Category: Security

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. 

Dropped And Spooky Phone Calls

Travel Tips

After bringing and picking my wife up from the airport due to a weekend trip, I thought I would share a couple of tips with you.   If you are thinking of traveling from Bradley Airport (BDL) and don’t mind a quick, relaxing, and scenic trip to T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, you should really check out fares from PVD.  My wife was able to save $300 on a round trip to the Ontario, California (ONT) airport.  PVD is only 1.5 hours from Hartford and seemed quicker.  As the old saying goes, your mileage may vary.  Another suggestion is to try alternate airports.  These landing spots may be less expensive, more convenient, or both.  The friends she was looking to meet were about 20 minutes east of ONT.   Getting there from LAX when arriving at about 1030 PM would have been a challenge for her.

Responsible Recommendations 

As many of you know, I made a BIG SWITCH to T-Mobile for cellular service with my wife back in March.  The initial reasons I joined was because of their cheaper / possibly free international service for a trip she was taking to southeast Asia and because of the reports I had read from a plethora of sources about how good the coverage had gotten in recent years.  5+ years ago T-Mobile was truly a 3rd rate carrier.  I’ve shared that the experience has been mostly good and the financial perspective got even better about 4 months in when we were able to sign up for the age 55+ plus plan (2 lines for $70 including taxes and fees, with unlimited everything).  This was half what we were paying with Verizon.  Given that I have so many clients that could benefit from a plan like this, I could have pumped them hard and made good money marketing TMO to you.  I did not jump on that opportunity because I wanted to give my experience more time.   More recently, I have noticed some shortcomings.  When helping a client far from downtown Glastonbury (near Portland actually), I had no service.  When taking the smooth, rural, Route 165 into Rhode Island I had no service for about 3 miles.  Additionally, last week I had about 3 dropped calls in the Hartford area.  It was a new development.  After extensive conversations with TForce (customer support), I found out that there are tower upgrades going on in the area and they should be completed by mid-November.  I did not have any more dropped calls outside of those 3 days, so I’m inclined to believe what I was told.   So here is where I stand with T-Mobile — as far as my client base is concerned:  If you want to save money with T-Mobile, you can go to a T-Mobile store or I can certainly help you.  However, there are potential limitations.  One reason to keep your Verizon or ATT service is the reliability of the towers.   Considering the country as a whole, Verizon and ATT have a much higher percentage of towers with fuel powered backup in the case of power outages and natural disasters than T-Mobile.  At times, you just want the call go through. While we are spared from a lot of the worst weather, you never know when a “2011 Snowpocalypse” will hit us again.

Spooky Phone Calls

Are you getting more scam phone calls?  I have two clients that may have been called by fake or moonlighting Comcast representatives the other day.  “Hi, I’m calling from the Cable Department.”   Good thing I was there.  We hung up.   I want to make sure you can recognize a scam call.  On Monday morning, I received a call on my business line saying that my Social Security Number is being suspended.  Hmmm, I feel so scared now.  I might be in big trouble. NOT!

Apple Why Did You Do This To Us?

Thought of the Week:  I am not a Russian asset, but I will help you fight technology scammers from Russia, India, the U.S. or wherever.  I am going to say this again because new clients have gotten on board and it’s been a while since I made this announcement.   The real Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo or Facebook are not going to pop up on your screen with a phone number with a person on the other end of the line asking for money.  You have an intrusion on your computer and you are one step away from being scammed.  Do not call the number!  Do not make a $500 – 1000 mistake plus open yourself to identity theft.  If you can’t get rid of it call me and I will solve it.

Small Business Spotlight:  As you know I am in business to serve sole proprietors and small businesses, along with residential consumers and non-profits.  From time to time I like to highlight unique small companies and non-profits.  This week I would like to introduce you to Skrewball Whiskey.  They are unique in that they sell one product (available for order online and select locations), a peanut butter flavored whiskey.  A husband and wife run this operation and there is a really positive immigration related twist to their vision.  The husband hails from Cambodia, grew up poor, and never had peanut butter as a kid.  Peanut butter was one of the first food items he learned to love in his new American life and thus inspired this venture.  Check them out at https://www.skrewballwhiskey.com  (Unsolicited)

Apple, Why Did You Do This To Us?

Well well, I have gotten an earful from clients about Apple’s new iOS 13 software (and its sister iPad OS 13). The new versions and subsequent minor updates are hard to avoid.  They bring new features and stability and security fixes.  However, they bring CHANGES.  I work with an older client base.  Remember I am the I.T. Guy that specializes in age 55 + at home, at work, and in non-profits run by people in this age bracket.  Older adults can be quite resistant to change.  It’s not good or bad; it’s a fact of life. I’ve been doing this for 22 years.  

I know many of you enjoy putting your photos in the Photos app into albums.   These albums will synchronize between iPhone and iPad, as well as the Mac, with iCloud Photo Library turned on. You can also see all of your photos and albums by logging on to iCloud.com from any computer, including a Windows computer.   From the iPhone, in iOS 13, the process of adding a photo to an album has changed.  Please make a note of this and try this out

In the Photos app

-the Photos tab at the bottom has changed a bit — you now see sub tabs for Years — Months — Days and All Photos.  All Photos is still a good place to see all of your photos.

-But if you want to add photos to an existing album, you must click on the Albums tab

-Press the + to create a new album, name the album, from there you can add photos

-However, to add photos to an existing album, you must go to Albums, and open the album

-Then press Edit in the top right, then Add in the bottom center, then choose photos

Rinse and repeat, you will get it!

Song of the Week:  (Haven’t done this in a while) Ludovico Einaudi – “Experience” https://youtu.be/91sFlP6aa5Q  . A You Tube video will open.


Concluding remarks:  Remember, when you choose a small business, you are choosing someone who cares.  You are choosing someone who will not cave to corporate pressure. When you choose to patronize someone like me, you are voting with your dollars, stating — I want someone like you to live in my community.  Thank you all.

When Clients Improve My Practice

As you probably have guessed many of my weekly updates are based on client situations.  However, there are times when I interact with a client and that situation actually helps to enlighten my perspective about something related to technology or makes me remember a forgotten tip that could be quite relevant. 

Here are a couple of points I want to share.

-The “Apple keychain password manager” is not a terrible one.  It’s quite good for basic needs. This manager will allow you to sync passwords between Mac, iPhone, and iPad.  Sorry, but it doesn’t work in Windows.  You will be able to fill in passwords in Safari on all of the devices and in multiple apps that support password managers on your iOS / iPad devices.  If Windows is involved in any way or you want a better password manager, I still recommend Last Pass or 1Password.  I don’t like that there is seemingly no way to export or print passwords from the Apple password manager, but it is certainly better than no password manager.  Google also has a version of this that syncs with Chrome and Android phones, but I trust Google less with my passwords than Apple. 

-I think it’s really important to have a second browser on your computer, loaded up with an ad-blocker of course.  On Sunday night, a client told me that a website would print better in the alternate browser.  Another reason to have access to browser number 2 is that you want to multi task — certain websites will be open in browser 1 (remember you can have more than one — right now I have like 15 open in various tabs) and others will be open in browser 2.  Finally, your first browser may get corrupted.  A lot of infections these days stay within the browser and do not spread to the computer.  Having that second browser can help you get work done or just use your computer safely until you have a chance to contact a tech like me for help.  Edge is the default browser in Windows these days (which most people don’t use).  Chrome is the #1 browser in the world by use.  Safari is the default browser on the Mac.  Other browsers you can use include Google Chrome, Firefox, or Brave.  Those are my top 3 choices in no order.  Brave is kind of cool because they block ads by default.  It was created by one of the founders of Firefox.  Fire up your alternate browser at least once a month so it updates (though it may happen automatically). 

Be Careful Before Clicking

My advice for you this week is to be very careful about clicking links or attachments that come in an email or other form of electronic message.   If you are expected these items, that is one thing.   But if the attachments or links seem out of the blue — this is a red flag!  They can easily create a malware infection on your device.    In terms of links, one thing that you can often to depending on the email program or devices is point to the link or press and hold on it (iOS) to reveal the true websites.  You may be able to right click on the link (computer) and copy the link address.  Then you could paste the address in Word or another word processor so that you can see it in print before clicking on it.  Not a bad idea.   If the true address doesn’t match what you are looking for — steer clear.  

Additionally, decide very carefully whether you want to click on ads you see in your browser.   You shouldn’t really see that many of them because I have installed an ad blocker in the browser for nearly all of you.   Go to a well known technology news site — cnet.com .  Unfortunately, they are known for displaying a ton of ads.  If you see a lot of ads on their page, it means that you do not have an ad blocker installed.  Being properly protected against malicious ads should be something to add to your list for our next visit.

On Yahoo.com Keep Ads Blocked Always

I had a lengthy appointment with a client yesterday.   They had a fake anti-virus scam pop up that took over their computer.   They panicked in the moment over several days — did not call me (big mistake) — and gave the scam outfit (without even knowing the company name or location) $900 in Apple gift cards purchased from local pharmacies.    There is a lot to this story that I won’t get into here but…..

It is very likely that it all started when reading an article on Yahoo News.  A bad ad injected scripts into their browser which triggered downloads and other things.  Yahoo may not have screened the ad carefully or the ad may have been provided by a 3rd party.   The client’s guard was down, in part because, the ad blocker was turned off. 

One may say — well I didn’t click the ad!  It doesn’t matter.  The mere fact that a malicious ad loads in the first place is the vector for attack. 

I am fairly certain that I have installed ad blockers in your browsers.  On Safari for the Mac, I prefer Ad Block Plus (with acceptable ads turned off).   On Chrome or Firefox, I like uBlock Origin (ideally) or Ad Block Plus (with acceptable ads turned off).  It is always good to have multiple browsers available for use on your computer should Browser A get corrupted. 

Some content providers, increasingly, want you to turn off an ad blocker temporarily.  I have had to do this when watching TV episodes on NBC.com.  A few years back Yahoo said they were not going to let you use Yahoo Mail in the web browser if you blocked ads.  They seem to have backtracked a bit.  

My client’s experience was not the first time I have come across a bad ad injected through a Yahoo.com page.  


Bottom line:  DO NOT EVER EVER TURN THE AD BLOCKER OFF ON A YAHOO.COM PAGE.   If they say you can’t use the page otherwise, accept it and move on.  You can still access your Yahoo Mail on a smartphone or on the computer via an e-mail program like Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.

If you see ads on Yahoo.com, it means your ad blocker is not installed or not working.

Urgent Windows Update

It’s been a long time since I had an urgent Windows Update message for you.   As you may nor may not remember me telling you — Microsoft puts out monthly security updates every 2nd Tuesday of the month.   By letting your computer simply go to sleep (plugged in for a laptop) you computer should just automatically install the updates.  You never really need to Shut Down your computer (unless you are going on an airplane or will be away for a week or more).    Anyway, sometimes the automatic update system fails or you may be in the habit of shutting your computer off.


Microsoft really wants to make sure you have this week’s update.  It’s so urgent that this story hit the mainstream news last night.   Here is what you need to do.


Click your Start Menu

Go to Settings

Go to  Update & Security

Check For Updates

Restart if and when asked.