Month: May 2015

Phone Service Abroad

Summer vacation time is rapidly approaching and if you need phone service while abroad (and who doesn’t anymore), this article lays out some of your options.  Unless you don’t care what you spend, it’s important to plan ahead.

One option not mentioned in this article is purchasing a pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive overseas.  You can use that phone for local calls.  When you have WIFi service you can use your existing smartphone for texting, email and making FaceTime or Skype calls.  It’s important to remember to turn cellular service off on your smartphone to prevent accidental usage.

I also suggest using a WiFi only texting app like WhatsApp.  WhatsApp works on most platforms unlike iMessage.  iMessage communicates with non-iPhone users by using cellular data.  This is not an option you want to use when abroad.

Windows 10 is Coming!

Later this year Microsoft plans on releasing it’s latest and greatest operating system, Windows 10. Yes – that’s right. Ten, not 9.  Windows 9 is a non-entity.  It does not exist just like floor 13 in many New York apartment buildings.  Either they think 9 is bad luck or they feel they are making a bold statement by skipping one whole number.

I downloaded and installed a preview version of Windows 10.  It’s still pretty buggy but overall I was impressed as compared to Windows 8.x. There is no longer the disparity between desktop and tablet views.  They have unified the user interface in a fairly intuitive way.  The weird charms that appear from the right-hand edge in Windows 8 are gone, and most settings and preferences are now available in one location.

If you own and use other Microsoft device like a Surface tablet, Xbox or a Windows phone (anybody?) you will have a consistent interface across all devices.

If you want to learn more, here is an early review with some screen shots.

Amazon : Caveat Emptor

Turns out the Amazon relies on the same tricks that physical retails use, only more sophisticated.  They lure you in with cheap prices on some items and charge you more on others.  Re/Code reports the following:

Amazon is known for having low prices. But a study conducted by a startup calledBoomerang Commerce reveals that Amazon’s pricing strategy is much more nuanced than simply undercutting the competition.

Boomerang, founded by Amazon veteran Guru Hariharan, makes software that tracks prices on shopping sites that compete with its clients, then recommends price changes dynamically. Those changes are based on rules its clients set about which products to match prices on and which to boost higher or drop lower than a competitor’s to boost profits or sales, respectively.

The study of Amazon’s pricing uncovered some interesting tactics. First, Amazon doesn’t have the lowest prices across the board, which may not surprise industry insiders but might surprise Amazon shoppers.

Read the full article here.

Bottom line:  if you are looking to save money do your research.  Do not assume that Amazon always has the lowest prices.

Apple Watch

A few weeks ago I walked into the Apple store to checkout the Watch (not iWatch!)  I fully expected to be underwhelmed, questioning it’s usefulness.  Oh boy, was I wrong.  The Watch is both very cool and useful, depending on your lifestyle.  I don’t have one yet (sigh) but for someone like me who is out and about all day, everyday, relying on my iPhone for all modes of communication – voice, text and email – plus entertainment – I listen to podcasts between appointments – maps for directions and finding new places for lunch, and a health app for tracking the distance I walk everyday, I am constantly reaching for my iPhone which lives in my pant’s pocket.  Everyone of these tasks I could manage from an Apple Watch allowing me to maintain my steady stride along the sidewalks of New York and eliminating the risk of having the iPhone slip from my grip and hit the pavement – this has happened more than once (Hint: Keep the ear buds plugged into your iPhone. When the iPhone drops the cord slows the fall enough to often eliminate the risk of screen breakage.)

Here are a few reviews that I found interesting:

Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times Reviews Apple Watch

In depth review from the AppleInsider

Molly Watt, who is both deaf and visually impaired reviews the Watch

Finally, a few clients have the Watch and give it a thumbs up.  All this said, I’m still waiting for version 2 (I think.)



Photos Freakout

Last month I wrote about Apple’s new photo app for OS X called Photos.  It replaces iPhoto.  It is installed with the latest update to Yosemite.  The freakout, OMG moment happens when you first launch Photos and do not see the dozens of events you had in iPhoto.  Don’t worry – the events are there – Apple has the side bar hidden.

To reveal the sidebar and list your events go to View -> Show Sidebar and take a deep breath.

If you’re feeling a bit lost with Photos, here’s a short tutorial on using Photos.

2 Email Scams to Avoid

If you have received an email that looks like it is from Apple telling you that your Apple ID is about to expire, or something like that, delete the email and DO NOT click on the links in the email.  If you do click on the link you will be asked to enter your Apple ID and Password.  Once you do that, you will have compromised your data and credit card.  It all looks very legitimate but it isn’t.

If you have done this, or do this, I suggest that you call Apple and have your Apple ID/Password changed.  Check with them about any purchases through the iTunes store that you did not make, and check with your credit card company (the one you have on file with Apple) for charges you did not initiate.

The second scam originates with emails that appear to come from friends on WhatsApp.  Here’s some information about this.  Importantly, WhatsApp does not send out emails about missed messages.  If you do click on the link your computer will be infected with malware.

Here is a good general rule to avoid theses types of scams:  if you receive an email from a financial institution, a business, or any other third party that is asking you to click on a link to go to their website or download something, do not click on the link.  If you think it might be legitimate, use your browser and login to the institution’s or business’ website.  If the email was about an important issue you will most likely be informed when you login or view your messages on the site.