Charter Spectrum notifying customers about required Internet equipment upgrades

Due to recent network upgrades in the Reno area which enable faster and symmetrical speeds, Spectrum has been notifying customers about required upgrades to their Internet equipment. Charter Spectrum Internet subscribers are required to use an authorized modem for use on the Charter Spectrum network, which they provide at no additional charge to the monthly Internet service fee.

In the past few months we’ve helped many customers change to a new Spectrum DOCSIS 3.1 modem, and a new Spectrum WiFi 6 router if not using their own purchased router. Quite a few customers have been sent older DOCSIS 3.0 modems in error, and we’ve helped them make an appointment at a local Spectrum Store to swap out to the DOCSIS 3.1 modem which is required for the faster and symmetrical speeds.

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Your Scam Protection Guide – and What to Do If Your Computer Has Been Compromised by a Scammer

Below is a scenario that we hear about many times each month – and it could happen to you.

You’ve just spoken on the phone with someone claiming to be from Microsoft, Amazon, your bank or Internet provider or other well-known company. You’ve given the stranger remote access to your computer and they’ve shown you a bunch of things that’s wrong with it – errors, security or firewall problems, exposed social security numbers, or even offered to help transfer funds to or from your bank account. They may say that they have a “fix” – and can remedy the “problems” for a few hundred dollars.

Maybe you didn’t tell them your credit card number or purchase gift cards for payment, but the damage has already been done. In a matter of minutes a scammer can obtain or change passwords or credit card numbers stored in your web browser, purchase goods or services on your behalf or create new accounts. Sometimes it happens so quickly and convincingly that you may not realize that you’ve been conned until long after you’ve hung up the phone.

If you’ve let a stranger get into your personal device – what should you do?

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How to save money at the grocery store using your computer or mobile app

With prices at the grocery store skyrocketing recently, we can help you save money by using the store’s website or app to save money with digital coupons, shopping sale items and other offers, keeping track of rewards, and even sticking to your list by ordering your groceries for pick-up or delivery.

Digital coupons and offers

Many stores in the Reno area feature digital coupons and other money saving offers on their website or mobile app, including Raley’s, Smith’s, Safeway, Save Mart, and Sprouts.

To use digital coupons at these stores, you will need to download the store’s app and create an account. Once you have created an account, you can browse the available coupons and “clip” the ones you want to use. The coupons will then be applied automatically at checkout.

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Should you really “cut the cord” to save money on TV service?

Should You Really Cut the Cable Cord?
  • Overall, cutting the cable cord can be a great way to save money and get more control over your TV watching experience. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
  • Streaming television programs to dedicated apps on your TV requires the patience of a learning curve from the way we’ve traditionally watched TV.
  • If you’re still not sure whether or not to cut the cable cord, you can try out a few streaming services for free before you commit. Many services offer free trials, so you can test them out and see if they’re right for you.

Updated 4/13/24:

We are truly in the age of overwhelming choice when it comes to TV. There are more shows available to watch than ever before – across more platforms than we can keep count of. As well as cable or satellite TV, there’s a host of streaming services out there like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, (HBO) Max, Paramount+, Peacock and AppleTV+.

Years ago phone/TV/internet providers persuaded people to bundle services together to save money. In recent years the price for TV service has skyrocketed mainly due to rising fees from the content providers, prompting people to consider cancelling or cutting back to save money on TV channels that are mostly unwatched.

With so much choice, deciding which option is best for you can be tricky. Should you ‘cut the cord’ and switch to streaming TV? If so, which service(s) should you subscribe to? Are all of the services that you want available on your Smart TV, or do you need an external streaming device? Is streaming cheaper than cable or satellite TV anyway? Should you UN-bundle to save money?

These might be some of your questions. We’ll aim to answer them below. 

First things first: what is streaming?

Streaming is a form of video sharing that occurs over the internet rather than via your cable box or satellite dish. Streaming offers an advantage over traditional live TV in that you can start or pause shows or movies at any time (on-demand), you’re not forced to watch at specific times. Though that’s handy for watching old shows, live TV is still best for watching real-time news and sports broadcasts. You can stream live TV as well, but that costs a lot more.

Is streaming more cost-effective than cable? 

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New computer recommendations

Updated 11/2/23:

Since you’ll likely be spending the next 5-10 years or more with your next computer, please take a few minutes now to make an informed decision about what to look for in a new computer and accessories – and get the best deal. 

Our recommended minimum new computer specifications are:

  • Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 5 processor or better. For an Apple Mac computer we recommend getting Apple’s “M” series processor rather than an Intel processor.
  • 8 GB RAM or more
  • 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD) or larger
  • Please read New Computer Buying Guide for more detailed information.

We don’t recommend trying to save money on a refurbished computer. Typically they won’t last as long as a new computer, and are less secure due to unpatched processor flaws and some cannot be upgraded to more recent secure operating systems.

We’ve seen the best reliability with HP and Dell brands. Keep in mind that cheaper laptops and all-in-ones typically only have a vertical screen resolution of 768 pixels, whereas higher quality and clearer screens are 1080 pixels or higher.

Click on the links below to view recommended computers meeting the minimum recommended specifications noted above at the respective retailer’s website. Some models may be available in-store. If you come across a good deal elsewhere, remember to look for specifications that are a minimum of what’s listed above.

Desktop PCs:

Best Buy – Dell, HP – SSD PC Desktops

Costco – Dell, HP Desktops – make sure hard drive is SSD or HDD+SSD

HP Store – Desktop computer towers with SSD

Dell – Desktop computers & All-in-One PCs with SSD

Laptop/Notebook PCs – regular price differences are due to variances in screen size, processor (speed), screen resolution and 2-in-1 convertibility:

Best Buy – Dell, HP SSD PC Laptops

Costco – Dell, HP – SSD PC Laptops

Apple Mac:

Best Buy – iMac desktop

Best Buy – MacBook laptop

Costco – iMac desktop

Costco – MacBook laptop

Apple – iMac desktop – select Apple M1 or M1 Pro/Max chip

Apple – MacBook laptop – select Apple M1 or M1 Pro/Max chip

We can setup your new computer and transfer data from your old one

Please consider our IN-HOME services to get your new computer set-up quickly and properly, vs. the chain stores offerings, or attempting it yourself:

  • Set-up and connect your new computer to your network, printer and other external hardware. If you buy from a national chain store you’ll likely notice that they don’t specialize in in-home service, or they charge much more for the option. We’ll make sure all of your external devices work with your new computer.
  • Transfer data (documents, pictures, music, etc.) and compatible programs from an old computer. Some tech services just transfer your data to a folder on your desktop – we organize your data and put it in the right folders and programs. 
  • Remove trialware and unnecessary adware. We also setup free security, backup and word processing/spreadsheet software.
  • Customization and explanation of Windows features. We’ll setup the menus, controls and buttons with familiarity of your previous computer.
  • Install initial updates. A new computer out-of-the-box is already several months behind critical operating system updates and computer hardware updates.
  • Consulting about questions you have about your new computer system
  • Recommended storage/disposal/donation of an old unused computer

Custom-built computers

If you need a computer custom-built for gaming or business needs, we recommend contacting our friends at Technology Center.

Spectrum upgrades to symmetric internet speeds in the Reno area

Update May 2024: Charter/Spectrum has notified existing customers via email and web page that new symmetric internet speeds are now available to existing customers. A DOCSIS 3.1 modem is required for the upgrade.

As part of a multi-year nationwide upgrade to Charter’s Spectrum Internet service announced in December 2022, in April 2023 they began advertising the availability of symmetric internet speeds at Reno area addresses. The Reno area is one of the first markets to be upgraded as part of their 3-year plan. Symmetric speeds are the same download and uploads speeds, which until now has only been offered in the area by AT&T’s Fiber service.

April 2023 screenshot showing Spectrum Internet speeds and prices available to new customers.
A DOCSIS 3.1 modem similar to the one pictured here is required to get the new symmetrical speeds.

Before the update, Spectrum had download/upload speeds of 300/10, 500/20 and 1000/35. Depending on the area, speeds are now being advertised as 300/300, 500/500 and 1000/1000 (1 Gbps).

The faster upload speeds that were previously only available through fiber internet connections can help improve video quality when participating in video calls, and allow faster uploading of files to cloud backup and synchronization services.

If you need help upgrading your Spectrum modem or Wi-Fi router to take advantage of the new internet speeds, contact Computer Techs for in-home service.

What is AI Chat and how does it make searching the Internet better?

In the past few months, AI (Artificial Intelligence) Chat has come to light as a new conversational way to search the internet. To compose the rest of this article I asked Google’s Bard chatbot and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot “What is AI Chat and how does it make searching the Internet better?”. Below are the responses I received.

According to Google’s Bard:

“AI chat is a new way to search the internet. It uses artificial intelligence to understand your questions and provide you with answers in a conversational way. This can be much more helpful than traditional search engines, which often return a list of links that you have to click through to find the information you’re looking for.

With AI chat, you can just ask your question and the AI will provide you with an answer, or a series of answers, in real time. This can be much faster and more efficient than traditional search engines.

AI chat can also be more helpful because it can understand your context. For example, if you ask “What is the best restaurant in San Francisco?”, the AI will take into account your location and other factors to provide you with a list of restaurants that are relevant to you.

Overall, AI chat is a new and innovative way to search the internet that can be much more helpful than traditional search engines. It is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the internet.

Here are some of the ways AI chat can make searching the internet better:

  • It can provide you with more accurate and relevant results.
  • It can save you time by helping you find the information you need faster.
  • It can be more user-friendly, as it allows you to interact with the search engine in a more natural way.
  • It can be more interactive, as it allows you to ask follow-up questions and get additional information.
  • It can be more personalized, as it can tailor the results to your specific needs and interests.

Overall, AI chat has the potential to revolutionize the way we search the internet. It can provide us with more accurate, relevant, and timely results, and it can do so in a more user-friendly and interactive way.”

According to Microsoft’s Bing “Ask me anything…”

“AI Chat refers to a program that simulates human conversations using natural language processing (NLP) ³. Chatbots are programmed to address users’ needs independently of a human operator ³. AI Chat can improve searching the internet by providing more accurate and relevant results ¹. However, conversational AI is far from applicable to every kind of search ¹. Bing has integrated an AI language model into its search engine which is more powerful than ChatGPT ² and can understand context and reply back in a humane way ⁴.

I hope this helps!

Source: Conversation with Bing, 4/6/2023(1) 18 of the Best AI Chatbots for 2023 – HubSpot. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-ai-chatbot Accessed 4/6/2023.
(2) I used the future of AI web search – Digital Trends. https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/ai-search-microsoft-openai-chatgpt-novelty-to-normal/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(3) ChatGPT versus AI-enabled Bing. How do they differ?. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/02/ai-chatgpt-openai-bing-search/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(4) 10 Things New AI Bing Chat Can Do Better Than ChatGPT. https://techwiser.com/things-new-ai-bing-chat-can-do-better-than-chatgpt/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(5) What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here’s what you need to know. https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-chatgpt-and-why-does-it-matter-heres-everything-you-need-to-know/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(6) The best AI chatbots of 2023: ChatGPT and alternatives | ZDNET. https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-ai-chatbot/ Accessed 4/6/2023.”

I followed up by clicking “examples of AI Chat”

“There are many examples of AI Chatbots available today. Some of them include Zoho SalesIQ, Tidio Chat, Landbot, ChatBot, Manychat, FreshChat, Tars ¹. Other examples include Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon Echo, and Facebook Messenger ². Automat.ai is another example of a conversational AI software with exceptional listening skills that “understands every customer” and has a built-in product recommendation engine that serves up personalized suggestions and engages customers to provide superior shopping experiences ³.

I hope this helps!

Source: Conversation with Bing, 4/6/2023(1) 15 Best AI Chatbots (2023 Update) – Guru99. https://www.guru99.com/best-ai-chatbots.html Accessed 4/6/2023.
(2) What is AI Chatbot & How do AI Chatbots Work? The Complete Guide. https://www.heliossolutions.co/blog/what-is-ai-chatbot-how-do-ai-chatbots-work-the-complete-guide/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(3) Conversational AI Examples + Uses and Insights. https://getvoip.com/blog/conversational-ai-examples/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(4) Why We’re Obsessed With the Mind-Blowing ChatGPT AI Chatbot. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/why-were-all-obsessed-with-the-mind-blowing-chatgpt-ai-chatbot/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(5) The best AI chatbots of 2023: ChatGPT and alternatives | ZDNET. https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-ai-chatbot/ Accessed 4/6/2023.
(6) ChatGPT: How to Use the AI Chatbot for Free – How-To Geek. https://www.howtogeek.com/871065/chatgpt-how-to-use-the-ai-chatbot-for-free/ Accessed 4/6/2023.”

Don’t overbuy: How to save money on your Internet service

Updated March 2024:

  • Now that the wireless carriers are offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Internet service in many areas, there’s more choices for internet speeds and service levels. However, it may not be as reliable.
  • You may be able to downgrade the speed provided by your current Internet provider to save money with little or no noticeable difference.
  • Consider bundling home Internet and wireless service to save money.

Traditional wired Internet service often offers different speed tiers and priced at the speed of the internet connection you can expect at your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) modem/gateway.

In the Reno area as of May 2023, Charter’s Spectrum service offers Internet speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps), 500 Mbps and 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps or often referred 1 Gig). AT&T’s xDSL Internet service offers slower download speeds ranging from less than 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps, but with their fiber-to-the-home service, speeds range from 300-5000 Mbps (5 Gbps).

In July 2022 T-Mobile began offering wireless home internet service in the Reno area via Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Download speeds are advertised at 30-245 Mbps, which is fast enough to stream UHD/4K video quality. In May 2023 Verizon began offering FWA in limited parts of the Reno area, with download speeds advertised at 85-300 Mbps. In late 2023 AT&T’s Internet Air became available in limited areas of Reno with download speeds varying from 75-225 Mbps.

FWA is cheaper, but can be less reliable

Thought FWA is often cheaper, unlike xDSL, Cable or Fiber Internet, FWA can be less reliable since the service is shared with hundreds or thousands of other users in your area using the same cell tower/node. Therefore speeds during peak times can be slower, or during an extended power outage you could temporarily lose service altogether. Before considering FWA, check out “5G” Home Internet vs. Spectrum Internet.

Save money by choosing a slower Internet speed plan

Count on spending at least $50/month for reliable internet service, but anything above $80/month is probably unnecessary for small households. If you’re on a faster speed tier with your Internet Service Provider, you can save money by switching to a lower speed plan.

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Tips for Properly Cleaning Electronics So You Don’t Harm Them

No matter what type of electronic device you own, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential for keeping them running efficiently and smoothly. This ensures that your device continues to serve its purpose for many years to come. However, it’s important to be aware of how to clean electronics properly to not cause any damage to them in the process.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of cleaning electronic devices, especially if you’re not aware of the dangers of improper cleaning. Not only can incorrect cleaning methods destroy the device itself, but in some cases, they might also cause harm to the user. This is why it’s essential to know which cleaning methods are appropriate for each

The following tips will guide you in properly cleaning and maintaining your electronics so you don’t end up doing more harm than good:

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How to Keep Money from Being Stolen Through Online Banking

Online banking is one of the most convenient services available and offers individuals, businesses, and organizations a way to quickly and easily manage their finances. Unfortunately, online banking is also vulnerable to all of the same security risks that stem from the virtual nature of the internet. It’s important to take steps to ensure that your hard earned money is secure from theft and fraud.

You wouldn’t want to suddenly realize that your bank account has been drained of your hard-earned cash!

Let’s take a look at a dozen ways to keep your money safe while banking online.

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