Cell Phone Spots Along the Peak to Peak Highway

We frequently drive along the Peak to Peak Highway. Usually I know I should just keep my phone tucked away because it’s not going to work. But sometimes, you really need to make a phone call or send a text. Here are some of the more reliable places to get AT&T cell service in the mountains from Estes Park to Black Hawk:

  • Estes Park has pretty good service throughout the city.
    Lily Lake, just south of Estes Park. Photo courtesy of http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/lily-lake-loop.htm
    Lily Lake, just south of Estes Park. Photo courtesy of http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/lily-lake-loop.htm
  • The highway near Lily Lake has surprisingly good service.
  • Service is sparse or non-existent until Gordon’s Gulch, near mile marker 37.5.
  • The next spot is just north of Sugarloaf Road, for about a half mile.

In Nederland, service is pretty good from Magnolia road on the south to the Community Center on the North. Service is very good from the Black Forest restaurant to the Fire Station.

Heading south out of Nederland, you can get a cell signal for much of the highway all the way to the Gilpin High School. There are small sections where there’s no service at all, and other sections where the service is marginal. So, if you need to place a phone call or send a text, here are some places to try:

  • You can get a reasonably good signal for about a 1/2 mile both north and south of Rollinsville, around mile marker 21.
  • Service is pretty good near the Lump Gulch Creek, from about mile marker 17.5 to mile marker 19.  You can get a signal near the Last Shot restaurant, but it’s not a strong signal!
  • Service near the Gilpin County Library isn’t great, but it’s usable.
  • Just south of the intersection of Highway 46 and 119, south to mile marker 12, service is good.
  • From mile marker 12 to the Gilpin County School, cell service is usable.
  • The City of Black Hawk has very strong service.

I hope this helps you as you explore the mountains west of the Front Range.  Let us know if you know of any additional spots!

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.

How Often Should You Get Your Mac or PC Tuned Up?

I recently brought my sewing machine in to get fixed.  It’s been sewing unevenly for the past several years, but I’ve just been living with it.  I’ve been living with it partly because it “wasn’t that bad” and partly because I really didn’t know where to take it.  Well, I finally realized how bad it was and asked around for a recommendation of where to take it.  I made an appointment and brought it in.  The nice woman behind the counter asked me how long it had been since my sewing machine had had a tune-up.  I told her it had been at least ten years.  She laughed (in a nice way) and told me they recommend a tune-up at least once a year.

I can understand that.  In fact, I can solidly get behind that!

How many times do you wait and wait?  How often have you thought “It’s not so bad.  I can wait two minutes for my internet page to load.” or “It’s normal for my machine to shut down on its own, isn’t it?”

We recommend that our customers get an annual tuneup on their machines – for both PCs and Mac’s.  Why?  When I asked my friend Karen why she did, she answered: “In one word?  Stress reduction.”

A few years ago, Karen got a nasty virus.  Chris came out and cleaned it all up and she was pretty impressed.  When it was time for her to get  a new machine, she asked Chris for help in the selection process.  I see her frequently and at least once a month she tells me how thrilled she is with her new machine.  When she got a postcard from us reminding her that a year had already gone by, she called right away for her appointment.  Chris checked it all out, deleted some unnecessary files that were gunking up the works, scanned for any viruses, and updated her new anti-virus, and she was good to go!

So, here is some of what happens during a tuneup:

  1. Chris does a scan to make sure there aren’t any viruses.
  2. He’ll do a general clean up to make the whole machine snappier.
  3. If you don’t have an anti-virus, he’ll add one.  If you do, he’ll make sure it’s up to date and accepting automatic updates.
  4. Chris will make sure your operating system is updated with all the necessary file uploads.
  5. He’ll answer any of your questions and provide training if you need that.

So now I know.  My car needs a tune-up every 3-5000 miles.  My sewing machine needs a tune-up every year.  And now you know that your computer needs a tune-up every year 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 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.

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Staying Safe on Social Media

Social Media, whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the other sites, allows you to easily connect with friends and keep up-to-date on what is going on in your life. It sometimes seems very intimate and you feel safe sharing the details of your life with all 473 of your closest friends. DON’T! Social Media is a very public way of communicating. There’s nothing intimate about it!

  • Remember to set your privacy settings to an appropriate level for each post. If there’s no personal information, set it to “Public”. Otherwise, set it to “Friends Only”, or “Family only”. Remember to use the “Acquaintance” setting for people that are not close friends. Spend some time to set up groups of people so that you can target your posts to specific people only.
  • If you’re leaving home on vacation or only for a weekend, make sure you have someone checking on your home. If you don’t have someone monitoring your home, then don’t post anything on social media which could indicate that you are away from home for an extended period of time. (You can post all of your photos when you get back!)
  • Never respond to anonymous requests via social media. I have a friend who asked me how to respond to a private message she received on Facebook. The message was from a young man who thought her profile picture was beautiful and he wanted to get to know her better. I get messages like that on Twitter and Pinterest too. Here are examples of some messages I’ve received – If you ever get messages like this, click the spam button or report the sender:
    • “Hello,I am Abyan,I like you to contact me in my Email”
    • “Hi pretty, it’s good to come across a beautiful woman like you here, you are beautiful and elegant , I like you and I would like to get acquainted with you .Get in touch so that we can commence communication”
    • “OMG your in this http://facebook.com/2742803?EpicFailVideox … LMFAO”

Have you encountered any scams with Social Media?  Please share them in the comments below and let others know what to watch out for!

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.

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Getting the Most From Customer Service

We’ve been hearing a lot lately from friends and customers about their customer service experiences, and they haven’t all been good!  As you can imagine, Chris had had more than his fair share of dealing with various customer service departments and has a few tips.

  1. Remember that the person on the other end of the phone is human.  They are probably not being paid very much, and they don’t get a lot of breaks.  Be kind to them.
  2. Also, the Reps do have scripts that they must follow.  Although it may seem like a waste of time, be polite and let them get through it.
  3. If you are having a hard time understanding the Rep, ask them to speak more slowly and to enunciate their words more clearly.  (I especially have problems with Indian accents and have found that a slower cadence helps me.)  If you’re still having a hard time, ask to speak to someone else.  If they refuse, hang up and call back again.
  4. If you don’t feel like you’re making progress after two to three minutes, hang up and call back again.  It’s possible that the Rep is just having a bad day and you need to talk to someone who is not.
  5. If you’re calling about a service outage for your phone, cable, or other service, request a refund (or credit) for the period the service was out.  Some companies will offer a higher value coupon for a different service as compensation.  If you’re not going to use that service, or you’re not interested, let them know.  If the Rep says they can’t offer a refund or credit, ask to speak with their supervisor.  If they still refuse to provide a refund for a service outage, let them know you’ll be reporting them to the Public Utility Commission and/or the Better Business Bureau. http://cdn.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DORA-PUC/CBON/DORA/1251614750747  http://www.bbb.org/

If you’re still having issues and want some help, give us a call.  Chris will be your advocate to get the support you need.

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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How to Make Your iPhone More Efficient

Sometimes my iPhone gets sluggish and doesn’t respond as quickly as I’d like it to.  Or it runs out of battery power more quickly than expected.  I’ve learned a few tricks that might help you too.

  1. Turn your iPhone completely off.  To do this, hold down the power button on the top right of your iPhone until it says “Slide to power off”.  Slide the button over, wait five or ten seconds, then power it back up again.  I know Steve Jobs said that only Microsoft computers need to be turned off to reset themselves.  But sometimes Apple products need to be reset too.
  2. Close down any applications that your iPhone is running, but you’re not using.  Double click on the Home button and it will show you all the apps you’re running.  (The Home button is the one on the bottom of the screen, in the center.)  Select the apps you want to close and, with your finger, simply slide it up and off the screen.
  3. If there are apps on your iPhone that you’re not using, delete them entirely.  That will free up some space.  Find the icon for the app on your screen.  Place your finger on the icon until it starts wiggling and a small “X” appears in the top left corner of the icon.  Press the “X”.  Your iPhone will ask you to confirm that you really want to delete it. Remember to press the Home button when you’re done.
  4. You can free up a lot of space by deleting photos and videos after you’ve backed them up to your computer.  Photos are generally saved under “My photos”
  5. Put your iPhone in Airplane mode.  Click on Settings and slide the button over.  When your phone is in regular mode, it is constantly checking the location of nearby towers.  It doesn’t do that in Airplane mode, so you can charge your phone much faster.  If you know you’ll be in an area without reliable cell service, putting the iPhone in Airplane mode also conserves your battery.  Remember, you can still use WiFi even with the cell service turned off!

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

My Favorite Websites to Plan a Trip

When I’m off on a road trip, there are a few websites that I have bookmarked for easy access. Many of you know how many road trips I take so these resources are invaluable for me! I hope you find them useful too.

Google Maps:
This is actually my favorite site.  It helps me plan road trips that get to all the places I want to go.  If I want a quick highway-only kind of trip, I can do that.  If I want to stick to the local roads, I can do that too.  Google Maps tells me where the construction will be and how long the trip will take.

National Park Service:
Our country has so many amazing sights to see and the NPS has preserved many of them.  When I know I’m going to a particular Park, like Yellowstone, or the Sand Dunes, or Arches, I take a look at this website to see what I need to be aware of and how to best plan my trip.

KOA:
I’ll admit it.  My backcountry camping days are over!  If I am camping, I want a place with a shower and a real toilet!  I’ve been camping at KOA’s for most of my life as my parents took us around the country in our VW Camper in the early ’70’s.  This site helps me find a campground near where I’m heading.

AAA:
The American Automobile Association is invaluable. From providing road side assistance, to maps and guides, to guided tours and cruises, to helping you buy and insure a car, AAA is a one stop place for most of my travel needs. http://www.colorado.aaa.com/

Google:
Of course Google. It’s how I find out just about everything.  (Plus I love the Google Doodles.)

Local Chamber of Commerce sites:
Once I’ve decided on a destination, I search for the local Chambers.  What activities are going on?  Which businesses cater to tourists?  Are there any coupons?  What funky tourist attraction is this town known for?

Yahoo!Travel:
This site is helpful when I’m planning to stay at a hotel on the way.   I’ve even found that Yahoo!Travel has access to lower prices than some of the other “discount” sites.

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Protecting Your Pictures, Music, and Other Important Data

It’s summer and time for the weather to act up!  Before the next ___Insert Disaster Here (Flood/ Fire/ Tornado/ Hail Damage/ etc.)____ occurs at your house, there are a few things you should take care of right away.

FIRST:
Back up your data to the “cloud”.  We use Dropbox which I find very easy to use.  There’s also Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and others.  (Here’s a link to a review of 13 different options for you.)  Make sure you choose a solution that backs up continuously, and is accessible from all the computers, SmartPhones, and Tablets that you commonly use.

SECOND:
Because Ransom-ware is a bigger problem I also recommend that you have a hard copy of your backup.  Ransom-ware is a new type of malware.  The hacker gets into your system and locks you out of it unless you pay a ransom.  This also affects data you’ve backed up to the cloud.

At least once a month, back up your data to a physical source – an external hard drive, DVD’s, etc.  Then store them in a location outside of your home.

WHY DO BOTH?
To protect your data, you really only need a hard copy back up.  But you’d need to do it very frequently in order to capture any changes to any of your files.  In my experience, people are just not that disciplined!  Plus, you have to remember to take it with you if you have the luxury of packing for an evacuation.  Better to upload file changes automatically to the cloud and take a physical backup once a month, or after you’ve finished a big project.

ALSO:
Put your important stuff in an area that’s easy to access in case your home is evacuated because of an emergency.   Things to include are family photos, family herilooms, tent, sleeping bags, extra clothing, water, food & other supplies for your pets, etc.

If you need help setting up your cloud account or learning how to back up your data to a physical source, give us a call!

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Top Ten Ways to Use Siri

I’ve had a number of friends tell me recently that Siri is worthless and never gets anything right. “And besides,” they say, “I can just do it faster myself than asking Siri!”

Granted, Siri had her challenges when she was first rolled out, and many of them remain. But if you just ask her to do simple tasks, she’ll generally get them right.

Here are ten things I frequently use Siri for:

  1. Call people:  For example, ask Siri to call your Mom. (If you haven’t’ set up relationships within your contact settings, here’s an article that teaches you how to do that.)
  2. Email people
  3. Text people:  I especially like this feature. I will dictate the message to Siri and she’ll type and send it.
  4. Set timers and alarms Just be aware that Siri sometimes hears “60” as “16”. I will instead ask for a timer for “61 minutes”.
  5. Check on the weather
  6. Show most recently received email
  7. Search emails:  You can find emails with specific text in them or emails from a specific person
  8. Find out the time and weather in another city:  Don’t forget, these are two separate questions!
    1. Siri, what time is it in London?
    2. Siri, show me the weather forecast in London.
  9. Search for a local business When you ‘re looking for a specific business, ask Siri to look it up for you. She’ll generally respond with a map and all of their contact information.
  10. Open an application on your phone:  Simply ask Siri to open the map application or the FitBit application, etc.

Siri still has her flaws, but if you know what they are and can work around them, she’ll serve you well. (In a limited capacity!)

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 (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Windows 10 Upgrade

If you’ve got any version of Windows, from XP to Windows 8, you’ve likely seen the new little icon on the bottom of your screen. It looks something like this:

Get Windows 10The current information available is that this is a free upgrade offer from Microsoft It is available for a limited time.  After the free offer expires, the upgrade will cost around $200.  Microsoft is saying that the upgrade will be ready on July 29th.

I asked Chris why our customers should (or should not) upgrade to Windows 10.  Here’s what he said.

Reasons to get the Windows 10 upgrade:

  1. It’s a free way to get the next version of the Windows operating system.  My computer has Windows 7 Professional 64 bit, and I was presented with the choice to receive the new operating system as a free upgrade.
  2. This is the general direction of where Microsoft is going with the operating system, and you are probably better off with it than without it.
  3. There has been discussion about the Windows 10 user interface being more like Windows 7 than Windows 8. Since Windows 10 has not yet been released to the public, what it is is still an unknown.

Reasons not to get it:

  1. If you have applications which require Windows 7 or XP, or there is concern because those applications have not yet been tested to work with Windows 10.
  2. If you need to reinstall the operating system onto your hard drive or SSD in the future, you’ll have to install the previous version of the Operating System, but may not be able to receive the update to Windows 10 without paying for it.

The upgrade may not include an installation disk, which would allow a clean install of the Windows 10 operating system in the future.

More information about the upgrade can be found on Microsoft’s website. http://www.microsoft.com/EN-US/windows

Apple has been offering OS upgrades as digital downloads through their App Store for years, and no one is complaining.  The no-media upgrade process tends to work, even though it takes several hours to download (1-4H depending on the speed of your line to the Internet) and install (1-2H depending on the speed of your computer and the speed of your hard drive).

However, I think this will be the first Operating System upgrade that Microsoft is doing that is a digital download.  The Windows Operating System Upgrade is inherently more complex than the Apple Operating System Upgrade, because Windows runs on many more machines from different manufacturers (Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, HP,  etc., etc.,) than the Apple software does (which is exactly one: Mac’s).  The Apple environment is proprietary and “closed”, eg: you are licensed to only run the Apple Operating System on Apple hardware, where the Microsoft Operating System does not have this constraint.  Apple doesn’t charge for new versions of their Operating System, but Microsoft traditionally has.

Let us know if you have any questions about Windows 10!

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.

Throw Away Technology

I was brought up by parents who grew up during the Depression in New England, and the Puritan frugality was bred pretty deeply in me.  The whole “Reduce / Reuse / Recycle” motto was just the way things were during my childhood – especially Reduce and Reuse.  Nothing was every thrown away that might have another use sometime in the future.  Protecting the environment by keeping things out of landfills was just a fortunate by-product!

Which is why I sometimes think our business is the perfect business for me. We help people repair or enhance their current equipment rather than dumping it and getting something new. Sometimes, it’s just one component that needs to be replaced, and that’s something we can easily do.

  • An older computer can have a new hard drive added to provide more storage, rather than getting a whole new computer.
  • Or, it can have a RAM upgrade to help it perform faster.
  • Or, change out the keyboard or screen on a laptop when they break.

However, with some of the technology being sold today, they are just not being built to be repaired! Some companies are now using cheap plastic clips to hold things together rather than the teeny metal screws. Extra care must be taken to remove the clips so that they don’t break or snap, and putting them back together again can be a challenge. This adds extra time to the repair work, and makes the repair bill more expensive. And to all of those folks out there who say “It’ll cost $200 to fix my keyboard? I can get a new machine for that!”, I remind you that you get what you pay for.

We’ll always tell you when it’s more cost effective for you to replace rather than repair. For example, it’s almost always more cost effective to replace a broken printer then to repair it. A broken keyboard can go either way. If you’re like me though, the cost to replace will always include the environmental impact of adding to the trash heap.

If you’re wondering what kinds of services we can provide, please check out our services page.

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.