"Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. " ~ Steve Jobs - (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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Apple October Event Roundup: Software and Services

Apple’s October event was a big one. They introduced new iPads and updated one Mac and introduced another new Mac the last thing to talk about is software and services and with that, let us dive in.

iOS 8.1

iOS8.1

Apple introduced iOS 8.0 last month. In that time 48% of iOS devices are running iOS 8.0, and 47% are running iOS 7. The remaining 5% are running an earlier version of iOS. iOS 8.1 includes a couple of bug fixes and includes support Pay. iOS 8.1 will be available on Monday, October 20th as a free upgrade for all of those running iOS 8.0. The iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 should be running iOS 8.1. Besides Apple Pay, there are other new features for the update, just Pay.

WatchKit

Apple.Watch

At the September event, Apple announced their new product line, the Watch. At that time they also announced a new framework, WatchKit; they stated that it would be coming later this year. They were not incorrect when they stated this. At today’s event, Apple announced that the WatchKit framework would be coming in November to allow developers time to determine how best to support the Watch with their applications. There was no update on release date for the Watch outside of “Early 2015″.

WatchKit

Pay

Apple introduced its payment service, Pay, last month at their September Event. At that time, they stated that Pay would begin rolling out in October. Well, a date has been set, and it is on Monday, October 20th, and it will only begin in the United States. Apple has partnered with the three largest card issuers, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Also at the September event Apple stated that they were starting with the largest banks. In the interim, they have signed up over 500 banks. All of these will begin to roll out support for Pay this year as well as early next year.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite

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All Macs being shipped today, including the updated Mac Mini and the iMac with 5K Retina Display will be running OS X 10.10 Yosemite. It is available now in the Mac App Store and is available for Free. If you are running OS X 10.8 or OS X 10.9 Mavericks, you can upgrade right now.

OS X Server 4.0

OSXServer4

There was a piece of software that was not mentioned and that is OS X 10.10 Yosemite Server. It was also updated to version 4.0. Unlike OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Server 4.0 is not a free upgrade and costs $19.99. It can be downloaded from the Mac App Store. OS X Server 4.0 will only run on OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

iWork

PagesNumbersKeynote

One of the suites of software that was announced as receiving an update is the iWork Suite. Pages, Numbers and Keynote have been updated to take advantage of the features of OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Pages 5.5 includes support for Handoff, iCloud drive support, an updated file format, Apple Support for mail merge, and improved table support. Numbers 3.5 includes support for Handoff, iCloud Drive, an updated file format, improved table support, and the ability to easily resize and re-position charts. Keynote 6.5 includes support for Handoff, iCloud Drive, an updated file format, the ability to move and customize items in the presenter’s display, the ability to pair Keynote with nearby iOS devices by using Multipeer connectivity, and improved table support.

iWork is a free upgrade for those who have already purchased the applications. If you have not, you can download Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for $19.99 each.

GarageBand

GarageBand

GarageBand has been updated to 10.0.3. The changes associated with this are OS X 10.10 Yosemite support, Mail Drop support, a new Voice template to easily create a voice track, and the addition of audio-effect plugins. GarageBand is available in the Mac App Store as a free update, or $4.99 if you do not already own the application.

iMovie

iMovie

iMovie 10.0.6 includes an updated look for OS X 10.10 Yosemite, a set of new export options, including Audio Only, the ability to share a frame as an image, the ability to email HD video with Mail Drop, improved performance, and the ability for developers to create App Previews as well as screen capturing directly from an iPhone or iPad. It is available now in the Mac App Store as a free update, or $14.99 if you do not already own it.

iPhoto

iPhoto

iPhoto received only a very minor update to version 9.6. The only fixes are compatibility fixes for OS X 10.10 Yosemite. It is available in the Mac App Store for free.

Final Thoughts

Even though we knew that OS X 10.10 Yosemite was right around the corner, we did not know the exact release date. The unveiling of the Pay start date, as well as the accompanying iOS 8.1 update, will let users being using Pay on Monday. With over 500 banks that will be supporting Pay, it is quite likely that a bank near you will be supporting the service sometime soon.

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Apple October Event Roundup: Macs

At Apple’s event, they discussed iPads, Macs, and other items. If you want to read about the iPads, go check out this post. Right now, we will discuss the Macs. There were only a couple of updates to Mac, one somewhat minor, but the other being significant.

Mac Mini

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The Mac Mini, the lowest priced Mac in the line-up, was last updated in October of 2012, until today that is. The Mac Mini received a bunch of great updates. The first is that the lowest-end model is now $100 cheaper at $499. This is good news for those who are new the Mac, but before we decide if that is fantastic news, let us look at all of the specifications.

The second improvement is that they are now all running Intel’s 4th Generation Core series, codenamed Haswell. There are three models of the 2014 Mac Mini. The standard configurations all include dual-core Core i5 processors. Their speeds are 1.4GHz, 2.6GHZ, and 2.8GHz. The 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz models are able to be configured to use a 3.0GHz dual-core i7 processor.

The memory configurations start at 4GB for the 1.4GHz model, and 8GB for the 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz models. All three of these can be configured for up to 16GB of memory. These are still DDR3, however they are now Low-powered memory chips.

The Mac Mini uses integrated graphics, so with the upgrade to the 4th Generation chips, the graphics have improved. On the 1.4GHz model, this now includes Intel HD 5000 Graphics, on the 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz models use Intel’s Iris Graphics.

The port configuration on the Mac Mini has changed. The Mac Mini now supports Thunderbolt 2, which is capable of up to 20Gigabits per second. The Mac Mini no longer has a Firewire connection. In its place, is now a second Thunderbolt 2 port. With the second Thunderbolt 2 port, the Mac Mini is now capable of displaying two monitors running at 2560 by 1440.

Connectivity within the Mac Mini has also been slightly upgraded. The device now contains 802.11AC, which will provide faster wireless access.

The storage capabilities of the Mac Mini has changed slightly. The previous generation Mac Mini came with a 500GB 2.5″ hard-drive. This has not changed for the 1.4GHz model. The 1.4GHz model is configurable with a 1TB Fusion drive. The 2.6GHz comes with a 1TB drive, and can be configured for a 1TB Fusion drive or a 256GB SSD. The 2.8GHz models now come with a 1TB Fusion drive, and can be configured with a 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD drive.

The Mac Mini is available to purchase now, and ships in 1 to 3 business days.

iMac with 5K Retina Display

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The iMac with 5K Retina Display is a brand new 27″ device. Its biggest feature is the screen. It sports a 5120‑by‑2880 pixels, which is a total of 14.7 million pixels. This is 67% more pixels than standard 4K display. The 27″ iMac with 5K Retina Display needed some additional technology to be able to handle the number of pixels. The screen is only 1.4mm thin.

The first of these technologies is the Timing Controller, also called the TCon. This controller handles the coordination between all of the pixels on the display. According to Apple, there was no timing controller to handle the 5K display, so they had to create a custom one. Apple’s TCon can handle 4 times the bandwidth, and up to 40 Gigabits per second. This is the same speed as Two Thunderbolt 2 ports working in parallel. As a side-effect, the 27″ iMac with 5K Retina Display cannot be used in Target Display Mode. Now that the unique technology has been discussed, let us talk about the specifications.

The processor for the iMac with 5K Retina Display is a quad-core Intel Core i5 running at 3.5GHz and can Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz. The processor can be configured for a 4.0GHz (that can Turbo up to 4.4GHz).

The default memory is 8GB (which seems low for this model) of 1600MHz DDR3 memory. This is configurable up to 32GB. There are four ports that are user accessible, which is the same as the standard 27″ iMac.

The iMac with 5K Retina Display comes with a 1TB Fusion Drive and can be configured for a 3TB Fusion Drive or, 256GB SSD Flash, 512GB SSD Flash, or 1TB Flash Storage.

The graphic card on the 27″ iMac with 5K Retina Display is an AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 2GB of GDDR5. This is configurable to an AMD R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. This processor is needed to drive all of the pixels in the 5K Display.

The ports available on the iMac 5K with Retina are the same as the regular 27″ iMac. These include four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet, and an SDXC card slot. The iMac with 5K Retina Display is capable of handling an external display up to 3840 by 2160 pixels.

The iMac with 5K Retina Display is available today and begins at $2499 for the base model.

Final Thoughts

Even though none of the other Macs received updates, the one that was updated and the new one released have kept the Mac line fresh. The introduction of the 27″ iMac with 5K Retina Display brings an additional device in the iMac to the lineup. The 5K Retina screen option will be a great improvement for those who can benefit from the device. The updated Mac Mini will bring even more users into the fold. The biggest aspect of this may be the $499 price point. The biggest surprise is that everything is available today.

My Place to rant or cause mayhem