“The name is Bond…James Bond.” Ian Fleming’s James Bond is back! Times have changed. The Iron Curtain has fallen, giving way to a New World Order, and the power plays of political agendas have been replaced by ruthless plots for profit. The war has changed…but the warriors remain the same. This 17th installment of the legendary Agent 007 involves today’s post-Cold War Russia and deals with the Mafia-linked market in nuclear weapons–with swiftly changing political patterns turning old opponents into new best friends…and old allies into deadly enemies.

Technology

  • Pluto

    Pluto

    Above is the latest photo that we have of Pluto. Below is how we saw Pluto in 1996. This is a big day for humanity.

    Pluto.1996

    As a note, here are some interesting facts about the New Horizons space craft:

    • Launched on January 19th, 2006
    • Has a 12Mhz processor
    • Traveling at 16.26 kilometers per second, or 36,373 mph
    • Used Gravity assist from Jupiter on February 28th, 2007
    • Has a 1kbps connection while out at Pluto
    • Latency is 4.5 hours for one-way communication
  • The Talk Show 123

    I meant to post this a couple weeks ago, but this is a really good interview with Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, and John Gruber.

    The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2015 from John Gruber on Vimeo.

  • The Tale of the MacBook Pro

    The Tale of the MacBook Pro

    So I made a decision to buy a new computer this year. After looking at all of my options I made the decision to buy a 13″ MacBook Pro. The decision was for a myriad of reasons. The first is that it is portable and I wanted a device that I could use on my deck and sit outside. I looked at the 12″ MacBook, but need something a bit more powerful for programming and being able to have multiple items plugged in at once. So, it was a 13″ MacBook Pro.

    With the MacBook Pro not being user upgradable, I chose to get 256GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. I ordered the laptop and waited for it to arrive. Once it arrived, I set it up and began using it. Last Friday, it decided to Kernel Panic while I was trying to do an update. It is not a good thing when any computer Kernel Panics but having a new laptop do so, is unsettling. After it restarted, I logged back in and attempted to do the updates again, and it Kernel Panicked again. It rebooted again and began kernel panicking again immediately.

    I looked into what to look at that could be the cause. After resetting the PRAM and SMU, and running diagnostics. The error message provided by diagnostics was “There may be an issue with the memory module.
    Reference Code PPM002”

    This is when I called Apple. After zapping the PRAM again, and resetting the SMC, the tech support person indicated that I should re-install OS X. So, I attempted to re-install OS X Yosemite. After three and half hours of attempting to re-install, I called Apple again.

    The second Apple tech support person had me partition the hard drive. This resulted in an error, specifically “An error occurred while preparing the installation. Try running this application again.” This led to the tech having me try and verify the disk and subsequently repair the disk. This also failed.

    The exact error message for this was “Disk Utility can’t repair this disk. Back up as many of your file as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files”. When this failed, the Apple support tech scheduled a Genius Bar appointment for last Saturday. I took the MacBook Pro to Apple, they attempted to re-install OS X again, and received the same error messages I got. So I left the laptop at the Apple Store to be repaired and they quoted me a four to five day turn around time.

    It has now been a week and I received a call today from the Apple Store. They tried to replace the logic board twice and it did not work. The issue appears to be the memory on the logic board that is the problem.

    The Apple tech gave me three options. The first is to return the laptop and order a new one. Option two is to have Apple order a replacement laptop, this option would take two to four weeks to come in. The third option is to send it off to the Repair Depot and have them replace everything that is needing to be replaced. This last option may take an additional four to five days, beyond the week it has already taken.

    While the first two options were both tempting, I opted to go for the third option. The laptop I ordered is the one I wanted to order. If I had compromised before, I probably would have taken option one and then gotten the one I really wanted. But I had already done that. While ordering a new one would get me a brand new one, it will take just as long to have it delivered. Hence, why I chose option three.

    If I did order a new laptop, I would not change the configuration at all, so in the end it does not make any sense to order a new one. The laptop will be under the same warranty even if I bought a new one. One thing I did not order with the original laptop was Apple Care. However, I did order it afterwards and I am waiting until I get my laptop back to add the Apple Care to the laptop.

    One possible decision to make, if I chose to return it, would be that I could wait even longer for the next refresh of laptops to order a new one, but that would not likely be until next year, and I need a new Mac now, not in a year from now.

    With having the laptop sent to the repair depot, you are given an option of picking up the device at the store or having it shipped back to you. I opted to pick it up from the store, since I do not know when it will arrive and it will be secure at the store.

    Once the MacBook Pro returns to the Apple store, they will test it to verify that it meets all of their criteria before calling me to let me know it is ready for pickup.

    Overall, this is how technology goes. While it sucks not having a laptop, the thing that I can say is that I would rather have this happen three weeks into having the laptop rather than six months into owning it, when I would be more used to using it on a regular basis. Also, this is why I get Apple Care on everything, I would rather have a device covered for three years instead of only one.

  • Impacts of Social Media

    One of the things that I do not get to do very often, is listen to a podcast live. Most of the time it is because they are recorded during the day so work interferes with listening live. There’s one podcast that I listen to every week, almost always after it is posted, is Accidental Tech Podcast. This week Marco was traveling so they recorded the podcast on Thursday evening, and for once I was able to listen live, because I did not have to get up early on Friday.

    In the after show, Marco mentioned that he has been pulling back from Twitter, mostly due to the negative comments and how he cannot have a conversation with his friends, due to the public nature of Twitter. I know I could completely relate, I too have been pulling back from Twitter. I still post and reply, but it is not nearly as much as I have in the past. I went through a week of not posting, my thoughts about that are here.

    This got me to thinking, what is the impact of social networking on society. Before we delve too deep into that topic specifically, let us pull back and look at the Internet as a whole.

    The Internet provides a multitude of things, it provides an easy way to connect to people whom you never would have met otherwise, collaboration, the ability to find people whom you have lost touch previously, and the ability to access more information than one can consume in a multiple lifetimes. However, it also brings some downsides. These include anonymity, disassociation, and the ability to reenforce your own agenda. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a selection. We are going to look at the impacts of social media, which means looking at the downsides.

    Anonymity

    The biggest thing that the Internet, and hence social media, bring is the ability to be anonymous. Anonymity is not all bad. Under certain political regimes, being able to be anonymous is a benefit. In certain cases, it protects you from being persecuted for thoughts as well as being a barrier for identification, as in a whistleblowing source, among other benefits. However, it also allows individuals to hide behind a false identity, just for the sake of hiding behind a false identity and to remain anonymous.

    Disassociation

    The way that we interact with the Internet and World Wide Web (yes, they are different), is through a screen. This interface while currently our primary means of interaction, also brings the downside of distancing ourselves, on a subconscious level, from those on the other end of screen. This disassociation can impact those on the receiving end of something you say. Now, this leads to the discussion of social media in particular.

    The Discussion

    During the discussion, John brought up the idea that, drive by trollers as we will call them, is akin to having somebody randomly walk by and say “You Suck” from the sidewalk while you are having a conversation on your front porch. I think this is an apt analogy to the way that some people act on the internet.

    Do not get me wrong, nobody is perfect. Everybody has their good days and their bad days. I am sure we have all sent off a reply, or comment, to something somebody posted without taking a step back and thinking about how it might affect them. I know I have been on both sides of this situation. Despite this, there is a certain segment of the population whom will always attempt to find somebody who does not agree with their position and they will say something mean spirited, just because that person does not agree.

    We all have positions, regardless of how these are formed (my positions are based upon fact, not beliefs), these are the positions that we hold. We are all allowed to disagree. However, saying something negative just to be negative is not constructive nor helpful to anybody.

    The biggest aspect that negative commenters forget is that there is a human on the other side of the screen. This person feels just as much as you do. The best way to put it is through the chorus of the song Human by the Pretenders.

    Well there’s blood in these veins
    And I cry when in pain
    I’m only human on the inside
    And if looks can deceive
    Make it hard to believe
    I’m only human on the inside

    As a note, I will be using Marco as an example during this, only because it was discussed during the after show. This could apply to anybody. I am not suggesting that Marco do any of this. It is up to him to decide how best to proceed and find what works best for him.

    The fact that Marco is pulling back, due to the negative comments, and having it be more difficult to have a conversation with his friends on twitter, is a natural reaction. If someone, or some group, is acting in a way that causes you to not enjoy what you are doing, then you need to stop doing it. Either that, or find a way to come to peace with the issue. This is not fun at all, because the actions of somebody else are causing you to no longer enjoy something you previously enjoyed. One can only takes so much before they end up breaking. This reminds me of the chorus from another song. This one is by the artist Thompson Square. It is titled “Glass”.

    We may shine, we may shatter,
    We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
    We are fragile, we are human,
    We are shaped by the light we let through us,
    We break fast, cause we are glass.

    Possible Solutions

    For this example, let us presume that Marco stops using twitter except to post tweets from his blog and updates to Overcast his podcast application. One of the ways that Marco could change would be to move to another discussion mechanism. This could be another social network, say app.net, forums, slack, a private blog or any other mechanism that would meet his needs.

    There are some downsides to this. The first is that not everybody would join that medium. The second is that it would become yet another place for all of his friends to check that on top of the existing mechanisms.

    Alternatively, he could just revert to using something like Instant messages, or SMS, but this has a downside to being a one-to-one relationship, and would be excluding most individuals due to this. A group solution like Group SMS would work, but that can quickly become intrusive and unwieldy.

    Another solution could be to use a group Facebook chat. The downside to this is that it is Facebook and some people may not have a Facebook account and trusting Facebook can become a dicey and divisive answer.

    I suggest this last possible solution only because it would sound like something Marco might do. That solution is to come up with his own app that creates a private Twitter that only those that he wants to invite, would be able to use.

    Possible Solutions for Twitter

    One of Marco’s arguments is that due to the public nature of Twitter, he cannot just have a conversation with his friends over Twitter. There may be a solution, but this would have to come from Twitter because of the nature of the solution. The solution is to have a new type of tweet. For lack of a better term, I will call it the “Following Only” tweet.

    This type of tweet would only be visible to those whom the poster follows and nobody else. This type of tweet would not be re-tweetable and all replies would only be seen by those the original poster follows.

    An one alternative there could be a different type of tweet, the “no-reply” tweet. This type of tweet would be one that does not allow replies, period. These could just be things that you want to post just to post.

    A second alternative, could combine aspects of the previous two concepts. This could be called the “Only Following Reply”. The tweets themselves could be public, but only those that the poster is following could reply to the tweet. This would allow the tweet to be public, but would not invite the “drive by trollers” to comment.

    Do not get me wrong, creating either of these types of tweet would be a technological headache, as well as a nightmare for the user interface. However, once created it could have immense positive impacts not just for the users, but for Twitter as a brand.

    It could allow a new set of interactions and provide a new dimension to the Twitter service.

    Only Solution

    Sadly, you cannot change other humans. The only real solution for this, which is already in place, is to provide a mechanism for “Verification”. Twitter has the idea of a verified account. These accounts have more granular controls than standard twitter users. This, I think for somebody like Marco, John and Casey, would be beneficial, even if there was an up-front monetary cost for becoming verified.

    If Twitter offered this service for everybody, I do not know if I would sign up for it, because I do not have the reach that the hosts of ATP do, but it would be something that I would consider signing up for.

    Final Thoughts

    If you have any social media account, it behoves you to think about the following: First, there is a real person behind that account. Second, you do not always know their circumstances nor how what you say will affect them. Three, if you are just going to post something to be mean or because you disagree and you are not being constructive, think twice about posting it. It will likely not be helpful and will only end up making you look bad. There is already enough animosity in the world. There is no need to create even more.

    Post Script

    I mentioned Marco in a couple of tweets, apologizing for something I said back in his Build and Analyze days. It’s not likely that he remembers it, but I know it was not nice to say, and it was said in haste. I would like to publicly apologize to him here. I know what I posted probably had no effect on his current feelings. Regardless, it was not appropriate to say at the time, and would not be now. Now, I can see that it was just Marco being Marco, but that does not make it right.

  • Podcasting: Odd World News

    Podcasting: Odd World News

    I have been listening to podcasts since April 2005 when podcasting was just getting started. As I wrote that last sentence I realized that it will be a decade in a few months. During that time, I have had the idea of doing different podcasts, but I never had the motivation to do so. Most of my ideas for podcasts relate to doing a podcast about Apple. However, that realm is already well covered with Connected and Upgrade on Relay.fm, Accidental Tech Podcast, MacOSKen and Resolve, the latter which focuses on the Watch. While I could do another Mac podcast, it would just get lost in the shuffle since I am not a well known figure in the Apple news world.

    Instead, I opted to cover Odd News from around the World. Yes, Odd News. General news is covered by a number of places, but the strange news that occurs does not always get enough attention. So, I am trying to change that through podcasting. My podcasting setup is as follows. I use a Blue Yeti Microphone – Blackout Edition, a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 Professional Headphones (Black) for listening back, QuickTime Player to record the audio, and Garageband to edit the audio.

    At some point this year, I plan on getting Apple’s Logic to be able to do better editing and will likely subscribe to Lynda.com to learn all about it.

    The podcast is hosted on the same server as my other sites. You can find the podcast website at oddworldnewspodcast.com or in iTunes. At the moment Episode 5 was just posted yesterday. The episodes typically come out on Saturday. The podcasts themselves are not very long, but that is the intention. I may do other podcasts at some point, but for now this one is enough.

  • Sony Pulls ‘The Interview’

    Sony Pulls ‘The Interview’

    Back on November 24th, 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked. All of the Sony Pictures information was stolen, including, but not limited to current and past employees Social Security Numbers, the amount actors and actresses were paid for a particular film. The hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment was due to the release of their movie titled The Interview.

    The premise of the The Interview is that two individuals are assigned to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Un. The source of the hack has been rumored to be North Korea, due to movie being released. Today we learned that North Korea was indeed the source of the hacking. Subsequently, Sony Pictures has decided to pull The Interview for its December 25th release date. The statement from Sony Pictures is:

    In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

    Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

    While it is sad that Sony Pictures has to pull the movie, it is entirely understandable why Sony has chosen to do this. There have been some good responses by individuals on Twitter regarding Sony Pictures pulling the movie.

    https://twitter.com/thefergusclan/status/545367682174824448

    https://twitter.com/avocadogreta/status/545371488757755904

    https://twitter.com/RiskyLiberal/status/545371383933317120

    https://twitter.com/erielledelzer/status/545371285883072512

    https://twitter.com/kgal1298/status/545372395381342209

    https://twitter.com/coyotekanye/status/545372859233624065

    https://twitter.com/BlantonMcKenzie/status/545373266487939072

    https://twitter.com/kjhealy/status/545367741683613696

  • Backups

    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.

    BackBlaze.Screenshot.10282014

    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.

  • iOS 8.0.2 is out

    iOS 8.0.2 is out

    Apple has released iOS 8.0.2. This comes one day after the release of its buggy iOS 8.0.1 update.

    The list of items fixed in this release are:

      fixes an issue in iOS 8.0.1 that impacted cellular network connectivity and Touch ID on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

    • Fixes a bug so HealthKit apps can now be made available on the App Store
    • Addresses an issue where 3rd party keyboards could become deselected when a user enters their passcode
    • Fixes an issue that prevented some apps from accessing photos from the Photo Library
    • Improves the reliability of the Reachability feature on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
    • Fixes an issue that could cause unexpected cellular data usage when receiving SMS/MMS messages
    • Better support of Ask To Buy for Family Sharing for In-App Purchases
    • Fixes an issue where ringtones were sometimes not restored from iCloud backups
    • Fixes a bug that prevented uploading photos and videos from Safari

    iOS 8.0.2 is recommended for all users of iOS 8. You can download iOS 8 through iTunes or directly on your iOS device by going to Settings -> General -> Software Update and once the update is detected, click on “Install”.

  • Two-Factor Authentication

    Two-Factor Authentication

    One of the hardest things to do with the Internet is protect your information. The most common way to do this is to employ a username and password scheme. This technique can, and does work, it is not often the most secure. There are techniques to employ a T-N-O, or “Trust No One”, security model. However, for most users this is a bit too cumbersome to setup and maintain. There is a somewhat “happy” medium. It’s called “Two Factor Authentication”.

    The basic user and password scheme is only one factor. It is considered one factor because the username, and possibly an email address, are typically viewable to all users of the site that you are using. Two-Factor authentication is where you add an additional “factor”, or method, for authenticating. A password is “something you know” and when you use enable two-factor authentication, the second factor is almost always “something you have”. This second factor can be a key fob, or very commonly, a phone. The device With some services, this can be done either by app or by an SMS message.

    The reason one would enable two-factor authentication is to protect their information. When two-factor authentication is enabled and if someone does manage to obtain your username and password, they would need that “something you have” object to be able to complete the login. There are many services that are now offering two-factor authentication for logins. Some of these include Microsoft’s Live.com service (including Hotmail and Xbox logins on the web), Google, Apple, and many many more.

    In case you have missed it, there were many celebrities whom had their iCloud backups retrieved by users. While Apple had previously allowed users to enable two-factor authentication it did not extend to their backup service, iCloud.com. Apple’s two-factor authentication now extends to iCloud.com logins as well. Those who stole the pictures were able to retrieve the photos from the celebrities iCloud backups.

    Those who stole the pictures were able to access the information by resetting the user’s password and were able to easily guess the user’s “security questions”, because the answers to the questions is information that is easy to locate, given that they are individuals who are more easily recognized and are higher profile. Now, after you have enabled two-factor authentication for iCloud, you will be required to enter in a code sent to you via one of the mechanisms that you registered. When somebody does log in to your iCloud account on a non-recognized browser or device, you will receive an email stating so. If they are able to successfully login, then it is time to change your password, and deregister any devices that you may have an re-register them.

    Enabling two-factor authentication will add a bit more complexity when you login, however given the benefits, it is well worth the cost of having a slightly more annoying login process.

    Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 6.46.33 PM

  • Cell Phone Upgrade Fees

    iphone6-select-2014

    Many people in today’s modern society enjoy getting a new gadget. The most common gadget that many users purchase, and upgrade at a somewhat regular frequency, is their cell phone. There is an ever increasing number of cell phone users. Being in the United States it should not surprise anyone that cellphone companies want to maximize their profits. In the United States there are four major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. There are many smaller and regional carriers that exist. But we will focus on the largest four.

    When a user picks out a new cell phone, there are many things to consider. The biggest two are the initial cost of the phone and the price of the ongoing monthly cell phone bill. With it being September, let us use an example of a new iPhone 6, presuming you get it on day one. Here is the minimum costs per month on each carrier:

    64GB iPhone 6 and the 1GB, or closest, per month data plan with a standard 2-year contract.

    Carrier Upfront Cost Total Monthly Total 2 year Cost
    AT&T $299.99 $65.00 $1859.00
    Verizon $299.99 $80.00 $2219.00
    Sprint $299.99 $70.00 $1979.00
    T-Mobile $109.99 $77.08 $1959.91

    This is what the cost would be over the course of two years, if you start with a new phone plan. There is one thing not listed in the table above. That is the “activation” fee. The activation fee is an additional fee that most cell phone providers charge to activate a new phone. While this can be somewhat understood, if this was 1999, in today’s world this makes no sense. If a person had to physically activate a new device by putting entering the device information into a database and it took even 30 minutes, a $20 activation fee would make sense. But this is 2014 and this is no longer the case. The device is automatically activated when registered and, in most cases, takes a couple minutes to enter in the information. There is no way that it costs $40, or more, per phone to activate.

    When you purchase a traditional 2-year contract, the price of your phone is being subsidized by the phone company, and hence why there is a contract. Over the length of the contract, typically 2 years in the United States, the price difference between what you paid upfront, and the remaining cost of the phone, is paid for by your monthly bill. There have been some changes by the carriers, as of late, where you can effectively pay for your phone with a monthly fee that is not necessarily tied to your monthly phone service bill. Besides, the activation fee there is another fee that providers charge. The “upgrade” fee.

    AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all charge customers an “upgrade” fee. An upgrade fee is incurred when a user replaces a device at a subsidized price. In theory, this should make sense. But in practice it does not. The thing that does not make sense with this “upgrade” fee is that there it serves no purpose other than to generate revenue for the company. Just like the activation fee, the upgrade fee is merely a profit making feature. While one could possibly argue that the cell phone company has to cover the possible difference in price between when a user upgrades and the total price for renewed contract. But this is just load of crap. The “upgrade” fee is merely there to generate more profit for the provider.

    With so many people in the U.S. upgrading their phone, cell phone companies stand to generate a significant amount of profit just from upgrade fees. With over 4 million iPhones sold worldwide, let us presume that 500,000 of those were in the U.S. Here is a chart with how much each company stands to make, in pure profit, from activation or upgrade fees.

    Carrier % of Total Market % of 500,000 % Subsidized (95%) Upgrade Fee per device Total Profit
    AT&T 33.9% 169,500 161,025 $40.00 $6,441,000
    Verizon 35.8% 179,000 170,050 $30.00 $5,101,500
    Sprint 15.7% 78,500 74,575 $36.00 $2,684,700
    T-Mobile 14.6% 73,000 0 $0 $0

    As you can see, presuming 450,000 upgrades and new accounts the total profit that the carriers stand to make just from activation and upgrade fees for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is a total of $14,227,200 between the largest three. T-Mobile users pay full price for their devices, and T-Mobile does not charge an upgrade fee. The guess of 500,000 orders being in the United States, is merely my own guess. The percentage of the market is based on reported subscriber count, obtained from wikipedia.

    As long as we keep paying for these subsidized phones, the phone companies will continue to keep charging us these upgrade fees. If we all purchased unsubsidized phones, the market may become a largely different place. However, given the retail price of phones, it is not likely that all phone users will begin to pay for unsubsidized phones any time soon.