Sunday, April 26, 2020

Contactless Payments Revisited

Do you see this symbol at check-outs?

Do you know what it means? Does it work all the time?

It means that the check-out terminal hardware supports contactless payments. It doesn't mean that the merchant supports contactless payments.

I covered contactless payments a couple of years ago but there has been a lot of progress since then.

Contactless payments come in two main forms - a smartphone app or contactless technology embedded directly into the card.

The smartphone technology is known as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay (not covered by this article). Of course, Apple can't make it simple. On an iPhone the app that manages it is Wallet. Here is how to do it on your iPhone and here is how to do it on your Android phone.

All platforms will walk you through adding your credit cards to their app. But you may find that not all of your cards are supported on all platforms. For example, my primary credit card is supported by both Apple and Google. However, my bank's debit card is supported only by Apple.

After you add your card to the app, you'll probably have to interact with the issuer to confirm that you really want to add the card to the smartphone. Generally, that's an easy text message or automated phone call.

To use your iPhone with Face ID, double-click the side button, glance at your iPhone to unlock it, then hold the top of your iPhone close to the check-out terminal for a few seconds. When you’re done paying, a blue check mark will appear on the screen.

To use your iPhone with Touch ID, rest (don't press) your finger on Touch ID to unlock your phone, then hold the top of your iPhone close to the check-out terminal for a few seconds. When you’re done paying, a blue check mark will appear on the screen.

To use your Android phone to pay, unlock your phone, then hold the back of your phone close to the check-out terminal for a few seconds. When you’re done paying, a blue check mark will appear on the screen.

Recently, U.S. card issuers have begun offering contactless cards. If your card is capable, it will have this symbol on it.

If your card is equipped with contactless technology simply hold it near the card reader to complete your transaction. However, my experience is that 100% of the check-out terminals that have this symbol DON'T actually support contactless cards. That should change over time.

Contactless cards are sill rolling out in the U.S. Only 1 of the 3 cards that I primarily use support contactless.

There are reference articles here ( and here (

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Chillin' With an iPhone - Part 2

On my Essential PH-1, I used a combination of apps to track my daily walks. I used Runkeeper to get a nice map of my route and Pedometer to count steps.

This time, I looked harder for an app that consolidated those functions. I came across MapMyWalk from Under Armour.

Here's its output at the end of a walk.

Pretty good.

I wish it would audibly give 2 decimals of the distance as you're walking. It only gives tenths of a mile. And give complete step counts. It only gives hundreds of steps.

I'll talk about why that red line is so crooked later.

MapMyWalk is also available on Android.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Chillin' With an iPhone - Part 1

I've recently moved from Android to iOS, again. I wanted to share my current experiences.

Over the years I've posted several times about managing photos from a smartphone. The last time I was using iOS, I used Air Transfer to move photos from the iPhone. I fully expected to use it again this time but I haven't.

First I'm going to share my workflow and then speak to the nuances.

At the end of each day, I launch Google Photos and wait until the icon at the top right has a green check-mark.
That means all of my photos are backed up to Google Photos. I can easily triage them there.

Then I visit my iOS Camera Roll. I select and delete all the photos that I don't want to archive, e.g. screenshots, receipts, etc. Remember that they really aren't deleted, just moved to the Trash folder for 30 days.

Then I launch the OneDrive app and wait until it says "Up to date". Here ( is Microsoft's instructions on how to setup OneDrive for Camera Roll. Make sure to turn on "Include Videos".

This puts the photos my OneDrive Camera Roll in full resolution. This is where OneDrive is smoother than Air Transfer. I don't have to open a web page on a browser to make this happen. Even better, the files created have the timestamp of when the photo was saved in the filename. The downside is that this timestamp is relative to UTC. Still that is better than using a timestamp of when the file was transferred.

Two side issues: 1) You may want to turn off auto-replication of OneDrive's Camera Roll folder. Otherwise all the pictures will get copied to all of your instances of OneDrive. 2) You also may want to turn off HEIF so you get only JPG. You can do this on the iPhone by going to Settings / Camera / Formats / Most Compatible. Or you could add HEIF support to Windows.
From the OneDrive Camera Roll, I move the photos to my archive location.

Then I go back to the iOS Camera Roll and select and delete all the photos. You may not want to do this.

The non-Apple apps tend to not run passively in the background even if you enable Background App Refresh.
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

I've got a couple of more topics to cover: MapMyWalk, Maps, and battery usage.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Broadband Data Usage

I've been tracking my broadband data usage for years. Here's my chart.

While there are several stories/posts in this chart, the last entry (March 2020) is today's focus.

The blue stack represents the difference between my router's reported WAN data and Comcast's reported WAN data. When the blue stack is below the y-axis that indicates that Comcast didn't report as much WAN data as my router did. The long period with significant differences was a problem in my router's firmware (now fixed). Since then my router and Comcast have tracked pretty well.

Until last month (March 2020).

When I went to check my data usage on my Comcast account page, this is what I saw.

Not only was March 2020 significantly low, the first couple of days in April 2020 were zero.

And it stayed that way for several days. Then I figured it out.

With so many people working from home due to the COVID-19 situation, several ISPs have suspended their broadband data caps.

Here's Comcast's statement ( on March 13, 2020:
Pausing Our Data Plan: With so many people working and educating from home, we want our customers to access the internet without thinking about data plans. While the vast majority of our customers do not come close to using 1TB of data in a month, we are pausing our data plans for 60 days giving all customers Unlimited data for no additional charge.
It looks like what Comcast has done is to simply stop collecting broadband data usage.

This lets Comcast "pause" their data caps day by day without having to play with the billing system on the back end. Maybe they'll leave the cap off.