Just a friendly reminder to Baltimore families and businesses:
The free upgrade to Windows 10 (with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 eligible) ends July 29th. You can expect the licensing cost for Windows 10 Home to be $119.99 and the business oriented Pro version to cost $199.99.
Whether or not you should upgrade depends on a variety of things. Only machines running Windows 7 and later are eligible for the upgrade. Unless you’ve disabled Windows Update, you’ve likely received the nag window promoting the free upgrade to Windows 10. If you’ve seen this, you’re machine is eligible to run Windows 10. For the most part, you can expect Windows 10 to run well, possibly better than your current operating system. If you haven’t been notified of eligibility, your machine might still be capable of running Windows 10. Read More
It’s official: Baltimore just got whammied with record amounts of snow, trapping many in their homes and prohibiting all but the most essential travel. While we rest in between bouts of frantic snow shoveling, let’s take some time to answer frequently asked questions about wintry tech and proffer up some advice to help you stay informed and well protected.
If you’d rather have an inexpensive, professional computer repair, Poindexter is always available to help. We serve the Hampden area, Baltimore, and have helped countless folks recover from internet fraud of all kinds. If you, a parent, or grand parent has been the victim of internet or tech support fraud, contact Poindexter for personal help from an industry professional. We’ll get this squared away for you, promise.
Although Avira lacks the embellishments of other, prettier antivirus programs, it more than makes up for the sparse interface by being the best free antivirus of 2015. In recent tests, Avira proved to be as effective as most paid for antivirus options, ranking alongside or better than service providers like Norton or McAfee Antivirus. Easy to install, Avira works great on its default settings and can be left to run automatically, protecting your computer without any performance loss or disruptions. Once a threat is found, Avira will notify you and, with your permission, will attempt to quarantine or delete the threat. With Avira’s ever expanding libraries and advanced holistic detection, your computer is in the best possible hands with Avira Free Antivirus.
When fixing computers in the field, Poindexter technicians know what works and what doesn’t – and Malwarebytes works every time. Although every computer needs a competent antivirus installed and running around the clock, no antivirus can protect your computer from every possible threat. Some programs, called PUPs or potentially unwanted programs, still manage to sneak paste even the best protection programs. This is where Malwarebytes truly shines. This free program will effectively remove intrusive malware, potentially unwanted programs, and countless other discrete dangers and annoyances. For Poindexter techs, Malwarebytes has been and will remain an essential part of our emergency tool kit.
Although Avira provides the best possible antivirus solution, many clients might benefit from a more comprehensive security solution with extra bells and whistles. For the best all around protection against phishing scams and fraudulent websites, Poindexter recommends AVG Protection. Once installed and configured, AVG will block your favorite internet browsers from loading known malicious websites, protect your computer from the most dangerous transmission vectors and causes of identity theft, as well as keep itself updated and run around the clock without system disruption. Stop internet threats at their sources with AVG’s internet protection.
As a general rule, never run multiple anti-virus programs simultaneously. Be sure to remove any other anti-virus you might have installed, including Avira, if you choose to use AVG instead.
Nearly all viruses, theft, and computer based intrusions are conducted through the internet. It makes sense, then, to have a well developed, feature rich, security centric browser. Although there are numerous browser options, ranging from the incredibly popular Firefox, to the less well known Opera, Poindexter recommends Google Chrome as our browser of choice. With its abundance of available security extensions, including Https Everywhere, regular updates, and easy syncing with Android devices, Google Chrome is the best compromise between features, protection, and usability.
Warning! There’s a phishing scam under way that is targeting Baltimore businesses and residents. If you think you’re a victim of this or any other internet scam, contact Poindexter immediately for computer repair, account recovery options, and next steps.
This particular scam arrives as an email, purporting to be from Google. The email includes subjects like “Warning,you are required to go through the process,” “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)!!!,” or “Your account might be disabled, fix error.” The body of the email might contain are warning about your email account, recommending that you visit a link to change your port settings and retrieve your missed messages. We received three such emails in two days and have been contacted by two clients asking whether or not to respond to them. The email we received is provided below, but without the offending links.
Please delete and Ignore if this is not your email address
Clicking any of the provided links will direct your internet browser to a fraudulent page designed to look like Google’s account setting page. It will prompt you to enter your username and password; the site then sends those details to whoever is responsible for the scam, compromising your account.
If you receive an email like this or with an attachment claiming to be from Google or any other account provider, delete immediately. Do not click any of the included links. If you did follow through and enter your email and password on the phishing page, change your Google account password immediately.
Google, Bing, Microsoft, and every other major webmail provider will never ask you to change your port settings. They will never threaten to close your account in this way. And they will never ever include sensitive account details or service requests as an attached PDF file. Unusual stuff like this is a warning sign that the email isn’t genuine and might be a scam or worse.
I worked with Geek Squad for two years, but left to launch Poindexter. While working for them, I made some close friends, learned some neat tricks, and was able to play with expensive tech that I couldn’t possibly afford on a meager Geek Squad salary (the Best Buy discount isn’t that great, guys). Geek Squad’s prices and how they treat clients and employees is what makes small, locally supported efforts like Poindexter necessary.
Here I discuss my experience working for Geek Squad, how Poindexter strives to be different, and how we hope to return to the bygone days of personalized tech support, like Geek Squad used to; Geek Squad is more machine now than man.
Let’s lay some ground rules first. I won’t break their air tight confidentiality agreement. Like Apple’s App Store agreement, I didn’t read it, nor did I happen to have a brawny lawyer on hand to summarize it for me. Anything I say here is either common knowledge or on the tip of the tongue, just waiting to be said. It’s just stuff we already know about Geek Squad but seem afraid to talk about.
So. Why not Geek Squad. Full stop.
“Automation and simplicity is the key to reducing staff and saving money, and what Geek Squad can’t automate, they outsource. ”
Quantity Over Quality
When Geek Squad was smaller scale, they served fewer clients in a smaller coverage area. Their service and staff were refreshingly personal, and Geek Squad built its client base organically with a bicycle, a few bucks, and an ambitious pioneer who realized that computer geeks shouldn’t smell bad or be condescending jerks. Geek Squad brought folks computer relief in a tie-dee (pun!), Beatle driving package. Strong values and a simple idea executed well. It was tech support with heart.
Today, Geek Squad is a Best Buy owned mega-corp that prioritizes profits and cost savings to satisfy finicky, money minded share holders. This pressure is forcing Geek Squad to change, and not for the better.
The big American businesses are expected to grow constantly, always turning a profit, always increasing in value. This is tough for service based companies that don’t scale well, like Geek Squad or Poindexter. A company that scales well is one that can continuously increase profit as sales volume increases. Imagine a musician selling a hot track on iTunes. The more music they sell, the more money they earn. There’s no end to the amount they can make and it doesn’t cost more to distribute their music digitally.
In contrast, service companies need actual meat and bone people to do the essential work, and more meat and bone people to manage them. Geek Squad needs butts in those seats to doll out high-tech wizardry, day in and day out. Each of those butts needs a paycheck, training, and to be monitored and encouraged. It’s expensive, especially if you want to hire Americans, who expect luxuries like maternity leave, health care, or a (gasp!) living wage. Sure, industrial psychologists can make those watery humans more efficient and drive productivity with better automated programs, but they can’t wholly eliminate the need for inefficient, expensive human beings. The more people you have, the more you need, until the meat mountain collapses under its own weight.
To earn that tasty profit and keep shareholders confident, Geek Squad needfully slings tech support like fast-food cheeseburgers, using the fewest, low-cost workers possible. The beating heart of Geek Squad is still comprised of capable, well paid technicians, responsible for crafting the tools and software that store technicians use daily. They’re the human center to Geek Squad’s button pushers, and are responsible for making Geek Squad agents more efficient, without making them entirely ineffective. These high tech tools lower the bar for Geek Squad staff, letting potentially anyone “troubleshoot” problems. Click the button, set some variables, and let the robots tear at it. In a few hours, most of the work will be done, all without pesky humans there to think through anything. Naturally, automation and simplicity is the key to reducing staff and saving money, but what Geek Squad can’t automate, they outsource. More on that shortly.
They Don’t Pay Well.
The Geek Squad staff you’re likely to find working the stores come in three basic types. They might be low level techs who depend entirely on automated software, aspiring technicians desperate to make ends meet, or disgruntled techs who confuse cultural esoterica for an actual career. For some, Geek Squad is a way station, onward to something else – like Poindexter – where you actually get to do the work the job application promised, instead of watching a computer script clumsily do it instead. For others, it’s a quagmire of poverty and self-doubt that leaves them cynical, contemptuous, and trapped.
On average, freelance computer technicians charge $50-75 dollars per hour. To make ourselves available to low income communities, Poindexter charges one time, flat fees for most services, or a low hourly rate of $20.00. As a small business, every cent Poindexter earns must be reinvested into its people. Tellingly, Geek Squad agents earn an average of $12.00, though many receive less. Like clockwork, Geek Squad employees will cite Best Buy’s discount and the company’s culture as perks, but perks don’t fill the financial vacuum. That’s simply not a livable wage, particularly if you have children, a mortgage, or student loan debt. Sure, the cutesy weirdness of Geek Squad culture can make you feel like part of the in-crowd, member of an elite technocratic cult, but company culture doesn’t pay the bills.
Lured by the prospect of work, youngsters, seasonal college students, and desperate computer enthusiasts volunteer to serve Geek Squad. At first the job will seem more glamorous than Burger King, but the takeaway pay is the same (sometimes lower). In my experience, employees who aren’t paid well grow careless, resentful, and dismissive, especially since they don’t have the dispensary income to safely quit. So staff get sullen and disengage from their work. This creates a poisonous workspace and no amount of cultural currency can counteract it.
Geek Squad staff are only rewarded for selling services, discouraging counter agents from doing actual tech support or working too hard to keep up appearances. Good tech help takes time and Geek Squad staff keep their consultations brief, leaving plenty of time for the sales pitch and just enough time to assess the client’s original problem. Poindexter, in contrast, includes a minimum of one hour for each consultation. Sure, we make less money, but we’re able to do a better job and ensure client satisfaction. Supporting people, including our own staff, is the cornerstone of every business, but Geek Squad seems to have forgotten that dogma somewhere on the path to greater wealth. Unhappy workers might mutiny and go on to found a new, better company.
They Outsource. A lot.
If you’ve ever surrendered to the Geek Squad call center labyrinth, you were first processed by their overseas call center, then connected with a foreign technician. Customers are so familiar with this, we don’t even question it. Sending jobs overseas is an all too common way for American businesses to cut costs by relying on cheap foreign labor. Geek Squad is no exception. Whether you call their support line or reach out to a local Best Buy, Geek Squad will use overseas labor wherever possible. Of course, some computer repairs require local workers, but this is expensive and time consuming. For Geek Squad to service an ever expanding customer base, all while avoiding the high expense of hiring local technicians, they have no choice but to trust in overseas labor farms. This creates immediate control problems, especially with client’s data privacy. The more hands involved in your computer’s repair, the greater the threat of data theft. Geek Squad is regularly criticized for playing fast and loose with client data. Whenever possible, never trust your computer to a stranger.
This is why Poindexter does all computer work from our lab in Hampden, Baltimore, and only trusted, local technicians are employed. People you know – people who live nearby – people who you’ll see at Wyman Park. Tech support and computer repair from good, local folks you can trust.