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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!!
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
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.
Technology Built with Slave Labor?
I only read this one story by the Associated Press so far and I am looking to confirm this against other sources. However, if it is really true that gadgets made by Lenovo, Apple and other companies are being made with forced Muslim slave labor — I think we need to change how we shop for technology. It’s a sickening feeling. Do we really know what it takes to make our high tech gadgets? I will report back when I know more.
There are some products relevant to many of you — such as a low cost iPhone and new Mac Books with the GOOD 2015-style keyboards — that were expected to come out as early as the end of this month. Given the disruption to the Chinese supply chain, it is now expected that you will have to wait a little bit longer. If you wanted one of these items, try to hold out a little bit longer. If your tech goes kaput before then, you will just have to choose from a product currently available.
Carrier Cell Phone Stores – Shopping Advice
I think I may have shared on this before, but I promised to touch on it again. There is nothing wrong with shopping at an ATT or Verizon store to buy your new smartphone. However, if you choose to go this route as opposed to buying online or buying at the Apple store, make sure you buy a couple of accessories from your salesperson. Some customers will go into the store and be insistent on just buying the phone only. Also, they may “shop” in store, buy online and then come into the store and expect the salesperson to set up the phone. I used to think it was no big deal, but then I heard from some real in-store sales staff. If a customer comes in a store and buys a phone without accessories, the sales rep can get fired for that. It’s a reality. These sales jobs are good middle class jobs. With this said, I offer you the option of buying your online with me and let me set up your phone for you. However, I know that you may ultimately want that in-store, hands on experience. If so, try to make it a sustainable transaction for all parties involved.
As we come to the end of the year, we also come to the end of the 2010’s. (Whether or not it’s truly the end of the decade, may be a technicality. Some of my elementary school teachers would have said that the decade is 2011-2020), but for all intents and purposes many in the technology community are looking at how far we have come in the last 10 years.
I will just give you a few of my thoughts. I will also ask you, how has your use of technology changed in 10 years?
-The iPhone was not Apple’s bread and butter in 2010. In the USA, it was still an AT&T exclusive. Verizon users were being pushed to get a DROID, which was special branding put on Android phones made specifically for Verizon. Big iPhone competitors that year were the Motorola DROID, the DROID X, and the HTC DROID Incredible. As a Verizon customer, I could not get an iPhone. My first smartphone was the Incredible. Everything opened up in early 2011 when Verizon came to an agreement to sell the iPhone on their network. I got my first iPhone in the fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back.
-The 2010’s were also the decade of the iPad. I acquired my first iPad in 2010. To be honest, I didn’t see much use for it in the beginning and I sold it in about 6 months. Today, we see the iPad as the tablet done right. It does not run a full, traditional computer operating system (now called iPad OS) but it gets the job done well enough for quite a few folks as a primary computing device and nearly everyone else as a “secondary screen”. Want to use it in the hand? You can check email, shop, bank, read books, and watch TV / video. Want to use it with a keyboard? It is a near laptop. When Apple came out with the iPad Pro a few years back — they really blurred the lines between Mac and iPad. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though I would still prefer a full Mac / Windows computer as my #1 device. There was a lull in the iPad market in 2015 and 2016. It seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere. But then, Apple lowered the price of the “standard iPad” (9.7 inch, now 10.2) to $329 in 2017 and sales have gone up like wild flowers.
-10 years ago — many people thought the PC (personal computer) would soon be dead. Remember when netbooks were a big thing? These were small – 9 or 10 inch — very underpowered Windows laptops that were meant for travel and quick browsing or e-mail. I fondly remember — hacking a Dell netbook and putting the Mac OS on it. It ran well for a while. The keyboard on that netbook was excellent, though cramped. Fast forward to 2019 and the PC is not dead. The industry has innovated. In late 2010, Apple released a timeless design with its 2nd generation Mac Book Air. This Ultrabook design helped change Windows PC’s for the better. No longer did a powerful machine have to be a big clunker. Microsoft also got into the market in 2012 by releasing its own line of tablet computers called Sufrace. The original Surface concept (which ran a limited version of Windows RT) was a flop, but the Surface Pro (which runs full Windows) has been a huge success. This 12 inch tablet, with keyboard has aged with conservative design changes and is really the gold standard for small, sub-13 inch computers. Consumers with simpler needs have moved to the smartphone and the iPad, in some instances – exclusively, but the PC market is still here. The premium PC market is strong.
-During the past 10 years — especially 2016-19 — Apple lost its perch in the laptop market. Beginning in 2016, they wanted to get so thin and light in order to shave a couple of millimeters that they released a horrible keyboard design. Many claims of defects were made and lots of warranty work had to be done. The problem became so bad that in 2018, Apple decided to give all owners of the new Mac Book Pros a 4 year warranty on the keyboards. This special warranty now covers the late 2016 to 2019 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pros and the 2018 and 2019 Mac Book Airs. Good news! Apple has seen the error of its ways and recently came out with a new 16 inch laptop with the old 2015 style keyboard. Hallelujah! We can only hope that Apple will revise the 13 inch Mac Books (models my clients would be most likely to buy) accordingly next year.
-On a personal note, I just want to say that I have learned over the course of 10 years that not everything online is better. 10 years ago, I was actively pursuing my Bachelor’s degree online (with a few on campus courses mixed in). That evolved into an exclusively online Master’s for the academic portion, with some in-person internship or practicum experiences. It was a colossal $60,000 mistake. Some day, I should write an article or short guide about online college studies. Ultimately, what I learned is that online education is not appropriate for all learners and career objectives. Just because it’s more convenient or you are a technologically savvy person or you can express yourself more freely by typing — does not mean an online degree is appropriate. Online education would be appropriate for someone who is already established in an industry, even in an entry level way, and they are aiming for their degree (hopefully with the encouragement of management) in order to advance in that field. Online degrees are right for someone with an established network that is using that degree to get a bump in pay due to that accomplishment (ie. a teacher getting a salary increase for a Master’s). Online coursework would not be appropriate for someone looking to blaze a new path in a field where they have no relationships. That is where I got lost in the maze. I also believe formal college education is not right for everyone and that trade schools and apprenticeships are a very sustainable path for our young workers. It makes me think of a picture that you have problem seen passed around in chain e-mails depicting two “learners.” Jim — 4 year degree in Philosophy – $100K in debt, no job. Joe — 4 year paid apprenticeship. No debt. $80K a year salary. Today, Joe works for the electric company and cut off Jim’s lights for non-payment. Sad, but could be very true.
This event has already been reported in the mainstream media, usually in snippets and soundbites. Clients have already asked me to clarify the confusion. I wanted to break their “state of the state” address into a very specific focus for you — 1) What it means for your Macs, 2) What it means for your iPhones / iPads, and 3) What it means for iTunes. Feel free to print this out or save this e-mail or share with your Mac / iOS using friends. This info will still be valid in the fall and ongoing.
Apple held their WWDC keynote address on Monday. Aside from a new Mac Pro desktop (which is intended for designers, people in video production, and engineers — users outside my typical client demographic), this event was all about software. Like clockwork, Apple is coming out with a brand new version of iOS and macOS. These are the BIG annual upgrades that I often tell you about. They will be available in the late summer / early fall. These will be known as iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. Apple is essentially “forking off” the software for the iPad and calling it iPadOS. This will be coming out in the fall for existing, compatible iPads as well. As I told one client today, ALL OF THE NEW SOFTWARE WILL BE FREE. These new editions of the respective operating systems offer guidance as to which Macs and iOS devices will no longer be supported.