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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Google Home Remembers What You Forget

I’m forgetting where I put stuff all the time.  I might write it down, but then I can’t find the piece of paper.

Google Home on table in front of sunny window.

I’ve owned a Google Home since almost the beginning and love it.  If you have one, tell it to remember something and it will.

For example say “Hey Google, remember I put my charger in the kitchen junk drawer”.

Then, Google Home repeats it back to you.

When you can’t find something, ask Google.  Say “Hey Google, where did I put my charger?”

It’s that simple.  If you haven’t tried a Google Home yet, feel free to ask Dave about his and how he forces Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home to get into an argument.  We setup IoT devices like this all the time.

Photo by ndb_photos

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Apple Store Techs May Have No Experience Fixing Macs?

You’d think the Apple store would hire the best and brightest computer repair technicians.  Due to how busy they are, they’re cutting back on training.

This Apple Store has a new Genius

It used to be Apple technicians would get some hands-on experience fixing Macs before touching your system.  If this story is true, your Mac might be the first one they’ve touched.  If you rely on your Mac, that’s not the type of person you want working on it.

I don’t really blame Apple for this.  Training costs time and money.  Since they make Macs, if a technician breaks a computer, it’s easy for Apple to remedy the situation.

Here at DoctorDave Computer Repair, we don’t have that luxury.  We have to fix it right the first time.  That’s why our team of techs have both hands-on and virtual training before they ever touch your Mac (or PC).  In fact, the first computer I ever worked on back in the 1990s blew up.  I plugged in something wrong and the next thing I knew, smoke and flames.  There’s something to real-world experience as a teacher!

Photo by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

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What is Ransomware?

You might have heard in the news about companies getting hit with “ransomware”.  In particular medical offices like chiropractors and psychologists are major targets.  We see the same thing with our Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City computer repair clients.

System Lock

The nutshell is your computer gets some kind of virus.  Instead of just messing up your computer, this software locks it.  It scrambles the information on your computer.  To get your stuff back you pay a fee for a special password.   That’s the ransom.

With business clients, the ransom is only part of the problem.  This article explains the downtime and lost productivity caused by it.

Our recommendations to avoid ransomware are

  • Avoid clicking unexpected links or attachments.  These scams often seem to come from package notifications
  • Keeping your antivirus up-to-date and working. We see to often clients that think they have protection but they don’t
  • Have a good, reliable data backup.  Most clients we see the first time have no protection.  Instead of paying the ransom, we like clients to restore from a backup.  Online backups are less than $50 a year, so we can help you set that up.

By the time you’re hit with ransomware, it’s too late to solve the damage.  Unless you have a backup, you’re often just stuck paying and hoping you can get the data back.  Give us a call if you’d like a free evaluation for your risks of ransomware and protection ideas.

Photo by Yu. Samoilov

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Customer Privacy Again in the News

Apple should be ashamed of itself; recently employees were caught stealing photos from client systems.  I don’t think companies like Apple quite understand the intimate and personal nature of the information they’re entrusted with.

Torley visits the Apple Store 05

I’ve written about our strict privacy policy, but it’s worth mentioning again.  We realize people’s entire lives are stored on their computers and mobile devices.  It’s a job we take seriously. It starts with working with the right people.  We don’t make jokes about what we see and never take information off the computer without consent.  We use remote control software, but it’s turned off by default.

Simply put, it’s your information. It’s in your control.  Even if the FBI offered us money to snoop on you without a warrant, we wouldn’t!  The same can’t be said of other computer repair companies in Lawrence, KS, Kansas City, and Topeka.

Photo by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

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Your Privacy and Computer Repair

When we do computer repair, we see all sorts of personal stuff. It’s not just your Facebook profiles and bank accounts.  We can see your browsing habits, who else you know, every password.  It’s everything that’s on your phone and more.  We take that responsibility seriously, some providers don’t

Mobile Service Desk Best Buy 1

Recently, national news outlets have covered how Geek Squad has acted as a paid informants to the police.   That story really bothered me.  As technicians we have an affirmative duty to protect our client’s privacy. We have access to an unprecedented information not just about a client, but all the people that client interacts with.  All our technicians go through extensive background checks and a rigorous interview process.  That process helps prevent unethical or irresponsible technicians working on machines.

I fully support reporting to law enforcement when we see egregious violations on a system.  In particular, we have a duty to report suspected child pornography.  Geek Squad of Lawrence reported a customer of theirs with child pornogprahy.  The difference between the Lawrence KS and the national story was the circumstances of how the pornography was found.  In the Lawrence case, the Geek Squad found the illegal content because of a problem the client reported related to it.  We’ve been in that situation too.  We don’t open up files or images unless a client specifically requests the investigation or those files show up as containing malware.  Our policy, similar to Geek Squad, is to report content we directly see in the process of a repair.  We never look for it and never examine images.  In my almost thirty years of repair experience, I’ve never had to report an image, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared for it.

We also comply with law enforcement requests and court orders.  We’ve only turned over a computer once to law enforcement and that was after a fire.  Before we could do data recovery, law enforcement wanted to see the computer for potential evidence of arson (none was found).  We have however called the police when we suspect a stolen laptop as part of our password reset policy.  In these situations, we’ve helped a few people get reunited with a laptop.  That’s one of the best parts of the job.

Beyond these situations, what is in your computer is your own business.  We’ll protect your privacy and fight for it whenever we can.

Photo by roblawton

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Use Gmail? Your Computer May Be Too Old to Use It

If you’re a Gmail user and you’re using an older computer, you might need to switch.  Gmail won’t work properly in Windows XP and Vista.

gmail mailbox

Windows XP and Vista are no longer supported by Microsoft.  That means that it’s ripe to be attacked by hackers.  They can lock you out of your computer or steal information.  I like the fact that Gmail is going to warn users to stop using XP and Vista, but that isn’t enough.

Ideally, Google should prevent users from using XP or Vista altogether. Right now, they’ll force you to use the less-secure “html” version of Gmail.  That’s a bad idea in my book.  XP and Vista need more security to access email not less.

Our advice:  it’s time to switch to a computer that supports a newer operating system.  The reason people avoid a new computer is they’re worried about their old stuff.  We transfer stuff from older computers to new computers all the time.  You’ll want to get that new computer before a hacker (or a company like Google) prevents you from accessing your old stuff.

Photo by rovlls

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Repair or replace an old computer?

Although we do a ton of computer repair in Lawrence, you’d be surprised how often we turn away computers.  Sometimes it’s just not worth repairing!  I hate to talk myself out of work, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

day 115 22.12.2008 live damnit live

After Three Years, Trouble Starts

After doing this for almost 30 years now, I’ve seen the lifespan of computers.  In the early days, computers cost a small fortune but lasted for a decade.  Now, we see them last about three years.  A good analogy is three years on a computer is like a car with 100,000 miles.  Not all cars fail at that point, but many start having troubles.  Part of it depends on usage and brand, but everything has a lifespan.  Some things last longer, some last shorter, but there’s always an average.

What Goes Wrong?

The Hard Drive

The most common part we replace after three years is the hard drive.  That makes sense because it has moving parts.  Parts wear out.  Some drives fail after two years and some after four, but three is the average.

While we have tests to determine if the hard drive is failing, the user is the best early warning system.  In these situations, the computer just randomly locks up and doesn’t respond. In a healthy hard drive, the activity indicator on the drive flashes. On a computer with a failing drive, the light stays lit.  The indicator is sold because it keeps trying to use the hard drive but fails.  You’ll sometimes hear a clicking or grinding noise but not always.

We can’t repair failing hard drives because they are sealed units.  We can replace them though.  Usually it’s about an hour of labor to remove the drive, put in a new one, and then install your operating system.  Reinstalling programs, configuring printers, and transferring your data takes extra time.

The Power:  Batteries, Power Jacks, and Power Supplies

If you have a laptop, eventually your battery fails.  It’s just like any other battery.  You can find cheap laptop batteries under $50, but we don’t recommend them.  We’ve seen too many leaking or exploding batteries in our travels.  Some airlines have proposed banning laptops because of exploding batteries. That’s like the ban of the Samsung Galaxy phone.  A quality replacement battery (we don’t sell them directly), is about $75.

The other part to go out on a laptop is the charging port.  It loosens up over time after being plugged and unplugged so often.  The replacement inside the computer is easy.  The hard part is taking the laptop apart and putting it back together.  It usually takes about an hour and the parts are usually about $25.

When a power surge hits a desktop computer, the power supply goes out.  That’s by design. It acts as a kind of circuit-breaker to prevent damage to other parts of the computer or to stop a fire.  Computer manufacturers don’t make it easy to find power supplies.  Each computer seems to take a slightly different one of these.  We often have to look through dozens of different types.  They range in price from $25 to $75.  To install them we basically have to rebuild the computer.  That takes about an hour.

Fans Stop Blowing

Computers run hot, so to cool them, manufacturers put in fans.  They have fans on the processor, on the video card, in the power supply in the case and a few other places I’m probably forgetting.  Each of those fans collects dust and debris from the environment.  If you smoke or have pets, the damage to the fans multiplies.  When the computer overheats it can shut down, or in rare cases, cause a fire.

We can replace those fans, but again, we need to find the right fan.  You’d think it would be easy to find, but it isn’t.  The other complex problem is figuring out which fan is failing.  We often have to replace multiple fans in a system.  Once one starts making noise, they typically all start doing it.  That makes sense since they all have the same moving parts subject to wear and tear and environmental hazards.

Keyboard, Trackpads and Screens

This problem is unique to laptops.  Eventually the more you type and click, the more things wear out.  Keyboard are usually easier to replace than trackpads.  Both wear out though and we need to disassemble and reassemble your laptop.  Since clicking and typing go hand in hand, pardon the pun, we often see that both need to be replaced at the same time.

Screens also have a limited lifespan. They’re like TV screens so they’ll stop being able to light up after a while.  That’s usually after about seven years, though. Newer laptops aren’t supposed to have these problems, but we’ll see.  We’re seeing fewer screens burning out, but it happens.

Is It Worth Repairing?

Given all these problems after three years, any one replacement might be worth it.  The problem is that actual value of a three-year old laptop is pretty small.  We’ve had clients try to sell working ones at garage sales and they can’t even get $50 for them.  After five years, they can’t even get $10.  If you look on eBay, you’ll find the same story.  If everything is working, you can expect to pay $50 for these systems.

The problem becomes, even if they are working, you can expect all this stuff to start failing. That’s why we never recommend paying for a used laptop without at least a year warranty.  Too much stuff could go wrong.

With new laptops averaging about $500 and all the repairs associated with a three year old laptop, repairs just aren’t usually worth it.  Most repair shops won’t tell you this, but it’s the right thing to let you know about.  It’s also why we have great reviews.  Some people get upset we decline to fix this stuff, but again it’s the right thing to do.  We’re in this for the long haul and will always try to do what is tin the customer’s best interest.  Sure we lose money with this approach, but we gain client loyalty.  That’s the key to long-term success and why we’ve been in business since 2003.

We’ll keep doing computer repair here in Lawrence, but occasionally we’ll tell you it isn’t worth it!

Photo by ardenswayoflife

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Don’t Trust Free Diagnostics Scans (Except Ours on Fridays)

We’ve been offering Free Friday diagnostics at our Lawrence computer repair office. Our motivation for was to prevent our clients from getting taken in by scams.  Recently, a TV news station caught Office Depot using their repair service to scam customers.  These free scams take different forms, but they’re all out to get your money.

shutterstock 98064692

The Bait:  A Free Checkup

Even a new computer can have problems out of the box, so who can resist a free checkup? You want the peace of mind everything is going to work right. You want your computing experience to be problem free.  If you’re having a problem, these programs will identify it and suggest some fixes.  Simple enough.  That’s true not just for shops like Office Depot, but free online scans.  A simple program tells you what’s wrong with your computer and optimizes it.

The Switch:  Something is Wrong/It’s Gonna Cost You

This scam isn’t new to the computer industry.  The car industry has been doing the “we found something wrong” scam for decades. These scams pretend to show you all sorts of problems with your computer.  Since you’re not technical, you have no way of disputing this.  Oh no.  Malware!  Bad drivers!  Foreign IPs!  That’s all going to cost you.  Suddenly that free diagnostics turns out to be expensive.  The technician makes a commission on the sale and offers to sell you a variety of products.

Why Our Free Diagnostics Are Different

Since there are so many scam diagnostics out there, we’re offering this as a service to the community.  Just stop in on Fridays, no appointment necessary.  We’ve invested in some great software for the Mac and PC to help us diagnose problems.  When you stop in, we’ll run the software. Then we’ll give you some suggestions to optimize performance.  We’ll even fix some basic stuff we see at no charge.  We’re not going to upsell you.  For most clients, we’re just getting a baseline so we can help you in the future.  With your permission, we’ll also install some software that allows you to get remote support from us in the future.  That saves you money over our standard office visit or onsite computer repair.

These diagnostics check for basic hardware and software problems . They also give you an early warning system for other hazards.  We’ll make sure your antivirus is working and your backup system is up to date.  If you have a backup system, we’ll check that at no charge.  These diagnostics take about 15 minutes. You’re welcome to leave your computer there for some advanced screening.

We’re Here to Help You

Our technicians are not commission based.  Quite the opposite.  We’re not a retail operation, so we don’t have much to sell.  We don’t sell computers, we don’t stock upgrades, and we don’t have ongoing services to sell you.  We do computer repair in Lawrence as well as Topeka, and Kansas City.

Our goal is to keep you up and running.  If we find something wrong, you’re welcome to have us fix it at our standard rate.  However, some clients are fixing it themselves after getting advice from us.  Sometimes we tell you it just isn’t worth fixing based on the age of the system.  If you read our Google reviews, you’ll see that as a common theme.

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Should You Worry About the Repeal of FCC Privacy Protections?

This past week, lots of clients in Lawrence have asked DoctorDave Computer Repair about the privacy of their internet connection.  They’re asking if they should get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or another  method of protection. Our short answer is “not much has changed”, but we’re always for privacy.

Please

When you cut through the ad-selling media hype (ironic!), these changes are all about ads.  Right now, companies like Facebook and Google give you free stuff.  In exchange for that free stuff, you see ads paid for by advertisers.  That’s their business model.

I’m not ashamed to say we benefit from that model.  We sell ads on both Facebook and Google.  Those companies let us hyper-target our ads.  We’re not advertising computer repair to the world – just Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City.  We can go so far as advertising to older clients, with Macs, who went to KU, and probably voted for a particular candidate.  Anything you search for or click on becomes part of your ad profile. As a business owner, I prefer that model over placing an ad in a newspaper or a billboard that gets seen by people we’re not interested in helping with their computers.

Thus, on that level, it seems weird that Google as a search engine company can sell targeted ads but Google as an Internet Service Provider can’t.  Amazon can suggest products based on your browsing history, but AT&T can’t?  It’s the same browser and same computer.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re huge advocates of privacy.  We’d gladly place a billboard on 23rd street saying “Call us for Lawrence computer repair” to advertise our services instead of targeted ads.  However, that’s not the way the world works right now.  I’d love to see privacy protections put in place and even sharper restrictions against tracking and advertising.  We take the privacy of our client information seriously here.

So back to the question..should you worry?  I’d say you shouldn’t be any more worried today than you were before October of 2016 when these rules were first adopted.  If you’re concerned about your privacy, the first thing to do is to stop giving companies like Facebook and Google information about you.  If you use a VPN to get to Facebook, you’re not doing much more for your privacy.  VPNs can also cause glitches and slow downs in your browsing experience.

privacy

We’ll set up a VPN for you, and we’ve already started doing more of these for clients. We just want you to know it’s not going to advance the ball much further for your privacy.  You’re still being tracked by the websites you go to and the companies you do business with.  For example, switching to DuckDuckGo for searches instead of a Google is a huge step forward for your privacy.  Using a private mail server (election politics aside) keeps third parties like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft from seeing your stuff.  A VPN is part of a comprehensive strategy to create a more private internet experience regardless of FCC or FTC protections.  Instead of spending money with us, consider giving that money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They lobby on behalf of internet privacy daily.

Photos by hykucambodia4kidsorg

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