Category: Consumers

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.

Weekend Technology Notes

Big Kid Macs

I was basically right in the email that I sent out to my Mac clients early Monday morning about Apple’s new Mac Book Pros. I knew the pricing would be higher.  The new Mac Book Pro 14 inch starts at $1999 and the 16 inch (which I don’t expect a lot of my clients will be buying), starts at $2499.  These are not rip offs by any means.  They are high powered professional machines.  Unless the “best” is desired out of principle rather than practicality, I think the Mac Book Air is going to suit the vast majority of my Mac clients seeking a laptop.  The 512 GB model @ $1249 would be the one I steer you toward.

Couldn’t Stop This Scam

I had a sad phone conversation with a client today about their friend.  Sadly this friend had been given my name before but had never joined my business family and the system of services and education that I provide.  This person got a  call from “Amazon” saying that someone had tried to purchase an iPhone Pro Max with their card but they had “stopped” it.   Sound real?  Think again.  The representative was granted access to the victim’s computer and had them log into online banking.  There the refund was “issued.” However it wasn’t.  The scammer simply adjusted the text code on the banking website.  Instead of a $1400 refund, the victim was “credited” $14,000 – by “mistake” of course.   The scammer said they would lose their job and demanded the difference back as a wire transfer.   Hint:  If it was $1000 involved, the scammer would have asked for gift cards.  However, the scammer saw that there was more than $14,000 in the victim’s bank account.  Only a wire transfer would do!  Their bank actually allowed the victim to send out the transfer, which went to Hanoi. 

UNBELIEVABLE!!   It really happened.  And the victim still believed it was real.  I told my client to tell this guy to go to his bank immediately.  Explain he is the victim of a crime.   Maybe — it can be reversed — but it’s doubtful in my opinion.  It’s hard to claw back a wire transfer, especially an international one. 

Buy Now!

I sense this calm before the storm feeling right now.  I fear a serious economic disruption that could affect so many of us.  I hope the trajectory changes, but I have my doubts.  Prices are going way up from common items to larger purchases.  I got take out at a restaurant last week and there was a sign at the register.  “We can’t honor the prices on our menu for the following items…..”  Apple just announced they are cutting iPhone 13 production due to chip shortages.  I have seen delays spanning months on computers I wanted to order for clients.  Holiday gifts you may want to buy for your loved ones may be in short supply.  Some of the new Apple Watch 7 models going on sale this Friday have delivery dates pushed out to late November and early December.  You may be putting off car repair, a water heater, a computer, or an iPhone.  My advice would be – Buy Now!   Commit to your parts / items now, even for installation at a later time, whether the delay is by choice or reality.

Microsoft Office Options

Everyone has used Microsoft Word over the years. You’ve likely used Excel too.  You may have even used Power Point (or at least viewed a presentation), Outlook, or even Publisher.  All of these applications are part of a suite of programs known as Microsoft Office.  Office is truly a cross platform offering, being available on Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android.  In the recent past Office was an expensive package.  Around 2007 or 2008, I recall going to Staples with a client and buying Microsoft Office Professional for $400 to $500.  For a typical consumer or home office user, there are 3 distinct Microsoft Office options:

1)  FREE —   Office.com — In what may come as a surprise to many — you can use basic versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your computer’s web browser for free.  These web apps do not have all of the features or perhaps the ease of use as the full featured desktop apps, but they get the job done for many.   Documents can be printed, downloaded to the computer, and even emailed out directly or indirectly.  These documents will be stored in Microsoft’s cloud storage known as One Drive.  You get 5 GB for free.  That allotment can hold thousands of text based documents.

2) The License / One Off Purchase — Microsoft sells Office for Mac and Windows as a license for one computer. It is truly one computer only.   Home and Student (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) will run you $149.99.  Home and Business (all of the previous apps plus Outlook) will cost $249.99.  These are one time costs.  The licensed versions will receive security updates from Microsoft for 5 years from release of that version of Office (not 5 years from your purchase date).  However, if you were to buy Office 2021 now — you would pretty much be getting 5 years because it was just released.  Microsoft used to offer 10 years of updates for the licenses.  This is all happening because Microsoft wants to push you into……

3) Microsoft 365 — Personal or Family — This is the ongoing subscription version of Microsoft Office and is how most of my clients are buying Office these days.  It’s hard to argue they are not offering a lot for the price of admission.  In addition to Word, Power Point, Excel, and Outlook — Windows users will also get Publisher and Access (sorry those do not exist for the Mac).  The Personal edition($69.99 / year) will allow you to install Office on a total of 5 devices that you control (all under your Microsoft account).  Mix and match Windows, Mac, and iPad — no problem!  You will also get 1 TB of cloud storage space.  That is huge.  Honestly, other services could literally charge you $70 a year for just that cloud storage.   The Family offering casts its net even further.  It allows you to have 6 people in your family (all with their own Microsoft account) install Office on up to 5 devices each.  That is a potential of 30 devices for $99.99 per year.  How can you beat that?   Additionally, each of the 6 people will get 1 TB of cloud storage space.  That can cover tens of thousands of pictures, videos, documents and such.  Finally, with Microsoft 365, you never have to worry about updates.  You will always have the latest version of Office.  Some family members and I have been subscribers to Microsoft 365 since it was released for consumers in 2013.

The commercial real estate market is tough right now, so I will let you choose which Office you want to move into.  In a future Update, I will also cover some non-Microsoft office alternatives.