"The Universe is a Program and you're just a Sub routine" ~ Saturday Morning Breakfast Comic - SMBC (Quote)
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Backups

I posted about perspectives yesterday, after an incident that occurred. And this got me to thinking about what would happen if I were in that situation. And after really contemplating it, I realized that I would be devastated by the loss of the the things that I have accumulated, but the irreplaceable things, like my pictures, the source materials for my books, and the code for my apps, would all be completely safe. Why would they be completely safe, because I have a backup of everything.

There are many backup strategies, but the one that is most common is called the “3-2-1″ backup strategy. It means, 3 copies of your data, on 2 different mediums, and 1 offsite. The three copies include, the original, and two backups. The original lives on your computer and changes periodically. The two backups should be stored on two different media. These media could be an external hard drive (preferably a bootable version), and maybe another, even if it is just the important stuff, on a USB Thumb drive. The last thing is that one of those copies of your data should be offsite. The reason you need an offsite backup is to prepare for the worst. You never want to have to use it, but if you do, you will be very glad it is there.

My preferred backup vendor is BackBlaze (Disclosure, there is a referral code in the link). Why do I use BackBlaze? Because it is only $5 a month for Unlimited storage. Yes, $5 a month. The backup is not just for your boot drive, but EVERY drive that is attached to your computer. The initial upload does take a while, but once the initial upload is complete, only the differential changes will be uploaded and these will be much faster.

There are a couple of features of BackBlaze that make it stand above the rest. The first is the ability to limit how much bandwidth is used. For instance, if I only want to allow the minimum amount of data to be uploaded, so additional bandwidth is available for other tasks, you can do so. When you adjust the slider, you will be able to see an estimate of how much data will be used at that speed.

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Additionally, you are able to pause the backups in case you know you will need the bandwidth for another reason. IF you manage to leave it off for too long, BackBlaze will send you an email stating that you have not backed up in 14, 28, and 60 days. BackBlaze will not only notify you if you have not backed up in that amount of time, but also if one of the drive that you are backing up is missing as well.

If you do not already have a backup strategy, go and create one now. The simplest way is to use BackBlaze, but there are many other solutions out there as well.

Perspectives

Life will always throw you curve balls to make you quickly change things. It is bound to happen at some point in your life. If you are thinking to yourself, “Life hasn’t thrown me any curve balls.”, then consider yourself very lucky. Because when it does, it typically puts certain things into perspective. An incident today certainly did that for me.

At about 8:30 this morning, I was sitting at work when I received the message that there was a fire at my Grandma’s House, that everybody is okay, but the place is basically completely gone. Here are some links to the stories about it: CBS2 Chicago and the Chicago Sun Times. It took me almost 90 minutes to get over the initial shock. I do not think I did much work for the first 15 minutes of those 90 minutes. During that 90 minutes, I did do work, but I was not completely focused like I typically am when working. The whole situation hit me pretty hard. Not just because my family was involved, that was obviously a factor and what could have happened, but because it was completely unexpected. The shock was not just the loss of the house, but the loss of the intangible things.

The fact that everything is lost is heartbreaking, but most of it can be replaced. The clothes, toys, computers, TVs, appliances, and the other things of that nature can all be replaced. However, as I sat and thought about it there are certain things that were lost that cannot be replaced. Most notably, the pictures. You might be saying, “but they are only pictures”. And yes, while true, many of the pictures were of my Grandpa, Aunt, and Uncle all of whom have already passed on. Those are irreplaceable. We do have other pictures, but that is besides the point.

A bit about the house, it was built in the early 1960’s, it as a ranch house with a basement. It was where my Mom, Aunt, and two Uncles were raised. The house had not changed much from when I remember it as a kid. I had lived there on two separate occasions, the first when I was between four to five and the age of seven. The second time was between 2007 and 2009. I have some distinct memories of the place. It is where I first got glasses, where I had gotten chicken pox, where I got a stuffed Rudolph the Reindeer for Christmas, where we played Track and Field on the Nintendo, where I went back to after scratching my arm in first grade and had to be picked up by my Grandpa, and where we spent many Christmases. The place holds a lot of memories and, thankfully, those cannot be taken away from me.

When big events occur, life is never the same. Life is certainly designed to keep us on our toes, and it has become rather adept at doing so. Sometimes I just wish it wouldn’t be so brutal when it does inject changes.

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NFC Payments: Apple Pay vs. CurrentC

Paying with Near-Field-Communication, or NFC, chips is nothing new. Google Android phones have had NFC payment capabilities for the past few years. Apple had not introduced the capabilities at its “It’s been way too long” event, last Month.. Last Monday, October 20th, it went live with the release of iOS 8.1. Some retailers, like Walgreens and Whole Foods began taking payments via Pay.

The way that NFC payments work is by taking the payment information, sending it to the payment processors, and receiving a tokenized version of the credit card information. This means that the retailer should not know your exact payment information.

One of the byproducts of enabling Pay is that some other retailers were also able to inadvertently enabled Pay payments on their terminals. A couple of these retailers were CVS, RiteAid, and Best Buy. Once they realized that his was occurring, these two retailers completely disabled their NFC payments. The stated reason that they disabled NFC payments is because they are using an alternative NFC payment method called CurrentC. Here is what it takes to use CurrentC.

  1. Scan QR Code from Payment Pad
  2. Have cashier scan QR Code that was generated
  3. Enter in your PIN

These seem simple. Here are the steps for using Apple Pay

  1. Tap iPhone on NFC
  2. Authorize Payment with Touch ID sensor

The number of steps are very similar. There is one less in the Pay steps. Now, let us look at what it takes to add a payment method to each. We will start with Pay.

  1. Scan Card with Camera
  2. Enter in missing information
  3. Enter in CVV code

Three steps, again, not bad at all. Now let us looked at what it takes for CurrentC.

  1. Click Add Payment button
  2. Select Checking Account
  3. Enter in your Checking Account Routing Number
  4. Enter in your Checking Account Number
  5. Enter in your Driver’s License
  6. Enter in Social Security Number
  7. Enter in other Personal Information

Wait, What? First off, Why should I be required to enter in my Checking Account information, Driver’s License, Social Security Number? To me, this is completely unacceptable. Even though none of the information is kept on the phone, nobody should be required to enter in this information. This is not secure. While the payment information is being tokenized, money is being directly debited from a user’s account.

The reason that CurrentC was created was to not have to pay any fees to MasterCard and Visa. With the sheer number of transactions that some of these companies perform within year, it is understandable that they would want to reduce these transaction fees. Now, there are a couple of issues with this approach. First, there is a clause in the MCX CurrentC agreement that makes the use of CurrentC completely exclusive. This means that companies who agree to use CurrentC cannot use Pay. The second is that this exclusivity is will exclude a significant portion of the population whom want to protect their privacy.

There are some individuals who are laughing at Apple users whom may be switching pharmacies or will not be frequent the retailers who currently support CurrentC. I take issue with this because the United States is run by large corporations. The best way voice your opinion is to stop shopping at these retailers. Even though whomever we vote for at the polls may not ultimately make a difference, if enough people opt to vote with our wallets, it may cause the companies to reconsider their exclusive use of CurrentC.

Addendum

The entire list of current retailers who use CurrentC is as follows:

  • 76 Gas
  • 7-11
  • Acme Fresh Market
  • Alon
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Banana Republic
  • Baskin Robbins
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • BuyBuyBaby
  • The Capital Grill
  • Chilis
  • Christmas Tree Shops
  • Circle K Gas
  • Conoco
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Dillards
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
  • ExxonMobil
  • Face Values
  • The Gap
  • Get Go
  • Giant Eagle
  • HMS Host
  • Hobby Lobby
  • HyVee
  • KMart
  • Kohls
  • Kum & Go
  • Longhorn Steakhouse
  • Lowe’s
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy
  • Michael’s
  • My Good’s Market
  • Old Navy
  • Olive Garden
  • Phillips 66
  • Price Rite
  • Publix
  • QuikTrip
  • RaceTrac
  • RiteAid Pharmacy
  • Sam’s Club
  • Sears
  • Seasons 52 Fresh Grill
  • Sheets
  • Shell
  • Shop Rite
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sunco
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Wawa
  • Wendy’s
  • Yard House
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Why Apple Still supports the A5 Chip

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I thought I would go through all of the iPads and give a fairly complete comparison of the current iPads that are available today. Also for comparison I am including the iPads that are no longer available. This table shows some information of each of the iPads.

no longer sold currently sold
iPad
Model
iPad iPad 2 iPad
3rd Gen
iPad
4th Gen
iPad
Mini
iPad
Air
iPad
Mini 2
iPad
Air 2
iPad
Mini 3
Released Mar. 2010 Mar. 2011 Mar. 2012 Oct. 2012 Oct. 2012 Oct. 2013 Oct. 2013 Oct. 2014 Oct. 2014
Processor Apple A4 Apple A5 Apple A5X Apple A6X Apple A5 Apple A7 Apple A7 Apple A8X Apple A7
Processor Speed 1GHz Single 1GHz Dual 1GHz Dual 1.4GHz Dual 1GHz Dual 1.4GHz Dual 1.3GHz Dual 1.5GHz Triple 1.3GHz Dual
Memory 256MB 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 2GB 1GB
Screen
Resolution
1024×768 1024×768 2048×1536 2048×1536 1024×768 2048×1536 2048×1536 2048×1536 2048×1536
Retina
Display
No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pixel
Density
132 ppi 132 ppi 264 ppi 264 ppi 132 ppi 264 ppi 326 ppi 264 ppi 326 ppi
GeekBench
Single Core
522 268 267 786 259 1492 1488 1811 1251
GeekBench
Multi-Core
N/A 505 503 1430 491 2701 2708 4513 2129

So what does all of this really mean? Honestly, the only items in this chart that really mean anything are the Geek Bench numbers. The reason these mean something is because the higher the number, the better the device performs. A good example is to take the difference between the iPad Mini and the iPad Mini 2. The single-core results for the iPad Mini is 259, while the multi-core is 491. The iPad Mini 2 comes in at 1488 for single core and 2708 for multi-core. These are significant jumps in performance. The biggest difference is the processor. It goes from an A5 to and A7. The A7 is two generations newer and just a better chip overall. The one thing that you will notice is that the A5 is used in 2 products, the iPad 2 and the iPad Mini. Neither of these support retina displays. The first retina iPad was the iPad 3rd Generation, which had an A5X, which could support the new retina display. Once we hit the iPad 4th Generation, which is the only iPad to have an A6 chip in it, of any sort (the iPhone 5 and 5C both use the A6 chip).

Developers were hoping that the iPad Mini would have been discontinued and would relieve developers of the burden of supporting the A5 chipset when iOS 9 comes out. But that does not look to be the case. Apple may choose to no longer support the iPad Mini with iOS 9 but only time will tell if this turns out to be true.

Why would Apple keep the A5 chip? Could Apple not upgrade the processor to an A6, to bring better performance. If Apple would have done this, it would have brought better performance and a better experience for users and developers. However, Apple is fabricating the dual-core A5 chips for their iPod Touch and it makes more sense to fabricate the same chip for both devices. Because both of these devices use the same processor, Apple is expecting developers to support the A5 chip.

Because Apple is still selling devices that include the A5 chip, the iPad 2 and iPad Mini are still supported with iOS 8 and iOS 8.1. If Apple is still selling devices that developers can build applications for, that has the A5 in it, Apple will likely support the A5 on iOS 9. I am hoping that they do not do this.

Halloween Movies

October is the month that many users start watching movies that are either scary, have zombies, are horror films, or are Halloween related. Here is a list of the ones that I tend to watch.

Parody
Shaun.Of.The.Dead Shaun of the Dead Amazon
Hot.Fuzz Hot Fuzz Amazon
Zombies
28.Days.Later 28 Days Later Amazon
28.Weeks.Later 28 Weeks Later Amazon
Dawn.Of.The.Dead Dawn of the Dead Amazon
World.War.Z World War Z Amazon
The.Crazies The Crazies Amazon
Zombieland Zombieland Amazon
Dead.Snow Dead Snow Amazon
Diseases
Contaigon Contaigon Amazon
Outbreak Outbreak Amazon
Horror
Scream Scream Amazon
Scream.4 Scream 4 Amazon
Super Natural
Knowing Knowing Amazon
The.Happening The Happening Amazon
Hocus.Pocus Hocus Pocus Amazon
Aliens
Signs Signs Amazon
Cloverfield Cloverfield Amazon
Other
The.Village The Village Amazon
Great.Pumpkin It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown Amazon

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