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.

Photo by Listshack

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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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Action Required for Sunflower Email by 9/25?

Midco has been sending Lawrence customers some confusing emails about a September 25th deadline.  After chatting with Midco on Facebook, we’ve determined there isn’t much to worry about.

Midco.com 2017 09 09 16 42 35

What The Warning Says

This sounds scary and is terribly confusing

****

Subject: ACTION REQUIRED: Your Sunflower.com Contacts and Calendar Items

Contact and Calendar Access Changing Soon!

We wanted to remind you of an important date coming up. Effective September 25, 2017, you will no longer have access to your Sunflower.com email contacts and calendar items still stored on WOW! email systems.

Action Required

  • Although your Sunflower.com emails migrated to Midco email systems, contacts and calendar items must be manually transferred.
  • If you haven’t moved details that you’d like to keep, you must transfer the contact and calendar information to your Midco email address before September 25.
  • Visit Midco.com/KSEmail for helpful instructions.

Questions?

Let our customer care team know if you have questions or need help. Call 1.800.888.1300 or Midco.com/Contact for other handy support options.

****

What Does It Mean

For the most part, a vast majority of clients won’t have a problem.  This warning is only for customers who

  1. Used WOW’s webmail system to check email.  Your login would look something like this:webmail
  2. Used the Address Book and Calendar functions in that same web interface

If both those situations are true, they’re saying that the Address Book and Calendar need to be moved to Midco’s system.  They moved the emails but not the rest of the stuff.  If we helped you move your Sunflower from WOW to Midco, we already checked that for you.

Most People Won’t Need to Worry About The Warning

Most of our clients access their email from a program rather than the web.  Typical examples of email programs are;

  • Apple Mail
  • Mail program on an iPhone, iPad or Android Phone
  • Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail
  • Outlook and Outlook Express
  • Thunderbird

In these situations, Midco confirmed on Facebook that if your email is working now, you don’t have to change anything. We went over what you have to do to move your emails when Midco first made the switch.

Should You Switch From Sunflower Email to Gmail?

I’ve been a strong advocate of moving away from Sunflower’s email system.  You don’t own those emails, Sunflower/Knology/WOW and Midco do.  It’s like the old days with phone numbers, you can’t take it with you.  If you decided to switch to another ISP or move, you lose that address.

When you sign up with a service like Gmail or your own “.com” email address, you can take it wherever you go.

If the message from Midco scared you, it’s time to make a strategic move away from Sunflower’s email system.

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Lessons from Houston: Why You Need Better Backup

The damage from Hurricane Harvey has been heartbreaking.  Sadly one of the casualties of the flood has been people’s data.  Not just business data like customer lists, orders, and invoices but personal stuff like irreplaceable digital pictures and documents.  While disasters aren’t preventable, data loss is.

Harvey Day 5 11

From online forums and stories I’ve read, many business and residential customers thought they had a good backup.  Apple’s Time Machine automatically backs up the computer to a hard drive connected to the computer.  Windows 10 and earlier versions have a similar function.  This isn’t enough and is insufficient as a primary backup method.

The problem, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is that during a disaster everything near by the computer gets destroyed.  Water gets everywhere and damages all electronics.  While we don’t get many hurricanes in Kansas and Missouri, we’re not immune to water problems.

You might think the most common disaster on-site is some kind of natural disaster.  It isn’t.  It’s water.  Just last week a client’s water heater broke flooding her basement.  Her basement had a computer.  Fortunately, she had an online backup, so she was fine.

Due to disasters that can occur on-premise, we always recommend online backups.

As I mentioned last week, our preferred vendor is Backblaze.  For $50 a year they securely backup your computer in the cloud.  Simply put, cloud backups protect you against all disasters.  Backing up to a hard drive next to your computer isn’t the best way to backup your computer.

To encourage people to use a secure backup system, we’re installing Backblaze at no charge for clients.  Just message us and we’ll set up an appointment for you.  We won’t charge for the install; you’ll just owe Backblaze their yearly fee.  We’ll even run a diagnostic scan while we’re on your computer at no charge.  It’s just our way of making sure you’re protecting your important stuff!

Photo by J. Daniel Escareño

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Alternatives to CrashPlan for OnlineBackups

Earlier this week, CrashPlan announced it was discontinuing its pricing for home users.  Although our primary recommendation for online backup is Backblaze, some of our clients were using CrashPlan.  We suggested CrashPlan to larger families since the family plan backed up ten users for $150 a year.  In my family, we used CrashPlan but will discontinue immediately.

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Short Soapbox and Commentary

I can’t give a recommendation without expressing my disappointment in the way Code42, owners of CrashPlan, handled this change.  I’ve been a user of their product for a decade.  I used to pay for three years at a time.  When my subscription came up for a renewal, I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t support a multi-year plan.  Now I know!  They gave no notice or warning.  We had clients renew the day before the announcement and had their credit card charged. For some clients, the “pro” plan is a cost increase of close to 1000%.  That big of a change deserved a slow rollout.  The new pricing is $10 a month per machine, so a minimum of $120 per year per computer.

Given the way they handled this change, I wouldn’t trust them with my data.  Moreover, I don’t trust any recommendations they make as far as alternative services. Even if I thought Carbonite was the way to go (which I don’t).

My Recommendation:  CrashPlan Users Switch to Backblaze

I’ve been a fan of Backblaze for years.  I switched my primary Mac from CrashPlan to Backblaze.  I trust the product, but kept my CrashPlan subscription to backup less-critical computers in the house.   They backup unlimited data on your system for $50 a year.  They’re the cheapest and the best backup plan out there.

In comparison, Mozy charges $65 a year for just 50 gig of data and Carbonite charges $60 a year for the most “basic” plan that doesn’t include backup of large files like video.  Most users would opt for the “plus” plan at $75.00 a year.

Starting with an online backup plan aka “the cloud” takes time.  Your computer has to send copies of all the files to the service over the internet.  That can take a few weeks or even several months.  Of course, once the files are there, the service only backs up the changes.  Those changes are nearly instant.  It’s the initial backup that’s hard.

Because it takes so long for an initial backup, I suggest starting with Backblaze ASAP.

If you wait until your CrashPlan subscription expires, you might lose data in the gap. You want to make sure all your files are safe and secure with Backblaze before your CrashPlan expires.

Given our experience, the average user should plan about three months for all their data to get to an online service.  For a short time, you’ll be paying for two backup services.  You might think that’s wasteful, but given the importance of your data, I think it’s worth paying an extra few dollars doubling up.  If your hard drive dies before Backblaze gets all your stuff, and your CrashPlan expires, you’re out of luck!

Our Deal to Clients:  Free Backblaze Installs

Unlike CrashPlan, we value our residential clients.  We want your data backed up.  If you’re a Crashplan customer, we’ll uninstall Crashplan and install Backblaze at no charge.  You’ll just owe Backblaze the yearly subscription fee of $50 a year or $95 for two years (that’s what we recommend).  While we’re looking at your computer, we’ll even do a diagnostic scan at no charge. We now have some pretty cool tools that not only scan for problems, but warn us if a problem develops later on your computer.  We’ll install that warning software at no charge as well.  It’s just our way of making sure you always have a working computer and your data is secure and safe.

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Don’t Backup Your Music?

We’re a firm believer of backing up your computer here at DoctorDave Computer Repair.  We’re finding though people don’t really care about backing up their music.  At first I thought people just weren’t understanding the risks.

18.04.2009 record store day 9

Now, I realize I’m biased based on my age!  Apparently most people stream music according to this recent report.  When I look at my own listening habits that makes sense.  I tend to like Spotify and Pandora, although my favorite is Digitally Imported.  With my Google Home or Amazon Alexa Echo I can listen to random music anywhere in the house.

I think most people today want to listen to music instead of an individual song.  While I’ll still always recommend backing up your iTunes library, I can see why some people might skip it. I’m still a bit old-fashioned and can’t imagine not owning my music.

Photo by opethpainter

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Why Do We Recommend Ad-Blockers?

Ads have always been part of the Internet. Now, they’re sometimes dangerous rather than just annoying, with malware-laden ads sometimes infecting ad networks.  Just like broadcast TV, ads also help pay for content. Today, these ads are a major source of work for us. It’s time you blocked them

My Mac may be infected with malware AAAHH

Malvertising:  The Problem

Malvertising is a mashup of the generic term for viruses called malware and then advertising.  Malvertising is advertising that has malware in it.  Most people think of adult sites as a source of malware.  That myth is no longer true.  We see malvertising on legitimate sites like MSN, Wowway, and even the LJworld.  Ads today use ad networks that track where you go.  They target ads to you.  That’s why when you read the Journal World online, you’ll see different ads than I do.

Typically, these ads offer to install special “helper software” like a Flash update.  Other fake ads tell you there is something wrong with your computer and put in a special number for you to call.  Virus software doesn’t block these threats because they’re ads.  The ads aren’t doing anything to your computer.  Those ads trick you into installing stuff in your computer.

Once the bad programs get on your computer, they do all sorts of damage.  They’ll sometimes show extra ads or trick you into buying stuff.  The most extreme cases we see is when it installs “ransomware.”  That’s a program that locks up all the stuff on your computer and makes you pay $300-$5,000 to get your data back.  They don’t always give you your data back either.  We’re seeing health care providers being targeted for these scams.

AdBlockers:  The Solution

STOP

Photo by planetlight – http://flic.kr/p/8k9JhZ

As a freelance writer, I usually ask people to avoid adblockers.  Ads are often the way companies pay the bills (including my bill as a writer).  With malvertising, the risk is too high to allow ads on your computer.  No website that uses ads is safe from malvertising.

There are two ad-blockers I recommend:  Adblock Plus and Adblock.  These programs work on most browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

Some sites don’t let you use adblockers.  For example, Forbes doesn’t let you use an adblocker.  The first day they started that policy, their site was infected with malvertising.  All adblocker programs let you “whitelist” or give permission to certain sites to show ads.  That setting is easy to configure.  Other clients use a special browser just for ads.  I do that on my computer.  I don’t use Firefox much, but that’s the browser I use for sites that require ads (like Forbes).

Preventative Maintenance

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These sneaky malware companies desperately want to infect your computer.  One way to prevent this problem is to keep your programs up-to-date. We recommend Patch My PC and install it on most client computers.  If we’ve seen your computer, Patch My PC is probably on there.  It checks all the programs on your computer and suggests security updates.  Those updates help avoid the risk of you falling for a scam.

All clients on a PC should be running an antivirus program.  Some of these programs are free, but most expire after a year.  The free ones want you to re-register the program.  Roughly 20% of the clients we see don’t have a working antivirus.  With our remote-control software, we can check to see if it’s running and your programs are up-to-date.  That check-up usually takes about 15 minutes, so it costs $20 for us to remotely take a look.  If you aren’t sure how to do these updates yourself, it might be good peace of mind for us to check.

What have your experiences been with ad-blockers?  Let us know in the comments.

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Your Internet Service Provider May Be Lying to You

Unless you have municipal broadband (we’re big fans), your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a for-profit business.  That means sometimes they have an incentive to be dishonest.  Sometimes they even get caught for it.

Time Warner Cable Truck

The New York State Attorney General caught Time Warner lying to its customers.  This article explains all the lies they told, but most relate to services promised but not delivered.  Time Warner is a huge company and New York is a huge state, so this is clearly Goliath versus Goliath. They were even caught lying to the FCC about their speeds.

Here in Lawrence, we’ve had our share of service providers with outages.  We’re not victims.  State and local government can protect us when ISPs fail to deliver.  We need to hold them accountable though, so never hesitate to file a complaint when you’re not getting the service you’re paying for.

Be sure to check out our post on the Best Internet Service Provider in Lawrence.

Photo by Consumerist Dot Com

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Beware When you Fire Your Computer Repair Person

When you fire an employee, you ask for the keys back.  If for some reason they refuse, you hire a locksmith and change the locks.  With computers, it isn’t that easy.

Ransom note

A recent story explains what happens when only one person has key passwords.  The entire company was locked out and the employer was forced to negotiate a $200,000 deal to get the password back.  Fortunately, in this case, Google was able to help out.  That isn’t always the case.

It’s not just employees you have to worry about, but also computer repair services.  For example, a computer service provider shut down an entire company for non-payment of a bill.  That’s just harsh.

Regardless of whether you’re using someone in-house or a service provider, you need to keep passwords in more than one place.  When we’re dealing with clients, we insist on it.  We suggest password managers like 1Password or LastPass.  If you switch computer repair companies and use another provider, we’re not going to lock you out!

If you ever need help managing your passwords, let us know.  We help clients out all the time with stuff like this.

Photo by quinn.anya

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