post

Apple Watch 4 Is The Best

You’ve probably read all sorts of reviews about the new Apple Watch Series 4 at this point, so maybe mine will prove interesting and useful…or maybe not. In any event I am SO enthused, pleased, and excited about this new model that I felt compelled to jot down a few thoughts.

First off I purchased the Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band with GPS + Cellular. As many other reviewers have written, the larger speakers in the watch make calls usable, but for me the volume is still a bit low. Everyone tells me I sound as good, if not better, than my iPhone X itself.

Secondly it is FAST! While my Apple Watch 2 was “OK” as far as speed was concerned, this new one SCREAMS in comparison. Apps load quickly, using the watch feels snappy, and sometimes I find myself just goofin’ around with it since it is fun to interact with. I rarely did that with my Apple Watch 2 since it was too slow and something as simple as checking the weather app took forever. It was always faster to take out my iPhone and use it vs. the watch.

In addition, I love the larger watch face and this specific face with its multiple complications. I chose the one you see above as it provides me with everything I want, need and use all the time every day. In this case you see (clockwise from upper left):

  • The temperature this morning here in Irvine, CA
  • “Reminders” showing I intend to return my Apple Watch 2 back to Apple’s trade-in partner
  • My Activity this morning (my wife and I walk an hour each morning)
  • Timers…I seem to use them frequently
  • In the center top is our 1pm appointment to order furniture for our new house being built in Rancho Mission Viejo CA
  • Lastly the four center complications (again, clockwise) are the date; my wife in my contacts; the trigger for a workout (our morning power walk); and my battery level.

Since getting this watch I’ve done something I didn’t expect: I’m leaving my iPhone X where we’re staying and going out for our morning walks with only my watch.

Unfortunately I’ve been appalled by the horrifically poor AT&T mobile service in southern California — and especially in much of Irvine where we’re staying temporarily until our house is completed end of November — so I don’t get to enjoy phone-free watch use as much as I’d like to, but it is awesome whenever I do and have good cell coverage!

[Read more…]

post

My Apple Watch 4 Ordering Adventure

For our 32nd wedding anniversary on Thursday, September 20th, my wife and I decided to get Apple Watch 4’s for our anniversary gifts to one another. No…it won’t be a surprise, but it will be great to have these new, much more powerful, watches.

I was all set to order and I stayed up to do so at 12:01am Pacific time. Unfortunately I had to refresh my browser and didn’t get in until 12:08am.

You can see from the shipment timing above that my watch won’t arrive until 2-3 weeks after my wife receives her watch! You might say, “Well Steve, did you order them a long time apart?

  • 12:08am: Ordered my watch and then added to the cart BUT DAMN! I forgot to do my trade-in Apple Watch 2.
  • 12:09am: Immediately ordered my wife’s watch and entered her trade-in and added to cart.
  • 12:10am: Ordered my watch again, entered my trade-in, and added to cart.
  • 12:12am: Viewed cart and saw Apple’s warning that a single order can only contained two watches, so I removed my first watch order.
  • 12:13am: You can see from above what happened during the less than five minutes it took to perform this entire transaction!

I’ve told a few buddies about this and they just laughed at me and said stuff like:

“Apple only had 20 of each.”

“Man…talk about a first-world problem.”

“At least you’re not homeless and can afford them, you pathetic geek.”

So I’ll just shut up now and, um, wait for my watch while enjoying helping my bride set up her watch this Friday. Oh yeah, and as a stockholder I’m very happy people are buying this watch in droves.

post

Don’t Be Sad About Coverage On Your Mobile Network. Get OpenSignal & Be Smart

It will be nine weeks tomorrow that my wife, son and I have been in southern California. There are so many great things about where we are (Irvine) but one of them, surprisingly, is not the mobile networks! Thank God I just found something that I wanted to share with you since it might help you make your own decisions on what to do next if you’re thinking of changing mobile providers.

I suppose we’re spoiled since our mobile coverage in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area was almost always 4 bars and often 5 bars of service. Since I had Verizon on my iPad and AT&T on my iPhone in Minnesota, I could often compare the two and almost always they were pretty close in service strength and download speeds, regardless of where I was in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or their suburbs.

Then we got to southern California and almost everywhere that we found ourselves seemingly had crappy mobile network service. 1-2 bars was the norm. It seemed that every time we were somewhere with native Californians and I’d ask them what provider they had — mainly since they almost always had at least 2 bars of service when we had zero — they’d respond “Verizon!”

Thinking that maybe it was time to switch our family plan to Verizon, today I stopped in a Verizon store to get an idea of what their plans cost since their network saturation appears to be better than the one we’ve get with AT&T. The pricing wasn’t better, we have DirectTV NOW for $15 per month with AT&T, and we’d have to pay off a couple of devices. More homework was needed and, thankfully, I discovered something incredibly helpful. [Read more…]

post

A Bug in the Apple Store App on iOS “Removed” a Gift Card from My Apple Wallet

It is likely that I discovered a bug in Apple’s Apple Store app for iOS that could make one of your Apple Store cards in your Apple Wallet vanish.

Two days ago I had three Apple Store cards in my Apple Wallet with varying amounts on them which were pretty close to the total amount of a new HomePod with tax — only $6.21 wasn’t covered by the Apple Store cards in my wallet so would, of course, be paid for using my archived credit card on file with Apple — so I decided to try to order the HomePod using the Apple Store app on my iPhone and go and pick up the unit at a nearby Apple Store in Southdale Mall (Edina, MN).

To my surprise the charge to my archived-at-Apple credit card for $6.21 kept failing! The credit card is used all the time so I tried the transaction three more times. It kept failing so I called my credit card provider Chase who told me that the card was just fine.

I then reached out to Apple Support and they basically had no idea what had happened. They did offer to order it for me or suggested I go in to an Apple Store. Of course, that completely misses the point that there is some sort of bug that disallowed me from using my credit card do I decided to give up and deal with it this coming weekend.

But here is where it gets REALLY WEIRD… [Read more…]

post

Save on Cyber Insurance with Apple & Cisco

This just in from TechCrunch:

Apple and Cisco announced this morning a new deal with insurer Allianz that will allow businesses with their technology products to receive better terms on their cyber insurance coverage, including lower deductibles – or even no deductibles, in some cases. Allianz said it made the decision to offer these better terms after evaluating the technical foundation of Apple and Cisco’s products, like Cisco’s Ransomware Defense and Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac.

There is no question in my mind that Apple is inherently more secure than Android, Windows and other technologies. The operative word here, however, is “more” since there really isn’t any truly secure device. Or security is only as good as what we each are savvy enough NOT to do…like clicking on links in emails, inadvertently trusting a website that’s actually a phishing scam, and so on.

That announcement in Apple’s newsroom includes Aon as well: Cisco, Apple, Aon and Allianz today announced a new cyber risk management solution for businesses, comprised of cyber resilience evaluation services from Aon, the most secure technology from Cisco and Apple, and options for enhanced cyber insurance coverage from Allianz.

This is good in many ways but sure won’t hurt Apple and Cisco’s businesses, that’s for certain.

post

Why Cross-Site Tracking for Ads is Disturbing, But Also Badly Targeted

We’ve all had these sorts of experiences: A friend or loved one uses your computer to, for example, look up skateboarding and you soon notice that when you’re on some news site you typically frequent but suddenly the advertisements are now skateboarding related? Then you go to Facebook and the same thing happens with those types of ads appearing?

What’s bothersome to me is BOTH the ads AND the cross-site tracking companies that advertisers use so they can “follow us around” and display what they think are relevant ads. The problem is that my wife and I share a single Amazon Prime account so I logged in to Amazon as her this moring, bought her a new backup hard drive (her current one died), and then looked at my news reader and clicked on this Ars Technica article.

The ads were suddenly for beauty products like this one:

While I get my beauty sleep and care how I look, I do NOT use Clinique so I come across with a “better glow.”  😉

Here’s the thing: Ars Technica is a geek site and highly technical in its articles and why I so enjoy reading it. But I usually only read it in a browser with ad blocking turned on because, after they were acquired in 2008 by Advance, the parent company of publisher Conde Nast, their ads slowly-but-surely became larger and more intrusive like the HUGE one above (which, by the way, is in THREE other places on the page as I scrolled down.

USING AN AD BLOCKER
Ads are intrusive overall regardless, but they are REALLY annoying when I’m reading on my iPad which is what I typically do. Why? Because constantly loading ads in a header or sidebar means that, as I’m reading and maybe halfway down the article, it suddenly jumps to the top of the page! I get SO pissed off that I typically hammer on the publisher through tweets or an email, but they don’t care so never respond.

On my iPad I use 1Blocker to block cross-site tracking and ads, primarily to stop that behavior I just mentioned but also since it is a MUCH better experience to not be punched-in-the-face with ads since they are never discrete…they only want to intrude, interrupt, and completely take over one’s reading experience. They also make their “close boxes” as hard as possible to use so we inadvertently launch the ad’s website so the publisher gets credit for click-through!

Here is the exact-same article on my iPad:

If you’re interested in an ad-blocker (and, in some cases, a cross-site tracking blocker) for iOS, here are some options.

Google’s Chrome browser is the one I use but they are taking NO leadership for us. Only for themselves, advertisers and cross-site tracking companies since Google’s business model is primarily ad-centric and they provide us with all of those “free” services (e.g., Gmail; calendar; voice; and more) to get better-and-better at advertising to us and selling our data to others.

WHAT I DO
I don’t use ad-blockers or cross-site tracking blocking in Chrome usually since it interferes with too many web development activities which I perform within our Innov8Press business. Instead, I create site-specific browsers using Coherence 5 so cookies are self-contained within my “search” browser, for example, since Coherence allows you to turn any website into a full-blown macOS application in seconds. And, using the power of Google Chrome, allows each app to have separate settings and extensions.

STOPPING CROSS-SITE TRACKING
Fortunately there is hope. Apple’s decision to stop the cross-site tracking of advertising companies in the newest version of the Safari browser (version 11) — and put the power back in to the hands of those of us doing things online — has come to the fore with great controversy.

Publishers are obviously upset since their business models are advertiser-centric. While I completely understand their motivation, don’t they know that bitch-slapping us with ads, making them as HUGE as possible, hiring cross-site tracking companies to follow us around, does nothing but make everyone want them to STOP!!

Perhaps if publishers showed some restraint and took the high-road, things would be different. But for now I know I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to block ads and cross-site tracking companies.

post

Colorspike is a Portable & Programmable LED Lightbar for Filmmakers and Still Photographers

There is a recently launched Kickstarter for a portable and programmable LED lightbar called colorspike that is pretty amazing. Whether you’re a filmmaker (or wannabee like me goofing around shooting 4K video with my Nikon D500) or a still photographer, this new gadget is sure to open up huge creative possibilities.

The few professional filmmakers I’ve been able to meet over the years have one saying they all agree on:

The crew doesn’t matter, everything off frame doesn’t matter, all that counts is what’s on screen…it’s the shot that counts.

Though there are a lot of variables in getting to that on-screen shot outcome, there is no question that achieving the perfect shot is heavily dependent upon lighting. Trying to get lighting effects like a flickering campfire, police/fire/ambulance lights, or various kinds of mood lighting is typically achieved with colored gels smeared on lights. Besides being a pain-in-the-butt to use, using gels is slow, tedious, and very creatively limiting.

If it’s the shot that counts, getting that shot might take multiple (and sometimes dozens!) of attempts to get lighting effects set just right to achieve the shot. Colorspike looks like it will definitely give us a virtually unlimited lighting effect and color palette to work with as we shoot video or stills.

If you pledge $299 you can get one and they expect to deliver in March 2018. Check out the colorspike Kickstarter page to learn a lot more and see screenshots of the app too.

Before you go, however, take a few minutes to watch the video below and you’ll likely begin to imagine what you might do with this clever tool:

via BoingBoing

post

Wells Fargo: Why the Bogus *Incoming* Wire Transfer Fee?

As my wife and I are rapidly approaching the “third half” of our lives, I’ve begun removing money from one of my brokerage accounts and wire transferring sums monthly to an account at Wells Fargo.

My wife noticed a “wire transfer fee” of $15 for each transfer. Hmm….Schwab (where we trade) has zero fees for outgoing wire transfers so I sent in this message to Wells Fargo customer support:

Never noticed before that you charge a $15 fee for **incoming** wire transfers until my wife alerted me to *her* wire transfer from Charles Schwab to Wells Fargo and it $15 fee.

This is ludicrous. A $15 fee for an incoming wire transfer? Schwab charges nothing for outgoing transfers so why does WF charge a fee for one coming in? This is nothing but bits across a wire and internal server gateways opening and closing. There is zero human cost in this equation (other than initial programming time) so a “fee” is NOT appropriate.

With all the personal and business money we have with WF, there is NO REASON to nickel-and-dime us on wire transfers like this one and I want someone in a managerial capacity to contact me directly and let me know why.

NOTE: Schwab actually has a $25 fee for outgoing wire transfers, but if you have enough dough in accounts like we do there they waive the fee and there is no fee for incoming transfers. With all the personal and business accounts we have at Wells Fargo — let alone the money we have there and transactions we run through our merchant gateway — my expectation was they’d not charge incoming wire transfer fees. The response from Annette in customer service came as no surprise as you’ll see below.

[Read more…]

post

Why My New VPN is ProtonVPN

UPDATE ON July 11, 2018
Yesterday I reached out to ProtonVPN and received a lengthy reply and also did a couple of hours of research on my own. They pointed me to this reddit thread where they respond in detail. The company is also preparing to take legal actions if the blog owners don’t remove false allegations and defamation. As such, I NOW RECOMMEND you go ahead and sign up for ProtonVPN (NordVPN is still an unknown).
UPDATE ON July 10, 2018
Just came across a post ProtonVPN is a SCAM – Unveiling the Dirty Secrets of Proton and NordVPN and dug in to a bit. It seems that ProtonMail — in order to rollout their ProtonVPN service quickly — engaged a Lithuanian data mining organization called Tesonet. As such, I recommend you hold off on signing up for either ProtonVPN or NordVPN until further notice.

The team of scientists and engineers that came out last year with the wildly successful end-to-end encrypted email service, ProtonMail, has now officially made public their new highly secure (and very fast!) virtual private network (VPN) called ProtonVPN.

As a ProtonMail user I’ve been incredibly pleased with the service and its security and this morning I signed up for their newest offering, ProtonVPN. I did so mainly because of the features, but also because it’s from a company I trust and, as a beta user, found it to be fast, robust, secure, and rock-solid.

I’m also stunned by how quickly they’ve nailed the key features needed in both email and VPN to keep us private and secure. A big plus also is that the company, Proton Technologies AG, is based in Switzerland, a country whose laws favor privacy, security and non-disclosure which is the perfect place to headquarter the firm:

“ProtonMail was founded in 2013 by scientists who met at CERN and were drawn together by a shared vision of a more secure and private Internet. Since then, ProtonMail has evolved into a global effort to protect civil liberties and build a more secure Internet, with team members also hailing from Caltech, Harvard, ETH Zurich and many other research institutions.

Today, we help our community of millions of users secure their private data online. More than 10,000 supporters have assisted us in this mission by donating to make this project possible. Thanks to your support, we are continuing to develop state of the art email privacy and security technology from our home base of Geneva, Switzerland.”

ProtonVPN has several key features that are a bit geeky, but have turned my head as someone who is deep in to cyber security:

  • Secure Core: This architecture gives their secure VPN service the unique ability to defend against network based attacks. Secure Core protects your connection by routing your traffic through multiple servers before leaving our network. This means an advanced adversary who can monitor the network traffic at the exit server will not be able to discover the true IP address of ProtonVPN users, nor match browsing activity to that IP.
  • Strong Encryption: All your network traffic is encrypted with AES-256, key exchange is done with 2048-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA256 is used for message authentication which means it is VERY secure.
  • Forward Secrecy: The encryption cipher suites they use only include ones that have Perfect Forward Secrecy. This means that your encrypted traffic cannot be captured and decrypted later if the encryption key from a subsequent session gets compromised. With each connection, ProtonVPN generates a new encryption key, so a key is never used for more than one session.
  • Strong Protocols: They exclusively use VPN protocols which are known to be secure (OpenVPN and IKEv2). Though I’m not a cryptographer, every one that is whom I follow online swears by both of those protocols which have been examined and certified secure by top cryptographers all over the world.
  • Physical Security: The company has gone to extreme lengths to protect ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers to ensure their security. Critical infrastructure in Switzerland is located in a former Swiss army fallout shelter 1000 meters below the surface. Similarly, our Iceland infrastructure resides in a secure former military base. Our servers in Sweden are also located in an underground datacenter. By shipping our own equipment to these locations, we ensure that our servers are also secure at the hardware level.

Other Key Features Include:

  • Open Source: Goes without saying that their transparency level is very high and having their software reliant on open source software examination and certification is a big selling point for any of us.
  • No Logs Kept: Under Swiss law they don’t have to keep them so they do not.
  • DNS Leak Protection: They ensure that your browsing activity cannot be exposed by leaks from domain name service (DNS) queries.
  • Kill Switch: Their desktop and mobile applications come with a built-in Kill Switch feature which will block all network connections in the event that the connection with the VPN server is lost.
  • Tor VPN: ProtonVPN comes with Tor support built-in. Through their selected Tor servers, you can route all your traffic through the Tor anonymity network and also access dark web sites. This provides a convenient way to access Onion sites with just a single click.

Take a look at their pricing page. They have a free offering (which is currently shutdown due to the overwhelming response and signups this week) and I signed up for the “PLUS” level today since, as a current ProtonMail user, I got a bit of a larger discount on both ProtonMail and ProtonVPN as a bundle.

I need to end with this: I’ve analyzed more than a dozen of the top VPN providers and previously chose Private Internet Access (which I still have active since I’m paid through April of 2018) and, especially for the non-geeks out there, it’s still the easiest to use, they keep no logs, have the most data centers, and still has my strong recommendation.

But if you’re extra-serious about your VPN — or have specific needs to be highly secure when online — I’d absolutely recommend you immediately go and signup for ProtonVPN.

post

The Mystery of the Lexar SSD

It was a dark and stormy evening as I walked the aisles at our local Eden Prairie, MN Costco store. Imagine my delight at discovering a display selling a Lexar 512GB solid state drive (SSD) for only $124.99! Not only was this an unheard-of price for such a tiny little drive with a big capacity, the next-closest competitor last week was Samsung’s T3 500GB for close to $200 (available here at Amazon for $197.99).

When I got home I immediately tried it out and experienced the amazing write-speeds from my SSD iMac to this external SSD (44GBs transferred in just over 4 minutes). My wife took one look at it and said, “I want one!” so I went back the next day to buy one and they were all gone (and there were at least 50 available when I bought mine the night before).

No worries,” I thought. Figuring I’d find them online I searched and searched and searched. The only place I could find them were on eBay from some miscellaneous seller with lukewarm reviews (at a higher price too) and I’m not about to do that.

This is the smallest, high capacity external SSD drive I’ve seen yet.

Unable to find any of these drives anywhere but eBay, I finally tweeted to @LexarMemory to see if they could solve the mystery of these apparently unavailable SSDs and point me in a direction where I could buy one:

I connected with tech support and essentially received an “Um…I dunno” but a bit more information was revealed about these SSDs being available “in a limited number of stores.” With my experience working as a manufacturer’s rep in consumer electronics in the late 70s and 80s, it is highly likely that this SSD’s Costco appearance was a dry-run to see how this drive, at this price-point, would sell.

Based on how quickly these drives sold out this test was most certainly a success. That said, I’d strongly suggest that LexarMemory get a move-on rolling these drives out at retail since Western Digital just announced this tiny SSD drive (in three capacities: 256GB; 512GB; and 1TB) and they are a much more recognizable hard drive brand than Lexar.