Category: Consumers

Bogus Comcast Email Warning

Just wanted to send this out to you my Comcast / Xfinity clients:

I have gotten a couple of reports of an email making the rounds telling my clients that they need to update their Comcast email from version 9 to version 12 or something like that.

It is totally fake!  This isn’t AOL from 2001.  Comcast does not publicize a version number of their email system.

Remember the things I always taught you about examining fake emails.  Look at the sender.  In this case — the sender was using a Gmail address.   Would real Comcast do that?   No way!

Secondly check out the link they want to send you to.   Just point to it, don’t click it.  In this case it was a mysterious foreign website — not a Comcast(dot)net or xfinity(dot)com or anything like that.   

I don’t want you to make an expensive mistake.

Dealing With Comcast Anger

I remember having an open ticket with Xfinity support reps from late December 2019.  After months and months, I did not hear back.  I contacted @ Comcast Cares on Twitter and got prompt feedback.   I know a lot of people have gripes with this company.  The biggest thing I have to remind myself and others is — the days of big deals are over.   Get real familiar with that price list that comes out twice a year (check your online billing if you don’t get a paper bill).  Get familiar with THAT price for your service or services, add on the necessary fees (ugh) and that is what you should expect to pay.  Promotions aren’t what they used to be.  That era of deal making is fading.  Consider other options if they exist.  Slowly I am coming to a place of peace with it.  I seriously think this company should go with a one price model like TMobile.  I think that would help to alleviate a lot of the anger.

Comcast Hammering Us In A Pandemic

I hear that 80’s rock song that goes  “we’re not gonna take it anymore” playing in the background.    Where is the breaking point folks?   What is your limit to how much you are willing to pay this company? 

I could have written a book (or at least an e-book) about all of the deals I negotiated for myself and clients with Comcast / aka Xfinity between 2014 and 2019. I had the method down to a science.  Just like LL Bean (a far more reputable company), Comcast has caught on to customers exploiting the system.  2020 has been the year of the crackdown.  Most of you probably have electronic billing with them.  However it’s really important to log onto my.xfinity.com with your email and password at least a few times a year because they will post the Price List at least once or twice.  Get real familiar with those prices because once these promotions get completely eliminated, which is the direction they are going in, you will pay THAT price.  Don’t forget to add in all of the JUNK FEES, like broadcast fee, sports fee, cable box fee and about 13% in taxes on the TV (not internet) portion of the bill. 

There are two key points that I want to make here, one that is reflected on the price list and one that isn’t.  1)  Effective 1/1, Comcast is imposing a “data cap” for its New England customers for the first time.  They have had these caps for the internet across the country for years.  You can also look at this as — you will not get truly Unlimited internet for the price you were promised.  Comcast claims this will only impact the 5% heaviest internet users (by data use, not your weight on the scale LOL).  I don’t know if I believe them.  The cap is going to be set at 1.2 TB (terabytes) or 1200 GB a month.  That is a lot of data.   However for a family of four that is Zooming all day during the work day, streaming TV / Netflix / Amazon Prime in their free time, and playing online video games – it is an easy threshold to exceed.   If you are by yourself and just do basic internet and email most of the time, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  However, you will probably want to check your data usage and it can easily be done by going to this page, https://customer.xfinity.com/#/services/internet    and scroll down to the bottom.   In my household, we consistently use about 450 GB of data per month or 0.45 TB.  We should be all set, but I have seen many reports of Comcast rigging the meter against customers when the data caps are in place.  What is their end game?  Well, they are going to charge big overage charges for violators.  However, they will gladly allow you to remedy the problem BY PAYING MORE.  How kind of them.  If other markets are any indicator, you can now get “truly unlimited” internet by paying $30 more.  However if you rent a (lousy) modem from them, you can beat the caps for about $25 (modem rental plus $10 upcharge).  It’s a money grab…… because they can.

2) This one really got to me yesterday.  I received an email with a link to a price list saying that my bill would be going up effective 12/20/2020.  Since my bill came out on the 18th, the increases will take effect on my next bill.  If you are Internet only (and not under a contract), you may be seeing a price increase of $3 per month.   Sadly, TV customers are in for the real gouge!   Broadcast TV Fee (what they collect to offset what local stations charge them to transmit the channels) is going up by $5.   Regional Sports channel fee?  Going up by $2.  (Again, Comcast would say that they are simply collecting more to reflect the increase in costs of what they pay out to these networks).   The cost of your cable box will also be going up by more than $2.  So that is $9 increases right there.   However, if you have a 2nd (or 3rd) cable box in the house, that charge is dropping by $2, so the box charges may even out.   These companies can charge whatever they want, but the same fees just went up 2 years ago.  Now they are hitting us again.

What I think is so wrong is that Comcast thinks they have the right to increase the fees on customers ALREADY UNDER CONTRACT.   I agreed to a contract that expires in June 2021. I am bound to it.  There are penalties if I cancel early.  Yet they think they can change the price.  Comcast would say —  that fees can always be increased and they are not part of the contract.  This is my biggest gripe.   In January, I talked to a lawyer from Comcast about big picture issues and legislative concerns.  He gave me his personal cell phone number and said I could call him any time.  Perhaps I should do this.  Some of you are lawyers, you might be married to a lawyer, or you may just be ticked off like I am.   

How much is too much for cable services?   In areas where the phone company has fiber optic service or there is an independent  fiber choice, you may have an alternative.  Call the lawyers, call Executive Relations, and call the Retentions department.  

Give them that line that Dee Snider sang so well “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”

Update 11/03/2020

Small Biz Spotlight

(Unsolicited)  If you don’t believe in Chiropractors, you have my permission to skip this section.  I realize that some in the profession have made dubious claims.  However, many of us out there  feel that chiropractic care helps us feel better and move our joints more freely. If this is how you feel, please let me introduce you to Dr. Rick Araya of West Hartford, CT.  Dr. Rick is a straight shooter. He doesn’t try to rope you into some $5000 treatment plan with a bunch of gimmicks.  He runs his business like I run mine.  If you want to pay by the visit – you can pay $45 per visit (even less if you are 65 and older).   He doesn’t waste your time by doing massage, lighting candles, or any of that stuff.  Most follow up visits are 5 to 10 minutes – in and out.   As an advocate for senior consumers, I can’t think of a better chiropractor — if that’s your thing.  To learn more – http://goodchiro.net and if you go let Dr. Rick know I sent you.

Another Apple Event

Apple is really hitting it out of the park this year.  Last week there was a report of record Mac sales — powered by all models but especially the Mac Book Pro.  According to Bloomberg, Apple will be holding their 3rd big event in as many months next week.  They are expected to release new Mac Books this time with their own CPUs (just like the iPhone and iPad).  This will be the 3rd processor transition in the Mac’s history.  In 1995, they went to IBM Power PC chips and in 2006 Apple migrated to the current Intel architecture (just like PC’s).  Apple feels that they can deliver a better Mac when they control the entire manufacturing process and that is just what they are doing.   Are your Intel Macs junk now?  Of course not.   Even if you are buying a new Mac before early – mid next year you may still want to get an Intel Mac.  However, Macs with Apple silicon inside will be with us soon and are here to stay.   Rumor has it that Apple will continue to support current Intel Macs with updates for about 5 years from a certain date (to be announced).  I don’t think this will be a painful transition. 


Black Friday – Holiday Shopping

Black Friday is coming early this year. Traditional stores and online sellers are slow rolling their deals.   While the discounts on Apple products may be in the low hundreds of dollars, there are bound to be terrific deals on other items.  Just today I helped some clients order Thinkpad X1 and T laptops ( every bit as good as a Mac) that are normally about $2000 plus, for $999.  Those deals are going to be gone by the time you read this.  I will be your scout for other bargains.  Keep in mind, as long as there is no wall mounting required I can help you set up most TV’s as well.   For as rotten as the cable company can be, there is nothing quite like a new TV with an X1 cable box and voice remote from Xfinity.  You can speak and have it take to you any channel or available movie.

Windows 10 Users–You Need A Backup

(If you don’t have important files on your PC — if you use it to surf the Internet and check email only — this doesn’t apply to you.  Perhaps you could forward it to another Windows user). 

However, I know that most of you have important files on your Windows PC.  They could be work files, documents, proposals, and photos.

I’m giving you a true report from the field here and let you know that the recent BIG UPDATE to Windows 10 (version 2004) that has been installing on your computers over the past couple months has created A FEW problems.  Well over 90% have been smooth sailing.  But — there are 2 that I can think of — that were a big problem.   In both cases — the computers needed to be erased and have Windows 10 reinstalled.   In one situation — it didn’t matter.  In the other situation, the client was in a tough spot because there were important work documents and no backup. 

You can avoid this all together — by having a backup system in place.  This might be an external hard drive.  It might be an online file storage service like One Drive or Dropbox.  Or you may even want to consider an all encompassing online backup service like Carbonite or Backblaze for about $6 per month. 

Updates and Upgrades do fail from time to time.   Windows may have to be reinstalled.  You may need several hours of help from someone like me when this happens.   Having a backup of important files makes your life SO MUCH easier.

Simplifying Routines

Technical Tip

Don’t put your gear on top of other devices that are charging.  If your laptop is charging at night, don’t leave your phone or anything electronic on top of it.  I think this would apply to other mechanical devices as well. I developed a bad habit of placing the Seiko watch I got for my Big Birthday earlier this year on top of a closed laptop at night. Well well, the watch became demagnetized.  It’s in the shop now. 😦 

Biz Briefing

I am trying my best to weather the Covid 19 storm and also prepare for possible changes in operations once the weather gets colder.  I am doing about 2/3 of appointments in person right now, but if we have to go mostly remote, let’s make sure we are prepared.  With the vast majority of you, we are already set up to do Quick Assist (Windows) or Team Viewer and Zoom (Windows or Mac).  If for some reason you think you are not set up to do a remote session with me, I can help you get set up at no charge by phone or when I am in the area. 

Simplifying Routines

I describe myself as someone who provides I.T. consulting and tutoring  with a teacher’s heart.  After all, I was once a certified teacher and have a Masters in Education.  (And would you believe I am getting calls to come back in for school based positions? I told them, no thanks! I am not working in a classroom and jeopardizing my clients’ health.)  I try to incorporate a teacher’s spirit in what I do. This makes me so different than the I.T. Guy from the big box store or some nerd driving around in a VW Bug. 

I have gotten a great feel for how older adults learn and process information.  The teacher in me believes in high standards and expectations.  I want to take you into expanded portals of possibility.  You might think your potential is at ground level.  I have my sights set on the stars.  I think if we end up somewhere in between, you will be able to get a lot out of your technology. 

One of my goals going forward is to help you simplify routines through sequences of brief, memorable steps.  When working with a client recently, I broke down emailing scanned documents to

-Scan

-Save

-Attach

Keyboard shortcuts are another way to simplify tasks. 

Want to create a new folder for your files?

In the File Explorer (Finder – Mac), create a new folder by pressing Ctrl (Cmd – Mac) Shift + N

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

5G – Here And Getting Closer

I outlined some basics on the new 5G towers a few weeks ago, but I wanted to simplify and add to it as well.  Basically there are two 5G technologies being deployed in this country at the moment, sub-6 and mmWave.  T-Mobile and ATT are going mostly with the sub-6, which will reach more people.  Verizon is going with mmWave, which is even faster but restricted to specific spots like stadiums, stations, or a place like Times Square.  Consequently, Verizon is way behind.  Ultimately, all of these carriers will deploy a mix of both types of 5G towers.  If you are due for a new phone, I am going to give you my opinion as to when 5G should mean something to you.  This does not mean give up on your carrier or that your carrier is bad or that you need to throw out your 6 month old phone to get a 5G phone.  I’ve uttered no such words.   I got a real life test of 5G on the T-Mobile network in Boston last week.   My wife’s 5G Samsung clocked in at double the speed of my iPhone 11.   Therefore, if you are a T-Mobile customer — I would say the time to buy a 5G phone (again if you are phone shopping) would be as soon as these iPhone 12 models come out.  Then you will have a mix of low end phones like the Revvl 5G, or the Samsungs, and the iPhones to choose from — all with 5G.   ATT is at the middle of the pack.  Their 5G is not as widely deployed as T-Mobiles, but they are getting there.  If you still want to save some money by buying that iPhone SE, go for it.  But by 2021, early next year, I think you should definitely be considering a 5G phone if you are phone shopping.   With Verizon, on the other hand, I think there is no rush to get a 5G phone — probably until the 2nd half of next year.  Ultimately, two years from now, Verizon may end up having the best 5G network.  Slow and steady wins the race?  We hope or they hope!  Rumor has it that only the super expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max model will even be able to communicate with Verizon’s mmWave towers.  The other 3 models coming out this fall will not.  If I were a Verizon customer, 5G wouldn’t even be a part of my thought process yet.  (And yes, you can still buy any of the other iPhone 12 models to use with Verizon’s existing network.)

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

Fall is the busy season in my business and in the world of personal technology.  We will see new iPhones before the end of October, perhaps in two separate launches for the 4 models expected to be released.  New Apple Watches as well as iPads (possibly) will be coming out next week from Apple.   There will be brand new computers from Microsoft, including a reported “moderately priced” Surface laptop.  Wait there’s more!   Apple is coming out with a brand new macOS 11 which is supposed to be the biggest deal for the Mac in 20 years since OS X came out.  Finally, ioS 14 / iPad OS 14 will be here quite soon. Let’s make sure you have a backup first.  And for my students in the back of the class, if you have a 5+ year old Verizon flip phone (iPhone 5s or 5c too), it’s time to get a new one.  Verizon is retiring its old calling network on 12/31/2020.  Your old phone will be a paperweight.  What a season we can have together — I’m looking forward to being there for you, every step of the way!  Now you know why I get excited about the fall!!

Clearing Out Those Computer Gremlins

How are you? Staying during this heat wave?    I am open for business and look forward to my sessions with you this week whether in person or virtual.  Did you know that you might have $43 in Junk Fees on your cable bill?  Read on to find out…..

Clearing Out Those Computer Gremlins

Here is some good and simple advice for you.  While it’s very convenient to let the computer go to sleep, so that you get all of the updates and can wake it up quickly — SHUT IT DOWN COMPLETELY — ONCE A WEEK.   It can be for a few minutes. It can be overnight, your choice.   But just completely shut it down.  I think that will just help to clear all the cobwebs and gremlins out.   It’s good therapy for the device.   You can even do this with your smartphones and tablets.  Give them a complete shut down, at least once a week.

Comcast B.S. Fees

(And by B.S. — I mean big secret).  In is unbelievable what they are allowed to get away with. I was explaining this to a customer recently, but if you have 3 services with Comcast / Xfinity (or even just TV + internet) you are probably paying about $43 in extra  fees that they never tell you about up front.   Here is a breakdown of those fees:

1) there is a $14.95 broadcast TV fee (this is the fee they charge for re-transmitting local channels like local CBS, local NBC, local FOX (which is different than FOX NEWS which a paid cable channel), local ABC, local PBS (CPTV), and a few others.  In the past local stations did not get paid by the cable company, but if my brain serves me correctly there  was a legal / regulatory decision about 10+ years ago that made this possible.

2) Whether you watch sports or not (and if you do there will be baseball, basketball and hockey starting in about 1 week) — there is a Regional Sports fee of $8.75 per month.   They have a few packages that don’t have sports but if you type in the channel # or say “ESPN” to the voice remote, and it comes up, you have the sports channels

3) for your Xfinity Gateway — that is your modem / router / phone adapter , the white box…they charge a monthly rental of about $14

4)  They also now charge about $5 per month for your primary cable box.  It used to be free.   They also charge about $10 each for additional digital outlets (TV’s) but I am not factoring that in here.  For now you can save on that fee by using a Roku as your cable box.  They are not charging for that YET. 

The only one of these fees you can truly avoid is #3.  You can buy your own modem.  A decent one like the Netgear CM700 is about $110 give or take plus a router..  However, if you have phone services with Xfinity, you will need a modem that supports this.  Those modems cost more.    Those could be $200-250 with wireless router functionality built in.  Or $100 for a modem plus voice (current Best Buy price)  + a router of your choosing.   Decent single routers are usually $100 to $200.   If you do the math on $14 per month, you would generally see that owning your own equipment pays for itself in 2 years or less.  However, if you are prone to a lot of electrical surges and cable outages (which I do not experience) – it may be worth paying that $14 a month.  Personally speaking, I have owned my own modem / router since 2012 and I have never looked back.  I replaced the equipment with a new modem and router in 2018. 

If you have a different cable or home telecom company — check your bill.  How many B.S. fees do you have?

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

Computer Picks

I represent about an equal number of Windows vs. Mac clients.  A few are iPad or Chromebook only.  I just wanted to say that if you are not absolutely locked in to particular apps on the Mac or you might be turned off by some of Apple’s decisions with the Mac or leery of the upcoming processor transition — you could probably do really well with a solid business class Windows desktop or laptop.   Excluding any possible discounts or outlet purchases, I think you can get a nice system for $800 to $900.  These computers cannot be purchased in stores. I know how to order them and have been doing so for years.   The kind of computers I have in mind are often repairable and upgradable — serviceable is the word I am looking for.  There is a reason why the State, the big hospital systems, and big insurance companies buy these computers by the hundreds (if not thousands) — they stand the test of time.  They’re not buying Macs.  It’s just something to keep in mind.    With that said, I have helped Mac clients switch to Windows and Windows clients switch to Mac.  I am a versatile provider of technology consulting services, with no preconceived notion that one platform is best for all clients. 

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

I am talking about data prioritization with your cell phone plan.  I have touched on this in the past, but I wanted to revisit it.  Did you know that some of you might have prioritized data with your carrier and some of you may not?   There is an order of data — when on a congested tower — where some users will be given preferred access and others may be slowed down or get slowed down to a crawl.   (Prioritization is different than being capped or throttled.   A cap would be — you get 5 GB of total data per month and you are totally cut off after that. A throttle would be — we limit all traffic to 5 mb/s even if you can get a faster speed in theory.  Some plans are throttled to a very slow speed after reaching the cap.)   But what I really wanted to address here is the idea of prioritization.   You might be out and about trying to book a restaurant order or launch the Maps app or even buy some clothing for quick online pickup — then your phone just slows to a crawl.  It’s possible that  you are being deprioritized.   There may be a lot of other users on that tower with priority over you.  There is a good chance that it won’t happen to you.  It might be congestion, however you just might not have the “top banana” priority.   I haven’t heard of it happening a lot locally, but there are definitely parts of the country that are oversaturated on Verizon towers, ATT towers, etc.   They have no choice but to route traffic with a certain order. 

Let me just state a couple examples to help you clear up the confusion.  If you get a monthly bill and you are on an older Verizon / ATT plan and you get like 2 GB of data per month, 4 GB, 8 GB — you are prioritized.    If you have the first tier of Verizon’s new unlimited plans known as Start or Go unlimited – you are always deprioritized.   Again, it may never be a problem for you. I just want you to know.   The next level of Verizon’s unlimited plans tells customers they can be deprioritized after 25 GB of use (which is probably a lot more than most of you would use in a given month).   Prepaid plans are generally always deprioritized, although ATT Prepaid has some exceptions. 

Watch Out For Google Search Results

Learning About New (to me) Old Technologies During the Pandemic

I will never own a Rolex, or a Tudor, or an Omega.  However, I was given a Seiko — made in Japan — watch for my big birthday last month that was roughly $160.  It sparked an intense period of learning for me.  I became fascinated in these tools for our wrists that are able to keep time and produce 21,000 + vibrations per hour WITHOUT a battery.  I am referring to watches with a mechanical movement, whether they be automatic, hand wound or both.  (Of course, there are wonderful quartz watches out there with batteries too.)  Over the past 6 weeks, I think I have become quite knowledgeable on the sub-$500 watch market.  There are awesome watches you can get out there for under $300 and in some cases under $200 as well.  I haven’t found a way to incorporate this newfound love into my business as some kind of formal proposition, but I would definitely be willing to discuss this arena with you informally by e-mail or perhaps at the back end of an appointment. 

Some insights I would be able to share with you include… There are many fine watches out there with Japanese movements.  It is possible to get affordable Swiss made watches.  I can help you understand the difference between a grey market watch and one from an authorized seller. (My Seiko came from a grey market store in NYC that also has an authorized division as well.)  Sometimes the right strap can make all the difference on a watch, especially a nylon “NATO” strap.  I don’t think we should think of watches by traditional gender distinctions.  A lot of so-called ladies watches are very stylish but not functional.  Why can’t a lady wear a nice man’s watch?  Of course she can!  There are so many possibilities if we think outside the watch box.  There are a lot of garbage watches coming out of China, but I can let you know about the one Chinese made watch that “watch people” really admire.

Watch Out For Google Search Results

Over the past couple years, I have seen some clients come up with bad luck on Google search results.  It often starts with Googling for a phone number for customer service for a particular company.  While Google has improved this type of searching and can often provide you with an obvious and legitimate number, you have to deal with paid search listings.  I have tried to install ad blockers for all of you on your browsers and shown you how to turn that ad blocker on and off.  However, if you do not have an ad blocker installed you are going to see at least 3 search results from Google that are ads.  They should be clearly identified.  However, you may not notice what you are looking at.  Please be careful.  Unfortunately, scam companies have been buying up key word ads from Google.  So that when you search for XYZ bank customer service or Frontier customer service (for example), those first few results may not be what you are looking for.  You will have to scroll beyond the sponsored listings to truly find what you want.  Goggler beware!