Here’s how to Prepare for a Computer Repair Appointment

I’ll often read medical blogs because what we do in computer repair isn’t that much different than patient care.  I came across this great article about preparing for a medical appointment.  That article got me thinking about how to prepare for a computer repair appointment on-site or at our office in Lawrence or Kansas City.

Doctors Office Waiting

You’re Not a Computer Person (But Don’t Need to Be)

One of the first statements we get during a client intake is “I don’t know, I’m not a computer person.”  Of course you’re not, that’s why you’re calling us!

Although the business name is DoctorDave Computer Repair, I didn’t go to medical school (I went to law school).  That doesn’t mean I can’t go to the doctor.  A good doctor does a careful intake and listens to symptoms.  I don’t tell the doctor I have otitis media, I say my ear hurts.  I can’t however go to the doctor and say “I’m sick” and leave it there.  They’re stuck starting with “Does your left toe hurt” and move up to the top of your head.  Obviously that doesn’t happen in real life.  They’ll ask probing questions like “Are you in pain?” and “Where does it hurt?”

Tell Us What It’s Doing (Or Not Doing)

Nothing technical.  It’s the computer equivalent of “Where does it hurt?”  We need to know your symptoms.  Instead of saying “I have a virus,” tell us about the strange message you get everytime you turn on your computer.

Take Detailed Notes

Doctors of all kinds like symptom tracking.  We even have a symptom tracking worksheet we developed from a client who kept a food diary.  Things that seem unimportant sometimes are vital.  Anyone who’s watched House knows that.  The more details we have, the better diagnosis we can make.

Have a Chief Complaint

Doctors use that term for the answer to the question “What brings you in today?”  If you say “everything”, you’ll never get what you want.  Go in with one key issue you’re facing and then any other issues rank ordered.  When I go to my medical doctor, I’m always complaining about my shoulder, even if I’m just in for an ear infection.  Correction.  I don’t know if I have an ear infection, I just have pain in my ear.  My shoulder’s unrelated, but it’s a nagging pain. Too often I leave the MD’s office with my complaints unresolved.  That’s because I’m not organized and threw too much at her at once.

Use An App To Keep Track (Even if it’s email)

We tend to have our phones with us at all time.  When a problem develops on your computer, record it on your phone.  We’ve got a DoctorDave App to make it easy to do this on an iPhone.  If you have an Android phone or just don’t want to download our app (why not?), use your camera and your email.

True story.  I was having problems with my stomach and there is an app that will track and rate your poop.  Seriously!  For computer problems, you don’t need anything that fancy.  Just take a picture and send us an email.  No poop emails please.

Don’t Let Problems Linger

If you wait until your yearly check and dump all the problems on your physician, he might get a little overwhelmed.  Don’t let small problems become big ones.  Train yourself on self-examination techniques so you’ll see the first sign of trouble.

With the computer, a small virus becomes a big one over time.  A hard drive that clicks or glitches once eventually fails to boot and you lose your data.

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Best. Upgrade. Ever – Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Laptop hard drives, on average, last about three years.  We recommend replacement of computers after three years.  However, if you want to keep your laptop, we highly recommend Solid State Drives (SSDs).

faster than light..

This is the same technology in your smartphone or tablet that lets it boot up and open applications quickly.  All Apple laptops now come with SSDs as do many Windows laptops.  If we’re going to repair your computer, or you just need a speed boost, an SSD is the way to go.

SSDs give you more of a performance boost than a memory upgrade or any other single procedure we can do during a tune up.  The price is reasonable:  right around $50-$100 for the parts.  Speed increase can be up to 10-fold.  That’s a good return on investment.  Even if your hard drive hasn’t failed, putting in an SSD is like a fountain of youth for your desktop or laptop.
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Is the Paperless Office Still a Thing?

Do you remember when computers promised to let us go paperless?  I wrote an article for groovyPost how I hate paperless statements from companies.  However for your home or small business, this article has some good steps.  Less paper is better for the environment and makes it easier to find stuff.

Postmaster General James A. Farley During National Air Mail Week 1938

I think the key point is to use your phone more often.  We don’t all have a digital scanner at home, but I bet we all have a phone.  Instead of saving receipts, just take pictures of them.

One thing they didn’t mention is business cards.  I avoid taking business cards.  When someone hands one to me, I take a picture and hand it back.  Better for the environment and easier to find a computer picture than a piece of paper.

Read both articles mentioned to reduce your clutter and find stuff easier.

Photo by Smithsonian Institution

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Remote Working/Telecommunity Bad for Your Health?

Many of our clients work from home.  We’re their local IT, doing the computer repair and support their corporate office might do.  The flexibility is great, but not everyone likes it.

Telecommute.
When I chat with clients I hear some of the same complaints in this article. One person put it best to me:

“It’s like being in jail, but worse.  In jail at least I get yard time.  When I work from home, I wake up and then sit at the computer.  Eight hours later I’m done, make dinner, watch TV etc.  Then I go to sleep and start the same process again.  I never see another person and I rarely leave the house.  For all I know, the outside world is just an illusion!”

His case was a little bit of an exaggeration, but I get the idea.  For me, I love coffee shops and coworking.  A coffee shop you get some social interactions as well as some caffeine and sweets, which always helps.  You can also put on headphones and be left alone.  You can find me at almost any coffee shop in Lawrence, Topeka or KC.  If they have wifi and good coffee, I’m there.

Coworking spaces are similar.  You get the same social interactions, but you can also isolate yourself a bit more.  They tend to be quieter than coffee shops.  That’s good for some people, but I need background noise while I work.  That’s when it’s time for headphones.  At a coworking space you get the bonus of networking with other remote workers like yourself.

Which is better, coworking or coffee?  Both!  I recommend both depending on your workflow and personality.  Some weeks I feel more like working while others I feel more like coffee shop hopping.  If the weather’s good though, expect me on a patio somewhere.

Regardless of where you go, be sure to get out of the house!  You could always bring your computer to our office for a free diagnostic appointment.  We have wifi and coffee too.

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Just Say No to KRACK

You’ve probably heard about this new wireless hack called KRACK.  Just what we need after all the frustrations with Equifax! Don’t panic, just be on alert.

Security Stock 11359

Our trusted friends at Malwarebytes did an excellent overview of the likely risks to the average users.  In a nutshell, when a wireless network asks for a password to connect, you assume it’s secure.  And when I mean secure, I mean virtually impenetrable.  Think deadlock along with a chain for good measure.  There’s no way someone’s going to get into your network without lots of work.

With KRACK, your wireless password is more like your standard door lock. Someone with a little skill and the right tools can open the door.

For a home user that means you need to be a little more on alert.  For someone to KRACK your wireless network, they’ll need to be within range.  The odds are you’d see someone in your driveway hacking into your network.  If you live in an apartment or otherwise close to others, they could try to hack in without your knowledge.  The odds of that happening are pretty darn low.  Brute force attacks have always been there.  Just like a door, given enough time, you’ll eventually get in.

Even if they get into your network, they’ll need to keep connected to see anything “juicy.”  Most stuff these days is encrypted along with having a password.  That’s like the safe in your house. The burglar can break into your home but then they need to break into the safe.  So much work!

Here’s what you need to do, which we suggest regardless of KRACK:

  • Keep your computer up to date with security patches.
  • Make sure your anti-virus is up to date and working.  We recommend Malwarebytes.
  • Use unique passwords everywhere.  Don’t reuse the same password on multiple sites.
  • Update your router with security updates and replace it when you can’t get updates.

The tricky part is when you’re in public. Even before KRACK, you needed to be careful.  Even if the password on the network is secure, you never know who is looking over your shoulder or recording you with their mobile phone.  When I’m at a coffee shop, I pretend that anything on my computer or mobile device is showing on every TV in the world.

These tips are what we advise all clients.  Call/Text/Email us or send us a message from the DoctorDave app if you have any questions or need help to protect your stuff.

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Did Microsoft Upgrade You Without Your Consent?

We advised clients not to upgrade to Windows 10.  Some clients listened, but their computers didn’t.  Microsoft made it confusing and client computers upgraded to Windows 10 accidentally.  If this happened to you, money might be coming back to you.

windows 10 ati

From what I’ve seen, this lawsuit has the best chance of being turned into a class action lawsuit. I hope one of these makes it through.  We know our computer repair clients in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City all had problems after unexpected upgrades.

We’ll keep you up-to-date if and when you have an opportunity to get money back.  We always let our clients know of potential money, refunds, and recalls through our newsletter.

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Online Security Systems and Your Home Or Business

With the expansion of the “Internet of Things” aka IoT, we’re getting lots of requests for security systems from clients.  The price has come way down and we recommend them to everyone.

Security Camera

This article has a good explanation of why it’s important for your business to have a security system, but this applies to many residential clients.

One thing the article mentions is you might get a reduction in your insurance if you get one of these camera systems.  Considering many are less than $100, that’s a very quick return on investment.

Some of the systems we’ve set up for clients are

  • Canary and other internet camera by companies like TP-Link
  • Intelligent assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home
  • Nest and Ecobee thermostats
  • Ring doorbell (very cool)
  • Swan security systems

If you set these up yourself, please keep up to date with security fixes and always change the default usernames and passwords.  These devices can get hacked really easily if you just “set it and forget it.”

Not sure if these systems are right for you?  Just give Dave a call for a free consultations.  We’ve set these up for clients all over Lawrence, Kansas City, and Topeka.

Photo by JeepersMedia

How to Block Scammers and Telemarketers on Your iPhone

Since Apple introduced iOS 10, they’ve included a way to identify and block annoying calls.  They haven’t advertised this feature well and that’s a shame.

Telemarketing Sales Rep Cubicle

If you’re using a newer AT&T iPhone, I recommend their Call Protect app. It blocks calls from even ringing your phone.  I’m using it on my iPhone SE and love it.

On other devices, this article explains some of the other free or paid call blocking services.  On my Android phone (yes I use both Android and iPhone), I’m using Hiya.  Hiya is what AT&T uses on their Call Protect app. Another article gives a slightly different review of these apps.

When a weird call comes in your Caller ID will either say it’s a suspect call or block it from even ringing.  If you get a bogus call, the app lets you mark it so others are warned.

If you need help setting these apps up, just let us know.  While we focus on computer repair, we also help people with mobile devices.

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Don’t Forget You Can Get iPhone or Android App Refunds

Sometimes you purchase something by mistake or just don’t like it.  You’re not stuck!  Getting refunds is pretty easy, but there’s a time limit.  You can’t decide months later you don’t like an app.Money

For Android apps, you can get an automatic refund if you ask for it within 2 hours. After that, you’ll need to fill out a particular form if it’s been more than 2 hours, but less than 48.  After that you’ll need to contact the developer for a refund.  Companies are pretty good about refunds.  They’d prefer a refund over a bad review.  Google’s full refund policies are listed here.

For Apple apps, including iPhone and iPad, you can’t get an automatic refund like on Google Play with Android apps.  You’ll need to “report a problem” with the app.  This guide explains it well, but basically you click the link on the receipt or from within the app store.  You tell Apple you don’t like it or it doesn’t work and they get back to you.  Apple’s window for refunds is longer than Google’s.  You have up to 90 days to request that refund.  Apple’s full refund polices are listed here.

Don’t be afraid to ask for your money back if something didn’t work right or you didn’t like it. You’d return a product to a physical store that you didn’t like or didn’t work for you.

One caveat:  if you do this, don’t expect to keep the app.  It may stay on your device but won’t get updates.  You also won’t be able to reinstall it when you have a problem.

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Easy Fixes to Common Safari Problems

If you’re on an Apple Macintosh, you probably use Safari.  One nice feature of Safari is the ability to use extensions. They’re kinda like apps, but specifically for your browser.

Install and manage Safari extensions on your Mac Apple Support 2017 04 06 17 22 16

I don’t use many, but this article highlights some of the more popular ones.  They’re almost always free and fully vetted by Apple so you won’t get viruses if you get them from Apple.

Check out the full list of extensions and find one to make your life a little easier on your Mac. My favorite is ad-blocking software.

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