Category: Laptops

Best Stuff Out There

I haven’t shared one of these in a while — but I wanted to let you know what I think are the best devices out there.   I am thinking of my typical client — not a video gamer or a professional video editor.  I think these would work well for most of you out there. 

-Desktop Computer 

* 1st choice – Mac Mini — Apple FINALLY revised the Mac Mini last year after not refreshing the Mac Mini since late 2014.  It’s full of ports to plug things into in the back and comes with the FAST hard drive by default (unlike the iMac).  You do need to provide your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but these won’t cost a fortune.  A $100 to $150 monitor on Amazon will be just fine, as will a 3rd party Apple compatible keyboard. 

* Close 2nd – Dell Optiplex 5000 or 7000 series, Lenovo Think Centre desktops — when custom ordered and appropriately equipped — these systems are rock solid and will stand the test of time

-Laptop Computer

* Lenovo Thinkpad T series or X1 Carbon (current models) – These laptops have the best typing experience imaginable.  They are business class systems and you get to deal with Lenovo’s US based support

* Close 2nd – Dell Latitude 5000 or 7000 series — These business class systems will not disappoint.  They are plain looking but packed with power and durability.  You may even be able to snag a super price from the Dell Outlet. 

* Close 3rd – Lenovo Thinkpad L or E series (current models) – They offer the same keyboards as their more expensive siblings, but they are slightly heavier and are a little bit lower grade in terms of the materials.  For a decent laptop under $1000, I highly recommend them. 

(Leaving Apple out was not an oversight on my part!)

-Smartphone

* Premium –  iPhone XR — I think there is no comparison for a premium smartphone.   Most of my clients do not need the advanced features of the XS or XS Max.  It is Apple’s best selling smartphone.

* Budget – Google Pixel 3a – At under $400 – You can’t go wrong with this model.  It is probably better than the significantly more expensive Pixel 3. 

-Tablet

– iPad (2018) or iPad Air (2019) — No explanation needed.   There are no significant  Android tablets to speak of.  iPad Pro is only necessary if you really plan to use it as your primary computer. 


Official Announcement: Verizon Delays Shutdown of CDMA Calling Network

https://www.verizonwireless.com/support/knowledge-base-218813/

This is an update to the announcement I have shared with you before.  Verizon has been relying on an older calling network called CDMA for at least 20 years.  About 5 years ago, they sought to supplement this with a more advanced calling network known as LTE.   If you look at the top of your smartphones, you often see the letters “LTE” when you are not on your home based WIFI.  Verizon first announced sometime in 2017 that they were shutting down the CDMA network at the end of 2019.   I first started making you aware of this earlier this year.  Notable phones like the iPhone 5s and older do not support LTE calling, likewise with older flip phones.  As of a few months ago, Verizon stopped activating phones that do not support the newer technology.  I helped several of you upgrade to newer phones on the Verizon network (be it with Verizon, Xfinity Mobile, or even Great Call / Jitterbug).  I don’t regret that for one minute because you are all set for the future.  In light of the fact that they have many customers with older phones, especially businesses, Verizon has delayed the shutdown of the old network by 1 year — to the end of 2020.  You still cannot activate a new CDMA calling only device should your device die.  It is definitely time to upgrade if you are on an older device.  You just have a bit longer to do it.  LTE calling capable iPhones, Android phones, and yes — flip phones, are widely available. 

Ripped from the Customer Files

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.  ūüôā

Group Emails

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. 

Technology Update 11/12/18: Resisting Technology

1.¬† Although I covered the new Mac computers and iPad Pro at length in a blog post for my Apple clients on 11/1 (https://theacronym.com/2018/11/01/recap-of-apples-brooklyn-event/) I wanted to make everyone aware of these new models.¬† ¬†Apple has a new Mac Mini desktop that starts at $799, a Mac Book Air laptop that starts at $1199. If you’re frustrated with Windows and want to go Mac, these are your points of entry.¬† The iPad Pro is an interesting device.¬† It has as much or even more raw power than almost any personal computer out there.¬† It’s extremely portable.¬† Apple even sells a magnetic keyboard that makes it like a laptop.¬† With the keyboard, it will cost at least $1000.¬† For some it could become a primary computer.¬† For others, the iPad Pro may represent a strong secondary device.¬† ¬†If you can learn to play within its rules, it’s a much simpler device than a desktop Windows or Mac environment.¬† Don’t forget the regular iPad¬†@ $329.¬† It is the best value in the Apple family.
2.¬† With all of this Apple excitement, I don’t want to leave out the Windows world.¬† New models are out as well.¬† If you want something like an iPad Pro, that still runs a full version of Windows¬† — look no further than the new Microsoft Surface 6.¬† ¬†With Windows systems, I will always go back to my clubhouse leaders.¬† ¬†For a premium product, you can’t go wrong with the Dell Latitude 5000/7000 laptop, Lenovo Thinkpad T480, or Thinkpad X1 Carbon.¬† These are systems built to last.¬† In terms of desktops, I am still a fan of the Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre systems.¬† ¬†Most of these computers are custom orders and not found in stores.¬† Occasionally, I do go on a shopping trip with a client at a big box store and last week there was such an occasion that arose.¬† I didn’t want to pull just anything off the shelf.¬† At about $500, this HP desktop met my standards.¬† It looks good on the desk and there was only one junk program that I had to remove.¬† It is a great option for the budget conscious.¬†¬†https://www.bestbuy.com/site/hp-pavilion-desktop-intel-core-i3-8gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-128gb-solid-state-drive-hp-finish-in-natural-silver/6290502.p?skuId=6290502
3. Resisting Technology
I know that some of you are hesitant to embrace new technologies offered by the devices you own.¬† One that I don’t think you should avoid is Apple Pay (or for those of you with Android phones that support it, Android Pay).¬† Adding your credit or debit card to the Wallet on your iPhone costs you nothing and takes only about 5 minutes to set up for one card, if that.¬† Stores like Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Stop and Shop, Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s and thousands more will allow you to pay by tapping your phone.¬† Why should you do it?¬† If you would already pay with a card, using Apple Pay helps prevent identity theft.¬† The store never gets your 16 digit card number. It gets a very long, randomized string of numbers.¬† If a particular store suffers a massive breach, like Target or Home Depot did a few years back, you will be in the driver seat.¬† The super secure card number you used via Apple Pay cannot come back to zap you.¬† Your Apple Pay device generates a dynamic security code for each transaction. I use Apple Pay whenever I can.¬† Check out the Wallet app on your iPhone if you’ve never looked at it.

Technology Update 9/4/18

New iPhones For Real – VIP Service
Apple’s iPhone event will be held on Sept 12th.¬† I believe pre-orders will start that Friday and shipments will commence a week later.¬† I mentioned the three sizes of the new phones in my last update — think small, medium and LARGE — with the medium being the least expensive.¬† I expect pricing to be somewhere along the lines of $700, $900, and $1100.¬† If its been many years since you’ve purchased an iPhone, you could buy the phone outright but what I think 90% of customers do is take advantage of the interest free financing with your cell phone carrier or Apple.¬† Take the phone price, divide by 24, and that’s your monthly cost.¬† ¬†I will offer my iPhone Ordering Service to you once again.¬† If you are going to have me set up your iPhone, I will order it for you over the phone at no extra charge.¬† ¬†I look forward to helping you get your new device.
 
Upgrading Computers
One of the nice things about 2012 (and earlier) Mac Book Pros and MOST Windows computers is that the hardware can be upgraded.¬† The hard drive can be replaced to give you more and faster storage.¬† Memory (RAM) can often be increased to allow smoother moment to moment operations.¬† Sold state hard drives (SSDs) are cheaper than ever before.¬† Contact me to find out if its possible / worth it to perform an upgrade to your existing machine and what the costs would be.¬† I will take great care to back up your data and then give you a “clean install” of the Mac / Windows operating system.¬† If you’ve had your computer for at least three years and want to keep it going, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.
Remote Support
I want to make clients, especially those new to the VIP family, aware that I offer remote support for simple Windows and Mac issues that may not require in in-person visit.¬† With Windows 10, I make use of the built in Quick Assist application.¬† With Mac users, I utilize Skype.¬† Do not worry, I’m not interested in seeing your beautiful face after you had a night of poor sleep.¬† I strictly use the screen sharing Skype feature.¬† For remote appointments, I bill in half hour increments. I will ask you to pay at the end of the session by directing you to my payment page or taking a credit /debit card from you over the phone.¬† ¬† Other remote services I have offered for clients in the past include comprehensive research and answering of questions in report style format, constructing / editing simple websites and social media profiles, and document / image conversion.

Technology Update 8/21/18

Windows – Version 1809
Microsoft is in the process of finalizing yet ANOTHER version of Windows called Windows 10 1809.¬† This is the second new version of Windows to come across our desks this year. (Enough is enough right?) Some of you haven’t even received the previous version yet, 1803.¬† If you set the 120 day delay, as I instructed before, 1803 should get pushed out to you soon.¬† By keeping that delay in place, you will get version 1809 sometime in late 2018 / early 2019.¬† ¬†I think Microsoft is learning something from these upgrades.¬† Don’t worry, even if you are still on 1803 (or the previous 1709 for the time being), you will continue to get routine monthly security updates.¬† ¬† (Note:¬† I’m trying to delineate the language I use with you.¬† I’m using the word “update” to refer to minor patches or fixes and “upgrade” to refer to new versions.)
New Macs for Us
I’ve deciphered yesterday’s news from Bloomberg and the corresponding commentary.¬† It looks like some consumer focused Macs are coming our way soon.¬† By soon, I mean between any day now and October.¬† ¬†First I want to share that a new Mac Mini should be available in the near future.¬† It’s about time.¬† Apple hasn’t released a new Mini since October 2014.¬† The Mac Mini was the gateway into the Mac family.¬† It was sold as a small desktop computer only, about the size of a cigar box.¬† Customers could then plug in any keyboard, mouse, and monitor they wish.¬† An overpriced monitor from the Apple store was not required.¬† A $150 monitor from Amazon or a big box store was perfect companion.¬† It’s great to read that the legacy of the Mac Mini is continuing.¬† I doubt that the pricing will be as low as the previous generation ($499 to start), but even in the $700-999 range it will be aimed squarely at the typical client that I serve.¬† More importantly, it seems that Apple is going to keep the Mac Book Air line going.¬† I honestly think that the Air (which hasn’t changed in design since 2010) is the greatest laptop of the past 10 years (with the Lenovo Thinkpad T being a close second).¬† According to Bloomberg, it will continue to be 13 inches and will sport slimmer bezels.¬† It should be a big hit for Apple.¬† I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts at $999.¬† I think it would be a very appropriate choice for my clients.¬† I will provide more information down the road.
Managing Photos – iPhone and Windows
(Hope this doesn’t read like one of those “Chose Your Adventure” books.)¬† ¬†I have a good number of clients who are Apple all the way.¬† If that is you, you probably allow the iPhone to automatically upload your photos to iCloud.¬† Then you manage your photos in the Photos app on the Mac (while certainly using the iPhone or iPad for smaller management tasks).¬† A few may still choose to do things the long way, connecting your iPhone (or camera) with a cable to your Mac and then importing them into Photos or the photo manager of your choice.¬† The same can be done in Windows, into the photo manager of your choice as Photos is a Mac only app.¬† Windows and Mac users may also choose to back up their photos in duplicate to Google Photos or Amazon’s Prime Photos.¬† ¬†Both of these options are automatic and free with the proper apps installed.¬† Having an additional copy of those previous memories is never a bad idea.¬† ¬†However, you may wonder — what is the easiest way to manage and share my photos if I am an iPhone and Windows user?
Naturally, you could do some of this from the iPhone itself.¬† However, you will inevitably want to do some management tasks on the computer.¬† If you are backing up those photos to iCloud¬† Photo Library (the default option), you can best access those images at iCloud.com in your browser.¬† That should be your go to interface.¬† ¬†Of course, everyone’s use case is different.¬† Not all of my clients use iCloud Photo Library and I am flexible enough to support clients with varying “what works best” scenarios.
Happy computing!!

The Joy of Mice

I’ll briefly touch on Apple vs. Google for a moment.¬† At times we only see the world and the world of technology from our American perspective.¬† In the U.S., Apple makes itself out to be the fearless defender of our privacy.¬† ¬†The iPhone is totally encrypted.¬† iMessages are encrypted.¬† (iCloud backups?¬† Another topic for another time.)¬† Apple stood behind its principles of privacy so strongly that they would not unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters.¬† We view Google on the other hand with some skepticism.¬† Search for free.¬† Gmail for free.¬† Can it really be free?¬† How much of my data are they harvesting in exchange for free services? Putting on my international thinking cap, until yesterday, I had a different take.¬† Apple recently started putting iCloud data from Chinese customers on servers in China, per a request from the Chinese government.¬† Apple will take apps out of the App Store that offend Beijing.¬† Google on the other hand did not give in.¬† They did not bend to censorship.¬† Until now.¬† This article¬†https://theintercept.com/2018/08/01/google-china-search-engine-censorship/¬† claims that Google is developing a search engine with China’s blessing that filters out terms such as human rights or Tienanmen Square 1989, for example.¬† ¬†The ethics of technology…… food for thought!
The Joy of Mice
Desktop users have no choice, but I frequently recommend that my laptop toting clients use a mouse as well.  Laptop trackpads can be inconsistent.  MacBooks are generally the best in that regard and while Windows laptops have come a long way, they are still in second place.  I realized this week that using a good mouse with a laptop can restore a sense of confidence while operating a portable computer.  I literally dusted off my Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic mouse (circa 2014) and began using it.  It restored a sense of joy in computing.  How is your mouse?  Do you need a new one?  Do you want to make your laptop or desktop experience better?  Do you want to go laptop but fear the trackpad?  Here are some mice to consider with Amazon links.
Classic Intellimouse – This is Microsoft’s classic wired mouse that was recently re-released as a new product.¬† It is WIRED and is Mac and Windows compatible.¬† It has a hand friendly curved shape.¬† ¬†On sale now.¬†¬†https://amzn.to/2O4PkgT
Sculpt Ergonomic — This is a wireless Microsoft mouse.¬† It could work on either Mac or Windows, but is more geared toward desktop use.¬† It is a large mouse and seems to fit my hand so well.¬† ¬† I have been told by friends this week, “I want that mouse.”¬†¬†https://amzn.to/2vbC96S
Vertical — This is a newer design that makes you grip the mouse in the “handshake position.”¬† ¬†Proponents of the concept claim it significantly reduces hand strain.¬† The best of the bunch seems to be made by Anker.¬† Mac and Windows compatible. It’s priced to sell.¬†¬†https://amzn.to/2LKkgX2
Trackball — They say once you go trackball, you never go back.¬† I have met people who swear by them.¬† The mouse does not move around on your desk.¬† You roll the ball to move the cursor and then click on the buttons to make your selection.¬† Check out the Kensington Expert (Mac + Windows, wired or wireless)¬†https://amzn.to/2vc1bTv¬† or the Logitech M570 (Mac + Windows, wireless)¬†https://amzn.to/2v9qaqG

Weekly Technology Update

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.