Savings In A Crisis

While many of my clients have incomes that are not necessarily affected by the COVID-19 crisis, investments have been drastically affected.  I know that some of you are still working or are volunteering for organizations that are feeling some serious pressure right now.   There is a natural inclination to want to save on costs.   I have just a couple of ideas for you.   T-Mobile, ATT, and Cricket (a subsidiary of ATT) are all offering plans that are $15 / mo for unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data.  I would say 70% of my clients use less than this much data in a month.  Sick of paying $200 – $300 a month for a cable bill?  If you are not a big TV watcher (so depressing these days, right?) why not consider going Internet only.  In West Hartford, Go Netspeed is an awesome fiber optic option for $50 / month.   If you can get solid speeds with the phone company (like 25 mbps or greater), you can usually get service for about $50 a month.  Finally, you could go Internet only with a service like Comcast, you can get a plan for about $75 a month (and possibly less with a promo).  If you are going to do Cable internet only, purchase your own modem and save the $15 / mo rental.

Mac OS 10.15.3–possible fix to backup issues

I am emailing this to a select group of you who have reported problems backing up to your external hard drive while on Mac OS 10.15 (also known as Catalina).

Catalina hasn’t been a great OS in my opinion and I have tried to keep as many of my client on OS 10.14 as possible.  Nevertheless, either because of a feature like (Apple TV) or just because the updates were hard to avoid — you are on OS 10.15.

I was with a 10.15 client yesterday.  Her Mac hadn’t backed up since December.   She manually clicked on the Time Machine symbol (up by the clock in the top right area) and clicked Back Up and her Mac did indeed back up to the external hard drive.   If you have a laptop and do not leave that hard drive connected at night as you might with a desktop, you should manually trigger the backups. 

Apple just pushed out an update to Mac OS 10.15.4 on 3/24.  Please make sure your Mac is up to date.  Click the Apple Menu — top left.  System Preferences and Software Update on the 3rd row down.  Install the updates, if available.   Computer should restart.

Try your backup again.

Remote Appointments Only Effective 3/23

Per the Governor’s recent order announced at the press conference today — I will be following the stay at home policy effective Monday 3/23 and therefore will be conducting all business REMOTELY as of that time.  I really appreciate all of your support of my small business this week.  From work at home clients, to setups for tele-medicine, to setting up new phone lines, cell phones, TV’s and routers — we have covered it all.   I will still make myself available for appointments at your location Saturday 3/21 and Sunday 3/22 — but let’s keep it online if we can.

When we do remote appointments, I will be more of the friendly teacher and directing you on what to do, but that is good because it will also help you know more about the inner workings of your devices.   Truth be told, I have been offering even complex consultations  — remotely — for years.  I have even set up entire computers with clients via remote technology.

Of course you know that I offer remote support via e-mail and text message (not the best — but it works sometimes if you are good at following static, steps based instruction),  phone (better), but where I think we can really shine is through the remote assistance screen sharing apps that I employ.   I am all set up for Quick Assist (Windows 10), Zoom and Skype (Windows or Mac) to help you in real-life-like appointments.

If there is a need for a product to get shipped to me for a little setup and then for me to mail it off to you — I will offer that service.   For the remote sessions, I bill for a 1/2 hour for anything up to 1/2 hour and then by the 1/2 hour rounded up after that.   If you really want to you can send a check, but what is easiest for both of us is just for you to pay with a credit card over the phone.  I have a credit card terminal on my computer — and can just process your payment as you read it to me. An e-mail receipt will follow.     I hope this “stay at home” policy will end soon, but for now, we are going with a safety first approach until the restrictions end.  PS.  If you are using a desktop computer only with no web cam or microphone — I can try to find one for you.  They are getting hard to find.

Some Positive News From Apple

Now for the Positive News — From Apple

Failing computers or the need for upgrades are not going to end during this time. I know some of you were holding out for quality Mac computers that are new and improved.  Apple surprised me on a couple fronts this week.  Here are 2 big reveals

1.  The Mac Book Air has been updated for 2020 — WITH THE GOOD KEYBOARD.  Thank God!   The scissor keys that we all loved are back.  And guess what?  They lowered the price to $999 and they doubled the storage (hard drive) to 256 GB on the base model.  That is awesome because that 128 GB storage model was a joke.  Clients were always running out of space.

2.  The Mac Mini desktop has been updated — it still starts at $799 but storage has also been updated to 256 GB.  Double wow!   The Mac Mini is still at the top of my “best desktops” list. It can be used with any keyboard monitor and mouse of your choice.  Apple does not even manufacture monitors anymore.

These Macs are available for shipment now.

Edit:  I should say – Apple does not make monitors that an ordinary consumer or business owner would think that its reasonable to purchase.  They are making a $5000 + Pro Display these days.

Small Business In The Pandemic

Small Business in the Pandemic

I am sure you got e-mails from just about every company you deal with over the past week regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus that is currently impacting our world. I will not go on a long spiel about how much I care because you know I do.  If you would like me to wipe your keyboard, phone, or tablet with a disinfecting wipe when I am there, I certainly will.   Thank you for your continued support of my small business.  I really appreciate the appointments we’ve had whether they’ve been in person or virtual.  While most of my appointments are close to the Hartford area, my travels took me to the CT Shoreline this weekend. ( I do charge a travel surcharge, but I definitely will take on clients in the New Haven or Springfield areas, for example).  As the situation has intensified and fears have grown, I have definitely noticed a drop in business.  I predict that March will be 40 to 60% less in terms of revenues than this January.  I wanted to provide that as a real “Main Street” report.  It may be logical to expect a decline for a period of time. This business is really all I have.  If there comes a point when I need to supplement this income stream, I could not easily be an I.T. professional for a large company or government entity.  I often joke with myself and say, if I wasn’t doing this business, I would be a cashier at WalMart – maybe – if they would take me 🙂 I will say that every traditional “job” I have ever had has been a failure.  If I do have to diversify in the future, it would be something entrepreneurial and likely outside the field of I.T.  Given the run on toilet paper lately, if I had any plumbing skills whatsoever, I’m sure I could make a killing installing home bidets right now. Unfortunately, that is outside my skill set. Humor aside, I appreciate your continued business and referrals. The VIP Computer Care family has plenty of room for growth. 

Skype on Mac

I shared previously that the ability for me to do remote assistance sessions is already baked in to Windows 10, however on the Mac you will need Skype (or another application) installed for you to share your screen with me. I don’t need to do video chat.  Installing Skype is quite easy for Mac users.  If you don’t have it in your Finder >> Applications (folder) already, you just need to go to skype.com in your browser and download it.  Double click on the file that downloads (you will either see it on the screen or you can go to your Finder >> Downloads folder).  And then just follow the prompt to install Skype.  You can then open it from the Applications folder by going to your Finder (remedial step:  Finder is the “face” icon in the lower left of your screen).  Sign in with your Microsoft account.  If you don’t have one you can create it, no cost involved.  You will then be ready for a future Mac remote session.

Android Update–Galaxy S20 Edition

I don’t send these blasts out very often because about 90% of my clients use iPhones and I am heavily invested in that environment just as a matter of business.  I always fondly remember that the Android OS was my first forray into the smartphone world back in Oct 2010. It will always have a special place in my heart.

My wife has been and Android user since 2014 when she got her first smartphone. I’m not calling the 2013 Blackberry a modern smartphone though it  was considered one for its day.  She was drawn to the smartphone world by two apps BBM (blackberry messenger) and shortly after — Whats App.  Her first android phone was a Motorola Droid Ultra.  It was a very functional smartphone that we got for “free” in exchange for a 2 year commitment to Verizon (back when they were still doing contracts and things). 

In early 2016 Samsung announced it’s S7 line of phones and I knew this was the one for her.  Those S phones have always been considered at the top of the Android mountain.  She was very satisfied with that model.  It took crisp photos and frankly better pics than the iPhone I was using at the time.  By early 2018, it began having volume issues with the earpiece / speaker (which could be fixed with headphones, if I recall correctly).  Anyway, the two year payment plan (how phones are now usually financed here in the US) was nearly up and Samsung started to make a big deal out of their new S9 lineup of phones.   I don’t know if it was a Verizon promotion or something behind offered exclusively by Verizon and Best Buy together, but my wife was offered $300 as a Samsung loyalty trade in for her old phone — the S7.   Sammy must have been in on at as well.  We jumped on it.  The S9+ has been a great phone for her.

Now, that we are two years further down the road, my wife was eager to get a new phone once again.  We jumped on the Galaxy S20 5G offering on day 1 of preorders.  One thing that we were a little shocked by was how the cost of the phones had gone up.   The Galaxy S7 was somewhere in the $700’s price range.  With the S9 series, she got the Plus model, so that was $912 @ Verizon prices (I think Samsung was selling it for less directly), but we only paid $612 for due to the trade in.    We were going for the regular S20 5G model and now the Plus this time because the + is really a ++ in terms of size at 6.7 inches.  Her S9+ was 6.2 inches and the regular S20 5G is also that size.  But the price of this “base model” (which is truly anything but basic) is $999.  Wow!  That is iPhone 11 Pro territory.  There are actually two other S20 models this year and the prices go up to about $1400.  

Anyway,  we have been happy T-Mobile customers since March 2019.  They were offering a $500 promo for a trade in on the 2 year old Samsung S9 series phones. About $100 comes in the form of a bill credit and $400 comes in the form of a prepaid Visa card.  I confirmed that the prepaid card can be used to pay down the balance of the phone loan.  So really, it brought the cost down to the same as the previous Galaxy.    Transferring from one Android phone to another is very smooth these days, especially using the Samsung Switch app.  It just took me a little longer because I had to back up 37,000 Whats App pictures and 1500 videos on my wife’s old phone that we were not transferring to the new phone.

My wife can be very picky about technology but with all of her old apps loaded on and Whats App working as great as it ever was, she is very happy.  I sent the S9+ to the trade in department on Friday.  T-Mobile has come through for me on promotions in the past so I don’t worry about being let down this time.   I think the S20 5G will be a solid phone.

It’s made it Vietnam, not China, if that means something to you.