Updated Safety Procedures and Expanded Computer Services

Our goal is always to keep our clients and team safe while delivering the best possible computer service. This week, as more people are out and about, we’ve continued to expand and modify our procedures.

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For those clients needing service at our office location, we’re now offering contactless computer repair. You can watch this video as well as read here how it works:

After contacting us to make an appointment (all services are by appointment only), we’ll have you authorize the work in advance online.  That keeps you from having to sign a form on arrival (no contact!)

When you arrive at your appointment, please stay in your car and wait for our tech to come to the Cider Gallery’s front door.  The tech will hold up a dry-erase board with your name (very high tech!)  Once the two of you make eye contact, please exit your car with your computer.  Our tech will stay behind the glass door.

Next to the front door is a plastic tub marked with “DoctorDave.” Go ahead and place your computer and accessories in the plastic bin.  Then proceed to the bottom of the stairs to the Cider Gallery (or the accessible ramp as applicable).  Once you’ve achieved that 6-foot safety distance (we’ve marked it with a complimentary basket of bottled water), only then will our tech retrieve your computer.

We’ll be wearing masks and single-use gloves and would appreciate you wearing a mask as well.  Once our tech is outside, you’re welcome to ask any questions. We’ll work on your computer and call you when it’s ready to be retrieved. It’s best to wait in your car or nearby.

Upon completion of the work, we’ll send an invoice you can pay with your phone. We’ll also give you a call.  When you get to the Cider Gallery, give us a call. We’ll reverse the pickup process.  Once you make eye contact and leave your car, please wait at the bottom of the stairs.  Our tech will open the glass door and place your computer in the plastic bin.  Once the door is closed, please retrieve your computer.  If you’re paying by check (we can’t take cash), place it in the bin and proceed to the bottom of the steps.

Our tech will then leave the building, continuing to wear a mask and maintain that six-foot distance.  Please feel free to ask any questions at that time.  If you have none, we’ll wave goodbye, and thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Other Computer Repair Service Options

If you can get on the internet, we’ll focus on remote computer repair services. We’ve gotten quite good at it. We’re doing computer checkups, virus and other malware removals, hooking up printers and even setting up a new computer remotely.

For those clients that we must see in person; we’ll continue our strict screening questions as well as adhere to our handwashing, sanitation, and disposable/single-use glove policy.

Of course, if you have any questions or suggestions about our safety procedures, please let us know.  We’re all in this together, and we take our essential responsibility of keeping people safe and connected exceptionally seriously.

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We’re Still Fixing Computers at Your Home or Office!

To fully comply with current the current Douglas County Emergency Order, we’re outlining our functions to the community as well as our action plan to keep people safe from Coronavavirus and Covid-10.

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We’re Essential, But You Already Knew That

First, we already know that DoctorDave provides essential services to keep desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, printers and internet connections up and running for those working and learning from home.

Service from DoctorDave Computer Repair falls under “Essential Activities” as specified in section 1.b.ii “To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, to obtain supplies they need to work from home, or to deliver those services” 

This means clients can visit us and we can visit clients as people who work from home need working technology.  

Further on in section viii the order allows operations by those who support “Internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services)”  

We are specifically listed as essential in Section 1.e.xv “Businesses that supply products and services needed for people to work from home; as well as xvi “Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;”

Section Two of the order requires us to have a plan in place to ensure compliance with Social Distancing, having cleaning products available, having separate hours for vulnerable populations as well as online and remote access.  We’re breaking this up into a few sections.

Full Compliance:

Remote Access 

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While we’ve always been by appointment, this business model is particularly relevant.  We will do an over-the-phone diagnosis before initiating any service call. With our experience we can ask questions to determine if remote support, an office visit, or an onsite visit is necessary.  Whenever possible, we are going to do a remote support visit whereby we control your computer (with your permission and consent) from our offices or homes. We use above-industry-standard levels of security and encryption for that.

Office Visits

At our office at 810 Pennsylvania we’re establishing the following protocols. Remember these services are by appointment only and we do not accept walkins.

On arrival, a client will be greeted at our glass door.  The building is always locked so we’ll be avoiding any direct contact. The door will be pushed open enough to unlatch, but the door will act as a barrier for interaction.  Once the client grabs the handle, we will walk up our stairs. The client will then go to the elevator with their computer.  

Once the elevator reaches the second floor, the client will be instructed to go to our sanitation station.  They’ll leave their devices and sign our intake form. Our technician will wash their hands and put on gloves in the restroom.

That station will have a cloth and spray bottle with 70% isopropyl alcohol.  First the station will be sprayed down. Anything brought in by the client will be wiped down.  As the technician approaches the station, the client will then be instructed to wash their hands as well. The pen used by the client to sign will also be sanitized. 

The technician will then bring the computer into our office.  A chair will be placed six feet from that desk. A HEPA air purifier is placed between the client and the technician. 

After work is complete, the technician will place the computer at the sanitation station and then go to the restroom to remove gloves and wash hands once again.  The client will be instructed to take the computer from the sanitation station and go down the elevator.

Separate Operating Hours

To minimize any cross-contamination, the first appointment of the day will be reserved for vulnerable populations. Since we don’t see more than one client at a time, there is no risk of interacting with others at our office or onsite.

Onsite Appointments

Onsite appointments will be discouraged unless in our professional opinion it is the only way to resolve the client’s issue.  We will remind clients of the stay-at-home order and be reminded of their duty to try other options. Whenever possible, we will encourage remote or office appointments.

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Our technicians will use hand sanitizer in their car.  Upon arrival to a client, we will ask the door to be opened and the client to stand six feet away.  We will then ask for a sink in which to wash our hands. After washing our hands, we’ll place gloves on.  The computer, mouse and keyboard and any area the technician touches will be wiped with a cloth and spray bottle with 70% isopropyl alcohol.  The client will be instructed to stay six feet away at all times. 

Upon completion of the work, the technician will return to a sink to remove the gloves and wash hands.  The client will then open the door for the technician to leave and will keep a distance of at least six feet the entire time.
As we’ve said, we take our duty as an essential service to work, education and recreation very seriously.  Your computer is your connection to all of this and we’re going to keep it up and running while protecting you and ourselves.

Helping You and Preventing Corona Virus

The phrase “we live in unprecedented times” is the way many companies are describing the current crisis and we agree!  That’s why it’s important we tell you what we’re doing and why.

Our Practices:

We’re going to use extra caution to keep you and our team safe before, during and after our service call visits.  Like other necessary professionals who enter into homes, we’re constantly reevaluating this situation and adjusting our procedures and practices as new information comes in.

Remote Support:

If we’ve seen you the past few years, by default we’ve installed software that helps us monitor and protect your computer.  One of those programs is a remote control problem called Instant Housecall. With permission, your authorization, and an appointment, this allows us to fix certain problems remotely without actually coming to your home.

For those who don’t have the software on their computer, it’s easy for us to help you install over the phone.  If you aren’t sure if you have it installed or would like us to install it before you have a problem, please give us a call.

Some services like removing computer viruses, general troubleshooting, and checkups we can do remotely.  However setting up stuff like new computers or internet connections, requires a home visit.

If you are under quarantine or lockdown, we’ll do the very best we can to help you remotely. We understand in these situations how vital computers can be.

Keeping Your Computer Clean:

Apple recently updated its guidelines on how to keep your computer and other electronics clean.  It’s a good guide for any computing device.  Some of the key things to remember are:

  1. Make sure the device is off
  2. Never spray directly on the device, always use a wipe.
  3. Use the minimal amount of liquid necessary.

Overall, be aware of touching the computer and touching your face.  Wash your hands, just like we are, before and after touching the keyboard.  Avoid the temptation to eat at your computer. Yes, we all do that, but touching the keyboard and then touching food isn’t a good idea.

Loaner/Recycled Computers

We have a limited stable of older computers.  We work with Connecting For Good to refurbish and distribute these computers to low-income families in the metro.  Under these circumstances, we can make them available to clients who need to work/learn from home.

All we ask is that you return them in the same physical condition as when they were loaned to you and that we do get them back.  We’ll ask for a $25 deposit on these for that reason.

We’re In This Together

As we all travel less and stay at home more, our computers become our key connection to the outside world.  We’re here for you and we’ll make sure you don’t lose access to this valuable resource.

Posted in Uncategorized by dgreenbaum. No Comments

Mac Viruses aka Malware is On The Rise

While we work on Macs and PCs at DoctorDave Computer Repair, we used to see way more viruses and malware on PCs rather than Macs.  In the past six months, that’s changed.  We see way fewer virus problems on Windows-based PCs and more issues on Macs.

In my experience, there are a few reasons for that.  On the Windows side, few people use computers without some anti-virus and anti-malware protection.  We recommend Malwarebytes (and sell it at a discount to our clients).  As long as you keep your anti-malware program up to date and run regular security updates, you’re unlikely to get a PC virus today.  That’s one thing we always check during our yearly checkups.

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Photo by Michael Geiger on Unsplash

Macs Get Viruses?

On the Mac, there was a time when viruses were nearly unheard of.  Some of the first viruses we saw were on the Apple Macintosh back in the 90s.  Then Apple redesigned its operating system, and we started seeing those Mac versus PC commercials.

As Macs grew in popularity with the general public, they grew in popularity with hackers.  Bad people realized money could be made by infecting computers.  The infections we see on Macs don’t use security holes in the operating system to infect people.  Apple made that very hard.  Instead, they trick people into installing stuff.  When we’re repairing computers, we can see what the client did.  In the downloads folder is some fake update to Quicktime or Flash.  

When I reviewed our Mac clients in Lawrence and Topeka, our early warning system indicated the most common type of malware Macs get were due to fake ads.  That fake ad said the client needed to download something.  That something then infected the computer.

This Mac malware does a few scary things:

  1. Steal passwords:  when you type in a password, the hackers get a copy and can steal your identity or other information.
  2. Redirect search results:  instead of taking you directly to a website, the malware sends you somewhere else and tried to sell you things you don’t want.   
  3. Trick you into calling a number:  the most damaging situation is when a client calls a number that appears to be real.  They willingly give information to a scammer.

Our results match national statistics as explained in this report.  It’s clear that Macs are not only susceptible to malware, but Mac infections are also now on top ten lists of worldwide threats.

What can you do about it?

First, don’t download updates directly.  With Apple’s App Store, Apple does most of the updating on stuff.  When you go to a website, and it asks you to download something, don’t do it.  When in doubt, use our DoctorDave App for the iPhone and send us a picture.  We can tell you if it’s legit.  If you’re a client of ours, our Mac early-warning system will say to us if you’ve accidentally downloaded a virus.  Don’t worry; it doesn’t tell us what you were doing or how you got it:  just your name and what’s wrong with your computer.  Client privacy and security are our top concerns.

Second, since so much malware comes in through ads, it’s vital to install an ad blocker in your browser.  We do that automatically for our wellness clients and often recommend it during service calls.  Ads can infect any browser.  Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari browser are both very susceptible as well as Firefox and even Opera.  

Finally, we’re recommending Malwarebytes to our Mac clients. In particular to clients that have had infections in the past.  The $40 a year (our clients get a $5 discount) is well worth the peace of mind knowing you’re protected against hackers and identity thieves.

Apple Expanding Repair Options for iPhones

I recently wrote about Best Buy doing warranty repairs on Apple products. Apple continues to expand repair options to allow any approved company to do out-of-warranty repairs on iPhones. While I applaud Apple’s efforts to empower people to fix their own devices, I have significant concerns.

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Apple Won’t Sell Directly to Individuals.

To get approved to buy official Apple parts, the applicant must be part of a company. Individuals cannot apply, and everyone has to pass a test.

It’s your computer though, you and others should have the rights to buy parts for it. Apple has been fighting Right to Repair in various states. Their argument is that tools, in the wrong hands, can be dangerous. You could pierce the battery and cause the iPhone to explode. Of course, the risk is reduced if you can buy genuine parts and read service manuals.

Apple Sets the Price

In a free market, you’re able to buy goods at various price points. With Apple’s controlled system, everyone buys items at the same price. Unless the program changes, no matter how much you buy, you’re paying the same price. Moreover, you’re not allowed to sell it to individuals to do their own repairs.

The price Apple will charge for those parts is roughly the same prices it charges individuals to do in-shop repairs. In other words, Apple is competing with independent repair shops to do the same type of repairs. They are setting pricing high enough on the parts so they can guarantee they are the cheapest in town. That’s just unfair.

Apple Restricts Independence of Independent Shops

When I first started full time with DoctorDave Computer Repair in 2003, I looked into becoming an official Apple Authorized Service Provider. The reason I didn’t was simple: I’d be working for Apple. Instead of doing what was in my client’s best interest, I’d have to do what my client wanted to keep my certification. That’s not right. Apple would restrict what products and services I could offer customers. That’s a big no-no in my book.

We’re Applying Anyway

In spite of all this, I’m still going to apply to have DoctorDave do iPhone repairs. It’s free, after all. I want to support this small step by Apple to empower people to repair their own devices.

I think of it as the first iPhone. You have to start somewhere!

Review of Billion Dollar Bully AKA Don’t Trust Yelp

As a consumer, I love Yelp to help me find new places to eat and shop.  Reviews are essential to help consumers buy stuff.  As with “fake news,” you always need to consider the source and bias.  When I’m reading a review, I think that some of the reviews could be people with an ax to grind, or people downright paid for the review.  

Back in 2013, I wrote, “Why Yelp is bad for small business.”  I stand behind everything I said then and believe it stronger than ever.  I’ll explain later, but the reason I’m revisiting the issue is a documentary came out last month called “Billion Dollar Bully.

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Billion Dollar Bully:  Overview

This documentary was years in the making, partially due to funding.  They had a crowdsourced campaign.  I contributed to the campaign but did so anonymously out of fear.  At the end of the movie, the producers listed all the supporters and explained that many contributed anonymously out of fear.

If you’re looking for a seat-of-the-pants thriller, this isn’t the movie for you.  The target here is small business owners, but as a consumer, you might want to watch it as well.  It’s truly a David and Goliath story.  That’s where the name comes from.  This publicly traded multinational behemoth is harming locally owned and operating businesses.  Most of the complaints in the movie are things I’ve brought up in the past. Other allegations in the movie I don’t think are fair.

Unfair Complaint: Yelp Harasses Business Owners

I’d love to live in a world where people only contact you when you need a product or service.  If you’re not interested, the salesperson moves onto another prospect and never calls you again.  I’d also like to win the lottery.  

My father was in sales. I understand the importance of cold calling and commission.  ABC:  always be closing.  Sure, salespeople at Yelp, just like every company, don’t take no for an answer.  As a business owner, I got hounded by the Yellow Pages.  I eventually had to block their numbers on my mobile phone and go into my server and block them from sending me emails.

For those business owners who then signed up because Yelp wouldn’t stop harassing them, I have little sympathy.  If it weren’t Yelp, it would have been someone else.  My bet:  yellow pages.  Are they even still around?  

Unfair Complaint:  Businesses Or Locations Should Be Able to Opt Out

If you’re a business and serve the public, there is no expectation of privacy from search engines.  Unlike in Europe, people in the United States don’t have a right to be forgotten.  This directory includes not just businesses, but any location that might deal with customers.  Billion Dollar Bully points out that national monuments and museums get reviews.  That might seem weird at first glance, but if you’re planning a vacation, it’s useful information.  As a traveler, I’d be more likely to check Trip Advisor for something like that.  

Requiring a business to opt-in to Yelp’s Terms of Service to respond to a review doesn’t seem too difficult either.  I can’t walk into a baseball game without agreeing to the terms of the ticket on the back.  You don’t have to respond to Yelp reviews.  While it’s important to do so, Yelp isn’t the only game in town.  Google and Trip Advisor have nearly identical rules.

Fair Complaint:  Yelp Salespeople Oversell The Ability to Manipulate Reviews

One of the most common complaints about Yelp is that they manipulate which reviews are shown and which are hidden based on whether you do business with them.  I don’t believe that.  I think that’s a conspiracy theory.  This complaint is due to a logical fallacy of correlation indicates causation.  Someone gets a call from a Yelp rep, and positive reviews disappear when the small business says no.  When someone advertises and sees their positive reviews increase and negative reviews decrease, they assume it’s because of the ads.

In reality, I think most of those situations are random luck.  If I wear my special socks during a KU basketball game and they win, it must have been my socks.  Not quite.  I bet though I could find a dozen people who were a particular type of sock and KU wins a basketball game, so I could claim the socks are magical.  Considering how many businesses advertise on Yelp along with how many salespeople Yelp employees, if it truly were happening, it would be more widespread?  Why don’t we have hard data indicating the relationship between ad sales and reviews?  Even the FTC complaints lack the hard numbers.

Fair Complaint: Commissioned Sales People Lie and Conspire to Make A Sale

I’ve dealt with not just Yelp salespeople, but other companies that offer review services.  These salespeople all claim that by advertising, you’ll increase positive reviews and decrease negative reviews.  Taken at face value that’s true.  The more you advertise, the more likely people are to leave reviews.  Those reviews will be favorable if you’re doing a good job.  The negative reviews then appear to be outliers.  Someone leaving a negative review is less likely to do so if they see an overwhelming number of positive reviews.  They’re likely to chalk up one bad experience to an anomaly rather than a pattern.  

Since these Yelp salespeople don’t get paid unless they make a sale, they have an incentive to lie.  They’ll use that conspiracy theory to their advantage.  If they make the sale based on a lie, that’s not their problem.  You’ll have to prove it.  Now in the movie, they have some excellent examples of Yelp employees that were recorded and lost their job based on a lie.

Fair Complaint: Reviews Can Be Manipulated With the Right Incentives

In that movie, business owners gave examples of people posting negative reviews.  This attack might be from a disgruntled employee or Yelp salesperson.  Every review system faces that problem.  People have a bias.  A Yelp salesperson can’t click a button and make a bunch of reviews appear on your business page.

That’s not true.  Salespeople do have that control, albeit indirectly.

Anyone can leave a review on Yelp.  All you need is an email address or a Facebook account.  In case you didn’t know, anyone can have multiple email accounts.  Some people (gasp!) lie on the internet about who they are.

Could a Yelp salesperson have a dozen Yelp accounts and leave reviews in order to get a sale?  Absolutely?  Could they pay a “review farm” offshore to do this?  Absolutely?  Would it be worth their time or money to make the sale and put food on their table?  Absolutely?

Not Covered: Algorithms Lie and Can Be Manipulated

Since I wrote the article in 2013, algorithms became big news.  We saw Russia manipulate our election in 2016.  They did this by gaming social media.  They knew how to place the right words out there to get people to act.  Hate speech continues to be a problem on YouTube, and Amazon reviews are always gamed.

Yelp won’t publish or comment on the details about their algorithm, just that it’s continuously updated.  Just like search engine optimization, algorithms can be gamed to provide unfair advantages if you know the rules.

I’m entirely convinced commissions based Yelp salespeople often have inside tracks on the algorithms.  Amazon employees have been caught selling secrets of their system, and I’m sure Yelp employees do the same.  

Again, I don’t believe every salesperson at Yelp has magic on and off switch for reviews.  They can, with the right skills and financial incentives, game the algorithm to make it appear they have control to get the sale.

As a small business owner, it’s the same outcome.  If you don’t advertise with Yelp, your reviews are no longer organic.  You’ve been bullied into making the sale.

Scandalous Advertising Practices by Yelp

The movie explains how Yelp’s ad system shouldn’t be trusted. The ads they place don’t bring in business.  Unlike Facebook or Google, you have no control regarding the keywords or audience Yelp ads appear in.  Yelp will place ads to meet a quota, rather than give you qualified referrals.

Thank you Billion Dollar Bully for pointing that out.  Since I’ve never advertised willingly with Yelp, I didn’t know this.  After watching the movie, I started paying attention.

Within a few minutes of searching, I saw exactly what they were talking about.  I opened Yelp in a “private” session in my browser on Lawrence Kansas.  That means that Yelp only knew where I was but nothing else.  They couldn’t look at my search history or anything about me.

After searching computer repair Lawrence Kansas this ad for home repair came up.  I felt terrible for the company that paid for that ad to appear.  That has nothing to do with repair, and their money was utterly wasted.  

Yelp Charged Me For Advertising Without My Consent and Tried to Ruin my Credit

When I started doing service calls in Kansas City, I made a Yelp listing for it.  I know that’s important for SEO value as well as showing up on Apple Maps.  Of course, Yelp salespeople contacted me.  Of course, they were aggressive and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  That didn’t bother me.  I just ignored them and blocked the call.

About a month after that, I got a bill for a few hundred dollars for Yelp advertising.  What was interesting was not only did I not advertise with them, I didn’t get any calls claiming they were from Yelp.  In fact, I got no calls on the Kansas City number.  I created the number shortly before putting it on Yelp and Google, so that didn’t surprise me.  

According to Yelp collections, I signed up for an ad.  After less than a month or advertising, I racked up a bill for over $500. New accounts had a coupon for $400, so I was only required to pay the difference.  The problem was “my” credit card rejected the charge.

After much back and forth, I found out it was a prepaid card that had no value.  You see you need to have a card on file to start running ads, but they don’t verify if the card is in your name or do a hold as a hotel or gas station would.  

Yelp collections claimed that I somehow knew this and essentially stole ads from the company.  They showed me someone logged into my account and agreed to the terms and conditions of advertising.  To save my credit, I decided to pay.

While I’ll never know what happened, it seems obvious to me an overzealous salesperson logged into my account and set up advertising.  Yelp employees do have access to your account as Billion Dollar Bully pointed out.  

The kicker:  I didn’t get a single call from a month of authorized advertising. Seeing how targeting is done (or done wrong), I’m not surprised.

Yelp Elite:  The People That Break “Real Reviews by Real People”

Billion Dollar Bully makes fun of the Yelp Elite.  I’ve gone to Yelp Elite parties.  They’re fun, and Kansas City has had a great series of community managers.  They’re not the snobbish people that South Park portrays.  

The only power they have is the ability to change the way their reviews appear.  The algorithm always allows their reviews through.  That means if they’re an ex-employee of a business, the review isn’t automatically censored.  If they were dating the bartender and got stood up for a date, they can leave a negative review and not have it filtered out.  

Yelp Elites are like Neo in the Matrix.  They have the power to transcend the construct.  They are immune to how Yelp prevents fraud.  But you know what, they’re human.  They can be bribed to leave a good or bad review.  They allow emotion sometimes to overcome logic.  Billion Dollar Bully pointed out that a small group of Elite’s violate the rules to enrich themselves.

Not Covered: Yelp Engages in Discrimination and Stereotyping

Since I wrote my article, the rules about Yelp Elite haven’t changed.  They can’t be affiliated with any business or even be married to someone affiliated with a business. Billion Dollar Bully didn’t cover this fact, and that’s a shame.  I think it’s the biggest flaw at Yelp.

Because Yelp Elites can’t be involved or married to anyone that manages any aspect of any business, they are of a very specific demographic.  They’re unlikely to be older because as you move along in your career, you often become a manager or are married to one.  That’s blatant age discrimination.

Yelp Elite will skew as young people who are early in their careers.  It also focuses on people that have been traditionally left out of management.

Not Covered: Yelp  Breaks Wisdom of Crowds, Unlike Google Or Amazon

Billion Dollar Bully missed this concept entirely, but it’s too dull for a movie, so I understand why they left it out.

The “Wisdom of Crowds” relies on the concept that a group of average people will predict something better than a group of experts.  On the surface of it, Yelp seems to do that.  Because Yelp has so many reviews, the aggregate reviews should be accurate, but it isn’t.

Even Yelp’s video admits it tries only to show reviews done by experts.  If you aren’t an expert in that category, your review doesn’t show.  That breaks the whole concept of the wisdom of crowds.  Yelp’s system throws out reviews of non-experts and makes Elites experts in all areas.  If I know Thai food really well, I can become a Yelp elite.  That knowledge doesn’t make me an expert on dog-walking or chiropractors.  

If Yelp thinks a businesses has been somehow manipulating reviews, they put a warning on the business.  However, the algorithm is always manipulating which reviews are seen.  In the wisdom of crowds, these manipulated reviews wouldn’t matter.  Since Yelp breaks algorithm breaks that rule, it makes it more likely to incorrectly slap a fraud warning on a business.  It violated Wisdom of Crowds again.

The Solution:  Community Policing By Yelp Elites and Members

Billion Dollar Bully focused on the negative aspects of Yelp but offered little solution moving forward.  As a consumer, I like Yelp.  I love reading about people’s experiences.  Unlike the average consumer, I know the “not recommended” reviews exist, so I read them.

Although Yelp is a big company, Google is bigger.  Google was based on “wisdom of crowds” since every click you make is a vote as to the proper search result.  I think it’s adorable Yelp thinks it wrote an AI that can filter reviews better than Google.   If small businesses want to fight Yelp, they should sue not based on review manipulation, but false advertising.  These aren’t real reviews by real people.  An algorithm blocks reviews by certain real people.  “Reviews manipulated by a secret AI” doesn’t sound right.  Skynet isn’t good at finding great coffee.

Instead, why not allow “the crowd” to determine what’s real or not?   Currently, reviews can be flagged by Yelp members, just like on Amazon on Google.  Someone at Yelp decides if that review should appear.  I’ve flagged reviews before as a member.  

Instead of having Yelp’s algorithm hide reviews, these reviews should be approved by Yelp Elite members by a vote.  That’s how Google handles changes.  When a member of Google’s community flags something, majority rules on votes.  For Yelp, the algorithm could alert the local Yelp Elite community of a potential problem.  They can then vote to approve or hide the review.  This situation, of course, means Yelp Elite’s have to do a little more work to earn all the praise they get.  Changing the rules has the added bonus of forcing Elite’s to think about the impact they have on business after a review.  They may not be business managers (or related to one) but having to think about how a flagged review impacts a business could make them more responsible.

Watch Billion Dollar Bully if You Own a Business or Use Yelp

The movie should be required watching for any business thinking of advertising with Yelp.  You need to know what you are getting into.  I didn’t agree with the details of the movie but agree with the overall premise that Yelp is terrible for small business.

As a consumer, it will force you to think about the lives you impact when you write a review.  If you leave a review for a big franchise, you’re unlikely to make a difference.  For a small and local business, your words can elevate or destroy.  Choose wisely.

New Place to Get iMacs and MacBooks Repaired

Recently Apple has authorized Best Buy nationwide to do warranty work for Apple computers.  Overall I think it is great to have more warranty options to do repairs, but as someone who does computer repair on Apple computers, I have some opinions about it!

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Apple Retail Stores Want You to Buy New Rather Than Fix

Apple has been accused more than once of pushing new purchases over repairs and our client stories are consistent.  The retail stores are a disaster lately and suffer from substantial turnover, even at the top.  You’ll rarely get the same person and get a consistent answer.  It takes days to get an appointment, and Apple employees are accidentally deleting customer data too often.

Sometimes at the store, you’ll get pushed to purchase a new product even if yours is less than a year old.  As soon as they introduce a new product, they’re pushing you away from the old one.  

This upselling isn’t just an Apple thing, but tends to be everywhere inretail.  Places want to sell you stuff, that’s the definition of retail, right? Office Depot was caught using deceptive sales tactics to sell people things they don’t need.  They were fined $25 million for that violation.  Office Depot is a well-known brand, and they violated consumer trust by doing this.

They Can Outright Refuse to Help

Apple Geniuses are bound by Apple rules and will follow the “company line” regarding support.  On distressing example is someone who accidentally lost pictures from their iPhone.  Apple refused to help!  That’s wrong.  However, they’re Apple; they don’t have to earn your business. They’re more focused on selling rather than support.

They Don’t Know How You Use the Product

 One unique quality of using a small, independent computer repair company is we’ll take the time to understand how you use the computer.  Individualized services yield individualized results.  Apple frankly gets repairs wrong sometimes.  Recently they replaced a customer’s MacBook Pro three times because they misdiagnosed a problem of a screensaver!   The replacement didn’t cost Apple anything since they make the computer.  The customer didn’t pay because it was under warranty, but what about his time and lost productivity?  As a small business owner, I understand downtime is money lost.  Retail employees don’t always think that way.

Pick Someone Focused on Service, Not Sales

We’re not out to sell you stuff, only to fix the stuff you have. If we tell you it is time to replace it rather than repairing it, we’re talking ourselves out of work.  Sure it’s a loss of a short-term profit, but we’re in this business for the long haul.  If it’s under warranty, we’re going to refer you to someplace like Best Buy since Apple will cover the repair.  If it’s out of warranty, we’re going to help you ourselves.

Small, Local, Independent Business

I’m a big believer in support of local business.  Larger retailers don’t have to earn your business, we do.  We live and work in your communities.  If you’re in Lawrence, obviously I hope you’d pick us for computer repair, but if not, please support a local business.  Thanks for all your support over the years and let us fix your Apple computers (as well as PCs)

Tax Free Weekend 2019 Discount

If you’re looking to buy a new computer this year, August 2nd, 2019 through August 4th, 2019 is the time to do it.   That’s the Missouri Tax-Free Weekend.  If you go to a retailer in Kansas City Missouri, you’ll be able to buy computers, computer software, and peripherals (things like hard drives, printers, and scanners) and the retailer won’t charge you sales tax.  

Sales Tax HOliday

If you live in Missouri, you’re golden.  If you live in Kansas, the retailer won’t charge you, but it’s possible you’ll be required to pay at tax time.  That’s between you and your tax advisor!

Tax-free weekends help cut the sting of back-to-school, but anyone can take advantage of it, even if you’re a home user or a business owner.  And if you’re a client of ours, read on to see how we’re participating.

How to Take Advantage of Tax-Free Weekend 2019

The Apple retail store on the Plaza participates.  It gets hectic there, so you might go a few days before and pick out your Mac.  Typically they’ll process your transaction ahead of time and not charge.

Another great place to buy a computer on Missouri Tax-Free Weekend is Costco in Kansas City.  They have a great selection and offer automatic extended warranty and concierge services.

Generally, we don’t recommend big-box retailers like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Wal-Mart because they don’t always have stock of the right computer for you.  They’ll sell you what they have on the shelf rather than what you possibly need.  Places like Costco and the Apple retail store won’t do that.

Our Tax-Free Weekend Discount:  Two Hours of Service

It’s fun, so I figured we should join in!  If you’re getting a new computer, you probably need help setting it up.  This type of work is one of our specialties.  We can set up the new computer for your internet connection, set up printers, and most importantly transfer your stuff.  We’ll make sure your important pictures, documents, spreadsheets, financial stuff like Quicken and Quickbooks, and even your bookmarks, addresses, and email.  Setting up a new computer is fun!

For new or existing clients, we’re offering a special.  We’re offering two hours of on-site service tax-free.  For $200 you’ll get two hours of service and two on-site visits, tax-free.  Most new computer setups take an hour, so that price covers a setup along with your annual checkup a year later.

You don’t even have to use it this weekend either.  It’s a gift card that doesn’t expire for two years, so that’s got you covered at least for your annual checkup!  You can use it in 15-minute increments for our remote support, half-hour increments for office visits, or on-site visits.  

Don’t worry; we’ll still remit the taxes to the state on your behalf.  It’s just a fun way of offering a little discount for back to school.

We’re only offering it that weekend via this link.  If you’d prefer not to give your credit card online, just send us an email to let us know you want to take advantage of the offer, and we’ll honor the discount!

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Updated: The Best Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Lawrence Kansas

One of the most popular blog posts I’ve written is “Who is the Best Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Lawrence, KS?”.  That post is seven years old, so I thought I’d revisit it.  Not much has changed.

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The market in Lawrence, like most of the country, is a duopoly.  We have internet service through a cable company and a phone company.

Primary Options:  Midco, AT&T, Wicked

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The two main players in town are Midco (formerly Wow, Knology, and Sunflower) along with AT&T.  Wicked Broadband (formerly Lawrence Freenet) is another player in this market.

Since I wrote that in 2012, the most significant change besides the names is the speeds; both AT&T and Midco can provide Gigabit Internet (like what Google offers in Kansas City).  This option isn’t available everywhere in town though, you’ll have to contact the providers to see if service is available where you are.

Midco versus AT&T Uverse

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Midco continues to have the highest amount of coverage in town.  It works pretty much everywhere.  AT&T and Wicked are distance-dependent.  Wicked’s primary business is large installations like fraternity houses, apartment complexes, and businesses.  It’s always a good idea to see if you can get service from them as a third option.

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Midco no longer has local support.  It’s based in the US though and is usually excellent.  AT&T outsources support overseas.  Our clients continue to have problems with inadequate support from AT&T.

I’ve switched to Midco at home primarily due to pricing and speed.  Midco was able to give me faster speeds at a lower price.

New Option:  Cellular Service

Back in 2012, we were on 3G/4g networks.  Now, most of Lawrence has LTE service on mobile networks from the big players like AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.  Depending on your phone and location you can get up to 125 down and 25 up.  That’s faster than the base services of both Midco and AT&T Uverse.  You’ll hit data caps though of between 10 and 50 depending on how much you’re willing to pay.  My office now uses a tethered phone for occasional internet needs.

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All providers give you the option of “tethering” your phone to use it for an internet connection.  Your computer connects to your phone, and your phone connects to the Internet.  All wireless phone providers sell “hotspots” aka “MiFi’s” that acts as a mini-ISP in your pocket.  They don’t do phone calls but share a cellular connection among devices.

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As people “cut-the-cord” and get rid of home phone and TV, these hotspots sometimes make more sense.  The costs are comparable to prices charged by Midco and AT&T but give you the added advantage of taking your internet connection wherever you go.

In particular, I like these options for single people.  Your internet connection follows you.  If you aren’t home, you aren’t paying for service.  Cellular is also an excellent option for someone who needs the internet to occasionally work from home or a coffee shop.

Cellular isn’t suitable when you have a bunch of people trying to share the internet.  You’ll eat through your data plan quickly.  These devices don’t have much range.  For example, you can’t use them in more than one room in the house.

Recommendation:  Midco

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Due to Midco’s coverage, speed, and reliability, they’re our recommendation as the best ISP in Lawrence, KS.  It’s worth checking with Wicked to see if they can provide you service.  If you don’t do much on the internet, check with your wireless company to see about getting service through your phone or another device.

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Posted in Tips by dgreenbaum. No Comments

Virtual 360 View of Our Office in Lawrence

Have you ever seen those virtual 360 tours online?  We’ve got one now of our office in Lawrence!

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It’s live on Google Maps.  If you’d like to see a full view of our office explaining all the cool stuff in it, check out this link.  Inside you’ll see lots of Doctor Who stuff along with other interests Dave has.  If you’d like a detailed view of the office, not hosted on Google, this link explains all the stuff in the office.

At 4105 West 6th Street is a small office we use to meet with our clients. It’s small for a few reasons. Since we do most of our work onsite, we don’t need a big space.  We pass those savings along to our clients.  We also don’t have any retail sales.  We focused solely on computer repair.  We don’t sell computers; we don’t repair mobile phones.  We do one thing and do it really well:  computer repair.

You can also see in that office we don’t have storage space for computers waiting to be repaired.  That’s by design.  Sure, we might need to monitor a system overnight or do an extensive data transfer from an old computer to a new one.  For the most part, though, we work on your computer right then and there.  You walk in with a computer needing to be repaired, and you walk out with it fixed — no sitting on a “rack” for days or weeks at a time.  We don’t have the room!  It forces us to be efficient and not waste your time.

All service, unless specified otherwise, is by appointment only. We just don’t have the room to see more than one person at a time or store their computer after all.

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Posted in Fun by dgreenbaum. No Comments
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