Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Memorial DayWhether you’re headed to the beach this weekend, spending time with loved ones, or soaking up the rays here in New York City, I would like to wish you a safe and pleasant Memorial Day.

As the nation pauses this extended weekend to honor those who have fallen in service to our country as well as departed loved ones, let us not forget the victims of recent natural disasters – tornado victims in the Midwest and those families still dealing with grief from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan earlier this year.

On behalf of the LaptopMD team, I would like to wish you and your family a safe, enjoyable, and beautiful Memorial Day Weekend. May we never forget those who have passed and departed our company and remember the great people we have around us each and every day. May this weekend be a wonderful start to your summer season.

Happy Labor Day from LaptopMD+

On September 5th 1882, several hundred New Yorkers gathered in Union Square for a parade to celebrate the strength and might of labor unions and further embolden their campaign against horrendous working conditions. Over 100 years later, we continue to commemorate Labor Day not only as a day of championing workers rights but as a day of rest and relaxation for all as we transition into the fall season.

This weekend, LaptopMD+ wishes everyone a very happy and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend. We hope that you have a great and enjoyable unofficial end to the summer season and you are able to take advantage of the weather this weekend.

LaptopMD+ will be open on Labor Day, September 5th for your computer and laptop repair needs but with shortened hours of 11am to 6pm. We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, September 6th.

Happy Labor Day New York, you deserve this extra day off!

Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882 via Wikipedia

New Faces, Same Great Service

Things are changing fast here at LaptopMD+! First we had the office renovated and redesigned, then the website redesign, and now new employees. That’s right, we’ve hired two new people to make your LaptopMD+ experience better than ever.

First we have Steve, our new technician and floor manager. He’s just as handy with a customer as he is with a screwdriver, and that’s the way we prefer it. Coming to us from a long background of helping people fix their electronics, we think Steve has the potential to snag the “Favorite Manager” crown away from the current king, Nick. Let us know what you think!

We also recently procured a new intern: Sam. Sam is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as any intern should be, and joins our marketing team (that’s us!). Over the next couple of months, we will be imparting all of our knowledge to Sam in the hope that one day, he too may be as awesome as the rest of us. He’s also going to be helping us out on the phones, so if you hear him pick up, tell him ‘Hi’ for us. Also, look for Sam’s upcoming blog series: “The Trials and Tribulations of a LaptopMD+ Intern” coming soon!

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.

Spectre and Meltdown: Processing Problems

You may have heard recently that many of Intel’s Central Processing Units (CPUs) have a design flaw that could allow malicious attackers to steal private information.  Passwords, emails, etc. could be stolen because of “kernel memory areas” in the CPUs.

However, even though the focus is on Intel’s screw-up, it’s believed that CPUs sold by other vendors may have the same problems. Intel is just taking the heat because they’re the biggest and most reputable name.

What is a CPU?

processor

If you’ve ever seen a CPU (above) – also casually known as a processor – you would know it’s probably the strangest-looking part of a computer.  It’s relatively inconspicuous, but it is regarded as the “brain” of the computer, because pretty much everything needs to run through the CPU.  That’s why keeping the CPU at a low temp takes a lot of work, but is very important (if your computer is overheating it will probably shut down to protect the CPU).

What are the security flaws?

 

The two main “vulnerabilities” have cool names: Spectre and Meltdown.  They both can be exploited by malicious programs on your computer to get secret information from your currently running programs (password managers, emails).  The nitty-gritty details of it are complicated but the gist of it is pretty simple.

Your processor wants to act quickly and it makes information readily available, in an attempt to give you a faster and more fluid user experience so you don’t need to wait for the information.  These flaws take advantage of that optimization and the software patches to fix it might affect that.

Okay cool, it’s being fixed.

 

The initial reports from PC Mag were saying that the software fix would be a big problem, and that it could potentially slow down your computer up to 30%.  Intel has pushed back at that statement saying “any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant”.

So, if you’re a really intensive computer user you might notice your machine slowing down every now and then, but hopefully you won’t.

The Moral: Nobody is Perfect

 

Everything seems like it can be hacked. The Equifax security breachthe Showtime cryptocurrency mining scandalthe OTHER Equifax security breachKRACK attacksRansomware… there’s a lot of bad hacking-related issues lately and it seems like it might not get better.

Unfortunately, this is just the age we live in right now. We can just stick with our personal best practices. Use a virus removal you trust, keep an eye out for phishing attempts, and update your software frequently.

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.

 

CBS’s Showtime and The Pirate Bay get Caught Mining Cryptocurrency… on their Consumers’ Computers

Online advertising has become a really tricky game to get into.  Monetizing a popular website that generates a lot of online traffic used to be much, much easier than it is now.  The simple answer used to be advertising, but nowadays you would need to generate OVER A MILLION pageviews in a month just to generate $5,000.  Without those users having an Adblocker installed on their browser.

$5,000 a month is nothing to scoff at, but generating that much traffic is a very, very tall task.  So online streaming websites like CBS’s Showtime and the infamous Pirate Bay are doing something else in an attempt to monetize their considerable traffic: mining cryptocurrency on their viewers’ computers.

They’re Mining Cryptocurrency… What Does That Even Mean

 

We’ve written about cryptocurrencies before, but to keep it simple: mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum takes considerable amounts of processing power and electricity which is what makes it so hard to “mine” and it gets harder as time goes on.  That’s why people often say it’s a better to just invest into a cryptocurrency rather than mine it yourself if you’re late to the game.

So, these two websites were caught using their viewers’ computers to mine the cryptocurrencies for them, putting the burden onto customer’s (and pirates) computers to avoid racking up their own significant electricity costs and using their own processers.

How They Can Do It

 

If you don’t have an adblocker, it’s pretty simple for them to be able to run a script from your browser that would just mine cryptocurrency in the background.  However, using the viewer’s processing power in the background is also a really easy way to hurt the quality of your product.  The stream isn’t going to buffer and load as quickly, and the quality is very likely to suffer because of that – not to mention that it could overheat computers if they’re not too careful.

It’s easy to see why they would want to find an alternative to advertisements to turn their considerable online traffic into money, but it’s pretty shady to be using the consumers that are ALSO being shown endless advertisements like that.

I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed

 

The Pirate Bay doing something like this isn’t that surprising, because they are an illegal streaming site.  People aren’t likely to complain to the authorities about something like this because you really shouldn’t be using their service anyway.  They also owned up to it already, and getting ahead of the bad publicity is pretty ironic given who they are.

It is very concerning that Showtime is the other big-name website that just got caught doing it, because not only do customers PAY for Showtime, they are also given small advertisements while on the site.  They’re not double-dipping, they’re TRIPLE-dipping.

That’s like Hulu on steroids (disclaimer – I don’t mind that Hulu charges customers and still gives advertisements because for just $4 more a month you are able to avoid those ads altogether, but that’s beside the point).

It’s… an Interesting Development

 

At the end of the day, this is an intriguing situation to watch unfold.  Pirate Bay said it was a test, basically saying that mining on consumers’ computers could potentially be used as an alternative to advertising altogether – which has been met with mixed reviews. It’s actually a pretty good idea.

If I had a transparent choice between ads and dedicating some of my processing power to them (for a very limited time) I might consider the latter. The biggest question now though, is just how many of these websites are doing this?  Doing something like this is debatable even when completely transparent, but the fact that such large websites didn’t let their customers know (okay, so maybe I’m just talking about Showtime here) is very concerning.

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.