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Breadbasket Technology Update

1.  iPhone Killer?

Since 2009, we have been waiting for a true iPhone killer.  I remember when the first Motorola Droid came out on Verizon.  I remember the futuristic commercials during a Sunday of football games.  However, has any Android phone ever really lived up to the hype? For a while Google has a line of Nexus phones that were the perfect combination of performance and price.  They sold for about $350.  Unfortunately, Google retired the Nexus brand in 2016 and currently sell a line of Pixel phones.  They are priced at the top of the market along with premium Samsung and LG offerings, as well as the iPhone.   While it may or may not be the iPhone killer, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 will be in stores for sale this Friday.  It comes in 5.9 inch (S9) and 6.2 inch (S9+) flavors.   It is available starting at $720 directly from Samsung and $799 from the likes of ATT + Verizon.  DXO Mark claims it has the best smartphone camera ever.  If you are an Android fan, tired of the iPhone, or just want something different — check it out.  http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/galaxy-s9/   It will be the fiercest competitor to the iPhone this year.

2.  A New Version of Windows — Again?

Yes, the 5th major upgrade to Windows 10 should be coming out next month. I thought the Mac was bad with one new version of mac OS each year since 2011.  Microsoft seems bent on delivering two new versions of Windows per year.  That means gigabytes of data get thrown at your computer delivering some new mix of features and security.  Windows 10 is in a really good place right now.  Why mess it up?  I’m telling all my customers, with Windows 10 Pro (ie. the ones that had me order their computers), to turn on the “delay feature update” option in Windows.  Set it to 120 days.  Let the bugs get worked out.  We can deal with this new version of Windows in the summer. I wish Microsoft would open up their ears and listen to customers.

3. One of My Favorite Mac Applications

It’s called Sync Mate.  It applies to some of you, not all of you.  Not all of you sync your Contacts through iCloud.  Some prefer to use Google, not only for email but for contact syncing.  You can sign into your Google account the Mac’s System Preferences and it will sync all of your contacts, but it will not sync groups of contacts.  You may have your contacts divided up, business and personal.  You may have a holiday card list.  Think of Sync Mate as a helper for Contacts on the Mac.   It will sync the groups between your Gmail account and Mac Contacts.  This app comes in free and paid versions.  The free version has always worked for me.  https://www.sync-mac.com/

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Great Laptops at Big Savings THINK

Just in case you were in the market for a new laptop, I have a deal to pass on to you. If you’ve read my e-mail blasts over the past few years, you know that I like Lenovo’s THINK products (aka the old IBM Computer), Dell’s Latitude line, and the HP Pro Book / Elitebook lines.

I usually do not stray beyond that scope in my recommendations.

For the next few days, you can purchase a Lenovo THINKPAD laptop for 20% off by using the coupon code THINKPADSAVE20 at checkout. They rarely offer deals this good. I have already helped some customers take advantage of this special and I can help you custom configure an order. Of course there are several choices within the THINKPAD line. Here are some that I would steer you toward.

Budget Friendly — THINKPAD L or THINKPAD E
https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-l/c/thinkpadl?menu-id=ThinkPad_L

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-e-series/c/thinkpade?menu-id=ThinkPad_E

The Standard Bearer – THINKPAD T
https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-t-series/c/thinkpadt?menu-id=ThinkPad_T

Cutting Edge — Thinkpad X1 Carbon
https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-x/ThinkPad-X1-Carbon-5th-Gen/p/22TP2TXX15G?menu-id=X1_Carbon_(5th_Gen)

Remember — THINK brand laptops are not sold in local big box stores.

Welcome 2018 – Best of 2017

“Welcome 2018:  Best of 2017”

2017 was a year where we moved more towards mobile, privacy, sharing, and shopping online. The PC is not the primary computer even for many of us with a desktop or a laptop.  Our use of smartphones and tablets is only going to grow in the future.  A troubling trend in 2017 was the threat to our privacy.   The loosening of regulations on internet providers being able to sell our usage history and the end of net neutrality should be two things that we really keep an eye on this year.  While there are some independent internet providers in Connecticut, where most of my customers are based, none can compete with the speed that Frontier and Comcast offer.  That’s too bad because we really need a company in the northeast like Sonic that puts customers and their privacy first.

 

Here are some of my best picks from 2017.

 

Best Bargain Smartphones

I’m going to put the Motorola G Series at the top of my list once again. Their Android based G5 Plus phone can be purchased unlocked from motorola.com for just over $200 (outright no payment plan). It is compatible with all major carriers including Verizon.    I’m going to include the iPhone SE from Apple on this list as well.  While a new model has not been released since March of 2016, Apple doubled the storage on the base model in 2017 and cut the price to $350. This phone is also compatible with all major carriers including Verizon and is best purchased directly from Apple without any need of a payment plan. If you like a smaller 4 inch phone that can fit in a shirt pocket, this is the phone for you.

 

Best Smartphones

I’m going to go with a safe pick on the iPhone side for 2017 and recommend the iPhone 8 Plus.   It has an awesome camera that is truly an improvement over its 2016 predecessor and does not demand the learning curve that the iPhone X requires.  It seems likely that all of our iPhones will not have a home button and will feature face unlocking in the future, but for now I’d like to steer my clients down a familiar path.  

 

On the Android side of things, Google’s second generation Pixel phones were a disappointment because they were plagued with nagging flaws from the time of release. Most of those issues have been fixed with subsequent software updates, however you  don’t always get a second chance to create a first impression.  I’m going to take the go-big-or-go-home approach with Android here. As long as you can tolerate a 6.3 inch diagonal phone, which is almost like a mini tablet, I’m going to call the Samsung Galaxy Note 8  my Android phone of the year.  Expect a refresh on the slightly smaller Galaxy S line in the early spring.

 

Best Laptops

If you have to buy a Mac laptop then go out and buy one but I can’t recommend the 2017 Mac Book Pro models.  While the 2016 lineup was  refreshed quickly in 2017 to fix some reliability concerns, they still feature a keyboard that leaves a lot to be desired.  Furthermore, how can you call it a Pro model  when the only kind of port is the USB Type-C port?  Mac Book Pro users need to buy one or more dongles to connect things like backup hard drives and even their iPhones.  Sadly, I don’t think Apple is going to reverse course and give us a Mac Book Pro like the 2015 model ever again.  The Mac Book Air is still alive and kicking. It received a minor update in 2017, but it is truly not an upgraded model.  It received a small speed increase to its 2015 processor (CPU). I think the Air is dead going forward.  

 

I can enthusiastically recommend business class laptops that are durable and have pleasing keyboard experiences.   My picks for you are the Lenovo Thinkpad T470 (or its slightly slimmer cousin the T470s. Note: The updated T480 line is coming soon.), the Dell Latitude 5480 or Latitude 7480.  These laptops are not sold in stores and are best ordered from Lenovo’s and Dell’s websites.  They generally run about $800 to $1500.  As I mentioned to a client the other night, you can often find a bargain on the aforementioned models in the Dell or Lenovo outlets.  I am talking like $500’s and $600’s, with at least a 1 year warranty on certified refurbished or returned models.  

 

If you are looking for a stylish laptop, like a Mac Book Air with modern innards, you should consider the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon or the Dell XPS 13 or 15.  

 

Best Desktops

There isn’t a lot of innovation in desktops to write home about.  I think a workable hybrid solution is to purchase a laptop, an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  When you don’t want to be chained to the desk, you can take the laptop to the couch, coffee shop, or on the road.  I will not deviate from past picks and continue say that the Lenovo ThinkCentre and Dell OptiPlex desktops are solid choices.  These systems are not the same as the Dell and Lenovo PC’s sold in stores.  Apple refreshed its iMac lineup in 2017.  I consider it a top pick in performance and and design.  Just be sure to order it from Apple.com or ask for some help in ordering.  The iMacs sold in stores are the SLOW hard drive models.  You will want a custom order with a solid state drive (SSD).  The Retina 4K 21 inch iMac, with a 256 GB SSD will cost you $1499.  

Looking forward to a great 2018 together!!

Technology Update 12/5/17

Go With a Laptop ? 

Clients often ask if their next computer should be a laptop.   If you like the idea of being portable, then YES, I think it would be a good idea.  If you think you may want a bigger screen at times, you can easily connect a monitor to your laptop.  To keep things on a budget, a 22 or 24 inch monitor from Best Buy or NewEgg will more than serve your purposes.  Those monitors run $150 or less.  It’s much less than buying a separate desktop and laptop. 

A Classic Mouse is Back

1995 is calling and they have brought a great mouse back.   Whether you are working on a desktop or laptop, a functional mouse is a key tool to have.   Microsoft has updated and re-released their IntelliMouse, now called the Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse. It is the ideal WIRED mouse for Windows or Mac.   About $40.  Here is the Amazon link

Mac Security Scare

There was a major security scare in the Mac OS world last week.  Mac users with the latest operating system could have had operations executed on their systems, such as copying / erasing data or installing rogue software, with no password required at all.   Bad actors would have needed physical or remote access to your system to pull this off, but even with that, it means Apple was asleep at the wheel.   Apple pushed out a fix the next day and claimed the fix would automatically install.   Please make a regular habit of clicking on the Apple Menu (top left of screen), clicking on App Store, and then checking for updates. Install all available updates.   Do this right now if you haven’t lately and then check periodically.   Your Mac should install these updates automatically, but I know some of you turn your systems off or delay the updates.  

iOS 11.2

Apple pushed out the latest minor update to their iOS over the weekend.  With it came the roll out of a major new feature — Apple Pay Cash.  Once it is set up, which seems like it could take 15 minutes, iPhone users will be able to send and receive payments to each other through an iMessage (iPhone text message for those of you not up on the lingo).  Watch out Pay Pal?  Maybe so. 

Apple pushes “automatic” fix

For your reading pleasure. See my comments below….

https://www.axios.com/apple-pushes-update-to-macs-to-patch-big-vulnerability-2513548111.html?utm_medium=linkshare&utm_campaign=organic

Make sure your Mac is online. Simply let it go to sleep when you are not using it. They are doing this for only the second time in their history —— reaching into users computers to fix a critical issue. No check of the Mac App Store is required. Just make sure your Mac is not off.

To 4K or Not to 4K

As I walked through Best Buy several times this past weekend, I saw that 4K televisions were the hottest item.  People were scooping up 43 inch models on Friday for less than $300.  These were not the highest quality units available, but that wasn’t stopping anyone.

Fact:  4K is our TV future.  The best models are going to have 4K and a feature known as HDR (high dynamic range).
Should you buy one and can you really benefit now?

1.  A 4K TV will allow you to future proof.
2. However, you may not see any benefit in the present.  There is currently no cable TV (ie. Comcast) transmitted in 4K.  Comcast is rolling out limited trials of cable boxes that will support HDR and eventually 4K programming.
3.  To get meaningful use of 4K today, you need to be a user of streaming video services.  This could be Amazon video, Netflix, Hulu, or Apple TV content.  Some TVs are smart meaning they can play this content already, but many of my clients prefer to use an Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire — which are boxes or little sticks that plug into the TV.   You need to be a streamer to get 4k content.
4.  Finally, you need to have a powerful internet connection.  Most cable connections will suffice.  Fiber optic connections from the phone company may also work.  Basically, you need an internet speed of 25 mbps or higher.  You also need a modern router, capable of transmitting data using the latest protocols.
To 4K or not 4K, that is the question.