Category: Consumers

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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Picks–Clubhouse Leaders in Technology

With a great British Open wrapping up last Sunday, culminating in a win by American Jordan Spieth, I wanted to use a golf theme for today’s update.

I seek to tell you about my clubhouse leaders in 3 product categories.  These best in class products have finished their rounds.  They are worth your investment should you need them.   Amazon or other links are provided

Routers

With Apple not having updated their routers with new models since 2013, I have suggested that it is time to look to other brands.  I have worked with the Asus, Netgear, Linksys, and Belkin models of the world.  I have recently gotten involved in setting up “mesh” WiFi systems for clients.   Mesh systems entail a base router and 1 or 2 satellites.  It is a perfect solution for a long or a large house.  This new technology is the replacement for wireless extenders.    However, for many of my clients including those living in an apartment or a house with less than 2,000 sq ft, a single router will get the job done.    For a single router, I am recommending the Asus brand.   Today, I set up a new router for a client in under 30 minutes.   The entire process could not have easier.   Asus also regularly updates the software on their new routers.  This is critical in terms of combating security threats. 

I can highly recommend these 2 ASUS routers

RT-AC66U-B1   http://amzn.to/2vKszqe

RT-AC1900P   http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-wireless-ac-dual-band-wi-fi-router-black/5091000.p?skuId=5091000

Printer

If you need just the basics, meaning black and white, along with copying and scanning capabilities, I could only steer you toward a Brother MFC (multi-function) machine.  Accept no substitutes.   You don’t have to worry about color ink cartridges.  You can buy one toner at a time from Amazon or Staples.  You get a very low cost per print.   I have been using my Brother black and white laser since 2013.  Today there is an updated model that supports Air Print (iOS) and Google Print.  Your mobile devices are covered. 

MFCL 2740DW  http://amzn.to/2h4H5FW

Small Speaker

Have you ever wanted to play your iPhone, iPad or Android device out loud?   The built in speaker on your device will only take you so far.   You need this wireless speaker from Anker.  It produces loud, crisp sound that will help your media come alive or soothe you at night. 

Anker Sound Core 2  http://amzn.to/2vKgGAF

I’ll see you at the bar after you finish your round.   Have an O’Douls ready for me!

Senior Friendly Cellular

There are two cellular service providers that come to mind when I think of seniors and simplicity.  They are known for their outstanding customer service.  You may have seen these companies’ ads in print and on TV.  Ultimately, anyone can become a customer.  You do not need to be over 60.  Let me give you an overview.

Great Call  https://www.greatcall.com

Great Call service runs on the Verizon network.  They originally became known for their Jitterbug flip phone.  The phone has been revised (known as the Jitterbug Flip) and it seems beautiful with large numbers.  Great Call also offers a simplified smartphone, known as the Jitterbug Smart, which runs on the Android platform.  They offer a menu of calling minutes, texts, and data depending on your needs.   An unlimited plan (for calling and texts) is also available.  You cannot bring your own phone and use it with Great Call.

Consumer Cellular https://www.consumercellular.com/

Consumer Cellular runs on the AT&T network.  They have won two JD Power awards for best customer service among non-contract cellular providers.  Consumer Cellular offers flip phones and smartphones.   They sell the iPhone and give the option of an affordable payment plan if desired.   You can also bring your own AT&T compatible phone and use it with Consumer Cellular.  They offer a menu of calling minutes, texts, and data depending on your needs.   An unlimited plan (for calling and texts) is also available.

Both Great Call and Consumer Cellular are considered to be contract free cellular providers.  You can cancel your service at any time without penalty.  You can port your existing number to either provider and port out should you wish to take your business elsewhere.

ATT Yahoo Account Changes

For those of you who have ATT Yahoo accounts, you should take note that your ATT Yahoo account (including snet.net, sbcglobal.net, and att.net) will not work with most Yahoo services after June 30, 2017.  With some of these services, the ATT Yahoo account will need to be converted to a regular Yahoo ID.  In other situation, it will be necessary to create or use a different Yahoo ID.  Take a deep breath, the one major exception is Yahoo Mail.  There will be no changes to how you access e-mail at this time.  Please read this update from ATT

https://www.att.com/esupport/article.html#!/email-support/KM1181338

Connecticut residential internet customers should keep in mind that they have no connection with ATT anymore.  The ATT e-mail accounts were not absorbed by Frontier.   I want to reiterate my plea for ATT Yahoo e-mail customers to migrate to a Gmail or independently owned e-mail account.   Yahoo is now owned by Verizon, a major ATT competitor.   Further restrictions on Yahoo services, including mail, may be around the corner.  Be proactive.

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. 

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

ATT + Verizon Customers Should Thank John Legere Today

Revised:  Feb. 14, 2014

If you use ATT or Verizon for cellular service, you should be thanking one man today. His name is John Legere. He does not work for either company. He did not invent the latest, greatest cell phone or other mobile technology. Legere is the CEO of T-Mobile USA [TMO]. Our T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom, a German firm which also markets the T-Mobile brand throughout Europe. In 2012, TMO was seemingly at its lowest point. ATT was trying to acquire them. However, the FCC and members of Congress, along with the public balked at this idea. It was anti-competitive. TMO was seen as small, cool, and innovative. ATT was a giant beast with a nasty reputation for its customer service.

The TMO / ATT deal fell through, but baked into the contract was a $6 billion breakup fee that was payable to TMO. TMO used this to expand their towers into new markets. Billions were spent on transforming an oddball frequency 1700 megahertz and converting those towers to 1900 mhz so that iPhone users could fully utilize high speed data if they were to switch to TMO. Prior to this tower conversion, there were at least 1 million iPhone users on T-Mobile. This is remarkable given that TMO did not sell the iPhone directly. They had no business relationship with Apple in this country. People were either canceling their ATT contract or buying an unlocked, full price iPhone from Apple. TMO began selling the iPhone in the Spring of 2013.

After the failed ATT – TMO deal, John Legere started with a vision. He wanted to disrupt the cellular industry in America. He began laying out this strategy one year ago. He called it the UNCARRIER plan. Over the past year it has been rolled out in four major phases. No ever thought that Legere would succeed. The four major cellular players in this country — Verizon, ATT, Sprint and TMO were deeply entrenched and they would continue to fight it out with higher prices, more restrictions, and grumpy customers, right? WRONG. Legere has tipped the sleeping cow and it is kicking with its feet in the air. Major TMO accomplishments have included…

– Separating the phone from the service. You can bring your own (compatible) phone and use it with T-Mobile or you can finance it from them, interest free. No more subsidized phones!

– Monthly prices no longer need to be inflated to cover subsidized phones. Customers should get a good value for the money they pay.

– No more contracts. No early termination fees. If you want to leave, leave. Thanks for trying us out. The phone and the service are separate deals.

– Do you like to travel overseas? GREAT. TMO has made partnerships with carriers in 120 countries. You can do do basic INTERNET surfing and check e-mail for free without changing your SIM card. There will be no $1000 bills when you travel to these countries.

– And most recently — do you want to leave your contract with ATT, Verizon or Sprint? Great. We will pay your cancellation fee and give you a $200 credit toward a new phone.

Legere has been bold and at times even crude. He is known for letting F-words fly at press conferences. Can you think of a “major league” CEO that does this? This isn’t my style and I am certainly not condoning his verbiage. What I admire is his enthusiasm. He loves his brand. He made promises. He laid out a strategy. He delivered!

So, what does this mean?

I am not telling you to sign up for TMO. I have no position on that. If you are mostly a city and suburb person, TMO service usually works fine. However, once you travel out to remote areas (ie. Litchfield, CT) their towers are few. You would still be able to place a 911 call, but that’s about it. ATT and Verizon have FAR MORE towers throughout the USA than TMO. Verizon and ATT said they would never budge. They said they don’t need to compete with TMO on price or service options.

They have lost that battle!

1. Starting last fall, ATT lowered prices by $15 per line for customers who were off contract and who chose not to buy a subsidized cell phone.

2. A few weeks ago, ATT came out with a new family plan that is absolutely remarkable. Unlimited calling and text and 10 GB of data (WOW) for $130. Have a 3rd or 4th line in the family? Each additional line is only $15.

3. Today, February 13th — TMO finished their coup of the cell phone industry. The iron fortress, the immutable Verizon announced TWO MAJOR CHANGES:

All  Several plans are being upgraded effective immediately (so long as you were not on one of the old grandfathered unlimited plans or some 2004-era plan with 300 minutes). Essentially this means that the data you are are allowed to use every month is being increased 50 to 100%. The old 500 MB plan and 1 GB plan double to 1 GB and 2 GB, respectively. The old 2 GB, increases to 3 GB. The shared plans were called “Share Everything”. Now they are called “More Everything.”  Since this change involves only benefits to your service and no restrictions or removal of features — they are simply doing it. No approval is needed. Sadly, Verizon’s Meriden, CT call center is also closing as a result of this shakeup.

Furthermore, Verizon is now giving all customers free international text messaging.

– If you agree to buy   buy future phones through their EDGE program (interest free payments), non-subsidized, you can save $10  to $20 per month PER LINE. You must buy a phone on the EDGE plan to get the discount.

In conclusion, Verizon has changed less than ATT or TMO, but this is still a huge step for them.

A mature industry has actually gotten better. There is more choice now. You can save money or get more for your money. You have one man to thank. His name is John Legere.