Apple’s iPhone X Announcement: Evolution or Revolution?

As the early adopter of technology that I am, I patiently wait for the announcements from Apple.  Today was was the first announcement made from the new Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus.  With this being the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, that made it even a bit more special.

There were a handful of announcements today related to the non-Mac product lines.  Let’s take a closer look at the major ones.

Apple Watch

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

Dick Tracy

For me, this was the most interesting announcement of the day. I was pleased to learn that all of those Dick Tracy comics I read as a kid were actually a bit of foreshadowing about the announcement today.  The new top tier Apple Watch (Series 3) is a stand-alone cellular phone.  It piggy-backs on your existing cell phone plan and shares the same number as your phone.  The current models have phone features too, but they need to be in the proximity of your phone.  Now, the cellular electronics are embedded directly in the watch. This model starts at $399.  There are no additional carrier fees above your current phone plan.  Since it has cellular data capabilities, you can also stream your music directly to the watch.  It also has many improvements in fitness tracking, including monitoring your resting heart rate, recovery time and may detect irregular heartbeats.

Update 9/13/17: There was some clarification after the announcement yesterday about the cost of connecting the watch to your phone plan.  It looks like using the Series 3 on the cellular network will cost $10/month for most carriers, just like adding any other cellular device to your shared data plan. Still, this may be a small price to pay to have a cellular device always with you, like in the case of a medical emergency.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

The announcement today included updates to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.  This part of the announcement was pretty standard for Apple.  They have made some evolutionary improvements:

  • Glass Front and Back
  • A11 “Bionic” Chip
  • 12 MP Camera
  • Qi Wireless Charging
  • Augmented Reality Capabilities
  • Image Stabilization and Quality  Improvements for Photos
  • Memory – 64GB – 256GB
  • Price – $699 – $949

The highlight of the new iPhone 8 is Wireless Charging.  Any charger that supports the “Qi” standard should be able to charge your device.  It appears that the new phones will ship with a Lightning cable for charging.  Apple did announce a charging mat (AirPower) that is to be released sometime next year.  I suspect the mat was late to production since they pushed charging solutions from Mophie and Belkin during the presentation. The mat should allow you to charge all of your Qi-capable devices at the same time from one single cable.

Augmented Reality allows one to virtually interact with the world around them.  Essentially, you can immerse yourself in the scene.  The primary application for this now is probably gaming, but other applications will likely come.  It is a good first step, but good quality augmented reality software solutions will be hard to produce and will take time to develop and integrate into mainstream acceptance and use.

Apple TV

Order 9/15/17 with Delivery 9/22/17

The big news on the Apple TV front was support for 4K.  More and more people are getting televisions that are capable of 4K content, but most do not have them yet.  Unless you have a 4K-capable television and 4K-content, upgrading to this version of Apple TV probably doesn’t make much sense.  On the bright side, Apple will upgrade any HD movies you have purchased from them to 4K free of charge.  The 32 GB model will be $179.  You will shell out $199 for the 64 GB model.

iOS 11

Available for Download 9/19/17

Although formally announced previously, it will be available for consumers to install on 9/19/17.

A few suggestions about upgrading:

  • If at all possible, DO NOT UPGRADE “over the air”.  That is, attach your device directly to a computer and upgrade the device through iTunes.  Most upgrade problems I have seen over the years involve OTA upgrades.  Connecting to iTunes also gives you the opportunity to perform a backup of the data on your device.  That is always a good practice anyway since most people don’t have a decent backup strategy.
  • Unless you consider yourself an early adopter, DO NOT UPGRADE your device for at least three days after iOS 11 is available.  It is best to let more experienced users find the issues first and identify workarounds or solutions.
  • If you have more than one iOS device, upgrade no more than one per day.  Start with the least critical device.  For most people, that would mean upgrading the iPad first and then their iPhone.  If you encounter problems, you want it to be on the device that would have the lowest impact on your world.

One More Thing…  iPhone X

Order 10/27/17 with Delivery 11/3/17

iPhone X

Today, Apple announced an all new design of their flagship product– the iPhone X (Ten).  It is a beautiful device.  For all practical purposes, it is all screen.  Although a bit smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus, the screen is a bit larger.

Key differences from the iPhone 8:

  • Larger Edge-to-Edge Screen
  • Face ID
  • No “Home” Button
  • New Gestures
  • Animojis
  • Memory – 64GB – 256GB
  • Prices – $999 – $1149

I think the biggest feature on this device is Face ID.  That is, to unlock the device, you look at it and swipe.  Apple claims that this is more secure than the fingerprint reader found on most of their other current devices.  Perhaps, but I do have a concern with it.  The devices that have the fingerprint readers also require you to set and confirm access via a password.  I don’t recall seeing any such secondary method in the presentation today.  What that may mean is that if for some reason your front-facing camera has a problem, you may be locked out of your device.  I also liked the fact that I could grant others access to my device by allowing them to input their fingerprint.  Will I be able to grant others access to my device through the facial recognition?

Animoji

We are all familiar with Emojis.  They are the cute little pictures that people attach to messages to indicate emotions or thoughts.  With the enhanced front-facing camera on the iPhone X, you can create your own animated emojis based on any one of a handful of available characters.  In essence, you create a video of the character speaking your thoughts with appropriate facial expressions.  Animojis are a cute feature, but they may get old quite quickly.

Conclusion

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are evolutionary steps in the progression of cellular technology. I currently have a 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus.  The upgrade to iPhone 8 is a tougher sell for me since other than Qi wireless charging, it isn’t all that much different than what I already have.  I still can upgrade my device to iOS 11 to pick up the new software features. Going to the iPhone X is a larger leap.  If I do upgrade this time, it will be to the iPhone X. Fortunately, I have about six weeks to think about it before I could even pre-order the device. I would like to read a few more reviews from people who have actually had the opportunity to try it out.

I think the sweet spot for most users will be the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.  I think few users would see a real benefit from the iPhone X over the iPhone 8, especially at the significantly higher price.

Posted in 1 Geek, Apple, Gadgets, Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Review, Security, Software, Verizon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Through Computer History at the Living Computers Museum + labs

Today, I took a stroll down technology memory lane and visited the Living Computers Museum + labs in Seattle, WA.  This museum houses working computers from the 1960’s through today.  By “working”, I really mean that they are powered up and you can interact with them.  They have some items that are encased or that they don’t want people to touch, but it is by far the most “hands on” technology exhibit I have ever seen.  I couldn’t resist leaving a little PR campaign for this blog on the Apple I they have on display.  I guess a tip of the hat should go to my 9th grade computer instructor, Dallas Werner.  After all of these years, I can still produce an operational Applesoft BASIC program.

Apple I Computer – Living Computers Museum + labs

Although it does make me feel just a little bit old, I will admit that I have actually worked with a number of computer systems that they have on display there.  Many of the ones I have worked with are in the “Vintage Computers” section.  In college and in my early work at Motorola, I was an active user of a machine like this one, a Digital VAX 11780-5.

Digital VAX 11/780-5 at the Living Computers Museum + labs

In addition to the actual hardware, they have memorabilia, many short videos, an interactive virtual reality area, robotics demonstrations, many activities for children of all ages and a gift shop.  They also have a small section on technology related toys.  This was one of my favorite childhood games.  I wonder if I still have mine somewhere?

TRON – Living Computers Museum + labs

They also have an area dedicated to technology books and documentation.  Although I don’t believe you can “check them out”, you are free to peruse them during your visit.

During a visit, you can even take a spin on your very own virtual presence device, much like Sheldon Cooper did on The Big Bang Theory.

A Personal Presence Device – Living Computers Museum + labs

It is not too surprising that there is a large amount of Microsoft memorabilia present. After all, this museum is located in Seattle, just a stones throw from the Microsoft campus, and is operated by Vulcan, a company owned by Microsoft co-founder, Paul G. Allen.

Although they have a few items form Cray, I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have more representation from the Super Computing arena.  Although the main premise is that the computer systems found here would be in working order, I would like to see them add some older machines, even if they were not operational.

It is truly remarkable that they have taken the time to find, refurbish, and maintain these systems.  This has been no easy task.  Keeping these machines running in the future will only become even more difficult since replacement parts will become even harder to find.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent there today and look forward to returning for another visit soon.  Now, if I could just get the virtual presence device configured correctly, I could avoid my commute into the office…

Posted in 1 Geek, Apple, Education, Gadgets, Hardware, Mac, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wi-Fi Calling: A Primer

Do you have problems making or receiving cellular calls at your home or office?  Do you have to stand at the end of your driveway and face east to initiate a call?  Would you like to improve the sound quality of your calls?  Setting up Wi-Fi Calling may be a solution for you.

Wi-Fi Calling Enabled on an iPhone

Wi-Fi Calling, a service generally provided at no cost by the major U.S. cellular providers, allows you to place and receive cellular calls using a Wi-Fi network instead of the providers cellular network.  Basic domestic calling is provided for free by all of the major carriers. Check with your provider for details and prices of more advanced features, like international calling.

Wi-Fi Calling is a natural extension (and improvement) from Microcell technology that many carriers offer to improve cellular connectivity at a specific location. Frankly, I’m a bit perplexed about why devices such as this are still even being offered.

Alternatives

One might suggest that using the internet to communicate is not new.  VoIP technology has been in use for many years.  Services like Skype, Facebook Messenger and others have been available for many years.  The thing that makes Wi-Fi calling special is that it is seamless.  In other words, you don’t have to teach Grandma how to work with Skype.  She just has to be able to dial your phone number.

Pros

  • Improves cellular coverage
    • Creates or extends coverage where no coverage was previously available
    • Mitigates weak carrier signal in dead spots
  • Often improves call sound quality
  • Gain ability to place or receive calls on other connected devices
    • As a Verizon customer using iOS devices, I am able to configure my iPad and Mac associated with my iCloud account to allow me to place and receive calls directly from them.
  • Can save you money
    • Cellular carriers usually don’t include Wi-Fi Calling minutes towards the plan allotment. If most of your calls are made at home, perhaps a cheaper plan with fewer minutes included could be used.
    • Configuring other connected devices to use Wi-Fi Calling could be thought of as sharing a phone line or adding extensions to your existing phone system.
  • Can improve battery life
    • Cellular calls made over weak signals may drain device battery quickly

Cons

  • If you leave the range of your Wi-Fi connection while on a call, it will most likely be dropped.
  • Only a single location can be configured for emergency services

Requirements

All major carriers offer Wi-Fi Calling.  Most popular devices (iOS, Android and others) are already supported.  Check with your provider to confirm that you have a supported device and how to configure it.

For best call quality, you must have a decent internet connection and a strong Wi-Fi signal.  Generally, the ability to support 1 MB per minute of data will be required.  Fortunately, most modern Wi-Fi networks can easily accommodate this speed.  Overloaded Wi-Fi networks or networks with high latency may limit the effectiveness of Wi-Fi Calling.

911 and Location

Modern cellular phones use GPS technology to identify your location in the event of an emergency. Although some networks may provide some level of detail about the location, it is not sufficient for 911 service.  The FCC requires that you register a specific location for your Wi-Fi Calling device. This location is where emergency services will be deployed if you dial 911 from the device. It is the user’s responsibility to keep this location up to date.  Currently, only a single location can be registered.  Personally, I would like to see improvements to the how this is handled by the carriers in the future.

Security

Very early implementations of Wi-Fi Calling used insecure networks and unencrypted network connections.  Today, these connections over Wi-Fi would use standard encryption mechanisms ensuring the integrity of your communications back to your cellular provider.

Cellular Provider Details

Details about configuring, using and billing for Wi-Fi Calling features from each of the major cellular carriers can be found below.

Configuring Wi-Fi Calling is pretty easy and can significantly improve your cellular phone experience. Give it a try!

Posted in 2 Geek, Android, Apple, AT&T, FCC, GPS, iCloud, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Microcell, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, VOIP, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Calling | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SAFEWAY Monopoly Game: There Is An App For That!

At least in the Pacific Northwest, our local SAFEWAY grocery storesare once again handing out game pieces for their Monopoly game.  Specific purchases made at the store trigger you to receive game pieces at checkout time.  The game pieces include collectable game pieces used to fill spots on the game board (where you can potentially win fabulous prizes!), and either a store coupon, instant win or a second chance online game code.

SAFEWAY Monopoly Game Pieces

SAFEWAY Monopoly Online Code Game and 2nd Chance Sweepstakes Coupons

The suggested methods for entering the second chance sweepstakes has been to go online to their website and type in the codes manually or attach them to a 3×5 index card and snail-mail them in.  Entering the codes by hand at the website is a tough task.  By rapid mathematics, one could easily conclude that they will likely lose money on the prospect of mailing in each entry with only one entry per envelope.  Last year, I didn’t even bother entering the second chance codes.  Earlier today, as I went through my mound of new game pieces, I decided I would look for a way to automatically enter the online sweepstakes codes.  My initial thought was that I was going to take on the mission of writing a small application to submit them.  Fortunately, I looked around a bit before I started on that exercise.  I checked out the Apple app store and found an iPhone app that will let you submit the codes!  This app appears to also be available for Android devices from Google Play.  Instead of typing the codes into the app, you scan the barcode using the camera on your device and submit them at the push of a button.  To scan codes, select “SCAN A CODE”. Next, point the camera of your device toward the ticket and focus the crosshairs on the barcode. After the code has been successfully read, select “SUBMIT CODE”.  You will then get a popup notification on the device indicating what, if anything, that you have won. The app is not perfect, but using it is definitely better than entering the codes all by hand.

SAFEWAY Monopoly App

Once installed on your device, setup is pretty easy.  You will need to create an account with a username and password, provide a valid email address and answer a few questions about where you have shopped.

SAFEWAY Monopoly iPhone App

As each game piece is scanned, you get immediate notification of the status.

Monopoly Losing Game Code

Monopoly Winning Game Code

Once I got into “the zone”, I was able to submit about 7 codes per minute.  Here are a few tips for making your submissions go faster:

  • The app does seem to misread some tickets due to the way they were folded for distribution.  Ensure that they lay as flat as possible when you are scanning them.
  • Due to printing issues on the barcodes, some could not be read.  If that occurs, you can still enter the code for these manually in the text box on the app.
  • Before submitting each code, it is displayed to you for confirmation.  Ensure it looks properly formatted.  Sometimes the code was not read properly.  In that case, simply try to scan it again, or, worst case, enter it manually.

For each item you win, you will receive an email notification about how to collect your prize.

Good luck!

Posted in 2 Geek, Android, iPhone | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Locked Out Of WordPress By A 1Password Feature

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I had been locked out of my new WordPress instance earlier today.  After a little digging, it turns out that it was related to a 1Password feature.  I do love 1Password and I couldn’t imagine juggling several hundred passwords and associated URLs without it or something very much like it.  I have installed the browser plugin which allows me to fill in usernames and passwords automatically when prompted for them. Unfortunately, I was bitten by this autofill feature today.

Part of the main control panel for setting up my WordPress blog has a text entry box with a description that includes the word “username”.

Screen Capture From WordPress Configuration Screen

Once a username and password combination was saved for this site, whenever I navigate to this particular configuration page, it would automatically replace the “Web directory” contents with my username.  I didn’t notice that this change had occurred when the page loaded. Upon saving the configuration changes I had made on this page, I had made my WordPress instance unreachable.  Stephanie, from technical support at DreamHost, spotted and fixed the issue in just a few minutes.  She had initially thought it was a browser cache issue, but she had no real way of knowing what else was running within my local environment.

I will admit that I don’t like the description used for this configuration item for their hosted WordPress service.  On the other hand, I think there should be a way to tell 1Password not to autofill information for a specific site.  I do have the option in 1Password to not submit the username and password, but I don’t have the option to prevent the autofill from processing the available fields.

1Password Autosubmit Options

Posted in 2 Geek, Passwords, Security | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Back In The Saddle: A Tale of WordPress Migration

I have been away from technology blogging for a few years and I have missed digging deep enough into topics to actually put reasonably coherent thoughts together about them.  Many things have changed in technology since I last published.  There are many topics to catch up on and I look forward to jumping back into the fire.

Today’s update covers what it took for me to convert from five year old version (3.4.1) of a self-hosted WordPress blog to an updated shared hosting version.  I did a bit of searching and found bits and pieces of what would be needed to accomplish this task. There were a few technical hurdles to cross, so I thought I would share the process that I followed. Perhaps it will save someone else some time if they ever try to do this.

After much personal debate, I selected DreamHost as my new provider and created my account earlier today.  It has taken me about six hours to get everything migrated and working correctly. Frankly, it went better than I had expected.

My local host had been physically “off” and collecting dust for the last three years or so. After standing that machine back up I had to adjust web server settings to even bring up the old blog.  I then had to export my existing content.

Exporting WordPress Content

WordPress Export Operation

The export process produces an XML file which represents all of the content from the existing site. Technically, this operation produces a WordPress eXtended RSS (WXR) file.

After completing the basic setup of my new WordPress configuration, I then imported this XML file into my new environment.

Importing the WXR data into the new WordPress instance

Unfortunately, this export/import operation doesn’t include media files.  The basic structure and posts are present after the import, but no media files had yet been transferred.  The import function in the new instance does have an option for importing attachments.  I was unable to even test using this method since the old instance was not actually available any longer on a live site.  If it had been available, I would have tried this method first before charging on with the steps below.

Since I wanted to have a full backup from the old web server configuration anyway, I made a complete copy of the web site structure using tar from my old Mac Snow Leopard server.

hoppy:~ rick$ cd /Volumes/ServerHD/UserData
hoppy:UserData rick$ ls Library
WebServer      WebServer2
hoppy:UserData rick$ tar cfv /tmp/Library.tar Library
a Library
a Library/WebServer
...

Getting the media migrated correctly is tricky business. If you would merely import all of the media files again, you would have to update each and every post about where the media files reside.  I knew there had to be a better way.  Fortunately, I found a plugin to help called Add-From-Server. This plugin allows you to import media files in bulk into the new WordPress instance in the same location they came from. Media files are usually stored within WordPress by the date they were added to the Media Library.

Max:helpmeusetech rick$ find wp-content/uploads -type d -print
wp-content/uploads
wp-content/uploads/2011
wp-content/uploads/2011/02
wp-content/uploads/2011/03
wp-content/uploads/2011/04
wp-content/uploads/2011/05
wp-content/uploads/2011/06
wp-content/uploads/2011/07
wp-content/uploads/2011/08
wp-content/uploads/2011/09
wp-content/uploads/2011/10
wp-content/uploads/2011/11
wp-content/uploads/2011/12
wp-content/uploads/2012
wp-content/uploads/2012/01
wp-content/uploads/2012/02
wp-content/uploads/2012/03
wp-content/uploads/2012/04
wp-content/uploads/2012/05
wp-content/uploads/2012/07
Max:helpmeusetech rick$  

To import the media files, I recreated the directory structure shown above in the new instance’s uploads directory. I then unpacked a copy of the old uploads directory on my local server.  For each of the existing upload directories, I ran Add-From-Server and imported my media files.

Once completed for each of the uploads subdirectories, the new instance of the WordPress site is operational.

A huge shoutout goes to Stephanie at DreamHost technical support.  She guided me through a site lockout issue today which had left me dead in the water.  More on that issue in my next post.

Posted in 3 Geek, WordPress | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Solved: The Case of the Depleting iPad Battery

I have owned an iPad since the very first day they were available. I pretty much carry it with me everywhere.  It is either in my hand, under my arm, on the desk next to me or in my backpack.  It is hardly ever more than a few feet away from me, at least during waking hours.

For the original iPad, I carried it in a leather clam shell style case. Once the iPad 2 came out, with the stylish yet useful magnetic cover, I have used that to protect my screen.  To Apple’s credit, the same magnetic cover fits both the iPad 2 and the iPad New, released just a few months ago.

Over the last few weeks, I have been noticing that by the time I get to work in the morning, my iPad has already lost a significant amount of charge.  Normally, I charge the device over night so it is ready to go with me the next day.  Over the course of about 90 minutes in the morning, it loses a roughly 10% of the charge.  Hmmm…

A few days ago, as I was folding the magnetic cover back, I noticed that the magnetic cover wasn’t fitting directly over the face of the iPad.

iPad Cover

iPad Cover

It seems that over the 18 months of normal use, the portion of the vinyl cover that rides along the hinge had become slightly squished.  That is, although the cover is still attached properly by the magnets, the actual face of the cover is able to slide slightly off the face of the iPad, as seen in the picture above.  I really didn’t think to much about it until I realized that the iPad was already awake and warm when I propped it up.  As it turns out, sliding the cover as little as 1/4″ in either direction is enough to awaken the iPad from sleep.  The magnets in the cover no longer line up with those on the device which force it to sleep.  As my iPad moved around a bit in my backpack, it would awaken and start the day a bit before me. Mystery solved!

Fortunately, until I can get a replacement cover that fits correctly again, there is a setting under General called “iPad Cover Lock / Unlock”.  When turned off, it requires the use of the power switch to awaken the device.

I wonder if the leather covers will suffer from this same issue?

Now, should I get another magnetic cover or should I get one of the Bluetooth keyboard cover combinations?

Posted in 1 Geek, Apple, iPad, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

OS X Lion: Fix – Restore Windows When Re-opening Applications

2GOne of the most annoying features I have found in OS X Lion is that when an application is restarted, by default, it tries to reload all of the previous windows that had been open.  For example, if I have several Safari windows open, all with multiple tabs active, if I “Quit” Safari normally through the menu, it will attempt to reopen all of my windows and tabs the next time it is launched.  For all but the most casual user of the system, I contend that this is not the desired behavior.

I tend to leave my main computing machinery “up” all the time and only shut down or restart for specific maintenance events, like software upgrades or hardware problems.  If I “quit” an application, it isn’t because I want it to resume where it left off, but rather, I want a fresh and clean environment to work in.  I don’t want any pages loaded.  I don’t want any scripts running.  I surely don’t want to wait while it “helps me” by doing all this. Reloading 20-30 tabs within Safari can easily take several minutes and grind the system to a halt in the process. Many browser tabs also fail to load if they require authentication.  Not helpful.

One of the easiest ways to quit most applications on the Mac is to use Commnad-Q with the appropriate window active.

In order to make the application “forget” the previous windows that it had open, include the Option key in the sequence– Command-Option-Q.  You may also hold the Option key down when you select “Quit” from the application menu.

If, like me, you often forget to terminate the application that way, you can set this behavior globally in the Settings -> General area as indicated in the screen capture below:

Restore Windows

Settings -> General

Keep in mind that changing this setting in the preferences will impact all system applications.  You will no longer have the option to restore previous windows within any application which abides by this setting.

Several other methods of modifying this setting for specific applications have been discussed elsewhere on the internet.  As my need to completely disable this “feature” are satisfied through the setting, I stopped my investigation here.  Your mileage may vary.

Now, if there was only an easy and sane way for me to turn off the default behavior of reopening windows when I log back in, I would be a happy camper.  I always forget to uncheck the box and I have to wait while my system fully loads everything again. Fortunately, I don’t restart that often.  Apple, please stop helping me this much.  Can we fix this, please?

Reopen Windows When Logging Back In

Reopen Windows When Logging Back In

Update 5/10/12: With the release of 10.7.4, the “Reopen windows when logging back in” bug has been fixed. It now properly stores the last selection when the menu is displayed. We all need to celebrate the little victories in life…

Posted in 2 Geek, Mac, Shortcut, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPad New: Unboxing, First Impressions and a Fix for the Verizon Data Signup Email Issue

After patiently waiting for more than a week, the new iPads have arrived!  Packaging for the new version of the iPad is quite similar to the old one.  Unless you look closely, the box is almost indistinguishable from the previous version.  The one thing I did notice is an iCloud emblem on one of the sides of the box. The box contained the iPad, USB cable, charger block and instruction book.

New iPad Box

New iPad Box

Unboxing - Photo 1

Unboxing - Photo 1

Unboxing - Photo 2

Unboxing - Photo 2

Unboxing - Photo 3

Unboxing - Photo 3

In the wild, it will take a trained eye to determine whether you are carrying an iPad 2 or the new version.  The new version is a bit heavier and just a smidge thicker than the previous version.  The new version has a SIM slot as indicated by the red circle below. In addition, the camera opening is just slightly larger.  In the pictures below, the iPad2 is on the left and the New iPad is on the right.

iPad 2 to iPad New Front Comparison

iPad 2 to iPad New Front Comparison

iPad 2 to iPad New Back Comparison

iPad 2 to iPad New Back Comparison

On to the features…  So far, I have only spent about an hour actually using the device.  It took almost two hours to synchronize 64 GB from my previous device. I haven’t actually restored from a backup in a while. I was happy to see that Apple forced you to re-enter the passwords for your email accounts after the restore. It would probably be considered a pretty severe security risk if the email accounts were immediately active upon restore. To my knowledge, the fact that you restored a device isn’t tracked anywhere within iTunes.

The screen is gorgeous.  I have not had the opportunity to try any real HD content on it yet.  That will be a task for this weekend.  So far, I have noticed that text is much more crisp and clean. This should make reading, web browsing and email (my main three tasks on this device), much more enjoyable.

During my time with the device so far, I have noticed that it gets warmer than the iPad 2 does. I don’t believe it will be an overheating issue, it is just a bit warmer.  With the more power hungry components like the screen, processor and 4G electronics, this should probably be expected.  I have also noticed that the device charges much more slowly than the previous version. This falls in line since the device has a larger battery and essentially the same battery charging system as the previous version.

I am looking forward to using the cameras on this device. Both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras have been upgraded.  They are not perfect, but for a portable device, I believe they are quite good.

I did run into one issue when attempting to sign up for Verizon 4G LTE service.  I had used my primary email address to sign up with Verizon for the data on my iPad 2.  When I attempted to use the same address for the data plan on the new iPad, I received the message “That email address is already taken, please choose another.”

Email Issue

Email Issue

Fortunately, I have several email addresses I could choose from.  Since I still wanted my primary email address to be used on my new device, I modified the email address associated with the data plan on the iPad 2, changing it from my primary email to another. I was then immediately able to use my primary email address to sign up for the data service on the new device. As soon as I am comfortable with the installation on the new device, I will disable the service on the previous device anyway.  No harm, no foul. I do think that Verizon could have handled this better though. It seems like they never planned for someone to have two device in service at the same time.

For those who have accessories, I have found that all of the ones I have from the iPad 2 still work, including the Apple folding vinyl magnetic cover and the Apple keyboard dock. I believe the only accessories that will have problems will be those that were designed to fit tightly on the iPad 2. Although the connectors are the same, your mileage may vary with accessories from the original iPad.

Another issue with the data plan is that I should have probably looked at when it was set to renew on the old device.  As it stands, it just renewed for another billing cycle a few days ago. As I am transitioning this device off to another person, I will be disabling the service. Verizon, at least send me a Christmas card for the extra $35 I just gave you…

Posted in 1 Geek, Apple, Gadgets, iPad, Security, Technology, Uncategorized, Verizon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFC: Near Field Communication – A Primer

2GNFC or Near Field Communication is a technology where small amounts of data can be transferred from one NFC-enabled device to another. In many ways, NFC is similar to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) which has been in use for many years in the retail industries and package tracking as well as being used to track lost or stolen pets. NFC provides extremely low data transfer rates. Transmission of significant amounts of data should be done using other means if possible.

The real difference between NFC and RFID is that in most NFC cases, both devices are powered which provides the ability to transfer data in both directions. In the case of RFID, tagged items, like clothing or books, only emit their data stream when passed through a magnetic field, like those found at the exit of many retail stores. In the retail case, unless the specific RFID tag is cleared by the cashier, alarms will sound as you pass the RFID tag through the magnetic field. Another significant difference is that NFC devices must come within extremely close proximity to operate (touching or within several inches). RFID, on the other hand, can be read from much larger distances. Being able to read RFID from further away has raised privacy concerns. NFC-enabled devices can read RFID tags.

NFC Certified Logo

NFC Certified Logo

Many companies are embedding NFC technology in their devices. Generally, any portable electronic device would make a good candidate since NFC requires a power source. Many smart phones, tablets and laptop computers are already being produced that take advantage of NFC. Some companies like Yubico, are producing authentication devices, like the Yubikey NEO, with NFC built right in. Hak5 had a story about this device in episode 1103. The logo on the right will be found on NFC certified devices.

So why would I consider getting a device with NFC capabilities?  Here is a short list of possible uses, some of which are already in place today.

  • Point of Sale purchases, like your coffee at Starbuck’s (already in operation in some areas) and Google Wallet.
  • Part of a multi-factor authentication system like described above with Yubikey NEO.
  • Passing small bursts of information from one device to another like calendar entries, business cards, phone numbers or maps.
  • Healthcare and tracking of medical information.
  • Coupons and other customer loyalty programs.

The current standard for NFC doesn’t contain any real specifications for security.  It is up to the implementor to secure the data transmission with encryption or other techniques. This lack of security may lead to eavesdropping on your transactions or, worse yet, modification of your transmitted or received data. This would require special antennas and additional hardware and would still only be possible from several feet away.

Another possible drawback of NFC is that if the device is your only authentication method and it is lost or stolen, you have lost the keys to your kingdom. Anyone who possesses your device can access or use your data. It is strongly encouraged that NFC be one part of a multi-factor authentication system. Adding a PIN or a password would significantly increase the security of the system.

Another common method of increasing the security of NFC is to define a timeout period for the transaction to occur.  This would prevent others who follow behind you from intercepting your NFC session and accessing or using your digital rights or resources.

Additional information about NFC can be found at http://www.nfc-forum.org.

 

Posted in 2 Geek, Gadgets, Google, Hardware, Medical, Security, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment