Are you paying too much for your Internet Access?

How much are you paying your internet service provider for access every month? Is it broadband (DSL)? We’ve discovered that many clients are paying Earthlink, for example, an average of $50 per month for their DSL service. Considering that other providers, such as Verizon and SBC (now AT&T) are charging between $14.99 and $29.99 for DSL, Earthlink sounds over-priced. If your speed is just a step above dial-up, and you’re still paying around $50 per month, then you definitely want to re-examine your options.

To test your internet speed, and thus be sure that you’re getting what you paid for, go to a site like We like the speed test because it’s simple, easy to follow, and tends to be a bit more accurate than some other sites we’ve tried. Just follow the prompts to test your internet connection speed.

You’ll notice that for the speed test, there are many different servers, located in different cities, to choose from. If you’re not sure what a server is, or which one to chose, don’t worry. All you really want to do is test the closest location to you that you can find. This should give you a “best case scenario” connection. If you live in Los Angeles, for example. choose the Los Angeles server. In theory, the closer the server is to you, the faster your connection speed results should be.

Broadband or DSL service comes in different flavors, or speeds. The $14.99 per month service sold by Verizon is not going to be as fast as the $75 per month service sold by Earthlink. As of this writing, Earthlink DSL offers a high-speed package, rated as high as a blazing 6.0 per second, that costs $75 per month. That’s not bad. Cable broadband service can run about the same price or less, but clocks in at a slower 4.0 per second. The less expensive option, a $14.99 service offered by Verizon, promises a meager 768 download and 128k upload. The point is that you should be getting the service speed that you are paying for. Many users, who have had DSL since it was first introduced, unwittingly continue to pay high rates for their broadband DSL, and are stuck with slower connections.

As one client put it: “They’re not going call you to ask you to pay them less.”

Take a look at the speed you’re getting, and compare it to what’s offered in your market. Keep in mind that phone companies, as well as cable companies, service only specific areas.

Verizon phone service (an thus DSL), for example, may not be available where SBC/AT&T service is. The same holds true for Adelphia cable, Comcast and Charter. While you may not save money, you might certainly upgrade your service for free by making a phone call. Tell them your speed test results. Ask them why you’re being charged $50 a month, when your neighbor is paying $29.99 for a considerably faster connection. Companies like Earthlink really act as “middle men”. They sub-lease the phone lines from the phone companies to provide you with internet service. Of course they offer other features as part of the entire package, but the discussion here is about speed and value. Did you ever save money by using a middle man?

Next, find out about freeing yourself up for the best internet connection deals, without ever changing your email address again. See “Getting your own domain.”

The Apple disk utility is your friend

One of the most useful tools the Mac has available, right out of the box, is the disk utility. This little gem can be found in the utilities folder, located in the Applications folder, in your hard drive. A simple maintenance routine, running the disk utility can often clear up small glitches that might arise from software updates, printer errors, etc. So, how do we use it? Read on.

Once you locate the disk utility, you may want to keep it handy in your dock. We like to run this little utility after every software installation, or even update, and again about once a month. Go to our downloads page to get an illustrated, step-by-step guide on the procedure. Keep in mind that while there are minor differences between versions of this utility, the overall idea remains the same. Enjoy!

Take the fear out of using the best tool you own

Want to know why kids, especially really young kids, seem to be so good with computers? Kids lack fear. They don’t know any better. They just hammer away at those keys until something cool happens. That’s empowering ! If we all did that, we’d all be computer geniuses. Spend that kind of time at the piano, and you’ll be able to play anything reasonably well too.

Fear is a terrible thing. It keeps us from doing many things that could not only be really fun, but even enrich our life experience. So it is for some and their computers. Shortly after the New Year, calls come in from folks who decide it’s finally time to learn how to use that machine in the study. Some have had a computer for years, yet still barely know how to send and receive email.

That’s the equivalent of buying an expensive car, and not learning how to drive. Using a computer is really no different that using a car. Just as you don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a car, you don’t have to be a computer whiz to use a Mac (or PC). It’s simply a matter of putting in time at the keyboard.

So don’t see a computer as your enemy. It’s not sworn to make you look stupid. It will give you as much, and more, as you put into it (especially if it’s a Mac).

The fastest way to kill a laptop

Fluids. Whether it’s a glass of wine, coffee, or a cup of milk — someone has managed to drop it into their laptop’s keyboard. Some have even done so more than once!

Do yourself a favor. When you go to that cyber cafe, leave the “cafe” part on the table next to you, and use a long straw. Better yet, drink your drink first, and then let the laptop out of the bag. If you must drink and surf, invest in either a spill-proof cup or a clean, spill-proof rubber cover for the keyboard. It’s cheaper than a new machine. Very few laptops survive a liquid spill.

If you DO give the laptop an unintentional bath, turn it off immediately (if it hasn’t shorted out already), unplug the charger and pull out the battery. When you get back home, stretch out a soft cloth or towel, open up the laptop, and gently set it upside-down on the towel for a few days.

If you’re lucky, what you spilled wasn’t sticky or thick, and the machine will dry out. Don’t put the battery back in for a few days.

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you try to take the laptop apart! You’ll never get it back together again, and get it all to work properly. Laptops are very complex, compact little machines. Even we techs don’t take them apart. Nor do the Apple Store techs. Laptops are routinely shipped to specialists who train endlessly for taking these machines apart and putting them back together. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it.

Fluid spills are not covered by Applecare. Pray that your laptop dries out. If you’re really worried, we can send the laptop in for you. But results have been, uh, mixed. It all depends on what and how much was spilled in the machine.

How to kill an expensive LCD screen

The worst things you can do to your screen, other than dropping it or smashing it with a hammer, is to spray something on it.

One client unfortunately used Windex. Maybe he saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” once too many times. He used just enough fluid to make it run down the screen and get into the bottom edge. The screen went black, and that was that. Apple informed the gentleman than fluid spills are not covered by Applecare. (It’s virtually impossible to hide a fluid spill. It doesn’t really evaporate from the casing). The first thing techs look for on a failed screen is tell-tale droplets in the casing.

Unless you want a good excuse to buy a new screen, keep sprays away from you LCD. For cleaning screens, we recommend a great product made by a company called Radtech. It’s an optical cloth that’s as soft as a baby’s bottom. Once you dab the screen with a provided alcohol swab (such as those used for prepping for a flu shot), you GENTLY wipe the LCD screen with this cloth. It works very well, and we wouldn’t use anything else.