A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.
The starting price of an iPhone is now $749. It used to be $649 not that long ago. The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model. Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost? It may be a little of both.
Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers. One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be. They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only. However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same. Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services. Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle. The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore. Watch out! Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals. Overseas “customer service”? I don’t even want to get started with that today.
Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball. A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently. As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore. And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant). Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore. Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved. Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app. It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up. I am ready when you are ready. You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV). I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap. Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV. However, you will have to learn something new.
And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.
It’s not as good as it used to be.
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.
PSA: All of you with a Google account have probably gotten an e-mail from Google recently about the closing of some of their services. I have already advised a couple of clients in a panic over this issue. Please go back and read the e-mail carefully. Your Google account is NOT closing. Your Google + account is closing (Google Plus). Google what? Yeah, most of you probably never knew that Google launched a half baked social network several years back in an attempt to take on Facebook. By default, you also had a Google + account. I thought it was good for sharing photos and longer text posts than were typically the norm on Facebook. It seemed like a great tool for groups. Unfortunately, it never caught fire. Google + is shutting down on April 2nd. Your Google account and Gmail functionality will be just fine.
Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 2
Taking all Mac and Windows computers into consideration, the Google Chrome browser is by far the most used in the world. Among my Mac using clients, I would say that 50 to 60% of them use Safari as their primary browser. However, even with them, Chrome is still popular. No matter what your browser of choice is, remember that its critical to have a second browser installed on your computer. Your regular browser may become corrupted, infected, or just not work well on certain sites. That second (or even third) browser can be a lifeline.
On your Safari browser, I had no choice but to install the Ad Block Plus ad blocker. On your Firefox or Chrome browsers, I have installed either Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin. In recent years I have favored uBlock Origin. It was developed by a Canadian programmer named Raymond Hill. It is open source, provided free of charge, with no donations sought. Unfortunately, in recent years, Ad Block Plus has gone on the take — accepting revenue by allowing “acceptable ads”. This option can be turned off, but it left a lot of users with a bad taste in their mouths.
As with the other major browsers, Google Chrome puts out several updates a year which are delivered to you automatically. You have to remember that Google’s primary business is advertising. Frankly, I am surprised that they did not block the ability to limit ads in Chrome a long time ago. That could be changing. In a new version of Chrome, coming out later this year, changes will be made “under the hood” that render uBlock Origin useless. You will either have to stick with the ads or switch to using Ad Block Plus, which may also be rendered less functional but still operational.
These changes to Google Chrome are proposed at this time and not set in stone. Should they become reality, the Firefox browser will remain unaffected in terms of uBlock Origin. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you have a browser other than Chrome installed on your computer. After all, having alternate browsers is about more than just one issue. Having options gives you independence and computing stability. Here are links to options beyond Chrome:
Firefox — Firefox.com
Brave (started by former Firefox CEO) — https://brave.com/
Vivaldi (started by the founders of Opera) — https://vivaldi.com/
Find the browser that fits you.
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.