Category: Current Events

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. 

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.

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.

Lightning Crashes

How are you doing this week?  Are you sick of the lightning and risk of damaged equipment?   I hope you at least have some decent surge protectors (not just power strips). 

 

Comcast Business Class

I had a very good experience recently with a client that had Comcast Business Class Internet.   A modem was destroyed by lightning and they came out to replace it within a couple hours.  I don’t know if it is still their policy, but I read once that on business days, they make it a point to come out within 4 hours.  If you have a business (even at home) or work from home and need that kind of reliability, you too can get Comcast business level service.  FYI, it costs more and a contract is usually required. 

Faith Restored in the Mac

I helped a client recently who had the unfortunate experience of a hacked email account (which I had seen before), but with all of the emails deleted.  Tragic!  Fortunately, this client had a Mac and had been using the Apple Mail app.  My client had also been using an external hard drive with Time Machine (built into the macOS) to back up the computer.   I was able to restore years worth of Inbox and Sent messages.   Apple Mail and Time Machine are a great combo for archival purposes.  

Summer Fun

I don’t talk about it too much in this newsletter, but I have a completely separate e-mailing each each week where I talk about the joys of watch collecting.  It’s called “Watch Out”. E-mail me to sign up. My goal for the summer was to find a summer watch.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money so I decided to modify an existing watch.   I took my blue Casio Duro (IMHO the best large watch under $75 – Amazon link https://amzn.to/3BCfqRX), and put a lively orange rubber strap on it, also from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Premium-Quality-Waterproof-Silicone-Release/dp/B07XPFDHK5/).

Song of the Week:  Lightning Crashes

In the early morning hours of Sunday 7/18, I saw the worst lightning storm of my life.  Many of you have shared the same.  It seemed that every few minutes I would look out a different window of my  house and see blue almost down to ground level.   It was scary.  Although this song is about metaphorical lightning it is the only song I know about the topic.  Its intensity fits the bill.   If you don’t remember the band Live, they are a great example of 1990s modern rock.   https://youtu.be/7uNdUi0Yf1Q

The End of June Is Upon Us

Life Hacks

I started doing something in January that I don’t regret — I began shopping at “off price” or “generic” grocery stores. I don’t know how else to describe them.  I think in other parts of the country — California perhaps — these are much more common.   Around here, I have been shopping at Aldi and Price Rite.  I feel like I have saved at least a couple hundred $$.  The food tastes the same.  Sometimes the brands are the same. There’s less markup.  I am over the pretense of thinking I have to shop at certain stores. 

Your Favorite Masked Man

Mask wearing might become popular once again.  I’ve received a lot of compliments on the masks I’ve worn and I have typically ordered from 3 places.  Whether you want N95,  KN95 (Chinese / Asian equivalent), or KF94 (Korean standard) – I would be happy to order for you.  I prefer the KN95 or KF94 because of the ear loops.  N95’s have straps that wrap around the head.  The choice is yours.  Black masks are available.  Spice it up.  Let me help you get dressed for success.

Clients Improve My Practice

I become better at my craft by learning from clients and observing how they use technology.  I did some work recently for a client who had an extensive collection of bookmarks in her browser.  Not many of you do a lot of bookmarking.  I think I have well over 1000 pages saved.  This client had over 900.  Ideally they should all be all sorted into folders, but that takes time and not everyone is that organized.  My client wanted them on the screen all the time so they can easily be scrolled through and selected — the way they were in Internet Explorer (there’s a name from the past) in Windows 7 and earlier.  It turns out that this is not possible in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.   It is only possible in Safari (Mac) or Firefox (Mac and Windows).   A Firefox user she will be!

iPhone 12 Event

Apple had their big virtual iPhone 12 event today.  I just got finished watching it live.  I know that some of you are in the market for new iPhones, so I wanted to give you the skinny.  Apple unveiled 4 new iPhone 12 models.   The 12 Mini ($699), the 12 ($799), the 12 Pro ($999) and the 12 Pro Max ($1099).   The giant Max actually clocks in at a price reduction from last year’s model. 

The iPhone 12 — 6.1 inches is expected to be the biggest seller of the bunch, sporting the same screen size as the 2018 iPhone XR and 2019 iPhone 11, although fitting everything into a tighter body.   The iPhone 12 Pro is actually larger than the iPhone X (2017),  XS (2018), and 11 Pro (2019), so that might be a consideration for you. 

The 12 Mini is for those iPhone who want the smallest possible size, however the actual screen is larger than the iPhone 6 – models and the overall 2020 SE model. The body is smaller than those previous phones.

All of the new iPhone 12 models support 5G in both the “normal” and ultra wide band frequencies.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago 5G is just getting of the ground, so you are really future proofing yourself with these iPhone 12 devices.   And of course, if you want a budget friendly iPhone with a familiar look the SE @ $399 is still a great choice.

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!!

Fax Is Back and T-Mobile Update

Here are a couple of Bonus Features for you today.

Fax Is Back

With one company in particular and actually a couple of parties, I have been doing a lot of faxing lately.  I haven’t had a true home phone with the phone company since 2012.  From 2012-2016, I had a service called VOIPo for my home phone.  Basically I plugged an adapter into my router and then positioned a couple of cordless phones throughout the home.  At some point in my time as a customer, they allowed me to upload scanned documents (or computer created documents) and they would fax them out for me.  In mid-2016, I decided that I didn’t really need the fax perk anymore and changed to a well known internet based home phone called Magic Jack.  As I have shared before, I pay a whopping $40 per year for my home phone and use it for all of 5 minutes a month.  Ultimately, I cannot fax with Magic Jack.  So what did I do?   I signed up with Humble Fax for $10 / month and no long term contract.   This service gave me a local fax number.  It allows me to scan documents to the computer and upload them to my Humble Fax portal.  I can then compose a little cover page and send the fax out.  It’s awesome.  I can also receive faxes and get them delivered to my e-mail. 

Still Rockin’ With T-Mobile

The subject of T-Mobile came up with a client recently and I just wanted to say that I am pleased to report that my wife and I still love them, 14 months later.  They are the best big tech / telecom company I have ever dealt with.  We are on the 2 for $70 / unlimited age 55+ plan.  Only one person on the plan needs to be 55 or older.  Our price includes all taxes and junk fees.  As for the promises delivered on, here are the major ones.  When we ported in from Verizon, they promised to pay off our phones.  We each had a year remaining and about $600 total left on our phone loans.  Within 14 days, I got a virtual Mastercard with the exact payoff amount loaded so that I could pay off Verizon.   My wife is a big fan of the Samsung Galaxy phones and not an iPhone user.  When the Galaxy S20 orders started in February, she was all in.  The prices went up this year and the S20 was $999.  However, it became more palatable when T-Mobile (through some kind of arrangement with Samsung) promised to give my wife $500 for her 2 year old Galaxy S9+.  That phone only has a street value of about $150, approximately.   About 3 weeks after receiving the phone in early March, T-Mobile delivered.  $95 was given to us as a Bill Credit.  $405 was put on a pre-paid Mastercard.  I was then able to take that Mastercard and pay it all on my wife’s phone loan, knocking it down by 40%.  Promises made, promises kept!   If you are interested in that 2 for $70 plan, I can talk with you about it.  It may not be for everyone and if you have the right iPhone (2018 models and later), I think I can set you up with a “bridge the gap” strategy to make this work optimally. 

Small Business In The Pandemic

Small Business in the Pandemic

I am sure you got e-mails from just about every company you deal with over the past week regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus that is currently impacting our world. I will not go on a long spiel about how much I care because you know I do.  If you would like me to wipe your keyboard, phone, or tablet with a disinfecting wipe when I am there, I certainly will.   Thank you for your continued support of my small business.  I really appreciate the appointments we’ve had whether they’ve been in person or virtual.  While most of my appointments are close to the Hartford area, my travels took me to the CT Shoreline this weekend. ( I do charge a travel surcharge, but I definitely will take on clients in the New Haven or Springfield areas, for example).  As the situation has intensified and fears have grown, I have definitely noticed a drop in business.  I predict that March will be 40 to 60% less in terms of revenues than this January.  I wanted to provide that as a real “Main Street” report.  It may be logical to expect a decline for a period of time. This business is really all I have.  If there comes a point when I need to supplement this income stream, I could not easily be an I.T. professional for a large company or government entity.  I often joke with myself and say, if I wasn’t doing this business, I would be a cashier at WalMart – maybe – if they would take me 🙂 I will say that every traditional “job” I have ever had has been a failure.  If I do have to diversify in the future, it would be something entrepreneurial and likely outside the field of I.T.  Given the run on toilet paper lately, if I had any plumbing skills whatsoever, I’m sure I could make a killing installing home bidets right now. Unfortunately, that is outside my skill set. Humor aside, I appreciate your continued business and referrals. The VIP Computer Care family has plenty of room for growth. 

Skype on Mac

I shared previously that the ability for me to do remote assistance sessions is already baked in to Windows 10, however on the Mac you will need Skype (or another application) installed for you to share your screen with me. I don’t need to do video chat.  Installing Skype is quite easy for Mac users.  If you don’t have it in your Finder >> Applications (folder) already, you just need to go to skype.com in your browser and download it.  Double click on the file that downloads (you will either see it on the screen or you can go to your Finder >> Downloads folder).  And then just follow the prompt to install Skype.  You can then open it from the Applications folder by going to your Finder (remedial step:  Finder is the “face” icon in the lower left of your screen).  Sign in with your Microsoft account.  If you don’t have one you can create it, no cost involved.  You will then be ready for a future Mac remote session.