Apple’s October 30th Special Event Brings New Macs & iPad Pros

On Tuesday, Apple held its October Special Event with new Macs and iPad Pros taking centerstage. Apple announced long-awaited updates to the MacBook Air and Mac Mini as well as the next generation of iPad Pros. Also announced were companion accessories for the new iPad Pros including the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and a new Smart Keyboard Folio. Rounding off the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the availability of iOS 12.1, which includes Group FaceTime with up to 32 people, support for dual SIM (SIM + eSIM) on the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, over seventy new emojis along with bug fixes and improvements. Singer-songwriters Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff helped close out the event with a special music performance.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

MacBook Air

As highly rumored and anticipated, Apple announced a brand new re-designed and re-engineered 13.3-inch MacBook Air. On the outside, the new MacBook Air is thinner, lighter and utilizes 17% less volume than the previous MacBook Air. It features a high-resolution Retina Display, Touch ID, new keyboard utilizing the butterfly mechanism, standard function keys (no Touch Bar), a Force Touch trackpad with 20% more surface area, new stereo speakers offering 2x the bass and 25% more volume, three microphones, 720p FaceTime camera, two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the inside, the new MacBook Air features a new 8th generation Amber Lake 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz), Apple’s T2 Security Chip, 128GB SSD Flash Storage (configurable to 256GB, 512GB and 1.5TB), 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM (configurable to 16GB) and Intel UHD Graphics 617.

The new MacBook Air offers up to 12 hours of battery life, weighs 2.75lbs (roughly a quarter pound less than the previous generation) and is made from 100% recycled aluminum. It will be available in three colors: Silver, Space Gray and Gold. The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199 ($200 more than the previous generation but $100 less than the base price of the 12-inch MacBook and 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with function keys) and will be available starting November 7th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Mac Mini

Apple announced a new Mac Mini aimed at meeting the continuing needs of Apple users who enjoy the small form factor while giving it some real bite. The new Mac Mini features 8th generation Intel quad-core (starting at 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3) and six-core (starting at 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz and configurable up to 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz) processors offering up to 5x faster system performance, 8GB of 2666MHz DDR SO-DIMM RAM (configurable to 16GB, 32GB and 64GB), 128GB SSD Flash Storage (configurable to 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB), Intel UHD Graphics 630 offering up to 60% faster graphics, four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, HDMI 2.0, two USB 3 ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Ethernet (configurable up to 10Gb Ethernet), Bluetooth 5.0, the Apple T2 Security Chip and a new thermal architecture.

The new Mac Mini weighs 2.9lbs, comes in Space Gray and the aluminum enclosure is made from 100% recycled aluminum. The new Mac Mini starts at $799 and will be available starting November 7th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

iPad Pro

Apple announced two new iPad Pros – an 11-inch model and a 12.9-inch model. Both models feature a new edge-to-edge Liquid Retina Display, the same display found on the new iPhone XR. Gone are the Home button, 3.5mm headphone jack and lightning connector. The iPad Pros support the same familiar gestures found on the iPhone X. The lightning connector is replaced with a new USB-C connector which will allow you to connect external displays, cameras and even charge your iPhone from your new iPad Pro. If you’re dead set on using headphones or earphones with a 3.5mm plug, you’ll need to get the new USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, which will cost $9.00.

The new iPad Pros also feature Face ID which works in both portrait and landscape mode, an all-new A12X Bionic Chip with the new neural engine offering faster performance and up to 2x faster graphics, support for Apple Pencil (2nd generation) which includes the ability to pair and charge the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) wirelessly and attach the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) magnetically to the new iPad Pros. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) also supports gesture controls. Also available is the new Smart Keyboard Folio which protects both the front and back side of the new iPad Pros, offers a keyboard and serves a stand with two viewing angles.

The new iPad Pros come in two colors: Silver and Space Gray with storage capacities of 64GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. Both iPad Pros come in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999. Both iPad Pros will be available starting on November 7th. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) will cost $129 and the new Smart Keyboard Folio will cost $179 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $199 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Both the new Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and Smart Keyboard Folio will be available on November 7th.

For full product details, technical specifications, pricing and to watch the Apple Keynote, visit Apple’s website.

Get Trained & Certified in Lifesaving Skills

About fifteen years ago, I decided to take a certification class in Standard First Aid & Adult CPR through the American Red Cross. I had thought about taking a class for many years and finally took the initiative to register and attend a class. I didn’t take the class because I required the training for my job/workplace. I took the class because I wanted to learn these important lifesaving skills and have this knowledge should I ever encounter a situation where these skills may be needed. Since then, I’ve continued to train and re-certify every couple of years, as required, to stay current, refresh my skills and maintain my certification.

I remember the first class I ever took was a full day class conducted at the American Red Cross in Greater New York headquarters then located on Amsterdam Avenue. The class was for Standard First Aid & Adult CPR with AED. It ran from 9am to 5pm with a couple of short breaks and a break for lunch. I opted to take the combined class, but you could register for Standard First Aid and Adult CPR with AED as two separate classes. From a cost-savings perspective, the combined class made sense.

The class was instructor-led and incorporated the use of video and hands-on practice/skills sessions. The class covered information and skills including learning how to recognize emergencies, learning about Good Samaritan Laws and obtaining consent before providing care, learning and understanding the emergency action steps (Check-Call-Care), the ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) and the links in the Cardiac Chain of Survival, learning how to prevent against disease transmission when providing caring, learning how to properly care for various emergencies and life threatening conditions, learning how to properly perform abdominal thrusts, rescue breathing and CPR, learning how to setup and use an AED and much more.

Portions of the class were physically demanding (ex: learning/practicing CPR) and for someone who’s never gone through the exercise before, there was a level of intensity. I remember feeling tired and sore later that evening and the day after from kneeling next to the mannequins for a prolonged period, bending over to practice rescue breathing & giving rescue breaths and from performing chest compressions. That said, the classroom experience simulated what a real world situation might feel like. The instructors were highly skilled, knowledgeable and took the time to make sure every student got the skills portion down during the practice sessions and it was essential to get the skills down to gain certification.

Back then certifications for Standard First Aid at the American Red Cross were valid for three years and certifications for CPR with AED were valid for one year. Today, certifications for both First Aid and CPR with AED are valid for two years; the classes are shorter and more focused on key skills making classes more effective and time efficient. Some classes are also available as hybrid classes where you can take a portion online and then take the physical skills portion at one of the training sites. All the more reason to take the opportunity to register for a class, get trained and certified. Personally, I prefer the instructor-led classes. Like any other skill, if you don’t actively use it, you become rusty, so it doesn’t hurt to get back into a classroom environment to re-learn these skills that may one day help to save a life. I’ve also found that each instructor brings something new to the table so there’s added-value.

Just to clarify, the training and certification I’m referring is for a layperson or lay responder and not a professional rescuer or First Responder. If you require training and certification for a job/workplace, be sure to verify with your job/workplace on the type of training they require and if there are specific organizations from which they will accept certification. In many cases, training and certification from organizations like the American Red Cross and American Heart Association will meet the requirements provided you take the proper training and certification course for your respective job/workplace.

There is a growing initiative to get more people trained in what is called “Hands-Only CPR” or “Compression-Only CPR” which focuses on CPR with chest compressions only whereas conventional CPR incorporates rescue breaths with chest compressions. Hands-Only CPR or Compression-Only CPR is recommended in cases where you have a bystander who sees a teen or adult suddenly collapse. In “Hands-Only CPR” or “Compression-Only CPR,” a bystander simply needs to do two things: First, call 9-1-1. Second, begin chest compressions. Keep in mind that “Hands-Only CPR” or “Compression-Only CPR” does not replace conventional CPR training and certification nor does it meet the requirements for a job/workplace that requires CPR training and certification.

If you want to learn more about these lifesaving skills or want to sign-up to take a class and/or get certified, check out the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.

I’ve got issues . . . with my ISP’s DNS Servers

When an Internet Service Provider (ISP) provisions Internet service, the ISP will typically provide you with two DNS servers – a primary and a secondary (backup) DNS server to use for DNS resolution. If you are experiencing issues with your ISP’s DNS servers, you’ll want to check to see if both DNS servers are problematic (ex: DNS server latency, DNS server times out, errors resolving domain names or hostnames to their respective public IP addresses, etc.).

If your ISP’s primary DNS server is problematic but the secondary (or backup) DNS server is working properly, you can switch the priority between your primary and secondary DNS servers. If your router is setup for DHCP, you’ll need to make the DNS changes on the router and then reboot your computers and devices to ensure they receive the updated DNS changes. If your computer is setup using static IP addressing, you can update the DNS priority in the network settings of your OS. Keep in mind that you should report any issues with your ISP’s DNS servers to the ISP. This will ensure your ISP’s network engineers are aware of the issue, investigate and work towards a resolution.

If both of your ISP’s DNS servers (primary and secondary) are problematic, you can switch to a pair of Public DNS servers offered by reputable providers. Google, CloudFlare and OpenDNS are three popular providers that offer Public DNS servers which you may use in lieu of your ISP’s DNS servers.

The Public DNS servers for Google, CloudFlare and OpenDNS are listed below.

Google Public DNS

8.8.8.8

8.8.4.4

CloudFlare Public DNS

1.1.1.1

1.0.0.1

OpenDNS Public DNS

208.67.222.222

208.67.220.220

Whether you choose to use your ISP’s DNS servers or Public DNS servers from Google, CloudFlare, OpenDNS or other reputable providers is up to you; however, if you are experiencing issues with your ISP’s DNS servers, know that there are reliable Public DNS servers available from reputable providers which you can use on an interim basis until your ISP can resolve the issues with their DNS servers.

“There’s more in the making” . . . Apple announces October 30th Special Event

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

A day before pre-orders began for Apple’s all-new iPhone XR, Apple announced a highly rumored and anticipated October Special Event last Thursday. The Special Event will take place in one week on Tuesday, October 30th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York. The event will begin at 10am ET (not PT) and will also be live streamed on Apple’s website.

There have been quite a few rumors about what Apple might showcase at its event next week including new iPad Pros featuring a thinner bezel, Face ID support and the move from a lightning connector to USB-C, a new lower cost replacement for the MacBook Air, a possible refresh for the MacBook and a refresh of the Mac Mini and/or possibly a pro-level Mac Mini.

Will AirPower finally make an appearance or will we at least get an update on its status? Apple first announced AirPower last Fall; however, we have heard little about it since then. Apple also announced that a new wireless charging case for the AirPods was in the works, but it too has yet to make an appearance. A second generation of the AirPods is supposedly in the works as is a second generation Apple Pencil, both of which could be announced at next week’s event.

We’re just a week away from Apple’s October Special Event so stay tuned!

The Wait For iPhone XR Is Almost Over . . . Sort Of!

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading your iPhone or mobile phone in hopes of getting your hands on the all-new iPhone XR, the wait is almost over! Pre-orders for the iPhone XR will kick-off this Friday, October 19th with availability beginning on Friday, October 26th.

Apple announced the all-new iPhone XR, along with the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, at their Apple Special Event last month in Cupertino. The iPhone XR is a lower-cost alternative to the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max with a starting price of $749. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max start at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

The iPhone XR is made from a 7000 Series grade aluminum with a glass back to support wireless charging and is rated IP67 for water resistance meaning it can withstand a drop into water with a maximum depth of one meter for up to thirty minutes. It also features a new 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina HD Display, a 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip with next generation neural engine (same chip as in the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max), a single 12MP wide-angle rear camera, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR, Haptic Touch (in lieu of 3D Touch), Face ID and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). As for battery life, the iPhone XR offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over that of the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XR will be available in a variety of colors including White, Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and (Product) Red. Storage capacities will include 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. AppleCare+ for iPhone XR will cost $149 if paid in full or $7.99/month for up to 24 months if paid monthly and the new AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Protection will cost $249 if paid in full or $12.99/month for up to 24 months if paid monthly.

If you plan on pre-ordering the iPhone XR through Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, Apple recommends that you use the Apple Store app on your iPhone to get pre-approved for the iPhone Upgrade Program before 7pm ET/4pm PT on Thursday, October 18th so you can pre-order and checkout on Friday, October 19th.

Co-Working Spaces, An Option for Startups and Small Businesses

If you’re a startup or small business, finding the right office space for your business can be challenging. In addition, depending on where you are located, commercial office leases can be quite expensive. For commercial leases, landlords will typically require at least three years of financial information (ex: balance sheets, P&Ls, tax returns) from your business as part of the review process. A security deposit will be required at the time of signing (typically two to three months of rent). Landlords will also require the business to show proof of commercial liability insurance coverage and will want the building owner, landlord and management company named on the policy as Additional Insured.

Let’s not forget additional costs that may come with leasing an office space including utilities, cleaning, a HVAC maintenance agreement, property taxes and escalations. Many landlords will also require a lease commitment. While some landlords may allow for short-term leases (1-3 years), many will seek long-term leases (5-10 years).

As a startup or small business, you may consider running your business out of your home. While that may be suitable for some businesses, it certainly won’t be suitable for all. In addition, if your business requires frequent meetings with clients and vendors, having access to a professional office space and conference rooms become a necessity.

Co-working spaces have been growing quickly over the past several years. Companies like Regus, WeWork, TechSpace and The Yard, just to name a few, have swept up commercial real estate spaces and converted these spaces into turnkey co-working office spaces. Offerings may include virtual office space (access to a physical mailing address, phone number, voice mail, call answering service), day passes (day access to the facility, general meeting area, high-speed Internet), dedicated desk or office space of varying sizes (typically requires a monthly fee and commitment terms vary from month-to-month to 3, 6, 9 or 12 month increments) and flexible access to their other facilities and locations.

For startups and small businesses, turnkey co-working space agreements provide greater flexibility than typical commercial lease agreements, which help business owners manage tight operating costs. Co-working spaces may require a security deposit; however, they typically won’t require three years of financial information from the business. The monthly costs will generally be lower than a typical commercial office lease since you are only paying for what you need. Some co-working spaces may require that you carry commercial liability insurance coverage; however, the costs are generally more affordable since the office space will be significantly smaller. Utilities and cleaning services are usually included in the monthly fee and some conference room access (hours) may be included in the monthly fee. Some spaces may also include complimentary coffee, tea and water. Additional services may be purchased a la carte.

All-in-all, co-working spaces don’t sound too bad at all . . . so why even consider leasing a commercial office space?

While co-working spaces can be beneficial in the short-term, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll eventually need to find a suitable commercial office space.

First . . .  SIGNAGE! You’ve worked hard to make a name for yourself and your business so you’ll want your business name prominently up at the entry way to your office space. Unfortunately, the first name you’ll see with most co-working spaces will be the name of the company that provides the co-working space. While you may place signage for your business on the door to your individual space, you typically won’t be able to place any signage in the Reception area for the co-working space. This can be a major drawback for new business and potential business prospects.

Second . . .  Costs can add up quickly! The two major areas where your costs can quickly add up even if your office space needs don’t change will be conference room hours and Internet bandwidth. If you have a monthly agreement in place, it will typically include a fixed number of conference room hours as well as Internet bandwidth. If your business requires meeting with clients or vendors frequently, your conference room hours can add up very quickly. Likewise, if your business requires a lot of Internet bandwidth for uploads, downloads, streaming, etc., you could be faced with a ridiculously high overage bill for your Internet bandwidth usage.

Third . . . PRIVACY! Co-working space means there will be plenty of other businesses sharing the overall office space. Some co-working spaces don’t have fully enclosed offices. This means you can hear the activities of your neighbors. If you are able to find a fully enclosed office space within the co-working space, this might not be a big deal. However, if you happen to be in one of the spaces that are not fully enclosed, you might feel quite uncomfortable discussing business plans, strategies and so forth where nearby neighbors can hear those discussions. Granted, most co-working spaces may include privacy spaces (ex: phone booth-style privacy space); however, if you’re paying a monthly fee for an office space, you shouldn’t have to pop into a phone booth-style privacy space to have a conversation.

One other reason for eventually needing commercial office space is if your business grows, you will outgrow your co-working space. Sure, you may be able to find a larger office space within the co-working space; however, if that happens, you could be paying just as much (probably more) for the co-working space as you would for commercial office space. If that’s the case, finding suitable commercial office space will make much more sense.

Lastly, let’s not ignore the fact that there are alternatives to co-working spaces. For instance, you could lease part of an office space from another tenant (Sublandlord). While similar to a co-working space, the number of other businesses that operate within the office space will be limited, you may be able to work out signage at Reception, there could be more privacy and you can split/share the costs of overhead which will be mutually beneficial to both the Sublandlord and SubTenant.

In A World of Loops and Smart Instruments

A couple of years ago, I began exploring Apple’s GarageBand. First, let me be perfectly clear that I’m not a musician in any way, shape or form. I did learn to play the recorder in Elementary School like some school children (I did not play well!) and then I learned to play the violin for a couple of years and participated in a couple of school performances in Junior High School (I played okay). But that was pretty much the extent of my “music career.”

So, on one January night, I sat down with my iPad, launched GarageBand and started to play around and try to figure out how GarageBand worked and what I could do in the application. I did some research online into GarageBand and eventually got into smart instruments and learned how to use the auto-play control knob to access a preset series of chord progressions within each class of smart instrument. From there, I started to experiment and combined, mixed, matched and edited different smart instruments and chord progressions using auto-play to create some interesting sounds.

Once I got past the initial learning curve, I challenged myself to test my creativity and see if I could create a single track comprised of different smart instruments and chord progressions using auto-play that would sound good. After a bit of exploration, trial and error and lots of time, I came up with my very first track which I called “The Journey.” It took quite some time to figure out an appropriate name for this track, but I eventually got there.

“The Journey” was inspired by a recent road trip that I had taken. While the initial base track took several hours to create, it would take another week or so to refine it until I got it to a point where I was comfortable. I was constantly tweaking the track and found a new appreciation for what professionals in the music industry must go through to put together a track. After creating “The Journey,” I decided to further challenge myself by trying to create a collection of tracks all inspired by my recent road trip. I eventually created tracks including “Charting The Course,” “A Call To Action,” “Reflection in Time,” “Paradise,” “On The Road,” “Onwards” and even an extended version of “The Journey.”

Creating and refining the tracks was just the beginning. I eventually went from creating tracks in GarageBand for iOS to creating and editing those tracks in GarageBand for macOS and then moved over to Logic Pro X. Now to be transparent, the move to Logic Pro X was primarily because I ran into some issues in GarageBand that I was able to solve with Logic Pro X. I also expanded into the world of Apple royalty-free loops, using loops along with smart instruments to create some amazing tracks like “Countdown,” “Discovery” and “Evolution” that I’m proud of.  

What started off as an exploration of Apple’s GarageBand turned into quite an amazing project and learning experience. I certainly don’t expect to win any awards, nor do I think that I fall within the company of the great musicians, composers, artists, performers and music professionals who create music and do this for a living. However, if anything, this project does showcase our potential to learn and explore new things, to open our minds and let our creativity out, to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves beyond our limits.

I am incredibly proud to be able showcase the work from this project. You can listen to tracks from this project in the Music Gallery. I will be adding more tracks from this project soon so please check back for more!

Considerations When Starting A Business: Seeking Professional Counsel

As you get started with your new business, there may come a time when you will need to seek professional counsel from a good business law firm and/or CPA firm. Even if your circumstances may not warrant professional counsel at the onset of your new business, you may eventually need to seek counsel as your business grows. Speaking with a good business law firm and/or CPA firm can help you stay on the straight and narrow and in compliance of the constantly changing local, state and federal regulations, requirements and laws.

Legal Counsel

A good business law firm can provide an array of vital services to your business. They can provide key legal counsel during the initial setup and establishment of your new business, helping you to better understand what the legal implications of your new business venture will be. They can offer important insight to help you operate your business legally and avoid unnecessary risks. They can also serve as a critical line of defense between you, your business and potential third-party litigation.

Business law firms can help you figure out the best legal entity for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S), assist with filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate federal, state and local agencies (ex: Department of State, IRS) to setup the legal entity, prepare Operating or Shareholder agreements specifically customized for your business and act as a designated agent for legal notices. They can help prepare and review contracts/agreements (ex: client contracts, NDAs, merger agreements, employment contracts) and they can step in to provide legal aid/counsel in the event of legal action for or against your business.

CPA Firms

A good CPA firm can provide your business with an array of vital Accounting services. They can provide guidance on the different types of legal entities best suited for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S). They can provide insight on the potential tax liabilities and obligations you, as a business owner, should be aware of and can expect. CPA firms can handle a variety of required tax reporting and filings for federal, state and local jurisdictions. They should stay current on all the latest changes to the tax laws and requirements to keep you (and the rest of their clients) compliant and up-to-date on the potential impacts those changes will have on you and your business.

For instance, if your business is a single-member LLC treated as a disregarded entity for tax purposes or a multi-member LLC taxed as a Partnership, the owners or LLC members typically do not take a salary through payroll. An owner of a single-member LLC will take a draw and members of a multi-member LLC taxed as a Partnership will receive what are called Guaranteed Payments in lieu of salary via payroll. In either case, unlike salaries via payroll, payroll taxes are not withheld on the income. As such, owners/LLC members are responsible for making quarterly tax payments to the appropriate federal, state and local tax agencies on the applicable earnings. Failure to make the appropriate payments may result in a huge tax bill and tax penalty at tax time.

In addition, single-member LLCs, multi-member LLCs taxed as Partnerships and corporations taxed as a sub-chapter S (including LLCs that elect to be taxed as a sub-chapter S) are treated as pass through entities for tax purposes whereby the business entities themselves are not taxed. Taxes on income/profit are passed down to the individual owners (usually reported on a Schedule K-1) and reported on their individual tax returns. While LLCs taxed as Partnerships and corporations taxed as a sub-chapter S (including LLCs that elect to be taxed as a sub-chapter S) are not taxed at the entity level, they are still required to file the proper annual Partnership or Corporation tax returns for the applicable tax year.

This is just a scratch on the surface, but you can see how complex the tax obligations and implications can be if you don’t understand how the tax laws affect you and your business and/or have appropriate guidance from a tax professional like a good CPA firm. You and your business can easily fall into a tax maze. A good CPA firm should be an active partner in helping you and your business remain compliant with all applicable tax laws and requirements.

There will be times where it may be necessary for your business law firm and CPA firm to collaborate and work together. For instance, when deciding what type of business entity to form for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S), it’s a good idea to get insight from both a legal and an Accounting perspective as different types of business entities will have different requirements and implications. While your law firm and CPA firm won’t necessarily tell you which type of entity to form, they should advise you, make recommendations and offer pros and cons. You’ll want to gain as much insight from their counsel to make a well-informed decision.

It should go without saying that both business law firms and CPA firms can be quite expensive so it’s important to know how and when to properly use these professional resources to avoid unnecessary costs. Far too often, business owners use professional counsel prematurely, fail to use counsel until situations get out of hand, don’t know the right questions to ask and/or how to lead, manage and streamline the conversations. Before you speak with a business law firm or CPA firm, take some time to gather your thoughts and put together an overview of what you want to discuss and the questions you want to ask. Try to keep the conversations on point and focused. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about something being discussed. At the end of any conversation with a business law firm or CPA firm, you should feel comfortable that you have gotten the answers that you needed to get from the conversation.

Keeping Receivables In Check

As a business owner, receivables (accounts receivable or A/R) are a vital part of your business. If you are not billing or invoicing clients and consequently, collecting those receivables in a timely fashion, your business will be unable to sustain itself. Without a steady, positive cash flow, you will be unable to make payroll, buy supplies or inventory, make investments into your business and/or pay vendors and other business operating expenses.

It is also important to understand that billings or receivables do not necessarily represent 100% income or revenue when there are applicable direct costs (ex: cost of sale, cost of goods sold). Why is this important? Well, because you don’t want to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” If you invoice a client $10,000 for a project but $5,000 of that invoice is for direct costs to a third-party vendor, only $5,000 constitutes income or revenue (your actual business income) which can go towards paying your business operating expenses, not the full $10,000. The $5,000 for direct costs should be earmarked and set aside to pay your third-party vendor.

Far too often, some business owners don’t make this distinction and may use that full $10,000 to satisfy their immediate business cash flow needs. For instance, a business owner may choose to use that $10,000 to help cover their payroll or pay a vendor that is looking for payment on a past due invoice (aka “the squeaky wheel”). In essence, the business owner has “robbed Peter to pay Paul.” The business may be experiencing a cash flow issue and has decided to use the cash that is due and payable to another vendor to pay other business expenses or other vendors. While this may not seem like a bad thing on a short-term basis to satisfy immediate business cash flow needs, there will be a domino effect which will ultimately impact the business in the long-term. It should go without saying that this is a terrible practice to follow!

So, how can you keep receivables in check?

Billings - It’s important to stay active and on top of client billing. For a small business with limited resources and staff, the business owner may need to be the one to take care of billing or perhaps you have a billing clerk or third-party that does billing for your business on a fixed schedule each month. Whatever the case may be, you must get your client billing done on a timely, regular basis. How often you bill or invoice your clients may depend on existing client contracts or agreements that are in place and/or when a project or phases of a project are completed (ex: milestones); however, the most important part is to get your billing done and invoices out to clients as soon as possible. Book those receivables!

Collections – Typically, you should have established payment terms with your clients. Your client contracts or agreements should state the specific payment terms and your invoices should re-iterate the general payment terms (ex: Due upon receipt, NET 10, NET 15, NET 30). Monitor your AR Aging on a weekly basis. Your Accounting platform should be able to generate reports like an AR Aging Summary and Open Invoices. Depending on your comfort level with your clients, you may extend the courtesy of up to NET 30 payment terms, even if your standard payment terms are due upon receipt. Regardless of the courtesy that you extend to a client, when invoices go beyond NET 30 payment terms, you need to actively follow-up with clients on the status of payment. Be sure to send past due notices which include copies of the past due invoices, send account statements and follow up directly with your clients by phone and/or e-mail. Be active and NOT passive!

Be sure to invest in a good Accounting platform that allows you to generate invoices and statements as well as offers robust reporting to provide you with the necessary financial reports that serve your business needs. Try to use platforms that are widely-used, familiar and popular. It will be a lot easier to find people who are experienced using these types of platforms should you need to bring someone in to manage or takeover your books.

When possible, send invoices to clients electronically whether through the Accounting platform (if supported/available) or by e-mail (ex: PDF attachment) in lieu of regular postal mail. In addition, consider accepting electronic payments from clients (ex: wire, ACH) instead of paper checks. This should help to minimize lost checks and may speed up payment turnaround time. When considering electronic payments, check with your financial institution to see if any fees are applicable to these types of transactions. Many financial institutions will offer ways to avoid and/or reduce bank and transaction fees.

MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 Series . . . in 2018

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Last year, Apple added the last of the polycarbonate unibody series, the MacBook 13.3-inch Mid 2010 series, to their list of Vintage and obsolete products, officially bringing an end of support to this product line.

While official support has ended for the polycarbonate unibody series, I’ve managed to get some extra life out of my MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a couple of upgrades that have kept it running through 2018. When I purchased the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series, it included a 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM (base version came with 2GB RAM and Apple’s official maximum is 4GB RAM, but more on this in a moment), a 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive (upgradeable to a 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive), Nvidia GeForce 9400M with 256GB RAM and OS X v.10.6 Snow Leopard.

About a year before the AppleCare warranty on the MacBook was up, I decided to upgrade the 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive to a new Sandisk 240GB SSD. This gave the MacBook a significant performance and speed boost over the 5400 RPM traditional hard drive. At the time, solid state drives were still quite pricey for limited amounts of storage, so the Sandisk 240GB SSD was at a price level that I was comfortable investing in.

As for RAM, I initially operated under the belief that Apple’s official 4GB RAM limit was indeed the maximum. However, a couple of years after the AppleCare warranty had expired, I did some research and learned that the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series (MacBook 6,1) could support a maximum of 8GB of RAM. After some extensive research, I was able to confirm that the 8GB RAM maximum limit was indeed accurate and went ahead and purchased the compatible memory modules (I’ll include a link to the modules at the end of this post) to max out the MacBook’s RAM. It worked perfectly!

Today, this MacBook is still running, albeit slower than newer computers, with a 240GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and macOS High Sierra. Newer MacBooks will certainly run circles around this nine year old MacBook and I do not use this MacBook for memory intensive or performance heavy loads; but, for e-mail, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos and general use, it still works.

This MacBook will not support Apple’s latest version of macOS - macOS Mojave which means this MacBook has reached its maximum upgrade potential. That said, I’m impressed with the extended life that I’ve gained from these upgrades and when the day comes to officially retire this MacBook from service, I’ll know that it had one heck of a run!

If you have a MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a model identifier of “MacBook 6,1” and want to know which memory modules I used to upgrade my MacBook to 8GB of RAM, check out the link below.

To find the model identifier for your MacBook, go to the Apple menu then select “About This Mac.” In “About This Mac,” select “System Report.” In the “System Report,” select “Hardware” then look for “Model Identifier.”

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

OWC 8.0GB (2 x 4GB) PC8500 DDR3 1066 MHz Memory Upgrade Kit - https://amzn.to/2RdgCEb

I Upgraded to iOS 12 . . .

Apple released the latest version of iOS, iOS 12, last Monday, September 17th. As with previous iOS major releases, I did not upgrade on launch day for several reasons including potentially slow download speeds with many users hitting Apple’s download servers simultaneously for iOS 12 and the potential for bugs/compatibility issues, as we saw with the release of iOS 11 last year.

With iOS 12, Apple appears to have put this latest version of iOS through more rigorous beta testing and improved quality control. The reviews have pointed towards iOS 12 beta versions being stable and it is reflected in the final release. Since upgrading my iOS devices to iOS 12, my devices have been stable, running smoothly and I haven’t run into any major issues.

I have noticed a nice performance and speed boost with iOS 12. iOS 12 appears to run faster and smoother than iOS 11. On iPhone X, I like that iOS 12 has simplified the process for closing apps. In iOS 11, it required swiping midway up the screen to see all the open apps and then required that you press or hold down on the screen before swiping up to close the apps. In iOS 12, you no longer need to press or hold down on the screen first. Once you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to approximately the middle of the screen and see all the open apps, you can release your finger for a moment and then swipe up to close the respective apps. There is a small adjustment period coming off iOS 11, but you’ll get used to it quickly.

The new Measure app, which utilizes Augmented Reality, allows you to have a measuring tape readily available whenever you need one. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to search for a measuring tape on the fly; however, with the new Measure app, you can be confident that you’ll have a handy measuring tape available always.

I did experiment with Memojis and it’s okay. I couldn’t quite create a Memoji that I truly liked but I did give it a try. I think I’ll stick with the Animojis!

As for battery life, I haven’t experienced any issues with the battery draining faster on iOS 12 versus that of iOS 11, which is a plus. It seems like battery life is comparable to the latest version of iOS 11. Obviously, battery life does heavily depend on how you use your iOS device and the apps that you are running so my experience may vary from those experiences of others.

iOS 12 appears to be a good and “safe” upgrade. If you plan on upgrading your iOS device to iOS 12, be sure to backup your iOS device to your computer via iTunes or to the cloud via iCloud. Also, make sure to check Apple’s website to be certain your device is compatible with iOS 12. If you use any apps that are vital or mission-critical, be sure to check the App Store and/or with the App Developer to confirm compatibility with iOS 12.

Best Practices for Small Business Corporate Cards

A business credit or charge card can be helpful for business owners when it comes to making purchases and paying expenses on behalf of your business. However, it’s extremely important to develop best practices when it comes to managing and using these cards.

When applying for a business credit or charge card, determine the type of card that best suits your business needs. A business credit card, just like a personal credit card, will offer you a fixed credit limit and the ability to pay over time while a charge card will have no preset spending limit (not to be confused with unlimited spending power) and will typically require the balance be paid in full each month. It should go without saying that you should only spend what you can afford so that you can afford to pay your monthly bill in full every month. Paying over time will not only cost more in the long run (due to accrued interest) but also set you and your business on the path of accruing unnecessary debt.

As a startup or small business, you’ll want to find cards that offer no annual fee while still offering some bang for the buck (ex: sign-on bonuses, cash back rewards, points for every dollar). As your business grows, you may need to upgrade or switch to a different card that offers you greater benefits and rewards, but keep in mind that you may need to pay an annual membership fee to gain some of those added benefits and rewards. While paying an annual membership fee won’t necessarily break the bank, don’t go off and get a credit/charge card with a $400 or $500 annual fee if the value of the benefits and rewards do not help offset the cost of the annual fee.

A business credit or charge card, unlike a personal card, is intended for legitimate BUSINESS expenses only. Do not get into the habit of mixing business and personal expenses on a business credit or charge card. Cardholder agreements will usually state that business credit or charge cards are only to be used for business expenses. While card issuers may not audit every transaction made on a business credit or charge card, failing to keep your business and personal expenses separate can pose risks and liabilities including piercing the corporate veil and you could face penalties if your business were to undergo an audit by the IRS (ex: treating personal expenses as deductible business expenses). Just don’t do it!

If you are planning on issuing additional business credit or charge cards to employees, be sure to limit the number of cards to only those employees who absolutely require one for legitimate business purposes. Also, be sure to have written policies in place on the proper use of business credit or charge cards. Make sure every employee understands the current policies in place and provide refreshers as needed. As part of your written policies, you may want to include a policy requiring employees to obtain pre-approval or pre-authorization by management before any charges are placed on a business credit/charge card and/or set spending thresholds which require additional management approval.

Make sure that for every transaction on the card, there is a corresponding receipt for the purchase. You should also require that a monthly reconciliation (ex: expense report) for each card be submitted along with copies of all the corresponding receipts for the applicable charges. Be sure to thoroughly review every monthly statement for accuracy and to protect against fraudulent charges. It can also be beneficial to enable alerts on each card and on the master card account and to frequently monitor transactions on the cards. All card issuers should have an online dashboard which allows you to monitor all the card accounts and transactions on your master account.

With some business card accounts, card issuers will allow you to select billing options for your cards. For example, one option would be to receive a single master bill for your business credit/charge card account with a breakdown of each individual card and the respective charges.  The business, upon reviewing and reconciling the statement, can then pay the master bill each month. Another option would be to have individual credit/charge card bills issued to each cardholder. Each cardholder would then be responsible for paying their respective bills and then submit those expenses back to the business for reimbursement. The latter option would add an extra layer of protection for the business to prevent and deter unauthorized spending on a card.

Business credit and charge cards can be a useful and vital tool in helping a business owner manage and run his/her business, but like anything else, they must be used properly and responsibly.

Considerations When Starting A Business: Putting Together A Game Plan

Now that you’re ready and committed to starting a business, you need to put together a game plan. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to starting a business so it’s important to be organized, detail-oriented and have all your ducks lined up. You’ll first want to take a “view from 10,000 feet” and then drill-down into the specific details.

During the process, gather information and be prepared to answer a series of questions related to your business venture. This information will be extremely helpful during the setup of the legal entity and establishing business operating parameters as you begin operations. In addition, if you need to consult with professionals (ex: business law firm, CPA firm), this information will help to streamline the conversation. You’ll learn quickly that streamlining conversations and meetings are crucial when dealing with law firms and CPA firms, especially if you don’t want to rack up enormous legal and accounting bills.

Below is a list of questions that you should seek answers to. This list is not intended to be a complete list of questions but serves as a starting point in putting together your game plan.

  • What type of business do you plan on starting?

  • Will you be the sole owner or will there be other owners?

  • Do you or any of the other owners have non-compete agreements (or similar) that would prevent or prohibit you and/or the other owners from joining or participating in this business venture? Are there any potential conflicts of interest?

  • Are you or any of the other owners currently participating in or are a part of another business venture, whether in the same industry or a different industry?

  • Will the business be owned by individuals, another business entity or a combination of individuals and business entities?

  • What will be the name of your business?

  • Is the business name unregistered and available to register with your state’s Department of State?

  • Are there any other individuals, companies or organizations using this business name or names similar that may cause confusion for clients/customers and/or pose legal issues (ex: trademark)?

  • Is the corresponding Internet domain name available for your business name?

  • Are the corresponding social media handles available for your business name?

  • What type of legal business entity is best for your business (ex: LLC – single-member LLC, multi-member LLC taxed as a Partnership, LLC taxed as a sub-chapter S, Corporation – C-Corp or sub-chapter S)?

  • What will be the designated role (ex: job function or area of responsibility) of each owner?

  • What does each owner bring to the table of the business venture?

  • How will the business be managed (by the owners, by designated managers, by owners and designated managers)?

  • How much starting capital do you and your partners have to invest in the business?

  • How much capital will you and your partners need to invest in the business to cover startup costs and at least the first three to six months of business operating expenses?

  • If you and your partners don’t have the necessary capital, how will you and your partners secure the necessary capital (ex: bank loans)?

  • Do you and your partners have a solid credit history and a good/excellent credit rating? Do you and your partners have collateral, if necessary?

  • When do you expect to officially begin business operations?

  • Will the business operate in a single state or multiple states?

  • Where will the principal office for the business be located? Will there be a single office location or multiple office locations?

  • Will you require commercial space for your business?

  • Will you be hiring employees?

  • Will you be using independent contractors or external personnel?

  • What resources will you require to operate your business (ex: supplies, equipment, software)?

  • Do you currently have or are you working with existing clients?

  • Who are your target clients or customers?

  • What’s your business plan or strategy for acquiring new clients or customers?

  • If your business requires inventory, how do you plan on acquiring, storing and securing inventory?

  • Will your business be required to collect sales tax?

  • Does your business operate within an industry that has industry-specific or governmental requirements (ex: certifications, memberships, licenses, permits, insurance)?

LABELED Earns Two Wins at NJ Web Fest 2018; Direct Selection into Seoul WebFest 2019

The inaugural NJ Web Fest 2018 took place this past weekend and LABELED took home two awards including Best On-Screen Chemistry (Bethany Watson & Palmyra Mattner) and a surprise Direct Selection Seoul WebFest Award (“The Seoul Award”), giving LABELED a direct selection into Seoul WebFest 2019.

LABELED is a hilariously funny, female-driven comedy web series co-created and co-produced by Bethany Watson (actor/producer/voice-over artist, co-host & one-third of An Acquired Taste Podcast) and Jon Sosis (writer/producer/director/Say It Ain’t Sosis Productions). The series follows a group of low-level employees at a major NYC record label dealing with the high-level, big world problems at their label and in their industry.

The web series features an ensemble cast including Bethany Watson, Palmyra Mattner, Kristen Vaganos, Kelsea Baker, Jerica Young, Alison Klemp, Shawn Mathis Gooden, Lori Sommer, Bry Poole, Jason Taylor, Robert Lee Leng and many more with guest appearances and cameos by Anya Marina, Brian Ripps, Shelley Rome and more.

You can watch the entire first season of LABELED now streaming exclusively on The Warner Sound YouTube channel.

Stay tuned for the latest project by Bethany & Jon, the LABELED spin-off web series ANYA MARINA: INDIE-PENDENT WOMAN starring Anya Marina and Nigel Fullerton, currently in production.

The Apple MacBook 12-inch: I said I wouldn’t get one . . . then, I did!

MacBook_12-inch_2016.JPG

When Apple first released the MacBook 12-inch in 2015, I was adamant that I wouldn’t get one. I felt the MacBook 12-inch was overpriced, under-powered and just did not offer a good bang for the buck. While the MacBook 12-inch included some nice features like a smaller form factor, being lightweight (slightly over 2 lbs), having a Retina display and incorporating current technology, it was simply too difficult to justify spending $1,299 for the base model when you could get more bang for the buck from either a MacBook Air 13.3-inch (starting at $999) or MacBook Pro 13.3-inch with function keys (starting at $1,299).

That said, I did eventually get a 2016 MacBook 12-inch base model. I bought the MacBook 12-inch to take on a two-week trip. I needed to bring a laptop with me (a tablet just wouldn’t cut it) but it had to be smaller and lighter than a MacBook Air 13.3-inch as I simply had very limited space to pack it. Thinking about it carefully, if I was going to invest the money in something smaller and lighter, it would have to be something reliable. At the end of the day, while Apple products are more expensive, Apple does make good, reliable products with longevity, so it made sense.

I must say that I have grown to enjoy using the MacBook 12-inch when traveling, whenever I need to carry a laptop around or just need true portability. The lightweight and smaller form factor are a major plus. While I prefer the keyboard on the 2017 model more than the one on the 2016 model, it’s still better than the 2015. I’ve managed to get around the single USB-C port by using an adapter either from Apple or Satechi (I’ll include links to the adapters I use at the end of this post). The Retina display is quite impressive and the improved audio & speakers on the MacBook 12-inch give the MacBook Air and older MacBook Pros a run for the money in the audio/sound department. I am disappointed that the built-in camera is only 480p when the MacBook Air 11.6-inch model included a 720p camera. The quality is really pixelated and choppy, but I have managed to avoid using the 480p camera.

Performance-wise, the MacBook 12-inch base model with the Intel Core m3 1.1 GHz processor and 8GB RAM handles relatively well for normal, average use. I have edited some short videos in Final Cut Pro X using the MacBook 12-inch but transcoding and rendering does take quite some time to complete (it’s really, really slow!). I have experienced a few crashes while trying to work in Final Cut Pro X. I’ve also run into issues trying to connect two external SSD drives via an adapter to the MacBook 12-inch where one of the drives would randomly disconnect. I did test the two external SSD drives by connecting them to a MacBook Air 13.3-inch and there were no issues. I’m guessing it could be a power issue/limitation when connecting an adapter to the single USB-C port. Obviously, the MacBook 12-inch isn’t intended for processor intensive or performance heavy work like graphics & design (ex: Adobe Photoshop) and video editing (ex: Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere). However, if you are using it for general multi-tasking, music and video streaming, it should work perfectly fine.

Is it the best bang for your buck? No, but if you are looking for ultra-portability, current technology, you’re using it for non-processor and non-performance intensive applications and you’re willing to throw out the additional cash, then the MacBook 12-inch will do nicely. Apple is reportedly working on a less expensive replacement for the MacBook Air 13.3-inch, so if you are not in a rush to get a MacBook 12-inch, I would suggest holding off a bit to see what Apple has in store.

I’ve put together a list of accessories that I have/use with my MacBook 12-inch. If you’re interested, feel free to check them out below.

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Mosiso Laptop Sleeve/Case for MacBook 12-inch - https://amzn.to/2CCBb9X

Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter with USB-C Pass-Through, HDMI, Two USB 3.0 ports - https://amzn.to/2CDoUCa

Apple USB-C Digital AV Multi-Port Adapter - https://amzn.to/2wZTuQb

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD with 30W Power Delivery Charger - https://amzn.to/2oUatjl

Apple Announces Apple Watch Series 4, New iPhones at September 12th Special Event

Apple CEO Tim Cook and the Apple team took the stage this morning at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino to announce Apple Watch Series 4, three new iPhones and release dates for iOS 12, watchOS 5, tvOS 12 and macOS Mojave.

iOS, watchOS, tvOS and macOS

iOS 12, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12 will all be available this coming Monday, September 17th. macOS Mojave will be available a week later on Monday, September 24th.

Apple Watch

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple Watch Series 4 was the first product announced at today’s Special Event. The Series 4 comes in new 40mm and 44mm cases. The Series 4 features a new edge-to-edge display with curved edges and a viewing area that is thirty-percent larger, a black ceramic and sapphire crystal back, new Digital Crown with Haptic feedback, a fourth generation S4 64-bit Dual-Core processor which is up to 2x faster, a 50% louder speaker, the microphone has been moved to the opposite side for noise reduction, a new watch face which supports eight customizable complications and up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge. The new Series 4 accelerometer and gyroscope add fall detection. Series 4 also adds new heart health features including low heart rate & atrial fibrillation detection and an electrocardiogram (ECG).   

The aluminum case will come in Silver, Gold and Space Gray. The stainless-steel case will come in Silver, Space Black and Gold. Existing Apple Watch bands will be compatible with the new Apple Watch Series 4.

The Series 4 wireless models will start at $399 and the cellular models will start at $499. Apple will begin accepting orders for Apple Watch Series 4 on September 14th and the Series 4 will be available beginning September 21st.

Apple is also reducing prices on Apple Watch Series 3 with pricing starting at $279.

iPhone

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Following the announcement of Apple Watch Series 4, Apple announced three new iPhones today – iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

The first two new iPhones announced were the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are made from a surgical grade stainless-steel and come with Super Retina HD OLED 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch displays respectively, a 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip with a 6-Core CPU, 4-Core GPU and next-generation 8-Core Neural Engine offering faster app launches by up to thirty-percent, dual 12MP (wide-angle and telephoto) rear cameras, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). The iPhone XS and XS Max also include a new feature that lets you adjust the depth of field of photos AFTER you’ve taken them from an aperture of f/1.4 to f/16. The iPhone XS offers an additional thirty-minutes of battery life over the iPhone X while the iPhone XS Max offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over the iPhone X.

Both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in Gold, Silver and Space Gray. Capacities will include 64GB, 256GB and 512GB. The iPhone XS will start at $999 and the iPhone XS Max will start at $1,099. Apple will begin accepting orders for iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max on September 14th and both devices will be available on September 21st. 

The third new iPhone announced at today’s event was the iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is made from a 7000 Series grade aluminum with a glass back and features a new 6.1-inch LCD Liquid Retina HD Display, the same 7-nanometer A12 Bionic Chip available in the XS and XS Max, a single 12MP wide-angle rear camera, 7MP front TrueDepth camera, Smart HDR, Haptic Touch instead of 3D Touch, Face ID and dual SIMs (nano SIM + eSIM). The iPhone XR offers an additional ninety-minutes of battery life over the iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XR comes in White, Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and (Product) Red. Capacities will include 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. The iPhone XR will start at $749. Apple will begin accepting orders on October 19th and the iPhone XR will be available on October 26th.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple is keeping the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in their iPhone product line. The iPhone 7 will now start at $449 and the iPhone 8 will start at $599. The original iPhone X has been discontinued.

For full product details, technical specifications and pricing, visit Apple’s website.

Remembering 9/11 - The Seventeenth Anniversary

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It is a day that has become ingrained in our memories and a day that WE SHALL NEVER FORGET! We all have stories of where we were, what we were doing and how we first learned of the news of the tragic events on this day, seventeen years ago.

As I write this post, I can remember the images from that day here in New York City. I can recall the smell of the smoke and burning debris from the World Trade Center site that spread through the air on 9/11 and in the days, weeks and months which followed. I remember watching the news that morning and seeing the flames and smoke billowing out of the first tower and then seeing the explosion and fireball from the second plane hitting the second tower.

I recall hearing the news of Flight 93 as well as the plane crash/attack on the Pentagon. I remember watching the collapse of the first of the Twin Towers, then the second and then 7 World Trade Center. The Twin Towers and the World Trade Center complex, a place that I had visited frequently, a place that I grew up with, a place that was a part of my life, was no more. It became Ground Zero.

Many innocent lives were abruptly taken away on that tragic day seventeen years ago. Many lives were affected by those tragic events and many lives continue to be affected today. While we have persevered in the face of great adversity and demonstrated our resolve, resilience and some of the greatest qualities of humanity, we must NEVER forget what happened on 9/11 and we must honor and remember ALL those lost on 9/11, all those affected by the events of 9/11 and all those who acted selflessly in the rescue & recovery efforts and helped on that day and in the days, weeks, months and years which followed. #NEVERF0RGET

Turn Wi-Fi Assist OFF To Save Your Data!

Starting with iOS 9, Apple introduced a feature in iOS called Wi-Fi Assist. When enabled, Wi-Fi Assist utilizes your cellular connection whenever your Wi-Fi service is weak, ensuring a seamless Internet connection. For instance, if you were visiting a webpage on your iPhone and your Wi-Fi connection became weak, Wi-Fi Assist would step in and use your cellular connection to ensure the webpage would load without issue.

While a good feature, not too long after the introduction of Wi-Fi Assist, there were reports of users experiencing unusual data consumption with their cellular data plans. The recommendation to users running iOS 9 was to turn off Wi-Fi Assist to avoid unintentionally burning through their cellular data. Though this recommendation came out several years ago, it still holds true today with iOS 11.

By default, Wi-Fi Assist is enabled in iOS 9 and later. If you want to check to see if your Wi-Fi Assist setting is enabled or disabled and/or if you want to disable Wi-Fi Assist to avoid unnecessary data consumption, go to Settings then Cellular. Under Cellular, scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see Wi-Fi Assist. There will be a toggle switch next to Wi-Fi Assist. If the toggle switch is green, it means Wi-Fi Assist is enabled. If the toggle switch is white/off-white, it means Wi-Fi Assist is disabled.

If you’ve been experiencing unusual data consumption, check your Wi-Fi Assist settings. It may be the culprit!

The Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) – Part II: A Real World Situation

I recently ran into a Blue Screen situation on a Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer running Windows 7 Professional. First, a bit of backstory . . . this is a computer that’s about seven or eight years old. While it’s clearly not current, it does the job it’s intended for. The computer originally came with a 250GB SATA HD. The SATA HD was experiencing performance issues and after running a series of diagnostics, it appeared that the SATA HD was at risk of potentially failing. Not surprising given the age of the computer. After reviewing several options, the first plan was to try and clone the SATA HD onto a solid state drive (SSD) and then replace the SATA HD with the cloned SSD. If the plan worked, the computer would be up and running with minimal downtime.

I won’t get into the details about the hard drive cloning process in this post, but if you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to a SSD, I’ll provide links at the end of this post.

After cloning the SATA hard drive to a solid state drive (took a couple hours), I replaced the SATA HD with the newly cloned SSD. The SSD booted into Windows without any issues and the cloned SSD worked perfectly like the original SATA hard drive, but with a significant performance boost. I ran a series of diagnostics on the cloned SSD and all diagnostics passed without any errors. I left the computer on overnight and would check on it in the morning.

The next morning, I noticed the computer had frozen. After restarting the computer, the computer appeared fine. The system logs did not show anything unusual that would have shed light on why the computer froze. After running a series of additional diagnostics, all of which passed, I began looking at the BIOS. The BIOS was out-of-date and I recall replacing a SATA HD with a new SSD in another Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer some years ago, but I recalled I had upgraded the BIOS when I replaced the SATA HD with a SSD.

In that scenario though, I did a clean installation of Windows rather than a clone of the hard drive. I’m generally not a fan of cloning hard drives and prefer to perform clean installations, whenever possible. To put it into perspective, I haven’t cloned a hard drive since the days of Norton Ghost. However, for the current scenario, cloning the existing SATA HD was preferable.

I went ahead and upgraded the BIOS to the latest version and for a few days the computer appeared to be stable. I continued to perform diagnostics and monitored the computer to make sure everything was running properly.

After a week or so, the computer began experiencing random crashing and Blue Screens. The Blue Screens indicated an issue with iastor.sys. With this information, I was able to isolate the issue to the Intel Storage Controller. Unfortunately, before I could take any actionable steps, the computer began to experience continuous Blue Screens. I was unable to sign-in via the Windows login screen without hitting a BSOD. Shutting down and booting up the computer didn’t help either. I checked the BIOS configuration to make sure the settings were correct, and I tried to run the Windows Repair Utility but still could not get into Windows without running into a Blue Screen. Fortunately, I was able to Safe Boot into Windows to uninstall the existing Intel Storage Controller located within Device Manager | IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers.

After uninstalling the device driver, I restarted the computer. The computer booted into Windows and upon login, Windows detected the “new device” and began the process of locating, downloading and re-installing an appropriate Intel Storage Controller for the computer. After a couple of additional restarts, the computer was once again stable and running properly. I ran some additional diagnostics to make sure there were no other detectable issues and continued to monitor performance and stability in the following weeks.

While this Blue Screen situation ended on a positive note, not all BSOD situations will be the same, so remember to take steps to backup your computer to external storage frequently and when you do experience issues, don’t turn a blind eye. Look into the problem or contact an IT professional as soon as possible. Make note of any vital information displayed on the Blue Screen (ex: what file or files may have caused the Blue Screen) and any error codes which might be displayed. This information can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting the issue. Be proactive and not reactive!

If you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to SSD, check out the links below. For the SSD, I had an older model Samsung solid state drive lying around, which I used as the target drive, but I’m providing links to some of the current SSDs on the market from Crucial, a brand that I use frequently for drive replacements and in external hard drive enclosures. I've also used SSDs from Intel, Sandisk and Samsung. Please check for compatibility with your specific hardware.

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Cloning Software

Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Version) - https://bit.ly/2piJVWU

Instructions for cloning a disk with Macrium Reflect - https://bit.ly/2Q1RaRp

External Adapter for connecting SSD to computer via USB 3.0 for hard drive cloning

Anker USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter - https://amzn.to/2NiUx8i

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Crucial MX500 250GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2wGeefP

Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2MKd7qe

Crucial MX500 1TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2M0jTmC

Crucial MX500 2TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2NJm5Ay

“Gather Round” . . . Apple’s next Special Event set for September 12th

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

The stage is set for Apple’s September 2018 Special Event. The Special Event will take place on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at the Steve Jobs Theater.

As with previous Apple events, if you weren’t fortunate enough to be invited to the special event, you can watch the livestream on Apple’s website starting at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT.

We are expecting Apple to announce new iPhones at the September 12th event. Rumors are pointing to the announcement of three new iPhones – a 5.8” OLED model, a 6.5” OLED model and a less expensive 6.1” LCD model. The models may be called iPhone XS, iPhone XS Plus and iPhone 9; respectively. The OLED model is expected to be available in a new gold version and the LCD model is expected to come in a variety of colors.

It’s also rumored that Apple will announce Apple Watch Series 4, which will include a larger display and new watch face interface that takes advantage of the added real estate. We may also get final release dates for iOS 12, macOS Mojave, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12.

Last year, Apple announced that they were working on AirPower, a wireless charging mat that would allow you to charge your compatible iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods simultaneously. Apple also announced that they were working on a new compatible case for AirPods which would work with AirPower. To date, neither product has been released, so Apple may provide an update at the September 12th event.

Apple is rumored to be working on a less expensive replacement for the MacBook Air that would include updated hardware as well as a new iPad Pro. While possible, I’m doubtful that Apple will make such an announcement at the September 12th event. If Apple does plan on making these announcements before year end, they may hold a separate event in time for the start of the holiday season or make announcements via press release if we’re looking at a product refresh.

We’re about a week and a half away from the September 12th event, so stay tuned!