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.
Odds and Ends
TV Time: Blue Bloods
Up until a year ago, I regularly watched four TV shows. Unfortunately, one of them got cancelled for reasons I’m not going to get into here. For the last few TV seasons (usually running from Sept to May), Blue Bloods has been my favorite show. There is just something wholesome about watching Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his family run integral parts of fictional New York City. On Friday May 14th, the Season 11 finale aired. It spanned 2 hours. I don’t want to spoil it for any of you. It is available On Demand as Episode 15 (The End) and 16 (Justifies the Means). It’s a great mini-movie of sorts and it would be perfect for you to jump right in if you haven’t watched Blue Bloods in a while. To set the table for you, all you need to know is that Frank has a grandson in the NYPD and he has been “missing” for several months. It was very emotional viewing for me and I loved it.
Additional Thoughts on Car Buying
I just wanted to add a couple more notes to my last newsletter…
-People buy used cars all the time. Maybe you like the deal or it is a discontinued model. Please get the car inspected by an independent mechanic. If the dealer or seller won’t let you get it inspected, move on.
-This might be more for your kids than you — but if you have an unstable income / career prospects, buy rather than lease. I helped someone last year on a car deal. She made all of her lease payments, but the rest of her credit got trashed over the 3 years of the lease. I had to put on my A-Game just to negotiate with the dealer to get an 8.7% loan rate to buy out the lease. We could have easily been looking at 15%.
I don’t know about you but my family watches way more You Tube than TV. It is still my sincere goal to be done with traditional cable TV by the end of the year. If you like You Tube and you like music, you may want to consider You Tube Premium for $12 a month. It gives you ad-free You Tube viewing and also unlimited music from the You Tube Music app. You Tube Music is very similar to Apple Music. You can download your music to the app, listen offline, stream in the house or play in the car. It’s on my radar to check out. One thing I have noticed recently is that my ad blockers on the iPhone and computer no longer block You Tube ads.
New M1 Macs — Truly Are That Fast
I have finally set up some M1 Macs for clients. They are night and day better than even recent Intel Macs. The Mac Book Air starts at $999 and the Mac Book Pro is $1299 (if you need more than 256 GB hard drive you will pay a little more). Need a desktop? Apple’s got you covered. You can select either the Mac Mini or the brand new M1 iMac. I sent out an update a few weeks ago on these Macs. I want to mention that the upgrade in price for the iMac is not just the beautiful design but you are also getting a Retina Display. If it were me, I think I would probably still choose a “business quality” monitor with the Mini but if you want to most pop in the picture, then the iMac is for you.
The Future of Movies
Google Pixel 4a
If you are really into Google services, like Gmail and all they offer — you may want to consider their new Pixel 4a Android phone. It has been priced to compete squarely with Apple’s new mid-range iPhone SE. Google even beats the price by $50, coming in at $349. The 4a works on all major carriers. Here is a sneak peek — https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_4a
The Future Of Movies
Who is going to the movies? I haven’t since last fall. Are 15 cent tickets from AMC going to lure you in? Have you heard of any big summer releases? Crickets are chirping here. Here is what Disney is doing through their Disney + app for the soon to be released Mulan movie. They are going to release it in the app on the same day it hits the theater — for a premium charge of $30. I was wondering when this would happen. I know that even under normal circumstances, it could really crimp the movie theaters’ business, but this day was going to come sooner or later. I think more new movies will come out, but I think Xfinity On Demand, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime should all get in on this cutting edge content delivery model. Instead of 3 people going to a theater, that may or may not be safe, you pay $30 (or $40 or whatever) and watch it at home. You can make yourself an iced tea and skip the diabetic coma soda and $10 popcorn. It’s a win win. Of course, not every app will have every new movie. There are going to be exclusive deals. It would be nice if there is just a “movie theater app” and you don’t have to pay monthly but you can just buy individual movies that interest you. Day 1 new movies — coming soon to a home theater near you!
Review of Apple’s Big Event | Time for New Phones and Tablets?
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.
Cord Cutting Part 2
Cord Cutting Part 2: How Much Speed Do You Need?
Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).
You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service. Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box). Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients. Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku. With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere).
How Much Speed Do You Need?
If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work. However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video. With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction). I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed. You certainly can if you like. I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company. It works! Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings: if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.) The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter.
It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered. I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed. Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel. She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels. In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting. While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.” If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package. That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups. Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package. The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis. On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.
Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much. Internet is the only thing that matters. You will be getting your TV elsewhere.
Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already). Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you. You may just want to rent some movies from time to time. Be a streamer! Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience. A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels. With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month. If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on. You are not locked down. You have choices. Welcome to 2019!
Cord Cutting Part 1: Introduction
I deal with a very diverse buffet of client issues over the course of a month: residential consumer concerns, small business, non-profit, Mac, Windows, iPhone, (some) Android, buying and setting up new equipment, overhauling old computers (software + hardware), teaching clients new skills, helping organize one’s digital life, and so on. One topic of great client interest lately has been CORD CUTTING. When appropriate, I have become a big proponent of it. In a brief session, 1 to 2 hours usually, I can help WILLING clients (usually they approach me) gain a lot of peace of mind and major savings by cutting out traditional pay TV and moving to a streaming or free (yes free) strategy.
Over this week and next, I am going to share with you about cord cutting. Even if you think you would never cut back on your cable / satellite pay TV services, I think you will learn something over these next 2 updates. You may develop an interest in trying streaming video because you are probably an Amazon Prime member. Your eyes may be opened to the power of the internet connection. Finally, you may find these e-mails valuable for a friend or family member.
There may be some different definitions of this concept out there, but for me it boils down to 3 possibilities.
A. Cutting traditional pay TV services entirely and switching to a streaming, channel based live-TV replacement
B. Cutting back on traditional pay TV services and augmenting with a streaming video service like Amazon Prime or Netflix
C. Cutting traditional pay TV services and relying on free over the air TV for local networks (and possibly adding Prime or Netflix too)
*Let me just stop right there and say, if all you care about is local channels like ABC, CBS, local FOX, PBS, etc — there is a good chance you can pick up 10-15 free channels in the Hartford area with a simple indoor antenna. To boot, as long as you get a good signal, the picture will be BETTER than you would get from cable for those local channels.
Channel Based Live TV Streaming Services
There are about services that come to mind: Hulu TV, You Tube TV (a real TV service, not the same as regular You Tube videos), Sling TV, Sony VUE, and Direct TV now. The cost is about $40 a month. Dozens of channels are included, even locals, and sports. Premium channels like HBO and Showtime can be added for an extra charge.
Real Life Examples
The clients I have worked with have all canceled their cable / satellite TV service. A good internet package was maintained (either with the phone or cable company). They may or may not have kept home phone service. While sort of a separate topic, if home phone is of little importance to you but you want to keep the number, I can get you on a $40 a year (not month, year) plan. All clients are over 70 and in some cases over 80 years old. They chose Hulu TV (but you should choose You Tube TV if you want the Red Sox channel). They get their local stations included for $40 a month.
Become A Streamer
After getting this intro, you may be in this camp: I don’t want to change my TV package but I want to watch Amazon Prime Video and or Netflix on the TV. Great I can help with that too.
Next Week: Cord Cutting Part 2
I will incorporate topics such as — How Much Speed Do You Need?, equipment required, and your questions. Please ask so that I can make this as complete as possible.
If you are ready, my “scissors” are ready. Let’s cut.
Technology Shopping Realities
Apple in the News
I just wanted to touch on this briefly because there has been a lot of negative financial news lately. Some of you have probably taken a hit ($$) with AAPL. Financial reports and consumer reality don’t always match. There is nothing substandard about Apple’s latest products. Their quality is among the best on the market. A certain segment of the population is upset because Apple is not going to report unit sales of iPhones anymore. It also seems like the starting prices of iPhones, iPad Pros, Mac Minis, Mac Book Airs, and even Mac Book Pros are going up. Sell less at higher prices and you still do as well on the bottom line may have been their thinking. Multiple reports have said that Apple has cut orders for the iPhone X product line. I saw one source that stated that iPhone 8 orders were being increased. Could there be a rebellion against removing the home button? A desire for a sub $600 premium phone (not $750 or $999)? Weakness in China and India? All of these could be true. However, my clients who have iPhone X models love them. They got used to the slightly different user experience in days or within one day. They certainly appreciate the camera. I’ll end on this note — If you stack the Mac Mini against a premium Windows desktop like the Dell XPS – it is priced appropriately for its features. The Mac Book Air 2018 is also a pound for pound match with its closest Windows contenders in the ring — the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
I saw some amazing deals on Black Friday at Best Buy on Thursday night. There were 50 inch Samsung and LG 4K HDR TVs for $327. 55 inch models were $397. These were not top of the line models, but when paired with a soundbar (a must for most new TVs), they represented an awesome value. Best Buy also had Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro 6 tablet computer with a keyboard for $799 or $999 depending on hard drive size. The popular Instant Pot 6 quart slow cooker extraordinaire was priced at $60-$70 by multiple outlets. Macy’s had Martha Stewart bedding priced at 65% off. Lord and Taylor offered some low cost but very stylish ladies handbags at 60% off. In some cases, but not always, orders could be placed online to avoid the retail experience. Now that Cyber Monday is upon us here are some deals of note:
Amazon Fire Stick (watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV) – $25
Amazon Echo Dot (small “Hey Alexa” speaker) 3rd generation + Ring Video Doorbell – $139
50 inch Westinghouse TV 4K with HDR – $199
Amazon Fire HD8 tablet – $50
(Items found on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com)
I am sure you can find many more great deals on these and other websites throughout the day on Monday.
Always Black Friday at Stub Hub
I had the joy of going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert this weekend. I have never been to a major rock or metal show in my life, although I have seen Jimmy Buffet on multiple occasions. All I can say is WOW! They left it all on the stage and performed for 2.5 hours. The best part of the experience was that I saved 2/3 off the regular price using StubHub.com. It is a very reputable site (and app) where ticket holders go to sell their unneeded tickets. I’ve used this service in the past with much success. The key to big savings is, have a desire to attend an event but also be OK with not going, be in close proximity, and make a decision at the last minute. We were less than 1 hour from the site of the show and we purchased our tickets with 2 hours to go. The regular price for two tickets would have been $180 and we paid $60.08, including fees.
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
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
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
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!
Netflix’s Demise Was Greatly Exaggerated – Total Subscribers up 25% From Last Year Despite Missteps | DSLReports.com, ISP Information
Netflix’s Demise Was Greatly Exaggerated – Total Subscribers up 25% From Last Year Despite Missteps | DSLReports.com, ISP Information.
$8 per month for unlimited video streamed to your computer, mobile device, or TV. Are you ready to “cut the cord” yet?