Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black Friday -- Buyer Beware!

I want to give you some tips for Black Friday. A day where low prices trump quality. On Saturday, I went to a home to fix an Element TV purchased on Black Friday - 2012. This reminded me of several other issues I have with Black Friday.

Several years ago, in an effort to boost sales of Windows Vista, Staples had a $250 laptop. It ran terrible with only 1GB of RAM in it for Windows Vista. Good news for me, I did a ton of memory upgrades.

Target had a "deal" on Polaroid TVs. They were stacked on pallets. I watched the news as early morning shoppers fought over these TV as they hit the ground. When they broke, they had one unit inside to fix, BUT the warehouse got all of the parts messed up. I went to one business 3 times where the wrong part was there every time. I watched has he ripped the TV from the wall and threw it into the dumpster out in back of his bar. Yup, another Black Friday deal.

Samsung sold TVs that required the tech to re-solder capacitors to the TV. Unacceptable. I refused to do those.

Be aware that some models are "experiments" and really just not ready for prime time. Several years ago they had a TV that wasn't really ready to be released and it only came with a 90 day warranty. You guessed it....on day 91, that's when the problems started.

Last year, HyVee sold Toshiba TVs. They gave them away or sold them through a payroll deduction to their employees. I fixed a lot of those in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Another Black Friday episode.

SO, what do you do????

1. Get the TV home and open it up and use it. Be sure you are clear on the return policy as most are 30 days. NOW, the last several years, Black Friday was on the 26th or 27th...... Christmas Eve/Day is the 24th and 25th. This would be MORE than 30 days. There's nothing more disappointing than a present that doesn't work on Christmas morning AND you can't return it because the 30 days has elapsed.

2. Find out how long the warranty is and buy more. If you pay by credit card, your card company MAY have an extended warranty provision. Get it.

3. Register your TV online right away as they all have websites.

4. IF you have problems, call in right away and get it logged and find out when the the repair will happen. If this is your 2nd or 3rd repair, CALMLY tell them you have had enough and want a new TV.

5. SAVE THE BOX!!! If a TV will be replaced, a common loophole is "oh, we can't do anything if you don't have the box."

6. Be nice to the guy (me) who comes to do the warranty repair. It's not their fault it broke, they didn't build the TV, they didn't call in the issue, so if the wrong parts are sent, it's not their fault. Please take the TV off of the wall if you want it fixed. TV warranty repair people cannot take the TV off of any wall if it is above 5 feet. Also, have a comforter on a table, so the TV can be fixed on a flat padded surface. The repair should take no longer than an hour. If it's longer than an hour, be prepared to have chocolate chip cookies on hand. (Ha, just kidding!)

The choice is yours, but don't just be tempted by price alone.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The "Microsoft" Hoax (With Video)

I've been doing computer repair work for the better of 17 years as The Computer Guy and nothing upsets me more than people who write viruses and do malicious things to unsuspecting people.  Viruses went from being able to just open another person's CD Rom drive from a remote computer to scaring people and demanding ransom money.  This latest hoax, telemarketing to people (mostly older folks) telling them that their computer is messed up is beyond low.
Here's how it starts out.  The phone rings with a blocked or spoofed number and a person with a very thick foreign accent proclaims to be from Microsoft or Windows or some other outfit and they tell you that your computer is spewing viruses all over the Internet and they need to "check it out" as this is the only way it can be fixed.
I have seen what they have done from other techs who have done screenshots of the actions they take.  They use some "program" that shows bogus errors on your screen to convince you that they need to fix your computer AND charge you around $199 to do so.  They will take this payment as a DEBIT, so you have no recourse to get your money back.
As luck would have it, they called me.  This is the 3rd time they have and I happened to have my FlipCam in the car and decided to capture the conversation on that.  Naturally, play dumb to get them to give me more info, but after a while I bust them out and get hung up on.  The last time, I did this, they lost their foreign accent and really gave me every four-letter word they knew.
Click below to watch what I did -- all from my vehicle.

Enjoy the video!  Remember, don't trust the phone scammers.  I have the same remote tools as they do and I can FIX your issues, not create more of them.
For more tips, tricks and advice -- please become a FAN on Facebook.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Email Nightmare -- A Guest Post

The following is a guest post by a friend of The Computer Guy, Pastor David Boogerd.  He tells of his issues with his hijacked email accounts.  This has been common lately and he tells how he fought back and WON!  Thank you for sharing your story with my blog readers!
Recently my Google email account (gmailiPad.  The hacker also had changed my settings to forward any incoming email to an account that was a duplicate of my @gmail.com account, but was a @live.com account.  Because I received several phone calls within minutes of the changes taking effect I had the forwarding turned off within 30 minutes of it taking effect.  To check on that, go to settings and choose “forwarding”. 
Getting my contacts and email back took a little longer, but only because it took longer to find the steps I had to take.  It turns out that Google makes it easy to restore your contacts.  On the Contacts page, choose “More” and then choose “Restore Contacts.”  This can be handy if you do something like messing up your contacts when merging or importing another contact file, but it works great when all your contacts have been deleted.  The “Restore Contacts” setting will restore your contacts to any time in the last 30 days.  In moments all your contacts will be restored.  Directions can be found here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/1069522?hl=en&ref_topic=1689180
Restoring the email took longer.  If you do a google search for “restoring email after it’s deleted” you will find a number of places which will tell you that once your email is deleted from the trash folder, you are out of luck.  However, mixed in with all of these I found a more hopeful page.  https://support.google.com/mail/answer/78353?hl=en  This page explains the steps to take.  First, it will explain how to secure your account, then how to make sure your email is actually gone.  It might just have all been sent to the “Trash” folder, which you can easily rectify.  If everything is actually gone, the page contains a link to “file a report.”  (It’s at the end of the second paragraph.)  Within an hour of filing the report my emails were all back.
Hopefully you will never have to go through this, but if you do, there are helpful steps to take.  To keep it from happening, if you use gmail,com, and have not already done so, activate the “two-stop verification” process they offer.  It complicates things a little more (which is why I didn’t do it before), but if anyone tries to access your account from a computer Google does not recognize (or from any computer if that is how you set it) you will be asked for a verification code, which is sent as a text or voice message to a phone number your designate.  Without that access code, your account cannot be accessed.
Again, thanks to David for sharing his story -- hopefully, it won't happen to you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The 2013 Commencemen Address I Never Gave

I've never been asked to give a commencement speech and quite frankly, I live too close to my former school district to ever be considered to give one.  I learned a long time ago, the farther you move away from Hampton, the more of an expert you are.  Nevertheless, I have come up with my 2013 Commence Address.
Graduates, students, parents, faculty and guests.  I am honored to be here today to speak to the class of 2013.  While you may wonder what someone who lives in Hampton is doing giving the address today, rest assured while I haven't traveled to a far away land, I still understand common sense and can relate to people who have watched you grow up in our fine community.
First off, I want to point out how special you are.  Just like all of the other graduates of 2013 across the nation.  Yes, you are going to be looking for going to college, to the armed services or to the work force like a lot of other graduates.  Get the chip off of your shoulder and let's go get busy on getting a head start on your competition, each other.  Yes, that's what I said, each other.  The sooner you view your classmate as your competitor, the faster you will understand what the real world is like.
Second, there are no ribbons for 10th place.  If you are lucky, you will MAYBE get a "thank you" for first place.  No one owes you a job, health benefits, a free ride, or the time of day.  Those things are earned. 
Third, for those of you who have put stupid photos of yourself on Facebook or any other social media site, clean them off of your site.  Chances are, Google has already indexed them, but just in case, no potential employer wants to see you making  a duck face with a beer in your hand... that you are holding for someone else, of course.  What you need to do is to get a professional head shot photo and put it on Linked In and get that page built up with your skill sets and services you can offer people.  The old school resume is about to become a thing of the past and if you run into a potential employer like me, I'm going to Google you anyway and look you up on Facebook.  If you look like an idiot because of some stupid photos, I'll let another company deal with it.  Young ladies, if you wanted to be treated like equals at whatever job you are going to be going to, get all of the "whore-ish" pictures off of there.  There are some idiot bosses out there as well, who may think you are less than a young lady and may take advantage of you. 
Fourth, get out and volunteer for something.  We have a lot of aimless kids in this community and country who really could use some help.  Become a coach, scout leader, helper at the school, service club member or ANYTHING, just help out some kids.  They need it now more than ever.
Fifth, remember 1 out of 10 young people are denied a  job because of something posted on the social networks.  If you have a problem with a professor, boss or spouse -- don't whine on Facebook about it.  Deal with the issue and move on. 
Finally, be proud that you came from the Hampton-Dumont school district and never forget to come back once in a while.  In fact, tell your friends that Iowa's a great place to raise a family and that our work ethic is pretty darn good.  As an employer, I'd rather hire someone from a small town than a big city, because -- small town people wave at each other all the time.  Being friendly is in our DNA.  When you come back and you see a former teacher, give them a pat on the back as well.  They put up with you all these year, the least you can do is thank them. 
Not everyone can be a rocket scientist, fashion model or famous actor, but be the best you can be.  In 1983 when I crossed this stage, I crossed it with 7 other Eagle Scouts.  Quite a feat as the national average at that time was 1 of out every 100 Scouts earns the rank of Eagle Scout.  The first line of the Boy Scout Oath is "On my honor, I will do my best."  If you stick with that, you will go far.
My best to you, the graduates of 2013!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welcome To FourSquare --- Sort Of

As many of you know, I'm somewhat of a "Social Media" junkie.  I Facebook, Tweet, Google, YouTube and all the neat things like that.  One of the things I really like to do is FourSquare.  Mostly it's to compete with my wife and friends for "Mayorships" of various venues.

Image Courtesy of FourSquare

Becoming a "Mayor" means you simply patronize a business and "check in" more than anyone else who uses FourSquare.  In some stores/bars/restaurants you get rewarded for check ins, or become Mayor.  When I had my business, every 3 check ins got you $10 off any computer service, while showing me that you just became mayor got your a free pizza or ice cream treat from my good friends at Breadeaux Pizza.
Now, there are two sides to FourSquare -- The front end and the back end.  I've just described the front end.  People check in and that's about it.
Here's the backend, and where businesses get lost or confused.  Many businesses out there did not set up their location and really have no clue what people are doing when they are "checking in."  However, if they ever DID take ownership, they could get a demographic of their customers -- age, sex, where they are from, time of day they are checking in, etc.  Many don't know how or don't care.
My other big complaint of this is that EMPLOYEES of a business check into their own work locations.  Now, for me to become a "Mayor" of an establishment, it means I patronize their business more than any other customer they have that uses FourSquare.  9 times out of 10, when I PATRONIZE a business I spend money there.  Many times, if I'm not the mayor, I will get other "badges" that show events of the day or trends in my check-ins.
When an employee checks in and gets the Mayorship, it devalues the location as then no other person can get any rewards for checking in, if they offer rewards, and it skews the demographics that the owner is looking at getting.  If Joey the employee is the Mayor and checks in 100 times, the business is not getting any useful data from....it's CUSTOMERS.
When I had a storefront, I could control that through the backend of the program.  I blocked myself, Becky and my other employees from becoming "Mayor."  They could still check in, but they would never become rewarded for it.
Bottom line, if your business is on FourSquare -- USE IT!! Maximize its potential.  Here are some stats from FourSquare:
30 Billion People use it.
3 BILLION check ins per day.
Over 1 MILLION businesses use the business platform part of it.
78,500 Mayors are ousted each day.
Again, it's a gripe I have and maybe I should be doing more to work with businesses about it. If your business wants in and really wants to move forward, then I'd appreciate your email or phone call.  I won't do it for you, but I will put you on the right track.
Patrick Palmer - Mayor at 27 locations all over Iowa!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Do It Yourself Computer Repair -- Not So Fast.

As mentioned in my Monday Morning Memo, I see a lot of folks who want to "Do It Yourself" when it comes to computer repair.  Yes, with some of the proper tools, you can, but when it comes to many of the new viruses and malware out there, it's tough to do and do right.
Here are some tools to use for basic maintenance:
CCleaner -- Use the file cleaning part.  (Download from FileHippo)
Defrag -- In many systems this is already preset for a certain time/day.
Error Checking or Check Disk -- Under tools in the hard drive area.
Updating your virus programs
Updating Flash, Java, Shockwave, Adobe Reader
Reformatting -- usually happens when you make the wrong choices on a DIY project.
However, much beyond that you are in a grey area that I don't even give advice to over the phone.  You see, when I do, then I feel that I'm liable if you mess it up.  Plus, doing a Google Search for some of this may lead you down the wrong path as well.  Folks who run virus/spyware sites are usually pretty good at SEO and making their hacker sites bubble up to the top to make you think that you can trust them to remote in and fix the issue.
Usually, they just get your credit card info and they are gone.
I've used a famous quote a lot, and it fits here as well.  "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, hire an amateur once!"
Again, give The Computer Guy a call if you have issues, I can get the problem solved the right way the first time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

EntreFest 2013 - A Wrap Up

Ever since 2008, EntreFest has been an annual event I always look forward to.  Meeting new people, hearing speakers that I get inspiration from, mini conferences to learn tools and tricks of the trade and the socialization of like-minded people.
The event has been held in Cedar Falls, Coralville, Des Moines, Dubuque and Ames.  This year it was held in Cedar Rapids.  The UNI Business Division (for lack of a better term) has been the backbone of the event, until this year, when they turned some of the event over to a 3rd party. 
The event started out Wednesday Night with "Start Up Drinks" in the lounge area.  This was hosted by a local Cedar Rapids group, from what I could determine.  It was a nice mixer, with a lot of folks who hadn't signed up for the conference.  At that point, I would have pushed for a sign up, but it wasn't my dog in the fight.  Naturally, they gave everyone a free drink ticket.  Being that the ticket was only for stuff I didn't like to drink, I gave mine away.  I won't go into the issues I had with the hotel bar and restaurant staff, as they later made amends for that.
Thursday started out with 2 opening speakers, both fantastic.  Christian Renaud whose theme of "Quit apologizing for being from Iowa" was heard loud and clear!  People were still talking about it the next day.  A great speaker.  Mary Quass, owns the 7th largest radio network in the US and talked about dealing with people and banks.  Also an interesting "interview style" discussion that was presented.
At this point in time, let me say the Kirkwood food was VERY good.
The breakout sessions were OK.  My favorite was Social Media 101: Followers, Likes, Check-ins and Pins with Macy Koch.  It was basic in nature, but she did cover a few things that had changed in Social Media and that was good to catch up on.  Her company is hosting an event in Des Moines on April 11th and it will be good to go to get more information.
I also went to Tim McDougall's Innovating Inside A Big Company.  Tim previously led the marketing divisions of PF Chang’s Restaurants, The New Orleans Hornets, The Houston Rockets and The Miller Brewing Company, and recently co-founded FusionFarm, a groundbreaking digital marketing start up...housed inside a 130-year old media company!  I liked the stories of mistakes that big companies make and how to learn from them.
Kristen Monroe and I are old pals and usually sit at the same table when we are at events.  If the name sounds familiar, she is my web designer.  She has a million things going at once and it was good to hear here present Getting Things Done, Time Management In A 24/7 job.  She had some technical issues with her computer and clicker.  When you aren't used to a certain system, a glitch can really throw you off your game.  I think Kristen was thrown off slightly, but the information she presented about dealing with your inbox made up for it.
Then we had a pre-supper mixer.  Everyone had a free drink ticket, so I went up to the bar and ordered a mixed drink, then was told the only had beer or wine.  UGH.  I think we are 2 for 2 now on the drink situation.  I think that this should be addressed next year. I gave my ticket to another person and went into supper.
The meal was fantastic and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds was introduced to emcee the pitch off contest where 10 businesses compete to win $10,000.  I know that this is a big deal, but since I had been a contestant in one of these before and had a bad experience (that I won't go into) I ate and went back to my room to follow up with some phone calls I had missed.  I later went back down to the event where people were just at tables talking about what they had learned and socializing.
On Friday we started out with the Biz Info Smorgasbord.  Very valuable for people who have specific questions for various experts.  I had one for an attorney who deals with Copyrights.  These bastards who think my logo (that I own and paid for) is clip art is going to come to an end.  So, we are going to go to work on sending out letters to the people who are using it illegally. 
I had been doing videos during the conference in the absence of "The Brand Chef" as he was missed this year as well, so I had to go to my room to upload what I had done.  I missed a bit of the round table discussion from Chuck Peters, Innovating Inside A Big Company #1: A CEO's Perspective.  I guess I really wasn't in the mood or missed the inside jokes or just didn't care for his "challenges," so I was happy when the phone rang and I could excuse myself from the room.
Mike Draper of RAYGUN T-shirt company made the day a success. What a great speaker!! Humor, participation and a business lesson -- the keys to a good presenter.
I was pumped up after Mike's speech until I went to the next session.  The next session I had really been looking forward to was Social Media 201 and the presenter would want me to mention his name.....  This was to talk about monetising Facebook a bit and do some work with advertising.  I had done some of this before, but Facebook had changed a few things, so I was looking forward to it.  What a letdown.  The presenter struggled, but thought he was all that and a bag of chips.  He left slides off of his presentation, made constant excuses and let some lady in the back interrupt at least a dozen times.  I wasn't kind on his review sheet and left the class early.  
Here's a tip... If you are presenting to a crowd who PAID, then dammit, be prepared and get it together.  This REALLY put a bad taste in my mouth, when I think that I could have been the one to present this topic and would have done a bang-up job. 
When I went to the last event, I was still annoyed and found that the emcee just liked to hear his own voice, which was consistent throughout the two days.  They had a mini pitch off for people who gave one minute speeches.  Yeah, the winner was a gal who would provide a coat check for girls in Iowa City who wander around downtown in the winter not wearing coats so they wouldn't get beer spilled on them.  Boy, I really feel sorry for a bunch of drunk girls who don't want that to happen...NOT. 
There was no prize drawing for attendees and so I left.....a bit down from the last 2 hours of the conference.  I had always left on a high note before thinking "GEE, I can't wait for next year."  But, I didn't have that feeling this year.  Sure, there were good speakers, but something is missing and I've yet to put my finger on it.  I've been to worse conferences...but, I've been to BETTER EntreFest events.  (Remember Dubuque!?)
Again, I love the event concept, I just wish it had gone a bit better for me, personally.  I did think that a full day on Friday was good for people to get their money's worth.  At $119, you can't go wrong.  For beginning entrepreneurs, this is great, but as I walked around talking to people, there aren't a lot of repeat customers.  I think most of the people I met were first timers, and a few second timers.  I had been there six times and that's how much I believe in it. 
Five tips I would give as solutions to fix attendance.
1.  Change the date not to conflict with any high school state tournaments.
2.  Give a discount to chamber directors and development directors -- they need to be here.
3.  Require at least ONE PERSON in each pitch off team to be registered for the event.
4.  Bring back someone like "The Brand Chef" who is doing interviews, live streams or something to promote the event as it is happening. 
5.  Take it back to Des Moines or Ames every other year.  They will kill it if it goes to Council Bluffs, Sioux City or the Quad Cities.
Again, I will plan on EntreFest 2014...and I will promote it, but don't let me down.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

That Hotspot Has Become A Hot Spot

Let's address an issue that a lot of people are having. I don't want to pick on Verizon, but since they are the products that I see the most, I guess it's only right to focus on them.

 A bit of background -- From 2000 - 2006, I worked for Midwest Wireless which was a cutting edge cellphone service provider. In about 2003, they started introducing DATA plans to their services. Right now, using that mobile phone as a PHONE is the 3rd most popular uses for a smart phone. Go figure. Still, I do know a few things about this sort of stuff, so let me share some observations. Midwest Wireless sold to Alltel and Alltel sold to Verizon, so in North Iowa, I do know where their towers are located.

Anyway, as we have evolved into this information age, the big rage at one time was 3G coverage. Life was good, but there was the promise of bigger things -- 4G.

With 4G you could do a lot more in the same amount of time, and the next thing you knew they were selling mobile "Hotspot" receivers for use in the home and on the road to connect your devices to. I do see where SOME of the issues are and I blame the sales people a bit for not understanding the customer's needs.

Here are some tips for a more enjoyable Internet experience using these hotspots that are so popular.

1. Be clear with the sales person WHERE you live and WHERE you will use this product. If you don't live where there's 4G service, it will roll back to 3G service and it won't be that great. "Where's the nearest tower?" would be a good question.

2. Put the hotspot near a window, but not in direct sunlight. It NEEDS to get a good signal to the cell tower and if it gets too hot in the sun, it won't work as well either. Basically, it's a radio. You aren't going to get good radio reception in your steel sided house in the basement and you won't get a good signal if you have the same situation with a hotspot.

3. Don't think you can run your whole computer network from this little box. Sure, a computer or two and your tablet.... BUT 6 computers, Netflix, Hulu, your smart TV and your cellphone at the same time won't cut it for this device. Also, from what I have seen, you can't network your wireless printer with this either. An example -- take a shower and have someone flush the toilet -- the water pressure goes down in the shower. Same thing here, the more people on this, the slower the signal speed.

4. Data Usage -- If you have a metered plan, you'll have to either turn off the hotspot when you aren't using it or turn off the devices. Without trying, a couple of Windows updates, some Netflix, YouTube or a ton of online gaming will eat your data, so be clear with the sales person on what you have for that device. Going over is EXPENSIVE.

I'm not coming down hard on sales people, but SOMETIMES they are tempted to over sell. Go over these topics with the sales person. They should be asking these questions and helping you to have a great experience. Find out what their return policy is as well, because if it doesn't meet your needs, you will need to return it ASAP.