Mario and iPhone 7…Pokemon and Apple Watch

Apple had its September press event to announce Apple Watch, Series 2, iOS 10 and iPhone 7.  But, perhaps the biggest thing announced at the event was a game.

Early on in the event, Tim Cook said that there were over 500,000 games in the app store, but that one had been missing. Rather, one character had been missing…MARIO. And, with that, he introduced Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario.

Mr. Miyamoto explained the new game while a demo was being played on the big screen.  This Mario game looks and sounds like a Wii U game, but is controlled via touch on the iPhone or iPad.  You use a single finger to control Mario’s jumps…the longer you hold your finger down, the higher he jumps. 

While the game looked great, the game play is like a neutered Super Mario Brothers 2D side scroller. Neutered in that it appeared that Mario only goes in one direction in single hand play.  The goal is to collect as many coins as you can and raise the end of level flag, before the time runs out. 

More importantly, the game will NOT be a ‘freemium’ game in the traditional sense. You only pay one time, there are no in game purchases.  There’s no having to wait two hours for your lives to replenish.  It is a nice change from the current game mobile game model.

Now, for the other announcements, and I’m not going into detail as it has already been covered else where.

Apple Watch 2 will be out in September and will be faster and more responsive.  Oh, and Pokemon GO! is coming to the Apple Watch.  With some health monitoring additions, this looks pretty decent.

iPhone 7, though, is what I am more excited to talk about. 

Now, before I go on, let me say that I am still not an Apple fan and I LOVE my Windows Mobile 10 phone(s). 

So, what has me excited about the iPhone 7?  Well, even though it isn’t a huge, earth shattering advance in mobile technology, the camera, faster processor and MICROSOFT have me excited for the new iPhone. 

The iPhone 7 will feature a new image sub system, new API’s and better optics. In addition, iPhone 7Plus, the phablet edition, will feature TWO 12 mp cameras in addition to the front camera.  The new image processor enables the phone to record in 4K video as well.

Here are some of the nice new photo related features, from Apple:

  • New Apple-designed Image Signal Processor, which processes over 100 billion operations on a single photo in as little as 25 milliseconds, resulting in incredible photos and videos;
  • New 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with wide color capture, advanced pixel technology and auto image stabilization for even better selfies; and
  • New Quad-LED True Tone flash that is 50 percent brighter than iPhone 6s including an innovative sensor that detects the flickering in lights and compensates for it in videos and photos.

Iapple-iphone7plus-zoomn addition to the photo features, Microsoft’s entire suite of apps that are on the iPhone mean that I can continue using my Microsoft services and apps with my Windows 10 desktop just as seamlessly as I can, now, with my Windows Mobile phone.

There are other things, like the subtle changes to iOS and to the phone chassis itself.

There are things I don’t like, such as the removal of the headphone jack, inability to upgrade storage via SD card, no way to project the phone to another screen (at least, I haven’t seen this) and the lack of home screen tiles…a feature I’ve really grown to love on my Windows Mobile phone.  In fact, the lack of live tiles is almost a deal breaker for me. Almost.

For now, I am on the verge of mothballing my Windows Mobile phone and going Apple again.  I’m going to have play with one for a bit.   But, today’s announcements look encouraging.  Of course, if I wait a year, I may like iPhone 8 more…

Microsoft, Apple, T-Mobile…They take a lot and give little

win10mobileT-Mobile.  The Un-Carrier.  This company, led by it’s uncool CEO, John Legere, claims to be different.  And, in a few regards, that is true.  They led the march to do away with subsidies and contracts.  Getting rid of the contracts was a good thing.  However, the replacement plans by T-Mobile and the others leave little to be desired.  This company also bills itself as having a fast, reliable network.  That’s debatable. In the Richmond, Virginia area, anyway, they are spotty—despite having PINK all over the area map.  Speeds are so-so.  They also advertise the binge-on program where you can consume all of the video streaming, from a select few services, and won’t affect your data or speed. What they fail to say is that you need specific plans to qualify.  Lastly, the ‘Get Thanked Tuesdays’ promotion only applies to certain customers—i.e. those who have Android or iOS devices and those not on prepaid plans. If you have a Windows Phone/Mobile, Blackberry or other device or you have those and are on a pre paid plan, you are out of luck. No thanks on Tuesdays or any other day.  (To be fair, they did try  to make up for it by giving me a credit, free pizza and, in last Tuesday’s event, they texted me the codes—but did not mention I had to use them right away. My fault there, though, it is in the rules.)  The no hoops, hurdles and strings mantra does not apply if you use anything but iOS or Android.

Apple.  Another company that loves to dump on its customers. But, Apple, at least, makes you feel good about getting dumped on. Hell, it’s a PRIVILAGE.  This company has, for the most part, products that, if from any other company, would put you to sleep. But, they slap that stupid logo on them, charge a mint and invite you into these sterile, wood and glass stores, and attempt to make you feel like you OWE them a purchase.  What’s really odd…and lame…is the uniforms the employees wear…..JEANS and BLUE T-SHIRTS.  What the hell is that?  You want me to pay two grand for a computer, I’m in what is supposed to look like a high-end store, and the person who is assisting me is dressed as if he or she was playing kick ball on a school lunch break? Seriously?  And what’s up with that stupid watch?

Microsoft. OH MY LORD.  This company makes it damn near impossible to like.  Everything I have liked, from the Zune to Windows Mobile 10 to Windows 10 itself, has had features removed, been crippled in some way or out right cancelled. I don’t’ need to say anything about Zune…its dead and so is my 30gb player. So, I’ll move on…to Windows Mobile 10. Now, a few years ago, MS bought Nokia’s phone business.  And promptly drove it into the ground.  They released Windows Mobile 10 by gutting many of the nice features of Windows Phone 8, including stability, reliability and many, many features like the hubs.  Now, the company says they are removing features because no one uses them, like FM Radio and the Kids Corner.  Guess what? I DO! This is the same reason they removed Media Center from Desktop Windows. Guess what? I used that too.  Now, Microsoft is further limiting another of its once great products: OneDrive.  They lured you in with tons of free online storage, then cut it all out but 5gb (like Apple) but you could still do a lot. Now, that is being limited as well. You cannot use it to share files a lot or share large files. I guess they are getting hammered for bandwidth. I don’t care, they opened the door and invited us in, now they want to boot us out after an hour.  Why should I bother at all?  They did this with remote sharing as well.  They killed off a terrific photography tool, photosynth.  Their OneCare was great, they killed it.  Windows Mobile has the potential to still be great, even with all of the neutering but, it, too, will languish. That’s what this company does best.

Honorable Mention: GOOGLE. Man, I could rant for days, but I’m not.  Suffice it to say that I will likely be forced to use Android again. I don’t like Android, but my distaste for iOS is worse than my dislike of Android.  One last thing, Google is far worse than Microsoft when it comes to product support and growth. Just look at the Google dead product grave yard.

This may sound like sour grapes, and to some extent, it is.  I’ve been burned a lot by these and other companies.  However, the problems stated here affect more than just myself. In the case of Apple, the deception costs real money.  In the case of Microsoft, it’s not only money, but a lot of frustration as well.  This company needs to stop its practice of introducing things, getting you hooked and then either taking them away or severely handicapping them.  It has really made me re-think my whole Microsoft affinity. 

So, what great Android phones are out there?  I need a good, non-Apple replacement for my Zune too.  My Zune HD is starting to have problems and I don’t know how much longer Windows will run the Zune software.  I want a dedicated MP3 player, I don’t like using my phone for media.  Lastly, what online storage solutions are out there that are low cost or free and are unfettered? 

Apple, you are done…Microsoft, your dominance is near the end and Google, welcome aboard: how Android won the game, via Chrombooks

Change. It is a difficult thing to go through, but, it is inevitable. Nearly thirty years ago, CP/M was THE operating system and 8080/Z80 based computers were THE thing. I remember thinking they’d be around FOREVER. They didn’t make it past 1986, when IBM began to take over the personal computer industry. And, so, we are near that crossroad today.

Google has announced that Android apps will be available ‘soon’ for ChromeOS. That is, as they say, a game changer.

Why?

Well Chromebooks are inexpensive. Small computers using ChromeOS are inexpensive and do not need Wintel level power to do things.  Android apps, likewise, are mostly designed to run on cheap smartphones with power that comes close to that of a cheap desktop or laptop computer.  Combine the two and…WOW…that is a game changer, folks.

A friend of mine (one day, Sam, we will meet in person) has been touting these Chromebook things for a few years now.  I’ve always kind of poo-poo’ed them as being a browser on a minimalist Linux.  However, you put Android abilities in there and…BOOM!   A real challenge to Wintel.

Chromebooks already outsell the Macintosh. It will be a while before they supplant Windows, but, I think the writing is on the wall.  I am a die hard Windows fan. I’ve loved the environment and, later, the operating system since the 2.1 days. But, change is inevitable and Microsoft knows this. Pretty much the only product they still sell that is not completely available on other platforms is the Visual Studio development tool suite. And, I think, it won’t be long and you will be using that on Android. On a Chromebook. 

So, how is Google doing this? Merging the two operating systems?

No. No merging.  No AppV or Virtual machines either. NO, they are using containers that have the Android framework embedded in them.  This is a quite clever approach as it not only allows the app to ‘see’ the underlying filesystem and hardware it is running on, it also means apps can talk to each other and that is HUGE.  What good is a photo editor that cannot get to the photos?

It also means the applications run AT FULL SPEED.  Think about that.  Now the Android GAME world is open to ChromeOS.  In fact ALL Android apps will work this way, no developer changes required. Candy Crush Jelly Donuts and Coffee will run, full speed, full screen, on a cheap $120 (US) Chromebook just as well as it does on that Moto G.  This, my friends, is not only cool, but awesome.

I am no fan of Google, but this is a clever and very smart way to bring Android into the home in something other than a phone.

Now, I need to buy myself a Chromebook, get a good book on Java development and retool myself.  Apple, you need to get a clue. Your walled garden is about to be overtaken by weeds when your gardeners leave for greener pastures.  From Google.

You can read more about it here.

iPad Mini has broken glass? No problem…

10633983_968983429838079_2216291504368981093_oA few months back, my lovely wife’s iPad Mini was cracked, right around the button, by my then two year old son.  Now, these things are tough and Xander had thrown it a few times prior to that fateful day.  It hit the floor and then the corner of a cabinet and cracked the glass right by the button.  Over the next month or so, we continued to use the device but…it was dropped once more and, this time, more damage ocurred.

Even in a protective case, the damage got worse and glass shards started coming off, so we shelved it.  Being cheap, we did not want to spend the hundred or so dollars to have it repaired and, on ‘Black Friday’, we took advantage of the $35 (US) Kindle. The iPad Mini just sat, battery drained, on a box under my desk.

Until a few days ago (Feb 13, 2016) when I found a cheap replacement kit for the glass.  This kit came with the glass, home button and the digitizer plus tools to remove the broken glass and install the new glass.  The best part? It was UNDER twenty five US dollars.

I ordered it and it arrived a couple of days later, thanks to Amazon Prime.10357769_968983373171418_8161123942176373028_o

I set about to remove the old glass, which had the white bezel, and install the new glass with the black bezel. I must say, I like the black bezel more.

The process took about three hours as the glass was tough to remove. In hindsight, I did it wrong.

All of the processes I read about said to use a heat gun to soften the adhesive and make it easier to remove. I did NOT do that.  I wish I had.  I ended up destroying the old glass and, in the process, getting little shards all over my hands.

The process is not difficult, but it is a pain in the ass and very tedious.  The sides came up easy, it was the bloody  corners that caused the problem. There’s not much to this, but you need to know a few things…

So, here’s a short, step by step list of things I did (except #1):

  1. Use a heat gun or hair dryer on high to soften the adhesive. Be careful not to overheat the device.
    1. If you do not, you must be very careful with prying up the old glass, it is very brittlle and will break. Easily. Very Easily.
  2. Using a small screwdriver or similar device, gently pry the glass up. Pick a corner and slowly work around the perimeter of the device. 
  3. Once the glass is off, lay it over – if possible – so you can rest the LCD on top. If you cannot, find a soft cloth to lay the LCD on when ready.
  4. There are four screws in each corner of the LCD. Unscrew them and set them aside.  The two small screws by the home button you can ignore.
  5. Be careful, the WiFi antennae are right at the edge of the metal casing, I darn near destroyed them.  It is also easy to unplug them. If you do, no problem, you can plug them back in. At this point, you should not be able to unplug them as there is a cover over them.
  6. Once you have unscrewed the LCD, you will need to remove the black tape holding in place, be careful not to cut or destroy the tape, you will need it later.
  7. Gently lay the LCD over the area you set aside earlier.
  8. Next, there is a metal cover under the LCD that is screwed down by 16 very, very tiny screws.
  9. Remove the screws and gently remove the panel.
  10. Next, on lower right, where the cables are, there a small metal cover with four or so screws. Remove it.
  11. Be careful now, this is where those Wifi antennae live.
  12. The two larger flat cables need to be unplugged. 
  13. Unplug the LCD cable and then the digitizer/home button cable.
  14. Remove any excess adhesive from around the edge of the case. It needs to be clean.
  15. Gently plug in the new home button/digitizer cable
  16. Gently plug in the LCD Panel. It takes very little force and you can only plug them in one way.
  17. Replace the small metal cover and then the larger one.
  18. Replace the LCD panel.
  19. Remove the sticky back tape and any other protective plastic from the underside of the new glass.
  20. Carefully place it on the device and firmly press down around the sides and the top and bottom.
  21. Turn on the device, if charged, make sure it works.
  22. If all went well, congratulations, you save yourself a lot of money.

Those screws are very, very small.  There is no real reason why there are sixteen on the big metal plate.  I think they could have gotten by with half that number or even a quarter of them. At any rate, someone felt they were necessary. 

So, the take away here is that if you are going to do this, get a kit that includes the home button and the digitizer. Some only have one or none of them.

12698567_968983143171441_5796826882905185056_oAmazon is a great source for things like this, but so is eBay.  If you take your time and are patient, you can do this with ease.  Patience is the big thing here.  I nearly lost mine with the small screws. Did I mention that they are small? Oh, yeah, sorry. But, they are DAMNED SMALL!

Good luck if you undertake this endevor. 

Apple Announcements 2015: iPad Pro, Watch, iPhone

Microsoft has often be accused of ‘firing up the Xerox’ to copy Apple’s ‘innovations.’  Well, during the Apple presentation on Sept 9, it seems that they are the ones who ‘fired up the Xerox.’  Indeed, the new 12.9 inch iPad Pro they introduced has many Surface 3 Pro features, including the docking keyboard and the pen, which Apple calls ‘the Apple Pencil.’  Cute.  Of course, this harkens back to the Steve Jobs comment “if you see a stylus, they blew it.” Of course, the Apple apologists will say that he didn’t really mean it that way.  Uh huh, right.

iPadPro_Pencil_Lifestyle1-PRINTAll kidding aside, the iPad Pro is a credible machine.  At nearly 13 inches, the screen is big enough to adequately display two apps, side by side. Interestingly, there’s no drag and drop between applications. You copy/cut and paste.  An odd thing to leave out.  Maybe iOS 9.2.

The iPad Pro’s stylus has a nice feature that lets the Pro know the angle and pressure the user is placing on the screen’s surface.  Sensors built into the device communicate this data back to the software, which, in turn, acts on it.  Designer’s can now draw fine lines or really thick lines without having to lift the stylus. 

Microsoft was on stage demoing Office for iOS.  Yep, it is a credible package that turns the iPad Pro into a real, honest to goodness productivity device. 

The Pro’s keyboard dock is very, very similar to the Surface 3 Pro’s keyboard.  In fact, there were many, many similarities, so much so, that it seems that Apple was acknowledging Microsoft’s lead in this space.  A refreshing turn of events.

The iPad Pro also boasts four speakers.  The sound, one would hope, is far better than the tinny monoaural sound that comes out of them now.

On the watch front, native apps are now available as is several new bands.

Apple TV got a major upgrade with the addition of in device memory, a redesigned controller and an app store. Yes, it now runs apps and games with ‘stunning, console quality graphics.’ Someone quipped ‘yeah, if the console is a Wii.’  Hey, the Wii is still a cool little console.  Leave it alone or I’ll give you a wedgie!

Prices for the Apple TV are $149 and $199 for the 32gb and 64gb versions.  No 4k yet.

Prices for the iPad range from $799 to $1069.

Of course, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were also on display.  The killer feature:  living images.  This is a feature that Microsoft has had in its Lumia smart phones for quite sometime.  Basically, the camera buffers about four seconds of video.  The best frame, for the iPhone and in the ‘middle’ is taken where as the Lumia is usually the best of the last frames.  Either way, the effect is impressive.  Apple has taken it a step further and provides magic that also captures audio.  The Lumia does not do that.

There were other interesting things about the phones…faster processor, more internal RAM, 12mp camera, but the living images is, by far, the best new feature.

Head over to CNET for much more detail.

Apple Watch, MacBook Air and Apple TV: a quick update

MacBook_PF_OP30_Svr-PRINTApple announced a few things at a press event held March 9, 2015.  Among the things they showed are new Macs and the Apple Watch.  They also announced a new $69 (US) Apple TV and HBO Now, which is exclusive to Apple for the time being.

The MacBook Air gets a major refresh with a super smooth shell.  One connector, USB-C, is all that adorns the shell of the laptop.  A new keyboard also comes with the machine.

Now, the single connector on this very nice looking laptop handles EVERYTHING, including video out and power.  What this means is that the device will need to be tethered to a $79 (US) port extender accessory.  Without this dongle, you cannot charge the device AND connect ANYTHING else to the computer.

Admittedly, I have the ‘I want it’ for the hardware, even with that rather arcane limitation. There’s no reason why a second connector could not have been added.

The Watch.AplWatch-HomeScreen-PR-PRINT_2

Yes, they showed off more of the watch. It features an 18 hour battery life, three different styles and lots of apps already to go. The base watch-you know, the one everyone will buy-will cost $350, the Apple Watch will sell for $500 and the Apple Watch Edition will START at $10,000. The Sport edition, at $350, is the most affordable. Bands for the watches range from $40 to $500. 

Now, smartwatches are worth having, they can be very useful…but, tethering them to a smartphone seems a bit silly, and I say that in regard to the Android watches as well as the Apple Watch.  What we need is one that works with ANY device, Android, IOS or other. 

AplWatch-3Up-Features-PR-PRINTApple also talked about ResearchKit, a set of API’s that will be used for medical research.  This one seems a bit forced and not overly interesting.  You can read more about it here.  I don’t care about it enough to write more.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the press event was the HBO Now and Apple TV announcements. HBO Now will be available to Apple devices for $14.95 a month, much like cable tv prices.  Apple TV gets dropped down to $69 (US), a thirty dollar reduction. You KNOW the Roku was just killing it if Apple drops it price that much.

Over all, the press event was lackluster and the products, while interesting, could have just been released without an event and they would have done just fine. These things are just tired now.

The products, though, are not.  Apple continues to show that design over function will sell and these are no different. I’m not sure they will sell many $500 or $10000 watches, but the $350 one just might hit it. And, at $69, the Apple TV is a sweet deal.  Not quite as versatile as a Roku, but still worth the money.  Don’t forget that gorgeous, lusty laptop.  Buy it, put Windows on it and you have a really nice computer.

Go to Apple.com watch the press event.

That so called ‘data breach’ of iCloud? Didn’t happen

Long time readers of this blog pretty much know that I am not a big fan of Apple. While I do think they have some good products, I don’t like the way they treat their customers (like infants who need coddling, for the most part) nor do I like the perceived ‘premium’ that is Apple when, in fact, they aren’t any better than, say, HP or Sony.  So, when I heard about the data breach, err, alleged data breach of iCould, I was, initially, in the ‘huh, how about that…how are they gonna get past this?’ mode.

Well, it’s really very simple.  They aren’t 100% at fault. They do shoulder SOME responsibility, but, for the most part, the ‘breach’ was really nothing more than some phishing, luck and a brute force exploitation of something that Apple fixed as soon as it was known to the public.

First, the problem: a number of celebs, apparently, enjoy photographing themselves and, perhaps, partners in compromising poses in the nude. Now, that’s their business, not mine, but…to do so on an iPHONE!? C’mon. So, these iPhones were backing the photos up to iCloud.  My guess is that most of these people did not know this was the case. Some, perhaps, did and then deleted the photos. Problem was that pesky iPhone backup. The photos were there. Whatever the cause, these photos were up on iCloud in a space that was accessible if you knew where and how to get there.

Next, the back door.  When you get an iPhone, you have to set it up. One of the things you set up-or not-is the Find My iPhone feature.  You use your Apple ID and Password for this.  Problem is, and unlike other services or even other parts of Apple, there was no cutoff to the number of guesses for the password. IF you know the ID, you could take forever to guess the password. And, that is, very likely, how access happened. The perpetrator thanked ‘all of those who helped’, so he/she probably had many people hacking away at a few specific targets. Once they got in, they got what appears to be iPhone backup files.

Apple swiftly fixed the problem with the password by limiting the number of guesses allowed.

Now, while this is still a crime and not a laughing matter, I do have to wonder why the mainstream press made this out to be such a huge deal. It isn’t. Yes, I am sorry Jennifer Lawrence’s photos went public, I’d be pissed too, but…the press had other pressing things to report. 

That said, there are things you can do to protect your photos and data. And, remember, things like this can happen no matter what phone or device or service you use. These people did take advantage of a weakness in the Apple ecosystem. But, it could have happened purely by social means as well. So, what can you do?

First, enable two factor authentication. Depending on what service you use, this means a password and some other means, like identifying a photo, biometrics, whatever. Check into what your service offers.

Second, disable the auto upload of photos on your device. Apple enables it by default on the iPhone. Android, does not and neither does Windows Phone.

Third, check the privacy settings on the service.

If you must take ‘fun’ photos of an adult nature, don’t use a smartphone. Use a real camera.  Protect the media you store them on.  NEVER upload them. Once uploaded, there is always that chance they get out to the public. A disgruntled employee, a weakness in the system, poor passwords, you name it, it could happen.

Lastly, NEVER use identifiable email addresses. Create a cryptic email address at Outlook.com, Yahoo! or even GMAIL. Use that for your password recovery or even your account’s email. That way, most people won’t bother to try to break it.

So, there you have it.  Apple’s reliance on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and Amazon’s AWS gives them rock solid foundations. They have made big strides in the front end as well. The steps they have taken to make the iPhone both safe and easy to use made this entire fiasco very unlikely to be anything other than what it was…a lucky hit by a few with nothing else better to do. Cut Apple some slack here.