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Warnings and Wisdom for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I thought that there is nothing better I could do for you today than give you some advice for Cyber Monday, as you are snowed in and probably doing some online shopping. I also want to reflect on my Black Friday experience. I’m sure many stores will turn this week into a Cyber Week, so be on the lookout for deals.

Warnings and Wisdom: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I want to give you my thoughts on these shopping holidays as they pertain to the items we care about — computers and items related to personal technology. As one of your favorite tech commentators, I went out on Black Friday to scope out the scene and report back. I will include photographic evidence below to make this a newsletter format, but just in case the five photos do not show up embedded with the text, I will reference them as BlackFriday1 through BlackFriday5 and then you can just click on them as you see fit. Various e-mail apps and programs display photos differently.

Here’s what you need to know at the dawn of Cyber Monday…
-Amazon will have a lot of deals, as will BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Walmart.com, and many other places you regularly shop at (in store and online. ) These deals may last all day or for a few days, but they could expire hourly or within a few hours. Do your homework if needed, but don’t second guess yourself. You may lose out on a great deal.
-Some Black / Cyber sales are junk, old, or otherwise inferior, especially items that seem like serious bargains. That can be totally fine for you. For example, there is nothing wrong with last year’s version of a Dell Optiplex or Latitude computer. Be leery of a product that seems tailor made for the big sale. It may not be what it seems. You may see a lot of unsold “base models” put out there.
-Google for reviews or look on the store itself. Wirecutter is a great review site, as are CNET, iMore, and other well established tech sites. There may be fake reviews on Amazon, but if a product has hundreds or thousands of reviews — they can’t all be fake!
-Be a little skeptical of cell phone carrier’s seemingly massive offers like $300 off a new iPhone either for an existing customer, adding a line or switching companies. These deals almost always entail “bill credits”. So for example, if you get $300 off a new iPhone, this means $12.50 a month for 24 months. It still amounts to $300 but it doesn’t feel like $300 off the phone. Seems like more of a service discount right? If it makes a difference to you, Costco sells phones and service for the major carriers and I’ve heard that they take the discount off the phone up front or send you some type of a prepaid credit card in the mail. That is more of a true deal.

Nerd on the Street Report — here is what I found by going to one of the nation’s largest sellers of electronics — Walmart — on Thanksgiving evening as the Black Friday deals were in full effect. This was not a Super WalMart which may have influenced what I saw, but none the less I was very disappointed with these “doorbuster” items for the most part. I think most of these offers were designed to fleece the sheeple and just get them to buy something.

First, we have a 58 inch ONN brand TV (Picture: BlackFriday1). That seems like a odd size to me. Most TV’s in that range are 55 or 65 inches. What is ONN? I didn’t know. It is a Wal-Mart, in-house brand. It was priced at $198. Wow! Wow! Sadly, this TV looked like it was tailor made for Black Friday. It does not have HDR – high dynamic range. TV’s that you buy nowadays should be 4K and have HDR. I saw plenty of models in the high 200’s – 300 to 400 range that had this important feature. This 58- incher did not turn me ONN.

Next I came across a $28 ONN tablet (BlackFriday2). Seems like WalMart was really promoting their own brands for Black Friday. If your looking for a cheap tablet with basic browsing, e-mailing, and Amazon Kindle book reading capability — get a Kindle Fire. If you want something just a little better, the standard iPad is discounted to $229-249 for Cyber Monday. The $28 tablet was 7 inches, which is pretty small by today’s standards. It did run a nearly pure version of Android 9, but it had a VERY slow processor and on top of this — had a 4 hour advertised battery life. Kids (likely the target customer) will be very disappointed. Guess you will have to go back to sing alongs on those long car rides. Raffi, anyone?

There were some printers that were just screaming BUY ME. A $19 Canon multi-function model caught my eye (BlackFriday3). While it does copy and scan, this model would only be appropriate for very light print volumes. The ink is going to cost a fortune! Keep in mind the rule with ink jet printers — you have to use them or they can go stale. You should be printing SOMETHING at least every 2 weeks. You know I am a fan of Black and White laser printers. WalMart did not disappoint. They had what was advertised as the world’s smallest laser printer for $59, the HP M15a (BlackFriday4). Not bad! Would be good for travelers. This model seems like a WalMart exclusive. It is just a printer. And the ink costs more per page than better laser printers, but if black and white printing is your thing, this model might be OK if you are directly connected to the computer (no WIFI).

Finally, I came across a Roku SE (BlackFriday5) streaming media player. We are all becoming streamers. Whether you use a live TV streaming service like Hulu Live TV or You Tube TV, or just supplement with services like Netflix, regular Hulu and Amazon Prime video — you are part of a growing trend that’s not going away. As I have said before, Roku is one of my favorite players. Not everyone needs to pay $150+ for an Apple TV. I like the Roku over the Amazon Fire devices because who knows when Amazon will get into another fight with Google and block You Tube for a year. The Roku SE is the most inferior of Roku players and does not support 4K TV’s. It is just a re-badged older Roku. I would much rather see you get a Roku Premiere or Roku Streaming Stick + (reg. $40-50), which will support your 4K TV now and in the future.

3 Thoughts For You This Week

I have three things for you this week:  A little iPhone 11 commentary based on my experience thus far, an addendum to my briefing on updates from last week, and a Business Note which covers a service that you may not know I offer. 

iPhone 11 Commentary

The iPhone 11 has been working out well for me.  I was happy to get a very fair trade in offer from Apple on my iPhone 8.   One of the nice features of the 11 (and actually 2018 models and later) is that the phones support 2 numbers, on multiple carriers if needed, as long as your carrier is willing to play ball.   Based on my experience, I would only recommend buying the iPhone through Apple (online or in store) because most of the time, the phone is going to be unlocked.   I also chose Apple’s payment plan but you can do carrier interest free financing through Apple as well.

An Update On Updates

I mentioned that delaying the new macOS 10.15 is appropriate for some users who are running older Mac software (32 – bit apps).  In general, I believe its appropriate to wait a few weeks or months to install a new version of macOS.   If you are not tied to old apps, waiting until 15.1 arrives might be  good time.  With this said, 10.15 represents a serious improvement in Mac security.  The system files (targets that hackers love to attack) are placed in a hard to reach “enclave” that even the user will not be able to mess with.  Mac OS 10.15 represents Apple really locking things down.

Furthermore, another new version of Windows 10 will be coming shortly.  It will be known as Windows 10 1909 – November Update.   And maybe this will be a new trend from Microsoft.  This new version won’t require heavy lifting.   It will install like a normal Windows update.  It’s been said that your computer won’t even need to restart.  Perhaps — Microsoft is going to make the Spring release of Windows a big upgrade and the Fall one a tiny update.   I can live with that but it should still be just one new version per year.   You should all be on Windows 10 1903 by now — the version that came out earlier this year.  The best way to ensure you get all of the Windows updates and upgrades is to leave your computer plugged in and sleeping at night.  I’m hoping 1909 comes to you as disruptively as possible. 

Business Note

I don’t really talk about it a lot but I have helped clients block unwanted websites for years.  Sites blocked may include adult websites, games, or other time wasting websites.  Bad websites can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol.  I am not here to shame you.  I am here to help.  It may be a personal issue — or it may be related to kids or visitors to your home.  I can institute blocks on both the network, computer, and mobile device levels (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android).   If necessary — reporting systems can be set up as well.  (Good tip for parents out there — it’s easier to set up apps that report on device activity with Android devices than iOS).  You don’t have to feel guilty or bad — you can just tell me — I want to block _____ kinds of websites.  I will come up with a practical solution for you.  And of course, I will regard what I do for you with the utmost in confidentiality. 

Fall Is The Season For Technology

A brief diversion for you — Are you sick of Pumpkin Spice? 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/food-dining/2019/08/28/pumpkin-spice-has-gone-too-far-and-we-need-to-draw-the-line/2122332001/

Fall Is The Season For Technology

Fall is high season for technology.  Major products relevant to the lives of everyday users of technology have just been or will be released soon. 

– Samsung just released its candidate for 2nd half of 2019 – iPhone Killer.   It’s called the Galaxy Note 10 — If you are thinking Android and want something of iPhone quality — it is an amazing phone.  https://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/phones/galaxy-note/

-Microsoft just announced its big event for October 2.  It is widely expected that they will come out with a new Surface Pro tablet + keyboard and Surface Laptop.  I led a client on a well planned and deliberative shopping trip just before Christmas last year.  When given a live and in person chance to try out the Mac Book Air and the Surface Pro, she chose the Surface Pro. Based on a few key factors, it wasn’t even close.   If you’ve never looked at the Surface, take a peek at the current generation here  https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/surface-pro-6/8zcnc665slq5?activetab=pivot:overviewtab

-Google will not be left out.  Since 2016, Google has released an annual iteration of premium phones in their Pixel line.  These phones aim for iPhone stature and naturally are priced like iPhones.  A lot of independent observers say that the Pixels truly have the best cameras.  Expect an October release.  And just remember, you don’t have to spend $800 to get a great phone.  A few months back, Google came out with a slightly less powerful and very reasonably priced Pixel 3a line of phones.  For a sub-$400 awesome phone, this is my pick.  https://store.google.com/product/pixel_3a  (Works with all major carriers)

….But Ladies and Gentlemen the event you have been waiting for….

-Last but not least, lets talk about Apple’s September Event.  The iPhone event is happening on September 10.  Pre-ordering is scheduled for September 13th, with deliveries beginning on the 20th.  As always, I will make my “upgrade service” available to you.  I will order the phone for you without any consulting charge (using your apple.com account or cellular account), if you have me come and set the phone up for you when it arrives.  This system has worked out well for years with my clients and I.  Whether I have to stay up late or wake up early, I will get that order in for you.  While rumors can be unreliable, possible model names may be — iPhone 11, iPhone Pro, and iPhone Pro Max.  It would not surprise me if pricing stayed at $749, $999, $1099.  Keep in mind again that most customers pay for their phones via the 24 interest free payment program through carrier financing or through Apple’s Upgrade Program. It is still possible to buy the phone outright.  iPhone 6 users — it is time for a few iPhone.  If you have another model that is getting old or slow or just want a new one —  I am ready, willing, and able to get you the phone you need.  

I appreciate your referrals  Be on the lookout for a mailing from me that is a “menu” of all the services I offer, including some that you may not be aware of.  Very share worthy!

Yours truly,

Be Versatile In Using Technology

This is a follow up to a previous update, with some specific tips. Eventually, the way you normally do something is going to go wrong. Outlook is going to fail you, Apple Mail (Mac or iOS) is going to fail you, your browser of choice (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc) is going to fail you. Gmail may even fail you. There will be a time when you need to reply to or send out a key e-mail. You may have a contract or a statement to print out and your browser starts acting goofy. You will have that instance where you need to do something meaningful to you and what should be simple seems like a technological roadblock.

At least once a month, try doing what you normally do a different way. If you usually use a separate e-mail application to read your mail — try going to the web mail client of your provider. Reply to messages and send new ones out. Test it out. Check to see what contacts are stored there. Depending on your provider, you will be going to
Comcast.net
Gmail.com
Yahoo.com
Outlook.com (for Hotmail and @outlook.com addresses)
portal.office.com (for Office 365 workplace e-mail accounts provided by Microsoft)
iCloud.com
webmail.aol.com
or possibly another website depending on your provider

Furthermore, make sure you have a 2nd e-mail address that you can send and receive from. Simply changing how you access the account may not fix your problem. A second address gives you a communication lifeline.

In addition to your primary browser which is likely going to be Chrome, Safari or Firefox — at least once a month, use another browser on your computer. You may be opening up one of the aforementioned 3 or possibly Microsoft Edge (on a Windows computer). Check your Start Menu (Windows) or Applications folder (Mac) for that secondary browser. If you need to download and install another browser, here are some relevant links.
Firefox.com
https://www.google.com/chrome/
Brave

Get comfortable trying alternative methods of performing routine tasks. Your willingness to be flexible can really help you out when you are in a jam.

CT Big List and Dealing With Technology Stress


** Brief correction
:  While I did watch and listen to Apple’s WWDC keynote address live and then combined the best of reliable sources and my own analysis for you, I left out one key equipment compatibility detail.   The late 2015 iPhone models — 6s and 6s Plus — WILL be compatible with iOS 13 that comes out this fall.  I had originally told you iPhone SE and later.   Essentially the SE (a small, 4.0 inch iPhone released in March 2016) has the same processor as the 6s family.  It makes sense then that the 6s models are still kosher.  If you have a 6s, I’m not saying that you have to get a new phone.   You may still want to get a new one (because of age, declining functionality etc) or you may want to get the battery replaced.  I will support you in those decisions.  iPhone 6 is a different story — it is not going to work with iOS 13.  As for iPads, my initial report was correct.  iPad Air 2 (2014) and iPad Mini 4 (2015) and later are supported.  The original iPad Air (2013) and previous models will not be supported. 

PSA:  This is not a scam. It comes directly from the CT State Treasurer’s Office.  You should check out the CT Big List.   This is where funds from all closed and forgotten bank accounts, insurance policies, and other funds (like mortgage rebates) go to.  I have found clients names on the list in the past.  Some of you are currently on the list. You do not have to pay anyone for claiming your missing funds. If your name comes up in the search, simply follow the steps, print out the form, get it notarized and you will get your funds.  Your bank will most likely notarize for you for free.  There are hundreds of millions of $$ available to CT residents.  It’s YOUR money.  https://www.ctbiglist.com/

PSA 2:   Since I have had a handful of clients who have been hacked recently  — mostly because of insecure and re-used passwords and also some instances of bad browser extensions — I want to share this again.    If a “bad guy”  gets your e-mail messages and your contacts, there is nothing to stop them from e-mailing your contacts over and over again asking for money and trying to scam them.   You can change your e-mail address (and maybe you should, at least for the defense of “I don’t use that account anymore”) but even still, that person can impersonate you and make it look like messages are coming from your old address or even a new address that seems to be you.  The bad guy may continue to harass you.  Don’t take it too seriously.  Don’t give in.  Think about it this way — if a drug dealer knows he can make a lot of money selling on one street corner — he is going to keep going back to that street corner until it becomes unprofitable.   If a scammer has been successful at obtaining gift cards or cash from your contacts — he will hit them up again and again.   Common logic tells you that once people stop giving in, the scammer will get bored and move on to other victims. 

Dealing With Technology Stress

Here are a couple of simple steps to help you work around frustrating situations with technology

1.  Have you tried turning the device off or closing the software application and restarting it?

2.  Have you tried doing IT a different way? For example — if your e-mail account is not working in the Mail app on your phone or computer — have you tried going directly to Gmail.com, or Yahoo.com or Comcast.net to check your e-mail?  Have you tried using a different browser?   Instead of Chrome — try Firefox or Safari (You should have more than one browser on your computer).  Once a month, make it a point to try out alternatives to common tasks so you are not stuck.

3. Strange pop up on the screen from “Microsoft Support”  talking to you with a phone number to call?   Quit the browser or turn the computer off.  Ask for help from a legitimate resource if you can’t get out of it.

4.  Put the devices down or turn them off — take a walk —- >> Go out for a while.   Talk to real people.  Do something that doesn’t give you stress!  Remember how life used to be?  All you needed was a quartz wristwatch, a wallet, and some family or friends to have a good time.

Technology Update 6/1/19 – Internet Deals

Current Comcast Deal
Most of my clients are Comcast customers. I know that it is tough to keep up with their promotions. They come and go with no set schedule. I know that it feels weird or even wrong to have to keep calling them on a yearly or bi-annual basis to ask about a new promotion. When you contact them, an appropriate promotion may not be available. A week later, you may be a very happy person. I always get asked about ways to save on the bill. I have said in the past — you may have to make some compromises. They have a current promotion for those of you who want Internet and TV only. Do not try to add anything to it. It is called the Standard Double Play HD promo. With this package you will get an extremely fast internet speed, plus their Standard TV plan (not Limited Basic). You will get local channels, sports channels, cable news networks, and entertainment channels like USA, TNT, FX, Lifetime, Hallmark. The base price of the package is $59.99. Of course you have to factor in the $10 Broadcast TV fee (local channels) and regional sports fee (8.25). I am basing this on Connecticut prices. The cost for 1 TV is about $90 a month. The cost for 2 TV’s comes out to just under $100 a month. I think this is a good offer if you are looking to hit that $100 price point. It is valid for 1 year. Then of course, you will have to renegotiate. That’s the name of the game. One more thing, you will have to contact the Retentions department to get this promo. You need to call and say you want to "cancel service". Official Comcast representatives can also make these kinds of offers through a private message on the discussion website Reddit. For as big as they are, they have gotten really modern in offering support. This deal should be good for new customers as well.

Apple’s Big Event
Apple is hosting their annual WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) next week. The big keynote will happen at the beginning of the week. I’m not really expecting new devices as they have already released new iPads, iMacs and Mac Book Pros this year. However, I think there will be announcements about the future of the Mac. I expect to see more convergence between iPad and Mac. One rumor that has come on pretty strong over the past 24 hours is that Apple will be retiring iTunes software in favor of a Music app (same as iPhone / iPad). You may remember iTunes as a music manager but it was also an iPhone manager. It was great for making local backups of your iOS device to the computer. It could also be used to restore an iOS device from the backup. I hope that functionality is kept because it has been very useful in my efforts to help you. I will have more to report in my next update.