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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Why we Don’t do iPhone Repairs: Another Reason

We’ve never done iPhone or other mobile device repairs and probably never will.  There are a ton of reasons, but here’s a new one.  Apple has prevented third parties from repairing the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Cracked iPhone

This article explains the reasons, but the nutshell is the Apple Retail store needs to configure the phone after replacement.  Apple’s done this before with the home button.

The primary reason though we don’t repair iPhones is mobile devices require proprietary parts.  Unlike a computer that needs a standard hard drive, most phone parts are specific to your phone.  If we ordered parts, they’d be knock-offs.  Too many mobile device shops have told me they have trouble getting quality parts.

If we can’t stand behind our work, we’re not going to fix your device.  Since the parts market for mobile devices is questionable, we’d rather step aside.  Large shops that deal in a ton of volume usually have the relationships to get the best parts. Other than that, getting your iPhone fixed by Apple is the best bet.  You know the parts are genuine and Apple stands behind their work.

For Lawrence, that’s who we recommend for iPhone repair.  Clients consistently have the best experience at the Apple Retail stores in Leawood, KS and Kansas City, MO on the Plaza.

Photo by magerleagues

Don’t be like Jon Snow, Protect Your Emails like a Khalessi

I suspect you’re watching Game of Thrones right now (yes I wrote this in advance).  Fortunately, no major spoilers leaked this time.  There’s a reason for that:  cast and crew had special email protections.

Best HD Game of thrones facebook cover

No they weren’t dragons and the Night’s Watch had nothing to do with it.  Rather, it was something that those of us outside the Seven Kingdoms can use:  Two-factor authentication.

Popular email services like Gmail and Yahoo support this special protection, and you won’t need a Lannister’s gold to help you pay for it.  The protection is free, you just need to enable it!
Two-factor authentication is another level of protection for your email and other accounts.  After you type in your password, your email program uses your phone (dumb or smart)  to verify who you are. Your phone is that second factor.

If you don’t put in the special code your phone gives you, even the Lord of Light can’t get into your email.  Once it’s setup on your computer, you won’t need to enter this every time.  Just once on a new system to verify who you are.  This is handy when you’re checking your email in a public place while on vacation.

You don’t need to be royalty to get these type of protections; we can set it up for you.  It only takes a few minutes for us to set up and it makes your email and other online accounts like banks and social media less hackable.  We’ve done this for dozens of clients and they love this extra protection. We’re your digital Maesters!

Let’s face it; the Internet can be dark and full of terrors.  You need protections otherwise Cersei’s probably going to read your emails.   Nah, we know it’s Varys’ little birds doing that. For the record, you can use two-factor to protect your Twitter account too.

Photo by Tatiana_0000

Are Laptop Screen Repairs Worth It

A common call we get here at DoctorDave Computer Repair is “Can you repair my laptop screen?”  The short answer is yes, the long answer is no.  Yes, we can repair them.  We’re computer repair professionals. However, we don’t recommend screen repairs and here’s why.

baggage checked at your own risk

There’s Usually More Wrong Than the Screen

The typical reason a laptop screen breaks is because it’s been dropped.  When we get inside the laptop we see a whole heck more wrong than just the screen.  Here are the top problems we see:

  • Cracked case:  once we attempt to remove the screen, other parts that were cracked separate. It never quite goes together the same and we have to replace the case.
  • Cable tears:  the insides of a laptop are delicate and the drop causes damage to these.  Often times damaged plastic inside the case tears these.
  • Cracked components:  if it’s dropped hard enough to crack the screen, other things are cracked inside and will get worse.
  • Hard drive: 50% of the cracked screens we see have damaged hard drives.  The hard drive is what stores all your important stuff.

While we can repair each of these, the cost of the repair keeps going up.

It’s Difficult to Find Components

Kansas is one of the states fighting for a “Right to Repair.” That gives everyone the ability to buy components to fix their computers.  Right now, the only way we can get screens is used or counterfeit.  Each manufacturer won’t sell original screens, partially to protect their own revenue stream.

Our policy is to fix things right, the first time. In our tests the failure rate of these screens is 10%-30%.  That’s unacceptable to us.  We don’t like clients to go through the hassle of waiting until we get a working screen.  Honestly the other reason is our time.  When we get a bad screen, it causes double work for us.  Most computer repair companies figure that into the repair costs.  I don’t like overcharging customers to compensate for these situations. As a business owner, I believe you should be charged for the work done.  If it takes an hour to repair, you should be charged an hour. You shouldn’t be charged more because someone else’s repair took more time.

If we are able to get original screens from the company, we’d revisit this policy for sure.

Generally, it’s Not Worth Repairing

Even if we can get quality screens and we don’t find other damage inside the laptop, laptop screen repair may not be worth it.  Other computer companies probably will hate me for saying this.  After all, we don’t sell computers and we’re talking ourselves out of work.

Here’s why.  If the computer is less than a year old, then it’s still under warranty.  If you don’t get the computer repaired by the manufacturer, they’ll void the warranty. That means anything that’s wrong with it, you’re on the hook for. If they fix it, they’ll keep your warranty intact. With so many things that can go wrong with a computer, you want to keep your options open.  The company that makes the computer will charge a hefty fee for the replacement, but your protection remains intact.  We think it’s worth repairing, just not through us.

Year two of a laptop is tricky.  It’s probably not under the original warranty, but your credit card generally extends the warranty an extra year.  So if lets say your keyboard goes out in year two, your credit card will cover it.  Consumer Reports did a study on laptop repairs.  They don’t recommend a repair in year two of computer ownership if repair costs would exceed 50% of the cost to replace.

I tend to use an alternate rule of thumb, but it’s the same conclusion as Consumer Reports.  Their formula is hard to use sometimes because people aren’t sure how much an equivalent laptop costs today.  Generally a laptop depreciates about 30% each year.  A good rule of thumb is a laptop repair isn’t worth it if it’s 25% of the original cost.  If you paid $500 for a laptop, if the screen cracks in year two, you shouldn’t pay more than $125 for the screen to be repaired.  Anything higher than that, it isn’t worth it.  Another tip is to check how much the computer sells for used on eBay.  Look for completed purchases, not what people are asking.  People often ask too much for a computer on eBay.

In year three, a laptop repair is never worth it.  In the third year, we start seeing all the typical problems.  Hard drives, batteries, keyboards, trackpads, and power jacks all go out in the third year.  Even without those verified numbers, three year old laptops generally sell for about 10% – 20% of their original cost.  We’ve had clients tell us they are unable to sell three year old laptops at garage sales for $25.  Most people realize stuff starts failing after a few years and would rather have something new and reliable than buying someone else’s problems.

Why We’re Honest About Laptop Screen Repairs

Other computer repair business owners chastise me for this.  If the person wants the repair, why say no?  Hey, we’re in this for the long haul.  We’ve been doing this since 1990.  Moreover, I know the frustration of putting money into something when it isn’t worth it.  I’ve had too many used cars that turned into money pits.  I don’t want to inflict that pain on anyone else.  While declining many of these repair hurts our computer repair profits, we know it creates loyalty and trust.  Ultimately, I’d rather you trust us than pay us and regret your decision.

Photo by BruceTurner

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The Painful Switch from Sunflower to Midco in Lawrence

As many people found out in Lawrence, KS this week, our cable company switched again.  The company originally known as Sunflower Broadband was transferred to Midco at midnight on June 28th.  We were ready for the switch and were able to help dozens of clients get back on track.  We have some tips if you’re still having problems.

The end of the sunflower

It Starts With Your My Midco Account

In our experience, that’s where the transfer process starts.  You received (hopefully) two letters from Midco:  an account letter and a pin letter.  The account letter tells you about the changes and includes your account number.  Sent separately, is a letter with your pin.

Setting up an account is critical to transferring your sunflower.com emails to Midco.

The prompts are pretty easy, but if you’re having trouble, this short video may help.

Changing Your Email Settings for Sunflower.com

Ugh, what a pain!  Didn’t we have to do that at the last buyout?  For many people they did.  While your email address will stay the same, you still need to change your incoming and outgoing mail servers.  You’ll have to do that on your computer in programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, and Mac Mail.  Your Android or Apple smartphone and tablets will need some changes.

Each program and device have a slightly different way of doing the change.  Midco has some good videos here, but they assume you’re setting up a new email address rather than configuring an old one.  This page tells you what to set your servers to.  Remember that for username use your full sunflower.com email address.

If you’d like our help with this, just gives us a call.  If you’re online, we can configure this remotely.  If it’s on your mobile device, we can setup an appointment at our office.

You Can’t Find Your Old Sunflower Emails

The main reason we’ve seen for this problem is you didn’t set up your Midco account online.  That starts the magic of the email transfer.  Once you create your account, it’s taking up to 36 hours for those old emails to make the move. It is a long drive from Lawrence to Sioux Falls.

If your account still doesn’t work after about two days after setting up your Midco account, the email address might be associated with someone else’s account.  This problem is typical of people who wanted to keep their sunflower email address, but moved off the cable company’s system.  The person holding your account will need to create the My Midco account.

Just to reassure you, as of this writing, none of our clients have lost emails during the transition

You’re Not Getting New Sunflower Emails

This scenario is probably because you haven’t completed the first two steps  1)  creating the Midco online account and 2) changing your email server settings.  Once your account moves to Midco, the email program needs to look at the Midco server rather than the sunflower/wow/knology servers.  The settings you need to change are here.

Once you make those changes, you should be good to go!  The most common problem we’re seeing is that clients that tried to configure it themselves couldn’t find the sunflower.com email password.  That makes it a bit tricky, but Midco has been able to help once the account is transferred.  At that point, Midco has the email and can reset the password.

You Can’t Get Online

It’s not just email; you can’t go to Facebook or Google.  We’re seeing a few reasons for that.  Midco’s first step is a good one.  Reboot devices.  For non-technical clients, the problem is finding what those devices are.

  1. Reboot /Unplug Your Cable Modem

It’s hard to tell exactly what this device looks like.  Most people in Lawrence have Surfboard cable modems.  Here is a link with some pictures.  Unplug the power from the back.  That’s usually a small black cylinder.  Leave it unplugged for about a minute, then plug the power back in.

ARRIS SURFboard SBG6580 Back View Modem.png 245 808 2017 07 02 16 33 55

2) Reboot Your Router

After you unplugged and plugged back in your modem, you might have a wireless router.  That’s typical if you use more than one thing to get on the internet at your house.  You might have a laptop and a desktop, or a tablet, or a smart TV.  Unless you reboot your router after your cable modem, it might not pick up the changes.

In Lawrence, Midco customers have a variety of routers.  The common brands are Asus, Belkin, Linksys, and Netgear. Most routers have a small antenna to broadcast that signal.  It attaches through a fat phone-style cable to your cable modem.

The router needs to be “power-cycled” also.  It should have a small power adapter that needs to be unplugged from the back of the router.  It looks something like this:

pasted image 0

After you unplug that power, wait about a minute then plug it back in.  After that, restart your computer and all other devices.  More likely than not, you’ll be back online.

What If You Still Can’t Get Online?

How frustrating!  We’re seeing two common reasons for this problem.

Problems With DNS

This is a techie term for the system that translates things like  http://66.39.88.140 to  http://www.calldrdave.com.  People don’t memorize these numbers, just the words.  The way you can tell that’s the problem?  Try going to http://66.39.88.140. If our website pulls up (it looks kinda ugly that way), you know you have a DNS problem. We recommend Google’s DNS in this case.  This link explains how to change your DNS on your computer.

WOW Didn’t Give Midco Correct Information

We won’t play the blame game because we’ll probably never know.  Your cable modem has a special code called a Media Access Controller (MAC) address.  This isn’t the same as a Mac computer.  Your MAC address is a 12 digit code on the bottom of your modem.  This link from Cox shows how to find the MAC address, but here is a picture they have on that site.

pasted image 0 1

Once you call Midco with that number, you’ll need to reboot your router and computer for the change to take effect.

It’s Your Computer

If your computer stopped getting online on the 28th, but was able to on the 27th, then the problem is probably with Midco. I say probably because we’ve seen two clients this week that had other problems with their computers.  One got a virus that same day.  In another case, a lightning strike damaged the router.  Of course we got them up and running, but we can’t blame Midco or WOW for either of those problems.

We’re Here to Help!

We’ve been doing computer repair in Lawrence since 1990.  Dave was part of the first cable modem rollout with Sunflower Datavision back in 1996.  If you can’t get back to your email and internet with Midco, let us know.  We can offer suggestions, attempt to help you remotely or set up a service call at your location or hours.

Cable companies may come and go, but we’re here to stay.  That’s probably why we’re the Best of Lawrence for Computer Repair.

Photo by Helena Jacoba

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We’re The Best of Lawrence For Computer Repair!

Last week I got quite a thrill!  Our company, DoctorDave Computer Repair, won the Best of Lawrence contest.  From the pictures people took of me there, I was pretty excited.  Here’s me in the more calm state.

Best of Lawrence247 t960

Many people were surprised I was excited.  After all, I was opposed to the contest last year.  Things change, most notably the Journal-World is no longer locally owned.  I wrote about my meeting with them.  Since they addressed the privacy and business concerns, it was now a fun contest to be a part of.

I still don’t like using the term “voted” or “chosen.”  This wasn’t a scientific poll or election.  It was a contest. It’s more like being picked the King of Prom rather than Student Council president (I was neither in school).  People were allowed to put in an entry each day, so that’s hardly a vote.  Also, according to the Journal-World, 25% of votes were from outside of Lawrence.

It’s still fun though!  

Truly, I’m humbled by the time people took to fill out entries so that way I won the contest.  Sure, it’s a bit of bragging rights.  Does that mean we’re better than everyone else?  No.  Does it mean we’re the most liked?  Maybe.  We have the most dedicated fans, and that’s what really excites me!

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Regardless of a company’s placement on the list, it’s an honor to be nominated.  When you pick “Best of Lawrence” they don’t let you mark “second best.”   I’m pleased that throughout the contest it was small, local businesses that placed well.  That means people see the value of choosing to do business with a company that is part of the community, instead of just working here. National chains are great and they employ local people and pay taxes just like locally-owned businesses.  The difference with small business is we have more of a stake in the local community.  If a location in a chain doesn’t do well, they just close the location. They don’t have to work with the community they leave behind.

I’m also excited that participants didn’t see computer repair as a commodity item, they see it as a valuable service to have an opinion on. They could have skipped the category (I skipped a bunch), but they didn’t.

IMG 2293 1

That’s the real winner here,  three years running people in Lawrence are fans of computer repair.  Considering they need to vote on the computer, it’s probably an important service to have an opinion on.

Thank you again for voting us Best of Lawrence!

Warning: A New Apple Tech Support Scam

We’ve gotten a few calls about a nasty and vile scam hitting our Lawrence computer repair clients.  It starts with a warning about an iCloud hack.

20111031 FNS LSC 0263

These seem to be in the news all the time.  If it isn’t Apple getting hacked, it’s someone else.  The call is an automated warning to call a specific number letting you know there’s a problem with your Apple or iCloud account.  Since it’s automated, you’re less likely to think it’s a scam.  After all, it’s a computer calling you about a problem.

This new wrinkle isn’t like the typical tech support scam.  Those are usually off-shore and tell you there is something wrong with your computer.   You aren’t as likely to believe the scam because how does the caller know it’s a problem?  When Apple’s automated system calls you, maybe you’re caught off-guard. When you call the number in the automated reply, the scammer assures you they are legit.  They’ll remind you that you called them and you’re free to hang up at any time.

Regardless of what you might think, IT’S A SCAM.  APPLE (or its computer) will NEVER CALL YOU.

This link explains the full details of the hack.  We had a client locked out of their iPhone because of this scam.  When in doubt, call, text, or email is.  Even better, use the DoctorDave Computer Repair app and send us a picture of the screen.

Photo by USDAgov

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Should You Use Your Fingerprint to Unlock Your Phone

I was a little late to the fingerprint unlocking game.  Due to my extreme iPhone case, the fingerprint unlock didn’t work.  I love it, but I’m inclined to turn the feature off.

Day 164 West Midlands Police Custody fingerprint scanner

While you can’t be compelled to give up your password due to the Fifth Amendment, you could be compelled to give your fingerprint.  After all, police ask for fingerprints as part of their usual process.

A state appeals court in Minnesota has ruled just that according to this Techdirt article.  This is just one court case, but I think privacy will start moving in that direction.  I’m not a criminal. On the surface, I have nothing to hide.  I haven’t done anything wrong, so why should I care if the police see my contacts, pictures, and appointments?

The problem, of course, is it creates a terrible precedent.  We’re innocent until proven guilty and out of context, stuff on your phone could be incriminating.  A joke or picture out of context could be really damaging.
We take privacy seriously here at DoctorDave Computer Repair.  We know your mobile device, tablet and computer have intimate information.  If you work with us, our goal is to keep that information in your control.  We’ll keep it away from hackers and unauthorized government intervention.

Photo by West Midlands Police

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Stop Waiting for Google Fiber, Support Municipal Broadband

We’ve been a big supporter of local government providing internet. While Google Fiber is great, they’re already cutting back expansion and even cancelling appointments in Kansas City.  Just like trash and water or even the library, the city should be providing internet.

Mario at Google Fiber Kansas City MO

Unfortunately, some legislatures like Virginia are trying to block these efforts.  The rationale that “good enough” is good is false.  We see clients on the local tiers of WOW and AT&T not able to do much.  Even basic email chokes on slow connections.  Sharing slow internet in a household with your phone or tablet makes it even slower.

We rarely take political stances, but in this case we make an exception. Big ISPs somehow feel threatened by local efforts, but that’s just silly.  If private companies aren’t doing the job, it’s time for the public to force action.  Kansas City’s reliance on Google for high-speed internet is already failing.  I wish they would have put those efforts into local operations.  My prediction is Google will start selling off their internet services to local governments.  They’re also opposed to restrictions on municipal broadband, even though in some markets they could be competing against the city for internet services.

Photo by UCFFool

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