New Shortages Popping Up

Late last year and early this year, we warned of Intel chip shortages, which made it difficult to get new computers for those who needed them to run Windows 10. Now, we have other shortages, compounded by some Apple decisions. So, who’s coming up short? It could be Apple.

Getting Apple stuff for our clients is becoming more challenging for the more expensive, high-end devices. The wait can be up to two weeks for things we used to get right away, and some of that is because of varying store hours.

One of our clients is waiting for a Mac with an SSD hard drive and a 27-inch monitor. It’s a combination that’s out of the ordinary, but it was never a problem to walk out of the store with that system. Now, we’re hoping the wait is only two weeks.

Looking ahead, Apple is expected to start making its own chips later this year for the 2021 Macs. It’s a logical move for the company, which is looking for more end-to-end control of its systems. Whether they’ll be able to produce enough chips because of COVID-19 concerns is one thing. Another thing is that when it drops the Intel chips (which could free up chip production for Windows-based computers), we think it may become harder to run Windows software on a Mac.

This has the effect of drawing a new line in the “cybersand” when it comes to compatibility, and that could be a problem in the business world. A lot of business applications are written for Windows, but the Apple platform has been able to accommodate them. For Mac fans, it’s the best of both worlds. But unless the app developers and Apple can up with apps for the platform, there’s another issue to add to our woes.

For those of you sticking with Windows systems, you can expect Intel’s supply problems to persist through the rest of this year. That is forcing some manufacturers to switch to AMD chips to meet the demand for their products. We’re still a fan of Intel chips, but if you need a new computer, we can certainly take a look at the AMD-equipped machines and see which one can work for you.

On the phone front, Apple is beating the drums for the iPhone 12, and it’s scheduled for release in the fall. Football is also scheduled for this fall, but we live in unusual times. Since all we can deal with at this time are rumors and speculations, this is expected to be the first year that Apple introduces 5G support in the iPhone. This will allow the new phones to connect to much faster networks. While all the phones will have 5G connectivity,  we don’t know if all models will have super-fast mmWave support in all countries. Of course, if you can’t travel, you can hold on to your current phone or, if you must upgrade a phone within your family or business, you can go with any of the less expensive iPhones, which are more than serviceable, and upgrade later.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can discuss your current and future computer and phone needs and help you find the best solution for your needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

While We’re Waiting for Whatever…

While we’re waiting for whatever our new normal will be, it’s a good guess you’ll need to beef up your network capability to handle more business, education and entertainment. At “Chez Rosenthal,” we’re taking hard-wired Wi-Fi outside to enjoy the summer. Our experience may fit your needs.

We’re doing it so that we can expand our internet coverage to our deck and part of our yard to accommodate four devices running simultaneously. As we all spend more time at home and the summer heat is not oppressive, it’s a good way to give everyone in the family more options. With smart TVs, you might consider it a good way to get a TV outside, and you’ll have no worries if you use an ethernet connection or have a network access point outside.

For my house, it was a fairly straightforward process, including drilling my own holes in my own house. We were able to run wire behind walls and under floors to get to the back of the house, and once we got outside, we put the wire inside some PVC pipe. Our only expenses were for the wire, the pipe and some connectors.

Getting more of a hybrid system of wired and wireless networking in your home may be a good solution. You’ll need a strong network if you find you’re still working from home and your kids are doing all or part of their classroom time and homework online. Whenever you can plug your device into a network node, you’ll get a stronger signal. And the closer you can be to a node, the stronger your signal will be. Getting a wired node outside the walls of your house eliminates the need for the signal to fight its way through the wall.

We have had more calls for help with networking as we’ve spent more time at home and are streaming more content. In older homes with thicker plaster walls, wiring is sometimes the best solution. The alternative is to place a series of nodes to get the signal to the farthermost places from your router or gateway, but it can fall short due to signal strength losses. In the case of a network in a two-story penthouse in an apartment building, we could only use a series of mesh units because we couldn’t go through the concrete and steel between the floors.

If you’re doing renovations or an addition to your existing home – or building a new home – we highly recommend hard wiring your network access points. Your electrician can do it at the same time they do the electrical wiring.

We can help you boost your network’s strength by recommending where to put hardwired connections and mesh nodes. We’re OK with drilling holes in our own walls but not in yours. Once the wiring is in, we can place the mesh nodes and configure everything for maximum network capability. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

Strengthen Your Security

We’re probably as normal as we’re going to get with working at home, and that will put more pressure on businesses and employees to step up security. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been around for a while, but we’ve never been completely sold on them. They can give you a false sense of security.

As we see it, they depend on too many people (and organizations) doing the right thing to work effectively. Essentially, they take you across somebody else’s network, and unless you’re the one who vetted the provider and set it up, you have no way of knowing if it’s safe. If you use a computer, cell phone or tablet on a compromised VPN, you’re providing multiple access points for anyone who’s hacked the VPN. It only takes one weak link to compromise a network, and it could take months before a security breach is found. That could be too late to prevent any damage, such as an intrusion of sensitive files or identity theft.

We’re OK with using a VPN while traveling. It’s generally good for a short period of time, and it’s likely to be used by a small group of people in your traveling party on known devices. Whether VPNs are reliably secure in certain communications environments is a debatable point. Given all that is going on today, we believe it’s better to err on the side of caution and use them in limited situations to meet specific needs.

There are much better steps to take, such as two-factor authentication and using mobile apps that store your password.

We’ve discussed two-factor authentication before. While it can take many forms, it generally works by sending a 6-digit code in a text message to a designated mobile device. You then need to enter that code on whatever device you’re using to log onto a website. The problem is that if you are near a cell tower that has been compromised, the communication involving your text message could be intercepted and redirected. It’s not likely in the United States right now; it was more of a problem with older towers. Still, it’s yet another reminder to keep your guard up at all times.

The authentication apps that save your passwords are run through Microsoft and Google, two behemoths that have an equally large stake in your security. The key factor here is that the password is stored in your device, not in the cloud. Anyone who steals your password this way must physically have your device, and they must know your username and password. That minimizes the chance you’ll be compromised – even with a lost or stolen phone.

We’re available to answer any questions you have about security on all your devices and across all networks. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about who uses various devices within your business organization or family and where they use them. We’ll help you develop a plan or policy, if necessary, to strengthen your weakest links and maximize security.