Category: Uncategorized

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.
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Technology Update 9/12/18 – Apple Event Recap

New iPhones
Apple took the wrapper off of two premium iPhones today, the iPhone Xs (10 s) and 10s Max featuring Super Retina screens and better cameras than ever before.  As I shared previously, the phones feature edge to edge screens, with diagonal screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.5 inches.    Due to there being almost no bezel on the phones, the overall size of the phone is very comparable to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus respectively.    Apple is also offering a brand new iPhone Xr, with a traditional LCD screen which also pushes to the edges of the phone. It is 6.1 inches diagonally and comes in multiple colors. The Xr offers a very good camera, whereas the Xs models offer magnificent cameras.  Pricing (64 GB models):  iPhone Xr $749,iPhone Xs $999, iPhone Xs Max $1099.   All new models do not have home buttons.  I think you can easily learn the basic functionality in a day.  However, if you demand the traditional home button, the iPhone 8 is still available at a reduced cost ($599).
Ordering opens up on Friday, September 14th for the Xs and Xs Max.  The Xr model can be ordered starting Oct. 19th.  As I mentioned before, I can order you new iPhone for you for delivery at no charge if you have me come out to set it up for you.  Please contact me.  I’ll be ready to place your orders starting on Friday.
Apple Watches
Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 today.  The new models offer large watch faces, while pushing the screen closer to the edges.  They will offer more accurate tracking of exercise including swimming.  Series 4 can also detect falls, enhancing your personal safety.  Furthermore, it is also designed to recognize atrial fibrillation (AFIB) and offers the owners the first over-the-counter ECG (electrocardiogram).  The new Apple watches start at $399 and can be ordered starting on Sept 14th.

New Versions of IOS and the Mac OS

New versions of the operating system for the iPhone / iPad and Mac will be available very soon.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th. If you are going to be doing the upgrade on your phone, please make sure you have a full backup.  I am available for upgrade appointments starting on Sept. 24th.     If you are uncomfortable with doing it on your own, I will ensure you have a guided and safe experience.   Let’s set something up.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th.
Macs
There were no new Macs announced today.  I expect a direct product release or another Apple event within the next month.   At that time we should see a new Mac Mini desktop (Apple’s least expensive Mac) and some lower cost “consumer” Mac laptops.   As of right now, my recommendations are the 2018 Mac Book Pro 13 ($1799) and a custom ordered 2017 iMac ($1499 for one with a real SSD hard drive).  I expect my list of “VIP approved” Macs to expand when the new models are released.

Is That E-Mail Really From You?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously. This is an excellent topic and I wrote a blog post on it.    Please click the link to read more.  theacronym.com/2018/09/12/e-mail-authenticity/

E-mail authenticity

Was that e-mail really from you?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously.
I guess I could start by saying that my business e-mail account has never been hacked.  With that said, this fact would not stop a bad actor from an account pretending to be me.  With the right e-mail program you can make the “From” address anything you want.  However, they would need my address book.  I send all of my group e-mail out as BCC (which means that you don’t see all of the recipients).  That address book is stored in the cloud in an account protected by two factor authentication (something you should have enabled on your iCloud, Google, and Microsoft accounts used with e-mail / contacts).  Further enhancing security, my second factor is not my phone number, meaning I authenticate by something more secure than a text message.  My contacts are locally stored on 3 devices – a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet.  All three of those are locked with encryption.  Considering all of this, it would be pretty hard for a bad actor to send an e-mail to all of my clients.   I should also add that I almost always use one of three salutations in my e-mail updates:   Dear Clients and Computer Students (for all clients), Dear Mac Family, and Dear Windows Clients, depending on the group I am addressing.  Great question!  Thanks for asking.

Clean My Mac X – Oil Change For Your Mac

I just wanted to make you aware of this app and this offer. I often get asked by Mac clients, I meet with you every few months, but what should I be doing on a regular basis? Is there a simple, one button app that I can use to give an oil change to my system? Yes there is! It’s called Clean My Mac. They have just upgraded to the newest version Clean My Mac X. It not only cleans out your system and makes it a bit faster, but also scans for malware, and helps you keep your non-Apple apps up to date.

Some of you have been users for years. For you there is a lifetime upgrade special – $45. For those of you who aren’t Clean My Mac users, there is special promotional pricing: $28 for the year or $63 for a lifetime license. It’s easy to run and I recommend it that you do it once a month to keep your Mac running optimally.

Multi Mac household? They have a plan for you too. I am not saying all of my Mac clients MUST buy this, but if you like the idea of cleaning up your Mac simply and quickly once in a while I can think of no better app.

To upgrade or purchase….

https://macpaw.com/cleanmymac

Technology Update 8/15/18

Preview
It’s the middle of August already and the busy season in the world of technology is almost upon us.  In short snippets let me cover everything that we can expect to see over the next couple of months:  new iPhones, new Pixel phones from Google, new iPads, new Macs, new Surface computers from Microsoft, a new version of macOS, a new version of iOS, a new version of Android, and a new version of Windows.  It will be a busy time for us.
Small Laptops
I admire small, highly functional laptops. Back in the day, I fondly recall owning both a 12 inch PowerBook and 12 inch iBook laptop.  Ten years ago “netbooks” were a thing.  Do you remember these $300-ish Windows laptops in 9 or 10 inch flavors?  The problem was, they were very under-powered and after a year we got tired of them.  Apple basically killed the netbook when they released the iPad in 2010 and updated the Mac Book Air later that year, with a design that in my mind became one of the greatest laptops of all time.  Apple offered 11 inch and 13 inch Mac Book Airs until the 11 was killed off in 2016.  I have clients who still love their 11 inch Mac Book Airs.  The best sub 13 inch Windows laptop in my eyes is the Thinkpad X280 (12.5 inch). However, it is a $1300 machine.  Microsoft has just come out with a small portable, the Surface Go, that aims to bridge the gap between premium portable and the netbooks.  It’s $650 for a usable configuration, which includes the keyboard.  It may not be a primary computer for all, but it’s worth checking out if you want to go small.  https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/surface-go/8v9dp4lnknsz
Privacy Package
Google isn’t making a lot of friends lately.  They are facing a huge fine in the EU for their practices.  This week we found out that even if you had “Location Tracking” set to off in your Google apps and services, THEY ARE STILL TRACKING YOUR LOCATION.  This is true even on Apple devices.  Another setting has to be turned off called “Web & App Activity”.  This is really shameful.  I’m not trying to single Google out for punishment either.   These concerns and others I have shared in the past have prompted me to offer a Privacy Package to clients for the first time.  At a bare minimum I will
– Install a VPN for you ($40 to $60 per year), so that all of your internet activity is hidden from your internet service provider and  your internet location is hidden the websites you visit.  It can be automatic, no complex configuration for you to mess around with.  It will work on smartphones and tablets as well.
-Set you up with a private search engine that does not collect and sell your personal information (Don’t worry, you can still use Google occasionally if needed).
Optional Services
– Another option I can set you up with is a “as private as possible” cell phone service.  You can use your existing iPhone or Android.  I will set you up on ATT.  You will have to take a new number.  However, they will not know your name or address.  $45 a month for service.
-For Gmail users only:  I can make sure you are checking your e-mail in a e-mail program instead of Gmail.com in your browser.  After all, when you are signed into Google services in your browser — who knows what they are collecting on you.  I think as pure e-mail they are fine, but can’t be trusted beyond that.
Support the Free Software You Use
My final thought for today is, we need to support the small time developers who provide free software that we use all the time and take for granted.  It would be terrible if these small operations were gobbled up large entities (and radically altered) or ceased to exist because the developer didn’t feel like the project was worth continuing.  I would suggested donating at least $5-10 once or twice year to the developers of this software that you rely on so they can stay in the game for years to come.  Most of you use one of these apps that is freely provided, but please ask me if you are not sure.   A few common apps that come to mind are
NAPS 2 – scanning software for Windows (https://www.naps2.com/)
VLC – media player for Mac and Windows – (https://www.videolan.org/)
Libre Office – alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac and Windows (https://www.libreoffice.org/)
Maintenance – system cleanup utility for Mac (https://www.titanium-software.fr/en/maintenance.html)

Technology Update July 25 2018

“Crummy” Situation Made Better
I have shared over the past few weeks how Apple improved their laptop keyboards with the 2018 Mac Book Pros that just came out.  Since the last time I wrote to you, Apple finally admitted that silicone barrier under the keys (new for 2018) is indeed there to prevent crumbs and other debris from affecting the typing process.  GREAT! It only took a week for that news to come out.
Best Windows Computers
With 7th or 8th generation Intel Core i5 or better processors, and at least 8 GB of RAM, you cannot go wrong with these picks.  Laptops:  Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon X1, Thinkpad X280, Thinkpad T480, Thinkpad E480, Dell Latitude 7000 or 5000 series, Dell XPS 13.  Desktops:  Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre.  Want to save a few $$?  Look for Dell and Lenovo coupon codes or try the Dell and Lenovo outlets.  With the exception of the XPS 13 and Carbon X1, these computers are not sold in local stores.  Dell.com and Lenovo.com are where I order clients’ computers from.  Trust me.
I’ve Been Waiting … for a Mac Like You
With the new Mac Book Pros starting at $1799, there seems to be a sharper line drawn between pro and consumer in the world of Apple laptops. (Note: Apple still sells 2017 Pro models starting at $1299.  Take a pass on those.)  Apple should be coming out with some consumer focused laptops in the fall.  This could likely include a revision of the current 12 inch Mac Book and some kind of refresh of the 13 inch Mac Book Air, where it may also get Mac Book branding.  I would expect the keyboards to be as good or better than the 2018 Pro models.  Until these Apples fall upon us, I would recommend a 2017 Mac Book Air to a client with a failing Mac portable (great keyboard) if they did not want to pay the premium for a Pro.
New iPhone Sizes
The word on the street is that Apple is going all in on the iPhone X design and functionality changes.  This means that with the 3 new models coming in September or October, you will likely see the screen pushed to the edge of the phone and NO HOME BUTTON.   There should be a 5.8 inch phone (very similar in overall size to the iPhone X, 8, 7, 6s), a 6.1 inch phone (expected to be the least expensive of the 3), and a mega sized 6.5 inch phone.  I think that any of my clients could learn the old home button functions on the new platform within a day or two.   However, if you are due for a new iPhone and do not want to tackle the learning curve, you may want to purchase an 8 or 8 Plus while they are still available.

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/