Why Can’t I Bring My Phone to a New Carrier?

The cellular carriers are competing by using different technologies to market their version of the cellular services.  For example, AT&T  uses a protocol called GSM, while Sprint uses CDMA.  Technology is quickly changing, but for the most part, CDMA phones are permanently tied to the carrier from which they were purchased.  GSM phones however, are the type that have a removable card that can be swapped out to switch carriers to another GSM compatible carrier.  A few carriers are crossover carriers, meaning they support to some extent both GSM and CDMA phones.

The reason a company is offering you a free phone to switch from your existing carrier is that they know that the phone you have is likely not compatible with their network, and that the free phone you are about to receive from them is not compatible with your current carrier either.  Thus the free phone will be permanently tied to their service, a strong incentive for you to remain loyal to them.  This may not however be a big issue for a prepaid service. The phone was free and thus effectively dispensable. The data on the phone can be backed up (synced) to an Internet-based email account before you disconnect it, and when you get a new phone on a new carrier, you simply reconnect to that same email account and presto, all your apps and contacts are back.

Another common error in shopping for a phone, is that the marketeers are not just trying to sell you a phone, they are pushing camera sales.  A smart phone is not in the same paradigm as a traditional landline phone, which only permitted talking to people.  Smart phones are camera-video_recorder-stereo-phone-and-more all built into one small device.  Some of the features are incidental to the device (a speaker phone for example), while many features being pushed are non-essential (a camera isn’t needed to talk on a phone).  Thus the difference in price is all about the non-essential features you may or may not need.  If it is a phone at all, it will do the basic–it will allow you to make and receive calls.

So the next time you buy a phone with a carrier, just remember, you are effectively buying a disposable device that is locked to that carrier.  If you buy a more expensive smart phone with spicy features, realize you bought a camera more than you bought a phone and someday you may want to switch phone carriers and find out that your smart camera is not compatible with the phone carrier you want.  And yes, you can continue to use your smart camera without phone service, if that is what you want to do, but you willneed to periodically connect your device to a computer to extract the images since it will no longer be automatically backing all that stuff up to the Internet via a cellular connection.

Byte Size Matters

How much drive space a computer needs is relative to one’s lifestyle practices. For most people, a few hundred Gigabytes of storage will last the life of the computer, which is about 10 years.  (If you hear about Gibibytes, it is technically a more accurate measure of drive size because it is based on the binary that computers actually use rather that the Gigabyte which is equal to exactly 1,000,000,000 bytes.)  So how big is a Gig or Gib?  Well that would be one thousand millions.  Now a million dollars might last 10 years if you were conservative with it in today’s economy, but a thousand millions would certainly tide you and your grandchildren over into the next centuries.

A typical digital photograph runs around 1 megabyte = 1000 KB.   Now suppose you took 100 pictures a day and stored them on your computer. How long before you used up a 500 Gigabyte drive?   Well first, lets subtract about 100 Gigabytes for the operating system and other stuff you already have on the drive.  So now we are down to 400 GB free. Converted, that equals about 400, 000 MB.  So if each picture is 1 MB, and you take 100 a day, that would be 100 MB a day. Dividing 400,000 MB by 100 MB/day gives 4,000 days, or further divided by 365 days/year gives almost 11 years of use.  Now, what are the chances you are actually going to store 100 pictures every-single day for the next 11 years?

How about videos?  The standard 4.7 GB DVD on which many movies still come today store about 2 hours of movie plus a few previews and trailers.  For ease of computation we will round up to 5 GB and say 5 GB equals about 2 hours video.  How many hours video will 400 GB hold?  400/5 = 80 x 2 hours = 160 hours or about a week’s worth of video if you wanted to watch videos 24 hours a day for a solid week.  Our previous daily picture example yielded about 11 years of use, while storing one video each day will allow about 80 days of watching or almost 3 months of videos every-single day.  In all likelihood, the average person would only watch one or two full-length movies each week or less on average.  Thus the storage space would be sufficient for a number of years of use.

Conclusion

For most people today 500 GB of drive space is more than enough.  Like a large filing cabinet, oversizing it will just leave room for clutter that gets forever lost and forgotten.  A professional cinematographer may desire a larger drive, such as the Tera-byte drive = 1,000 Gigabytes, which is twice the size of a 500 GB drive.  Larger drives may be more prone to failure, primarily because more platters must be squeezed into a small space, and thus more heat is generated, more mechanics for failure, and so on. Bigger simply isn’t always better when it comes to drive sizes.  A good average size is best, with redundancy of drives.

B.A. Computer Services can assist you in drive replacements, drive arrays, and other disk storage needs.  Call us now at 903-243-9588.

Yikes! Drive Failed Options

There are several basic scenarios when evaluating your drive problem.
Under normal operating conditions, it is rare that a drive’s physical mechanisms fail so badly the data cannot be recovered. Before assuming drive is physically bad, use the operating system drive tool to see whether the drive is still recognized. If it is, then likely, it is a file system corruption problem rather than a hardware failure. BACS can assist you with both types of problems.

When System Will Not Boot.

1. One check to see whether your drive is still physically operational is to view whether it appears in the system BIOS startup screen before the operating system attempts to boot. You may need to press F2, F10, ESC, or some other key combination unique to your computer model at the very moment it powers up to access the BIOS screens.  If you do succeed in accessing data through use of a rescue startup disk or other method, immediately transfer your data to a backup medium such as an external USB drive before further failure prevents data recovery.

2. In the event of a drive hardware failure, two basic repair scenarios exist:

2a. The drive controller electronics have gone bad. This might be electrical surge burnout or other failure. It also may not be the drive at all, but the disk controller on your motherboard. One way to check is to plug in a different drive and see if it is recognized in the bios screen. If you are not familiar with computer repair, we highly recommend bringing it in for basic service. Drive controller boards (PCBs) can be replaced without breaking the drive seals, but some PCBs have memory chips that must match the drive serial data and may need to be physically transplanted from the old board.

2b. The drive heads or motor have gone bad, or have frozen to plate. Bad heads can cause further damage to the disc plate. If drive spins up, but data cannot be read, turn computer off immediately and have it serviced. This would especially be true if drive or computer has been dropped or otherwise impacted suddenly. If drive fails to spin at all, the motor may be bad. In either case in 2b, the seal on the drive itself must be broken for repairs, and doing so requires special equipment to prevent damage to the sensitive drive platters. Data recovery on this type of repair is best submitted to a data recovery professional.  Expect to pay $500 or more for this type of data recovery.

In all of these scenarios, drive error failure means it is time to replace the hard drive.  That process involves multiple time-consuming steps.  In some cases it is both logically and legally possible to move everything to a new drive including the operating system and all of your data files.  If drive has failed miserably however, a rescue of only your data may be your best option, while the new drive is freshly installed with a complete new copy of an operating system of your choice.  Depending on the licenses that came with your computer, if you desire to use Microsoft Windows it may require purchase of a new operating system license .  Other operating systems are possible that do not require license purchase. The cost for replacing a hard drive that is still readily accessible can be as low as $89 plus cost of the new drive itself, not including re-installation of additional programs that were installed after you purchased the computer.

Why DVDs Won’t Play

In short, DVD movies are encrypted by the movie-makers such that special software is required to decipher them.  Older copies of Microsoft Windows® were automatically able to decipher the movies because Microsoft automatically included the software with the operating system licenses. Windows® 8, and 10, and current releases of Linux do not natively have the software necessary to decipher the movies.  What is more, there are now laws that forbid programmers from writing software to decipher or crack the cryptography.  Such software does exist, and its use has not yet been challenged in U.S. courts, but nonetheless, is technically illegal. Cracking encryption is now deemed similar to breaking a lock on a car or house. the end-purpose of the laws being to prevent duplication of the DVDs. (One must be aware that purchase of a DVD movie is not purchase of the entire movie itself, but only a limited license to view the movie on that particular DVD.)

Solutions include:

  1. Buy software that specifically licenses the right to decipher the encryption (around $20);
  2. Use an external DVD or DVD/Blu-ray combo player (which again has been specifically licensed by the manufacturer to decipher the encryption);
  3. Downgrade to Windows® 7 or prior versions (works for most older movie releases, but may fail going forward with newer releases);
  4. A few other odd-ball solutions exist that cannot be recommended with integrity by this author, and can be quite technically difficult to accomplish.

Reference these articles:

http://www.dummies.com/computers/operating-systems/windows-8/how-to-play-dvds-in-windows-8/

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-watch-dvds-for-free-in-windows-10/

https://help.ubuntu.com/stable/ubuntu-help/video-dvd-restricted.html

The Future of Bluetooth

Personal experience with bluetooth technology has been less than satisfying for many.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  When it works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, well, it can be real frustrating.  Try out this recent article on one of the major phone manufacturers to see how they may be improving the technology soon.

https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s8-begins-era-of-better-bluetooth/

For the newbies: What is bluetooth?  It is a technology that allows a device such as a mobile phone to be paired with a separate nearby device, usually a speaker or other sound system, to project the audio from your phone to the larger system (or a wire-free headphone set).  Projecting an MP3 collection downloaded to a cell phone, for instance, into an automobile’s speaker systems is one such use.  Hands-free telephone use is another application. For a more technical description,  try this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth

Are Flash Drives Reliable For Backups?

The shortest answer, is, No storage device, whether printout, drive or DVD is immune from the natural elements, that is, from eventual degradation, loss, or destruction.  It is better to calculate the probability of loss versus the value of the data being stored. For example, if a few files from a primary computer are temporarily copied to transport them to another computer, the probability that the files needed will arrive safely to the office is very high, aside from losing the device in the car seat on the way there.  And its a copy–so no permanent loss if lost in transit.

Nonetheless, with respect to the plethora of flash drives on the market today, some are far more reliable than others.  The greatest danger lies in the sheer volume that such a drive can hold, and the fact that any flash drive may suddenly stop working without warning resulting in total loss of the stored data.  The better manufacturers do extensive tests on these devices, so the chance of failure may be very low, but never zero. Therefore, the best guarantee against loss is duplicate drives, whether flash drives or ordinary drives.  Simply said, never rely on a single drive to store data for long-term.  Use two or more drives to store the same data and then store the drives themselves in different locations to insure against fire or theft.  In choosing physical storage location however, consider that the usefulness of  archived data  ages with time, so backups for current operations must be continually updated.  Thus, the drives must be reasonably accessible for periodic update.

Probability of failure: Suppose a newly purchased 128GB drive is used to backup all your computer documents, and that the probability the drive would suddenly fail this year is .01%.  If an identical second drive is purchased, and the same data duplicated to it, its probability of failure would also be .01%.  But the likelihood that BOTH drives would fail at the same time — very unlikely (yet not impossible, especially if both drives purchased at the same time from same lot of manufacturing).  The likelihood BOTH drives stored in the same location could be destroyed, lost,  or stolen is much more likely, but this isn’t a function of the drive reliability.

In any case, use of flash drives for long term storage of critical data is generally discouraged because the nature of such drives is that if PHYSICALLY damaged, it is essentially impossible to retrieve the data.   In contrast, if a hard drive mechanism fails, it usually can be physically repaired and data fully recovered.  The size of hard drives is also such that they are generally not carried around in one’s pocket.  For practical reasons, a drive sitting safely on a desk is much more secure than a flash drive subject to all sorts of elements from baby slobber to melting in one’s car.

To read more, see this CNET.com article.

https://www.cnet.com/news/reliability-of-usb-flash-drives-questioned/

I have Wifi on phone, but why can’t I print?

This is a great question. Numerous factors are involved here. There are two components to wi-fi software, a client, and a server. Most phones come free with wi-fi client capabilities, that is, the phone itself has the capability, even without a cellular phone plan, to connect to a publicly available wi-fi connection, such as at a public library. Pads, and most laptops come with similar built-in wi-fi network cards. This is the client-side use of wi-fi.

Wi-fi capable printers are also wi-fi clients. Every client must be able to connect to a wi-fi server in order to communicate with other clients also connected to the same server. In other words, even though there are no wires, the invisible wire-less connections still have to be made to the single point of contact–the server router. That server router is like an old-fashioned telephone operator who plugs this call into that call so the two can communicate, and if the device is already communicating to someone else, tells the third caller to wait because the line is busy.

A cellular “hot-spot” is simply a miniature wi-fi server/router.  Most cellular companies charge a fee for this service, because it effectively turns your cellular phone into an Internet router service provider (expensive for airwave use). With home or office Internet services, turning your phone into a hot-spot wi-fi (server) is generally unnecessary. Within an office environment on wi-fi, a cell phone hot-spot is the MOST expensive and temporary way to go. The most effective method is to setup a private wi-fi network, and connect all your devices to it. Use your phone as a wi-fi client to connect to the wi-fi box, and save some dollars by eliminating the wi-fi hot-spot function of your phone.

Even so, once a wi-fi router server is in place, still a number of settings must be correctly configured to get everything talking the same language.  Call BA’s 903 243-9588 for an appointment and we will evaluate and resolve your need*.

*Conditional on your devices’ capabilities.  Printers that are not directly wi-fi compatible can be used with proper configuration.

Time-Saving Online Job Search Tip – Dollar General

Applicants looking for a job run into unrealistic hurdles on various company job websites. Dollar General’s site, for example, requires that an applicant apply by the specific job type at a specific store. That sounds harmless until the applicant realizes that he would not be eligible for a similar job at the same store until he reapplies for that specific job. Your painfully entered application information or resume-upload IS NOT SHARED with neighboring stores and IS NOT AVAILABLE for consideration of any other job at the same store. Since the application process can take up to an hour on a fast Internet connection (woe to those in outlying regions without good Internet), this is a very time-consuming enterprise for a relatively low-paying job.

Apply somewhere else? While always an option, it misses the point. Managers at Dollar General are prohibited by company policy from accepting applications or resumes apart from the online job board. Thus the only option is to apply to every relevant job at every store in the areas you live. When done in a single sitting, there are some ways to shorten the process.

First understand, these steps are only necessary because Dollar General’s Job Application websites are terribly organized. The local store list brings up thousands of records sorted by store number, which means you either have to call the stores first (you do have all their phone numbers handy already right?) to get the store number, or scroll forever until you can find your store.   Best option initially is to select by zip code. But read on…

QUICKEST STEPS TO APPLY:

    1. Place your resume in a simple word or text document on the computer in which you will apply on-line. (If you do not have one, neatly print relevant information on a sheet a paper so you can easily copy from it into the on-line fields.)
    2. Modify the zip code in the following link to get listings relevant to your area: https://jobs-dollargeneral.icims.com/jobs/search?ss=1&searchLocation=zipRadius&latitude=&longitude=&searchZip=75410&searchRadius=5  (in miles)
    3. Bookmark the LINK! Put it on your browser’s toolbar where it is easy to click. This step is necessary because after applying for one job, Dollar General fails to provide a link to bring you back to these same listings. Just entering the search criteria consumes valuable time.
    4. Go through the application process on one of the jobs, and be sure to complete the entire process 100%, which includes the WOTC survey (they fail to tell you it is required). Time to complete everything is something like 45 minutes if you are a good typist and Internet stays up. When you get to the page that says “Thank You” and you get an acknowledgement email, congratulations, the process is completed for THAT job.
    5. Now REPEAT. Click the bookmarked job search, and reapply for every relevant job in local area. The site will remember your previous application mostly….it will ask you to complete the job assessment survey again but just click through it and it will tell you you did it already. It will also ask you to repeat the WOTC survey again, but again, just click through it and it will acknowledge done already. These ridiculous un-automated steps are necessary to insure that when you get to the store you will not be told “Oh, I see you applied for Lead Sales position, but what we need is just a Sales Position candidate. Go back and reapply.”

Cheers.