Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Friday, 2013: Best Deals on the Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iPads.

From MacRumors, one of my favorite sites  a good listing of some of the best deals for this week:

ScreenFlow, screen recording gem, 30% off.

Another of Macmama's favorites, the powerful and easy to use ScreenFlow, 30% off until Dec 2 with coupon code:


For more information, click Telestream ScreenFlow

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dragon Dictate 3.0 for Mac, Cyber Tuesday Special

Dragon Dictate 3.0. by Nuance, 50% off. This sale may end by 5 PM PT today, but I love and use this daily. As a matter of fact, I'm using it to write this. Look here:

Dragon Dictate, 50% off November 26, 2013

AppleCare or...should you or shouldn't you?

Although I am not a big believer in extended warranties, in the case of my computers and devices, I make an exception. Unfortunately, components break, hard drives fail, and things don’t last the way they used to. But you do have some choices in not only where you buy the extended warranty, but whether or not you buy one from Apple. There are other companies that provide extended warranties and there are some extreme differences in both what they cover, what features are available, the cost of each incident, and the amount of incidents that are allowed. You do have choices, and often, AppleCare is not the best one.

 First let's talk about what AppleCare does and doesn't cover. Any new computer that you buy from Apple comes with a one-year warranty including manufacturer’s defect, Genius Bar and phone support. With this warranty, if you have trouble with your email six months after your purchase, you can call AppleCare and they'll talk you through troubleshooting. If your hard drive goes bad, you can make an appointment with the genius bar or, and I'll explain this later, any Apple certified repair business. Now when you buy something that costs as much as an Apple computer does, you would think that it would remain trouble-free for at least 3 to 5 years. If that was the case, I certainly would be out of business. There are so many components inside that very small case, that hard drive failures, and even more serious ones like logic board failures are not uncommon. And oftentimes these failures happen more than a year after purchase. Do you have to spend $249 to buy AppleCare for that MacBook Air? Absolutely not. You can find the same warranty at other online retailers, like B and H Photo for $176.19. You can also buy AppleCare up to a year after your purchase.

But there is a big difference between the warranty that Apple offers, and the one offered by Square Trade, another warranty company, that gets rave reviews from publications and consumers. For a little more ($299 for laptops up to $1499), Square Trade offers hardware repairs (either by sending in to them,or by going to the Genius Bar or any Apple Certified shop), replacement and accidental damage coverage. Spill some coffee on your Mac? That will void your Apple warranty, but no problem with Square Trade.  You do not get extended phone support, which for many consumers is a deal breaker. You can also check your homeowners insurance, as some are now offering a low deductible on computers.

Another thing that many consumers do not know, is that you can have warranty work done at ANY Apple Certified Repair shop. And I have had many instances of problems missed by the Genius Bar, and beautifully fixed by another repair shop. Apple requires repair business to be reviewed every 90 days to keep their certification, so check Yelp reviews for your local CERTIFIED repair shop.

The same choices apply to warranties for iPhones, iPads, and now iPods. AppleCare Plus, $99, covers manufacturer defects AND customer caused accidental damage, up to 2 incidents for $79 co-pay for each for 2 years from purchase. Square Trade offers for $124 (usually $94, since there are always coupons and sales), the same coverage but up to 4 incidents, for $99 an incident.  All of my equipment is insured through Square Trade.  And when my iPhone 4S was part of a freak accident, the advised me to go into the Apple Store, have it replaced, and send them the receipt. Within about a week I got a check for the cost minus my deductible. Okay, here's what happened. I had my iPhone on the arm of a chair on my deck. I was cutting mats out of my old cat Sarah's fur, and my dog Luca, came out to see what was happening. He stuck his nose in the cat's face, she stuck her claws in his nose,  I jumped up and the iPhone went flying into my rainwater bucket.

By the way, check back here for good deals this week! I will post the best ones that flood into my inbox.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Evil Genius Bar

OK, Mama AIN'T happy.

Bay Street GENIUS BAR? On my bad guy list.

Since I am not certified for hardware, I usually send clients who need hardware repair to ComputerLand in Berkeley. As a matter of fact, that's where I take my machines that are still under warranty. But every once in a while, I test out the local stores' genius bars, as many of my clients live closer to the Apple stores. 

Case in point: My husband brought in his MBP, which was exhibiting dead and pink colored pixels intermittently on startup on July 20. When he brought it in, the genius discouraged him from leaving it, saying it would "take a really long time with no guarantee that we can fix it if we can't duplicate the problem". He showed the technician a picture we took on my husband's iPhone, since a screenshot was not available. The system would freeze with no access the cursor. The tech waved away the iPhone picture and said that he could not accept that.

SInce I was on a service call, my husband called me saying, "They don't want to take it in". When I spoke to the tech, he explained that diagnosis could take 3-5 days, to which I replied, "Yes, I know, run it through some diagnostics". According to the follow up email, we were to be called within the 3-5 days with a status report. This never happened. 

Six days later, we went in to pick it up, as according to the sales person we spoke to when we called, they could find no problem. When we entered the store, we were greeted by a blue shirt, who called for the pickup. I showed my business card, indicated that I would like to speak to a service tech to have him or her explain what steps were taken to diagnose the problem. I wanted to know if they had opened up the machine to check for a loose cable, or tested the GPU, which was what I suspected. The guy (named Felix) then got really snarky when he saw the MacMama logo (note to self: NEVER let the Apple employees know you are an IT girl)and said that no one was available to speak to us. I insisted that I wanted to see the notes, and speak to a tech. 

So a technician named Joe came out, and was incredibly condescending and when I showed him the picture of the compromised start up MBP screen on our iPhone, and explained that I am a certified support pro. He actually laughed and said, "We can't accept that, how do we know this is even from your computer?" I looked at him incredulously and said, "Why are you laughing?" . He said,"I'm not laughing", handed us the Mac and we left. Obviously, by this time I was not laughing either, as I had just been accused by this pisher of trying to pull a fast one. I mean, PUH-LEASE. I'm too friggin' old.

Now here's the topper. I have had 3 instances this month where customers have come back from the genius bar feeling belittled and treated poorly. So I am no longer recommending that my clients bring their Macs in for service to the Bay Street store. I will send them to Computerland in Berkeley, where Gus will take care of them, do an impeccable repair job, and is fully certified by Apple as an authorized repair center.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Best Buy, NOT.

A elderly client called me,

"I went to BEST BUY in Emeryville to buy an iPad mini. I wanted the 3G one, that uses a cellular network for when I travel, but the salesman convinced me to get a Verizon device that allows me to connect to the internet that I can carry with me anywhere called a Verizon Jetpack MiFi. It was only $20. He said that would allow me to but the less expensive iPad and use this little thing to connect to the internet. How is this possible?"

Since this is the 3rd time this month that a senior citizen client has complained about high pressure and misleading sales techniques at our local Best Buy (am I allowed to use their name online?)I just had to speak up. Unfortunately, like more and more customers, this client was the victim of an over zealous salesman, who gets a commission for each Verizon account he sells with this MiFi device, which means “mobile wireless”. This device, the Novitel Verizon Jetpack 5510L, also called a dedicated mobile hotspot, allows you to connect up to 10 devices to a wireless network that attaches to Verizon’s 4G cellular network, the same signal your cellphone uses. The technology is great, but what is happening more and more to unsuspecting seniors, is that the salesman does not explain the fine print of what the true cost will be. For Verizon to sell these devices at $20, they require you to sign up for 2 years at $50 a month or higher, depending on the plan. So instead of spending an extra $129 on the 3G capable iPad, if for example, you signed up for the $50 a month plan, you will end up spending at least $1200, assuming you don’t go over the limit of the plan. 

Now when you buy an iPad that has 3G capability, you will also pay a monthly charge if you use the cellular network, but there is no contract required, and you can use it only when needed, for example, if you are traveling to a place that does not have WiFi. These days, almost all hotels, many airports, and even airplanes have WiFi that is either free, or can be purchased for a day, a week or a month. And in reality, since most of us have WiFi at home, and connecting your iPad to a wireless signal is a free connection, it is rare that you will need to connect to the cellular network. Remember, the cellular network costs money for data downloads on your iPad and even iPhone(email, web pages loaded, photos and videos downloaded), while your wireless network does not. So when you are home, you should connect your iPhone or iPad to your WiFi network as a rule. This is not to say that the device you purchased must be used with a contract. But to be able to sign up for a month-to-month plan, the MiFi device price goes up to around $200.

As I said, this is becoming an all too common story among my customers, a senior citizen goes into a store to buy a digital device, and comes out unknowingly have signed a contract that will cost an exorbitant sum for something he or she does not even need. Remember, WiFi is free, MiFi has strings attached.

What did we do? FIrst, we called Verizon, cancelled the contract, which was at first a bit difficult untilI explained the situation. There is usually a 2 week period where you can cancel if you are not satisfied. When the Verizon representative started her own hard sell, I interrupted her with, "Would you like someone to take advantage of your mother this way?"

I sent her to take the iPad back, told her to speak to the manager, and explain that she was misled and insist on exchanging the iPad for the 3G model (since she felt that she needed that capability). I sent a note with her, with my business card, and told her to tell them, "The MacMama said, 'DON'T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE AND TALK TO YOU'".

Another happy, but watchful ending.

Friday, April 19, 2013

An article in Creative Pro about cloud backups...

With my pal and colleague, Adobe author and artist extraordinaire Sharon Steuer, an article reviewing some of the cloud backup services we saw at iMacWorld this year:

Cloud Backup Solutions

Later on, I rant about the sales practices of Best Buy. Can I use their name?

I'm mad!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mac Security...

Many of my clients ask, "What kind of anti-virus software do you use?". They are inevitably surprised when I say, "I don't use any". This does not mean I don't take precautions to protect myself online, on the road and at home. I back up 3 ways: Time Machine, a cloned back up and with an online back up service.

Here is an excellent article on TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) on the subject by T J Luoma:

Securing Your Mac - A Guide for Reasonable People, Version 1.0

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mail offline problem, continued...

As a follow up to my post about Mail going offline, you can try the following.
Go to System Preferences>Network, select your WiFi in the left column, then click on Advanced in the lower right hand corner. Then highlight each of the wireless networks you have joined, and remove them by selecting the minus sign under the list of network names. Then turn WiFi off. Then go into keychain access and remove all of the keychain entries for each of those networks. Then turn WiFi back on, and rejoin your network from scratch. 

This has worked for me, although the results for this have been mixed among users.

Logitech Alert Commander now available for Mac

Mac users have had ways to use their macs as video surveillance for awhile. Earlier in this blog, I reviewed Orbicle's WITNESS, which turns your Mac's iSight camera into a home alarm system. I have had this installed on my last two systems, and it works really well. But my Logitech Alert outdoor surveillance system required Windows for set up and management. So I installed a Windows partition just to manage my front and rear camera. 

But today, Engadget announced that Logitech has a Mac version of the Alert software. I didn't even finish reading the announcement before I hopped into the App Store and downloaded it. It works like a charm! So now I can leave my Windows partition until I need to update my kid's government FAFSA forms (a whole NOTHER story).