing great customer support for seniors is Avast antivirus. I don’t know if they still do this but they had a habit of scanning websites before you visited them which I thought was great. One time a Mac client was going to upload some sensitive information to his accountants website and avast detected that it was compromised. It led to a startling revelation for the accounting firm.

An antivirus that I would like to try out but haven’t is PC Matic. You may have seen a lot of their ads on TV. They’ve recently expanded to support the Mac and they use a very different strategy than traditional antivirus by blocking you from ever accessing tons of harmful websites.

In conclusion…

1.  Use defensive computing practices, do not click on links or open attachments from people you did not expect to receive them from. Do not re-use passwords. Use an ad blocker in your browsers.

2.  If desired, use a VPN that offers malware blocking meaning they block malware domains as one of the filter options. Personally, I use Windscribe VPN but there are others that do this as well.

3.  It’s impractical to use the VPN 100% of the time. Frankly, some of my clients just won’t use one period. I actually keep mine on pretty much 100% of the time but I’m allowed to exempt certain browsers so I always exempt one browser and therefore my activity in it is outside the VPN. For those situations that is why I have Quad 9 as the DNS in my router because it blocks 99% of malware domains.  Quad 9 is free to use.

4.   Antivirus is great for when strategies one through three fail or when you’re dealing with attachments or files on the computer. I would just make sure that the antivirus that you’re using scans all files opened, and ideally that they do a little scan of websites before you visit them. If customer support matters to you, I have given you a couple options that are better in that area. 90% of my Windows clients just use the built in Microsoft Defender. This anti-virus also features Smart Screen but it really only works if you are using the Edge browser. If you are on Windows and you are not paying for a 3rd party anti-virus – consider making Edge your primary browser. It is Chrome based these days and works very much like Google Chrome.

Microsoft Word Secret Revealed

I’ve been using Microsoft Word for how long — 30 years almost!  You might think you know all the ins and outs of Word.  Today, I confirmed something that has always been true but I think a lot of Word users don’t know and would be shocked by.   Here is the big TRUTH BOMB:   With one exception ** Microsoft Word does not  — absolutely does not — auto save your document.   What?  But — I have always gone into the Word Options (File menu >> Options >> Save and set it to 5 minutes or 10 minutes).    @Look again Word users @   Even I did a double take.   You are saving Auto-Recover information to a certain location on your computer.   That is not the same as auto saving the file every 10 minutes.  Bottom line:  Word does not auto save your file — with one exception.  This Auto-Recover business is about if you were to lose power or Word was to freakishly quit in some sort of computer error — you MIGHT be able to go to the Auto-Recover folder on your computer and retrieve a recent version of your file.  MIGHT is the key word, because I have seen many instances where this does not not happen for my clients. 

Alright, alright.  So I have to keep pressing the save button on my file?  Generally, yes.  What is the exception?    The exception comes if you are saving your files in Microsoft One Drive.   One Drive is a service and a folder on your computer that synchronizes with the cloud.  It is a direct competitor of Dropbox.  It shouldn’t surprise you that it integrates very neatly with Microsoft Word and other Office programs.   One Drive works on Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android.   Don’t want to pay anything?   Don’t have to.  The free tier of One Drive gives you 5 GB of free space — that is good for potentially thousands of Word documents.   When you pay the $6 or $8 a month for Microsoft Office 365 the annual subscription to Office that I set up for many of my clients — you get 1 TB of One Drive space or 1000 GB.   That is more than enough space to likely save your whole digital lives. 

So what I am trying to say here is — if you are doing important work in Word — you should be doing one of 2 things

1) Regularly clicking Save

2) Save your documents in the One Drive folder (One Drive is built into Windows. It has to be installed on a Mac from the App Store.)

I tried looking at alternatives and here is what I found.  In the Pages word processing app on a Mac — files do auto save.   Using Google Docs in the browser — files also auto save.     You may or may not want to use One Drive.  Some of you probably should.   But now you know the truth about Microsoft Word.   One way or another — save your files!!    Utilize a backup system as well.

$329 Windows laptop and Windows 11 22H2 Review

1) $329 laptop?

I think the sub $800 computer market is pretty dead and the manufacturers really don’t care about this segment of the market. However, to quote Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco — “even a dog gets a warm piece of the sidewalk sometime.”   Once in a blue moon you might get lucky.  There might be a clearance sale, a loss leader type of sale, or some type of promotion that just lasts for a couple days.   I get asked by clients — I just need a Windows laptop for e-mail, browsing, and Word.  I would like a secondary computer.   I want a laptop to give to a kid or donate to a kid.  I usually don’t have a pick for you.  Today I do

-This Dell Inspiron 3000 – 15 inch — with the Intel Core i3 processor and 128 GB SSD hard drive  is $329 right now at the time of sending this email.

https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/laptops/intel/spd/inspiron-15-3511-laptop/nn3511eyxsh

-If you need a 256 GB hard drive it’s only $120 more @ $449. 

– Couple of other thoughts:  Is it as good as a Thinkpad T, Thinkpad E, Dell Latitude, or HP Pro Book?   Of course not!   But it will get the job done for basic tasks and last a couple of years if you are price sensitive.    Word to the wise — the trackpad (mouse) on cheap laptops is always garbage so plan to use a wired or wireless mouse. 

The Windows 11 Article I Didn’t Have To Write For You

2)  I have been a fan of Paul Thurrott (thurrott.com) who has been writing about the world of Windows for over 20 years.   He has written a lot about how Windows 11 was rushed out last year and has been a mixed bag.  Recently, he went into depth about version 22H2 for Windows 11 (2nd half of ’22) and how it delivers a more complete offering, while still having a few shortcomings.  Here it is, with pictures.  https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-11/270334/windows-11-22h2-review-a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that

My thoughts are I’m not afraid of Windows 11.  I had a client who wanted me to purchase and set up a Windows computer for him.  My preference was to order a Windows 10 system from Dell.  It would have taken about 7 to 10 days.  However he said — I need a computer now, man.  Like tomorrow! My only choice was to go to Best Buy and get him a fairly well equipped HP desktop with monitor for $1000 (on sale — wow). It has Windows 11 and he’ll survive.  Using Word or Chrome — seem just like they always did.  It’s just the menus, the options, the little quirks — the look — are going to be different.  Like Mr. Thurrott says — it’s not as bad as Windows 8

I’m going to install 11 on my Thinkpad when the 22H2 comes out within the next 1 to 2 months.  I’m will install that $6 helper that I have been telling you about — Start 11.   Windows 10 computers are still available by online order.   Any further questions — please ask me.

05/18/22 – What Is The Apple Card?

I paid $4.59 for gas yesterday.  According to a major bank, the average may be $6.20 by summer.  A discount grocer I shop at used to sell eggs for $1.19.  They are now $2.45.  I don’t think these issues are going away any time soon.  The valleys of life sometimes entail living with the consequences of others’ (poor) decisions.  2022 is going to be one of those times.

but there are — Stories of Hope

My 89 year old great aunt and 94 year old grandmother recently have recovered from Covid 19 after getting infected about 1 month ago.  Recovery is possible, common, and likely.  Both took the new anti-viral medications.  I believe early treatment is essential, whether you take conventional or unconventional paths.  Once again you are able to order 8 free tests for your household. It takes a minute to fill out the form.  Here is another tool for your tool bag.  

COVID.gov/tests – Free at-home COVID-19 tests

Computer Speed Up Specialist

Do you have a 3 to 7 year old Windows computer that is starting to get a little slow?   Are you put off by the supply shortages and the cost of buying a new computer?   I think I may have an answer for you.   Unlike modern Macs, that have all soldered in unremovable parts — most Windows systems have a replaceable hard drive.  If your system seems that slow, you can likely benefit from a replacement with a solid state drive (SSD).  I make sure your files are backed up and then re-install Windows and your essential programs and copy your files back on to the computer.  This is a real jolt in the arm for your PC and it likely feels faster than when the computer was new.  These jobs can take as  little as 2 hours.  I just did one last week for a client that was 3 hours.   When choosing your next computer, only get one with an SSD in the future.  The Windows and Mac operating systems are meant for SSDs, in fact it is not possible to buy a Mac without one. 

Apple Card

Welcome to the world of high tech finance, I suppose.  For years, customers have always been able to finance an Apple product and get a certain number of interest free payments, at least on their first purchase.  Most recently, shoppers were offered a Barclays Apple Rewards Visa.  However, in 2019 Apple decided to take things in house and offer their own Mastercard called the Apple Card.  Apple is putting their name on it and demanding certain standards, but the banking back end is provided by the consumer division of Goldman Sachs. 

Why might someone want the Apple Card?

Well you get a card made out of titanium that is heavy and makes you feel important.  (Come on, that’s not a valid reason!) OK, getting serious here — the Apple Card seems like a valid choice for customers that regularly shop from Apple.  There is 3% cash back on all Apple purchases.  Interest free financing can also be used with all Apple purchases.  Furthermore, the card is automatically added to the Wallet app on the iPhone.   For any “tap to pay” situation, there is 2% cash back.   (There is also 1% cash back whenever you use the physical card).  The card can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted.  The full card number is not printed on your card.  It can be looked up in the Wallet app and a new number can be issued in the event of a security issue.

How to apply?

You apply using the Wallet app on your iPhone.  It’s very simple and takes about 5 minutes.

Who is this not for?

The Apple Card is not for someone who wants paper statements or to send in a check every month.  You really need an iPhone to be a card member.  You will make your payments through the Wallet app or by logging on to a website on the computer with your Apple ID and password. 

Comcast Gems and Basket of Tips

I hope it’s not a mundane Monday for you.

Going to the Movies – Thurs Apr 28 545 PM

For the first time in 2 years, I’m going to the movies.  WOW.  The great thing is that I don’t have to leave my home.  There is going to be an in person premiere of “Keeper of Time” at the SVA Theater in NYC on Thursday.  However, unlike typical theaters, viewers can watch virtually anywhere in the world at the same time.  This 90 minute documentary looks at why we measure time and why we care.  It also profiles four of the highest level watchmakers in the world.  You can find out more and see a 2 minute preview at https://www.keeperoftimemovie.com/home#about .  Tickets are $20 + $4 service fee.  I’ve got my virtual ticket and will be watching on my computer.  Hope to see you there.  Feel free to text me during or after the film if you want to discuss.

Gems of Comcast Services

Continuing with the streaming theme…..

If you need help with any other kinds of streaming such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV Plus, especially for the baseball games, let me know.  I’m finding that many of my clients that have Comcast / Xfinity for their cable TV provider are finding it especially easy to play services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and others.  The Xfinity X1 remote has a microphone.  Holding down the phone will easily allow you to bring up those services by  name.  If you give the cable box permission (which I think is fine), you can also allow it to display results from the streaming services within the results of other On Demand programming.  My typical senior clients LOVE that microphone button on the remote.  It opens up a whole world of possibilities and usability.  It’s one of the gems of their increasingly expensive service.    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Cox cable has a similar remote that you can talk to. 

Roku Is the Best

If you don’t pay for TV or even if you do, having a separate streaming box might be a good idea.  I tend to prefer the Roku.  I have been a Roku user since 2011 or 2012.   It connects to all the major streaming services.  Modern Roku’s are also capable of Apple Air Play (direct beaming from iPhones, iPads, and Macs).  And in a room, like my bedroom, with no cable outlet — I can use the Roku as a virtual cable box for Comcast / Xfinity.

Basket of Tips

1)  I can’t stream?  Can I? Do you think I am capable? Am I too old?  I think you can!!  If you can master these 5 or 6 basic buttons on a remote, you will be streaming like a pro in no time

* The Directional Arrows*

Up — Down — Left — Right

OK,  Back, Exit, Home

>>>You’ve got this!!

2) There are TVs with the Roku platform actually built into it.  As long as is a current year model or last year — it may be a good deal if you need a new TV.  3 years old would be terrible.  I am a bit old school and I still like a separate Roku box or stick with my TV I am not a huge fan of built in Smart TV platforms but my wife uses built in You Tube all the time

3)  By the way — if you watch You Tube all the time — you probably want  You Tube Premium (which is not the same as You Tube TV).  You Tube is getting more aggressive about showing ads.  You either need an ad blocker on the computer or phone (which I use religiously) or sign up for You Tube Premium at $12.99 a month.  No Ads!!  It also gets you unlimited You Tube Music (formerly called Google Play Music.

Tips From Others — Tips 4 and 5 come from what I have learned out in the field

4) In an ongoing discrimination case involving a local police department one officer was asked if he had made a pact or an agreement with another party.   He was ordered to turn over his phone.  “No problem your honor — but I delete my text messages every night.”   Wow!!  As your digital privacy advocate — I love that!!  If you are concerned about this type of thing, you have my permission to erase your tracks like this.

5)  Want to prevent digital intruders or from that computer being ONLINE all night?  You can turn off WiFi or put your device in Airplane Mode every once in a while.  I don’t do this all the time.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it every night as updates are important but I would be OK with doing this some of the time or most of the time as some of my clients do. 

Windoze 11? Putting Computer Shopping In Perspective

I’m still trying to keep an open mind about Windows 11.  At best I think it will be the most secure operating system Microsoft has ever offered. At worst, it could be another Vista or Windows 8.   For Chrome, Word, shopping, paying bills, and banking Windows 11 is just fine.  Many new computers sold today come with Windows 11.  However, if you still want a new computer with Windows 10 — I can find one for you.  Quantities may be limited and you have to be ready to order now.  My general guidance is as follows — a  passable / average / perhaps above average system — $900 or so,   good to great system $1500, and top of the line $2000-2200.  (Keep in mind that a Mac Book Air with 512 GB hard drive costs $1249 and a Mac Book Pro 14 costs $1999).   I just ordered one of those top tier models, a Thinkpad X1 Yoga touchscreen laptop, with a client.  It came to $2257 with tax and we are super excited about setting it up.

Mac Mini vs iMac

I just wanted to take a moment to discuss the two desktop choices that consumers or home workers such as yourself are going to consider:  the iMac and the Mac Mini.  I have shared this info in shorter form before but I wanted to unpack these possibilities a bit more.   The current M1 Mac Mini was released in the fall of 2020 and the current M1 iMac was released in the spring of 2021.  Despite their different shapes and set ups — INTERNALLY SPEAKING — the logic board, the chips, the hard drive, and the memory — they are the same performance wise.  I’m going to have you look at the configurations for the Mini https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/mac-mini and in the red trunks in the other corner, I’m going to have you look at the iMac  https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/imac

This email is going to compare the $899 Mini and the $1699 iMac.  Both systems have the 512 GB SSD hard drive and the 8 core CPU.   One is not double the cost of the other, but you may certainly perceive one as the better value or the more attractive option after reading the following.   It’s your choice.

Mac Mini — Apple has sold the Mac Mini since 2005. I remember ordering the first one.   The Mini is about the size of a small cigar box, but it packs a punch.  It is the computer “tower” only.  You must provide your own keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor – and if desired webcam.  Those accessories need not and probably should not be Apple branded if you are going for the value proposition.  A decent 21 to 24 inch monitor can be purchased for about $150 to $180.    Next I would recommend a USB keyboard / mouse – MacAlly brand on Amazon is Mac compatible — $30 to $40.  These are good for initial use and as a backup, even if you plan to use wireless later.  Decent Amazon brand speakers are $30.  Next comes a webcam if you plan to use Zoom.  The C922 Logitech is $85 and known to be compatible with the current Mac OS.  The total cost of those accessories  is $295 – $335.   With the cost of the Mac Mini being $899 –you are looking at a little less than $1299, in line with what I’ve said previously.  Note: you will have wires all over your desk, just like with a traditional desktop computer.

iMac — the new iMac has a 24 inch screen.  Everything is built into the screen.  The monitor, the speakers, the computer tower:  it’s all there.  Apple includes a wireless keyboard and mouse too.  The webcam is built in.   It’s slim, colorful, even sexy if a computer could be. There is one wire for the power cord.  Unlike the Mac Mini which has 2 traditional USB A ports, the iMac has none, which means you will probably need an Anker USB hub to plug things in. That will run you about $30 on Amazon — so your cost is about $1729.  

The choice is yours, not mine.  Do you want to save about $400 and pick your own accessories?  Or do you want to pay $400 more for style, compactness and visual appeal? Both computers are equally as fast or “good” inside. Hope you appreciated the review.  It might not be as good as Consumer Reports but I think I made a compelling case for EITHER system – if you want a Mac to begin with.

PS.  If you didn’t have hardly any photos or files you could get a slightly cheaper iMac or Mac Mini.  There is one model of each that is $200 cheaper.  You can do that math.  The same price differential and logic of this post would be true.

TMobile Improves Customer Security

https://tmo.report/2022/03/exclusive-t-mobile-adding-number-transfer-pin-for-port-outs/

According to the article — they will be implementing the NUMBER TRANSFER PIN  (NTP) soon.   This will require one to go onto the T-Mobile website or app to obtain a PIN number to transfer their number to another carrier.  Bravo!!!

There has been so much number transfer fraud — especially with this company.  It’s about time.

Coming Down The Pike

Scams Reminder

Remember — there are no real emails from Norton asking you to pay large sums of money, no legitimate car warranties calling you, no arrested grandsons calling for money, and no legitimate popups on the computer saying you are infected with a phone number.  (I feel like I can never give these warnings enough because every week I get asked about such scenarios). 

Coming Down The Pike

iPhone SE

I have some credible rumors that Apple will be hosting a technology event next month (or just a product release) and that the iPhone SE is likely to be updated.  There may even be a new Mac Mini.  My clients were very receptive to the iPhone 8 sized SE that came out in early 2020.  While I still prefer the better battery life and features of the iPhone 13 series, a $400 SE is really all that some people need or want.  It gets the job done.  It facilitates Facetime calls.  It allows you to send those blue iMessage text messages to all of your friends (more secure text messages).  From what I’ve read, the new SE will still be $399 and should sport 5G radios.   If you are hanging on to a 7 or 8 or even want to upgrade from your previous SE — this may be the phone for you. 


Windows 11

On every Windows computer I’ve touched, I have turned out or opted out of the Windows 11 update.   Keep in mind that Windows 11 will only be available for late 2017 and newer Windows computers.  I think there will be significant updates between now and the summer.  On a new computer, we may not be able to avoid Windows 11 and that’s ok.  It’s not a disaster.  Installing a familiar Start Menu app – like Start 11 can make Windows 11 a lot more friendly.  Later in the year, I think it may be fine to upgrade to Windows 11. I’ll keep you posted. 

Updates

I always say your iPhone will update automatically, so will Windows and so will your Mac.  Then those updates don’t happen.  So I think it a good idea to check at least once a month.  You should know how to do it by now

iPhone / iPad:  Settings >> General >> Software Update

Windows:  Start Menu >> Settings (or Search)>> Update & Security

Mac:  Apple Menu >> System Preferences >> Software Update

T-Mobile Update 01-2022

I wanted to share this sad report that I found online from a former T-Mobile employee. I think it goes to show how the company went downhill over the past two years. I became a T-Mobile customer in 2019 with my wife because of one guy, he was the CEO named John Legere. he was a wild man at the helm with a singular vision. He did change the cellular industry. And on two promotions within my first year as a customer they did, they did literally give me $650 for joining as a customer and then subsequently $500 on my wife’s new Samsung galaxy S 20 phone. John Legere left the company after the sprint merger closed in the summer of 2020. The only thing stopping me from leaving the company now is the amazing deal that we’re getting because my wife is over 55. We get two lines with taxes included for $70 and that includes 50 GB of prioritized data (even though it’s advertised as unlimited data, I’m just telling you the facts. it’s plenty for us.) if I were to switch to Verizon or AT&T with a comparable plan we would be looking at about $140 a month. That $70 a month savings matters to me. However if it were based on principle I would’ve left already.—-


here is one employee‘s account. You can take it for what it’s worth but I think it’s a good testimony of a breakdown of a company that was widely admired 2 to 3 years ago. Feel free to share this email with other people you know that have T-Mobile.

Ref. https://reddit.com/r/tmobile/comments/s4mnic/another_farewell_post_bye_to_my_customers_and/
After a full year of seeing the company crash and burn, I brought my equipment in and dropped it off last night, I have officially quit.
The whys:
My mental health had gone down due to the toxic work culture. I had considered suicide numerous times this year and came extremely close to going through with it but a certain employee (I am sure you know who you are) pointed me to treatment and I am doing better. I know that my life is worth a lot more than this job and want to see my family grow old. If you are struggling with your mental health, please talk to a friend or counselor or call 800-273-8255, it’s not worth it.
Internal misconduct is at an all-time high. I am not going to go too in detail but I suspect some serious lawsuits are building up right now.
Management at T-Mobile has completely given up. (Especially upper management).
The fraud and high-pressure sales culture – Those extra lines, that insurance, those extra phone cases that keep getting added to your bills after you said you didn’t want it, that’s not an accident, those are all things that the activation specialist gets a bonus off. Management doesn’t care, know why? Because they get a kickback and get profit and loss team benefits regardless of how or why something was added to your bill.
Like many other people, I am sick of the outsourcing culture, it has become extremely toxic, I used to stick up for these outsourced reps, but they have dug such a hole lately with all the lies and screwing customers over that I am officially over it.