Review of Two Smartphone Battery Covers

Power and Protection:

If you’re like me, sometimes a little clumsy with your cellphone, you need to have a protective cover to keep the screen from cracking – or worse!  If you’re also like me, on your phone all day, sometimes watching Youtubes, and generally using up all the electric juice, you’ll also need to have an extra battery to keep your phone charged up.  Lucky for us, you can get both protection and extra juice in the same case.  Because I’ve only used iPhones, I’ve only reviewed iPhone cases, but I will provide a few links to cases for other brands as well.

I’ll start with my favorite.  The Mophie Juice Pack:

I’ve used a Mophie for my last two phones and have been very happy with them.  At family events when I want to take lots and lots of video’s, I can use it all day long and not worry.  Most days, running Geek For Hire from where ever I happen to be that day, I use all of the iPhone’s stored power and a little of the Mophie’s power as well.  It’s sleek, and I like the colors they have available.  My current one is blue.  The one for my last iPhone was red.

I probably drop my phone once a week or so and, sure, the Mophie has a bunch of scratches, but the phone itself is just fine.

The other protective case with battery pack available for the iPhone is the Lifeproof FIRE POWER case:

The Lifeproof case is exactly that.  Lifeproof.  It protects against submersion in water or mud. It protects against dropping from heights.  It fully encloses the iPhone in a bubble of protection.  Plus, the Fire Power model gives you extra juice for long days. The Lifeproof is the one both of our kids are using on the Appalachian Trail.  And that makes sense for people who are fording streams and hiking through rain.  It also helps their phones last through several days between recharging. It even has little O-rings so when you plugin your headphones the entire unit remains water-tight.  So, yes, if that’s how you plan to use your iPhone, get a Lifeproof.

Before I got my current blue Mophie, Chris talked me into getting the Lifeproof Fire Power.  It was big and boxy.  It didn’t always sense when the iPhone was running low on juice.  So it didn’t switch over to it’s battery and my phone ran out of power and turned off.  That was pretty inconvenient! It lasted about a week with me before I traded it in for another Mophie!

Other Phone Brands:

I haven’t been able to find protective battery cases for any other brand except the Samsung Galaxy.  Please note that I have not used this product so can not provide a review.  Here’s a link:  Galaxy S6 Battery Case

Have you used a protective battery case for your cell phone?  What brand of cellphone do you have?  Which case do you use? How was your experience?  Let us know in the comments below!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted! Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

How do I … (fill-in-the-blank)…?

How-To Books:

Like a lot of our customers, I try to figure things out for myself before I call in outside support and training. That is doubly true for learning new software and applications. If my friends can’t help, I type my request into Google. If that doesn’t work, I head to the bookstore. With that in mind, here are some books we recommend:

If you’re trying to learn Windows 10:

If you can’t figure out your Windows 8 machine:

If you need help learning how to navigate on your new Mac:

Microsoft Office

Open Office:

  • I’m trying to find a great book to recommend on using OpenOffice, a replacement for the (fairly expensive) Windows Office Suite. If there is a book that you love, please share the title with me and let me know why it’s so great!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. Links to products may provide a small commission to Geek For Hire.

 

Who is Really Calling?

Computer scams are rampant if my voice mail is any judge.  For the last few weeks I’ve been getting a voice mail message with the following recording:

“This call is in regards to the security software we installed on your computer last year. Now we see a red flag on our end stating there is a security breach on it. Please call 1-866-758-1262. I repeat, 1-866-758-1262. Thank you.”

We’ve also received phone calls from regular people like you or me who fell victim to these scams.

Whenever you receive a call on your home or mobile phone from a number that you do not recognize, be extra careful. Dell or Microsoft or Toshiba or even Apple won’t be calling you to tell you that your computer has a virus.  When you get this kind of call, your spider-sense should be tingling!

There are times though when you answer the phone and the person on the other end is very convincing.  You might believe them and agree that they can access your computer remotely.  Then when you hang up the phone you have second thoughts.  Some things you should do right away are to:

  • Turn your machine off.
  • Disconnect the internet from your machine.  You may need to unplug the Ethernet cable from your machine or turn off the router if you have wireless service.
  • Turn your machine back on and confirm that your anti-virus is still working and is still installed.
  • Start your virus scanner.  It should tell you whether any malware has been installed, and it should remove those programs.
  • Once your virus scanner has completed and has removed any potential threats, you can reconnect your internet.
  • For the next few days be very cautious about how you use your machine.  For example, it would be prudent not to enter any financial or banking information on that machine – use your phone or iPad instead.  If the machine doesn’t show any signs of continued infection, it should be fine.  If it starts displaying pop-ups or becomes very slow, it’s time to call in a professional to do a through scrub of the machine.

You can find other symptoms of an infected machine here:

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

 

Experts say computers won’t last as long as you think

We have several customers with very old machines and they generally ask us how much longer they can expect their machine to last. We’re talking ten plus years! Remember Windows ME? Yup, we’re still seeing customers with that Microsoft Operating System!

It’s true that the machines that were built prior to 2010, for example, are likely to last five or so years. Some people have gotten them to last longer by taking special care of them. For example, we’re still happily using our 2008 iMac. Eight years later, it still performs very well. However, machines built in the last couple of years were only made to last three to six years.

I talked with Chris about computers in general and how long we can expect them to last.

“Computer technology doubles every three to four years and computers tend to last about four years. The better (more expensive) computers tend to last much longer than the cheaper ones will.”

Other experts around the internet chime in:

“…we use the 3-4-5 theory.  Plan on three years, hope for four, and don’t push past five years.”

“If you’re looking at the computer as a whole, with no interest in upgrading or replacing parts, expect to get at least three years out of the average desktop computer.”

“As a general rule of thumb, I expect laptops to last two to five years. Desktops may last three to seven years.”

“…a good timeframe to consider upgrading is around every three to four years.”

What can you do to help your machine last longer and keep it humming along?

  • Keeping the insides free of dust and pet hair.
  • If a machine is short on RAM, adding more will help it to run faster.
  • Too many protective software programs will make a machine run slower.
  • When the hard drive is more than 50% full, it will begin to run slower.
  • Viruses will tend to make your machine run slower. If you think you may have a virus, run your virus scanner to remove them.
  • Things get bigger and more computationally intense over time, so there are lags.

Remember, even if your machine is running perfectly, to keep your machine backed up regularly. Backups never go out of style and you never know when that hard drive might fail!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area

 

The Biggest Lie in the Computer Industry?

What’s the biggest lie in the Computer Industry?  It’s the myth that Apple’s don’t get viruses.

Geek For Hire has been out there fixing computers since 2001 and we’ve seen just about everything. When someone tells me they have a Mac, or are switching from a PC to a Mac because Mac’s don’t get viruses, I have to respectfully disagree.

As early as 2012, Apple changed their stance about viruses on their machines. According to the Huffington Post, in June of that year, they changed their verbiage from:

“Safeguard your data. By doing nothing.”

To:

“Safety. Built right in.”

In the last few months, we’ve been seeing more and more viruses on Mac machines. Everything from lots of adware and pop-ups, to “a lady’s voice keeps telling me to run my virus scanner”, to what’s commonly being called “scare-ware”.

What’s out there?

  • Malware is the general term used for any malevolent or bad software that can get loaded onto your computer.
  • Spyware is software installed on your tech device without your knowledge or consent. It collects information about you and relays it to an external person or organization.
  • Adware is frequently called pop-ups. This is where you get lots and lots of pop-ups with advertisements. Lots of people just live with this type of infection not realizing that it’s often accompanied by other more malicious malware.
  • Virus is the most common term used by “real” people for all of these types of infections.
  • Scareware is similar to Adware in that it generates a pop-up. In this case though, the pop-up tells you that your machine has an infection and you need to visit a particular website RIGHT NOW to get the virus removed.

How to keep your computer safe? Be careful what you click on! Don’t open attachments in emails. Don’t click on ads on the websites you visit. Above all, make sure you select an anti-virus program that continually upgrades their software and pushes those changes to your computer. We recommend ESET’s NOD32 anti-virus protection for Mac’s and PC’s.

Did you think Apple machines were impervious to viruses and other malware? What steps do you take to keep your machine safe? Let us know in the comments below!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

Smokin’ Hot iPhone!

Last week my nephew shared a story about an iPhone in his town of Philly that had burst into flames in a young girls pocket.

Twelve-year-old Alexis Rolon has had her iPhone 5C since November and was carrying it in her back pants pocket when it started burning, giving her second-degree burns.

Since I had an iPhone last year that would get very, very hot, I wondered what the frequency is of cellphone fires and did a little research.

My search turned up several stories.

Another middle-school student in Maine had the same experience as Alexis with her new iPhone 5C.

She sat down in class with her phone in her back pocket.  She heard a “popping” sound, and then felt a burning sensation.  She was trained well, and did the “drop and roll” thing, though I think taking the phone out of her pocket should have been her first priority!

Remember when the iPhone 6 first came out and it had a problem with bending? Here’s an extreme case of “bendgate”:

Last October, an iPhone 6 exploded, then started burning in a man’s front pants pocket. He was in a minor accident and landed against a metal bar which bent the phone. Right after than the phone exploded and left him with first and second-degree burns.

Another story, this time it wasn’t in a pants pocket:

Last August a young girl had stored her iPhone 5 in her purse prior to boarding a plane for a flight from Israel. When the cabin of the plane started filling up with smoke, the girl realized the smoke was coming from her purse. When she opened the purse, flames were clearly visible. The airline blamed it on the lithium battery, though other stories blame it on a faulty screen replacement.

All of these stories make me really glad the Chris made me take my iPhone 5 in to be

Boulder, CO Apple store
Boulder, CO Apple store

checked last fall. It had been getting increasingly hot, and I was noticing that the screen was lifting up off of the body of the phone. We brought it into the Apple store in Boulder and made an appointment to have it looked at by one of their techs at the Genius Bar. Sure enough, the battery had expanded and actually pushing the glass screen up and away from the body of the phone. Apple replaced the battery and the screen under warranty. My phone no longer over-heated and I had a new scratch-free screen!

The moral of the story: If your iPhone is feeling hot or you notice something off about it, bring it in to one of Apple’s retail stores and get it checked out. Prior to bringing it in, sync your iPhone in case they need to restore it to factory settings. Also, if you can, remember to go online and make an appointment ahead of time. That will save you the three hour wait I had for my appointment time. If they do determine that it needs to be repaired, you’ll need to leave it with them and pick it up when they’re done, usually an hour or two later.

Questions? Comments? Post them below.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

Myth – Mac’s Don’t Get Viruses

Source: Internet meme
Source: Internet meme

More than once I’ve heard someone say they won’t ever get a virus because they have a Mac.

Unfortunately that’s just not true. Mac’s can get viruses just as easily as any other kind of machine. It used to be that malware was written specifically for the Microsoft Operating System, because there were just so darn many of them out there. If our experience at Geek For Hire, Inc. is any guide, plenty of our customers with Apples are getting all kinds of malware.

(By the way, “malware” is the catch-all phrase for any software you haven’t deliberately chosen to load onto your computer. Remember from high school Latin that “mal” means “bad”. “Malware” includes viruses, spyware, rootkits, and more.)

In fact, way back in 2012, Apple itself recognized the flaw. In April, 2012, more than a half million Macs were infected by the Flashback Trojan bug. Shortly after that, PC Magazine reported that Apple “removed from its website the claim that its Mac operating system is not susceptible to PC viruses.”, and changed its tagline to “It’s built to be safe”.

Today, even more malware is being written specifically for the Mac OS. And Apple does not seem to be on top of getting fixes out to their users.  In an article by Digital Trends, they stated:

“Apple has also been criticized for being slow to deal with threats and shut vulnerabilities down. Rootpipe was discovered in October 2014, but the fix only came out this month (April 2015), and it only patches Yosemite, not older editions of OS X. To make matters worse, the patch doesn’t actually fix the problem properly. Apple’s big rival may have a bad reputation, but it has taken decisive action to tackle that perception.”

It’s best to protect yourself with a good anti-virus program for Macs. We like ESET’s Cyber-Security.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them below. I’ll try to respond to every single one!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has  been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. They can provide remote service throughout North America.

iPad Games For Your Cat

I’ve been hearing about games you can play with your cat on your iPad.  I decided to try a few and see how Dot (our cat) liked them.    I started with this article on MacLife.com.

I have a silly rule about applications for my phone and iPad.  All apps (except for the ones required for business) must be free!  Most of the free apps I found were published by Purina/Friskies.

If you don’t have a screen protector, I’d recommend getting one before letting your cat play with your iPad!

First we tried Cat Fishing 2.  Dot seemed interested in the fish swimming around the screen and watched them intently.  But she never tried to catch them or attack them in any way.  The game makes two sounds.  Dot didn’t seem to notice the fish bubbles, but when the iPad meowed at her, she jumped about a mile!

Cat Fishing 2
Cat Fishing 2

Next we tried Nifty Cat Games.  It showed a fly buzzing across the screen.  Before Dot could express an interest one way or another – a mere fifteen seconds later – this nifty screen popped up:

Time Out!
Time Out!

Next we tried Game for Cats.  I’m starting to think my cat just is too cool for the iPad.  Here’s a photo of her with the laser tag game:

Yawn....
Yawn….

I think we’ll just stick to the old fashioned cat toys!

Dot vs. Cat Toy
Dot vs. Cat Toy

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

Repair vs. Replace: Time to Get a New Mac?

We’re often asked when a customer should repair their current computer vs. just getting a new one. It’s a hard decision to make. If we’re able to fix it in a reasonable amount of time, we’ll always recommend not replacing. But “reasonable amount of time” varies from person to person.

Chris Eddy adds: “My standard recommendation is to keep the machine, until it fails to serve well as a tool, or is too expensive to repair. “

Here’s a case study for a recent customer considering a new Mac.

The customer had an older (2008) MacBook and wanted to know whether to upgrade it or replace it.  It generally worked fine and performed adequately for most tasks, but the customer was encountering more times when they would be waiting for things to complete, and they were concerned about whether it would be adequate for installing and using SketchUp in the future.

General Findings:

  • Cosmetically, the machine was in beautiful condition.  A backlit keyboard was not available at the time the machine was made and it’s a nice touch to have in a darkened room, but not the only reason to consider a new machine.
  • The hard drive still had about 80% of free space on it, so free disk space wasn’t a problem.  I tested the hard drive, and no errors were found within 5 minutes, which is a good sign that the machine was probably not in danger of immediate detonation.
  • The machine had 4GB of RAM in it, which is the physical maximum amount of RAM that the machine can use.
  • Current Ram usage was at about 50%, which should support SketchUp Ram-wise. Any current performance difficulties the machine currently has will not be improved by the addition  of SketchUp.

Monitor:

  • The customer wants to use a larger monitor than the 13″ display that this notebook machine has.   It’s a nice screen, but it’s not enough screen real-estate for future use.
  • The customer could be served by a new Apple notebook computer with an external monitor.
  • The current Macbook Air can come with an 11″ or 13″ screen size, and the current Macbook Pro can come with a 13″ or 15″ screen size.
  • Another option for this customer is to possibly get an iMac, which is an all-in-one desktop computer that can come with a monitor size of 22″ or 27″.  Both monitors are large and beautiful.
  • The choice of external monitor could be either an Apple monitor, which will be beautiful – but expensive because the Apple “Premium” is alive and well.  A large monitor from a different manufacturer could be gotten from the open market, at a lower cost and still be good quality.  Dell makes some absolutely beautiful monitors, especially the “U” line of monitors, and we get 30% discounts from Dell – which we pass on directly to our customers.

Keeping your old machine once you get a new one:

There is value in having one machine rather than two, because this is a major “life simplification”; all of your programs and your data is in one place rather than two, and you don’t have to worry about synchronizing the two machines.  If something does go wrong you can focus on one machine rather than two.  Sometimes people just want to keep their “old” machines as a backup. Or they want to keep the old machine to access old data, or keep the old hard drive to keep an archival copy of the historical record of your old data. My standard recommendation is to not keep the old machine, but do keep the old hard drive for at least a few months.  Migrate to the new machine, and enjoy it. You probably won’t ever go back to the old machine.  (If you do, you’ll soon remember why you replaced it!)

SSD:

Regardless of which machine you get, always upgrade to a Solid State Drive. The SSD performs /much/ faster than a physical hard drive, and even the Fusion drive will start to slow down soon after the machine is brought home.  The SSD will provide the most consistent good performance over time, however it will be more expensive – remember the “Apple Premium”.

The new MacPro:

One possible option is the new MacPro. This is Apple’s new “Desktop” computer. (…and it looks like a small trash can!)    The MacPro is a very quick computer and can be ordered with features that will make it outrageously fast – but remember the “Apple Premium”.Mac Pro screen capture

Buying Strategy:

If you do decide it’s time for a new Mac, head to the Apple store. BUT, go there with the specific intent of /not/ buying today.  I’ve found that there is a reality distortion field within the store that has subtle influences to motivate you to want to buy a new machine right there and right now.

If you find something you like, fine, but buy it tomorrow – not today.  This is going to be an expensive purchase of a new tool, and you are going to have it for a long time. It’s in your best interests to let the thinking of this new tool “Marinate” in your brain for at least 24 hours before actually pulling the trigger and getting the tool.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver /  Boulder /  Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.