Important Tips if you want a new Apple Computer in 2020

Several customers have wanted a new Apple Computer recently. Chris helped them with their purchases and learned a thing or two about the current Mac buying process.

Customer Experience #1:

About two months ago, I served a customer who has been a long-term loyal Apple person. He wanted to get the new Apple computer because his roughly 7-year-old iMac had become slow. He went to the Apple Store and got a new iMac. I prepped his new machine and transferred his data. I found it was slow at the time, and told him this. He said he would work with it.

Investigation:

About two weeks later, he called back, saying that his new iMac was very slow. I came to inspect the machine and confirmed that it was glacially slow. It was much slower than his previous iMac. I found that this beautiful looking new machine, unfortunately, had an 8th generation Core i3 processor in it, which is slow, and a 5400 RPM physical hard drive, which is also very slow. These are important specifications that a “forward-leaning” company like Apple should not be selling. The machine he bought at the Apple Store is the kind of computer you want someone you don’t like to have.

I called the Apple Store where he bought the machine, and there was no answer after many calls. The call eventually rolled over to Apple Corporate, and after about 1-1.5 hours on hold, I was able to finally talk with someone at Apple Corporate.

Initial Findings:

I learned that Apple has a 14 day “no-questions-asked” return policy. But since the computer was bought from the store, rather than ordered through Apple Corporate, the return or exchange of the computer must be done through the store. Apple Corporate would not handle a return for a purchase made at the store. It was as if each Apple Store was independently owned and operated. This was not what we expected.purchasing a new Apple computer at the Boulder Apple store - outside shopping only

Also, it’s the “Time of Covid-19”, and the local Boulder Apple Store is closed, or at least not answering their phones. (At least four attempts were made.)

(In my opinion, this new iMac, which the customer had purchased by himself at the Store, was unworthy for him to keep because it performed so badly. This was a violation of the basic Apple premise of good performance from your computer. You expect to love any computer you get from Apple.)

Field Trip:

We drove to the local Apple Store in Boulder and found that no one was inside. There was an EZ-Up popup tent on the sidewalk, with a couple of Apple people talking with citizens. There were marks on the sidewalk for social distancing. They also had two security guards there who were not doing Apple business but were there to take a forehead temperature. We put our name in and explained that we wanted to return this machine and to get another iMac today.

After waiting for about half an hour, we were approached by a young man who handled the return. The return process was pretty clean and easy and was completed in 5-10 minutes.

He was personally a little prickly, maybe because he was surprised. (Who in their right mind wants to return an Apple anything, ever?)

Well, this was one of those times, and it was for cause – a substantial technical failure by inadequate capabilities of a new machine, which was much slower than his current 7-year-old machine.

He was mildly contemptuous that anyone might say Apple wasn’t great. We again asked him to process the return because this product is not being kept and we’re getting it done on day 14 – within the 14-day return policy.

Replacement Mac:

After he received the return, we began to talk about getting a replacement computer. Long story short: the Apple Store only had iMacs with physical hard drives in them. If we wanted a Solid State Drive in the computer, it would have to be ordered from Apple Corporate, and it would take about two weeks to arrive. (This was in mid-August.) The Apple employee could not receive that order. We would need to order it online.

We left, placed an online order with Apple Corporate, and the new Apple computer arrived about 10 days later. The new iMac performs impressively well, and the customer is delighted.

Customer Experience #2:

The picture below is for a different machine than the story above. It was purchased at the end of September 2020 and shows the estimated arrival timeiMac wait time for a new Apple computer is Nov 2 – Nov 9. Now, four to five weeks is a long time to wait so that you don’t get a physical hard drive in your new iMac. (Apple and other manufacturers are delayed in shipping machines.)

The customer called back the next morning, saying that he had talked with his family in Denver. They had found the exact same machine that he had ordered at a local technology store. He could get it today! I walked him through the important points to make sure it really was the same machine.

  • Did it come with a solid-state drive, or did it have a “fusion” drive or a physical hard drive?
  • Does it have the better 8th generation processor?
  • Did it come with enough RAM? (RAM can’t be upgraded later.)

He talked with his family, and no, the store did not have the computer with the better equipment which /is/ necessary. He will continue to wait a month for the new machine to arrive.

UPDATE: The customer’s machine arrived mid-October!

Here are Chris’ specific tips for buying a new Apple computer:

One:

Make sure that your Mac comes with a “Flash Drive” which is a full Solid State Drive (SSD). Do not get a “Fusion Drive,” which is a large Physical Hard Drive with a small Solid State Drive, which acts as a cache. The performance increase is poor. Do not get a Physical Hard Drive because it is /much/ slower than an SSD. Spend the money. Take the longer view. Get an SSD.

Two:

Make sure that it comes with a Core i7 processor, and not a Core i3 processor. As of right now, the iMac can come with either an 8th generation Core i3 processor or an 8th generation Core i7 processor. Both processors say “quad-core,” but the performance of the Core i7 processor is so /much/ better than the Core i3. It really is worth the extra $200.NOTE: The current Intel processor generation is the 11th generation, but the 10th generation has been commonly available on the open market for the past year.
Intel makes four lines of consumer processors: Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9.

    • Core i3 has low-end performance and low cost, do not get this processor unless your needs are really low
    • The Core i5 is a mid-pack processor that satisfies the needs of most normal people who want to use a computer and want to like the computer
    • Core i7 is a high-end, high-performance processor and will serve you nicely for most tasks
    • The Core i9 is uber-high-end and is expensive.

Three:

During the time of COVID, order your Apple computer from Apple Corporate, not from the local store. The Apple Store does not have the better computers. You have to go through Apple Corporate to get those. Also, getting access to the Apple Store during the time of COVID is impractically hard, and Apple Corporate will not help you return a purchase that you made at the Apple Store.

Four:

The current delay time (in September 2020) for ordering a new iMac from Apple Corporate is 4-5 weeks. IMHO: take the longer view, order the machine with the better features you actually want, bite the bullet, and wait for it to arrive.

Conclusion:

As most people already know, Apple has historically made really good computers. They aren’t cheap, and they tend to last a long time. I have several 10-year-old MacBook Pro and iMac computers that I’ve rebuilt with SSDs, and they perform competently in 2020. Granted, the speed of the SSD does nothing for the speed of the processor or the speed of the video card, but the operational speed of the old computer with a new SSD is definitely satisfactory in 2020.

But lately, I find that Apple has begun to cut corners on what they put into their computers. I see slow processors which are several generations old. I’ve also seen physical hard drives into the computer rather than a “Flash Drive” – which is also known as a Solid State Drive.

Computers are one of those “you get what you pay for” kinds of things. The Apple Premium is alive and well and has been for years. Apple offers discounts to no one. A recent customer wanted a new iMac. He is a long term professor at the local University. Apple offered him an Academic Discount of $50. (FYI, We get 35-50% discounts from Dell and a lower discount from other manufacturers. We always pass that discount on to our customers.)

If you need help navigating the process of getting a new Mac or PC, please let us know. This is just one of the services that we offer. And, if you’re wondering how to set up a new Apple computer, we can help with that as well.

 

Watch Out For Phone, Text, Email, and other Scams:

  • Remember to stay well clear of shortened links unless you know without a doubt where that link will take you. That includes most bit.ly and owl.ly links. Here’s a recent article about short links.
  • Right now there are a lot of scams out there. Read our article about Covid19 scams.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has provided computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America. We provide Apple & Mac computer repair onsite or remote.

Here’s a link to our Covid19 Policy.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Online Learning and the Technology in your Home.

A few weeks ago a customer called Chris and asked him how his kids would be able to get any schoolwork done given the school district’s movement towards Online Learning.  As a single parent who works in an office, he’ll have to bring his children to work. The problem with that is they won’t be able to access the corporate network to connect to the internet. Chris recommended that he get a stand-alone Hot Spot from his cellular company and bring that with him to work.

Another customer called last week. He was concerned his grandkids would have to scrounge for computer time on their mom & dad’s computers to do their school work.  He decided to order a new computer for the older grandchild and re-purpose an existing machine for the younger one. This way they’ll both be able to log into their classes individually.

Online Learning at Home

Since Boulder County has decided on 100% at-home learning because of the coronavirus, many parents are struggling with how they can best provide the technology resources their children will need. (In addition to all the other issues they’re dealing with!) Many other school districts all over the US are making the same decision. Parents throughout the country will have similar struggles.

Here are some of our Online Learning Recommendations for Families:

  1. Find out if your cell phone has hot spot capability. If it doesn’t, call your cellular carrier and get it turned on. (After asking about additional costs, of course.) That way if tHot spot for Online Learninghe WiFi in your house goes out, you (or your children) can still have access to WiFi via your cell phone. (You’re generally only allowed to connect one other device to your phone via its hot spot.)
  2. Consider getting a cell phone or separate hot spot from another carrier. That way if your carrier is down, you can still get online. With an independent hot spot, you can connect multiple devices.
  3. Is the WiFi adequate in the area where you’ve set up the desk for your kid to do school work and get online? Consider moving your router for better coverage, or getting a mesh router for greater coverage. Here’s a recent article about fixing your slow WiFi, or this one – Why Doesn’t My WiFi Work?
  4. Keep your laptops plugged in as much as you can. If there’s a power outage, you’ll be glad for those extra hours of “juice”.
  5. You might also consider an Uninterruptible Power Supply. It’s essentially a spare battery that gives you an additional half hour or so of power. If you plug your router and modem directly into the UPS, you’ll have some extra WiFi time, and it’ll give you time to get stuff saved on your desktop.

How can Geek For Hire help you?

  • If you’ve decided to upgrade your Router or will be adding a  new Mesh Router, let us know if you need help setting it up. Definitely call for help if you want to add separate bands for you and other users.
  • Gail was able to connect her new Verizon Jetpack Hotspot to her phone and tablet without help from Chris. She thought it was relatively straightforward. Connecting to her laptop was another story! Let us know if you need help with that.
  • Let us know if you’re thinking of getting a new machine. Chris routinely gets 35-50% discounts with Dell, and they’ve got some that are appropriate for your children. (Or get a new one for you and give the kids your hand-me-downs.)

Good luck this semester! In case you’re interested, here’s a link to our Covid19 Policy.

Watch Out For Scams:

  • Remember to stay well clear of shortened links unless you know without a doubt where that link will take you. That includes most bit.ly and owl.ly links. Here’s a recent article about short links.
  • Right now there are a lot of scams out there. Read our article about Covid19 scams.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Wireless Keyboard – Buying Guide, Seven Features, and our Recommendations

We received a call recently from a long-time customer who wanted to upgrade his wireless keyboard.  That was all the push Chris needed to do some research for a new toy!  But, before I reveal what his new favorite is, let’s talk a little about seven different features you might look for in a new wireless keyboard.wireless keyboard

1 – Mouse:

First, you need to decide if you want the keyboard to be paired with a mouse. The benefit is that you would only have to use one USB port on your machine.  The downside is that not all keyboards come with a mouse, and you may decide that the wireless keyboard you can’t live without, doesn’t have a mouse.

2 – Ten-Key:

What’s your preference?  Using the numbers along the row above the letters, or do you prefer to use the number pad off to the right of a standard keyboard?

3 – Media Keys:wireless keyboard

Do you want to manage additional tasks from your keyboard?  I like that I can control the volume from my keyboard, I can open a window to send a new email, I can open a new browser window, and so much more.

4 – Backlight:

Do you often work in a darkened room?  You may want to consider a backlit keyboard.  The laptops that Chris has been designing recently all come with a backlit keyboard, which is useful when you’re working in bed next to your sleeping spouse.  If you primarily use your wireless keyboard at your desk, you probably don’t need a backlight.

5 – Size:

How big of a keyboard do you want?  Do you want a portable one that clips onto your tablet?  Should it be foldable to fit into your backpack? Or do you want a full-sized wireless keyboard that you can leave on your desk?

6 – Tactile Response:

Clicking?  Silent?  If this is important to you, make sure you know ahead of time what the keyboard will do.wireless keyboard - Logitech MK 320

7 – Ergonomics:

If you have issues with carpal tunnel or spend all day typing, you may want to look for a keyboard that has a unique design to keep your wrists in the proper position while typing.

I have a laptop.  I don’t need a separate wireless keyboard!

That’s what I used to think.  But my laptop is on the small side, and the keyboard is too.  My fingers were continually confusing keys and mis-spelling words.  Worst of all, the heal of my hand would accidentally touch the keypad, and the mouse would go flying to a different part of the screen.  It was very frustrating.  I’ve since learned that I’m not the only one to experience this.  I solved this by purchasing a wireless keyboard, which is the size of a conventional keyboard, and works well for me.

Geek For Hire Recommendations:

Please note: We often recommend products, parts, and resources that we like.  Some of these are affiliate links and we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

  • Chris’ new favorite keyboard is called the Logitech Craft.  It has a funky knob on the top left side which allows you to adjust images in Photoshop or Illustrator. It has a backlit keyboard and (WHAT?!) can manage up to three devices from the single wireless keyboard!  It’s compatible with both Mac’s and PCs.   This one retails for $199, but Amazon and Best Buy currently have it priced at $170.  I’ve seen it on other sites at prices ranging from $179 to $199
  • The wireless keyboard I had been using for the past few years suddenly died last month.  I purchased a Logitech MK320, and I love it. It came paired with a mouse, which means only one USB thingie.  That’s important to me because my laptop only has three USB ports.  It has a separate ten-key which I like.  And, as I mentioned above, I can manage more than just typing with this device! The keys are big enough that my fingers don’t confuse the “m” and the “n.”  Overall, I like it and loved the price.  It retails for $40, but Amazon currently has it priced at $32 and Best Buy for $25.
  • If you’re looking for a great keyboard for your kids, the wired LearningBoard keyboard comes highly recommended.  It encourages learning and has very good reviews.  Amazon has it for about $ 40.
  • Chris likes the Microsoft Surface keyboard, although this is a keyboard only.  You’ll have to purchase the mouse separately.
  • Chris LOVES this Wired keyboard from Das Keyboard. Its niche is People who like a very high precision keyboard that has a lot of physical/tactile feedback when typing.  It has media control keys and a volume control knob. One of its claims to fame is that it clicks when you type. Amazon has it for $170. If you miss the old typewriters, this is the one for you!

Please forward this to your colleague who constantly has spelling mistakes.

Note:  This guide to purchasing a wireless keyboard was initially published on 15 January 2109 and updated on 17 October 2019.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Solid State Drive – What is it and Why Do I Need One?

For the past several years, whenever Chris had to replace a hard drive in a Mac or PC or is designing a new computer for a customer, he always recommends that they get a Solid State Drive (SSD), rather than the traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Why?Solid State Drive - Why do I need one?

For a long time, I just didn’t get it. Why is “newer” always “better” for these geeks?!  Chris patiently explained to me some of the benefits.

More Robust:

Because a Solid State Drive has no moving parts, there aren’t any parts to break. This makes the SSD perfect for those who don’t count “grace” as one of their better qualities. It’s also a better choice for frequent travelers.

Speed:

SSD’s are faster. Machines with an SSD will boot faster, open programs faster, transfer files faster. Games process more quickly too. When seconds count, choose an SSD.

Lighter:

When you’re lugging a laptop through an airport, you want to shed every excess ounce that you can.  SSD’s weigh less than the HDD’s.

Downside:

SSD’s are more expensive to purchase than HDD’s. But, considering that the SSD will last longer, that’s only a short term problem.  If you’re looking to get a new machine under $500, you will be getting a standard hard drive.

Here’s a great explanation from PC Magazine of how an HDD saves your data:

“The traditional spinning hard drive (HDD) is the basic nonvolatile storage on a computer. That is, it doesn’t “go away” like the data on the system memory when you turn the system off. Hard drives are essentially metal platters with a magnetic coating. That coating stores your data, whether that data consists of weather reports from the last century, a high-definition copy of the Star Wars trilogy, or your digital music collection. A read/write head on an arm accesses the data while the platters are spinning in a hard drive enclosure.”

And here’s a description from TechTerms on how the Solid State Drive works:

“While SSDs serve the same function as hard drives, their internal components are much different. Unlike hard drives, SSDs do not have any moving parts (which is why they are called solid state drives). Instead of storing data on magnetic platters, SSDs store data using flash memory. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they don’t have to “spin up” while in a sleep state and they don’t need to move a drive head to different parts of the drive to access data. Therefore, SSDs can access data faster than HDDs.”

Here are some additional articles that compare SSDs and HDDs:Solid State Drive

Purchasing Recommendations:

When a customer needs to have their machine rebuilt, Chris recommends this internal SSD from Samsung.

Remember that upgrading the standard hard drive in your Mac or PC to a Solid State Drive will make your machine run much faster.  It’s a very affordable upgrade and may make more sense than buying a new computer.  Contact us if you’re thinking of an upgrade. Remember that we can install your new SSD once it arrives as well.

And if you ever need help partitioning your HDD or SSD, give us a call.

Please forward this to your friends who may need a new hard drive in their Mac or PC.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Original post: 28 April 2015

Updated: 11 June 2019

Electronic Recycling and Buy Back Programs

UPDATED: 20 May 2019

I received an interesting email the other day from Staples telling me about their recycling program.  I always assumed I could walk into any big box store with my old electronics and pay a fee to recycle it.  This email told me that I could bring it there for free.  That made me start to wonder what other options are out there for our customers, not only to recycle but also, to possibly get a discount on their next purchase.  We frequently get calls from folks wondering about electronic recycling.  Here’s some helpful info.

If you’re thinking about fixing your older equipment, take a look at this article.

What to do first:

Once you’ve decided to get rid of your older devices, you must remove all of your sensitive data.  Deletelectronic recyclinge all of your apps, all of your contacts, your emails, your texts, photos, etc.  Many of the Electronic Recycling Programs say that they will do this for you before they sell it to someone else, but why take the chance?  (Yes, we can help you with this if you’d like.)

Why do you want to Recycle your Electronic Devices:

Many of the components in our electronic devices are toxic, so it’s really important to make sure they get recycled properly. If you just toss your laptop battery in the trash, many of those toxins will leach right into our water supply!

Electronic Recycling Options:

You have a  whole bunch of options for getting rid of your old stuff:

Sell It

Rather than electronic recycling, you can try to sell your old phone, tablet, or computer. (Remove your personal data first!) You could start with eBay or Craig’s List.  You can also try buy-back programs at places like Best Buy, Amazon, AT&T, Sprint, Staples, and Apple.  You’ll get a little less money for your device, but it’s really easy to do, with much less hassle than finding a buyer, shipping it, etc.

Donate It:

Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. But, first of all, remember to remove your personal data!

Give It Away:

Put the item on your local Facebook page, or post it in your local Freecycle group.  But, please make sure that you have removed all of your personal data first!

Recycle it Properly:

If you’re not able to sell your equipment or give it away, bring it to an authorized recycling center. Head over to this website and enter your zip code to find the nearest place to you.  This is sponsored by DirecTV, but I took a quick look at the recycling centers in my area. It seems like they take more than just TVs. Expect to pay anywhere from $5-$50 to recycle your equipment.

What to do first – Yes, the very first thing you do!

Before you sell, give away, or donate your equipment, remove your personal data!

(Originally posted on 6 November 2018.)

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

 

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past fifteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

When Should I Turn Off My Computer?

When I got my first computer, I would turn it off every time I left my office for more than a half hour. A few years later I would turn it off when I left for the day. Now, I’ll turn it off a couple of times a week. Why the change? Have you ever wondered: When Should I Turn Off My Computer? You might wonder how often you need to turn off your machine, or if you even need to turn it off at all!

Here’s what Chris says:

“I really wish Gail would turn her machine off more frequently!” When Should I Turn Off My Computer? Not as often as you think. Hint: Don't just puss the power button

Do I need to turn off my machine?

The short answer is Yes! When you turn it off the machine will clean itself, reorganize files, empty the trash, install any updates, and generally make itself faster and more efficient for the next time you turn it on. Other reasons to turn your machine off include saving power.

It’s really a balancing act. The process of turning your machine off and back on takes its toll on the mechanics of your computer. But leaving the machine on all the time does the same thing. If you use your machine constantly throughout the day, by all means, leave it on. If you access your machine from a remote location, then you definitely need to keep it on most of the time!

When should I turn off my computer?When Should I Turn Off My Computer - windows start button

Every couple of days save all of your documents, close all of your applications, and turn the machine off. Leave it off overnight, or just for a few minutes.

If you use it for only an hour or two at a time, then you should turn it off when you are done. If you know you won’t use your machine all weekend, you should turn it off.But, if you use your machine all day long, there’s really no need to turn it off every day. Turning your machine off once a week should be sufficient.

Remember, when you turn off your machine, don’t do it with the power button. Use the off button on the screen menu. This allows the machine to shut off gracefully.

General computer health & Well-being:When should I turn off my machine?

Some other things you should do for the general health and well-being of your machine are:

  • Always use a surge protector. These help even out any power spikes so that they don’t damage your machine. We also advise that you use a UPS (Universal Power Supply). This is a battery backup system that protects your equipment from power surges and provides a limited time of battery life. This is helpful when you’re in the middle of working on a project when the power goes out. It gives you enough time to finish up and save everything. (There is an annoying and frequent beep to let you know that you are using battery power.)
  • During lightning storms, you should turn off AND unplug all of your electronics. Even a surge protector can’t always help protect your equipment if there is a nearby lightning strike.
  • Uninstall and delete any programs that you are no longer using. Even if you’re not running a program, it may still be processing in the background.  This will undermine the efficiency of your machine. (Yes, we can help you with this if you don’t feel comfortable choosing which programs to uninstall.)
  • Keep your machine clean! Periodically open it up and remove all the dust and pet hair that have accumulated. Dust tends to accumulate on the fan, which is there to keep your machine cool. If too much dust is there, the fan won’t run properly and your machine will overheat. (We can help you with this too!)
  • Finally, When Should I Turn Off My Computer?  At least once a week!

Please forward this to your colleagues who ALWAYS leave their machine running.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

New Headphones – Should I get Bluetooth?

Chris convinced me to get a new iPhone last week, so I upgraded to the newish iPhone 7.  I had heard that Apple had merged the charging jack with the headphone jack but hadn’t realized that would be an issue.  Well it is!  Of course Apple provides a dongle to convert the lightning jack to a jack for the headphones, which can be used as long as you’re not charging.  The problem most people will run into is that protective covers don’t have access to the lightning jack.

WIth my last iPhone, I was very happy with the protective qualities of the Mophie.  So when I got this new iPhone, I also purchased a Mophie case to protect it and provide additional battery backup. The only outward facing jack is the standard USB jack.  There’s no option here to plug in headphones or a headset.

New technology – aka Bluetooth Headphones – here we come!

The saleswoman at the AT&T store showed me two Bluetooth connected headphones, but both were very expensive. The one she particularly liked is made by Beats.  But, at almost $200, it was out of my price range.  The one she used herself, which she described as “okay”, was still well over $100.  I was wondering if there aren’t good quality (and highly rated) Bluetooth over-the-ear headphones I

Sony Headphones https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01KOE1H30/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=gefohiin07-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01KOE1H30&linkId=aab7789bd6594a0eb8fc72231b18f37a

could find for under $50?  No matter how much I searched online, the answer was “no”.

I ended up going to our local Best Buy store to see for myself what my options were.  Sometimes it’s just better to hold the box in your hands before deciding what to purchase.  The salesman agreed with my extensive online research; I wouldn’t be able to get a decent set of headphones for under $50.  He pointed me towards a couple of less expensive headphones that had received good reviews.  One, at $80, was reviewed well, but it had ear-buds and was not what I wanted.

Next, he showed me a pair of Sony headphones.  I’m partial to the Sony brand, so I was (as the Ferenghi say) “all ears”. I ended up purchasing the Sony MDR-ZX220BT.   At $80, these weren’t too far off of my budget.  The headphones are actually “ON” the ear and not “Over-The-Ear”, but I’m very happy with the sound quality.  They were easy to pair with my iPhone and laptop too.

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 fifteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

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.  I’ll try that next!   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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Photo Editing Apps for your iPhone

Most Smartphones take pretty decent photos.  And you can do some minor things to make them a little better, but there are a whole bunch of photo editing apps out there that can take you to a whole ‘nother level.

Banana on Keyboard (Photo editing using Prisma Mondrian Filter)
Banana on Keyboard

Art

Prisma transforms your photos and videos into works of art using the styles of famous artists: Van Gogh, Picasso, Levitan, as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps you turn memorable moments into timeless art pieces.” The photo on the right was created using the “mondrian” filter.

Labels

This by Tinrocket gives you an easy way to add labels to your photos.  It’s easy to use, and you can add multiple labels.

General Editing:

MaxCurve is a very highly rated photo editing app. It allows you to play with the exposure and color levels; tone down the cyan and turn up the magenta. Here’s a tutorial to get the most out of the app.

Image Editor gives you the ability to change a photo into a meme, to focus on one point and blur the rest of the photo, to draw, to add a frame, and much more.

When you want to post a photo online, either for social media or your blog, you want to have a photo that loads quickly and is not at the mercy of download speeds.  Resize Image  lets you do just that. We’re not talking about cropping photos so that you get rid of extraneous background.  We’re talking about taking a photo as it is and changing it from a 1 gig file to a 100kb file with all the detail intact.

If you do want to crop a photo, I like Photo Crop. There are times when you want to keep the original photo, but also crop part of the background out.  When you crop a photo in the iPhone Photo app, it “loses” the original.  When you use Photo Crop, you can keep the original, and play with it too.

What are your favorite photo editing apps?  Please share 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 fifteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

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.  I’ll try that next!   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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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I Spilled Coffee on My Laptop!

It’s the fear of laptop owners everywhere.  You’ve staked out your teeny spot at the local coffee shop.  You’ve finished your first latte and head up for your next one.  Heading back to your seat you trip and quickly regain your balance.  But not quickly enough.  Your cry rings through the shop: “I spilled coffee on my laptop!”

The next few minutes are really important.

First:

Turn off your machine and pull the power cord out.

I spilled coffee on my laptop!
I spilled coffee on my laptop!

Second:

Turn the machine upside down.  Stop the flow of the liquid into your machine immediately.

Third:

Remove your battery and place it in a container covered with rice.

Fourth:

Remove any peripherals: USB devices, Memory Cards, etc.

Fifth:

Clean the liquid from the surface of your machine with a cloth or Q-tips.  Chris thinks paper towels and napkins are best, because they are immediately absorbent.

Last:

Let it sit upside down for 24-48 hours before plugging it back in. If it still doesn’t work, it’s time to call in a professional.

Words of Wisdom from Chris:

  • Spilled coffee on your laptop can be worse than dropping it, because it’s hard to tell where the liquid has gone, and different kinds of liquid have a worse effect than others.
  • The volume of the liquid is important.
    • If it’s a small volume of liquid (1-2 ounces), quickly wipe the top of the surface with a paper towel or napkin to get most of the liquid off the surface, then grab the computer firmly by the sides, and try shake any liquid that may have made it inside off and out for 5-10 seconds. Open the computer lid to about 30 degrees, and stand the computer up on it’s side with the hot air vent at the top.  Leave the computer alone for a day, and retry the computer the next day.
    • Spilling a pint glass of water is worse than “clutzing” a small spill as you move your glass over the keyboard.  If you do the “pint glass” kind of spill, Remove the battery, and disconnect any connected wall power from the computer.  Stand up immediately, grasp the computer firmly with your hands on the right and left side of the keyboard, extend your arms outward to lock your elbows, and firmly sweep the computer from up to down many times as you use centrifugal force to eject the liquid from the computer.
  • Electronic connectors do not like liquid, because it causes “short circuits” and promotes corrosion.  Plain coffee and plain water are the most benign of all liquids because they don’t have sugars or salts mixed in.  Sugar in a liquid is worse because the sugar will make keys stick later, and will attract additional dust later – which will make your keys more sticky as the humidity goes up.  Milk will have a less sticky effect than sugar, but is still conductive and will attract dust later.  Soda is the worst because it has sugar and salt, making the liquid very conductive, very sticky, and tends to get in many different places inside your computer.  Beer is good, except when mixed with electronics, then it is bad.

An Ounce of Prevention:

Keep your drink away from your computer, eg: near a wall and away from people traffic – but where you can easily look at it.  If a Server approaches with your beverage, make eye contact and offer to receive it with your hands using a path that is away from your computer.  Note: professional Servers tend to have excellent grip strength and dexterity, so if they insist on their placement, consider putting your hands under the drink as it moves across the table (to catch a drip should one occur), rather than try to forcibly snatch it from their hands.  Being able to keep an eye on your beverage is good, because you might tip it over when you adjust the angle of the computer lid or when you push the computer away from you.

Reminder: Keep your data backed up so that problems like this don’t turn into business disasters!  Most cloud based backup systems will automatically back up files as you save them.  That means your data loss could be minimal.  I use Dropbox  (You’ll get 500mb free with this link.)

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 fifteen 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, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

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.  I’ll try that next!   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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Custom Computers & Gaming Machines

One of the services we provide is to build custom computers from scratch. (Gaming machines are almost, by design, custom computers.) Chris is building one now for a long-time customer. In fact, this is the second machine we’ve built for this particular customer!

Process for building Custom Computers:

First, Chris talks with the customer about what their goals are:

  • What do they hope to use this computer for?
  • How much storage should it have?
  • Required software?
  • Should this be a portable computer or one that stays in the office?
  • What is the budget?

Next, when Chris has a good understanding of what the requirements are, he does some research to determine exactly which parts need to be ordered. Often times there is a choice to be made between two or more options. He has a conversation with the customer to decide which will best meet their needs. Once all the parts have been decided, he sends the list (with all the order links) to the customer for ordering.

When the parts arrive, it looks a little chaotic for a while, but then it all comes together!

You can hear the excitement in Chris’ words about building a new custom computer:

“One of my special joys is to design and build full custom computers. This one is for a customer who is still using last full custom computer I made for them about 5 years or so ago.

There are several special features in the design, but one of the special results is absolutely Smokin-Hot processor performance: using a modern 4 core processor and water cooling, the stock speed is 4Ghz on each of the 4 cores.

To make sure things are thermally stable, I’ve been running a CPU heating utility, which launches 8 CPU intensive processes all running in parallel, and after about 1H the cooler is only warm to the touch with a slight increase in overall fan sound. Nice!

Note: I took this picture after the computer was on for about 10 minutes, but /before/ the burn-in process was started.”

screen shot of one of the custom computers which Geek For Hire built

 

This custom computer is almost ready to be delivered to the customer!

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

INFORMATION ABOUT GEEK FOR HIRE, INC.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has provided computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website or give us a call at 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

Here’s a link to our Covid19 Policy.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free and fast shipping.  With Prime, we have access to online streaming too. Prime is usually $119/year, but you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.