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You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim

Fraud

“Hi, Scott. I need to give you my new credit card information. My old card got hacked, so the bank sent me a new one.”

I receive calls like this almost every week from clients who have recurring transactions set up with us.

Scams, fraud and identity theft are on the rise. A sad reality of the 21st century.

Did you know …

  • 13.1 million U.S. consumers lost almost $15 billion because of identity theft in 2015, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research study conducted last year?
  • credit card fraud could jump from $4 billion to $10 billion by 2020, according to a February 2016 CNBC report?

All this is despite the advances in new security features, like the EMV chips in debit and credit cards.

If you haven’t been the victim of a computer scam, fraudulent bank or credit card use, or identity theft, you probably know someone who has. The negative effects cause incredible frustration, cost hours of lost time, and results in the loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Becoming aware of how scammers, cybercriminals, and identity thieves work and knowing how you can protect yourself is critical in this age.

In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, March 5 through 11, I’d like to provide you with this information. But I would need considerably more space than what I’m graciously given here in this column.

So I’ve created a new three-part video series where I share practical and little-known consumer safety tips.

These tips provide you the knowledge you need to be a smart consumer, even when scammers catch you off guard. Armed with this information, you’ll avoid falling victim to scams, identity theft, and fraud.

Common Computer Scams
In the first video, I’ll teach you how to quickly and easily identify the three most common computer scams. Some are blatantly obvious, yet many people fall hook-line-and-sinker for them. After watching this video, you won’t be one of those people.

How Identity Thieves Work
In the second video, I’ll describe some of the sneaky ways identity thieves steal your personal information. It’s not just through your computer, either. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for these criminals to go undetected and how at-risk your privacy is.

How to Protect Yourself
In the final video, I’ll give you 10 specific actions you must take to protect yourself – in both the physical and digital worlds. You’ll be given the steps, resources, and tools necessary to keep your personal and financial information as secure as possible.

You can sign up to view the videos for free at on the home page of this website – www.calibreforhome.com.

I promise I’m not going to try to sell you anything, and I won’t be filling your email inbox with useless junk messages.

I simply want to help combat the growing trend of fraud and identity theft. The best way for me to do that is by sharing with you what I’ve learned as I deal with it on a daily basis.

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These Two Apps Made Getting Around D.C. A Breeze

The painfully sore blisters on my pinky toes remind me I need to buy a good pair of walking shoes before my next excursion.

Many of you know I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure tickets to attend the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. No matter your political stance, the privilege of watching American history in the making live, in-person, and up-close is something I’ll never forget.

Although my friend and I rented an apartment only a mile from the White House, we walked thousands of steps as we explored our nation’s capital for the first time.

Two apps on my iPhone quickly became our best friend for our five-day adventure: Uber and Google Maps.

We flew into Washington-Dulles International Airport on Thursday. Since Washington doesn’t have mass transit fully finished to that airport, Uber provided the fastest and most direct way to get to our apartment.

As a new Uber user, I secured a $15 off coupon for my first ride.

We used Uber several times throughout our stay, including once when my poor feet hurt so bad that I absolutely couldn’t walk another block.

The Uber app is super-easy to use. It automatically detects your current location and asks where you would like to go. You’re then given several Uber vehicle options, depending on what’s available in your area.

Alec and I often used UberPOOL. You’re given a guaranteed, low-cost fare because you’re sharing the ride with one or two other people going the same way you are. Our average was about $3.50 for the both of us each time we used UberPOOL.

Within moments, an available Uber driver accepts your request and heads to pick you up. The app shows your driver’s first name, a description of their vehicle and the license plate number. Often times, the driver calls your cell phone as they near your location so they can watch for you.

Because of the massive crowds using public transit, Uber made navigating long distances throughout the capital convenient.

When Alec and I chose to explore the sights and landmarks of D.C. on foot, the Google Maps app gave us the turn-by-turn directions needed to make sure we didn’t get lost. It also told us how long it would take to reach our destinations.

I used Google Maps as we explored the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Washington Monument on the cool, misty, foggy Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Google Maps app helped us time our rides on the Washington Metro trains to visit Arlington National Cemetry, the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, the Pentagon, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

I encourage you to make these two apps an important part of your next road trip or vacation. They’ll make life a lot easier!

Oh – be sure to take a portable battery charger. These apps run in the background on your phone and can quickly drain the battery.

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Use Tech To Help You Get Fit in 2017

New year, new me.

Christian, my director of service operations, and I committed to regularly exercising in 2017. Our always full schedules pose a challenge, but I’m proud to say we’ve faithfully hit the gym as scheduled the first two weeks of the year.

So have many others who made similar resolutions.

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s extremely easy to give up on your fitness resolution once you get off track. Maybe an illness or schedule conflict causes you to miss some sessions. Maybe you get bored with your exercise routine.

Technology can be your ally to help you maintain and achieve your fitness goals.

The Ultimate Fitness App

Knowing what exercises to do, how to properly execute them, and keeping track of your progress can overwhelm you quickly.

I’ve found the Fitness Buddy app by Azumio to be one of the best to take care of all this. Its database contains over 1700 exercise moves – complete with step-by-step photos and videos. Some exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home, while others utilize gym equipment.

Fitness Buddy provides an easy-to-use log to track your exercise sets, as well as important body measurements – all showing your improvement over time.

The premium paid version, which I don’t use yet, offers several advanced features.

Work Out for Charity

Helping others often motivates us to continue when we feel like giving up.

The free Charity Miles app lets you earn money for one of 37 charities every time you run, walk or bicycle. Charities include St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, Feeding America, Autism Speaks, and Stand Up to Cancer.

Corporate sponsors donate a few cents for every mile you complete.

Why not give back while getting in shape?

Wearable Fitness Tracker

Dozens of fitness trackers crowd the marketplace. They all count your steps and monitor your sleeping patterns.

New wearable technology offers you more advanced, more useful and more practical features to make working out more fun and more beneficial.

Although I don’t own a pair, probably the best multi-function fitness tracker I’ve seen reviewed is the Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition.

These wireless earbuds not only provide quality sound from your iPhone or MP3 player, but also include an automatic rep counting mode that tracks your sit-ups, press-ups and lunges. The included app to install on your mobile device offer slick music integration and is packed with a lot of workouts.

Have you decided to “get fit” in 2017? I’d love to hear your fitness goals and what technology you’re using to help you achieve them. Send me an email.

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The Worst Gift You Can Give This Christmas

White elephant gifts are great for office holiday parties and informal get-togethers.

When you’re buying presents for loved ones, you want to give gifts that bring them happiness and joy.

But this Christmas morning, I know many well-meaning spouses, parents and friends will inadvertently give one of the worst gifts that could be given. A gift that will bring confusion, frustration, and in some cases – extreme anger.

What is this horrible gift, you ask?

A desktop or laptop with the Windows 10 operating system.

These devices will be popular presents neatly wrapped under thousands of brightly lit and beautifully decorated Christmas trees because they’re relatively cheap, they’re easily purchased from the big box stores and online, and they’re marketed as spectacular and easy-to-use.

Yet what hides underneath the colorful wrapping paper and bow is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Over the past several months, my staff and I have calmly listened to dozens of clients vent their dissatisfaction and utter dislike for their Windows 10 computers. We’ve heard complaints like,

“It’s not easy for me to use.”

“Nothing seems to work right on this thing.”

“My Windows 7 computer ran faster than this.”

They all wish they had either known about or heeded my warnings before they upgraded existing or bought new computers with Windows 10.

Instead they were misguided by the big box stores sales geeks and Microsoft’s online ads distracting them with the bells and whistles, the glitz and glam of Windows 10, hoping they would never discover the frighteningly dark secrets hidden beneath the operating system’s shiny façade.

I don’t have room in this tech column to fully explain all the evils of Windows 10.

But I have written a 20+ page eBook that you can download for free at my website that you need to read BEFORE you gift your loved one that new computer.

In this eBook, you’ll uncover seven important secrets Microsoft desperately doesn’t want you to know about Windows 10, including:

• Microsoft’s forced updates can crash your computer – and it’s YOUR problem, not theirs.
• Your operating system is filled with intrusive ads embedded throughout Windows 10.
• Microsoft uses your Internet connection – even when you’re not online.
• Many apps are missing important features to make them useful.
• Where’d that program go? Microsoft can automatically uninstall software or hardware it doesn’t like.
• You have NO privacy in Windows 10. Nearly everything you do is tracked and reported to Microsoft – which even puts the NSA to shame!

The final pages of the guide will give you specific actions to take, depending on your computer situation.

Download the free eBook at https://www.calibreforhome.com/windows10secrets.

If you got duped into buying a Windows 10 PC as a gift for someone this Christmas, you’re not the most horrible person on the planet.

Simply print out the free eBook and gift it with your present. In many cases, your Windows 10 present can be rescued.

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Christmas Shopping For A New PC? Avoid These Pitfalls.

When it comes to buying a new computer, it’s always tempting to go for the “special buys” or “great deals” offered by big retailers. These are the computers advertised for $299, $399, and even $499.

The upfront cost is appealing and sounds like a great bargain. But are you really saving money in the long run?

Most individuals begin their computer shopping by looking at the price. Unfortunately, this is the wrong place to start.

Your new computer purchase should be dictated by your needs – both now and up to five years in the future. Are you only using your computer to do light Internet browsing, checking e-mail, and typing letters in a word-processing program? Will you be doing anything with digital pictures or videos?

Many of the computers offered at appealingly low prices usually have just enough power to run the basic components of the computer. To keep the price low, manufacturers use slower processors and slower hard drives. Overall, the performance of the computer suffers.

Users often find that these machines don’t function the way they want them to, requiring them to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade the computer to obtain satisfactory performance.

Some brands also use lower quality parts in the machines to help keep prices low. These lower quality parts fail more frequently, requiring costly repairs sooner than later.

Finally, all the computers lining the shelves at the big box stores are loaded with unnecessary programs, fondly referred to by computer professionals as “bloatware.” These programs take up space on the computer’s hard drive and can slow the computer down. In some cases, they create the potential for conflicts and other computer problems.

So what looks to be a great deal and a money-saving purchase more often than not becomes a money pit. Frequent and costly repairs erase any savings you may have had on the purchase price.

A reliable, quality computer system doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But when buying a computer, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership rather than just the cost of buying it.

A trusted computer professional that understands your needs can help you make a wise, money-saving purchase, creating a more enjoyable computing experience.

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Thanksgiving Reflections

Legendary coach John Wooden said, “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.”
While thankfulness should be expressed every single day of our lives, I’d like to take this Thanksgiving holiday to share a few things for which I’m thankful.
My parents.  My parents, Steve and Elaine, provide so much support and encouragement.  They graciously understand my busy schedule and long work hours.  They help in times of need – especially in projects around my house.  I don’t tell them enough, but I’m truly grateful for all they do.
My staff.  Mark, Christian and Cai are outstanding employees.
  • Mark does a fantastic job handling our in-shop service.  He’s great at documenting our processes and procedures.  He’s constantly looking to improve how we operate and serve our clients.
  • I can count on Christian for anything and everything.  He’s quickly become my right-hand man in the year he’s been with us.  He possesses a strong desire to learn and excels in everything he does.
  • Cai is my go-to creative person.  Whether it’s composing our monthly print newsletter or shooting and editing a video, he always makes it look appealing.  He’s also a tremendous help in completing administrative tasks.
My clients.  It’s cliché, but without my clients, I obviously wouldn’t be in business.  But my clients mean so much more to me.
I’m truly blessed to serve the best clients any business could have.  My clients value the work we do, understand we have their interests and needs at heart, and know that we will do our best to assist them with all their technology needs.  I thank them for allowing us to serve them.
Many people – maybe even you – get up every morning dreading to go to work.  I wake up excited to see how I meet the needs of our clients.  I’m thankful every day for that opportunity.
Pike Publishing.  Six years ago, I reached out to Andrea Preston, former editor of the South Gibson Star-Times, to inquire if they would be interested in allowing me to write this tech column to provide practical, useful advice to their readers.
I’ve received hundreds of thank-yous and compliments from readers like yourself saying how beneficial these articles are.
It would be easy for the South Gibson Star-Times and the Petersburg Press-Dispatch to publish a nationally syndicated tech column.  Instead, they know and value contributions from local businesses and experts to meet the needs of their readers.
I’m deeply grateful for their allowing me the privilege to appear in their paper every other week.
What are you thankful for?
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
I encourage you this Thanksgiving week to take five minutes alone and write a list of everything you’re thankful for.  It’ll give you a renewed, refreshed perspective on life.
And I’d challenge you to go the extra mile – thank the people who make a difference in your life.  Pick up the phone, write a letter, or send a text.  You’ll give them something to be thankful for as well.

 

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Why Microsoft Is Forced to Backtrack on Windows 10

You need to read today’s column if:

You use a computer with Windows 10,
Your Internet provider is Sit-Co, HughesNet, or WildBlue,
You own a Brother printer and use Windows 10, or
You have an older computer that you need to upgrade.

At the end of September, I sounded the alarm for all PC owners thinking about buying a new desktop or laptop with Windows 7 for their home or business to do so before the end of October.

Microsoft issued a decree to all computer manufacturers requiring them to stop selling PCs with the stable, easy-to-use Windows 7 on October 31, 2016. All new computers would be preinstalled with the horrible Windows 10.

A major outcry – fueled by numerous and serious problems with Windows 10 – apparently forced the tech giant to change its edict just prior to the end of October.

What evils prompted the change?

Here’s a small sample of what my clients using Windows 10 have experienced:

Horrendously slow Internet that’s worse than dial-up, especially if your provider is Sit-Co, HughesNet or WildBlue.

Several clients who use wireless or satellite-based Internet complain it takes forever to view websites on their Windows 10 computers. Sometimes they cannot even connect.

Sit-Co technical support, with whom I have a close working relationship, reports the problem is the forced downloading of Windows 10 updates. The size and number of the updates clogs up the Internet pipe, resulting in frustratingly slow speeds.

Unfortunately, this issue is out of the control of these providers.

Losing the ability to print or scan, especially on the Brother brand of printers.

Two of our small business clients use a Brother all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. After a recently involuntarily installed Windows update, neither could print or scan to the device – disrupting their business operations.

In one case, the problem reoccurred one week after I had originally fixed it.

Unfortunately, there’s no documented permanent solution to prevent it from happening again.

The New Windows 7 Deadline – With A Catch

These and a large number of other annoying, serious glitches with the Windows 10 operating system created a tidal wave of discontent.

Surprisingly, Microsoft listened to the uproar and gave in to the push to keep Windows 7 alive on new PCs.

With less than 9 business days left before the end of October, Microsoft quietly extended the date allowing PC manufacturers to preinstall Windows 7 on new computers to October 31, 2017.

But they mandated a price increase on all computers with Windows 7. Yet another attempt to strong-arm consumers into the problem-infested Windows 10 operating system.

I’ve said it again and again – stay away from Windows 10. Unless you’re a sadist who loves constantly dealing with computer problems.

If you have an older computer, especially one running Windows XP or Windows Vista, I beg you to not wait much longer to purchase a new computer. One with Windows 7. (Which, by the way, are not available to buy at the big box stores.)

Microsoft could change its fickle mind at any time. You might then be stuck with only Windows 10.

If you already have Windows 10 on your computer, you may have some options available to alleviate potential problems. Each situation is different, so I would recommend speaking with a trusted computer advisor who knows and understands Windows 10.

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Lessons Learned From Being Rejected By My Dad

Rejection

It was a cold, wintry night in mid-December 1983.  I’d just spent the evening with my biological father.  He pulled his truck into the driveway at my house in Princeton to drop me off.

Knowing I wouldn’t see him again before Christmas (because my parents had divorced earlier that year), I proudly handed him a crudely wrapped present – the best an eight-year-old could do.

It was a picture holder made of glass shaped in the letters spelling “DAD.”

But when I tried to give it to him, he refused to take it.  “It’s not Christmas yet,” he said.

Devastated, I ran into the house bawling.

That night marked the last time my dad ever contacted me for ten years.  No phone calls, no visits, no birthday cards, no Christmas presents.  Nothing. 

I never realized how that one moment of rejection would greatly affect many areas of life throughout the years.  Yes, even still today.

I’ve recently given more consideration to the events of that night thirty-three years ago.  As I’ve thought about it, I see how my biological dad’s rejection has helped shape the way I operate my business, Calibre Computer Solutions.

The biggest positive effect I believe it has had is that it has strengthened my desire to provide top-notch service.  I strive for all our work to be the best we can possibly do. 

It really bothers me when I encounter issues during a repair or have to provide not-so-great news to a client.

I suppose you could say my dad’s rejection has turned me into a “people-pleaser” of sorts.  But if that means truly caring and doing my best, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I frequently make sacrifices for my clients.  Many of those are behind the scenes that no one realizes.  Sometimes it’s not charging for a remote support session when a client calls with a quick computer question.  

More often it’s my getting to the office really early or working late into the night to finish up a repair so the client can get their computer back before it was promised it would be ready.

I took the rejection and transformed it into a hard (maybe at times unhealthy) work ethic.

Rejection, though, also has negative effects.  For me, it’s caused me to take things too personally many times. 

I always try to provide advice, service and recommendations I know would be in the best interest for each of my clients.  I refuse to provide a band-aid solution just to get a quick fix or make a quick buck.

But when someone ignores my guidance, it really bothers me.  I know everyone must make their own decisions, but I can’t help but feel rejected when I know my suggestion would solve their problem yet they don’t follow it.

This is an area I continue to work on.  To follow the advice of the song from the Disney film Frozen, “Let it go!”

Personal development guru Tony Robbins sums it up perfectly, “Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”

I’ve chosen to do the latter.

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Is Facebook Causing You To Be Depressed?

Social Media Depression

How many minutes each day do you spend scrolling through your Facebook news feed?

What about your kids or grandkids?  How much time do they devote to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat?

Have you ever stopped to think about how you feel or observed your kids’/grandkids’ demeanor after being on social media?

A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reports, “People feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel bad when comparing themselves to others.”

 

What constitutes a great deal of time? 

Only you can decide that, but consider these statistics.

Facebook boasts its 1.65 billion active monthly users fritter away an average of 50 minutes every day on its platforms.

The Social Skinny reports fifty percent of 18 to 24 year olds go on Facebook as soon as they wake up!

It’s practically impossible to refrain from social media sites because it’s accessible on every computer and mobile device we own.  (And yes, Facebook is open on my computer as I write this column.)

 

Social Comparison Theory

It’s human nature to see how our lives and experiences compare to those of others.  We determine our progress or success in life by seeing how we match up against others.  Psychologists call this the social comparison theory.

Although it’s a natural tendency, and even though we know that using social media could cause us to be depressed, anxious, jealous, or even angry, you and I still give in to the urge and scroll through Facebook looking to see what other people’s lives are like in comparison to ours.

Writer Jamie Friedlander says, “We used to compare ourselves to how we saw people at family gatherings or in the office.  Now we compare ourselves to perfectly crafted (and sometimes exaggerated) representations of people’s lives – without seeing the engagement ring that doesn’t fit, the sunburn while surfing in Costa Rica, the less-than-stellar salary at the new job or the anxiety that comes with having a newborn baby.  We see exactly what they want us to see.”

 

One-Upping the Joneses

Facebook and other similar sites have evolved into seeing who can impress others the most.  Much content shared on social media is carefully crafted to present the best possible representations of us and/or our situations.

Even mundane daily life can be scripted to be thrilling and exciting – all with the intention of giving others the impression our life is better than what it really is.

On the flip side, seeing others’ carefully crafted posts can make us feel inferior, less than perfect, or like we’re missing out.

 

Keeping Social Media in Check

So what can you do to prevent social media from dragging you or your kids into the doldrums and depression?

First and foremost, “People need to learn to take other people’s social media posts with a grain of salt and recognize that it represents how people want to share their experience.  All the facts are not there,” advises Karen North, Ph.D, a clinical professor of communication and the director of the digital and social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Second, be gracious towards the successes of others.  Make a conscious decision to not become jealous or envious.  Rather, congratulate them and be thankful for what you do have in your life.

Finally, take a break from social media.  A technology detox helps us reconnect with people around us, experience greater peace, calms our mind, and improves our ability to think and feel.

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Considering A New Computer For Your Home or Business? Why You Need to Act Now!

Immediate Attention Required

“Windows 8 is a like a bad blind date.”  I shared that blog post headline when Microsoft released that operating system four years ago.

I strongly encouraged you to avoid buying a new computer with Windows 8 because of its myriad of problems and inconveniences.  Many other tech gurus and bloggers echoed my thoughts.

You still had the option to wisely purchase a PC with the tried and true Windows 7.

Fast forward to today.

The headline now reads, “Windows 10 is a terminal illness for your computer.”

But Microsoft is taking it one step further.

Unlike in 2012 when they introduced Windows 8, Microsoft is now forcing all new computers to come with the atrocious Windows 10 operating system installed after October 31.

You will no longer be able to purchase a new desktop or laptop with the stable, easy-to-use Windows 7 after October.

What’s So Bad About Windows 10?

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough room in this column to explain in full detail the major problems with Windows 10.  But let me highlight two.

(For my complete thoughts about Windows 10, download my free report 7 Frighteningly Dark Secrets Microsoft Desperately Doesn’t Want You To Know About Windows 10 at https://www.calibreforhome.com/windows10secrets)

  1. Forced updates can crash your computer – with few remedies.

Keeping your PC up-to-date with the latest operating system updates and security patches is a primary defense against virus infections and hackers.

But it’s not always a good idea to install updates as soon as they’re released.  Microsoft notoriously releases updates without testing them, resulting in a slew of frustrating problems and crashes.

Windows 10 takes away your ability to install updates when you want them.  Instead, Microsoft forces them to install.

I’ve already seen several computers crippled by the latest update to Windows 10.

 

  1. You have NO privacy in Windows 10. Nearly everything you do on your computer is tracked and reported to Microsoft – even putting the NSA to shame.

While we don’t know exactly what information Microsoft gathers from your computer, we know they’re capturing an enormous amount of it.

It most likely includes:

  • What websites you visit,
  • What programs you use,
  • What devices you have attached to your computer,
  • And so much more.

We also know that, by default, Windows 10 Home can:

  • Control your Internet bandwidth usage
  • Install any software it wants whenever it wants
  • Display ads
  • Log your browser history and even your keystrokes

And yes, it’s legal for Microsoft to do this.  Because you agree to it as soon as you power on your Windows 10 computer.

The future of Windows 10 doesn’t look promising.

That’s why I refer to it as a terminal illness for your computer.  Because it will require regular, frequent check-ups by a computer professional to fix its problems and keep it running.

 

Time’s Running Out

This is your siren call.

If you’ve been casually thinking about or seriously contemplating buying a NEW desktop or laptop computer for your home or business, you want to do so BEFORE the end of October.

Calibre Computer Solutions can still order you new computers with the much-preferred Windows 7 operating system.  You won’t find them at the big box stores.

If you wait, you will be forced by Microsoft to buy one with the privacy-invading, update-crashing Windows 10 operating system.  A decision I guarantee you will regret.