Sunday, December 27, 2015

iPhone 6 - Part 4

This is a continuation of iPhone 6 - Part 3.

Back Button

iOS 9 has a "Back to..." button in the top left corner if you go from one app to another, e.g. Hangouts to Settings. But this is only one level and doesn't always persist if you navigate within the second app.

Screen Resolution

The Moto X is 720 x 1280. The OnePlus One is 1920 x 1080. The iPhone 6 is 750 x 1334 unless Zoomed (then 640 x 1136) which is the same resolution as the iPhone 5. Zoomed gives you 1 less row of icons.

SmartLock vs. Touch ID

Lollipop's SmartLock with Trusted Devices, Trusted Locations and On-Body Detection only requires unlocking the Android phone with a PIN a few times per day. The iPhone's Touch ID requires unlocking the iPhone with a fingerprint every time you want to use it. Further the sequence that you use, e.g. notification displayed, tap Home button, pressing thumb on Home button vs. swiping notification, pressing thumb on Home button, have different results.


I had to call AT&T to activate the hotspot although it had been working fine under Android. And you can't change the SSID without renaming the phone.

Google Voice Voicemail

Something in the back and forth migration disabled my Google Voice voicemail. Almost certainly a one time issue.


iMessage was turned on by default. There are stories about how difficult it is to migrate from iMessage back to native SMS. After weeks of discussions with Apple Care I'm still not receiving group MMS from some iMessage users.

Also, you can't integrate Google Hangouts into iMessage so I had 2 different messaging apps.

Voice Controls

I hadn't realized how much I depended on Android's voice controls, Moto Voice and Ok Google. I had to turn off Ok Google detection on the OnePlus One but I still could dictate brief text messages using the microphone icon on the keyboard. And on the Moto X I could listen to and respond to text messages without even taking the phone out of its holster. None of this is available on the iPhone.

I didn't exercise Siri.

Motorola Connect

The Motorola Connect app on the Moto X connects to a Chrome extension on a PC to giving me bi-directional connection to the Moto X's SMS. I din't realize how much I used that until it was gone. iMessage has this function on other Apple devices.

Motorola withdrew Motorola Connect in November 2015.


Obviously accessories for the iPhone are widely available. I've struggled with my niche Android phones to find holsters and charging docks. More mainstream Android phones likely wouldn't have that problem.

I like carbon fiber on my smartphones going back to my Samsung Captivate. The iPhone 6 I bought was space gray so I added a nice carbon fiber skin.


I loved the size of the iPhone 6 but with the differences in how iOS operated compared to Android I couldn't rationalize the $500 expenditure.

Yahoo! News had this related article.

As I discussed this journey with the president of our company he said "iPhone users just don't understand what they're missing." I'll leave that attributed to him.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

iPhone 6 - Part 3

This is a continuation of iPhone 6 - Part 2.


Next I wondered how to get photos from the iPhone to my PC. I had been using Bluetooth on my Android devices. (I will discuss Dropbox and Google Photos later.)

Again iTunes came up. The only alternative I came up with was a USB cable. Not as capable as I expected.

Non-Apple App Configuration

Hangouts notification sounds - You can't setup a custom notification sound for Google Hangouts.
Notifications for Hangouts didn't work at all (not even an icon badge) until I had the Hangouts app active when it received a message. Hangouts worked anywhere after that.

GasBuddy startup - You can't set a startup page for GasBuddy like you can in Android. If the app has closed it starts at the "Find Gas Near Me" page. Otherwise it returns to the last used page

Pocket Casts - You can't set a unilateral playback speed. Changing the "Up Next" sequence requires an extra step to "Edit" the list where in Android it's just tap and hold to move. It's very unusual for an Android app to have a more optimal user experience.

Direct dial icons - You simply can't do it. This would be a homescreen widget in Android. There are some workaround apps that use Safari but they aren't very elegant.

Swype - Swype caused the Gmail app to terminate when tapping the "Search" button on the Inbox screen. This worked fine using Apple keyboard. I'm sure that will be fixed. Also, Apple switches back to the Apple keyboard when entering passwords. Probably a good idea but a little disconcerting.

Google Maps - When using Google Maps navigation with the origin being the current location, iOS doesn't seem to give Google Maps the current location. It seems to give Google Maps the location that you were at when you last used Google Maps.

Other iDevices Ringing with iPhone

By default all devices on the same iTunes account ring when the iPhone rings. It took a little while to find that setting with some spousal consternation.

Background Processing

Google Photos - Google Photos doesn't upload photos until you launch the app. And if it starts uploading and you navigate to another app it stops after 5 minutes. Here's a "cool hack" to get around this.

Dropbox - To overcome this background limitation Dropbox uses Location Services to trigger background uploads. The effectiveness depends on how often iOS notifies Dropbox that the location has changed. Casual observation indicates that iOS' location granularity is less than Android's. (more later)

Pocket Casts - Pocket Casts doesn't begin downloading podcasts until the app is launched even when plugged in. Don't forget to launch it before you go to bed. On Android Pocket Casts pauses while Runkeeper announces its intervals. On iOS Pocket Casts just keeps playing.

Gmail - My wife (using Gmail on iOS) has commented that she had received a notification of new mail but when she went to the Gmail app there was nothing new there. Then quickly she'd say "There it is." It seems that Gmail doesn't load new mail until the application is launched. There could be some other subtleties here but this is the general observation.

Google Location Tracking

iOS seems to have (or at least shares) much lower granularity of location than Android. Here is a comparison of the same GPS sensitive app (Runkeeper) running on iOS and Android. Notice that there are many more GPS fixes under Android.


Active apps don't have a notification tray icon. This makes it difficult to negotiate back to a running app. For example if you are listening to Pocket Casts and go to Gmail and then want to return to Pocket Casts, there is no notification icon for Pocket Casts. You have to either double tap the Home button and locate Pocket Casts in the task manager (unfriendly to me as is Android's) or you have to tap the Home button to go back to the home screen, locate the Pocket Casts icon and tap it. If you haven't run another app in the interim Pocket Casts has a lock screen "widget" that you can use to manage Pocket Casts. This issue is not specific to Pocket Casts but not all apps have the lock screen interface.

Sending a text has a "whoosh" sound. If you're a "Good Wife" fan you'll remember that's how her son got in trouble. To eliminate the sent text notification tone "u can flip the switch on the side to vibrate and you wont hear anything." Really?

On the Moto X you can eliminate camera shutter sound. The OnePlus wouldn't let you do that. On the iPhone "The only way to turn this off is to turn on the mute switch." See above.

To be continued ...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

iPhone 6 - Part 2

This is a continuation of iPhone 6 - Part 1.

Here's the point by point comparison of my Androids and the iPhone 6.

Operating System

Android Lollipop has been through 5.0, 5.0.2, 5.1, and 5.1.1. The "cellular standby" bug doesn't look like it's going to be fixed in Lollipop and my Moto X isn't getting Marshmallow.

The OnePlus One came with CyanogenMod which I originally thought was a plus. It shipped with CM 11S (4.4.4) and was upgraded to COS 12 (5.0) and COS 12.1 (5.1.1) and has gotten no updates since then (i.e. Stagefright).

iOS 9 has had its share of updates as well with 9.0, 9.0.1, 9.0.2, and 9.1.

Incidentally my gazelle iPhone came with a beta release of iOS 9.1 which caused me problems with Location Services.

Battery Life

The Moto X struggles with battery life as a result of the Lollipop "cellular standby" bug. The OnePlus One didn't have the over the top battery life I had expected. Surprisingly the iPhone 6 battery life wasn't as good as my wife's iPhone 5S. Here's my spreadsheet with battery usage.

Default Apps

As I was using Google apps I was worried about the limitations of iOS of setting alternate default apps, e.g. Safari. What I discovered was that while you're within the Google ecosystem Google can handle directing you to the desired Google app.


There are dozens of ways to get ringtones over to an Android phone. When I searched for how to do that on the iPhone I came across this article.

Really, 16 easy steps?

When I reached out to a friend who is very technical and a died in the wool Apple user he replied:
Lastly, while I don’t really recommend iTunes if you can avoid it since it has turned into a bloated pig... I don;t find I have to use iTunes for anything.
But when I pressed him for alternatives:
I have iTunes running on a shared Mac in the house...
You can draw your own conclusions.

I used iTunes and moved my ringtones to the iPhone.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 06, 2015

iPhone 6 - Part 1

tl;dr I sent it back.

After my OnePlus One experience, I was ready to look at an iPhone. There were 3 major drivers; stability, size and battery life. The OnePlus One was FLAKY and the 2013 Moto X has suffered through Lollipop 5.0 and 5.1. And Motorola has promised NOT to put Marshmallow on it. I expected (and found) that iOS was very stable. The OnePlus One was also BIG. The iPhone 6 was enough bigger than the Moto X but not so big as the OnePlus One. I had expected better battery life from the OnePlus One but didn't experience that.

So I jumped and ordered a 64GB iPhone 6 from gazelle. Their selection was good as was their price and given that I was trying an iPhone I wanted a generous return policy.

The iPhone 6 is the perfect size for me. And it's so thin.


Motorola Moto XApple iPhone 6
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phone
OSAndroid (4.4.2, 4.4, 4.3, 4.2.2)iOS (9.x, 8.x)
Dimensions5.09 x 2.57 x 0.41 inches (129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm)5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches (138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm)
Weight4.59 oz (130 g)4.55 oz (129 g)
Physical size4.7 inches4.7 inches
Resolution720 x 1280 pixels750 x 1334 pixels
Pixel density316 ppi326 ppi
Colors16 777 21616 777 216
FeaturesLight sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass)Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass, Oleophobic coating
Camera10 megapixels8 megapixels
   FlashLEDDual LED
   Aperture sizeF2.4F2.2
   Focal length (35mm equivalent)30 mm29 mm
   Camera sensor size1/2.6"1/3"
   FeaturesDigital zoom, Autofocus, Touch to focus, Geo taggingSapphire crystal lens cover, Face detection, Smile detection, Digital zoom, Self-timer, Digital image stabilization, Back-illuminated sensor (BSI), Autofocus (Phase detection), Touch to focus, Geo tagging
Camcorder1920x1080 (1080p HD) (60 fps)1920x1080 (1080p HD) (60 fps), 1280x720 (720p HD) (240 fps)
Front-facing camera2 megapixels1.2 megapixels
System chipMotorola X8 (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro MSM8960)Apple A8
ProcessorDual core, 1700 MHz, KraitDual-core, 1400 MHz, Cyclone ARMv8-A 2nd gen., 64-bit
Graphics processorAdreno 320PowerVR GX6450
System memory2048 MB RAM1924 MB RAM
Built-in storage32 GB64 GB
Maximum User Storage28 GB
Storage expansion
Talk time12.00 hours
Stand-by time10.0 days (240 hours)10.4 days (250 hours)
Capacity2200 mAh1810 mAh
Not user replaceableYes
Music player
   Filter byAlbum, Artist, PlaylistsAlbum, Artist, Genre, Playlists
   FeaturesAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playback
SpeakersEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, Loudspeaker
YouTube playerYesYes
Built-in online services supportYouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+YouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+
GSM850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE700 (band 13), 850 (band 5), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1900 (band 2) MHz700 (band 13), 700 (band 17), 700 (band 28), 800 (band 18), 800 (band 19), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 850 (band 26), 900 (band 8), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1800 (band 3), 1900 (band 2), 1900 (band 25), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
DataLTE, HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTS, EDGE, GPRSLTE Cat 4 (150/50 Mbit/s), HSPA (unspecified), HSUPA, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, EV-DO Rev.A, EV-DO Rev.B
PositioningGPS, A-GPS, S-GPS, GlonassGPS, A-GPS, Glonass, Cell ID, Wi-Fi positioning
NavigationTurn-by-turn navigationTurn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation
Bluetooth4.0 EDR4.0
Wi-Fi802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
   Mobile hotspotYesYes
   FeaturesMass storage device, USB chargingUSB charging
OtherNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, UMA (Wi-Fi Calling), Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync, AirDrop
NotificationsHaptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneHaptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Thermometer, BarometerAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Fingerprint (touch), Barometer
Hearing aid compatibilityM3, T3M3, T4
OtherVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recordingVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
Officially announced01 Aug 201309 Sep 2014

Next I'll do a point by point comparison of my Androids and the iPhone 6.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Google Cloud Outages

I've written numerous times about cloud availability. Last year I posted about an outage in Microsoft's Azure service.

Some of my comments were:
Recently there was an 11 hour outage of Microsoft's Azure storage services.

Again users were hard pressed to get details on the outage as "the Service Health Dashboard and Azure Management Portal both rely on Azure."
Cloud outages don't have to be like that.

Here're the communications from Google on a pair of recent outages in their cloud services.

Gmail Outage

November 3, 2015 1:21:00 AM PST
We're investigating reports of an issue with Gmail. We will provide more information shortly.
November 3, 2015 1:38:00 AM PST
Our team is continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by November 3, 2015 2:38:00 AM PST with more information about this problem. Thank you for your patience.

This issue is affecting IMAP and SMTP delivery
November 3, 2015 1:48:00 AM PST
Our team is continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by November 3, 2015 2:48:00 AM PST with more information about this problem. Thank you for your patience.

This issue is affecting incoming POP, SMTP and IMAP connections.
November 3, 2015 2:25:00 AM PST
The problem with Gmail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.
Four posts in just over one hour.

Google Calendar Outage

November 4, 2015 8:20:00 AM PST
We're investigating reports of an issue with Google Calendar. We will provide more information shortly.
November 4, 2015 9:25:00 AM PST
Google Calendar service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users within the next 1 hours. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.
November 4, 2015 10:25:00 AM PST
The problem with Google Calendar should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.
Three posts in just over two hours.

Everybody is going to have outages. But this is the way to handle them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

LG Senior Phone

My 90-ish year old mother hit me up a couple of years ago as to why her cell phone didn't look like her friends'. She was using a Motorola Razr V3. I asked her what her friends' phones looked like. She said flat and black. They were using iPhones.

So off I went on a quest to upgrade her to an iPhone. I turned up an iPhone 4 that suited her just fine. She upgraded it on her own to iOS 7 (yikes!).

But she's continued to struggle with control actions on the iPhone. The main problem is that when she completes a phone call she taps the "home" button. This puts the display back on the home screen but doesn't terminate the call. If the other party doesn't disconnect my mother's phone is still on the call. Luckily I have unlimited minutes but it still means she can't place or receive another call.

She enjoys looking at and sharing photos on her camera roll and I like being able to use "Find My Friends" to locate her.

So I set off on a quest to find a more "senior friendly" phone.

They're not easy to find.

I ended up with an LG Wine Smart D486. It's a flip phone running Android. It's about the same size as an iPhone 4 but slightly thicker.

Here are the specifications. Notice that the keyboard pictured on that page is in Korean. Be sure that the one you get has English buttons.

I had some questions and wanted to read the User Manual. I contacted LG in Taiwan and they referred me to the support page. Although it was in Mandarin I could figure out the link to the PDF manual. It was in Mandarin also.

So I bit the bullet and just bought one. Unfortunately they're not sold in the US so I bought it from an organization in Taiwan. Shipment via DHL was quick. I bought it on eBay on 11/12/15. It shipped on 11/16/16 and arrived on 11/18/15.

So far the D486 is everything that I wanted and more.

Language hasn't been a problem (other than the manual) as it comes up in English on the initial power-up.

Generally it works like a traditional flip phone. It uses the 10-digit keyboard for input so you don't want to type much. The "C" key just above "2" is "Clear." You'll thank me for that.

It's running KitKat 4.4.2 so it's current enough.

The version of Android is slightly tweaked. For example it has an "EasyHome" option for the home screen. This gives a simpler homescreen with bigger icons.

I didn't use this option as I wanted an even simpler home screen.

The big weather and clock widget is an LG custom widget.

Like a traditional flip phone, it has several "hard" buttons. One of them is configurable so I set it to launch Google Photos.

In Settings I found how to set the phone to answer incoming calls by just flipping it open. Flipping it closed terminates the call.

And pressing and holding the green "Call" key will call 911.

But the feature that puts this over the top for me is what LG calls "Safety Care."

"Emergency notice" lets you specify who to automatically text message with the phone's location after an emergency call is placed from the phone.

"Phone non-usage notice" lets you specify who to automatically text message with the phone's location when either the phone hasn't been used for a specified time or when the battery is low.

"My location notice" lets you specify who to automatically text message with the phone's location when that contact is called or a call from that contact goes unanswered. I set the "Unanswered calls only" option so I get a text when I call my mother and she doesn't answer.

I tested this and here's what the text message looks like.

"Out of zone notice" lets you specify who to automatically text message with the phone's location when the phone enters or leaves a preset area. I'm not using this feature.

I enabled Google+'s location sharing to replace the "Find My Friends" function.

It doesn't have the proper LTE bands for AT&T but that's not really a problem for her.

It uses a microSIM so moving from the iPhone 4 to the LG was easy.

It came with a set of Google apps but they weren't automatically updating. I went to the Play Store and downloaded current copies. Now they are automatically updating. Don't forget to install and setup the Android Device Manager.

It's early yet but it seems perfect.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Oracle and Secure Hardware

An article about Oracle being hacked popped up in my news feed recently.
Interns Hacked Oracle Software in under an Hour, Researcher Says 
Among the many ways in making its software more secure, Oracle, he (founder Larry Ellison) said, is looking at implementing security technology built right into the hardware or the chip. He says that the security feature will be switched on, by default and will have no way of turning it off once it is being used.
I'm not trying to be "Chicken Little" but we have to acknowledge that hackers will continue to dive deeper and deeper into our systems. Thinking that you can build secure technology into hardware or chips is shortsighted.

If you want to put your propeller hat on, here's why it will be hacked.

You'd think Ellison would realize that given his company's history with Java.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Android Pay vs. Google Wallet

About a year ago I posted about Google Wallet. Since then I've been using it where it was available. I still get questions of "What did you just do?" when I use it.

There was a transition time in NFC payment support when Apple introduced Apple Pay. Some businesses even withdrew their NFC payment support, e.g. CVS, over a squabble about fees.

NFC payment took a giant leap forward recently with the transition from Google Wallet to Android Pay.

Google let this transition appear confusing as they repurposed the Android Google Wallet app to a person-to-person payment system and introduced an Android Pay app to effect the NFC payments.

But there's more here than meets the eye.

In a recent post on an forum triggered by a deep technical question about rooted devices a Google developer said:
That "ensuring" [that the security model of Android is intact] is done by Android Pay and even third-party applications through the SafetyNet API. As you all might imagine, when payment credentials and--by proxy--real money are involved, security people like me get extra nervous. I and my counterparts in the payments industry took a long, hard look at how to make sure that Android Pay is running on a device that has a well documented set of API’s and a well understood security model.
The above discussion was about rooting and explained why Android Pay was sensitive to that condition. This also explains why using Android Pay requires you to have a lock screen on your device.

Then the developer went on to describe the difference in the relationship of Android Pay to the payment networks.
The earlier Google Wallet tap-and-pay service was structured differently and gave Wallet the ability to independently evaluate the risk of every transaction before payment authorization. In contrast, in Android Pay, we work with payment networks and banks to tokenize your actual card information and only pass this token info to the merchant.
You can experience the difference yourself when you add a credit/debit card to Android Pay. If Google has negotiated with the payment network you will be asked to confirm the addition of that credit/debit card with the payment network. In my experience this is done with a live phone call with the payment network. When that is completed and you subsequently use that credit/debit card in an Android Pay transaction you will NOT be required to enter a PIN.

Alternatively if Google has NOT negotiated with the payment network you will NOT be asked to confirm the addition of that credit/debit card with the payment network. Then when you subsequently use that credit/debit card in an Android Pay transaction you WILL be requested to enter a PIN. This seems to be the same method used by the former Google Wallet app.

This difference in the transaction appears to be related to the tokenization of the credit/debit card information.

Transactions involving credit/debit cards where Google has negotiated with the payment network use a token. Google is not a direct participant in the transaction.

Transactions involving credit/debit cards where Google has NOT negotiated with the payment network use virtual account numbers generated by Google.

Subsequent to my initial experience with Android Pay my financial institution canceled my debit card and reissued it. I went to the Android Pay app, deleted my old card and tried to add the new one. It wouldn't add. It looks like Google is limiting addition of cards to those that they have negotiated with the payment network.

I don't consider myself an expert on this subject. This post is just describing my observations.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

OnePlus One - Three Strikes

I've had an ongoing flirtation with the OnePlus One. The first one I traded. The second one I sold. The third one I kept and used.


It really is BIG.


I got used to the size but the niggling issues drove me crazy.

The compass didn't work after upgrading to Lollipop. Seems to be a common problem with Lollipop but my Moto X doesn't have the problem.

Cyanogen OS 12.1 replaced a couple of the AOSP applications. The most irritating one was the inclusion of TrueCaller. Let's just say the the OnePlus community didn't have the same perspective as OnePlus. You could opt out of the sharing capabilities of TrueCaller but my beef was that TrueCaller's incoming call screen had a small thumbnail of the caller while the AOSP had a full screen image.

The vibration of the OnePlus One was very weak. So much that I pretty much couldn't feel the vibrations with the OnePlus One in its holster on my hip. Subsequently I turned on audible notifications for everything which is irritating for everyone.

When I was talking on the phone people mentioned that they couldn't hear me clearly. Some Googling turned up that "Ok Google" detection causes problems with voice during calls. Turning off "Ok Google" detection "fixed" it.

The screen's brightness kept lowering resulting in the screen being pretty much dark when you received an incoming call. I tried several of the workarounds to no avail.

And the battery, while longer lasting than the Moto X, still wasn't as good as my wife's iPhone.

So I listed it on swappa and it sold the first day. Obviously I didn't ask enough for it.

What's next? RDF

Sunday, October 25, 2015

iPad Virtual Desktop

I had lunch with one of my former co-workers recently. We were chatting about virtual desktops (VDI) as that keeps coming up with my current clients.

We were deep diving into clients for virtual desktops. He related that one of their technical architects was working on iOS VDI clients. He was getting frustrated and asked the following question:
Why are we trying to make an iPad work like a Windows desktop?
Good question.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

PayPal Preapproved Payments

Recently we bought something from Sears and used PayPal to pay for it. We selected to use a debit card as payment to PayPal. We thought that was relatively safe as Sears wouldn't have access to the debit card and could only process that one transaction.

How wrong we were.

My wife was subsequently balancing her checking account and saw several charges and debits against her checking account using the debit card via PayPal.

That was odd.

While the charges were acceptable (Sears had miscalculated the shipping) giving Sears the ability to process charges and debits against her checking account without our approval is not what we had intended.

Looking back through the e-mail surrounding this transaction I found this e-mail from PayPal.

I don't remember that being obvious during the Sears/PayPal transaction.

And PayPal doesn't make it easy to find these agreements on their site.

Login to PayPal as normal.

Then up in the top right is a little gray gear. Click on that.

On the next screen scroll down to the bottom and find "Payment settings" and under that click on "Preapproved payments."

And there's Sears.

By the time I took the above screen capture I had canceled the agreement.

Click on the Merchant's name and you'll get this.

If the agreement is still active you'll be able to click on "Cancel" here.

I'm surprised at the merchants that do this. In my case I found payment agreements with Sears, TravelSmith, Orvis, eBay, Age of Learning, Office Depot, Zappos, iTunes,, TigerDirect, GoDaddy, and Woot. Several on this list I used PayPal deliberately to deny the merchant unapproved access to my credit.

This verges on sneaky, both on the part of the merchant and PayPal.

And while I have your attention on PayPal, go read this.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cloud Security

I follow a number of CIO-orientated blogs and this article popped up recently:
Why promises about cloud security make me uneasy
I couldn't have said it better myself.

The entire article is worth reading but I'll try to pull out the highlights here.
Cloud companies will tell you that their products and services are secure and you can use security products to ensure that your data and applications are secure. I am a bit skeptical.
I can maintain and monitor use and access to my user base and interrogate logs of application use however I lack key visibility when in comes to the cloud...
While many organizations struggle to "maintain and monitor use and access" at least they control their own destiny. In a cloud environment you will "lack key visibility."

You'll recall my observations in a prior post. a CIO are you comfortable with this level of opacity to service failures?
From the referenced article:
I lack control of the cloud and am dependent on a third party vendor for disclosure and transparency ...
Not a comfortable position for a CIO.

To raise both sides of this topic, if you or your organization are not able to "maintain and monitor use and access" maybe delegating that to a cloud provider is the prudent thing to do.

Just make sure your boss is on board with your decision. And that you've got the mobile number of your cloud salesperson.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

International Cellular Plans 2015

Back in 2011 I covered my international cellular usage for a trip to Italy. In 2015 we traveled to Ireland so I looked again.

As you would hope AT&T has simplified and lowered the prices on their international cellular plans. As of May 2015 here are their plans.

Unlike 2011 you can't pro-rate these plans when you get back. But there is still an angle. Keep on reading.

The cost per megabyte has dropped. In 2011, 125MB was $50. In 2015 120MB was $30. In 2011, texts were $.20 each. In 2015, texts sent are free. Texts received are charged at your domestic rate (free for me on Mobile Share Value Plan). Voice is the same as 2011 at the Passport level.

The unlimited texts were nice for us as we tended to text among the travel party.

Several of us had iPhones which iMessage uses data so we had to log them out of iMessage.

On an iPhone, a day before leaving you should turn off iMessage.

To confirm this send a couple of text messages. The bubbles should be green instead of blue. When the bubbles are green, even international texts are free with AT&T's Mobile Share Value Plan. The only downside is that text messages won't go to an iPad.

When you land overseas, you need to make the following changes.

First turn off "Background App Refresh". All the apps will still work but you'll just have to initiate their updates, e.g. e-mail.

Then turn on "Data Roaming".

At the bottom of this screen is a menu item to "Reset Statistics". If you tap this it'll reset your data usage tracking so you can see where you are against the AT&T international plan.

Then undo all this when you get back in the U.S.

Android is not so complicated. Just turn on "Data roaming" and turn off "Auto-sync data".

On my Moto X, the LTE bands on AT&T's Irish partner weren't supported so I expected to only get UMTS+. However in the areas where I was (really rural) I mostly got 3G and sometimes even EDGE.

When I returned I called AT&T and they could tell me the data usage and calling minutes. They then re-rated the plans to the most cost effective. This saved me $33.

Post script: Be careful not to read too much into the AT&T Passport pitch on "messaging" being "unlimited." Notice that doesn't say "free." It is true that there is no direct per message charge for messages sent. (Messages received are billed at the domestic rate.)

But let's think for a second about the two different types of "messages." First there's the traditional text only, single recipient message. That is called Short Message Service (SMS).

Second there's the message with a picture or multiple recipients. This is called Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).

SMS messages don't require cellular data. MMS messages do require cellular data. And this cellular data will count against your allowance in the Passport offering.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Update on Spam

It's been years since I've written about spam. That article was really focusing on the McColo shutdown.

Recently I came across a Quartz article that said that spam is at a 10-year low based on work by Symantec. This prompted me to revisit my spam tracking.

My numbers completely agree with Symantec's findings.

For background, the way I get my numbers is that every Monday I log into a Gmail account and note the number of e-mails in the Spam folder.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

OneDrive Critique

No, it's not my critique. Remember I tried several Microsoft file sync products and as Microsoft messed with them I dropped them one by one. I've stuck with Dropbox because it just works.

I've been watching SkyDrive OneDrive (don't even get me started) as it has the promise of unlimited free storage and deep integration into Microsoft products.

I should have known better.

Recently Paul Thurrott wrote one of his "What I Use" articles on cloud storage. Thurrott is the guy who started SuperSite for Windows and hosts Windows Weekly. For Pete's sake, this guy uses a Windows phone!

Here's what he said about OneDrive:
So why even bother with Dropbox? 
Simple. It works. It works really well. It works quickly. And it works reliably.
OneDrive, meanwhile, is a mess. It’s slow and its unreliable...
Admittedly I haven't given OneDrive a try. I have been a little gun shy given my experiences with other Microsoft file sync products.

I'll stick with Dropbox.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dashcam Wiring

When I wrote the post about my dashcam I hadn't hardwired it. I was collecting the parts and installed it recently.

My plan was to run a miniUSB cable from the windshield mounted dashcam, under the headliner, under the door trim and to a switched socket in the primary fuse block.

It worked perfectly.

I found a miniUSB cable that had the proper angle to fit flat against the windshield and leave the dashcam headed directly to the top of the windshield. The headliner was loose enough to slide the cable under it.

When I got the to driver's A pillar, I was able to slip the cable into the gap between the trim and the windshield. I snaked it down to the top of the dash and moved it over to the soft rubber door jamb trim. I slipped the cable under the trim and ran it down to the bottom of the dash.

I put an Add-A-Circuit in the rightmost middle fuse socket. In my 2013 Accord this socket is switched with the ignition. I put the 10A fuse displaced from the fuse socket into the primary socket of the Add-A-Circuit and put a 7.5A fuse (included with the Add-A-Circuit) in the additional fuse socket of the Add-A-Circuit.

I got a car outlet adapter splitter and cut off one leg near the plug end leaving about a foot of cable and a socket.

I attached one wire from the socket to the Add-A-Circuit with a wire nut and the other end to a convenient ground screw.

I grabbed a spare USB car outlet adapter from my junk drawer and inserted it into the car outlet adapter socket. Then I plugged the miniUSB cable into it.

I should have zip tied all this together and velcroed it under the dash. I didn't. There wasn't much spare cable left so I just slipped the car outlet adapter socket up under the edge of dash. It seemed secure and has been there every since.

Here's what it looks like.

I slipped this up under the edge of dash.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Third Time Third Time is a Charm

My 2 previous installs/upgrades of Windows 10 went almost flawlessly. My time using them still is a good experience.

I knew that I was going to hit a bump in the road.

The third time was an old ThinkPad X100e running Windows 7 Pro and it was slooooooow. Maybe Windows 10 would freshen it up.

As previously I used this procedure.

It wasn't as smooth as before.

The first time the upgrade just hung and I had to hard power down the laptop.

The second time I got error "0xc1900101 - 0x2000c" and it rolled back to Windows 7. Windows 7 was not well at that point.

I restored the X100e from a previous system image and tried again.

This time I used a USB drive version of Windows 10 Pro that I had built using this Microsoft tool.

The third time worked.

The poor old X100e limped along until it ran Windows Update a couple of times and now it's fine.

It's too early to tell if it's faster but I think not.

Incidentally I have noticed on all 3 installs/upgrades of Windows 10 that System Recovery has been turned off. Be sure and check this on your system.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Google Hangouts and VoIP

I've been using Google Voice since it was Grand Central. Initially I was using it to overcome the confusion that arose with my traveling from office to office. When I'd call someone they'd get the caller ID of the extension that I was using. Then when I'd call them again they wouldn't recognize the extension. Grand Central gave me the ability to always present a consistent caller ID.

Further it lets me keep a good log of calls and even block callers if necessary.

However as I have transitioned to almost exclusive use of a cell phone, originating calls from my Google Voice number is difficult.

I've discovered that the Android Hangouts app handles that nicely. There is also a Hangouts Dialer app but that function has been incorporated into the main Hangouts app.

Here's what you normally see in the Hangouts app.

But notice over to the right is an icon for a dial pad. Swipe from the right to the left and you'll get this.

It comes up with Recent Calls from your Google Voice number. Now it's not a pretty as the phone's Dialer app but it works fine.

Just start typing a contact's name and you'll get a list of matches.

Or from the Recent Calls screen tap on the dial pad icon at the bottom.

The call will be placed over cellular data or Wi-Fi and present the caller ID of your Google Voice number.

Here's what it looks like during a call.

Now if you want to really get out there, you can go to Hangouts / Settings and turn on "Ring Hangouts for incoming phone calls made to your Google Voice number".

Now you're not using any cellular minutes. And if you have persistent Wi-Fi you don't even need cellular service.

Pretty cool.