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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Solid State, Hybrid, and Conventional Hard Drive Technology

Many "semi-geeks" are familiar with the term Solid State Drive, or SSD, because the technology has become common-place.  For those of you who want to understand it more, or who love the details like me, I'd like to lay it out for you, as well as the various options we have nowadays.

The Hard Disk Drive

Starting back near the beginning, when the "Hard Disk" was invented, the hard disk drive consisted of a hard metal platter coated with magnetic particles.  (Fun fact: a Hard Disk is a kind of persistent storage - when the power is turned off, the data stored on it persists until the next power-on.)  This spun around on its axis, and an arm moved back and forth with strong earth electro-magnets.  Electrical pulses then altered the magnetic substrate on the platter's surface to store data - by using the magnetic polarity it could set one of two states ("north" or "south" polarity).  Without a current through the magnet, the magnet passing over the surface "read" the surface by magnetic induction - presence of a North vs. South-facing magnetic field in that portion translated to a "1" or "0" in computer memory, and the data was transferred into powered (also called volatile) memory, or RAM.  The computer then conducted its computations on RAM.

Computers still work exactly the same today as all those decades ago, but let's think about the limitations of a hard disk as I describe above.  First, how small can you make a magnetic particle, so that you can cram more data in a smaller space?  There is a limit.  Second, how long does that stay charged to the polarity, and how susceptible is it to changing, thus producing a difference from what was stored?  Over time, that likelihood increases, and computers use various techniques to introduce redundancy.  That takes some overhead of using some of the storage for that redundancy.  If the slightest bit of dust gets onto the platter, it ruins the ability to read/write on it, so it is sealed in a vacuum chamber.

Solid State Drives

Now, Solid State drives store differently.  They are similar to RAM, in that they use transistors to store 0/1 values, but they are non-volatile (i.e. they don't need a constant supply of electricity to hold their values).  In this respect, they are the same as your Compact Flash, SD, USB sticks, or other flash memory, but with SSD the response speed is much faster than even hard drives.  With no moving parts, they last a lot longer, are more reliable, and of course are much more expensive to manufacture.  (Think about this: the arm holding the magnet used to read/write the data doesn't exist, so it doesn't have to move into place mechanically on a SSD drive before it can read/write the data.  Data is accessed directly via electrical routing through transistors and gates.)  SSD's are interchangeable with hard drives - that is, they have the same plugs and can hook into the same cables, in the same sizes and screw mounts as conventional hard drives.

Another benefit of SSD technology, is because it is electronic instead of electromechanical, it uses a lot less electricity and generates a lot less heat.  But the cost is a lot more, around $0.50 or more per Gigabyte, as compared to $0.05 per Gigabyte.  For some, the speed (massively faster) and energy savings is worth it.

Hybrid Drives

Enter 2 new categories.  The first, is a hybrid drive.  Many manufacturers make, in a single drive enclosure, a compound of both technologies.  They have special circuitry that determines files you use most often, and puts those on the SSD portion of the drive, while files you access less often are stored on the platters.  In theory, this will give you the best of both worlds.  Bigger capacity at a more reasonable price, with better performance than a Hard Disk Drive.

For relatively small files, this is great.  Think about what happens when a hybrid drive "changes its mind" about where it wants to store a file - it has to move it.  A very large file, such as a virtual disk file for a Virtual Machine, may not get accessed for a while - say for a week when you don't use the VM.  But then when you do, the access rate alters, and the drive "decides" to move it.  Then, the whole system slows down tremendously while it waits for the drive to respond - and it can't until it's done moving the large multi-gigabyte file.  In these scenarios, Hybrid Drives are not very good.

The nice thing here, is you are getting a single piece of hardware - a physical drive, but inside it is 2 disks, one SSD, and one a set of platters with read/write head on a physical arm.

Fusion Drive

Just like a Hybrid Drive, Apple has, since OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, supported a software-hybrid drive they call a Fusion Drive.  At the OS level, you create what looks to you like a single drive, but behind the scenes it is composed of 2 physical drives (like a storage array).  I don't know how well this performs in similar circumstances where large files change usage frequencies, and thus have to be moved from one disk to another.  However, I would venture to guess it is not any better, because now the file has to move across a bus external to the physical drives.

Recommendations

If you have a computer with a Hard Drive, and don't care too much about its performance (it is just fine with you), then stick where you are at.  But, if you want it to go faster, I would suggest this order of priorities:
  1. If money is no object, get an SSD with the same size or bigger than the one you have.  Go for broke, you will NOT be disappointed.
  2. If you can squeeze by with a smaller capacity to save some money, stay with a true SSD drive.  For performance, you will NOT be disappointed.
  3. If you are buying a new computer, and have a choice between SSD and Hard Disk, go for SSD.  The savings in time and energy are tremendous - you will get significantly better boot time, things will run massively faster, and your battery will last a lot longer.
  4. If you know you can't afford a full SSD with the capacity you need, and all you deal with are small files, then a Hybrid (or Mac Fusion) drive solution may work for you.  If you deal with large files that sometimes don't get accessed, but when they do, get accessed a lot, stay away from Hybrid.  A conventional Hard Disk will be faster.
  5. If you like my article or blog and consider how much it has helped your life, you can donate to my Imerman Family Technology Fund via PayPal at jimerman@gmail.com - we will use it to upgrade our systems, and teach our kids about the technology.
Thanks for reading my blog, and thanks for any donations!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I just got an Android tablet!

SP717 Product Page
Yes, you heard right, the Apple Fanboy got a Droid.  But this is not the droid I was looking for.  It was a freebie.  Why did I accept it?  I plan on using it for app development.  Granted, this is some off-brand, and granted it is a low-end item, but brace yourself, because I am going to review it.  Here goes.

Brand

SKYTEX.  This seems to be a company that has targeted the low-end market.  However, at $75 brand new, they have to compete with the Galaxy Tab and Kindle HD which, for a few dollars more, I am certain are much better quality.

Unboxing

While this SP727 review seems to ooh and ah over the unboxing, it is absolutely apparent to me they have never unboxed an Apple product.   The packaging is a very cheap material (cheap grade of paperboard, plastic, etc.), and the design of the internal packaging is an obvious mimic of Apple's packaging - but without the nice feel, and without anything more than the most basic slip of paper for documentation.

Model and Specs

SP717, 8GB RAM, n WiFi, 1.3 GHz Dual Core Processor.  This whole "Dual Core" is all over the box, all over everything - like it is some big deal to be hyped.  Again, I ask you - what does specs have to do with anything?  Who cares if it's dual core - it is slower than snail snot.  Its sluggish performance reminds me of the old iPhone 3G.  The 800x600 screen is pathetic, like a kid's toy (think LeapPad), and the response to capacitive resistance is really sucky, because it responds to any touch, not just your skin (like the iPad).  I am amazed at the huge border around the screen - everything about it screams "I am cheap" - except the price.  By the way, the screen in real life looks nowhere near as great as the picture above on their web site.  Yes, I am comparing the bottom of the barrel to top of the line, but hey.  You are reading on!

The camera - please!  2MP back-end, and VGA front camera.  These are 15-year-old cameras (or more) in a 2014 model.  Pathetic.  They probably got the lot from the supplier for free, because it freed up their warehouse space.  And 8GB RAM is seriously pathetic - no device nowadays should have less than 16, and I applaud Apple's 16/64 jump to the next level up, I expect 16 will be eliminated soon.  True, it has a MicroSD slot, so that alleviates the pain a bit.

Hey, it does have a mini HDMI out port, so that is one nice thing.

The device is quite thick compared to competitors, and feels very cheap and not sturdy at all.  The screen bezel is a sharp corner, and swiping fingers across it, it feels like cheap plastic.  I contacted support, and asked them if they offered any protection plan - they don't.  I wouldn't either, it would drive me out of business!

This comes with Android 4.2 JellyBean (June 27, 2012).  Do you remember that?  From over 2 years ago?  How do I upgrade it?  Answer from support:  I can't.  They aren't planning on coming out with one.  So apps, security, bug fixes - forget about it.  (Remember - fractured market, lots of device manufacturers, lots of versions out there - and mostly none of them ever ever EVER get updated.)  In this day and age, that's inexcusable.

Buttons -  there is such a thing as well-designed minimalist, and this is not it.  This is minimalism taken too far - there is one button - a power button.  All the others are soft buttons on screen, which responsiveness, touch-feel, and everything else make me cringe.  This is pretty hard to use.  At first power-up, it was OK (took a long time to boot), but after sitting on standby overnight, when I re-activated the tablet, it was freakishly slow, took forever to respond to touches, and when it did, it responded to all the touches at once.  Even after reboot, it is slow.

The charger I was frankly REALLY surprised is a proprietary, non-standard very small round jack (1.5mm?), with a HUGE transformer end that plugs into the outlet.  It is not designed for the modern user, for someone who has multiple devices plugged into an outlet or outlet strip.  It does use one of the standard small USB connectors, but only for data, not for charging.  The battery life seems to be pretty poor, as I had it off overnight, and the charge went from full to 66% (this was hard to tell - I had to go into Settings, then Battery to see the percentage, instead of trying to interpret the tiny little icon on screen, which seems to show more than 66% if I look at it).

Let's get into the Apps.  It has the Google Play store, and what?!?  What!?  There is a SkyTex App Store as well.  With "thousands" of apps in it.  (Yes, that's what it says in the manual.)  Hmm.  Anyhow, I was able to download some apps from Play, and let me say - pathetic!  The way it handles app updates, it is up to you to proactively download them.  And find out about them.  I can guarantee any non-geek will not even think to do it.  But then again, look at the OS, they aren't concerned about keeping you up to date.  Or secure.

I was able to easily enough connect e-mail and calendars, but then again, I am using Google accounts.  It should.

They do have a backup service - online on the cloud.  But, there is nowhere I can go to see its status, verify that it did backup, and I have no idea how to restore.  There appears to be no companion app on a computer to download and help manage it, to allow me to back up and restore.  I mean, who would keep this thing any longer than a year or so?

I took a look at the Google Voice app, and surprise - I was sorely disappointed.  It is much easier to use and much more feature rich on iOS than Android.  The LinkedIn Pulse app crashed a lot, was not very responsive, but otherwise behaved the same as iOS.

Overall, I found Android 4.2 to be not user friendly at all.  This tablet - I personally woudn't have paid for it, but if I were so inclined to get an Android, I wouldn't pay more than $50 for it brand new, taxes included.  It isn't even worth that.

Conclusion

I accept that this is a cheap (quality) tablet, an unknown brand, and an old version of Android OS.  However, this is typical of the Android market - a myriad of hardware, a myriad of manufacturers, and forked OS from old versions.

I also accept that this is a bottom-of-the-line model.  It seems like the lowest level of components available as "manufactured new" today was chosen.

However, my overall experience has left me not wanting to use this thing, for gaming, for the Internet, indeed for anything other than what I have to use it for.  Certainly I do not recommend Skytex brand products, and the overall insecurity of the Android platform makes it hard for me to recommend it as a user.  As a developer, the fractured market makes it difficult to target your app development efforts.  Do you go for 4.2, and not take advantage of anything new in the past few years?  Or do you need the newer features, and thus eliminate portions of your target market?  Or, do you simply give up, and author it as a web application, hoping they will go to it from their browser?  Then, you have the myriad of app stores to deal with for one "platform" - and indeed, the lack of thorough debugging, testing, and community involvement tools available.  Frankly, the costs of developing for Android are much higher than iOS, and the reward much smaller.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Progress or the Appearance of Progress?

Recently, I worked with a customer to get our software to work on a Windows 8.1 workstation (for which I warned him it is not certified).  As a Windows expert for 27 years, I found Windows 8 actually quite difficult to use.  The IT expert I worked with found the same.  So, that brought to mind this topic.

With technology, there are I would argue two different reasons why an established, successful product would be changed.  In the first, what I term "Progress," innovation and redesign happens because it adds to the product in some way - it makes it more capable, easier to use, perhaps take advantage of newer capabilities.  However, the other reason would be progress for the sake of progress - nothing new is added (except look - it is shiny, and different - that's new).

As an example, let's look at operating systems.  Yes, Windows 8.0 - 8.1, Windows 10, and OS X 10.10.  For reference, I am using the vendors' own pages that provide information about what the innovations are in the new versions.

Windows 8.0 - 8.1

Why do I show 2 versions?  Because, if you look at the features, there is nothing substantially different between the two.  What is really new in 8.1, is that they fixed the stability issues that the 8.0 users complained about, and added back the Start menu that they took away and everyone found Windows harder to use. 

So, what is new in Windows 8 family?
  • The Familiar Made Better - that's arguable.  What they say, is that it runs your software (great...it better or nobody would upgrade),  it has virus security (so do all the others, and there is truly nothing new here except a bunch of confusing, annoying hurdles that in reality prevent an IT professional from doing the job they need to do quickly), oh, and they actually say you can use a mouse and keyboard - whoop de big doo doo!  That is innovative!  (sarcasm? what sarcasm?)
  • Start Screen.  This is the only feature, of all of them, that I would call innovative.  I don't think it is a good innovation, but that's merely my opinion.  Personally, I find the metro tiles of different sizes and shapes confusing to the eye - kind of like that newscast where stock ticker scrolls across the bottom, and headlines flash to the right, while the broadcast takes up center screen.  Anyhow, this, truly, is new and I applaud the innovation to try to revamp the interface.
  • Multitasking - very small innovations here come from stealing from other operating systems, namely Gnome Desktop on Linux and OS X.  Not innovative, and they don't add much more than a cosmetic access to your running applications.
  • Search Once, Go Anywhere.  A very small tweak on the Start menu search bar, now searches the Internet.  Meh.
  • Cross-Platform.  They claim that a huge benefit is to have the same Windows on desktop, tablet, and phone.  Listen, Android and Linux make this claim - and what do they end up with?  A developer writes an app - but what paradigm is it designed for?  If it is designed for one, it does not work well on the other.  An app designed for mouse and keyboard, is awkward on mobile, and vice versa.  An app designed for a phone, is shrunk and restrictive on a tablet, whilst a tablet app is crowded and unusable on a phone.
  • One Drive.  This is there anyhow, and anyone who has a computer (be it desktop, server, or mobile) can access One Drive.  How is this Windows 8?
  • Internet Explorer 11.  One area where Microsoft continues to make improvements (how could you not, it was so bad before?).  Meh.  I'm sticking with Firefox on Windows, Safari on Mac.
  • Skype.  Really?  An app, touted as an OS feature?  That rubs me wrong.
  • Windows Store.  It took years I am sure to get it set up, but that is also years behind all the other operating systems in the world - which, by sheer number of computing devices, have outstripped Windows and made it a minority.  I haven't used it, so bravo, Microsoft, for entering the 21st century.  In 2014.
  • Great Apps Come Standard.  Some were always there, while others, new to Windows, have been on other platforms for years.  I mean, like 10 or more years.  Haven't I ranted before on things I couldn't figure out to do, that were so easy on OS X?  It's about time, and still behind other platforms.
  • iPad Vs. Windows.  Very very very interesting here, that Microsoft is trying to tell you how theirs is better than iPad.  Not any other tablet, just iPad.  The very fact that they think they need to compare themselves to that, means you probably shouldn't bother.
  • Cost:  It costs $150 to upgrade to Windows 8.  Worth it?


Windows 10

While the adoption of Windows 8.x has been very slow indeed, and people may be very happy in sitting on Windows 7 and ignoring 8 - you may be surprised to find out that there is a new version coming out.  And it is not 9.  It is 10.  10?  Why 10?  According to  Microsoft, it is so different from previous Windows versions that they had to skip a number, just to show how different it was.  How is it different?  Other than retro, they now have one operating system that works on all devices - computers, tablets, and phones.  That's right - bloat the Windows footprint even more on the device you are using by adding all that junk for the other devices it doesn't need.  Great idea.  Cost to upgrade - meh.  Whatever.

OS X 10.10

In the newest Mac OS, named Yosemite, Apple has changed the look and feel.  A flattened look seems to be industry-wide (as with Windows), plus transparency in app window borders, are the types of non-progress progress I was talking about.  However, here's a feature list new in Yosemite, from which you can plainly see innovation and advancement:
  • Flattened look and feel.  OK, this is a stretch, but while not functionally better, it does give a consistency across mobile and desk/laptop that does enhance the experience across products.  I can see it, I'm not so warm on it.  I like it, don't get me wrong, just not a huge innovation.
  • Spotlight.  This is Apple's search feature, and they extended it to not only search Internet sources (not just Bing or Google, which you can, but also Wikipedia and Wolfram and others).  It also can perform useful functions - like math operations (5*325-83.55=) and others.  It's an enhancement - definitely not original, as Alfred still does more, but hey, it's a base OS improvement.
  • Powerful, built-in apps.  This is where Apple has always shined.
  • Safari.  Let's talk about a few innovations here that really are.
    • Speed and performance, like IE 11, are better than their predecessor.
    • Notifications are way awesome.  Web sites can now allow you to subscribe to push notifications on their site.  This is kind of like getting notifications on your phone, but from a web site to your computer via the web browser.  You get a pop-up when some news happens in the Notification Center, click, and it takes you to the web page.
    • Sharing - you can share between e-mail, messaging, send to your phone - right from the browser.
    • Netflix HTML 5 video, and more innovation that gets more battery life out of your old or new laptop.
  • Mail.  Cool new mail markup features, and these are awesome.
  • iCloud Drive.  Meh, yet another cloud storage, big deal - except it is integrated with mobile.
  • Messages.  The Messages app is now fully integrated with your mobile Messages apps.  On your phone and tablet, both SMS and iMessages can be sent and received from any device including computer, and they are synched almost instantly.  It rocks!
  • Handoff.  Truly innovative, this means that you can start something on one device, and pick it up and continue on another.  E-mails, documents, and more - start editing, and set it down, you get an icon on the other devices (phone, tablet, computer) to continue.
  • Cost:  It costs $0 to upgrade to 10.10.  Worth it?

     So, when you compare the costs, one thing does stand out.  Apple sells hardware.  Microsoft sells software.  Software gets you coming and going - while Apple, you buy it, you own it.  I'm so there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HD is the new i

As I've said before, there are trends in trying to monopolize on a letter (or in this case, letters).  HD, or High Definition or High Def, is used typically to describe the new video format used in Televisions and video screens, and is used for resolutions beyond the original NTSC and PAL formats.  I think what happens is Human nature - some new fad comes into style, and everyone wants to be in on it.  Every company wants their product to be known as exhibiting that.  Everyone who touts themselves as an expert, wants to use the new slang so as to be known as, you got it, an Expert.

There was the e-craze.  Everything had to start with a lower case e.  The i-craze we are in full swing - iHome, iCar, iThis, iThat.

Now that's all cool at catchy, you dig?  But let me hit you with this, dog.  HD.  It makes sense for video - and tells you that you have a higher quality of video.  It makes sense for audio, since it is clearer and more distinct tonal ranges than old audio transmission technology.  Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have Retina HD screens - OK, because they are higher quality pictures than the old Retina, and they already called them Retina.  It's a stretch, but it fits.  But let's draw the line at products that have nothing to do with HD and everything to do with fashion wanna-bes!

This morning, my wife said someone had posted on Facebook that she got new eyeglasses, and she was glad they were HD because she could see so much better.  HD glasses, is it Google Glass, I ask (dreading the answer)?  No.  Just glasses.  (Knew I shouldn't have asked.)  But some wonky eye doctor or lens maker or I don't know what, wants to capitalize on the everything HD trend.  Come on, what's next?  HD toaster oven (it toasts the bread in higher definition, dude!)?  Hon, let's go to Starbucks and get the Pumpkin Spice mocha latte HD.  And why was my alarm clock not HD, darn it all!?

Well, I'm signing off my HD keyboard, and giving it a HD click of the mouse to post this article in full HD.  Glorious!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Turn On your iCloud 2-Step Verification

Are you an Apple customer?  If so, to prevent hacking of your account, Apple has had 2-step verification to log on.  How this works is, you enter your user name and password, then it sends a code to one of your devices, and you enter that code.  You can then opt to trust that device (computer, browser, phone, tablet) from then on, at which point just your name and password are sufficient from that device only.

It is simple to turn it on.  To do so, navigate to http://appleid.apple.com/. 
  1. Click "Manage your Apple ID"
  2. Log on
  3. Click "Password and Security"
  4. Follow the prompts under Two-Step Verification.
What you will need is:
  • Your Apple ID and password
  • You must have your security questions and answers set up
  • Once you turn on 2-Step Verification (and you will receive notification of this on the web site before you turn it on), each app on your phone/tablet will have an app-specific password to access your iCloud.  This makes sure only apps you authorize can get to your account.  Also, you will have a recovery key - a sequence of letters and numbers - that you will need to remember somewhere.  I recommend placing it in your safe (a printed copy), or on a piece of paper in your wallet, or some such location.  You will get it from the web site, at which point you can print it out, then will be prompted to re-enter it to verify that you have it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Credit Cards Reinvented

As a consumer, have you had it up to here with hearing about how your credit or debit cards have been stolen?  How the major retailers where you shop have been hacked?  How Russia, in retaliation for the US' stance on the Ukrainian conflict, is stealing US cardholder info to use against us?

As a retailer or someone who works in retail, are you sick of hearing of it?  Do you live in fear that you may be hacked?

In the past week, my Google Alert has the following (excerpted) headlines:


What if there was something you could do about it - starting today?  Enter Apple, Inc.  That's right - the iPhone company.  The Mac company.  They have spent the past several years, working with American Express, MasterCard, Visa, and the nation's largest retailers, who are in the process of deploying a new system.  This system is called Apple Pay.

While many of us in the public may have missed it, or thought that Apple Pay was simply a trademark on a wireless way to use your existing card to pay without having to swipe it - it is a completely different animal.

What gets me upset, is a couple things.  First, it is the federal government's job to regulate industries to protect national public interests - especially in things like this.  However, they have done absolutely nothing about the massively exploding volume of identity theft.  That last item I pasted, that article does not even begin to address the root cause of the problem - that the payment system itself is inherently insecure, because you a) have to trust the merchant by giving them payment information, and b) have to have a secure means of transferring that payment information to the merchant.  Neither of which are built into the current system.

So, this year as Apple Pay ramps up, I will keep you posted as to how it works.  I have already inquired into my bank how to get the card registered on my phone.  Sound off in replies as to your concerns, or any questions or issues you want me to research.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Apple September Announcement Recap / Why you should switch to iPhone

Why You Should Switch to iPhone





Although it may seem small to the big bloggers, TechGeekJay has passed 25000 page views - it is a milestone.  As I pass that mark, Apple has released the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, respectively, a larger phone, and a tablet-phone (no I won't use that ph-word).  Here's a rundown of what Apple announced yesterday, and how I see it playing out.  If you don't have an iPhone, I have a list of reasons why, if you care about those reasons, you may want to switch.
  1. The new iPhones sport a host of technological improvements:
    • NFC (Near-Field Communications) offers radio-wave technology for nearby events.  Especially, this is to enable the new Apple Pay service.
    • Faster - crazy fast, apparently on the second generation A8 64-bit processor, there are twice as many transistors as on the A7, and it is smaller.  That is crazy.  And yes, more means a lot - more transistors in less space means better energy efficiency, faster processing, and more capabilities.
    • Better screen, what they now call HD Retina display.
    • More LTE antennas, means a lot of things.  First of all, it works with more carriers throughout the world, and second of all, they use new technologies like:
      • Faster throughput over existing LTE signals
      • VoLTE - If you are not familiar with how LTE worked before, it uses LTE for high-speed data communications, but your voice was sent over old 3G signals on the same cell tower.  This means on some carriers (namely Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile in the USA), you couldn't have simultaneous voice and data (can't talk while surfing), and it also means that 3G signals take up more energy than LTE to transmit/receive, so it uses up battery faster.  VoLTE means your voice conversations also take place over the LTE frequencies, so you can do more (yes, those of use with AT&T have been enjoying that for years), at a lower power consumption.
      • WiFi Calling - First with T-Mobile, and then with other carriers, this will revolutionize phone coverage for all of us.  Before, WiFi calling meant if you are on WiFi, and don't have a cell signal, you can make a call (with a calling app like Vonage, MagicJack, Skype, etc.) - but if you walk outside range of the WiFi, you're dropped.  Now, the new iPhone 6 uses a new technology to seamlessly transitions calls between Cellular and WiFi, using whatever is available to provide uninterrupted service.
    • Apple Pay - Lots of people have been touting NFC as a means of paying by waving a device at the cash register.  However, that does not address fundamental issues with the way people pay now, namely security and authentication.  In true Apple fashion, they have rethought (rethunk?) the process from the ground up - and come up with a secure rework of the entire Credit/Debit Card system, and put electronic payments into that framework (of course, with AmEx, Visa and MasterCard on board, plus a whole list of major retailers).  Let me run down why this is so revolutionary, because it may not be obvious at first:
      • First, is the card number.  This is one critical piece, if thieves have, they have a huge first step in being able to use your payment method.  Apple Pay does not use your card number, in fact it is not stored in the phone, nor is it transmitted to merchants for payment.  How do they do this then?  They create unique, dynamic transaction information that is unique for each transaction, so even if thieves do get ahold of those numbers, they can't do anything with them.
      • Security code, again is a thing of the past.
      • Magnetic Strip - as Tim Cook said, is 50-year-old technology, and prone to all kinds of issues.  Gone.
      • Name - another key thing thieves want, is the cardholder's name.  This is also not shared with the merchant at the time of purchase, so your privacy is protected.
      • Authorization - in order to authorize the payment, you scan your fingerprint.  Even if someone does steal your phone, they won't be able to pay with it.  And remember, your card information isn't even directly on the phone.  What is on the phone, is stored encrypted in a special chip that is segregated from the rest.
      • In order to register your card with your phone, you have to scan it, then go to the issuing bank and have them signify that you are the cardholder.  So, even a lost card cannot be scanned and used in this way.
  2. iOS 8
    • iOS 8 is the new mobile operating system.  To say that it sports a list of x00 new features is meaningless.  i-Device users know that iOS 7 was a huge, major rework.  Normal users won't notice this for a while, but I would argue that iOS 8 is a huger majorer rework!  But that rework is under the hood - imagine if you will, if you buy a new car that looks a lot like last year's car, but it has a completely redesigned engine and transmission.  That's iOS 8.
    • What's so new and groundbreaking?  Most if it is targeted at developers:
      • Extensions.  This allows developers to write custom apps that are not just apps, but extend what your device can do.  Custom keyboards, custom notifications (including interaction within the notification), custom file targets (new destinations you can copy files to), photo editing extensions, and more - these mean developers can develop custom plug-ins to extend the built-in functionality of typing, editing photos, saving files, and more.  This is not at all new - Android has had it, and other systems.  However, the way Apple does it is secure, and most importantly secures your privacy.  You can use these Extensions and prevent them from unauthorized access to your private information - in fact, the keyboard extensions don't have access to what you type, so they can't log passwords or sensitive information - and you can restrict their access to the Internet so they can't send data back to a site.
      • Opt-Out of Group Chat.  This, alone, if I were to single out any feature, makes upgrading to iOS 8 worth it.  But not only that, you can set a chat group on do-not-disturb, opt out completely, create a group from the chat, and send text messages to a group.  The chat interface has been redesigned, so there is a Details button now, that gives you an overview of all media in the chat - at a glance, you can see all photos, sounds, etc. in the conversation, and interact with them.
      • Chat cleanup - you know how your free space keeps going down?  Now, photos, sounds, videos, and all those large attachments people send you in Messages will go away after a while, unless you tap Keep.
      • Simple gadgets in Messages to record and send audio or video selfies.
      • Quick access to frequent contacts by double-tapping home button.
      • Interactive Notifications, so you can reply to text messages from your lock screen, remove notifications from the lock screen (so they don't keep buzzing you), and more.  Developers can write their own interactions as well.
      • A new Programming Language.  Apple has used "Objective-C" as the programming language to develop Mac and iOS apps for almost 30 years now.  They have spent the last few years taking modern language developments, and fashioned a new language, Swift, so that developers can quickly develop new apps quickly, reliably, and with whole new ways of developing that reduces development time while improving stability and reliability.  Having had exposure to about 15 different programming languages, and having worked with Swift for a month, this is hands down the best language I have ever worked with.
  3. Apple Watch
    • I have not worn a watch for many years, and would consider myself a non-watch-wearer, because I have no desire to wear one.  However, the integration of Apple Watch with the iPhone is epic, and the ability to use Apple Pay with the watch is truly astounding.  I want one.  I don't need one.
    • Again, not first to market - but BEST to market.  Apple took its time, looked at Pebble, Galaxy Gear, and others, and noted what worked, what didn't work - and what needed to work together.  They have made a smart watch that I actually want for once.
    • With Watch Kit (the developer offering) coming out, the Watch can only get better.
    • Some people wanted round faces - I'm sure that's coming, but hey, this is a first go-round.  The fact that you can swap out options and accessories means you can customize your own watch with ease, and probably never see another one just like it in your life.

My Take

  • Extensability
    • I see this as providing a long-term growth accelerator.  There will be, in the next year or two, an explosion in capability within the Apple universe (yes, like there wasn't already!).
    • Coupled with Swift, we will also see a new class of app developers who can pick it up more easily.
  • Apple Pay
    • Just what we needed!  Don't just do NFC payments, but rethink it - because my jitters over the past few years when people talk about Apple doing NFC payments are solely around having someone standing next to you, with a NFC scanner, while you pay for something - and if they hadn't rethought it, it would have been Identity Theft Heaven (or ITH).  I see this, more than anything, revolutionizing the antiquated credit/debit card system.
  •  Big Phones
    • Apple now has entered the large phone market - and with a bang.  Haven't I said before, they are not the first to market, but the best to market?  This will eat into Samsung and HTC sales.
  • Apple Watch

Why Should You Switch to iPhone?

If you care about any of the following aspects, I believe this is why you should switch:
  • Virus and Malware Protection - Apple has achieved massive percentages of in-use devices on the latest updates, and this is so important.
  • Security and Privacy - although many of us are cynical in this day and age, we are more and more vulnerable to surveillance and identity theft than ever before.  Apple has done more than any one company (or any 10) to fight that - with hardware security, a closed and monitored app environment, and thought out every last detail of everything they enter into.  If you care about your credit cards - transition to this form of mobile payments.
  • Digital Interoperability - almost everything in life nowadays works with Apple devices - including light bulbs, appliances, sprinkler systems, door locks, cars, appliances, and more.  But that aside, if you do give in and buy Apple TV, Airport Time Capsule, Mac computers, and more - it all works seamlessly to provide a robust and modern vision of digital life, one that enhances your lifestyle and enables you to more efficiently accomplish your pursuits.
  • Phone Size - if you are one of those tablet/phone combo people, you no longer have that to complain about.  Get the 6 Plus.  Me, I'm sticking with a more reasonable 6, going on order tomorrow.