Dave Larson    763-689-5912

12/12/19 - Plot twist with CenturyLink

On 11/7/19 I wrote about having to change over my phone and internet because my current company (Talk America) is stopping service in January for the state of Minnesota.  I was deciding between CenturyLink and Midco.  In the end I decided to go with CenturyLink for several reasons.

  • The cost was a bit less.

  • I have several CenturyLink modems so I would not have to buy or rent one.

  • CenturyLink comes in on a phone line, so it would hook up easier with my home wiring.

  • I'm more familiar with CenturyLink due to working with hundreds of clients over the years.

So what happened?  Why did I cancel my order with CenturyLink a couple days ago and go with Midco?

Well it all started with a confirmation letter in the mail.  The letter stated my internet speed would only be 1.5 mbps, while I was told twice on the phone weeks before it would be 12-15 mbps.  1.5 is acceptable for light internet use, like email and webpages, BUT I use the internet heavily, including online gaming, testing, and large downloads.  My current download speed with the old company is 7 mbps.  Going down to 1.5 is just not acceptable.  I called CenturyLink and asked the lady twice if this was for sure.  Even though I live in the city of Cambridge, my house apparently just doesn't have access to the wiring needed for a higher speed.  So I had to cancel the order :(   I still think this has to be some kind of mistake however.

After hanging up with CenturyLink I was upset.  I only have 1 month to get my service switched over or I may lose my phone number, and then how would you call me?  After 63 years I've learned one thing, if you are worried about something (and I was), the best thing to do is take immediate action.  So I did and called Midco.  I got a very helpful lady named Becky and placed the order.  They will be out on December 20th at 9am.  The cost is going to be about $111 per month, but there is a discount during the first year.  Also there is a one time installation fee of $50.

I found out Walmart sells a couple of modems that are compatible with Midco, so eventually I'll buy one to have on hand for troubleshooting internet problems.  And with any company there will be internet problems at some point.  On the plus side I'll get close to 100 mbps download (likely around 90), which is more than 10 times faster than I have now.  After this is all done I'll write again and let you know how it all went.  Wish me luck!

11/27/19 - Black Friday laptops

(See the picture below)

Here are some laptops I just saw in the Walmart Black Friday ad.  However the information I'm going to talk about would apply to any laptop at any time at any store.  I like Walmart for computers, and it's certainly the first place I would look if I were buying one.  In fact the last 2 or 3 laptops I've bought have been at Walmart during Black Friday.

  • DVD drive:  Notice none of the laptops mention having a DVD drive.  This might not be a big deal if you don't need one, but if you have older software to install, or want to watch DVD movies, it's nice to have it.  You can always buy an external DVD drive however that connects to a USB port.

  • Operating system:  Only the $299 laptop mentions what operating system it comes with and that's from Google Chrome because it's a "Chromebook".  Might not be a problem if you've used that before or like trying something new, but it's not Windows 10 if you are expecting that.

  • Storage:  This is a key point.  "Storage" means how big the hard drive is for storing files and installing programs.  The first computer at $149 only comes with 64 gb of storage, which is basically a flash drive.  That tells me the computer is only designed for online access and not installing new programs.  On the plus side it does come with Microsoft Office 365 built in so you can access Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  However "365" is a subscription service, which means after the trial period you have to continually pay for it.

  • SSD drive:  Notice the 3rd laptop at $239 comes with a 128 gb solid state hard drive.  Now 128 gb is on the small side, but might be perfectly fine because the average user might only need half that space, depending on what they install.  "SSD" or solid state drive is great because that will make the computer faster and you won't kill the computer by moving it around (be careful anyway).  A computer with the older style mechanical hard drive should never be picked up or moved suddenly while turned on.

  • 1 or 2 hard drives:  The 4th laptop at $399 has the fastest processor of the group and the largest hard drive.  In fact it has two drives, a 128 gb SSD and a much larger 1 tb mechanical drive (the type you don't want to move suddenly).  So what does that mean?  Windows will be stored on the SSD drive and you can use that to install your programs and save your data files as well, but you may run out of space.  The idea of the larger 2nd drive is for room if you have very large program or data files, like lots of music, pictures, and video files.  The computer will generally have a fast boot time and program access because of the SSD drive, and that's why they included it.  I'm not a fan of two hard drives because I think it's inconvenient to manage.  I'd much rather see only the single larger 1 tb drive with everything on it, or better yet one SSD drive about 512 gb in size.  A person could always replace the drives with one larger SSD, or clone the smaller SSD to the 1 tb drive and pull the SSD drive, but that's extra work and expense.

  • So what would I buy ?  If a person only wants internet access and money is a problem, then the cheapest $149 laptop should do the job.  But for me I would want to be able to install programs, so I like the 3rd laptop at $239 the most.  It should work fine for normal computer use and I like the idea of having one SSD drive.  BUT if speed and gaming is very important then the 4th laptop with the two hard drives is the best choice.  If I bought that I would clone the smaller SSD to the 1 tb drive and pull the SSD out.  Or better yet keep shopping for a laptop with a larger SSD drive by itself about 512 gb in size.

  • As always if you have questions, want to talk about this more, or need help setting up a new computer, give me a call at  763-689-5912

11/25/19 - Lost your job ?

Nothing to do with computers, but here's a great video on steps to take if you lost your job.

11/23/19 - Surprise twist for a bad printer

I had a job the other day for a printer that was in trouble.  The model was "HP Deskjet F3632".  I found it would print color just fine, but almost nothing in black, just bits and pieces.  Now my first thought was it needs a new black ink cartridge, but the client assured me they just tried that, and not the refilled ones, but new ink cartridges.  I tried several other things like cleaning the end of the black cartridge, running HP's cleaning routines, checking all the printer settings, and even uninstalling and reinstalling the printer driver.  Nothing worked.

At that point I felt we just needed a new printer.  I did one last check online for possible solutions and someone suggested pulling the bad cartridge and just printing everything off the color.  I tried that and to my surprise it worked.  The printer did complain however, and there was a popup with every print job that had to be closed down, BUT the printer seemed to be working fine with only one cartridge.  You might be asking yourself about now how is this possible?  What about printing in black?  When black ink is needed, the printer just mixes the 3 colors together to simulate it.  I know this trick won't work with every printer, especially if you have four cartridges, but it's worth a try.

And now for a plot twist - I have a couple of printers in my office, and the color printer is an "HP Deskjet 4180" with only two cartridges, similar to the client's printer.  Yesterday I ran out of black ink.  I had a spare cartridge, but just for fun I pulled the empty black cartridge and sure enough my printer works great on just the one color cartridge.  I plan on using that until the color starts to look bad.  If nothing else I'm getting more life out of that color cartridge, when normally I've just been replacing both cartridges when either runs out.   Maybe, just maybe, I might even try just replacing the color cartridge only and leaving out the black permanently.  That way it cuts the cost in half to buy replacements, and I'm guaranteed to get the most use out of each cartridge.

11/23/19 - Fake email from Chase

I just received this email in my spam folder.  It's supposedly from Chase bank wanting me to update my account information.

So is this real?  Should I blindly click on the links inside the email and just hope for the best?  What would you do?

So what makes me think this is fake?

  1. It came in my spam folder, so my AOL email thinks it's fake.

  2. The return email address at the top is "Hartmut.Osswald@t-online.de", does that make any sense?

  3. And here's the big one, I don't have a Chase account!

But what if you got this email and maybe have a Chase account?  Never trust anything you get in an email, regular mail, or see on TV.  The best thing to do is go the company's real webpage, or just call them on the phone using the number on your statement or credit card.

11/14/19  2.4 Ghz vs 5 Ghz

This YouTube video that does a great job of explaining the difference between the two router speeds with their pros and cons.

The 2nd video talks about a new feature called "Tri-band" and "Smart Connect".  These routers have 3 network bands, 2.4 Ghz, 5 Ghz, and another 5 Ghz.  When you choose the network from the WIFI SSID list there is only one choice, not two or three.  Once connected the router takes care of automatically assigning your device to the best speed and balances the load between the 3 networks.

11/17/19 - New Amazon Shopping webpage

I've added a new webpage showing my favorite items I regularly buy on Amazon !

Click here to visit that webpage

Amazon shopping webpage (new design) 2.j

11/14/19  SSD vs Mechanical HDD

I found a YouTube video that does a great job of explaining the difference between the new Solid State Drives and the older mechanical hard disk drives we are used to.

11/14/19 - Cambridge Walmart Black Friday deals online

The Walmart webpage is available online now.  Once on the webpage there is a large black and white arrow on the right side for scrolling.

Click here for the webpage

11/13/19  Modem vs Router

I found a YouTube video that does a great job of explaining exactly what a modem, router, and a switch is.  Might be fun to watch this at Christmas with all the family :)

11/7/19 - Talk America stopping service

(Updated info 11/11/19)

I got this letter today from my phone and internet company saying they are going to stop all service in Minnesota as of this coming January 13th.  I called the company directly using the phone number on my monthly bill to verify that.

So what does this mean for you and me?

It means we have to find a new phone and internet company right away.  Depending on where you live the choices vary.  The two obvious ones are Century Link and Midco.  Both have their pros and cons, but for me I'll go with Midco because their internet service is much faster, even for the cheapest packages.  You should be able to keep your old land line phone number if you still need that.  I've included links for both companies below.

If you live out in the country and you're not sure what your options are, go around to a few neighbors, ask them what they are using, are they happy with it, and what is the cost.

Click here for Century Link

Click here for Midco

Updated information  11/11/19

Even though I said above I'll likely go with Midco for the extra speed, I didn't want to give up on CenturyLink because I'm the most familiar with them and their modems from working with my clients.  Here's the pricing info I found in a call today.  I live in Cambridge, so your rates may differ depending on where you live.

1-866-541-3322

Phone and Internet together would cost me $85 plus sales tax.

Download speed would be 12-15 mbps and upload would be .8 to 1 mbps.

In reality we can expect 90% of whatever a company quotes you.  Those speeds are typical for CenturyLink, and certainly much more than the average person needs.  My current speeds with Talk America are 7 download and .9 upload, and I've been just fine with that.  The person said this was "Price for life", which I think means the rates would never go up.  He also said this includes all the extra fees other than sales tax.  If true that good, because you know how companies love to add those hidden charges.

As far as Midco I haven't called them yet, but I did find some useful information on their webpage.

The cheapest plan for internet and phone that I would consider is $72.90 per month.

The introduction price for the first year is $69.90 per month.

That includes free long distance calls in the US and an internet download speed of 50 mbps, 5 upload.

Both of these companies have pros and cons.  I'll think about it more, but in reality both companies would be just fine for me and an improvement over what I have now.

11/6/19

Fran has trouble with Windows 10

Normally setting up a new computer goes pretty smooth, but it can be difficult if you have older programs and printers.  In this video Fran Blanche tells about her problems in a entertaining way.  She runs a channel on YouTube.

11/4/19 - My email doesn't look right

Over the years I've had a situation happen twice with clients.  In both cases the clients called me saying their Yahoo email didn't look right, in other words their inboxes had emails they did not recognize.  So what could cause this?  The client's were signed into the wrong email account.  For one client it happened at work when someone else got into her office overnight, used her computer to check their email and didn't sign out.  In the other case the client had a second older Yahoo email account and somehow signed into that by mistake.

10/31/19 - Windows class movie

I just finished teaching an advanced Windows class today.  One of the topics was making a movie with the Windows Camera app.  With their permission I've posted the movie here so you can see how much fun they were having :)

Click the play button in the middle.

10/28/19 - The most popular webpages

This is an interesting video that shows the most popular webpages over time from 1996 to 2019.

10/17/19 - Nice letter from a client

This is from a recent job setting up a new computer.  :)

10/10/19 - Buying a new computer

  • All In one - Some new desktop computers are called "All In One".This is not as good as a normal tower because everything is built into the monitor.That means when one part goes it all goes.

 

  • Laptop - Only buy a laptop if you are sure you will be moving it around.A normal desktop is better.

 

  • Laptop hard drives - If buying a laptop make sure it has a real hard drive with 256 gb, 512 gb, or 1 tb.
    If the hard drive or "Storage" size is a smaller number like 16 gb, 32 gb, or 64 gb,
    then you can't install programs and the laptop is only useful for accessing the internet.

 

  • Desktop hard drives - Make sure there is ONLY ONE hard drive (C:) that is 512 gb or more in size.
    Some desktop computers come with two hard drives, one very small (like 128 gb), and one big (like 1 tb).
    The problem is Windows and your programs will be installed on the very small hard drive and you could run out of room.You can move things to the 2nd hard drive, but that's inconvenient and hard to manage.

 

  • Hard drive types - If you have a choice, an "SSD" or "Solid State Drive" will be much faster, but cost more.

 

  • Memory - The amount should be at least 4 gb, but buy more for more speed, like 6, 8, 10, or 12 gb.

 

  • Processor - If the processor speed is listed try to get 2 ghz or higher for more speed, example: 3.6 ghz
    If you see references to "I3", "I5", or "I7" that's good too.
    Example processors:AMD 3.10 GHz,Intel Core i5-6400T

 

  • DVD drive - Most new laptops do not come with a DVD drive, watch for that if you need one.

 

  • Monitor - With a desktop computer you can usually use your old monitor.However some new computers do not have the old style SVGA connection, look for that, otherwise you may have to buy a new monitor.

 

  • Brand - Everyone has their favorite brand.I like HP the best while Lenovo and Acer the least.
    This is because those brands have more junk programs included and the cleanup takes longer.

 

  • Speakers - Speakers will not come with a new desktop computer, but you can use your old ones.

 

  • Printer - Usually you can use your old printer as long as it's no more than 5 years old.

 

  • Microsoft Office - If you buy Microsoft Office be sure to buy a version labeled with a year like
    "Office Home & Student 2016 for PC".Do not buy "Office 365" otherwise you pay for that forever.
    There is a free alternative called Libre Office which can be downloaded from the internet.

 

  • Setup time - setting up a new computer typically takes 5 to 6 hours depending
    on how much you want Dave to do, and how much you want to do yourself.

9/30/19 - Fake email with link to buy

I just received this email in my inbox folder.  It's wanting me to click a link to renew a website domain name for one of my clients.  As you know I make webpages and host them on the internet for people.  This email is not from the hosting company I deal with.  The cost is wrong, the expiration date is wrong, and there is no mention of the hosting company's name.  Also it has bad grammar which is common.  Whenever you receive notifications like this never click the links.  Instead go to the real company's webpage and make your transactions there.  As a rule we should never click links or open attachments in an email.

9/24/19 - Two surprises with my Amazon order

I placed an Amazon order tonight and saw a couple of surprises we all need to watch out for.

 

If you look at the picture to the right you can see the selected purchase choice is a "Subscription" to continually buy the item once a month.  I've never seen this before.  To buy the item only once I had to click on "One-time purchase".

If you look at the picture below these were my options during checkout as far as shipping.  The default choice is going to cost me $8.56.  The first choice in the list says "Free two day shipping", BUT signs me up for an annual fee to join Amazon Prime, which I don't want to continually pay for.  The correct choice is the 2nd one which gives me free shipping in 5-8 days without any surprises.

9/24/19 - Fake email with attachment

I just received this email in my spam folder.  It's from a person I never heard of and contains an attachment entitled "Your Payment".  This is exactly the kind of email we should just delete.  Who knows what will happen to my computer if I open that attachment just because I'm curious.

9/17/19 - What does the word "Default" mean ?

Default is a common computer term that refers to settings in programs and devices like your default printer.  To understand it try changing the word to "Favorite".  Lets say you have 5 pairs of shoes.  But out of those 5 there is one pair you wear the most, unless there's a special occasion. That favorite pair of shoes are your "default shoes", that is to say the pair you wear unless you change your mind.  And that's exactly what the word means with computers, settings, and printers.  If you have two printers, but one is always used unless you change your mind, that's your default printer.  See it's just that easy :)

9/16/19 - Possible cure for joint problems

Earlier this year I started a new diet called "Keto with intermittent fasting".  I'm about half way to my diet goal and once I've gone thru the entire experience I'll put more about it on this webpage.  However, I watched another video today with such important information I had to post this early.  If you have joint problems, arthritis, or are about to get surgery, please watch this.

9/10/19 - Survivor TV show is coming soon

On Wednesday September 25th at 7pm on Channel 4 the next season of Survivor will be starting!

8/23/19 - What to do if you can't print

 

Trouble printing is often easy to fix.  Try these steps in this order.

 

1.  If your printer turned on?  Is it out of paper ?

2.  Try printing if a different program to narrow down the problem.

3.  Power off your printer for 15 seconds, then turn it back on.  (you may have to hold down the button)

4.  Power off your computer for a minute, then turn it back on.  (use your mouse to do this)

5.  If wired to the printer, make sure the cable is pushed in all the way on the back of the printer.

6.  If wireless, power off your modem and router for a minute then turn them back on and wait 3 minutes.

7.  If wireless, try moving your printer closer to the computer.

8.  Are there are warning lights or messages on the printer ?  Are you out of ink ?

9.  Otherwise give Dave a call, we'll set an appointment and figure it out  763-689-5912

8/22/19 - Fun YouTube video about switching to a ChromeBook

 

ChromeBooks are laptops that do not run Windows, but instead are designed to work with the Internet.  Pretty much everything you do is online.  Eventually this is the way we will all work with computers, so ChromeBooks are are a step in that direction.

7/13/19 - Amazon Fulfillment Center Tour

 

My son and I went on a tour at the Amazon distribution center in Shakopee Mn recently.  It's free, but you do have to make reservations in advance.  It was a lot of fun and very informative.  Plus you get to see the robots in action.  It lasts an hour.  If you want to do this for yourself just use the link below.

7/22/19 - Should you upgrade Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10

 

Can you?  Yes,  Should you?  No.  But that does depend on who you ask.   I've upgraded many old computers to Windows 10 for testing, but I would never recommend that for a client especially if their computer is running ok as it is.  Windows 10 will not fix your problems, or make your computer faster.  If you're very lucky you'll break even, but it's more likely you'll have at least one unexpected problem, like a favorite program that no longer works.  If you must have Windows 10, either do it on a computer you don't care about, OR buy a new computer.  Below is link from Microsoft to upgrade to Windows 10 for free if you feel lucky.