If you still have a flip phone – and many people do – you’re likely on a 3G cellular network. It’s the same for anybody with an ancient smartphone. So, if you’ve been putting off that new phone purchase since, say 2010, it’s time to stop procrastinating.Continue reading
5G and the FAA
Verizon, AT&T and the FAA started off the new year by agreeing to cut the strength of 5G signals around airports. That’s because the carriers’ 5G signals interfere with certain instruments on airplanes, such as altimeters which are used to guide planes to safe landings.Continue reading
The Many Flavors of 5G
The Many Flavors of 5G
Cell phone manufacturers and carriers don’t make a big deal about it in their ads – yet – but there are several types of 5G service out there. If you’re buying a new phone and have specific needs for blazing super-hot speed, you ought to know something about the available levels of 5G service.
Stream Video or Keep the Cable Box?
Are cable TV carriers joining the streaming revolution? Yeah…sort of.Continue reading
Take Control of Your Email
You can probably guess the age of anyone who has an email address that ends in aol.com or yahoo.com. They were around when the “Information Superhighway” . . .Continue reading
Watching TV in the Electronic Jungle
Watching TV was so simple for anyone who remembers life before cable. Today, we have more options than ever before – and more confusion. If you’re ready to go back to Square 1 and start all over again, here’s what to look at to reset your TV – or streaming content.
If you are still into watching live broadcast TV, which many do for news and sports, you could start with good old rabbit ears. That’s the term for an antenna – just in case you hadn’t known. Channel availability and picture quality depend on whether you can get a strong broadcast signal. Cable solved that issue nearly 50 years ago and gave us more choices. (Digital channels for broadcast offer more choices, though quantity should not always be confused with quality.)
Cable was simple. A cable company got the franchise for your community, and you paid – more and more without any recourse until satellite and the internet eventually gave you more options. The old cable companies and telephone carriers still have lines that carry the internet to most of America, but our “TV viewing” is changing at the pace of a revolution.
We have countless ways to get our programming because there are so many content providers and so many companies that package or bundle the programming we want to see. Even the carriers are becoming content bundlers and creators.
For this discussion, let’s focus on the systems that deliver content for viewing on a TV. Comcast’s Xfinity and Verizon’s Fios, the two major cable carriers in my area, still offer the most programming from traditional broadcasters and other producers. With more people spending more time at home, you probably want the most variety you can get to keep everyone happy. The cable companies still deliver by coaxial cable, and we know how to use their systems. You can watch content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, etc. through your cable system, although you will need to pay for them either through the cable company or the content provider. However, convenience comes at a price. You can pay $5 or more for every cable box you have.
If you get your internet service from a cable/phone company, you may be able to stream your cable channel and – maybe – save the cost of the boxes. Why maybe? Xfinity, for example, has an agreement with Roku to stream content over TVs that use it as the streaming service. If you have a Roku-equipped TV, you can add the Xfinity channel from your Roku Home page by clicking on Add Channels. If you don’t have a Roku-equipped TV but have a TV with a USB port, you can buy a Roku connection device for as little as $30 and use your home Wi-Fi network. Your payback period is six months, and quality depends on your network.
You can get Roku boxes from Xfinity, which you pay for as with the old coaxial cable box, but we found a price break of sorts. We have nine TVs in our house, including one we carry out onto the back deck. By paying $40 per month for DVR service, we’re only paying for five Roku boxes; the rest are “free.” The advantage to the Roku boxes is that they’re not tied to a coaxial cable, giving us more flexibility.
We just installed this system, so we’ll need to get some operating experience before we can report on its success – or lack of it.
If you watch all your content on a computer or mobile device, the question of a cable box or Roku box is moot. If you don’t want to use your cable company to get cable-like viewing for broadcast TV stations and programming such as news and sports, there are numerous streaming providers.
What will work best for you? The variables include:
- Broadcast signal strength for some live TV
- The provider of the content you watch
- Your preference of cable or internet-based content delivery
- The devices you watch on and the number of devices you use at any given time
- Your internet connection
- Your Wi-Fi network
- Your TV/internet budget
We can help you sort through the possibilities to put together a package that will meet your priorities, and we can install and configure any equipment you need. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your wants and needs.
For Verizon customers, 1-gigabit service for $70 per month sounds so good. But it may not be the service of your dreams. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s try to sort it out.
First, the initial offer is for new customers only. That shouldn’t surprise any consumers for anything we buy. Businesses routinely offer deep discounts to get new customers in the fold, and it can have one of two effects: 1.) it can upset existing customers and encourage them to churn through all their service providers, and 2.) it can be an attractive sample to get customers addicted to a certain level of service and immune to steep price increases later on.
For new customers looking to sign up, it’s not simply a matter of paying your $70 and getting a fast internet connection. There may be additional fees and required equipment upgrades (we’ll get to those shortly) on top of the initial fee, and there is a lot of confusion about how long you can keep the introductory rate before you get a big price increase. Verizon may be offering 1-gig service to existing customers as you read this newsletter, but we haven’t seen a clear description of prices for various packages as we write it.
Second, do you need that big a pipeline? Most of us don’t. Large online stores that sell lots of things through ecommerce are likely to need it. Businesses that send massive amounts of data through business applications, such as enterprise systems for huge, highly automated manufacturing systems, need it. Big, upscale hotels that offer streaming capability for their guests need it. Smaller businesses that push less data through their applications and home users who stream movies and TV programming probably don’t need it. Netflix, for example, recommends the following download speed in megabits per second (MBPS) per stream for playing TV shows and movies through its service:
- 0.5 required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 recommended for SD quality
- 5.0 recommended for HD quality
- 25 recommended for Ultra HD quality
Do your own math for what you need.
Third, do you have a wired network in place to use all that speed? Only a wired network can do it, and that’s why we recommend wiring office and commercial space for business. We also recommend it for new residential construction, and we recommend it if you are building a theater in your home for a big Ultra HD system. If you have devices connected to your gateway or router, you’ll get the connection speed. Any devices connected through Wi-Fi will get a slower speed, which can still be adequate based on Netflix’s recommendations.
Fourth, you won’t get gig-per-gig speed from the source. If Netflix recommends 25 MBPS for Ultra HD quality, they’re not pushing it out at 1 gig. The big businesses that need to get their data pushed out at that high a speed take advantage of a limited number of pipelines, and they pay for it.
Finally, how will you match your service to the router and cable boxes from your internet service provider (ISP), whether it’s Verizon or Comcast, and what are you willing to pay? Streaming aside, you can pay a hefty monthly fee for cable boxes capable of delivering programming and recorded shows to multiple TVs in your home. You can reduce your monthly outlay by replacing the cable boxes with a cable card that can work with four or six TVs, depending on the card. You’ll give up On Demand programming and on-screen caller ID (if you have a landline through your provider), but that may better fit your needs.
We can review your internet-connection needs for business or home and help you match equipment options to fit your budget. We can do the installation and setup – or walk you through the process and then use remote technology to help you with the setup. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.
Verizon Forcing Email Decision; We Recommend You Exit
Verizon is dripping out the announcement that it will migrate its email business to AOL, which the communications giant acquired in 2015. It’s a rolling process that will take place over the next several months, and everyone will get specific instructions based on your account. Your clock will start ticking when you get an email notification from Verizon, and you’ll have the choice of: 1.) migrating to AOL and keeping your Verizon email address or 2.) exiting to an email provider such as Outlook or Gmail. When you get your email, you’ll have a short time to make your decision. If you don’t choose one option, you’ll lose access to your “verizon.net” account. Here’s why you should take the second option.
Keep in mind that you can make the switch from Verizon now and retain access to your Verizon contacts and messages for six months. If you don’t decide, Verizon will close out your email accounts. If you have copiers, scanners, servers and other equipment that rely on email addresses to function, those devices will stop working after you choose your options or your time runs out.
We think Verizon is leading a move by utility companies – phone and cable carriers – to get out of the email business because it’s too complicated and time-consuming to provide as a free service. Just to get this out of the way, Verizon’s first option, switching to AOL, is less complicated right now. You’ll be able to keep your existing addresses, with “verizon.net,” but you can keep your addresses and log in through AOL’s system from now on. That might be a temporary solution because you can keep all your contacts.
But we don’t like it for the long term. While you may think that you’re getting a lot of spam now through your Verizon filters, we think that will increase with AOL. Spam is more than a nuisance; it’s a way for hackers to get into your system. Although you can catch most hacking attempts with common sense, hackers know that if they throw enough spam at you, one of them will get past even the most vigilant user. We don’t think security is a major concern. AOL tightened up its security after it was hacked in 2014, before Verizon bought it.
However, we think the “utility company” extensions will disappear as those companies get out of the email business. That means you’ll need to make a switch at some point, and it makes sense to do it now, before you add more contacts. Switching now may make particularly good sense for copier and scanning companies and other similar service providers that use email addresses. We’ve had some Verizon email addresses for some services, and we’re moving away because those addresses will disappear at some point.
We recommend switching to an email provider that will be in the business for the long term, such as Outlook or Gmail. You should be able to keep that address for as long as you like. Besides not having to worry about losing the email address, you’ll gain much more flexibility in shopping for a new ISP. We know it’s a hassle to move all your contacts and messages and tell people your new address. It’s also a pain when people don’t update their own contact lists or when autofill puts in an old address. For all those reasons, you might as well start to move away from Verizon/AOL, as well as from any other utility.
The two email services that come to mind are Outlook and Gmail. In listing the option to move away, Verizon tells you to follow the instructions from your new provider. You could also get your own domain and have that hosted through Outlook or another email service provider. You can keep your domain for as long as you like, and because you’ll be hosting it and calling the shots, you can do away with the advertising that seems to be more prevalent and more annoying.
Regardless of which new provider you choose, you’ll need to establish your new email address and set up your mailbox – or mailboxes – before you close out your old one. Then, you can follow the steps to transfer addresses and messages and set up your rules for how you manage messages.
We can help you in two ways:
- Choose an email provider: Outlook and Gmail are two that come to mind, but there are many others, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you need. We can review the ways you access email, such as a computer, phone or tablet, and whether you need integration and/or collaboration tools.
- Set up your new account and transfer all the data: This is extremely critical. Although your new service will have instructions and although you’ll be able to find help through online forums, it’s not always easy to get right settings for your new account and then transfer your contacts and messages. It’s also not easy to back up all of contacts and messages. If you don’t have an accessible back-up and you make a mistake in the transfer process, you could need to jump through hoops to get it all done – at the least – or lose everything – your worst-case scenario.
If you have a “verizon.net” email address, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us as soon as you get a notice to discuss your options (keep your address, keep your address temporarily or switch immediately to a new email service). If you have an April 13 deadline approaching, and you need to have a plan in order now. If you didn’t get an email, you will, and you’ll need to be prepared to make important decisions quickly. It wouldn’t hurt to start planning now. You can spend hours and hours of frustration solving this issue, or you call us to handle your transition without stress.