A popular TV show used to run promotional spots saying this week’s episode is “ripped from the headlines.” This update is chock full of valuable info. You may want to print it out for digestion in small bites.
Ripped from the Customer Files
Not Selling Window Dressing
A new client recently approached me and inquired if I could do any maintenance procedures to make the computer a little faster. I DID NOT rush out with little care, acting in an overconfident manner, simply to generate a 1 hour appointment for myself. I gave the client a proper “triage” over the phone. We talked for a half hour. I took a mental note of key facts, the most important being that it was a Toshiba laptop. Toshiba was a big name in the history of laptops and consumer electronics in general. In fact, they were a big seller at Best Buy up until about 6 or 7 years ago. Since that time, I don’t know any clients that have bought them. I don’t see them at the stores. I knew the computer had to be at least 6 years old. In fact it is and possibly a little older. I really put the CARE in VIP Computer Care. On a slow computer, you could certainly back up the data and reinstall the operating system (Windows or Mac). You could replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive). Both of those would likely be at least 3 hour jobs. I explained how I thought those would be reasonable on a 3 or 4 year old computer, but I don’t think I would want those done on my 6+ year old computer. A software only solution doesn’t make up for bad or degrading hardware. Solid State Drives have been wonderful for many of my clients but they don’t negate the fact that the rest of the computer is subject to failure. I emphasized that the best thing to do would be to buy a new computer and that in the $500s to $600s, the safest bet is a business class system from the Dell or Lenovo outlet (not sold in stores). At the right time, the client will have me set up this new computer for them.
Rather than try to gain a customer for one visit, I established what I believe can be a long term relationship. It’s my nature; it’s who I am. 🙂
But I was just sending e-mails to a church prayer group!! I worked with a client recently that literally had their Google account temporarily suspended for inappropriate activity. The client is 80 years old!! What were they doing? How bad could it really be? Here are some lessons. A lot of us send group e-mails. You are receiving this message as a part of a group email. With personal accounts especially, inappropriate composition of the message could trigger some red flags. Here are some good tips. With a group e-mail…
1. Put yourself in the To field
2. Put your recipients in the CC or BCC field. (CC if you want everyone to see each other’s addresses, BCC if you want the list of recipients to remain private.) I always send my messages out via BCC.
3. If your list of recipients approaches 50, sent out 2 (or more) emails with distinct groups of contacts
4. Even with these precautions, you may still have an issue with e-mail going into the SPAM folder of the recipients
4a. You may want to consider a paid e-mail address for your business, club, or group (i.e Microsoft / Google) for about $5 per month
4b. You may want to consider an easy to use newsletter e-mailing service like Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp has a free option for small businesses, groups, and non profits.
The Simplicity of the Chromebook
I was with a client recently who uses a Chromebook as her primary computer. Chromebooks are amazing (along with their desktop sister -Chromebox). A Chromebook is a limited computer but the safest one you can buy. Think of what you can do in your computer’s browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). I am pondering online banking, shopping, e-mailing, searching Google, letter writing, and other tasks. You can do all of those things on a Chromebook. You can’t do anything else. There are no programs. It runs the Chrome browser — that’s it. It’s operating system is called Chrome OS, not Windows or Mac. The Chromebook has graduated beyond those 11 inch $200 devices you may have seen 5 years ago. There are mid range ($500’s) and even high end Chromebooks available now. A Chromebook is a great secondary computer, for example to take some stress off or extend the life of your primary computer. It may be a primary computer for some. There are lots of options out there, but if you are looking to dip your toes, I think this Lenovo model makes an excellent starter Chromebook (amazon link) https://amzn.to/2UN3RoK
So the real story here was that the client’s Chromebook was corrupted. After entering the login password — a wheel on the screen kept spinning and spinning. In plain, English the operating system was messed up. On a Windows or Mac system, resetting the operating system and copying the files back might be a 2 to 3 hour ordeal (or longer if lots of files were involved). How long did resetting the Chromebook take? 5 minutes. No joke!
Free Credit Reports and Credit Freezes
I meet clients all the time who are worried about their credit reports being jeopardized because of security breaches with department stores, utilities local governments, and other entities. You have worked a lifetime of building up that near perfect credit score — why leave anything to chance? I think I mentioned it about a year and a half ago but I can help you obtain your free credit reports (via the only site authorized by the U.S. government) and if need be, place security freeze on all 3 of your credit reports. We can typically accomplish this in a 1 hour session. Please be advised that should you need to apply for credit in the future, you will have to log onto the website of the bureau being checked and unfreeze that credit report for a few days or however long is needed (your lender may also be willing to do this for you also). That process takes all of 5 minutes. I will make sure you have all of the passwords and user names needed to successfully manage your credit freezes. Remember, I do not hold onto customer passwords.
A. Privacy: GDPR and Oath. You may have received a bunch of notices recently detailing the updated privacy policies of various services that you use. The European Union’s new privacy laws take effect on May 25th. These regulations are known as GDPR. They are taking customers’ data a lot more seriously than we are on this side of the pond. International companies such as Facebook and Google are adhering to these standards even for their American customers. It’s a solid business practice. Did you know that you can download all of your Facebook (or Google) data in a single file? Did you know that you can control how Facebook advertises to you? GDPR = Good. To find out more http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/21/technology/gdpr-explained-europe-privacy/index.html
Additionally, some of you who have a Yahoo or AOL account may have received notices about policies from an organization known as Oath. (My joke is — “zero authorization to violate your privacy,” but I’ll get back on topic.). Oath is a division of Verizon that oversees both Yahoo and AOL. Yahoo users may have even been asked to accept the new terms. You really don’t have a choice if you want to keep using the account. As a quick primer for those new to the VIP Computer Care family — my favorite free e-mail accounts are Google and Outlook.com. Customers may choose a paid e-mail account if they want to get actual customer support. My favorite choices here are Fastmail ($20 per year), G (G Suite a paid Google account, $5 per month), or Office 365 (a paid e-mail account from Microsoft, $5 per month).
B. Windows: I’m still compiling reports of horror stories from users that had bad experiences with the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1803), released on April 30th. Whenever possible, I have set your Windows computers to a 120 day delay schedule. Unfortunately, I had to help a customer last weekend who couldn’t delay Windows version upgrades. He purchased a consumer grade Windows desktop. I offered the next best thing. I managed the upgrade for him. It took 2 hours, which is about what I expected. With fingers crossed, there were no hiccups. I am not recommending that I do this proactively for others, at this time, if you have already been set up for a delay. Ultimately, Microsoft will iron out the wrinkles. After all, hundreds of millions of business customers rely on Windows. Version 1803 should be ready for prime time in a few months. In August, lets talk about upgrading your computer.
C. Mac: Apple’s big annual event, the WWDC, is happening on June 4th. While it’s not specifically a new hardware event, Apple has been known to release new Macs at this event. We can only hope that they offer a mea culpa on the Mac Book Pro and their awful keyboards. At the very least, they could update the Mac Book Air with 2018 innards. (The 2017 Air, while still my #1 choice at this date and time, features 2015-era parts.) Additionally, the Mac Mini needs a major refresh. It has not been updated since October 2014. Apple needs to keep a $500-600 Mac on the market to welcome new customers into the family.
I wanted to revisit a subject that I covered in the near past — current Mac Book Pros and their “wonderful” keyboards. https://theacronym.com/2018/02/02/ipad-pro-best-mac-laptop/
Apple came out with a substantial redesign of the Mac Book Pro in 2016. These new systems featured a radically different keyboard than the one that Mac laptop users had come to love in the 2015 and many prior generations. The keyboards were panned by reviewers and users had their troubles as well. They suffered from an unusually high failure rate. For what reason? Apple wanted to shave a couple of millimeters off of the overall thickness! Apple rushed out an updated model that looked identical in June 2017. Customers are still having issues with the keyboards in the 2017 models and they cost close to $600 to replace out of warranty.
I have some Mac clients who will likely be looking for a new laptop this year. If using an iPad with a keyboard as a laptop is not the right solution, I want to share some honest thoughts.
I spent more time with a 2017 MacBook Pro and I really wanted to give it an objective try. The keys do not travel like they do on the laptops that are known for better typing experiences. However, Apple has offered up a trick and it seems to work. The keys make an unusual clicking sound when I pressed them, giving the allusion that there is more depth than there is in reality. So, the truth is, I could likely live with the keyboard on a long term basis. I still have serious doubts about their reliability.
I think the 2017 Mac Book Air is a better laptop for consumer use than the 2017 Mac Book Pro. Best Buy was recently selling it for as low as $699. If you are not married to specific Mac applications, I can think of a couple other Windows laptops that are better than the Mac Book Pro.
-Lenovo Thinkpad T, Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
-Dell XPS 13, Dell XPS 15
-Dell Latitude 5000 series, Latitude 7000 series
With all of this cold water being thrown at Mac portables, I still think a custom ordered iMac is one of the best desktops on the market.
Ultimately, I know there are some clients who are joined at the hip with certain Mac apps or have a massive library that has already been organized in Photos. The Mac Book Air may be discontinued later this year, so the Mac Book Pro could be the only option. You’ll live with the keyboard, but If you buy it, you must get the 3 year, Apple Care warranty. It is your firewall against expensive repairs due to design flaws.