By mid-February 2022, the line of container ships waiting to dock at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was down to 78 vessels from a high of more than 110 at the start of the year. I’m writing this in late March, and the number has remained steady.

I was fortunate to obtain Lenovo monitors for a handful of clients a few weeks ago, but that was an exception. When I saw 140 monitors available in a Texas distribution center, I called my distributor and asked to have them shipped from there, rather than Pennsylvania. By the end of that 30-minute call, the number was down to 39.

I had hoped that by now things would improve, and computers and monitors would become more readily available. Then reality shifted. The Omicron wave that we experienced during the winter is now hitting China. Their approach to dealing with Covid-19 is to lock down entire cities. Many of those are industrial centers, which means factories are closing and manufacturing is stopping. So, even if there were slots available in the ports to handle cargo ships, there won’t be many ships to fill for a few more months.

As many of you know, I prefer that my clients have fully-warrantied computers because it is an insurance policy against something going wrong. Lenovo’s technicians will be there within a day or two with a replacement part. However, because of the scarcity of monitors, I will loosen my rules and allow everyone one extra year before I consider replacement. The caveat being, if something goes wrong off-warranty, a full replacement is required.

The primary advantage I now see in Lenovo’s Tiny-in-One approach to computing is that monitors usually will last twice as long as computers. This means I can slip a new computer into the cubbyhole at the back of the monitor, and you can avoid an added expense.

But it sure would be nice to have monitors available for home users and businesses who need them. I’m going to revise my estimate for availability to late summer. Another factor to consider is that Lenovo announced a slew of new products, which are supposed to become available starting in April. Well, we’ll see about that.

Thanks, and safe computing!

There are days when I simply don’t have the time to read all of the news emails that appear in Outlook, or in the half-dozen computer magazines I subscribe to. In this case, I guess I should have, because I missed a tiny story that turned out to be big news. (A lesson taught by Mrs. Jurow, when I was a fifth-grader at Ogden Elementary School in Valley Stream, NY.) Intel reported in late September 2018 there were “issues” regarding its ability to supply new eighth-generation chips — called Coffee Lake — to computer manufacturers (OEMs). You can read the announcement here:

Those eighth-generation chips were the ones I was counting on to be in your new Windows 10 computers. Sad to say, that ain’t gonna happen very soon.

There is currently a “hold” on all those new Coffee Lake-based desktops and laptops. They are not in the pipeline from any of the major OEMs (e.g., Lenovo, Dell, or HP). To meet a higher demand for new computers, they are continuing to produce models with the existing seventh-generation chips (called Kaby Lake). Because of this unexpected need to switch gears at the end of 2018, shipments of all new computers are also being delayed.

How long is the delay? Higher-end models are showing a two to three month lag. In one specific case, the mid-range models I wanted to order as replacements for a client on February 12 (when I originally wrote this article) have an estimated March 25 delivery date — six weeks.

Here’s what this means for you. I am going to have to alter my timeline of deployment to include an additional six to eight weeks. That means I’ll be contacting you sooner than I had originally planned, and that you’ll probably have to wait longer to receive your new computer.

If there is any change in the status of this debacle, I will let you know as soon as possible. I’ll be able to do that because I now have a Google email alert for all things related to Intel Coffee Lake chip status.

Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 7 in January 2020, which means there will be no further updates. Shortly thereafter, I will stop support as well. While that date may seem far in the future, I can assure you that’s not the case! It is less than a year and a half away, and the majority of my clients will need new computers (along with associated hardware and software) between now and that deadline. I am affected by this as well; because I have to replace my desktop and laptop.

This early reminder is designed to let you begin planning a budget for a refresh. Based on the current political talk and potentially looming trade tariffs, it is possible that computers could cost more for consumers and businesses before next year. However, I have no idea when (or if) price increases will take place, nor by how much. You can use the following approximate numbers: $800 for a computer, $200 for a monitor, $150 for a printer, and $500 for me to do the necessary work (assessment, procurement, system set up, installation, and file transfer).

I have a chart with the warranty information for each of my clients’ computers. I will send you a letter 60 to 90 days in advance of its expiration to find out how you would like to proceed. Some of you may decide you want to move to an Apple Mac, others may opt for Ubuntu Linux, and still others Google Chromebook. We can discuss those options in the coming months.

Please note that recently purchased Windows 7 computers are eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. I will contact Lenovo to obtain the software update for you. Other Windows 7 computers may not be eligible for free software, but could still run Windows 10 (an additional purchase). Again, I will discuss these options with you as well.

Look for more frequent reminders, along with Windows 10 usage tips, in future editions of this blog.

“Beware the Ides of March” is a well-known phrase for this time of year. Who knew that it would apply on Wednesday March 14, 2018? That was the day after Microsoft released KB4088875, which had the uncanny ability to remove the network card drivers from Windows 7 Professional and create ghost network cards in Windows Server 2008 R2.

Clients called to tell me they could not connect to the Internet, and asked if I could remote in to fix the problem? Seriously? (Sometimes there is a little bit of humor in IT support.)

No, I am sorry, but I cannot remote in to your computer if you can’t get a network connection. I had to tell a number of clients that I was going to deputize them as “special assistant junior level 1 technicians” for the life of the phone call. In some cases it was a mere 15 minutes; whereas in others it clocked in at closer to 45.

The major saving grace in all of this is that I deploy Lenovo computers to my clients. Fortunately the factory-installed network drivers are available for detection and installation directly from Windows (Device Manager > Unknown Device > Update drivers > Browse my computer), or indirectly via the C:\SWTOOLS\DRIVERS\NETWORK\INTEL folder (requires the user to click on the appropriate EXE file).

Once the network card was re-installed and activated, it was a simple matter of gaining remote control to do two important tasks. The first was to uninstall KB4088875; that absolutely had to go. The second was to run Lenovo’s System Update utility to update the network driver to the current version, and to reinstall (or update) any other software that was removed.

The most worrisome aspect of this little escapade: I’m not sure that all of my clients rebooted following Tuesday’s patch. So this issue is going to crop up again and again over the next few weeks as clients shut down and restart their computers.

I have already run a script to uninstall the patch from those computers, but I may not have caught all of them in time. Similarly, I have blocked the patch from being distributed to the rest of my client base to prevent an onslaught of phone calls and irate clients.

Ubuntu doesn’t seem to have these horrific issues on a regular basis.  Although January’s attempt to fix the Meltdown issue did qualify as truly awful. So if a client only needs to browse the internet and obtain mail via a web browser, I am now, more than ever, inclined to move them to an easier to manage desktop operating system.

Therefore, let me offer “Thanks!” to Microsoft for enabling me to break out of the Windows-only rut and consider an alternative desktop experience for my clients. Ubuntu puts a nice glossy coat on Linux, virtually eliminating the mystery of using a different operating system.

Thanks and safe computing!

As many of you know, I started using Lenovo as a vendor of choice for both desktops and laptops earlier in 2012.  There are several reasons for this change.  One is because I think the design and build of Lenovo’s products is compatible or better than other computer manufacturers.  Now, most people use (and some even like) Dell, and I am a Registered Dell Partner.  Nevertheless, I have always believed in offering an option for my price-conscious clients, and Lenovo frequently beats Dell’s pricing.

Granted, Dell offers a wider array of customization options, but then you have to wait for the factory to build it for you.  Lenovo, on the other hand, has determined a decent core set of options that appeal to a wide segment of my client base.  There has been, so far, very little need to alter the basic hardware configurations.  I discovered long ago that most of you keep your computers far longer than their normal life spans.  I find it comforting to know that Lenovo computers will let me upgrade the memory one or two times to keep it performing like a newer computer.

So what is the headache?  Well, that came during installation.

Read More →