Category: Consumers

Technology Nostalgia

Streaming Video Specialist

I just wanted to remind you or make you aware that I am your streaming video specialist.   You may be looking to looking to cut the cord — cancel traditional pay TV and use a live channel replacement service like You Tube TV or Hulu TV or piece together streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV + or others in lieu of channels.  You may be looking just to supplement your traditional TV subscription with those streaming services.   I can help.    I can also set you up so you can watch all of your Comcast / Xfinity live channels on your computer, smartphone or tablet.   I can set you up with streaming players like the Apple TV, Roku player, Amazon Fire Stick, or the software baked into your Smart TV (which usually isn’t as good).   I always prefer one of the streaming players that gets added to the TV.  They can be as low as $50 or less.  Of course you will pay monthly for the streaming services you want to use (with the exception of plain You Tube or rentals).  Amazon Prime Video is included with your Prime membership.   I have helped clients open up new dimensions to their video viewing.   You know who to call. 

Remote Clients

I do support some out of state clients through “screen sharing” software that allows me to view and in some cases control (with permission of course) their computer.   I have also been receiving referrals to Connecticut clients outside the Hartford area. I am very appreciative. I do charge more for example on a job “east of the river” or “down by the shore” but I will still gladly help those clients. I will disclose rates to a client before beginning work so there are no surprises.   A basic statement of rates is found on my website — westhartfordtechsupport.com .  I also have a 1 page complete statement of billing policies, which can be provided to you at any time upon request. 


iOS 13 Frustrations Continued

You should all have iOS 13 (known as iPad OS 13 on the iPad) on your Apple mobile devices by now.  Last week an important update, 13.2, came out.  A client brought a concern to me — that saving pictures from a text message / iMessage has changed in iOS 13.   I looked into it and found that there may be just one method available for older iPhones.  Previously, you could press and hold on the picture and press SAVE or you could tap to “open” the photo and then press the share button (the square with the upward arrow).  While both methods still work for me (iPhone 11), on the client’s iPhone 8 only the press and hold method worked.  Please be aware of this.


iOS 13 Lessons

Given that there are these changes that seem a bit jarring in iOS 13, I want to offer the opportunity of having a few lessons with me in the new operating environment so that you can function at your full potential.  One thing I did with clients 2 years ago, when iOS 11 came out, was work through a “field guide” together.   The current version of the e-book we used is called “Take Control of iOS 13 and iPad OS 13”.   Even if you did not want to work through a few chapters with me to improve competency, I would highly recommend the $15 e-book.   https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/ios-13-ipados-13/

Technology Nostalgia

I was thinking about how far we have come with technology.  These days we are using pocket sized phones and tablets as the computers we spend the most time on.  Everything is so digital.  A few nights ago I felt like I was being forced to file an insurance claim online.  I just wanted to talk to a live person.  Finally, I was able to.   I began reflecting on how far I have evolved in the area of phone technology.  Going back to my earliest days with the computer, I would dial into the internet on the home phone line (tying it up so no other calls could get through).  Talk about a way to cut down on scam sales calls!   Later on as I was starting my first business, and about 2 years before my first cell phone, I had the need to make cheap long distance calls.  I subscribed to a quarterly billed phone called “Phone Tel” — not to be confused with other companies with the same name.  I think I was a customer until about the year 2000.  Working in healthcare, my father was a regular pager or “beeper” user.  I got one when I turned 18 but ultimately didn’t find it that useful.  AOL Instant Messenger or AIM and AOL e-Mail were my messaging tools of choice for several years.  My first cell phone was a Motorola Star TAC.  This was the phone to have 20 years ago.  If you don’t remember it — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_StarTAC

Dropped And Spooky Phone Calls

Travel Tips

After bringing and picking my wife up from the airport due to a weekend trip, I thought I would share a couple of tips with you.   If you are thinking of traveling from Bradley Airport (BDL) and don’t mind a quick, relaxing, and scenic trip to T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, you should really check out fares from PVD.  My wife was able to save $300 on a round trip to the Ontario, California (ONT) airport.  PVD is only 1.5 hours from Hartford and seemed quicker.  As the old saying goes, your mileage may vary.  Another suggestion is to try alternate airports.  These landing spots may be less expensive, more convenient, or both.  The friends she was looking to meet were about 20 minutes east of ONT.   Getting there from LAX when arriving at about 1030 PM would have been a challenge for her.

Responsible Recommendations 

As many of you know, I made a BIG SWITCH to T-Mobile for cellular service with my wife back in March.  The initial reasons I joined was because of their cheaper / possibly free international service for a trip she was taking to southeast Asia and because of the reports I had read from a plethora of sources about how good the coverage had gotten in recent years.  5+ years ago T-Mobile was truly a 3rd rate carrier.  I’ve shared that the experience has been mostly good and the financial perspective got even better about 4 months in when we were able to sign up for the age 55+ plus plan (2 lines for $70 including taxes and fees, with unlimited everything).  This was half what we were paying with Verizon.  Given that I have so many clients that could benefit from a plan like this, I could have pumped them hard and made good money marketing TMO to you.  I did not jump on that opportunity because I wanted to give my experience more time.   More recently, I have noticed some shortcomings.  When helping a client far from downtown Glastonbury (near Portland actually), I had no service.  When taking the smooth, rural, Route 165 into Rhode Island I had no service for about 3 miles.  Additionally, last week I had about 3 dropped calls in the Hartford area.  It was a new development.  After extensive conversations with TForce (customer support), I found out that there are tower upgrades going on in the area and they should be completed by mid-November.  I did not have any more dropped calls outside of those 3 days, so I’m inclined to believe what I was told.   So here is where I stand with T-Mobile — as far as my client base is concerned:  If you want to save money with T-Mobile, you can go to a T-Mobile store or I can certainly help you.  However, there are potential limitations.  One reason to keep your Verizon or ATT service is the reliability of the towers.   Considering the country as a whole, Verizon and ATT have a much higher percentage of towers with fuel powered backup in the case of power outages and natural disasters than T-Mobile.  At times, you just want the call go through. While we are spared from a lot of the worst weather, you never know when a “2011 Snowpocalypse” will hit us again.

Spooky Phone Calls

Are you getting more scam phone calls?  I have two clients that may have been called by fake or moonlighting Comcast representatives the other day.  “Hi, I’m calling from the Cable Department.”   Good thing I was there.  We hung up.   I want to make sure you can recognize a scam call.  On Monday morning, I received a call on my business line saying that my Social Security Number is being suspended.  Hmmm, I feel so scared now.  I might be in big trouble. NOT!

The Perils Of Buying Used Smartphones

4K TV Is Coming

Most of the TV’s you have bought over the past 2 years have been 4K TV’s.  However, there hasn’t been much 4K live TV content.  Netflix and Amazon Prime offer 4K video as does You Tube.  I just saw the ad tonight — Comcast will be offering Notre Dame Football games this year on NBC in 4K.  To make this happen with Comcast / Xfinity — you need 2 key components:  1) a 4K TV and 2) a cable box that supports 4K. 

The Perils of Buying Used Smartphones

The following write up originally started as an e-mail to a client last week concerning a used smart phone issue we were dealing with.  I polished it up a bit and realized it was good to share with all of you.

Used smartphones, especially iPhones and high-end Android devices can be a nightmare unless you know who you are getting them from.  Take these 2 lessons to heart

1)  Ideally they should be UNLOCKED.   Locking is a nasty trick that carriers use on their phones to keep you on their service.  After the phone is paid off or a contract is fulfilled –they are not automatically unlocked.  A customer has to call up and ask for the unlock code and then go through some motions after the fact which are usually pretty easy.  People can buy unlocked phones directly from Apple and that does happen in some instances.  ** Verizon has always been the one exception with carrier financed phones, since about 2011 they have not locked their smartphones because they had to make  a deal with the FCC.  As of July 1 that policy changed with Verizon now locking smartphones for 60 days (to prevent theft they say).  They have no power to go back and retroactively lock existing phones.  Buying a carrier locked smartphone, with no ability to go back and contact the seller to get in unlocked, could mean that you are unable to use it with the carrier of your choice.  FYI, Apple says that most iPhone models purchased through their physical stores or apple.com (with the exception of some ATT models) are unlocked.   

2)  The second concept I want to introduce to you  is the idea of “financial locking” or blacklisting.  Most customers finance their iPhones and expensive smartphones these days.  On Craigslist, Offer Up, or other known sites for peer to peer sales — there will be many deals for “great phones” that seem way too good to be true.   Think of  an iPhone XS for $200.  It is a totally fake deal.  I have a good friend who got burned on the buying end of this a few years back.  Let’s say the $900 phone has a couple scuffs on the back but is otherwise very operable.   He sells it for $200.  The buyer thinks they are the luckiest dude on earth!!  The seller had insurance on the phone and puts in a claim for a STOLEN phone.  The insurance company has the authority to blacklist the phone with all carriers — basically worldwide.  The seller is shipped a new phone and the original is blacklisted — it is rendered in operable and cannot be activated.  Maybe just maybe it could be used on WiFi only.   Another version of the scam goes like this.   A young kid (18+ of course) buys a $1000 phone.   A maxed out iPhone 11 Pro Max with monthly payments is about $55 to $60 a month.  He decides — Oops I’m over my head can’t make the payments.  He does not go through the proper channel of having a buyer legally assume the contract on the phone.  He sells it for a steal of a price — $200.  The buyer is in heaven or so they think.  Wow.   2 months later when the seller’s cellular account gets cancelled for non payment — the phone gets blacklisted under the same process.  It is a paperweight.

Oh – the perils of buying used smartphones!

6 Months Into The Cellular Transition

Mac Security Woes

I didn’t want to bother all of my Windows clients with this update that I sent out late last week, but I thought you would be interested to know that all of the malware, browser hijacks, or whatever you want to call these intrusions I have dealt with this year have been on Macs (and in one case on a Chromebook).  None have been on Windows PC’s.  Here is a link to the blog post I wrote.  https://theacronym.com/2019/09/06/a-note-on-mac-security/

Doubling Down

You know you can get objective advice from me.   I got a good response to my “best computers” segment awhile back.   I think the best desktop for the kind of consumer that I serve is the 2018 Mac Mini, with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor (which need not cost more than $150), of your choosing.  The better Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre Desktops are close seconds.  The best laptops are the Thinkpad T490 and the Thinkpad X1 Carbon, with the Dell Latitude 7000 series being right up there too.  The Latitude 5000 series (which I am typing this on), Thinkpad L and E series are just a degree under that.   The 2016 – 2019 Mac Book laptops have not been up to Apple’s past standards even if failures are happening in 10% of cases or less.  The main problem is the keyboard.   I can type on it just fine.  I have grown warm toward the sound, but the concern is dust and debris getting underneath.   Apple has put out a warranty on these keyboards for 4 years including the 2019 models.  The Apple store will not tell you this.  I am being straight with you.  I am telling no one to junk their computers or switch, though I help  Windows to Mac and Mac to Windows switchers all the time.  Apple is expected to go back to the old style of keyboards next year (and possibly with a high end laptop model by the end of this year). 

Still Going Good With T-Mobile

My wife and I have now been with T-Mobile for 6+ months.  I have never had a major complaint.  I did take one trip into Litchfield County where I lost service for about 1.5 miles several months ago.  If I spent a lot of time in rural areas I may have more of a problem, but that is not representative of my travel patterns.  T-Mobile will be adding many band 71 (600 mhz) towers to the Hartford area which will help increase coverage, especially in buildings.  iPhone XR and later and the latest Androids support band 71.  Pricing was “a little better” than Verizon when I first reported to you on the transition but there were added benefits like higher data limits than the plan we had previously.  Earlier this summer, we scored a major coup.  Due to my wife being age 55+, we were able to change our plan to the Magenta Unlimited 55.  We got the same unlimited data at $70 per month, inclusive of taxes and fees, for 2 lines.  Wow!   The coverage from Verizon might be a little better, but it is not 2x the price better.  They are in our rear view mirror.  T-Mobile also offers Veterans’ plans, as do some of the other carriers.

Apple Card Customer Service

My first interaction couldn’t have been smoother.

There has been some chatter out there that Goldman Sachs / Apple Card has a provision (like most credit cards) that requires binding arbitration.  However, the customer has X amount of time to opt out of it with Apple Card.  I think I have been offered an opt out many times with other institutions and never done it.  There have been articles out there in the tech press over the past week urging people to opt out.  I gave it some thought.

I think arbitration could be good if someone is defending themselves against a lawsuit, but forcing it can be anti – consumer.    I’m not positive but I think there are limitations on people representing themselves in arbitration.  It is a private process outside the  openness of the justice system. 

Most of the the disputes individual consumers may have with a credit card are probably going to be an amount under the state limit for small claims court, ex.  the bank would not recognize a $1,000 dispute as fraud.   By opting out of binding arbitration, a customer can take that to small claims and represent themselves.      So — I decided to opt out.

I opened the Wallet app  on my iPhone.  I tapped on the Apple Card — I went to chat – Messages opens up.  I said what I wanted.  An Apple rep transferred me to a Goldman Sachs rep all within the same chat.  I was never asked for any personally identifying info.  To quote the one hit wonder Silento “They already know who it is.”   And it was done within 3 minutes.     A good first impression.

On Yahoo.com Keep Ads Blocked Always

I had a lengthy appointment with a client yesterday.   They had a fake anti-virus scam pop up that took over their computer.   They panicked in the moment over several days — did not call me (big mistake) — and gave the scam outfit (without even knowing the company name or location) $900 in Apple gift cards purchased from local pharmacies.    There is a lot to this story that I won’t get into here but…..

It is very likely that it all started when reading an article on Yahoo News.  A bad ad injected scripts into their browser which triggered downloads and other things.  Yahoo may not have screened the ad carefully or the ad may have been provided by a 3rd party.   The client’s guard was down, in part because, the ad blocker was turned off. 

One may say — well I didn’t click the ad!  It doesn’t matter.  The mere fact that a malicious ad loads in the first place is the vector for attack. 

I am fairly certain that I have installed ad blockers in your browsers.  On Safari for the Mac, I prefer Ad Block Plus (with acceptable ads turned off).   On Chrome or Firefox, I like uBlock Origin (ideally) or Ad Block Plus (with acceptable ads turned off).  It is always good to have multiple browsers available for use on your computer should Browser A get corrupted. 

Some content providers, increasingly, want you to turn off an ad blocker temporarily.  I have had to do this when watching TV episodes on NBC.com.  A few years back Yahoo said they were not going to let you use Yahoo Mail in the web browser if you blocked ads.  They seem to have backtracked a bit.  

My client’s experience was not the first time I have come across a bad ad injected through a Yahoo.com page.  


Bottom line:  DO NOT EVER EVER TURN THE AD BLOCKER OFF ON A YAHOO.COM PAGE.   If they say you can’t use the page otherwise, accept it and move on.  You can still access your Yahoo Mail on a smartphone or on the computer via an e-mail program like Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.

If you see ads on Yahoo.com, it means your ad blocker is not installed or not working.

My Biggest Cable Savings Victory Yet


$2500 Savings a Year??

As you know, I have been able to save several customers money on their Comcast bills.  I don’t really have a lot of experience negotiating with Frontier because most of my clients have Comcast.  One time, I was able to help a client save $500 a year with Cox Cable.    While I will make a call to Comcast in the course of a normal appointment with you, given the potential for savings it is often worth it ( I will let you know in advance) to have me come out at the 1 hour rate simply to make a deal for you.  

Recently, I really hit a grand slam for a client.  He had been taken advantage of by a tech support scam where he was hit up for $300 for printer support.  I was able to get $200 of that back.  The client was also paying $25 per month for supposedly legit tech support but hadn’t make contact with the outfit in years.  I have been his tech support for the past 2.5 years.  I got that knocked off by contesting it with his credit card.  That is a savings of $300 a year. 

I didn’t want to stop while I was on a roll.  I said — let me look at your Comcast bill.  I think I can save you some serious money.  Boy, did I ever!  

My client was a serious and very profitable customer for Comcast.  He had many educational / documentary / music packages added to his Comcast bill.  In fact, there were packages that I didn’t even know existed.  The client is a man with a very scholarly reputation. Not all learners can get to a classroom due to age and mobility, so he treats his TV as the classroom.  Fine by me.   Nonetheless, the Comcast bill is about $400 a month with some movie rentals (package price was $375 including taxes and fees).   [You can pick your jaw up off the floor now]. 

There was a desire not to cut services from the bill.  Comcast did not fail us.  They were able to reduce the bill by $42 per month with the price guaranteed for 2 years.  That is a savings of $504 per year. 

The savings blitz did not stop there.  My client then told me he was paying for a 2nd Comcast bill.  Hmmm….  A second residence somewhere?   He thought he had been paying this bill for about 6 or 7 months.  It was a Comcast business account for TV (6 cable boxes) and internet.   $164 per month.  To make matters even more confusing, the bill clearly said it was for the RECREATION AREAS of the apartment building.   I was pretty sure that my client was not a commercial landlord.   This one took about 24 hours to straighten out but it turns out that this was all in error.  What an error!!  No Gold Glove for Comcast here (baseball joke).  Credit will be given for past payments.

If I never brought up the Comcast bills, this would have gone on and on with no end in sight.   The elimination of this bill represented an annualized savings of $1,968  (the last year a pitcher won 30 games in the big leagues). 

Unbelievable right?   It really happened.   $2500 a year in Comcast savings.  We lived to tell. 

Concluding Notes

I just want to add this disclaimer.  I have many clients that pay $250 or more on their Comcast bills because they have not negotiated in years.  There is a good chance I can save you some $$$.  If you are paying $200 or less, I can possibly save you some money if you are willing to cut back on service. If you just negotiated a deal recently, now is probably not the time to negotiate a new one.  I own my modem and router.  I believe it on a technical principle, not necessarily a cost principle. However, even though they cost me $260, if they last 3 years (and I think they will),  I will still save money versus the Comcast modem / router which is $468 over the same 3 year period.  I used to say that if you had phone service with Comcast it is hard to own your own modem but you can still own your own router.  Best Buy has made that a little simpler.  They now have a cable modem with voice, with a not so great router built in, for a cost of $200.  If you have a large house or a house with WiFI challenges (unique shape perhaps), you need your own router regardless of whether you rent a modem from them.