Category: Windows

Microsoft Office Options

Everyone has used Microsoft Word over the years. You’ve likely used Excel too.  You may have even used Power Point (or at least viewed a presentation), Outlook, or even Publisher.  All of these applications are part of a suite of programs known as Microsoft Office.  Office is truly a cross platform offering, being available on Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android.  In the recent past Office was an expensive package.  Around 2007 or 2008, I recall going to Staples with a client and buying Microsoft Office Professional for $400 to $500.  For a typical consumer or home office user, there are 3 distinct Microsoft Office options:

1)  FREE —   Office.com — In what may come as a surprise to many — you can use basic versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your computer’s web browser for free.  These web apps do not have all of the features or perhaps the ease of use as the full featured desktop apps, but they get the job done for many.   Documents can be printed, downloaded to the computer, and even emailed out directly or indirectly.  These documents will be stored in Microsoft’s cloud storage known as One Drive.  You get 5 GB for free.  That allotment can hold thousands of text based documents.

2) The License / One Off Purchase — Microsoft sells Office for Mac and Windows as a license for one computer. It is truly one computer only.   Home and Student (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) will run you $149.99.  Home and Business (all of the previous apps plus Outlook) will cost $249.99.  These are one time costs.  The licensed versions will receive security updates from Microsoft for 5 years from release of that version of Office (not 5 years from your purchase date).  However, if you were to buy Office 2021 now — you would pretty much be getting 5 years because it was just released.  Microsoft used to offer 10 years of updates for the licenses.  This is all happening because Microsoft wants to push you into……

3) Microsoft 365 — Personal or Family — This is the ongoing subscription version of Microsoft Office and is how most of my clients are buying Office these days.  It’s hard to argue they are not offering a lot for the price of admission.  In addition to Word, Power Point, Excel, and Outlook — Windows users will also get Publisher and Access (sorry those do not exist for the Mac).  The Personal edition($69.99 / year) will allow you to install Office on a total of 5 devices that you control (all under your Microsoft account).  Mix and match Windows, Mac, and iPad — no problem!  You will also get 1 TB of cloud storage space.  That is huge.  Honestly, other services could literally charge you $70 a year for just that cloud storage.   The Family offering casts its net even further.  It allows you to have 6 people in your family (all with their own Microsoft account) install Office on up to 5 devices each.  That is a potential of 30 devices for $99.99 per year.  How can you beat that?   Additionally, each of the 6 people will get 1 TB of cloud storage space.  That can cover tens of thousands of pictures, videos, documents and such.  Finally, with Microsoft 365, you never have to worry about updates.  You will always have the latest version of Office.  Some family members and I have been subscribers to Microsoft 365 since it was released for consumers in 2013.

The commercial real estate market is tough right now, so I will let you choose which Office you want to move into.  In a future Update, I will also cover some non-Microsoft office alternatives.

Shopping For Computers Summer 2021

Weekly Humor

I may be wound up tight, but my mainspring is not going to break.  (That’s a watch joke, if you didn’t get it.)

Work Wisdom – Rideshare, Door Dash, Etc. 

This is not going to apply to you, but it may be relevant to one of your kids, grandkids, a friend or a neighbor.  In this “new economy” people are working for companies like Uber, Lyft, and Door Dash to make some extra cash or possibly even as a full time gig.  While working for these outfits, they are a 1099 contractor.   Expenses can be deducted but good records (like mileage) must be kept.  Taxes are not withheld.  Drivers should be saving part of every check to cover the Self Employment Tax at a bare minimum.  Additionally, these workers should purchase extra car insurance to cover  what the company won’t.  There is often a gap in coverage.  Finally, they should ask if this kind of work voids their car’s warranty.

Shopping For Computers – Summer 2021

I just want to set the expectations so that now one is surprised later on.  For the most part, prices are going up.  Discounts are few.  I’m sitting here in front of a Thinkpad T series — $2000 MSRP, that I got for $650 (new) in January 2020.  I also have a Dell Latitude 5450 that was about $1100 that I picked up almost 6 years ago for under $400 with some extreme couponing on Dell(dot)com.   Complete fairy tales in 2021!  Fiction! Most of you are buying laptops.  I still like all of my old picks — MacBooks, Dell Latitude 5000 series or 7000 series, and Thinkpad T or X series.   However, for a solid laptop (I’m not even talking about top of the line or luxury), you are looking at $1500 to 2000 for a brand new unit.   The Mac Book Air starts at $999.  However to get the 500 GB SSD hard drive its + 200.  These new Macs have such a brand new unique architecture and everything is built in, with no replaceable parts. I would seriously consider getting the 3 year Apple Care warranty for $250.  That puts your right around $1500 considering taxes.  For one of the better Windows laptops, you’ll be paying the same or more.  A client was recently considering a Thinkpad T15.  The price dropped to $1274 for a very well equipped system.  I said — TAKE IT; that’s a buy price!   In terms of iMacs, the $1699 model is the one you’ll really want.   So where can you save these days?  Well, the Thinkpad E and L series are not bad as long as they are properly outfitted.   The Mac Mini is still Apple’s bargain desktop.  With a $150 monitor, your own non-Apple mouse and keyboard, + $25 speakers, I think you could have it out the door for $1250.  (With these new M1 Macs, always buy a larger hard drive than you need (one step up).  Don’t say, I’ll never use that much space.   The larger hard drive you get, the longer the system will last.  Remember, that internal hard drive can’t be replaced.)  Finally, you could always try the Dell or Lenovo Outlets.  You have to think fast, but bargains exist.  

Conclusion and Song of the Week

It was a rough week.  You have the right to feel confused and even angry. They are your sincere emotions.  Monday through Saturday – I watched ZERO TV.  I don’t use Facebook.  I don’t use Google other than for e-mail and to look up local businesses.  Personally, I’m seeking calm in the storm while fully acknowledging that sometimes one has to hit the punching bag and let off some steam.  I thought this piano interpretation of “On My Way” by Peter Buka really fits the mood this time around.  He may not have a mainstream style, but he is doing something right with 7.5+ million views on this song alone. Enjoy!  https://youtu.be/w2IH69pFsI0

Windows Ransomware Protection and Windows 11

Two Points for you today

1.  Some of you use a 3rd party anti-virus – a Norton, an Avira, ESET, etc.  That’s fine.  Keep using it if you like the features it provides.  However, for most Windows clients I say to use the built-in Windows Defender.  This is what the majority of you are doing.   You have heard about these awful ransomware attacks in the news.  Individuals and companies get their files locked and then get asked to pay thousands of $$$ in ransom.    Fortunately, Windows Defender now has anti-ransomware technology built in.   However, it has to be turned on.  I found this helpful article from Forbes that tells you how to do it.  If you feel uncomfortable doing so yourself, write this down and we can save this task for a future appointment.   https://www.forbes.com/sites/brookecrothers/2021/05/16/yes-windows-10-has-ransomware-protection-heres-how-to-turn-it-on/?utm_source=pocket-chrome-recs&sh=d09573a4c575

***If you use a different anti-virus — look into whether or not it has anti-ransomware capabilities.  This Forbes article is not meant for you at this time.

2.  There should be some exciting news coming out of the Microsoft camp this week.  On Thursday, they are announcing the future of Windows — which may entail a new version of the operating system called Windows 11.  Some test versions of this new software have leaked out into the wild and I have attached a picture for you.  I think Microsoft is going for a fresh look and a simplified interface.  When Windows 10 came out in 2015, it was billed as the last version of Windows ever.  It will be interesting to see how Microsoft explains their change of heart.   If they indeed call it Windows 11, it seems like a game of copycat is being played here.  The latest mac OS is also called version 11.  I have no idea when Windows 11 will be released or which existing computers it will be appropriate for.  I’ll fill you in as I find out.


windows11main_edit

Alternate Methods

You may need to do something right away and can’t get the help you need that hour or even that day.  I’ll try to get there as soon as I can.  However, we all have situations where it just can’t wait.  I want to let you know that there isn’t only one way to surf the Internet, check your email, or type a document on your computer.  You must understand — and perhaps this is new learning territory for you than we can cover in depth in our next session — that there are at least 2 ways to skin a cat.  Exploring the options can get you out of a jam and open mental pathways.    Here are just a few scenarios……

– Comcast or Gmail e-mail:  Your account can be set up in the Mail app (or Outlook) but you can also visit Gmail.com or My.xfinity.com to access a fully functional mail system in your web browser.

-You prefer to go on the Internet with Safari or Chrome:  What do you do when they don’t work or become corrupted?  You need a second browser at your disposal!! This could be Firefox, Edge, Vivaldi, or Brave.  Chances are that the second browser is going to work.  Get familiar with it.

-Time to type a document — Oh no!  Microsoft Word is not working.  Did you know that you can type and save basic documents in Text Edit (Mac) and Word Pad (Windows).  For letters and basic writing with paragraphs they are just fine.

Update 11/03/2020

Small Biz Spotlight

(Unsolicited)  If you don’t believe in Chiropractors, you have my permission to skip this section.  I realize that some in the profession have made dubious claims.  However, many of us out there  feel that chiropractic care helps us feel better and move our joints more freely. If this is how you feel, please let me introduce you to Dr. Rick Araya of West Hartford, CT.  Dr. Rick is a straight shooter. He doesn’t try to rope you into some $5000 treatment plan with a bunch of gimmicks.  He runs his business like I run mine.  If you want to pay by the visit – you can pay $45 per visit (even less if you are 65 and older).   He doesn’t waste your time by doing massage, lighting candles, or any of that stuff.  Most follow up visits are 5 to 10 minutes – in and out.   As an advocate for senior consumers, I can’t think of a better chiropractor — if that’s your thing.  To learn more – http://goodchiro.net and if you go let Dr. Rick know I sent you.

Another Apple Event

Apple is really hitting it out of the park this year.  Last week there was a report of record Mac sales — powered by all models but especially the Mac Book Pro.  According to Bloomberg, Apple will be holding their 3rd big event in as many months next week.  They are expected to release new Mac Books this time with their own CPUs (just like the iPhone and iPad).  This will be the 3rd processor transition in the Mac’s history.  In 1995, they went to IBM Power PC chips and in 2006 Apple migrated to the current Intel architecture (just like PC’s).  Apple feels that they can deliver a better Mac when they control the entire manufacturing process and that is just what they are doing.   Are your Intel Macs junk now?  Of course not.   Even if you are buying a new Mac before early – mid next year you may still want to get an Intel Mac.  However, Macs with Apple silicon inside will be with us soon and are here to stay.   Rumor has it that Apple will continue to support current Intel Macs with updates for about 5 years from a certain date (to be announced).  I don’t think this will be a painful transition. 


Black Friday – Holiday Shopping

Black Friday is coming early this year. Traditional stores and online sellers are slow rolling their deals.   While the discounts on Apple products may be in the low hundreds of dollars, there are bound to be terrific deals on other items.  Just today I helped some clients order Thinkpad X1 and T laptops ( every bit as good as a Mac) that are normally about $2000 plus, for $999.  Those deals are going to be gone by the time you read this.  I will be your scout for other bargains.  Keep in mind, as long as there is no wall mounting required I can help you set up most TV’s as well.   For as rotten as the cable company can be, there is nothing quite like a new TV with an X1 cable box and voice remote from Xfinity.  You can speak and have it take to you any channel or available movie.

Windows 10 Users–You Need A Backup

(If you don’t have important files on your PC — if you use it to surf the Internet and check email only — this doesn’t apply to you.  Perhaps you could forward it to another Windows user). 

However, I know that most of you have important files on your Windows PC.  They could be work files, documents, proposals, and photos.

I’m giving you a true report from the field here and let you know that the recent BIG UPDATE to Windows 10 (version 2004) that has been installing on your computers over the past couple months has created A FEW problems.  Well over 90% have been smooth sailing.  But — there are 2 that I can think of — that were a big problem.   In both cases — the computers needed to be erased and have Windows 10 reinstalled.   In one situation — it didn’t matter.  In the other situation, the client was in a tough spot because there were important work documents and no backup. 

You can avoid this all together — by having a backup system in place.  This might be an external hard drive.  It might be an online file storage service like One Drive or Dropbox.  Or you may even want to consider an all encompassing online backup service like Carbonite or Backblaze for about $6 per month. 

Updates and Upgrades do fail from time to time.   Windows may have to be reinstalled.  You may need several hours of help from someone like me when this happens.   Having a backup of important files makes your life SO MUCH easier.

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

5G – Here And Getting Closer

I outlined some basics on the new 5G towers a few weeks ago, but I wanted to simplify and add to it as well.  Basically there are two 5G technologies being deployed in this country at the moment, sub-6 and mmWave.  T-Mobile and ATT are going mostly with the sub-6, which will reach more people.  Verizon is going with mmWave, which is even faster but restricted to specific spots like stadiums, stations, or a place like Times Square.  Consequently, Verizon is way behind.  Ultimately, all of these carriers will deploy a mix of both types of 5G towers.  If you are due for a new phone, I am going to give you my opinion as to when 5G should mean something to you.  This does not mean give up on your carrier or that your carrier is bad or that you need to throw out your 6 month old phone to get a 5G phone.  I’ve uttered no such words.   I got a real life test of 5G on the T-Mobile network in Boston last week.   My wife’s 5G Samsung clocked in at double the speed of my iPhone 11.   Therefore, if you are a T-Mobile customer — I would say the time to buy a 5G phone (again if you are phone shopping) would be as soon as these iPhone 12 models come out.  Then you will have a mix of low end phones like the Revvl 5G, or the Samsungs, and the iPhones to choose from — all with 5G.   ATT is at the middle of the pack.  Their 5G is not as widely deployed as T-Mobiles, but they are getting there.  If you still want to save some money by buying that iPhone SE, go for it.  But by 2021, early next year, I think you should definitely be considering a 5G phone if you are phone shopping.   With Verizon, on the other hand, I think there is no rush to get a 5G phone — probably until the 2nd half of next year.  Ultimately, two years from now, Verizon may end up having the best 5G network.  Slow and steady wins the race?  We hope or they hope!  Rumor has it that only the super expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max model will even be able to communicate with Verizon’s mmWave towers.  The other 3 models coming out this fall will not.  If I were a Verizon customer, 5G wouldn’t even be a part of my thought process yet.  (And yes, you can still buy any of the other iPhone 12 models to use with Verizon’s existing network.)

Fall Is Peak Season For Technology

Fall is the busy season in my business and in the world of personal technology.  We will see new iPhones before the end of October, perhaps in two separate launches for the 4 models expected to be released.  New Apple Watches as well as iPads (possibly) will be coming out next week from Apple.   There will be brand new computers from Microsoft, including a reported “moderately priced” Surface laptop.  Wait there’s more!   Apple is coming out with a brand new macOS 11 which is supposed to be the biggest deal for the Mac in 20 years since OS X came out.  Finally, ioS 14 / iPad OS 14 will be here quite soon. Let’s make sure you have a backup first.  And for my students in the back of the class, if you have a 5+ year old Verizon flip phone (iPhone 5s or 5c too), it’s time to get a new one.  Verizon is retiring its old calling network on 12/31/2020.  Your old phone will be a paperweight.  What a season we can have together — I’m looking forward to being there for you, every step of the way!  Now you know why I get excited about the fall!!

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

Computer Picks

I represent about an equal number of Windows vs. Mac clients.  A few are iPad or Chromebook only.  I just wanted to say that if you are not absolutely locked in to particular apps on the Mac or you might be turned off by some of Apple’s decisions with the Mac or leery of the upcoming processor transition — you could probably do really well with a solid business class Windows desktop or laptop.   Excluding any possible discounts or outlet purchases, I think you can get a nice system for $800 to $900.  These computers cannot be purchased in stores. I know how to order them and have been doing so for years.   The kind of computers I have in mind are often repairable and upgradable — serviceable is the word I am looking for.  There is a reason why the State, the big hospital systems, and big insurance companies buy these computers by the hundreds (if not thousands) — they stand the test of time.  They’re not buying Macs.  It’s just something to keep in mind.    With that said, I have helped Mac clients switch to Windows and Windows clients switch to Mac.  I am a versatile provider of technology consulting services, with no preconceived notion that one platform is best for all clients. 

Not Everyone Gets The Same Priority

I am talking about data prioritization with your cell phone plan.  I have touched on this in the past, but I wanted to revisit it.  Did you know that some of you might have prioritized data with your carrier and some of you may not?   There is an order of data — when on a congested tower — where some users will be given preferred access and others may be slowed down or get slowed down to a crawl.   (Prioritization is different than being capped or throttled.   A cap would be — you get 5 GB of total data per month and you are totally cut off after that. A throttle would be — we limit all traffic to 5 mb/s even if you can get a faster speed in theory.  Some plans are throttled to a very slow speed after reaching the cap.)   But what I really wanted to address here is the idea of prioritization.   You might be out and about trying to book a restaurant order or launch the Maps app or even buy some clothing for quick online pickup — then your phone just slows to a crawl.  It’s possible that  you are being deprioritized.   There may be a lot of other users on that tower with priority over you.  There is a good chance that it won’t happen to you.  It might be congestion, however you just might not have the “top banana” priority.   I haven’t heard of it happening a lot locally, but there are definitely parts of the country that are oversaturated on Verizon towers, ATT towers, etc.   They have no choice but to route traffic with a certain order. 

Let me just state a couple examples to help you clear up the confusion.  If you get a monthly bill and you are on an older Verizon / ATT plan and you get like 2 GB of data per month, 4 GB, 8 GB — you are prioritized.    If you have the first tier of Verizon’s new unlimited plans known as Start or Go unlimited – you are always deprioritized.   Again, it may never be a problem for you. I just want you to know.   The next level of Verizon’s unlimited plans tells customers they can be deprioritized after 25 GB of use (which is probably a lot more than most of you would use in a given month).   Prepaid plans are generally always deprioritized, although ATT Prepaid has some exceptions. 

Microsoft Does It To Us Again–Forced Updates

I have some bad news  again on Windows.  Last time I emailed you about printers.  Not its FORCED UPDATES.   This time it’s for my Windows Pro users.  Of course you should know by now that when I order a client’s computer that I try to order Windows 10 Pro whenever possible.  Usually this about $30 to $50 more at the time of ordering the computer ($99 if you upgrade after the fact).   I have been big on the Pro version for 3 reasons.

1)  Bit Locker included:  This is a Microsoft technology that encrypts all  your files.  If someone steals your hard drive, they aren’t going to get access to your files.

2) Better security w/ activation of the password prompt:  When major changes are being made to your computer, you will get prompted with a request to type in your password – not just a YES / NO prompt.  This really makes you think – do I want to do this?

3) (And probably the best one) – the ability to delay new versions of Windows by up to 365 days – called Feature Updates.   Microsoft comes out with 2 new versions of Windows 10 per year.  This is crazy, but we are not going to change their behavior at this point.   I have consistently told you to set the delay on Feature Update to 3 to 4 months (at least).

As reported on the great Windows commentary website, Thurrott.com, you can cross #3 off the list.   Now Microsoft is hellbent on forcing new versions of Windows on us, even if we paid extra for Windows Pro.  Shame on them!!  This change will take effect when the latest version of Windows hits your computer – Windows 10 2004 (no not year 2004, “2004” here refers to year and month or 04 of 2020. 

So now, you can only delay the new versions by 7 day – 5 times – for a total of 35 days.  What a drag!   I am beginning to wonder who is getting worse on Updates – Microsoft or Apple?   Now you know why people are buying and doing a lot of their computing on Chromebooks.   You might not be able to do as much on Chrome OS – but it is a no B.S. operating system. 

Now of course – you are probably asking – it’s there something you can do for us?  Well actually – yes!  I have a solution.  I found some quick, deep level programming I can do on your Windows computer to bring the delays back and even possibly extend them.  I will try to do this for you at our next appointment and yes, I think I can do it virtually.

As I said to my Mac clients earlier today – why can’t we just get one version of the operating system and stick with it for 5 years – just getting minor security updates?    Life would be so perfect.  Windows 7: we miss you.

PS.  If you bought your Windows computer on your either before meeting me or on your own, none of this applies to you.  You are going to get the SLOP when Microsoft dishes it out.  Lately it has been slop!

Microsoft–Do It To Me One More Time?

Unfortunately, this is not a Lionel Richie love song.

Here is the reading material — https://www.engadget.com/microsofts-windows-10-updates-printer-bugs-000112943.html

Unfortunately, June’s monthly Windows update (began rolling out 6/9) is messing up printing on what is likely a small but significant number of computers.  The same exact thing happened, including to several of you, back in October.

I remember all that I had to go through with my clients.  I had to come out for a bunch of appointments because of these printing woes caused by Updates.  In numerous instances, I had to delete and re-add your printer in Windows.   In one case, a client had to buy a new printer (which did solve the problem).  In the most extreme scenario, nothing was working for me.  I was ready to give up!   I literally had to back up all the files, erase the computer, and then “clean install” Windows 10 1909 which was the latest version of Windows in December 2019.  That fixed it.

These monthly updates are supposed to mitigate security concerns.   They should not break essential functions like printing.

I hope it doesn’t happen to you now — either again or for the first time.  If you purchased your Windows computer on your own, outside of my guidance, you probably have Windows 10 Home.  You are going to be forced to take the Updates when Microsoft dishes them out.

On all computers I had a hand in ordering — I made sure you have Windows 10 Pro.   With the Pro version — updates can be delayed.   I have likely delayed or instructed you to delay Feature Updates (new versions of Windows) by at least 3 months.  We have never touched Security Updates which are the monthly updates that are screwing with printing right now.   I think that Security Updates should be delayed by 7 days.  I could see doing 14 days, but I wouldn’t want you to go beyond that.  These monthly and “odd times” updates address pressing security matters. 

If you remember how to change these options — you go to — Start Menu >> Settings >> Update & Security   > Advanced Options.   The delay for Feature Updates should be 90 to 120 days.  The delay for quality (aka security) updates should be 7 to 14 days.      If you don’t see these choices in Advanced Options — you have Windows 10 Home.

One good thing is — if you have Windows 10 Home — you can upgrade to Pro for a one time cost of $99.  It’s pretty painless.