We’re Moving! But not far…

Starting on Saturday, January 5th 2019, LaptopMD will be upgrading to a new office space to better serve the community! You will be able to find us at 247 W 38th st, Suite 602, New York NY 10018.

The new location will only be a few blocks away from our previous location. We will now be centrally located within 5 short minutes from the Penn Station, Port Authority, and Times Square bus stations and subway hubs.


247 W 38th St, Suite 602, New York NY 10018.

Our commitment to provide exceptional service to the community drives everything we do. As such, the move to the new office will help us with our mission to provide excellent care to a greater number of people.

New office, same great care. Remember, we’ve only moved a few blocks away, so starting on January 5th, come visit us at the new location!

Exciting News: New Office, Same Awesome Service!

Well, after months of planning, dreaming, designing, and deliberating, we are renovating our office! That’s right, we’re redecorating with you in mind.

What does this mean for you? Well, let’s start with the technician area. They are, after all, the heart of what we do. We’re expanding their area, incorporating state-of-the-art design and technology. With more space, a better layout, and better tools, our techs will be able to handle your repairs faster and more efficiently. They’ll also be able to take on more complex jobs that we were unable to handle before. All in all, you’ll get better work, faster! Who can argue with that?

Probably of more immediate concern to you, we’re getting a new customer waiting area with all sorts of amenities. What amenities? I’d love to tell you, but it’s a surprise. You’ll just have to stop in on our grand unveiling and see for yourself (date TBA). What I can tell you is it’ll be bigger, full of stuff to do, and make you feel more at home than you’ve ever felt before at a repair shop. We’ve been consulting with countless designers and planners to make sure every one of your needs are taken care of.

Last, but certainly not least, the whole office is getting a cosmetic makeover. New Paint, new design, new architecture. We promise a stunning experience from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave with your laptop repaired.

Laptop MD joins forces with Data Recovery Clinic!

We are excited to announce that Laptop MD now has joined forces with Data Recovery Clinic. Steven, the lead technician at Data Recovery Clinic, has been providing emergency data recovery from hard drives and raids of all configurations for over 23 years.

DRC, established in 1989, attributes their high success rate due to their cutting edge ATOLA data recovery equipment and highly trained technicians in data recovery. They have successfully recovered data from all over the globe and from all types of media. If your data can be recovered, then they can recover it. If you don’t believe us, just ask: NASA, 3M, Lucent, Pepsi Co, Chicago Stock Exchange, Sandia National Labs, CAGEMA INC, Raytheon, Dell, HP, IBM, Compaq, Norton Utilities, and many, many more whose data they have successfully recovered.

With their “no-data no-charge payment system”, it’s a win-win for anyone who has been faced with the disastrous failed hard drive, flash card, or memory stick at the most critical moment. Come to Laptop MD and let us battle “Murphy’s Law” for you.

open iphone

iPhones, Apple, and the Right To Repair Bill

Apple makes some pretty great phones. We should know, we get to see how many people walk in with broken iPhone screens all the time, and so many people wouldn’t have iPhones unless they were a great phone.

However, it’s hard to not be frustrated at how anti-consumer some of their moves have been in recent years.

Apple’s anti-consumer moves

 

Planned Obsolescence

 

The most recent anti-consumer move by Apple just recently came to light, with how they treated their older iPhone batteries. People talked about “planned obsolescence” all the time, even making jokes about it, but apparently, it’s been true the whole time. They are even facing lawsuits over it.

To be fair, their reasoning for throttling older iPhone speeds has some merit. However, they didn’t disclose what they were doing which makes it pretty clear that they knew it was wrong. Also, unlike most Android phones, it is very difficult for a consumer to remove and replace their battery. Which would’ve mattered a whole lot more if they were open and honest about what is slowing down the customer’s iPhone (an old battery).

 Removal of the Headphone Jack

 

The iPhone 7 had a big stroke of “innovation” as Apple would call it, which is a thinly-veiled way of saying it won’t be compatible with other typical products. While Apple and Apple-followers stuck to that line of reasoning, it’s pretty obvious that removing the headphone jack did not make the iPhone 7 better, but it did help Apple’s bottom line.

Not only does it force people to get either the little converter attachment (that is SUPER easy to lose, meaning you need a replacement) or the Apple headphones. Or, if you want to get wireless headphones Apple owns Beats, which is a massively popular Bluetooth Headphone company. People might just move to wireless headphones – which is that innovation they like to reference – and buy a pair of Beats.

There are plenty of other examples similar to this one – Macbooks got rid of their USB and Ethernet ports while the rest of the first world still uses them, forcing people to get adapters. It’s really a testament to how much people love their products that they are still so successful.  A lesser product definitely couldn’t do something like this.

What’s Their Goal?

 

I already mentioned how it’s very difficult for iPhone users to access the battery (that’s where we come in) and Apple wants it that way. They don’t want you to be able to swap out your battery for a new one because they want you to go to them for that service.

Better yet, they don’t want you to fix your iPhone after it starts showing it age, they want you to get a new one. We’re seeing it in products everywhere, people don’t stich up their clothes as much as they used to, or take as much care of their car, or even swap out a hard drive for a new one! People just get a new one.

Once people are accustomed to getting a new phone every couple of years, it’s not wasteful – it’s just what you do. 

“Right to Repair”

 

Apple (among other big tech companies) has been lobbying against the “Fair Repair Act” for the last few years. The bill would require companies like Apple to sell tools and replacement parts, and perhaps even guides, so that customers can repair their phones and computers.

That sounds like something we wouldn’t really want either, but we don’t mind this bill at all.

Let’s face it, a lot of people just want to have an expert handle it. I can change my own oil, but I’ll usually have it done at a Jiffy Lube or a Sears Auto. Just because customers will have more access to the tools and parts to fix their computers and phones, doesn’t mean they’ll stop coming to us.

In fact, there are plenty of guides on how to replace iPhone screens online, but it requires delicate care, and often some tools that people don’t have. That’s why so many people choose to come to repair shops like us.

Apple is opposing this legislation because they want to make their phones nearly impossible to fix by repair shops like us. Forcing you to go to them for repairs is only part of it, because they don’t actually want you to fix your phone, they want you to get a new phone entirely.

Pre-order your iPhone X Now!

Many people have said (somewhat justifiably) that the newest iPhone is the same thing as the last one, with a new number.  In fact, some of the newer iPhones have had LESS features than previous iterations cough cough iPhone 7 audio jack cough.

However, my over-used joke aside, the iPhone 7 was incredibly popular and Apple added it to their tally of successful bold moves.  The next bold move is supposed to be the iPhone X.

Forward Progress Must Continue

 

With Apple releasing two different branches of iPhones at once, people may wonder why?  Well it seems that the iPhone 8 might fit into the typical category of iPhones – it’s the new one but it’s not that special. It’s basically a nicer, newer iPhone 7 with a few more added features that probably won’t affect your daily life too much.

However, the iPhone X is to be their next big step up.  Among a host of other improvements, it has facial recognition software, which is also the main reason you might need to pre-order the iPhone X if you want to get it soon.

Apparently, Facial Recognition Software Requires Precision

It’s the Facial Recognition bit that has production slowing.  It makes sense, given that this truly is a huge step forward.  According to PC Mag, Apple may have had to lower their facial recognition accuracy to make it easier to produce enough iPhones on time.  That means if you want to get the new iPhone X soon, you probably need to pre-order!

Apple Has Denied This

 

Apple has made a statement about their facial recognition software, saying that they are not compromising its quality and that they fully expect it to become the new “gold standard” in facial recognition technology.

Obviously, they don’t want to admit if they are providing a sub-optimal product, but it is hard to expect the first iPhone to come with this technology to have it perfect.  Just look at how far we’ve come when viewing the iPhone 3 to the iPhone 5, and then from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 7.

I was just saying how the new iPhone is often just like the old one with some new shine on it, but those subtle changes do ramp up quite quickly. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that in a few years we might look at the iPhone X’s facial recognition capabilities as buggy and imperfect when compared to the iPhone XII, or whatever we’re calling it then.

Trade in your old iPhone for credit toward your new one!

If you’re looking forward to snagging one of the new iPhones (whether that be the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X) and have an older version, you can trade that in for some credit toward your new phone with most cell providers (or other places like Amazon and Best Buy) will just buy the phone off of you! However, they only accept working phones so if you’ve just been dealing with a cracked screen, make sure to get it fixed first!

Apple doesn’t mind anymore.

 

People are often hesitant to get their screen repaired through a 3rd party provider because Apple used to void the warranty on the phone then.  However, they changed their stance back in February and as long as the repair is done well (do your research and look at the reviews!) they won’t void your warranty.

It’s a small step, but it’s a nice gesture from Apple to notice that it’s unfair to consumers who might not live near an Apple store to get their phone fixed – and we’re all just replacing the screens anyway!

Apple and Samsung are competitors… Right?

Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series are probably the most popular phones on the market, in a general sense.  I mean it’s really the iPhone by some margin, then the Galaxy is leading the pack left behind Apple’s top seller.  However, while Samsung probably wishes they were leading the market, or at least at a 50/50 split with Apple, don’t worry about them.

Samsung makes money from iPhone sales

In addition to being a massive manufacturer of their own phones, Samsung creates a lot of parts that get used in the iPhone.  This is extremely relevant right now because according to PC Mag, Samsung will get approximately $110 for every iPhone X sold.  So, the new iPhone that is going to keep Apple moving forward, is going to be paying Samsung’s bills too, keeping the iPhone’s closest competitor in the race.

In fact, there are projected to be approximately 50 million Samsung Galaxy S8 sales (which are thought to net Samsung $202) but 130 million iPhone X sales.  You can do the math, that means Samsung would legitimately make more money off of iPhones than their own Galaxies.

But whyiphone x screen

In the simplest of explanations, it’s really a result of supply-and-demand.  Apple wouldn’t be paying Samsung for their parts if they didn’t have to – they probably wish they could be manufacturing every part required for use in their iPhones, but they can’t.  And every recent iPhone uses parts from other manufacturers, the real problem is the iPhone X’s OLED screen.

The iPhone X’s screen is huge and Samsung may be the only potential manufacturer for it due to the enormous demand Apple is needing to fill.  If the iPhone X wasn’t expected to achieve such high sales numbers, they could probably go to a different manufacturer, or try to keep the entire process inside their company.

Samsung wins either way

Samsung stands to lose a lot if they stop providing parts for iPhones, and they can’t guarantee that their phones would then skyrocket in popularity (if the iPhone’s quality suffered as a result).  For the time being, it seems the two competitors are tied together.

Samsung wins either way. Either the iPhone outperforms the Galaxy by a huge margin like expected, and they still make a lot of money from both their own phone and the iPhone.  If the iPhone X doesn’t reach the high projections, the most likely candidate to replace the iPhone X in a consumer’s hand might be the Galaxy S8, which Samsung won’t be upset about either.

 

The Basics: What is Phishing?

Phishing is just the term for people trying to lure others to give up their secure information through emails.   People hopefully aren’t falling for the Nigerian Prince bit anymore, but it’s a good representation of the basic idea.

Nowadays, people don’t typically ask for you to directly send them money – instead they try to get sensitive information (often CC info, or your login information for your bank/PayPal) or they might just want you to click their link to download malware onto your computer.  In general, it’s all bad and you could lose valuable information and money.  Or your time and patience while you try to get it back.

An Example of Phishing

I’ve attached an email below that we got that isn’t quite as obvious.  It has many errors in it, but they aren’t too noticeable, and on first glance it seems like it might be a legitimate email from PayPal.  I have to respond/handle legitimate emails like this pretty regularly, so it’s not hard to believe that someone could get tricked.  Catch someone before their first cup of coffee and they might just fall for it completely!  Here is the unedited email in question:

As you can see, this email is impersonating PayPal, saying you need to click the link to verify your account because some illegal activity has been going on in your account.  At first glance, this looks fine, like something PayPal might send out.  However, there are several mistakes/signs that this email isn’t correct.

The Errors

There are actually many small errors throughout the email that should tip you off that something is wrong, on top of the fact that the URL the link will take you isn’t PayPal.  Let’s go through them.

  • The logo is wrong.
    • PayPal uses mainly two versions of their logo, one of which looks a lot like this, but it is slightly different. I didn’t notice this at first, so if you didn’t, don’t feel bad.
  • Broken English
    • “…from different country followed by some illegals buys . we think that you’re not who do that, so we have suspended your account.”
      • When you look closely, it becomes pretty obvious that this is written in broken English. Notice that the last bit “so we have suspended your account” is perfect though, so if you just skimmed the email you could totally miss that.
  • “We will give you 1 Day to update your informations or we will suspend your account forever.”
    • More broken English. But suspend my account FOREVER? Okay well Paypal wouldn’t do that… that just doesn’t make sense.  But if you don’t pause to think about it, you could get spurred to action.
  • Lastly, the link doesn’t go to PayPal.
    • You can highlight the link they want you to click and see where it’s going to take you. It’s not Paypal, so wrap it up and call it a day.  The email is fake.  I don’t know if they wanted you to just click the link and it would download malware, or if they wanted you to input your Paypal information so they could get access. It doesn’t matter, don’t click the link.

Why do Phishing emails have errors?  Are they not trying hard enough?

The assumption is that for most scammers, English is not their first language so there’s a greater chance of typos and improper grammar. However, there is speculation that emails like this are typed a little poorly on purpose to get specifically the uneducated/lazy/tired individuals that are less likely to make a big fuss if they give up their information.

This is why we all laugh at the old “Nigerian Prince” scam, but it was/is moderately successful! We all think “who falls for this stuff…” but it’s because they want to get the gullible and uneducated to work with them.  They don’t want everyone to respond to the emails, because that would be a waste of time for them.  They only want people who are likely to actually fall for their tricks – thus poor grammar and spelling are very common. People who will overlook the obvious issues in the email are more likely to just give their information without questioning it.

Now I know everything about Phishing and will never get got by it!

Well, no.  Unfortunately, being cautious is pretty much the best advice we can give you on how to protect yourself, but it’s impossible for us to guarantee that that will keep you completely protected.  However, as long as you are careful, potential hackers/scammers won’t want to waste their time with you.

How To Write A Good Password

15 years later, the leading authority on password advice changes his mind

Earlier this week Bill Burr told the Wall Street Journal that he regretted much of the password advice he gave almost 15 years ago. Who’s Bill Burr? He’s the reason you’re required to come up with a new password every 90 days on some sites. And the one who suggested things like this: p@$$w0rD123!

Turns out, changing your password every 90 days makes passwords less secure. And replacing a=@ o=0 s=$ may not be as clever as you think. See, hackers and hacking algorithms are very aware of this trick and it’s very easy for them to bust these passwords.

So what should we do???

Making a complex (but easy to remember) password

Whenever a customer drops off their computer or phone at one of our stores, we ask for the password. We do this for testing purposes, to ensure device functionality both before and after the repair. However, collecting passwords from tens of thousands of different people has led me to notice something.

Almost everyone uses a weak password.

It’s understandable. Complex passwords are hard to remember and who has enough energy to commit a random number/letter combination to memory? Instead, almost every password I see is some version of a word, often with a number or two, and maybe an exclamation mark. Bunny21 or Timothy1986! – something like that. These passwords are fairly simple and easy to crack and we all know that.

We also know what a complex password looks like. It’s something like sO#tO32bEgO or LiTi7An&Be. These passwords avoid full words and look like keyboard gibberish so the common perception is they are difficult to memorize. But they don’t have to be.

Here’s the trick. Start with a phrase that means something to you. Now choose a number (one or multiple digits) and your favorite special character. Something like below:

Soon to be Gone – 32 – #

or

Lions Tigers and Bears – 7 – &

Now, take the first two letters from each word and combine them to make a single 8 character “word”. Then put the number and the special character in-between any of the two letter segments. So…

Soon to be Gone becomes sotobego and then so#to32bego

Lions Tigers and Bears becomes litianbe and then liti7an&be

Lastly, capitalize one letter from every two-letter segment. You can choose to capitalize either the first or last letter each time, or make it a bit more random which letters you capitalize. In my case, I chose to capitalize the second letter each time for the first password, and the first letter each time in the second password. The end result is:

sO#tO32bEgO and LiTi7An&Be

Both of these seem entirely random but are actually fairly easy to remember since they are based on a phrase with personal meaning. It can be a bit tricky to type at first, but you’ll remember this password more easily than you’d expect since you’ll remember how you created it. And you’ll also be surprised how quickly your fingers will develop muscle memory and learn to type the new password.

Another method

If you can use a longer password, another common technique is to create a phrase password. Something like:

Agavehorsecloudpooltoasterdrive

As it turns out, creating a long password adds hacking difficulty even if it’s made up of common English words (which typically makes a password less secure). Because the password is adequately long and the hackers can’t predict the length of any individual word, it’s pretty hard to crack.

The key is just to not use a phrase that means anything to you this time. Nothing from literature especially. Try this method to create your password using only a dice and a cheat sheet. The random roll of a dice will make your password nearly impenetrable!

Give it a try. Did this method work for you? We’d love to hear your feedback!

What’s the best way to prevent viruses?

As a computer repair shop, we’ve seen our fair share of viruses.  And when our CEO asked everyone what we all personally believed to be the best way to protect yourself from malware and viruses in general, the answer was pretty one-sided.  Common sense.

Common Sense

More than anything else, the best way to protect yourself online is by using common sense. Be careful what you’re clicking on, what attachments you’re opening, what you’re downloading, and who you’re trusting.  Common sense is a really ambiguous term though, so here are some specific tips to help you out.

Browse with caution

Browsing with caution doesn’t necessarily mean being afraid to open up Yahoo or CNBC, but if you think a website or email looks sketchy or out-of-place, maybe skip it.  Phishing can take many forms: a Nigerian prince asking for money is obviously a ploy – but “Well’s Fargo” sending you an email saying you need to verify your information in the next 24 hours or they’ll close your account isn’t quite as obvious.  When in doubt, look for ways to verify the email is legitimate, such as a phone number or contact information at the bottom of the email and verify that it matches with Wells Fargo’s actual number.

Make sure you’re on the right website

Take a quick look at a website’s domain to make sure you’re on the correct site before you submit personal information or download anything.  If you’re going to download Microsoft Office, make sure you’re on Microsoft.com, not Microsftoff.com.  It’s a small detail, but that’s exactly how people get malicious software.

Check for an SSL certificate

An additional security measure on websites is having an SSL Certificate (Secure Sockets Layer).  That’s the little lock next to the website’s name:

It essentially just means that any information sent to or from that website will be encrypted and is therefore much harder to access for any 3rd party.

Don’t click sketchy ads

If you’re going to websites to illegally stream your favorite shows or sports, you should probably be cautious, use an adblocker, and don’t click the ads you DO see on the page.  But if you’re the type of person to go to those websites, you probably know that already.

When all else fails: use your common sense.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Our favorite antivirus = Windows Defender

Windows Defender is a program that comes on every Windows computer with Windows 8 or newer (also called Microsoft Security Essentials ) and it does a pretty decent job.  It’s downloadable for all Windows computers with older operating systems as well.

Why paid antivirus solutions come up short

Besides using common sense, you still need an antivirus. But that doesn’t mean you need a paid antivirus.

Essentially, many of those common “big” antivirus programs do exactly what you want to prevent: slow down your computer.  They often force bloatware onto your computer or make you download extensions that make your browser slow and clunky.  It’s pretty ironic that the programs you’re downloading to STOP your computer from slowing down/having pop-ups will have the opposite effect.  If you don’t want to be constantly pestered by your antivirus your best bet is to just stick with the security your computer came with, because it’s definitely good enough.

Why Windows Defender is the best

How to Geek says it caught 99.9% of all “widespread and prevalent” malware.  According to them, it may not hit quite as many benchmarks as some paid options but it’s good enough.  Frankly, you won’t notice any difference in protection between Windows Defender and Norton/AVG/McAfee.  What you WILL notice though, is how annoying that paid antivirus program is.

Windows Defender is smooth and runs in the background while it does its job.  It will give you the rare notification that isn’t invasive or distracting, but that’s how you know it’s working.  Plus it’s free.  And unless you really feel like financially supporting the antivirus community, free is better.

Now that DOESN’T mean that you’re 100% protected all the time. Viruses and malware are persistent and you are always at risk of being infected – whether you have an additional antivirus program or not.  You should still be careful (see section on common sense).

Even more protection: monthly Malware Scans

If you really want to double down and cover all of your bases, you can use a malware scanner once a month (or once every few months) to ensure that you haven’t picked up any malicious software.  Malwarebytes has developed a good reputation for routine malware scanning, and they have both free and paid versions.

If you go with a scanner that is manually controlled – which we would recommend since you are already running Windows Defender in the background – just remember to use it.  It’s not helping you if the icon is just sitting on your desktop. Make sure to run it every now and then!

Conclusion

These suggestions are for the average user for their personal computer.  Large and medium businesses are obviously at more risk and will require more layers of protection for their network, because they have more to lose and attackers have more to gain.  However, for personal use, most paid anti-viruses hurt more than they help and you just shouldn’t worry about it too much.  Browse with common sense and stick with the basics.

Worst case scenario: a virus removal from a computer repair shop just like us is always an option.  If that doesn’t do the trick, a system reinstall will cure your sick computer and have it back up to speed in no time.