I hear the birds chirping outside my window, but then again it’s unlike any other May Day in my lifetime. My cherry blossom tree already bloomed for the year. Hope you’re starting to see those signs of spring as well.
-The new iPhone SE is a winning release for Apple. I will be doing my first remote setups for clients over the next week or so. You could also buy it to hold for later. At $399 it is more powerful than almost any Android phone on the market. Whether you order directly from Apple or from your carrier, you can ask me which is best for you. In many instances there are interest free payments available. I think a lot of buyers will just purchase it outright. Drawbacks? I thought of one since last week and while it certainly isn’t a minus for me, it may be for some people. The iPhone SE does not have 5G cellular technology. Of course, no iPhone on the market has 5G right now. The new more expensive “iPhone 12” models released in the fall will almost certainly have 5G. Don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this extreme value.
– 2020 Mac Book Air — I mentioned a few weeks ago that Apple has finally brought back the old keyboard design on their consumer focused Mac Books and that if you need a Mac Book, you can go ahead and strongly consider the new Air. https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/ When you choose the base model at $999 ($899 with education discount), you will want to make 1 upgrade during the checkout. PLEASE – choose the i5 processor for a $100 upgrade. It’s well worth it. So for $1099, you have an awesome Mac.
Not The Password Boy Who Cried Wolf – Part 127
I’ve sent out e-mails like this before. That is why I am calling it Part 127. I get these sad stories from clients every so often. An e-mail account has been compromised. Requests for payment or money were sent out. Someone didn’t screen the request properly and actually sent the money. During this time of Covid19, the scammers have not rested. This is peak season for them. Some hackers have software that just keeps guessing at e-mail passwords until they can “crack” them. The easier your password is, the better the chance that they will crack it quickly. However, major e-mail providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft do have systems in place that lock the account after an excessive number of tries. Yet, if your password is super easy to guess — it’s not going to help you anyway.
One thing I have noticed during this “stay safe, stay at home” period is that many of you have terrible passwords. You don’t take this seriously at all. Think of all of the services you have that can be broken into if a bad actor were to get into your e-mail account. Here are a few BEST PRACTICES that I have tried to teach to clients over the past 5 years or so. Unfortunately, I don’t think many are making the grade on this topic.
3 Ways to Create Better Passwords — Choose 1
-use a professional password manager — like Last Pass, 1Password, or Dashlane. (of course this involves learning a new piece of software and not everyone wants to do this).
– Use a random password generator. Set length to 12 or greater — and you will get totally randomized passwords to PRINT OUT. This is a tool I frequently use with clients https://www.random.org/passwords/
-Finally — a client can come up with their own if they use a good formula — secure base plus specific ending for each site. Again, it should be something easy for you to remember, hard for others to guess. Let’s say for example not many people know I like John Denver music.
My base might be — “Leavingonajetplane”
My password for Microsoft might be Leavingonajetplane20msft
My password for Google might be Leavingonajetplane19goog
And so on.
Again, those would be good passwords, if no one could associate me with that base.
Extra Credit: And while you have some time — if you do online banking — why don’t you call your bank’s help # and ask them this question. It’s a very simple one. What are you doing — beyond my user name and password — to protect my account? Is there a 2nd factor? Is there some other security measure? What do they offer beyond user name and password?
What I have been so impressed by is the creativity that other businesses are showing at this time. I’m really happy that smaller markets like Fitzgerald’s, Highland Park, Stew Leonard’s and others are stepping up and keeping the shelves stocked, when some of the more “big box” and corporate type stores have been perpetually cleaned out. It just seems to me like $5 / 20 roll toilet paper, $1 hand soap, and $2 hand sanitizer are not sustainable during times of insane demand or hoarding. However, stores that sell these items at sustainable prices have them. One Hartford business that has really impressed me by how they have met a consumer need is Hartford Flavor on Arbor St. They are known for producing fine hard liquor but these days they have used their capacity to make hand sanitizer. They take one customer at a time up the stairs at their headquarters. They have also donated a bunch of their product to front line workers. As you probably know commercial food suppliers are really having a tough go of it. Eggs and other staples are being trashed across the country. Sysco, a company that provides food to many restaurants we love, is now offering personal pickup two days a week for individual customers at their Rocky Hill warehouse. Some businesses have really been devastated and may never recover but I think it’s important to recognize those who are creating new supply channels during these wild times.
iPhone SE Taking Off Like A Rocket
I discussed the release of this phone with you last week. It is going to be a huge seller for Apple and depending on where you order from, the wait is already a couple weeks for delivery. This phone is so much better than the 2016 iPhone SE. It has a “normal” size screen that iPhone users have been used to since 2014 and of course at $399, it is priced to move. I will share a tid bit that I read in one of the tech publications this week. They said that even though this phone is $399, it has a more powerful processor than just about any Android phone on the market, including those costing more than double. Some of my clients have purchased this phone already and will do a remote setup with me (which I expect to take 1 to 1.5 hours if you are keeping score at home). Others are purchasing and holding it for later so that we can set it up together under better circumstances. Either option is fine by me with any device you want to purchase.
I also want to answer another question that I have gotten — what’s the catch? I think it’s a great question. Since Steve Jobs launched the iMac in 1998, Apple has performed with near genius precision at the unveiling of one product after another. They have had few duds. Apple’s original intent with the SE was probably to capture buyers who for some reason have held onto their iPhone 6, 6s and 7 and possibly 8’s (for those who bought it early on as it was a fall 2017 phone). They decided on this release sometime last year, not because of Covid 19, but the fact that it is happening now when a $1000 phone seems so out of sight for many laid off or downsized workers — makes Apple seem brilliant. I think they will also win over some % of Android users because this is a can’t lose price point. So who is the iPhone SE not for? If you see yourself as a semi-pro photographer, you will likely want a phone from the iPhone 11 series, and probably a Pro model. The camera on the SE is a single camera, definitely as good as the iPhone 8. Another person who the SE is not for is someone who wants two cellular lines on one phone. Starting with the 2018 models, all iPhone X series and 11 series support two lines. This can be a very useful feature, especially in the case of business and personal.
It feels like March 2016 again only better. Apple — overpriced? An Apple Tax to buy all of those Apple products? Not right now. First of all, they came out with a 2020 Mac Book Air a few weeks ago, with the good keyboard and LOWERED the price to $999. Apple knows that buyers are scared and budgets are constrained. So what did they do? They released a $399 iPhone SE on Wednesday, with the SAME CPU inside as the iPhone 11 / Pro.
I am not making this up. It is 100% for real. In March 2016, they first launched the SE line @ $399. However it was a really small 4.0 inch design based off of the 2013 iPhone 5s. I bought one that summer and used it as my daily driver for more than 18 months. The SE is back and better than ever. The screen is now 4.7 inches. If you have an iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8 — the new SE is the same size and timeless design put out by Apple back in 2014. Especially if you are still using a 6 (which will not get any more updates), 6s or 7 — this phone purchase is a no brainer. Do it! You may just choose to buy it outright or you could do interest free payments with your carrier for $16.66 a month for 24 months.
$699 iPhone 11? $999 iPhone 11 Pro? Unless you need to have 2 phone lines on 1 phone or some of the advanced features, you probably don’t need that more expensive phone. An iPhone SE would suit most of my clients just fine.
I just wanted to send this note out to a few of you whom I thought would be very interested to know.
The source is today’s Wall Street Journal, on WSJ.com. Apple has reversed course from previous guidance. Disinfecting wipes, like Clorox are now OK for the iPhone. Sprays are still bad.
Happy President’s Day!
Taking Notes Electronically
I have taken notes on my computer and smartphones for more than a decade. I love making little journal type notes, writing lists, and making agendas with note taking software. I know some of you even keep passwords in Apple’s Notes app on your iPhones (Yikes!). You don’t have to take all of your notes on paper or think you have to create a Word document and save it in a folder. Use a note taking app! Add pictures and attach files. Some examples I am very familiar with —
1. One Note from Microsoft. FREE. iPhone / Android apps, Mac and Windows apps, Via web browser @ Onenote.com
2. Apple’s Notes. FREE. iPhone / iPad apps, Mac app, Can use in Windows via web browser @ iCloud.com
3. Google Keep. FREE. iPhone and Android apps, Via the computer at keep.google.com
4. Evernote. Can use apps for free on 2 devices, Can use for FREE via web browser @ evernote.com, Paid options available for power notetakers
3 Reasons Why I Always Recommend Windows 10 Pro (as Opposed to Windows 10 Home – shipped with most consumer grade PC’s)
– Prompt for Credentials can turned on — This means that your password needs to be typed in whenever new software is installed or major changes are made to the system. This is very secure (just like on the Mac). You need the Pro version of Windows for this feature. The default option is just YES or NO, not good enough. The password prompt makes you stop and think.
– Windows Feature Updates (ie. New Versions) can be delayed by up to 365 days. Don’t be a guinea pig for Microsoft. I like setting a 120 day delay at a minimum.
-Bit Locker can be turned on. Bit Locker is similar to File Vault on the Mac (which is included for Free by the way). It encrypts your hard drive. Therefore if a bad guy steals your computer – they can’t easily get at your files.
* If you get stuck with a computer that has Windows 10 Home, you can still upgrade to Pro. However, it is a $99 charge. Pro can be activated through the Microsoft Store app. It’s a quick process and takes less than 20 minutes. It’s better to order a computer with Windows 10 Pro from the beginning.
Comcast Sticking It To Us
I don’t know if you noticed this with your December Comcast bill, but I wasn’t too pleased to see what they are doing effective 12/20/2019. Although I am under an existing contract for a guaranteed price for my internet and TV through May 2020 — my fees will be going up. I believe they can raise the fees portion of the bill even if you are in a contract. If you are not in a contract, your fees will definitely be going up. So here is the damage — Broadcast TV fee (designed to capture what local stations charge Comcast for transmitting their feeds to us) $10 to $14.95, TV box fee (charge for that 1st cable box) $2.50 to $4.60, and the remote fee is going up from $0.18 to $0.40. So this looks like an additional $7.27 if I did the math correctly. Are the retransmission fees that Comcast is charged by the local stations going up? I don’t know. I also know that prices of most internet packages are going up $3 per month, however, I don’t think this applies to me as I am in a bundled promotion. More and more people are cutting the cord and going with internet only. Comcast is looking to make up for their loss in subscribers one way or another. For a lot of customers in Connecticut, there isn’t much choice outside of areas where Frontier has fiber optic service. The non-Fiber frontier service is pathetic. There really is no alternative but Comcast. Some of you have the ability to choose Go Net Speed. They are available in limited parts of West Hartford and the New Haven area. Hopefully they will be rolling out beyond their existing footprint soon. A great choice for Internet only!
Best of 2019
I used to write this up in more of a newsletter format, but I just wanted to give you a brief sampling of some of the best products and services I worked with all year.
Best Premium Smartphone: iPhone 11 — Apple really got this one right and they lowered the starting price by $50. It’s an easy choice for iPhone owners
Best Mid-Range Smartphone: Google Pixel 3a — Google brought out these phones mid-year that were in the same spirit as their old Nexus phones. They are under $400 with a lot of premium features and they still have a headphone jack. I hope we see a Pixel 4a in 2020. We may also see an iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 9 sold in this price range next year.
Best Laptops: Unfortunately — I can’t say that any Apple laptops are among the best of 2019. However I really like 2 product lines the Lenovo Thinkpads and the Dell Latitudes. Specifically I am a fan of the Thinkpad T490, E490, and X1 Carbon 7. In terms of the Latitudes, I favor the 5000 and 7000 series. They are solid, have great keyboards, and are built for the long haul.
Best Desktops: I still like the 2018 Mac Mini and hope Apple keeps it updated for years to come. I am also partial to Dell’s Optiplex and Lenovo’s Think Centre desktops, properly equipped of course.
Best Backup Service: Keep in mind that iCloud, Dropbox, or One Drive are not true backup services. They are online file synchronization services. This means that if you delete a file it will be deleted in other places. You should have an opportunity to restore the deleted file within a period of time. I still love all of those services but they are not true backups. If you have a lot of data that you can’t afford to lose, I highly recommend Backblaze or Carbonite. Either service is $6 / month for personal use.
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.