Tech Preps for Trips

For all the acclaim that Israel gets for technology, I was shocked at how slow the wi-fi service was while we visited there. With all the advanced security systems in place and all the tech startups and established R&D places there, I was expecting blazing internet service. Instead, I found internet service was based on DSL technology, and I had to ask why??? It was the slowest internet service I’ve experienced anywhere on the planet (though I’m sure I haven’t visited the places that are even slower).

While your experiences in Israel may differ from mine, the visit reinforced the need to plan for your tech needs as you plan your itinerary. In our case, I brought two phones, and we had Danit’s phone.

I ordered SIM cards for Israeli cellular service for my iPhone X and Danit’s iPhone before we left the US. They were ready for me at the airport, and using a little tool I carry, it was a simple matter to pop out our US SIM cards and install the Israeli cards. Our cost was $60 for the two cards, and we got 10 gigabytes each of data usage plus the ability to make unlimited calls worldwide. We also got the 4G cellular data service, and it was really fast.

Of course, that meant my iPhone X did not have my US phone number. That meant I lost access to voice mail for my number, and I lost the ability to receive text messages. The solution was to carry an old iPhone 5, which was activated for my US number. That gave me the ability to monitor US calls and texts and to use my “Israeli” phone to call and text as needed. The only issue with SIM cards in other countries is that you are likely to get text messages in the language of the country tied to the phone number. Along that line, if you are using your phone for GPS car navigation, you should check your settings to make sure you get displays and voice directions in English – and maybe in kilometers, too.

There are a number of workarounds for phone-number challenges. One is to get a Google Voice number through Google. You can then forward that to any phone number you want, such as the phone number tied to your SIM card in another country. I chose to get a US phone number in Israel for my Israeli phone, and people who needed to reach me immediately could use that number. That helped me balance time away while being accessible.

If you are averse to getting a SIM card and changing your phone number, you can arrange for international service with your cellular carrier. That can be expensive (“expensive” can be a relative term), and if you have an iPhone phone that you bought from a Verizon store, you’re stuck with just a CDMA radio in your phone. Without getting overly technical, CDMA is one of the two radio systems used in cell phones, and it’s used in the US. GSM is the other radio system, and it’s used worldwide.

Most Android-based phones, all iPhones sold in AT&T stores and iPhones sold in Apple stores have both radios built in, giving you seamless service if you decided to use an international phone plan from your carrier. If you are planning to buy a new iPhone and want to use Verizon as your carrier, we recommend buying it in the Apple store to get both radios and keep more options available.

If you opt not to have cellular service on your phone, you can still use wi-fi for email, browsing and making calls through various apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others. Just be aware of security needs when using public networks. You can also rent a cellphone in the country you are visiting.

We can help you plan for tech needs for travel. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about what’s available in the countries you’ll be visiting.

Managing Storage on Your Devices

It doesn’t get more disappointing than to get a message that you can’t shoot a photo or video because your storage is full. Don’t let a storage shortage limit your ability to capture those memorable vacation moments. You can get the storage you need, and the sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be.

You can sometimes get two storage messages at the same time. One message is that your cloud storage is full, and the other is that your device is full. It’s easier to tackle the first message.

In our opinion, you can maintain enough storage and optimize your storage options by spending money wisely on storage space – both in the cloud and on your computers or devices. We’re sometimes amazed that people won’t spend anywhere from $11.88 (that’s 99 cents a month) to $100 for cloud storage for photos and videos. Whatever mobile platform you use, iOS or Android, there’s a way to buy cloud-based storage to back up any number of gigabytes you need for photos and videos on the fly. Just make sure you do it over a cellular network, which is preferable to a network that’s supposed to be secure, such as a hotel’s network. (See Safe Travels, Safe Wi-Fi.)

The extra cloud storage is the most effective and efficient way to make sure you have storage capacity, and it’s also the best way to make sure you don’t lose any photos or videos because you damage or lose your device. With many people taking vacations at places with water, including cruises, it’s all too easy to drop a phone into the water. You may lose the phone, but it’s replaceable. Your photos and videos are not.

Along that same line, newer cameras have the capability to send your photos automatically to your device or to back them up in the cloud. Although the files sent to your device may be smaller, getting them out of your camera keeps them safe in the event you lose your camera or damage its storage medium.

Getting back to a device, if its storage capacity is full, you’ll need to manually delete data, which could be photos, emails or files that are automatically downloaded by an app. Deletion steps will vary, but it’s an issue you can resolve before your trip.

If you are buying a new device, you can get one with more storage capacity. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we use our phones for more than we think we will, including more photos and videos. You can use up 16 GB of storage very quickly, and it might be a better investment to spend, say, $100 more to get 64 GB of storage. If you spend the money on more storage now, it could increase the service life of your phone, which brings us to another point.

That other point is that many people tend to hang on to technology longer than they should – and fail to install all the software updates. The result is a slow system that leads to frustration and one that is wide open to a security breach (and that’s all we’ll say about that for now).

Here’s an example of one instance with a photo library with 100 GB of data. The system was too old to work with the pictures and email them – and there wasn’t enough hard disk space to work with the pictures. In addition, the photos on the computer hadn’t been backed up for two years. To make a long story short, it took an entire weekend to back up the photos so that the client could restore them to a new, faster system. Any money that might have been saved by hanging on to the old technology probably got eaten up by the time spent for an overdue upgrade.

Today’s technology is a much better value than yesterday’s latest-and-greatest equipment. Systems are faster, which enable them to handle more tasks in less time, and they can handle the latest software, which enables you to do more things. And the prices are the same, if not less.

The daunting part is trying to figure what will work best for you. Whether it’s a phone, a tablet or a computer, we can help you cut through all the hype to identify a system or cloud-based storage plan that meets your needs – nothing more and certainly nothing less. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your needs and budgets.

Security Not Top-of-Mind at CES

It’s fair to say I was disappointed when talking to IoT device manufacturers at CES in Las Vegas last month. Security was not the big thing on their minds. And except for a TV screen that you can roll up like paper (which I couldn’t see at the show), there wasn’t anything I wanted to bring home and install.

The lack of emphasis on security was baffling, especially when you consider that a lot of companies at CES were talking about AI (artificial intelligence) and 5G networks. The latter are the newer, faster wireless data networks that will play an important role, along with AI, in the next generation of the IoT, especially autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are expected to be an established mode of transportation in the next 10 years. We’re simply going to require more data at a faster speed to make AVs work.

However, it seems that AI – and maybe 5G – was more concerned with what we’ll be running to the store to buy instead of how we’ll get there. Samsung, which makes refrigerators, among other appliances, started to show off Bigsby, its version of Alexa. And when you combine it with a smart refrigerator, this new power team can create a shopping list for you. You can even use voice commands for your washing machine. OK…

There is still a big push to get more devices into the home, and we certainly have more than our share in ours. We find the ones we have to be either great conveniences or highly useful. We just wish that the manufacturers were paying more attention to security, especially with hacking and information theft so prevalent. However, nothing stood out like that TV that rolls up. I really would have liked to be able to see it, even if I couldn’t buy it.

On the other hand, one of the more ridiculous things I saw was either a blanket or mattress pad with dual temperature control and a discounted price of $2,000. Sony also had a Walkman that weighed 5 pounds and had a heftier price tag: $2,500. Sony said there’s a market for it: audiophiles who want high-quality sound.

Speaking of sound, I took note of Panasonic’s automotive offerings, though none was available for consumer purchase. Rather, it seems that the automotive manufacturers are going to rely more on electronics manufacturers and the mobile operating systems to provide the devices and infrastructure for in-car infotainment systems. As part of that trend, we note that Toyota is dropping its plan to introduce a proprietary infotainment system.

We applaud Toyota’s decision for three reasons:

  1. In-car systems from the automakers don’t work well.
  2. Each in-car system has its own way of displaying and using information, and that can be confusing for people who drive multiple cars, including rental cars, where roads and a car’s system are unfamiliar.
  3. Because they are built into the car, it’s difficult to update them in a timely manner.

Just about all manufacturers offer connectivity to either Apple or Android in-car systems – or both – throughout their product lines. Our devices are already customized for driving directions and play lists, and we know how to use them. We also can make our devices secure in the same way we update our OS and applications on our computers.

I think some exciting new products and changes in the way we use technology are a year or two away, but that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands. If you need a new IoT product now, we can help you we can help you select and install one for today – and make sure it’s secure – and see how it could fit your future needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

Managing Assistants

Alexa, Google Home, Siri and Cortana are online assistants who can help you get information and even order products without you ever having to tap a screen or look at one. They are a convenience, but they also raise privacy and security issues.

Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft) are associated with devices, such as phones, tablets and computers. In that type of user environment, you need to activate them with the device in your hand or on your desk, and they’re typically used for getting information, such as the weather, restaurant info or the answer to which person played for both the New York Rangers and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Alexa and Google Home may present other issues. In addition to answering questions, Alexa is tied to Amazon and its online shopping capabilities. We hear that Google Home may tie in with Walmart. With shopping available, you have another layer of concern. Somewhere, they have access to your credit-card information, and it may be possible for any voice to make a purchase.

We’ll be going to CES, the huge annual trade show for consumer electronics, in Las Vegas this month, and we plan to talk to all the manufacturers about their security and privacy protection measures. Until we have more information, here are some things you should know and can do to minimize your risk of a privacy breach or unwanted purchase – especially with Alexa, whom I call Alex when I don’t want to wake her.

Alexa and her fellow assistants remain asleep until they hear their “wake” word, but their microphones are always on. Being on is how they stay ready for your commands, but they should not be active until you wake them. So, here are some ways to help you protect from someone turning them on without your knowledge:

  • Change your “wake” word. Like most things in the IoT world, these assistants come with a default “wake” word. Go into the setup menu on the app, which you can get for your cell phone, and change it.
  • Use the mute button. Yes, it’s a pain to physically walk over to Alexa and push a button (some of you will cringe at memories of getting up to change a television channel), but it is effective – and easier than trying to run through 80-something over-the-air TV channels.
  • Use a PIN to make purchases or disable the function to make purchases by voice commands. Again, it’s an inconvenience, but we’ve discussed the tradeoff between security and convenience many times before.
  • Keep them away from windows so that any activity outside doesn’t activate them.
  • Use your app to see what’s been recorded through your assistant and delete any or all of those recordings. You can also your app to configure and toggle sound notifications, even for multiple units in one home (or office).

You can also follow the IoT cybersecurity steps we’ve published over the past year or so:

  • Change default usernames and passwords immediately. Make your new passwords strong and unique.
  • Install upgrades and updates from your IoT manufacturers. They usually contain security patches and bug fixes.
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi systems and firewalls are secure. That’s your first line of defense. Install upgrades and updates for your gateways and anti-virus and anti-malware apps.
  • Only use secure Wi-Fi networks.

We can audit your Wi-Fi security and help you fine tune the settings for your virtual assistant. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for reports from CES.

‘KRACKing’ Your Wi-Fi Network

KRACK is an ominously named crypto attack that exploits a flaw in the process of connecting a device and a Wi-Fi network. By allowing network access without the password, effectively it opens up the possibility of exposing credit card information, passwords, and practically any other data on your device. Here’s how to protect yourself – somewhat.

Using WPA2 security, the standard of protection for the past 13 years, is still the way to go, and setting a strong, secure password is just as important as it ever was. But it’s like a lock on your front door. Locks, according to conventional wisdom, keep out honest people. But a lock that’s strong enough to delay a would-be thief was thought to still be effective.

That was until KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attack) was discovered. It exploits a flaw in the four-way handshake process between a user’s device trying to connect and a Wi-Fi network, allowing an attacker to access a network without the password. It’s an equal-opportunity attack, too. It can affect Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys and others, but the most current versions of Windows and iOS devices are not as susceptible to attacks because of how Microsoft and Apple implemented WPA2. Linux and Android-based devices are more vulnerable to KRACK.

Fortunately, it’s not a helpless situation. Attacks can only be successful when someone has access to the wireless network you’re on at the time of the attack. That means you need to be especially careful on public networks. You can further help yourself by:

  • Making sure you’re up to date with all available security patches
  • Using a VPN, which will encrypt your internet traffic
  • Visiting only websites that use HTTPS, though it’s not a guarantee you’ll be safe.

We’ll keep you updated on developments against KRACK, and we can help you now by taking a look at your systems and security to make sure you’ve maximized your protection. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

Cybersecurity Scorecard

Cybersecurity has dominated our conversation for the past year, and a report from SonicWall, which provides security tools worldwide for networks to email and everything in between, shows where we’re making progress and where new threats lie.

First, the good news. In data gathered in the past year from the SonicWall Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network, the good guys and the bad guys made advances. The most notable of the advances the company found were:

  • The number of new POS (point of sale – mostly credit and debit cards) malware variants decreased by 88 percent since 2015
  • SSL and TLS encrypted traffic increased 34 percent year-over-year
  • Major exploit kits Angler, Nuclear and Neutrino disappeared
  • Unique malware attack attempts dropped to 7.87 billion from 8.19 billion in 2015

On the other hand:

  • Ransomware attacks grew 167x from 2014 to 2016 to an astounding 638 million attacks during the year
  • SSL/TLS encrypted malware was exploited 72 percent more often in 2016 than in 2015
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices were compromised to launch record-setting DDoS attacks
  • Despite significant efforts by Google to patch vulnerabilities, Android continued to be exploited by cyber criminals

SonicWall notes that the technology to solve many of the new challenges cyber criminals threw at victims in 2016 already exists.  SSL/TLS traffic can be inspected for encrypted malware by NGFWs (next-generation firewalls), which are hardware- or software-based network security systems that detect and block sophisticated attacks by enforcing security policies at various levels. For any type of new advanced threat like ransomware, it’s important to understand that all network-based solutions should block network traffic until a safe verdict is reached before passing that traffic through to the intended recipient.

In 2017, there are two areas that SonicWall joins us in telling you to be particularly on-guard: ransomware and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Companies in the United Kingdom were 3x more likely to suffer ransomware attacks than in the United States, but don’t breathe easy. The US experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks in 2016 because of large volume of business.  While we as individuals and small businesses depend on companies like SonicWall to provide the tools to detect and stop ransomware, we need to follow strict security procedures – all of which should be well-known to us by now:

  • Install updates for all of your software for operating systems and apps. They contain the security patches and bug fixes that shore up the breaches in your systems.
  • Be extremely careful about the emails you open and the links you click.
  • Back up your data continuously to a system that is either not always online or that uses authentication. This will help ensure that you don’t accidentally revert to an encrypted back up if you’re hit.

The IoT has been massively compromised because of poorly designed security systems by device manufacturers. To protect yourself, SonicWall reminds you to make sure your devices are behind next-generation firewalls that scan for IoT-specific malware and that you segregate IoT devices on a separate zone to make sure they don’t affect the rest of your network if they’re compromised. To that, we add that you immediately change user names and passwords – and that you make those passwords strong. Some 70 percent of IoT breaches worldwide are in the US.

More protection was made available for Android mobile phones and devices, but they still remain vulnerable to overlay attacks. SonicWall recommends that companies using Android devices keep the option to “install applications from unknown sources” unchecked and both options to “verify applications” checked. They also recommend you avoid rooting and that you install anti-virus and other mobile security apps – and that you enable “remote wipe” in case your device is stolen or compromised with ransomware.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive and more technical explanations, we invite you to read SonicWall’s whitepaper on cybersecurity.

We can help you with a cybersecurity audit for your office or home and for all mobile devices. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

Your Next Mobile Phone is All About the Apps

If you’re in the market for a new mobile phone, it won’t be a Windows phone. With Windows 10 as the operating system for less than 1 percent of the mobile market, Microsoft is killing its mobile phone. It’s all about the apps – more specifically about app developers.

With Android and Apple accounting for more than 99 percent of the worldwide mobile market, app developers have put all of their efforts into those systems. Apple generally gets the nod to get an app first, but selling an app to Android can be equally enriching for developers.

Both Apple and Samsung are expected to release new phones this year, the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8, respectively. Samsung needs a replacement for its ill-fated 7 series, and Apple needs new energy for its 8 series. Whichever manufacturer and OS you choose, you’ll find plenty of features and power – and an abundance of apps.

The apps are critical because we use our phones for just about everything but talking. We shop, find restaurants, use navigation to find the best route to places we’ve gone to for years, research healthcare options, watch TV and movies, read newspapers…

We’re not only untethered from a desktop computer or television, we can do or watch anything on our phones as long as we have internet access. Why, we don’t even need to reach into our wallets for charge cards to make some purchases. Apple, Google, financial institutions and merchants all have secure apps that help protect your credit card information through series of transfers between the merchant and your account. This is one of those few instances in which convenience can be more secure.

According to the website Statista, there were some 2.2 million apps available from the Apple Store as of this past January, and there were a similar number available from Google Play last year. Microsoft, by comparison, had 669,000 apps available from its Windows Store. While gaming apps are in decline, which some parents may find hard to believe, Smashing Magazine reports the biggest growth is coming in customization apps, such as launchers, icons, wallpaper and lock-screen apps. The next growth area is newspapers and magazines.

Other categories for app growth include:

  • Productivity tools
  • Lifestyle and shopping solutions
  • Messengers and social apps

The trend toward mobile apps shows no signs of letting up. With slightly less than half the world’s population owning smartphones, you know there’s an upside waiting to be tapped. A growing number of major companies in the world see mobile devices as a catalyst to transforming their businesses, and the value of mobile apps is expected to more-than-triple by 2020. With mobile apps and Bluetooth integrating with our cars and homes as well as just about every aspect of our lives, apps will fuel the growth of mobile devices, and more users will demand more apps.

We happen to like Apple phones and tablets because we believe they work better with Outlook for email and calendars and because we believe its proprietary OS offers better security. But we are impressed with the creativity that Android’s open software spawns. For most users, either OS will run apps equally well. Your choice may simply come down to the cost of the device and the best plan you can find from a wireless carrier or provider. We can help you whittle down the daunting number of considerations in mobile device selection – and we can help you set up your device to integrate with other systems, including storage options. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your mobile device needs or with any questions you have about using your apps more efficiently.

Nomorobo = No More Robo Calls? We Hope It Adds Up

If you’re tired of robo calls and caught in the web of spoofed telephone numbers, Nomorobo might be the app for you. It is for us. It’s one product to help you manage your telephone.

For most of us, robocalls are a major annoyance. Even when you don’t pick up the phone, they ring and ring until your answering machine picks it up, and then you need to follow whatever instructions your answering machines provide to get rid the message.

For many others, however, robocalls are an expensive trap. Scammers posing as IRS agents steal millions every year, despite regular warnings from the real IRS that its agents will never contact you by phone if you owe them money. They send a letter first, and they tell people that if they have questions about whether they owe taxes, they should call the IRS toll-free phone number.

At one time, you could register your phone number with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to block robocalls and telemarketers representing companies with which you did not have a relationship. But VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology made it cheap and easy for scammers operating outside the US to make long-distance calls that look like domestic calls. Essentially, the same technology that gives you a free Google Voice number gives scammers and thieves the ability to reach you under false pretense. How ridiculous can it get? You can get a call from a device identified as your own phone.

As phone carriers and the FCC went ‘round and ‘round in pointing fingers and passing along suggestions for the “other side,” the logjam broke when the FCC allowed the phone companies to block robocalls. One of the industry’s concerns was that it would block legitimate phone numbers, including those used by emergency-notification organizations.

Here’s where Nomorobo stepped in to fill the breach. It won a $25,000 cash prize from the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 for figuring how to stop robo calls. The system reroutes calls to your phone number to a service that checks the incoming phone number against a database that whitelists the good guys and blacklists the bad guys. Once you sign up for Nomorobo, you need to wait until the second ring to pick up the phone. Nomorobo uses the first ring to check the incoming number against its database. If you don’t get a second ring, then you know a robo call was blocked.

In a perfect world, good calls, such as those from emergency-related organizations get through. Of course, the world is not perfect, but it is “trainable.” If you experience any problems, such as a school closing or a call from a hospital, you can report it at under “A Valid Number That Was Blocked Incorrectly” and correct the database. The service won’t block charity calls, but it can block political calls. You can enable or disable this feature by clicking “Edit” next to your number.

Nomorobo is free for landlines, and it supports most carriers. It has an iOS app that costs $1.99 per month, and it plans to have an Android app soon. The company has an online help desk that covers most questions users would have about using its system or deleting it.

Nomorobo has plenty of company in the robo-blocking space, and you might find one you like better. One place to start your search is the CTIA website product listings. CTIA represents many wireless telecom companies in the US. If you have any questions about selecting a call blocker or installing on a landline or mobile device, we’re here to help. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

Travel: To Disconnect or Not Disconnect?

A trip is a great time to disconnect from the connected world and all of its stressful situations. However, there may be times when being disconnected can be extremely stressful. Fortunately, you can customize technology to fit your level of need and comfort.

Although I consider myself a very connected person, there are times when I like to disconnect, such as when I’m on an airplane or traveling in a country with a huge time difference from New Jersey. And, let’s face it, we all need to really take time off from everyday life – and that’s the purpose of getting away.

However, there are times when being connected can keep your travels on schedule and give you peace of mind. Using a Wi-Fi connection on an airplane, for example, can help you make, change or cancel reservations for hotels, rental cars or ground transportation if you run into unexpected delays, especially if you have a flight that makes stops – and requires plane changes – before you reach your destination.

A phone or tablet with Wi-Fi capability makes it really easy to stay connected, and VOIP – voice over internet protocol – which we all use if we have internet telephone service. You can talk through a variety of applications, such as Skype and Viber, to name two, and Facetime on iPhones. Using voice and video through a Wi-Fi network requires a fast internet connection, so make sure you have one before you try. There are many remote locations (we were in one of them on our last trip) that just have slow internet, and their cellular networks may not be all that strong, either.

If you want to be reached by telephone and don’t want to maintain a cellular connection, a Google phone number can give you a variety of options. You can give the number to people who may need to reach you or with whom you want to maintain contact. You can link that number to your cell phone number, but if you are traveling abroad, you’ll need to have a Wi-Fi connection to pick up voicemail or answer a call. If you have a cellular connection abroad, you can be reached directly. Because a Google number is a US number, people calling you will not have to pay international calling rates.

You can keep a cellular connection in a number of ways while abroad:

  • Arrange with your carrier to provide cellular service without roaming charges in the countries you plan to visit. These plans can be costly, and they can have severely limited numbers of phone calls and text messages available as well as highly restricted data use. If you are going to be in several countries on your trip and don’t need to use data-intensive applications such as Waze or Google Maps for driving and walking directions, this may be good for you. The phone can be really good for making or confirming reservations.
  • Get a SIM card for your phone when you arrive in the country you are visiting. As long as your phone is “unlocked,” as most are today, you can turn your phone into a local phone that will give you either an unlimited or large number of phone calls and text messages – including international calls (such as to the US) – and enough data to get directions to a hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction and use Waze or Google Maps to get there. The major carriers in each country usually have kiosks at the airport, and their agents can install and test the SIM card before you go on your merry way. In most cases, the card is good for 30 days. If you are in a major city, you can find stores for most carriers, just as you do in the US, and the carrier store may be better if you need something other than a standard arrangement. When you get home, you can reinstall your US carrier’s SIM card.
  • Rent a local phone. This is really simple, and it doesn’t require any changes to your existing phone. The cost and your allowances for phone calls, texts and data may vary, but you should have all the capabilities you’ll need.

Having cellular service abroad gives you all the conveniences and peace of mind you take for granted at home. If you are not part of a tour, you can make reservations or ask questions on the fly for hotels, restaurants, attractions and other needs. If you are going to be delayed in getting to a destination, you can call ahead. Even with the best navigation applications, you sometimes need someone to “talk you in” to a hotel or restaurant. All you need to do is call – and you can access the internet to get the phone number.

Even if you are on a guided tour, the tour operators sometimes strongly recommend you have a cell phone with local capability. If you become separated from your group at an attraction, for example, you can call and agree on a meeting place, or they can call you to make sure you get to where you’re supposed to be.

And, of course, there’s the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing you can reach somebody. On our last trip, we were part of an English-speaking group on a bus headed to the airport to leave our location. Nobody spoke the local language, and the driver did not speak English. We were caught in horrendous traffic, and we feared not making our flight. In our case, we had to catch a flight that operates once a week, and we were not in a place where we wanted to spend a whole week.

Nobody had a cell phone for the country, so there was no way to call the airline and let them know of our problem. While it had been very relaxing to be disconnected from the rest of the world, we were a busload of stressed people while on our re-entry path. We made our flight, so now it’s just another travel story to tell.

Traveling always has its surprises, but you shouldn’t feel unduly stressed or unsafe. If you are planning to travel abroad, we can help you determine the technology you’ll need to maintain your desired or required level of connection. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

iPad Pro and the Tech Transformation

Our new iPad Pro is a great device. We love it for what it does – and maybe for the technology transformation that it and other tablets are ushering in.

We can see the iPad Pro and other large tablets edging closer to replacing laptop and notebook computers for some people. If your primary use is to surf the web and take care of email, simply hook up a keyboard, and you’re up and running. If you want to watch videos, the screen on the iPad Pro is amazing for its clarity and speed.

Yes there are some downsides. For one thing, as much as I love it, the tablet is not a full computer. It’s a mobile device, and Apple gives every indication it will not merge its iOS (mobile) and OSX (computer) operating systems. However, with Apple and Microsoft fighting for market share, don’t bet against a tablet replacing your computer. You can get Microsoft Office for tablets – and mobile phones – and as more people get comfortable with storing documents in the cloud, they’re likely to demand more computing capability.

As far as tablets go, iPad Pro is bigger and heavier than previous generations of tablets, but I personally don’t find that to be a problem. In 2005, screens on cell phones started to get bigger, and as we advanced to smart phones with Internet capability, it was only a matter of time that users would demand even bigger screens to watch videos.

By 2010, recalling a once-every-five-years family reunion, the iPad was new to the market, and many family members wondered about the need for it. Well, the iPad and other tablets are here to stay, even though sales have slumped lately. They have a variety of sizes and uses professionally, ranging from healthcare professionals in offices and hospitals who need to maintain patient records as they move through an office or hospital – to IT specialists and sales reps who can do a lot of work without being tethered to a computer.

So, don’t sell tablets short. If the history of mobile devices holds true, enough users will try to push the technology a little farther than its capabilities so that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others will notice. Their teams will respond to market demand, and the cycle will start again.

iPad Pro, I love you – until the next better device hits the market.

Have questions about tablets? Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us and tell us what you’re looking for and how much you’d like to spend. There’s a tablet that’s right for you today – and maybe for the next 18 months.