Category: Macs

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

5G – Here And Getting Closer

I outlined some basics on the new 5G towers a few weeks ago, but I wanted to simplify and add to it as well.  Basically there are two 5G technologies being deployed in this country at the moment, sub-6 and mmWave.  T-Mobile and ATT are going mostly with the sub-6, which will reach more people.  Verizon is going with mmWave, which is even faster but restricted to specific spots like stadiums, stations, or a place like Times Square.  Consequently, Verizon is way behind.  Ultimately, all of these carriers will deploy a mix of both types of 5G towers.  If you are due for a new phone, I am going to give you my opinion as to when 5G should mean something to you.  This does not mean give up on your carrier or that your carrier is bad or that you need to throw out your 6 month old phone to get a 5G phone.  I’ve uttered no such words.   I got a real life test of 5G on the T-Mobile network in Boston last week.   My wife’s 5G Samsung clocked in at double the speed of my iPhone 11.   Therefore, if you are a T-Mobile customer — I would say the time to buy a 5G phone (again if you are phone shopping) would be as soon as these iPhone 12 models come out.  Then you will have a mix of low end phones like the Revvl 5G, or the Samsungs, and the iPhones to choose from — all with 5G.   ATT is at the middle of the pack.  Their 5G is not as widely deployed as T-Mobiles, but they are getting there.  If you still want to save some money by buying that iPhone SE, go for it.  But by 2021, early next year, I think you should definitely be considering a 5G phone if you are phone shopping.   With Verizon, on the other hand, I think there is no rush to get a 5G phone — probably until the 2nd half of next year.  Ultimately, two years from now, Verizon may end up having the best 5G network.  Slow and steady wins the race?  We hope or they hope!  Rumor has it that only the super expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max model will even be able to communicate with Verizon’s mmWave towers.  The other 3 models coming out this fall will not.  If I were a Verizon customer, 5G wouldn’t even be a part of my thought process yet.  (And yes, you can still buy any of the other iPhone 12 models to use with Verizon’s existing network.)

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

Fall is the busy season in my business and in the world of personal technology.  We will see new iPhones before the end of October, perhaps in two separate launches for the 4 models expected to be released.  New Apple Watches as well as iPads (possibly) will be coming out next week from Apple.   There will be brand new computers from Microsoft, including a reported “moderately priced” Surface laptop.  Wait there’s more!   Apple is coming out with a brand new macOS 11 which is supposed to be the biggest deal for the Mac in 20 years since OS X came out.  Finally, ioS 14 / iPad OS 14 will be here quite soon. Let’s make sure you have a backup first.  And for my students in the back of the class, if you have a 5+ year old Verizon flip phone (iPhone 5s or 5c too), it’s time to get a new one.  Verizon is retiring its old calling network on 12/31/2020.  Your old phone will be a paperweight.  What a season we can have together — I’m looking forward to being there for you, every step of the way!  Now you know why I get excited about the fall!!

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

Computer Picks

I represent about an equal number of Windows vs. Mac clients.  A few are iPad or Chromebook only.  I just wanted to say that if you are not absolutely locked in to particular apps on the Mac or you might be turned off by some of Apple’s decisions with the Mac or leery of the upcoming processor transition — you could probably do really well with a solid business class Windows desktop or laptop.   Excluding any possible discounts or outlet purchases, I think you can get a nice system for $800 to $900.  These computers cannot be purchased in stores. I know how to order them and have been doing so for years.   The kind of computers I have in mind are often repairable and upgradable — serviceable is the word I am looking for.  There is a reason why the State, the big hospital systems, and big insurance companies buy these computers by the hundreds (if not thousands) — they stand the test of time.  They’re not buying Macs.  It’s just something to keep in mind.    With that said, I have helped Mac clients switch to Windows and Windows clients switch to Mac.  I am a versatile provider of technology consulting services, with no preconceived notion that one platform is best for all clients. 

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

I am talking about data prioritization with your cell phone plan.  I have touched on this in the past, but I wanted to revisit it.  Did you know that some of you might have prioritized data with your carrier and some of you may not?   There is an order of data — when on a congested tower — where some users will be given preferred access and others may be slowed down or get slowed down to a crawl.   (Prioritization is different than being capped or throttled.   A cap would be — you get 5 GB of total data per month and you are totally cut off after that. A throttle would be — we limit all traffic to 5 mb/s even if you can get a faster speed in theory.  Some plans are throttled to a very slow speed after reaching the cap.)   But what I really wanted to address here is the idea of prioritization.   You might be out and about trying to book a restaurant order or launch the Maps app or even buy some clothing for quick online pickup — then your phone just slows to a crawl.  It’s possible that  you are being deprioritized.   There may be a lot of other users on that tower with priority over you.  There is a good chance that it won’t happen to you.  It might be congestion, however you just might not have the “top banana” priority.   I haven’t heard of it happening a lot locally, but there are definitely parts of the country that are oversaturated on Verizon towers, ATT towers, etc.   They have no choice but to route traffic with a certain order. 

Let me just state a couple examples to help you clear up the confusion.  If you get a monthly bill and you are on an older Verizon / ATT plan and you get like 2 GB of data per month, 4 GB, 8 GB — you are prioritized.    If you have the first tier of Verizon’s new unlimited plans known as Start or Go unlimited – you are always deprioritized.   Again, it may never be a problem for you. I just want you to know.   The next level of Verizon’s unlimited plans tells customers they can be deprioritized after 25 GB of use (which is probably a lot more than most of you would use in a given month).   Prepaid plans are generally always deprioritized, although ATT Prepaid has some exceptions. 

Zoom–Buggy On The Mac? Yes.

I know a lot of you are Zooming these days.


Unfortunately I’ve received reports and also personally participated in troubleshooting zoom problems with multiple clients.


I don’t have all the answers right now, but I think Mac OS 10.15 (which is hard to avoid, as previously mentioned) may be a common vortex.  I’ve had clients with video and audio problems in zoom  with BOTH built in audio / video (a la Mac Book and iMac)  and separate audio and video — such as using a plug-in Webcam, microphone or headphones.


And the other quirk in this whole process is, what if the updates we do fix some problems but then create others?  I think both the Mac operating system and the windows operating system have gone the wrong way on updates in the past few years.   it’s this forced updating that is just killing us, in a metaphorical sense of course.


Why can’t we just have one version of the operating system for five years and get just minor security updates from time to time?. We don’t need features, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.


now with this all said, there is apparently a new update for Zoom on the Mac coming out today. If you use them regularly, make sure you get this update because it may fix some of the bugs you were experiencing.   if you are not prompted to update automatically when opening zoom, you can click on the zoom.us  menu at the top and check for updates.  


We are learning and growing together. Sometimes there’s going to be some growing pains.

The Good Keyboards Are Back for ALL Mac Laptops

It’s been a while since I did a Macs Only update.  Today, I come bearing good news.  We can totally erase that dark 2015 – 2019 era with the awful butterfly keyboards on Mac laptops.  My clients were let down by those keyboards (hence the 4 year warranty if you are still stuck with one) and I have read accounts from owners who had to have the keyboard replaced 4 and 5 times.  This was all done in the name of “design” to save a couple of millimeters.  It started when Apple released a new 12 inch Mac Book in 2015.  Then the butterfly spread to the Mac Book Pros in 2016.  The Mac Book Air was revived in 2018 with a better version of the flawed keyboard.  Now we know it was still flawed.  Thanks Apple.

Tim Cook & Co. began to turn it around last year with the release of the 2019 – 16 inch Mac Book Pro.  However, this system starts at about $2400 and is not one that my clients would typically consider.   Fast forward to late March, Apple unveiled a new Mac Book Air sporting a keyboard with the traditional “scissor” switches, dubbed the Magic Keyboard.  Half a millimeter more in key travel makes all the difference in the world.  Finally, this week, the process has come full circle.  The 13 inch Mac Book Pro — a model that many if you have — was updated with the new keyboard.  It starts at $1299.   So that leaves one real question:

Which 13 inch Mac Book (2020) do you buy?

As I have shared previously, the 2020 Mac Book Air (13 inch) starts at $999.  However, it comes with a processor that you really don’t want.  So to get it well equipped with the i5 processor ( a MUST) it is $100 more for a total of $1099.  The Mac Book Pro 13 starts at $1299, but it comes with an i5 processor released in 2019.   I have actually looked at the specs of both i5 processors and they are comparable.  If you wanted to keep the costs down, I would suggest going with the $1099 Mac Book Air.  However, if you are looking for more of a premium system that would be best suited for running many asks at once — I would encourage you to consider the next tier up in the Mac Book Pro 13 lineup.  That model features the latest i5 processors and is priced at $1799.  However, I would suggest that one only if you really think you need it.  I think that that the $1099 model would get the job done, especially with its newly doubled 256 GB hard drive, for most of the typical buyers that I work with.   Both the Air and the Pro 13 have a headphone jack and two USB C – Thunderbolt 3 ports.  Both models start with 256 GB hard drives. The Pro is slightly thicker. 

I have told a lot of you to hold off until those new keyboards are available.  Some of you couldn’t wait because you had failed or failing Macs.  However if you have made it this far, you have the green light from me.   I can set up new Macs remotely.   I am also coming out of exile for in person appointments beginning on May 18th. 

For your review

https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/

https://www.apple.com/us-hed/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro/13-inch

Not The Password Boy Who Cried Wolf–Part 127

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.


Devices Update

-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?

Mac OS 10.15.3–possible fix to backup issues

I am emailing this to a select group of you who have reported problems backing up to your external hard drive while on Mac OS 10.15 (also known as Catalina).

Catalina hasn’t been a great OS in my opinion and I have tried to keep as many of my client on OS 10.14 as possible.  Nevertheless, either because of a feature like (Apple TV) or just because the updates were hard to avoid — you are on OS 10.15.

I was with a 10.15 client yesterday.  Her Mac hadn’t backed up since December.   She manually clicked on the Time Machine symbol (up by the clock in the top right area) and clicked Back Up and her Mac did indeed back up to the external hard drive.   If you have a laptop and do not leave that hard drive connected at night as you might with a desktop, you should manually trigger the backups. 

Apple just pushed out an update to Mac OS 10.15.4 on 3/24.  Please make sure your Mac is up to date.  Click the Apple Menu — top left.  System Preferences and Software Update on the 3rd row down.  Install the updates, if available.   Computer should restart.

Try your backup again.

Some Positive News From Apple

Now for the Positive News — From Apple

Failing computers or the need for upgrades are not going to end during this time. I know some of you were holding out for quality Mac computers that are new and improved.  Apple surprised me on a couple fronts this week.  Here are 2 big reveals

1.  The Mac Book Air has been updated for 2020 — WITH THE GOOD KEYBOARD.  Thank God!   The scissor keys that we all loved are back.  And guess what?  They lowered the price to $999 and they doubled the storage (hard drive) to 256 GB on the base model.  That is awesome because that 128 GB storage model was a joke.  Clients were always running out of space.

2.  The Mac Mini desktop has been updated — it still starts at $799 but storage has also been updated to 256 GB.  Double wow!   The Mac Mini is still at the top of my “best desktops” list. It can be used with any keyboard monitor and mouse of your choice.  Apple does not even manufacture monitors anymore.

These Macs are available for shipment now.

Edit:  I should say – Apple does not make monitors that an ordinary consumer or business owner would think that its reasonable to purchase.  They are making a $5000 + Pro Display these days.

Taking Notes Digitally

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.

Laptop Talk At The Oscars

Best Moment of Oscars

https://mobile.twitter.com/indiewire/status/1226704317136220160

Filmmaker Taika Watiti (short interview clip – via link), instead of talking about his work, took the opportunity to slam Apple on their awful keyboards in their recent Mac Books.  Can you believe it?  This event was supposed to be about the films, the actors, the great production staff — and it’s Apple’s keyboards that he really to speak of.   Going back to early 2018, I have been really hard on Apple and I have let you know it.  Some of you simply had to get new Macs over the past few years and I was very straight with you, even when Apple wasn’t.   I let you know about the 4 year warranty from date of purchase on the keyboard replacements.  I have also let you know that a Lenovo Thinkpad or Dell Latitude would be a much better investment, if you could see yourself switching from Mac to Windows.   There will likely be some good news around the corner, however.   Between March and June — I expect Apple to release new 13 inch Mac Air and Pro models with the “classic keyboard”.   That would be a keyboard similar to the 2015 models, the last good Mac laptop keyboard.  When those products launch, I will be telling you it’s time to buy. 

The Cadillac of VPN’s

This is a message for the more privacy focused among us.  You may travel a lot.  You may use WiFi at coffee shops and hotels. You may just not like the idea of your internet service provider knows everywhere you go online.  If you are one of those people, you need a VPN.  A VPN is a little app that runs on your computer, smartphone or tablet that creates an encrypted tunnel for all your traffic to flow through. It’s simple to use, you turn it on and  you turn it off.  Your internet provider will never see any of the sites that you visit. A good VPN will cost $8 to $12 per month, give or take.  The best of them will never keep any logs of your activity.  I used to recommend 2 particular VPN services.  I have refined my picks, due to experience.  The Cadillac of VPN’s — the best you can get right now, Is a company called  Express VPN.  They are so easy to use. and they offer 24 hour technical support (via chat on their website).  I know that older technology users like good customer service.  Current pricing is $12.95 month to month and $100 if you paid for 12 months.   My second choice, let’s call them the Volvo of VPN’s, is Private Internet Access — PIA.  PIA’s commitment to privacy has held up in court.  However, like Volvo, they were recently sold to a new company but have promised to keep their past commitments and maintain their legacy. PIA is cheaper than Express VPN.   It remains to be seen, if there will be long term changes under the new management.   If I could tell you to go with only one VPN — go with Express VPN.


Financial Safety Tip of the Week

This is a really simple tip, but very relevant to the scam calls that are going around today.  You may get a message saying they are from your credit card.  Do not call back or answer the call.  Call the customer service number on the back of your card or on your statement.  If you are the type that likes to throw everything out, always keep the last statement of all of your bills in a folder.  That way you have a good number to call.  Not everyone can see the numbers on the back of a credit card without a magnifier.