Ringing in the New Year: A Tech Checklist for 2019

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Can you believe we’re almost to the end of 2018? For a lot of people, the start of the new year signals the chance to make a fresh start. Maybe that means making a resolution or getting to a task you put off the previous year. Either way, here is a start of the year tech checklist to kick off the new year right.

Updates and Back-ups

Have you, like so many of us, been clicking that “remind me later” button every time your phone or computer nudges you to install an update? Maybe now’s the time to go ahead and catch up on that backlog of updates.

Keeping your devices up-to-date keeps everything running smoothly, so when a problem does arise with an app or piece of software, it can be easier to diagnose.

But before you do those updates, make sure you schedule back-ups of your data. Using this time to make sure you don’t lose a whole year (or two) of photos, videos, and documents is worth it.

Digital Clean-Up

You know that amazing feeling of having an empty email inbox? Yeah, me neither.

Start your year off by trying to get down to inbox zero. It may seem daunting, depending on how full your inbox is, but the end of the year is a great time to wrangle those emails. Plus, it gives you a chance to look back at your year and see what tasks are still outstanding.

Another digital area to tackle is photos. Did you take a selfie with your dog that resulted in 20 outtakes? Deleting old, unneeded photos clears up space on your device, and makes finding those must-keep shots easier to find.

Lastly, delete old apps. Like cleaning old clothes out of your closet, look for apps you haven’t used in over a year. Operating systems like iOS even have tools available to automatically remove unused apps for you.

Change Your Passwords

Still using the same password for all of your apps and accounts that you used in college? Maybe it’s time to switch things up. Changing your passwords frequently can keep your data safe. If you have trouble remembering passwords, there’s an app for that! There are many great password managers available for computers and mobile devices.

Consider a Tech-Related Resolution

Speaking of apps, the great thing about technology is there are apps available to help you use technology less. Maybe your resolution this year is to use social media less, or stop using your phone after a certain time at night. Apps like the new Screen Time app available on iOS 12 have tools to help make those resolutions a reality.

No matter your New Years’ Resolution, we hope you have a great holiday season and start to 2019. And if you need any hardware repair, we’ll be here to help.

Warranty School Part 3: Put Your Warranty to Work

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Many people buy items with warranties, extended warranties, or service plans, and luckily, never need to use them, but in case the day comes when you need to use your warranty, make sure you get the best possible service.

The best way to use your warranty is to make sure you’re covered in the first place. New purchases often come with a stack of warranty information documents in the box—hold on to these! File them (or scan them), with your proof of purchase, in case you need to refer to them later.

Product registration is another way to keep track of your warranty options, and sometimes, in doing so, you may get added benefits from the manufacturer, like priority support, future discounts, and recall notices.

Even though it may be a chore, make sure to read through those warranty documents to make sure you know what is—and what is not—covered. Knowing what to expect if and when you need warranty services may inform your decision, depending on how you use your device, of whether or not to buy additional warranty protection or a service plan. And when the time comes to use those warranties, knowing what is covered will help manage your expectations and ensure you’re getting the best possible service through your plan.

Be prepared to prove your device or machine is still covered by its warranty, extended warranty, or service plan when seeking out service. This will most likely involve providing documentation, such as receipts, a service contract, or product registration (see—we told you to keep that stuff 🙂 ).

Make sure you know who to contact. Depending on the warranty or service plan, you may need to contact the store where you made your purchase, the manufacturer, or a third-party service provider. Some providers—like ComputerCare—cover warranty repairs on certain brands, and can be more convenient than reaching out to the original manufacturer. (You can see what warranty repairs we perform here.)

So what do you do if you’re out of your warranty period, or the damage isn’t covered?

It can be very frustrating to find out your damaged device is no longer covered by its warranty. If this is the case, you can still get it repaired, but it may cost labor and parts to do so.

Do your research. Will the cost to repair your device be more or less than replacing the item? Before you make any decisions, find a service provider who can offer an estimate before repairs are completed.At ComputerCare, we charge a flat diagnostic fee to determine what is wrong with your device (Apple devices are diagnosed free of charge!)—but if you choose to use us to do your repairs, the fee is waived. And before any work is done, we provide you with an estimate, so you’ll know if it will be more cost effective to fix or replace. We charge a flat labor fee, and give you the option to stick to your machine’s brand for parts, or to use a third party.

Whether you’re in or out of your warranty period, we’re here to help! Learn more about our hardware repair services here.

Did You Know? 5 Interesting Facts About Touchscreens.

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Back when Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, touchscreens seemed futuristic and new. Now, touchscreens are everyday fixtures for most people. Here are some facts you might not know about touchscreen technology.

  1. Touchscreen technology has been around since the 1960s.

    E.A. Johnson is credited with developing the first capacitive touchscreen in the 1960s. His touchscreen could only register one touch at a time, and was used in air traffic control systems. In 1977, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (or CERN) implemented early mutual capacitance touchscreen technology for its control room of the Super Proton Synchrotron particle accelerator. The HP-150 was one of the first commercially available “touchscreen” computers (it actually used infrared light beams that, when broken, detected where to place the cursor) and retailed for $2795. Touchscreen technology has been used in point of sale machines, first seen in the Atari 520ST, since the mid-1980s (Atari was also the first to include color graphics). Touchscreens were widely used in PDAs in the 1990s.For more interesting history on touchscreens and multi-touch technology, check out this timeline by one of the early innovators of multi-touch, Bill Buxton.
     
  2. The first touchscreen phone was released in 1994.

    The IBM Simon was released in 1994 and is generally considered the first “smartphone.” It had a touchscreen interface controlled with a stylus, 1 megabyte of storage, and gave the user the ability to make and receive calls, emails, faxes, and had early calendar, address book, notes, maps, stocks, and news apps. It retailed for about $899 (or $1099 without a service contract). The battery only lasted for an hour at a time, and was eventually put out of production by smaller, slimmer cell phones.
     
  3. Many products have been created to accommodate touchscreens.

    The touchscreen on your phone is, at its simplest, a capacitive touchscreen — it uses the electrical conductivity of your skin to detect gestures and input. Barriers between skin and screen, like gloves, interrupt this. As touchscreens have become more and more ubiquitous, non-technical objects have been altered to accommodate them. Items like gloves and bandages can now be found with touch screen-friendly material, allowing users to still interact with their devices despite a material barrier.You can even make your own touchscreen friendly gloves!
     

     
  4. If you can eat it, it will probably work as a stylus.

    It’s cold out and you don’t have your handy touchscreen friendly gloves on? Grab a banana! Or maybe a hotdog. Even an avocado. Many food items are electrical conductors, and like your fingers, can be used to control a touchscreen.
     

     
  5. Products are being developed to turn everyday objects into touch sensitive surfaces.

    Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Future Interfaces Group (FIG) combine a conductive material with electrodes to create touch sensitive surfaces out of almost anything, even irregular-shaped objects:“The “trick” is to apply electrically conductive coatings or materials to objects or surfaces or to craft objects using conductive materials. By attaching a series of electrodes to the conductive materials, researchers showed they could use a well-known technique called electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch.”

    “Walls, furniture, steering wheels, toys and even Jell-O can be turned into touch sensors with the technology….” Read the full article “CMU Creating Touchpads With Can of Spray Paint” here.

    Another of FIG’s innovations is Wall++, a technique using paint to turn a regular wall into a touchscreen-like interface:

    The FIG lab at CMU is developing many new and innovative ways for humans to interact with technology, including touch. You can check out more of their research here.

The best kind of touchscreen is a working touchscreen, so if you’ve got the broken screen blues, we can help. Learn more about our local services here.

Device Batteries: Fact of Fiction?

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As mobile phones and other devices have gotten “smarter,” so have the batteries that power them. Everyone has heard the many different methods to best use and extend the life of your battery, but are those common battery tips truth or fiction? Let’s look at some.

You should charge your device to 100% before using it.

This used to be true, back when nickel-based batteries were widely used in mobile devices. Those batteries, while good for many other things, were a little dumb — if not fully charged, they would forget their own capacity and retain a “memory” of how they were charged, which would lead to loss of capacity if not re-calibrated. Now that lithium-ion batteries are widely used, that is no longer true. Li-ion batteries don’t have “memory” and can be used right out of the box without being charged first.

Run your battery down to 0% before charging.

According to BatteryUniversity.com, running your battery down to 0% and then charging back up to 100% puts a lot of stress on a battery, causing it to degrade faster. Keeping your battery between 40% and 85% (and not letting it go below 20%) with frequent, partial charges is the best charging routine to prolong the life of a li-ion battery. However, letting the battery run down to 0% occasionally (once a month, for example) helps the battery to re-calibrate itself and assess its own capacity, giving you a better idea of its true health.

Leaving a phone plugged in at 100% will overload the battery.

Like we said before, batteries are smarter than they used to be, and know when to stop charging themselves. However, keeping a battery at full charge for prolonged periods of time does degrade the life of a Li-ion battery faster than letting the battery cycle.

Don’t use your phone while it’s charging.

There are varying opinions on this question. While it will cause your phone or device to charge slower, some manufacturers don’t advise against using devices while they are charging. Some sources, however, suggest that using a device while charging puts more stress on the battery, causing its capacity and life to degrade. Anything that causes a device’s battery to heat will have an adverse affect on battery life span, since batteries tend to be like Goldilocks — they don’t like environments that are too hot or too cold. If a temperature is uncomfortable for you, it’s probably bad for your battery.

Extend battery life by closing your open apps.

This, it turns out, is not only not true, but is actually worse for your battery, according to both Apple’s SVP of Software and Android’s VP of Engineering. By closing all your open apps, you’re defeating the purpose of the built-in multitasking function of your device. There are several states of activity an app can fall under. Letting the multitasking functions run the state of those apps is the most efficient way to manage both battery and memory on a device. Closing out of all your apps all the time not only slows your phone, it also uses more memory and battery when it has to boot apps from scratch every time.

If you are worried about the life and capacity of your battery, here are some things to remember:

  • Batteries degrade no matter what you do. They have lifecycles, and eventually, they will not perform the way they once did. If you plan on keeping up with the latest releases of your particular device (every two years, for example), leaning on the built-in energy saving functions of your operating system (and avoiding some of the bad habits above) is probably enough to keep your battery healthy.
  • If you’re worried about getting the most out of your battery, the two biggest battery sucks are display and transmission. Lowering your screen brightness and utilizing airplane mode when service is spotty can save battery life.
  • Not every battery is perfect. Sometimes, devices may ship with a faulty battery. Check your warranty if you think this may be the case.
  • Software and apps can sometimes cause issues with battery life management. Luckily, these are usually caught quickly and fixed with updates. Keep your device and apps up-to-date as best you can.

If your battery isn’t like it used to be, and you don’t plan on upgrading your device, there is the option of replacing it. We can handle battery replacement and other hardware repairs, should you need them. Check out our available services to learn more.

Some Key Words on Keyboards

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I’m willing to bet you don’t give your computer’s keyboard much thought (beyond the occasional cleaning of all those muffin crumbs). Typing is so second nature to most people, they probably don’t stop to think, “Why are keyboards arranged this way?”

That’s a good question, especially as we move farther away from physical keyboards.

The History of QWERTY

There are a lot of myths surrounding the development of the QWERTY keyboard. The most common story goes like this: Christopher Latham Sholes, a printer and newspaper man in Milwaukee, WI, wanted to make his business more efficient, so he developed an early version of the typewriter in 1868. This 28-key version arranged everything alphabetically, because, why wouldn’t you? It was thought to be easiest and most familiar way to arrange the keys, resulting in the least amount of hunting and pecking.

The most common theory explains that Sholes moved away from this arrangement because of mechanical failings. If typed on too quickly, the mechanisms would get jammed. The QWERTY keyboard was supposedly designed to separate common sequences of letters to slow typists down, and reduce the number of malfunctions.

By 1878, Sholes was issued a U.S. Patent with the first documented appearance of the QWERTY layout, entered into a business arrangement with gun-maker Remington the same year, and by 1890, sold more than 100,000 QWERTY-based typewriters across the country.

There’s another theory that basically boils down to the monetization of the proprietary system: Along with selling typewriters, the company also sold training courses, creating brand loyalty and QWERTY-trained typists.

Other keyboard arrangements have been developed since (the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, for example), but the prevalence of QWERTY since its inception 140 years ago has remained beyond its mechanical necessity.

Keyboards Today

Through the advent of personal computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and more, the QWERTY keyboard remains. Even though we interact with it differently (texting with one hand, say, or typing with your thumbs) the familiar pattern is still there.

Even so, the next wave of college graduates set to join the workforce were raised with touch devices, and as those new workers replace those who are retiring, the reliance on physical keyboards may see a shift.

So is QWERTY going to die out? Probably not (right away).

In a recent report on consumer trends, the sales of tablets are trending down, but the market for 2-in-1 laptops (tablets with detachable keyboards) is expected to grow at 21.2%, suggesting the desire for a typing device is still strong.

Still, that mechanical keyboard might eventually become obsolete. The technology developing around touchscreen keyboards (and maybe even VR keyboards) is getting better all the time, with the use of next-generation haptics to simulate the experience of typing on a physical, push-button keyboard. Other developments in technologies such as AI and voice recognition may also lessen the need for physical keyboards.

Any maybe, as this article suggests, for technology to truly take the next big leap, we need to rethink the way we interact with computers – through a keyboard, mouse, or touch screen – all together.

via GIPHY

Either way, if you’re still able to drop it, we’ll still try to fix it. 🙂

How to Do Your Own Computer Repairs

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We know folks would rather not see us, and that’s okay. You only come to a computer repair shop when something is super broken. We get that. That’s why we try to make sure when you do have to come to us, you get absolutely the best service possible. If we can, we’ll get your repairs covered by the warranty so they are free to you. If it’s not covered, we’re very upfront with our pricing and do our best to get things running smoothly for you again.

What if we could go a step further and help you not see us at all? Here’s a quick tutorial on how to be your own IT guy so you won’t have to see us again so soon. But know you will be missed. 🙂

Tip #1 – Turn it off, and turn it back on!

This really is the Holy Grail of IT fixes. It’s amazing how many things this cures. Like blowing on the cartridge or jiggling the handle, it’s an amazing panacea for a variety of technical glitches. Chances are, if you have a computer problem (not related to obvious physical damage, of course), every tech you’ll talk to is going to ask if you’ve turned it off and turned it back on yet.

Tip #2 – Update Everything!

If things are kind of working, but not really, or your system is slow, glitchy, or just doing weird things, it may be a software issue. The first step is to make sure everything is up to date. Go through and make sure everything is as updated as possible.

Tip #3 – GOOGLE it!

IT guys are good at fixing things, but there’s pretty much no way to know everything about every machine. So chances are, when you call a support line or chat with your IT guys at work, unless it’s something right down the middle of the plate, they’re Googling it. Why do you think doctors leave the examination room before giving you a diagnosis? Everyone looks up stuff, and you should, too. Problem is, many folks are kind of terrible at Googling a fix for their problem. So try this: Think of the question you would ask the IT guy, and type that question, exactly as you would say it, directly into Google. If it’s fixable, there’s a good chance your first result will show you the way.

If all else fails, bring it to us. Mechanics fix your car. Plumbers fix your pipes. This is what we do. We’ll make sure to get as much covered by your warranty as possible, so it’s free to you. And if it’s not covered, we’ll give you sound advice and straight forward pricing. Because we know you don’t want to come to us, but we’ll do everything we can to make you glad you did.