Small Business in the Pandemic
I am sure you got e-mails from just about every company you deal with over the past week regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus that is currently impacting our world. I will not go on a long spiel about how much I care because you know I do. If you would like me to wipe your keyboard, phone, or tablet with a disinfecting wipe when I am there, I certainly will. Thank you for your continued support of my small business. I really appreciate the appointments we’ve had whether they’ve been in person or virtual. While most of my appointments are close to the Hartford area, my travels took me to the CT Shoreline this weekend. ( I do charge a travel surcharge, but I definitely will take on clients in the New Haven or Springfield areas, for example). As the situation has intensified and fears have grown, I have definitely noticed a drop in business. I predict that March will be 40 to 60% less in terms of revenues than this January. I wanted to provide that as a real “Main Street” report. It may be logical to expect a decline for a period of time. This business is really all I have. If there comes a point when I need to supplement this income stream, I could not easily be an I.T. professional for a large company or government entity. I often joke with myself and say, if I wasn’t doing this business, I would be a cashier at WalMart – maybe – if they would take me 🙂 I will say that every traditional “job” I have ever had has been a failure. If I do have to diversify in the future, it would be something entrepreneurial and likely outside the field of I.T. Given the run on toilet paper lately, if I had any plumbing skills whatsoever, I’m sure I could make a killing installing home bidets right now. Unfortunately, that is outside my skill set. Humor aside, I appreciate your continued business and referrals. The VIP Computer Care family has plenty of room for growth.
Skype on Mac
I shared previously that the ability for me to do remote assistance sessions is already baked in to Windows 10, however on the Mac you will need Skype (or another application) installed for you to share your screen with me. I don’t need to do video chat. Installing Skype is quite easy for Mac users. If you don’t have it in your Finder >> Applications (folder) already, you just need to go to skype.com in your browser and download it. Double click on the file that downloads (you will either see it on the screen or you can go to your Finder >> Downloads folder). And then just follow the prompt to install Skype. You can then open it from the Applications folder by going to your Finder (remedial step: Finder is the “face” icon in the lower left of your screen). Sign in with your Microsoft account. If you don’t have one you can create it, no cost involved. You will then be ready for a future Mac remote session.
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.
The Acronym wholeheartedly supports the mental health work carried out by Dr. Breggin for over 40 years.
I am often asked by clients — can you take my old computer? I have no use for it. Occasionally, I have been to take the old clunker off your hands. However, more often than not, I stated that I had no use for it personally and did not know of anyone who needed it.
Currently, the Exchange Club of West Hartford is seeking donations of older, working computers for a tag sale they will hold on April 25. The proceeds will be used to sponsor their child abuse prevention, student scholarship, and other programs.
To have your computer picked up, call Dave Hager at 860-570-1323. The tag sale is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Elmwood Community Center, 1106New Britain Ave.
(I am not a member of the Exchange Club of West Hartford).
I’m often asked where one can drop off an old computer or electronics item that has no value. Consider bringing it to one of these recycling events sponsored by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority. Many of them take place in the VERY NEAR FUTURE!
Many towns are participating in electronics recyling days in the very near future.
You can find the details here…
This is the list of towns that participate…
If you do not live in one of these towns, they will not accept your items.
Items they will accept:
Answering machines, camcorders, compact disc players, copiers, duplicators, electric typewriters, fax machines, hard drives, laptops, mainframe computers, mobile telephones, modems, microwave ovens, pagers, personal computers including monitors, keyboards and peripherals, printers, printed circuit boards, radios, remote controls, stereos, tape players, telephones and telephone equipment, televisions, testing equipment, transparency makers, uninterruptible power supplies , VCRs and word processors.
Have a great weekend!
Today Topics: Surge Protectors, Poland Spring Water
I would strongly recommend that you replace any surge protectors (power strips) for your computer(s) and other electronic devices that are more than 5 years old. In the past year I have seen more of these “multiple outlet strips” go bad than in the previous 9 years combined. Some of these surge protectors may have been overloaded. Others may have just died of “natural causes.” Still…. if your computer was left unprotected and got “zapped” by a power surge — you are out of luck ….unless…..unless…. you have the original receipt that came with your surge protector and there was an insurance policy associated with it. Many of the better models out there will insure you for $50,000 to $75,000 of damage. How many of you actually have the proper documentation if you were to make such a claim? Hmm…..the room is awfully quiet right now. LOL (Laugh Out Loud)!! How many of you know if your homeowner’s policy covers yours electronic gadgets in the event of a power surge? Hmm…….I could hear a pin drop!! How many of you know that a power surge can occur even when there isn’t inclement weather? ….. It’s the honest truth!!
There are many brands that you could buy, but I would recommend APC or Belkin as top choices. At a bare minimum, for your computer area, I would get an 8-outlet strip that has at least 4 outlets for large “transformer block” style plugs. Expect to pay at least $20 – $30 for the surge protector. Make sure it comes with insurance coverage. Register it on on the manufacturer’s website, if required for warranty coverage. Save the appropriate documentation and the receipt in your “computer file.”
This concludes the public service announcement portion of today’s Acronym Update.
Quick question: How many people believe that Poland Spring water isn’t what it used to be? Did you know that it is no longer bottled at the source? Fact: It is still “spring water” but bottled from a mixture from many springs in Maine.
Today’s Topic: Verizon Wireless wants to share your CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information). You have the right to opt out!!
I came across this information yesterday and thought it would be especially relevant for sharing, since such a large percentage of you are Verizon Wireless customers. Cell phone and land line phone companies are allowed to share your call records. They can even sell this data to interested third parties. In the past, you may have received notices from other companies you do business with about CPNI sharing. By law they had to give you an opportunity to “opt out.”
Those notices were trashed long ago, right? I can’t help you there, but I do urge you to contact your banks, credit card companies, telephone and other service providers to ask them if they share CPNI and what the procedure is for opting out.
Verizon Wireless just notified customers of this (primarily by mail) recently. I opted out of the sharing yesterday for all 4 of my VZW lines. You can do the same by calling 1-800-333-9956. You will be asked for your cell phone #, your zip code, and the last 4 digits of your SSN or TIN – for business accounts. After you go through those steps, opting out for other lines on your account is very simple.
In closing I think the way that CPNI sharing is being handled, even by reputable companies, is disgusting. They are required by law “to ask for our permission.” If lawmakers were serious about our privacy, we would be given the chance to opt in….not opt out!
Here is a follow up to yesterdays post….
If you are having trouble signing up for or converting to AT&T’s “Dry Line DSL” by calling the main DSL support #,
•Call the AT&T Dry Loop department directly at 888-800-4095
•Ask to switch to “DSL direct”
•If they give you a hassle, say it’s a retention offer (you are going to cancel your service otherwise)
This Update is dedicated to low cost / more efficient Internet service options.
** Big announcement: You can now get AT&T’s DSL service WITHOUT home dial tone service. It was always theoretically possible. Now it’s a reality. Perhaps you live off of your cell phone only or you still have 2 home phone lines that you have been subscribing to from the days of dial-up service. Furthermore, it could be that you don’t want to pay $48.95 per month for an unlimited long distance package with AT&T and want to try an IP based phone service like Via Talk (a better alternative to Vonage).**
Here is a run down on the pricing for AT&’s “Dry Line” DSL:
1.5 mbps DSL – $23.99 / mo. Express package.
3.0 mbps DSL – $28.99 / mo. Pro package.
Each of these price points represents a $4 increase over the “regular price” of DSL if you did have home phone service. Still, these choices represent an important breakthrough in the evolution of the Internet. You now have the opportunity of buying unbundled broadband Internet service at a reasonable price. In comparison, Comcast charges $52.95 for their standard high speed Internet offering if you do not have cable TV service. This is $10 on top of the “premium” price they normally charge – $42.95.
Thinking on a similar wavelength, some of you out there probably feel that you are “paying for more Internet capacity than you really need.” I hear you. The following information is intended for the age 60+ and light Internet usage population.
If you have / plan on keeping your existing AT&T phone or Comcast cable service, but don’t like what you’re paying for Internet….
You can get 256 kbps DSL service from AT&T for $10.00 (not a typo!!) and 768 kbps DSL service for $14.99 per month. To refresh your memories: dial-up Internet speeds top out at 56 kbps.
Comcast offers an Economy Internet plan at download speeds of 384 kbps for $24.95 per month. While this price point doesn’t match the value of the low cost DSL offers, it may be an acceptable alternative for existing cable customers who don’t want to change their @comcast.net email address, but don’t like the idea of paying $42.95 for the 6.0 mbps service. I’ve read that say Comcast is planning to increase the download speed on the Economy plan to 768 kbps, thus making it a much more appealing option for consumers. This projected change change is not set in stone yet.
If you have any questions on Internet choices, please e-mail me. I would be happy to give you some personalized advice.
I was going to write a very impassioned Update on Tuesday in remembrance of 09-11-01, but I know you folks only have so much time to read e-mails. These Updates are meant to be bursts of thought and information…not carbon copies of the print version of The Acronym. So I will summarize my feelings of remembrance into 3 main points:
1) I WILL NEVER FORGET (could be cliche, but so true)
2) About 9 months after 9-11-01, I became unemployed for a period of time due to health issues and was able to read constantly. One topic that I concentrated on was Islam. I consider myself an “unaccredited scholar” in Islamic Studies. (I can hear you pounding your desk now.) I have met many Muslims over the years who tell me “you know more about my religion than I do.” I chuckle. LOL! If there are any questions you ever wanted to as about Islam, but were too shy to ask or short on time to see the local Imam — feel free to ask me. Please understand that if subjective interpretation is called for, I will answer from a Christian, Biblical world view.
3) For all of the terror that the perpetrators of this event tried to cause, I believe that more good has come out “the day the world stopped” than bad. No matter how much our public schools try to drain every ounce of patriotism from our children and discourage American pride, many youths (and you older birds..) truly felt like citizens of the United States of America for the first time on that day. Whatever happened to “Out of many, ONE”, aka. known as E Pluribus Unum ?
I am an avid radio listener. Recently on WRDC 1360 AM, I heard a representative from HBO discussed a documentary they made in 2002, called “In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01” (Website: http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/9_11/ ) This film will be playing at the historic Bantam Cinema (Website: http://www.bantamcinema.com ) in Bantam, CT this Sunday, Sept. 16. @ Noon. One day only!! If you would like to see this film, you have to call and reserve your seat. Phone: (860) 567-1916. Note: A special presentation will be given by an artist who had a studio on the 91st floor of the North Tower.
And that’s about it. I am working on the October edition of The Acronym. Readers are entitled to submit a free, text-based ad in the print newsletter, similar to those you have seen this year, for your business or service. Please e-mail your ad to me or give me some basic info so that I can create one for you. Paid advertisements and sponsorship of an issue are also available to you.