Category: Current Events

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.
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Technology Update 9/12/18 – Apple Event Recap

New iPhones
Apple took the wrapper off of two premium iPhones today, the iPhone Xs (10 s) and 10s Max featuring Super Retina screens and better cameras than ever before.  As I shared previously, the phones feature edge to edge screens, with diagonal screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.5 inches.    Due to there being almost no bezel on the phones, the overall size of the phone is very comparable to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus respectively.    Apple is also offering a brand new iPhone Xr, with a traditional LCD screen which also pushes to the edges of the phone. It is 6.1 inches diagonally and comes in multiple colors. The Xr offers a very good camera, whereas the Xs models offer magnificent cameras.  Pricing (64 GB models):  iPhone Xr $749,iPhone Xs $999, iPhone Xs Max $1099.   All new models do not have home buttons.  I think you can easily learn the basic functionality in a day.  However, if you demand the traditional home button, the iPhone 8 is still available at a reduced cost ($599).
Ordering opens up on Friday, September 14th for the Xs and Xs Max.  The Xr model can be ordered starting Oct. 19th.  As I mentioned before, I can order you new iPhone for you for delivery at no charge if you have me come out to set it up for you.  Please contact me.  I’ll be ready to place your orders starting on Friday.
Apple Watches
Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 today.  The new models offer large watch faces, while pushing the screen closer to the edges.  They will offer more accurate tracking of exercise including swimming.  Series 4 can also detect falls, enhancing your personal safety.  Furthermore, it is also designed to recognize atrial fibrillation (AFIB) and offers the owners the first over-the-counter ECG (electrocardiogram).  The new Apple watches start at $399 and can be ordered starting on Sept 14th.

New Versions of IOS and the Mac OS

New versions of the operating system for the iPhone / iPad and Mac will be available very soon.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th. If you are going to be doing the upgrade on your phone, please make sure you have a full backup.  I am available for upgrade appointments starting on Sept. 24th.     If you are uncomfortable with doing it on your own, I will ensure you have a guided and safe experience.   Let’s set something up.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th.
Macs
There were no new Macs announced today.  I expect a direct product release or another Apple event within the next month.   At that time we should see a new Mac Mini desktop (Apple’s least expensive Mac) and some lower cost “consumer” Mac laptops.   As of right now, my recommendations are the 2018 Mac Book Pro 13 ($1799) and a custom ordered 2017 iMac ($1499 for one with a real SSD hard drive).  I expect my list of “VIP approved” Macs to expand when the new models are released.

Is That E-Mail Really From You?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously. This is an excellent topic and I wrote a blog post on it.    Please click the link to read more.  theacronym.com/2018/09/12/e-mail-authenticity/

Technology Update 9/4/18

New iPhones For Real – VIP Service
Apple’s iPhone event will be held on Sept 12th.  I believe pre-orders will start that Friday and shipments will commence a week later.  I mentioned the three sizes of the new phones in my last update — think small, medium and LARGE — with the medium being the least expensive.  I expect pricing to be somewhere along the lines of $700, $900, and $1100.  If its been many years since you’ve purchased an iPhone, you could buy the phone outright but what I think 90% of customers do is take advantage of the interest free financing with your cell phone carrier or Apple.  Take the phone price, divide by 24, and that’s your monthly cost.   I will offer my iPhone Ordering Service to you once again.  If you are going to have me set up your iPhone, I will order it for you over the phone at no extra charge.   I look forward to helping you get your new device.
 
Upgrading Computers
One of the nice things about 2012 (and earlier) Mac Book Pros and MOST Windows computers is that the hardware can be upgraded.  The hard drive can be replaced to give you more and faster storage.  Memory (RAM) can often be increased to allow smoother moment to moment operations.  Sold state hard drives (SSDs) are cheaper than ever before.  Contact me to find out if its possible / worth it to perform an upgrade to your existing machine and what the costs would be.  I will take great care to back up your data and then give you a “clean install” of the Mac / Windows operating system.  If you’ve had your computer for at least three years and want to keep it going, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.
Remote Support
I want to make clients, especially those new to the VIP family, aware that I offer remote support for simple Windows and Mac issues that may not require in in-person visit.  With Windows 10, I make use of the built in Quick Assist application.  With Mac users, I utilize Skype.  Do not worry, I’m not interested in seeing your beautiful face after you had a night of poor sleep.  I strictly use the screen sharing Skype feature.  For remote appointments, I bill in half hour increments. I will ask you to pay at the end of the session by directing you to my payment page or taking a credit /debit card from you over the phone.    Other remote services I have offered for clients in the past include comprehensive research and answering of questions in report style format, constructing / editing simple websites and social media profiles, and document / image conversion.

Technology Update 8/28/18

Start With a Tip
Some clients tell me, I love your updates but I only understand 1/3 of it.  One client told me recently, I just realized I have a Mac.  It’s the teacher training within me that seeks to set a high bar.  Transformations may not be instant, but it is my goal to raise your technological competence over time.  Have you ever heard your plumber, electrician, or carpenter say that to you?  That’s why I’m special and I value our special relationship. 
—-> Copy and paste text — the need comes up all the time — from one e-mail to another, from an e-mail to a Word document, from one Word document to another, or how about from a web page to an email or word document.  The sequence is very simple.   Windows:  Highlight text with mouse >> Ctrl C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Ctrl V.   Mac: Highlight text with mouse >> Command C (on keyboard) >> Click on insertion point >> Command V.   ** Caveat:  Copying text from a web page to another application can present problems. Web based text is often heavily formatted. I have always told clients who are doing this to keep their computer’s “text editor” open to use it as a conduit.   In Windows, the built in text editor is called Notepad (part of Windows since 1985); on the Mac it’s called Text Edit.  In this workflow, you would copy the text from the website, paste it in the text editor (remove the formatting if necessary) and then copy and paste it into its destination.  Getting familiar with your system’s text editor has other benefits as well.  You may not always need to open up the large and often slow Microsoft Word.  Notepad and Text Edit handle light word processing tasks just fine.
Catalog Those Files
Occasionally, I come across a situation where a client has all of their files stored on multiple hard drives, with folders located here, there, and everywhere.  It may be a good thing to have these files spread out, but please remember to have backups of originals (ideally using multiple methods).  However, there may be times when you want to consolidate.  You may be wondering, what is where?  So that no data is lost, you really need to establish a catalog for your files.  These are not backup applications; they are solely Windows and Mac utilities for making a master catalog.  They are under $40 each.  For Windows — it’s simply Win Catalog https://www.wincatalog.com/.     For Mac — Neo Finder http://www.cdfinder.de/.   Avoid data loss!
The New iPhones Are Really Coming – September of My Years
The cat is slowly jumping out of the bag.  Apple is going to have an iPhone event in mid-September.  Like clockwork, pre-orders will start a few days later.  The new phones will begin shipping about a week after that.  So I want you to look at your current iPhone, diagonally please. You may want to get out a ruler or a tape measure.  The screen sizes of the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, and 8 are 4.7 inches.  The iPhone 6 Plus, 6s +, 7+, and 8+ are 5.5 inches.  If you have an iPhone X, you measure in at 5.8 inches.  (If you are on the iPhone SE, 4.0 inches, I doubt Apple is updating this form factor but keep enjoying the phone by all means.)  The 2018 models will all have the visual aesthetics of the iPhone X, meaning the screen will push to the edges of the phone. There will be no home button (you swipe up from the middle, bottom to get the home button functionality).  The model names are not set in stone.  There will be a “new iPhone X” measuring 5.8 inches.  This is not that much larger than the iPhone 6 – 8.  This will be the middle priced model.  There will also be a “6.1 inch iPhone.” This will be the least expensive model.  The size will be similar overall to the iPhone 6 Plus – 8 Plus.  For those who want a “large and in charge” phone, there will also be an “iPhone X Plus” coming in at 6.5 inches.  That’s almost like a small tablet if you ask me and it will be the most expensive.  Keeping these design changes in mind, you may want to pick up one of the current 8 or 8 Plus models if you want the traditional home button and do not want to take the minimal amount of time required to learn the new functions.  With that in mind, Apple is going all in with the iPhone X design motif for all.
(Sent while listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela – Look them up on the music app of your choice. Great stuff.)

Technology Update 8/15/18

Preview
It’s the middle of August already and the busy season in the world of technology is almost upon us.  In short snippets let me cover everything that we can expect to see over the next couple of months:  new iPhones, new Pixel phones from Google, new iPads, new Macs, new Surface computers from Microsoft, a new version of macOS, a new version of iOS, a new version of Android, and a new version of Windows.  It will be a busy time for us.
Small Laptops
I admire small, highly functional laptops. Back in the day, I fondly recall owning both a 12 inch PowerBook and 12 inch iBook laptop.  Ten years ago “netbooks” were a thing.  Do you remember these $300-ish Windows laptops in 9 or 10 inch flavors?  The problem was, they were very under-powered and after a year we got tired of them.  Apple basically killed the netbook when they released the iPad in 2010 and updated the Mac Book Air later that year, with a design that in my mind became one of the greatest laptops of all time.  Apple offered 11 inch and 13 inch Mac Book Airs until the 11 was killed off in 2016.  I have clients who still love their 11 inch Mac Book Airs.  The best sub 13 inch Windows laptop in my eyes is the Thinkpad X280 (12.5 inch). However, it is a $1300 machine.  Microsoft has just come out with a small portable, the Surface Go, that aims to bridge the gap between premium portable and the netbooks.  It’s $650 for a usable configuration, which includes the keyboard.  It may not be a primary computer for all, but it’s worth checking out if you want to go small.  https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/surface-go/8v9dp4lnknsz
Privacy Package
Google isn’t making a lot of friends lately.  They are facing a huge fine in the EU for their practices.  This week we found out that even if you had “Location Tracking” set to off in your Google apps and services, THEY ARE STILL TRACKING YOUR LOCATION.  This is true even on Apple devices.  Another setting has to be turned off called “Web & App Activity”.  This is really shameful.  I’m not trying to single Google out for punishment either.   These concerns and others I have shared in the past have prompted me to offer a Privacy Package to clients for the first time.  At a bare minimum I will
– Install a VPN for you ($40 to $60 per year), so that all of your internet activity is hidden from your internet service provider and  your internet location is hidden the websites you visit.  It can be automatic, no complex configuration for you to mess around with.  It will work on smartphones and tablets as well.
-Set you up with a private search engine that does not collect and sell your personal information (Don’t worry, you can still use Google occasionally if needed).
Optional Services
– Another option I can set you up with is a “as private as possible” cell phone service.  You can use your existing iPhone or Android.  I will set you up on ATT.  You will have to take a new number.  However, they will not know your name or address.  $45 a month for service.
-For Gmail users only:  I can make sure you are checking your e-mail in a e-mail program instead of Gmail.com in your browser.  After all, when you are signed into Google services in your browser — who knows what they are collecting on you.  I think as pure e-mail they are fine, but can’t be trusted beyond that.
Support the Free Software You Use
My final thought for today is, we need to support the small time developers who provide free software that we use all the time and take for granted.  It would be terrible if these small operations were gobbled up large entities (and radically altered) or ceased to exist because the developer didn’t feel like the project was worth continuing.  I would suggested donating at least $5-10 once or twice year to the developers of this software that you rely on so they can stay in the game for years to come.  Most of you use one of these apps that is freely provided, but please ask me if you are not sure.   A few common apps that come to mind are
NAPS 2 – scanning software for Windows (https://www.naps2.com/)
VLC – media player for Mac and Windows – (https://www.videolan.org/)
Libre Office – alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac and Windows (https://www.libreoffice.org/)
Maintenance – system cleanup utility for Mac (https://www.titanium-software.fr/en/maintenance.html)

Weekly Technology Update

A. Privacy:  GDPR and Oath.   You may have received a bunch of notices recently detailing the updated privacy policies of various services that you use.  The European Union’s new privacy laws take effect on May 25th.  These regulations are known as GDPR.   They are taking customers’ data a lot more seriously than we are on this side of the pond.  International companies such as Facebook and Google are adhering to these standards even for their American customers.  It’s a solid business practice.  Did you know that you can download all of your Facebook (or Google) data in a single file?  Did you know that you can control how Facebook advertises to you?   GDPR = Good.   To find out more http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/21/technology/gdpr-explained-europe-privacy/index.html

Additionally, some of you who have a Yahoo or AOL account may have received notices about policies from an organization known as Oath.  (My joke is — “zero authorization to violate your privacy,” but I’ll get back on topic.).  Oath is a division of Verizon that oversees both Yahoo and AOL.   Yahoo users may have even been asked to accept the new terms.  You really don’t have a choice if you want to keep using the account.   As a quick primer for those new to the VIP Computer Care family — my favorite free e-mail accounts are Google and Outlook.com.   Customers may choose a paid e-mail account if they want to get actual customer support.  My favorite choices  here are Fastmail ($20 per year), G (G Suite a paid Google account, $5 per month), or Office 365 (a paid e-mail account from Microsoft, $5 per month).

B.  Windows:   I’m still compiling reports of horror stories from users that had bad experiences with the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1803), released on April 30th.  Whenever possible, I have set your Windows computers to a 120 day delay schedule.   Unfortunately, I had to help a customer last weekend who couldn’t delay Windows version upgrades.  He purchased a consumer grade Windows desktop.  I offered the next best thing.  I managed the upgrade for him.  It took 2 hours, which is about what I expected.  With fingers crossed, there were no hiccups.  I am not recommending that I do this proactively for others, at this time, if you have already been set up for a delay.  Ultimately, Microsoft will iron out the wrinkles.  After all, hundreds of millions of business customers rely on Windows.   Version 1803 should be ready for prime time in a few months.  In August, lets talk about upgrading your computer. 

C.  Mac:  Apple’s big annual event, the WWDC, is happening on June 4th.  While it’s not specifically a new hardware event, Apple has been known to release new Macs at this event.   We can only hope that they offer a mea culpa on the Mac Book Pro and their awful keyboards.  At the very least, they could update the Mac Book Air with 2018 innards.  (The 2017 Air, while still my #1 choice at this date and time, features 2015-era parts.)   Additionally, the Mac Mini needs a major refresh.  It has not been updated since October 2014.  Apple needs to keep a $500-600 Mac on the market to welcome new customers into the family. 

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.