Category: Consumers

Facebook and Google Privacy

If you are a Facebook user, I would encourage you to tweak your privacy settings or get some help doing so.  From the computer, when you are on Facebook.com you need to click the triangle in the upper right corner of the Facebook page.  From there click on Settings.  Then click privacy.  Those settings can be tweaked to your liking. I  think the most important one is the setting all the way down at the bottom.   Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?  That should be set to “No.”   After you have adjusted those options, you will also want to look at Apps and Websites from the Settings page.   There you will see all of the websites and apps that you have given access to using your Facebook account.  Some of these may be valid, but there may be some that you want to revoke.   In the Security and Login section you can turn on two factor authentication for your Facebook account.   I highly recommend it if your Facebook account is important to you and you want to prevent unauthorized access.   Finally, you need to go to your Facebook profile page by clicking on your name at the top of the screen.  You should go through each entry in the About section and decide whether info like your birthday, employers, Likes, and so on are shared with Only Me, Friends, Friends of Friends, or the whole world.   It’s time for a tune up!   You may need to put the same effort into your Google account as well. 

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The old phone company

Today’s topic should give you some food for thought – Can you trust the local phone company?  Are they still relevant as an internet provider?

This article signals to me that Connecticut’s local phone company is “on the ropes.” How long can they keep it up?

http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20170918/PRINTEDITION/309149914/loss-of-landline-customers-gives-frontier-early-headaches-in-ct

I would like to share a couple of anecdotes.  I have one customer who was promised 6 mbps (megabits per second) by the phone company and is barely getting 1. At times their service is so bad, they have no connection at all.   Another client is being promised 12 mbps, but may only get 8 or 9 on a good day.  They also have no other hope of wired internet service internet service in their neighborhood.  Ma Bell customer #3 is stuck with with 7 mbps of internet speed and the cable company is nowhere to be found on their street.   As a point of comparison, you need to know that typical cable internet speeds are 50 mbps and higher.  The vast majority of my customers have cable internet.

The speeds of 6 or higher that I have mentioned, if consistent, are fine for basic Google searching, e-mailing, and a low res video here or there.   However, these slow speeds really hamper the playback of high quality video streams on services like You Tube, Hulu, and Netflix.  Furthermore, major software updates can be a real time warp. 

I worry about the local phone company’s neglect of copper phone lines.  It seems like they are committed to their fiber optic areas, but some neighborhoods will never be upgraded to these high speed lines.   Wireless may be the only option for old phone lines that are beyond repair.

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

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.