Sunday, December 20, 2015

Apple - branding is everything

Hey Tim Cook... when your marketing/branding team decided to change iPhoto to Photos you totally screwed up the internet. Well, to be more accurate, you screwed up your own support systems. Unfortunately Apple:

  • does not have a proper search engine on apple topics
  • has clearly obfuscated proper customer support responses from the public open source responses to issues
  • and made it impossible for me to correct my 50K images and photo albums
  • and of course Photos has a unrequited iCloud sync bug that has yet to be acknowledged or repaired
I might have to upload my photos to Amazon.

appscale - I really want to believe but I cannot get there

I really like the appscale approach. I do not know appscale's heritage and frankly it's not important for this article.
"I'm not an internet historian, I'm just a programmer"
Appscale is the open source version of google app engine and it has some promise because it supports the same APIs in many of the same languages. The difference is that while google app engine is a saas offering from google; appscale is a private cloud offering of the same thing. (installed on your hardware or cloud resources)

appscale is written in python and while that's ok because the appscale host [a] requires a more than bare OS with python and many dependent libraries. And where the API seems to fill the language there are many language artifacts in the core framework. Ruby just drives me nuts specially . Furthermore appscale predates the Golang model, however, a statically compiled C or C++ version of appscale should have been obvious. I'm not 100% confident that the API server is written in the same language as the client SDK but I did see many ruby files sprinkled in the code tree and it concerns me.

It is still a compelling platform because it's founded on many HA and DR principles that I really like.

Amazon Family Share - Win a Free Amazon Echo (not an advert)

A friend of mine has an Amazon Echo and after a quick 3 minute demo I decided I need one. My only hesitation is that it's over my sensible gadget highwater mark. This morning, while I was doing some browsing on Amazon I noticed a giveaway. (go search for the rules yourself).

The bottom line... to be entered into the drawing you had to:
  • have a prime account and listen to at least 30 seconds of prime music
  • have a trial prime account and listen to some music
Interesting.  My wife has a prime account and I'm a family member. So you would think that I qualify; but you'd be wrong. For whatever reason, whether it's the contracts with the record companies or Amazon greed, her streaming audio benefit does not extend to me. (although streaming movies is/are)

That's all very interesting because an Amazon Echo only connects through one member's account and yet it streams audio very nicely. It all sounds so non-sensical (if that's even a word). So I'm going to log into her account and play some music to be entered.  :)

PS: Barbara Walters did a show about the most interesting people and there was a segment on Amazon's CEO. It all sounds too good to be true. I'm sure some divisions are loss leaders but they cannot stay in business and continue to leak money as they suggest.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Open Letter to Skype, Microsoft et. al.


I use Skype, not because it's the best VOIP solution but because it appears to most as the defacto leader. The good news is that you seem to be working on features and bug fixes. The bad news is that every time I receive an update you ask me if I want to add more friends.

Stop asking. I'm never going to say yes
if I ever wanted to add friends I know how to let you crawl my address book

Finally... you need to get your browser WebRTC working. I'm tired of not getting Skype working on my ChromeOS desktop. Dragging my MacBook and my Pixel around is getting very old. (Skype for Android is not reliable as Bluetooth support only works sometimes).

Stop asking 'cause I'm not telling.

the replacements - iPhone vs Android

I the last 3 weeks I have replaced my Android Nexus 6 for a cracked screen and my wife's iPhone 6P with an un-diagnosed failure. Choosing to accept Motorola's refurbished replacement was easy as it was the only path for a cracked screen. The iPhone, on the other hand, was not as clear. The symptoms we had been experiencing were [a] the home buttone did not always work [b] applications would hang, restart and hang again requiring them to be deleted and then reinstalled [c] applications would just hang.

I had a 4:40p appointment with an Apple genius and while he was thorough and generous he was about to recommend that we reset and restore the phone. We talked about the tests he ran which indicated that the hardware was OK and that some applications had crashed. At first we did not review that apps but we soon worked our way back around. There were 5-7 3rd party apps that failed including my favorite; facebook. But then there were also some Apple applications and services that crashed.

After discussing the cause of the Apple services crashes and that we had recently (2 months ago) already performed a reset... we got a replacement phone at no charge. Just as an aside I spent $70 on a new USB cable and Tech21 screen protector; so I did not get off Scott free.

Now that the phone had been replace we had to restore the latest iCloud backup to the phone. That took nearly 90 minutes. There were no less that 7 tries and 3 resets and one call to iCloud technical support. It's interesting to note that this person [a] had no real tools to see what was happening with the connection state or progress between my phone and the iCloud servers [b] could not offer any real support or guidance as I had to muddle my way through things myself.

In the end I think I discovered that there is either a problem with the restore program when the iTunes account uses a legacy Apple ID; where the Apple ID is not an email address. or the restore program simply does not like Family sharing and an iTunes config before the restore... as I was finally able to execute the restore by "skipping" the iTines configuration until after the restore completed.

Two last things about the Apple restore. [1] the initial restore needs to be completed before the next operation whether that is before leaving the local WiFi or getting an incoming call or some other interruption. [2] the Genius told me not to leave until after the reboot after the restore completes. Actually there were a number of steps that needed to be completed before leaving. You have to get the phone back to the home view with the application restore initiated before you leave the comfort of the local WiFi.

- family sharing enabled
- wife is a member not the admin
- legacy iTunes Apple ID
- skip iTunes config until after restore is completed

PS one thing the iCloud person hinted about... the backup version and the restore version need to match (or be pretty close enough). Sounded like she was going to tell me that an iOS 8 could not be restored on an iOS 9 system. This could be very bad depending on the state of the phone to be replaced. My Apple genius never diagnosed that so this could have been a severe waste of time.

PSS The iCloud specialist had one trick up her sleeve, which we never executed. If I could not restore over WiFi then we would proxy my restore though a local laptop. (better for me to have my laptop local). I Should mention that a genius asked me to submit an iCloud support call from a public laptop that was not even in kiosk mode.

With nearly 7 paragraphs dedicated to restoring an iPhone and some things that went wrong. My recent Android restore required that I enter my username and password. Update the phone's core software a few times and then let the sync and application restore begin. It was by no means flawless but it was certainly not as complicated that the iPhone restore.

BTW: the Apple genius was not aware of the network issues with the Apple photo application.

iOS - in app purchases

There was a time when the Apple app store first opened that users were not able to share apps. Then you could share apps across devices with the same owner. Then there was family sharing, however, only the base purchase is shareable. In fact there are lots of rules now. The most reckless is being able to share free apps and then having to purchase in-app separately. One very useless app from Disney cost me $26 ($13 per child). This does not sit well with me.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Not Cheap Enough - Google

Several years ago I purchased the domain and connected it to the free google apps offering... the domain was taken by a domain squatter who would not take my offer; but that's another story.

Now that Google is getting serious about their hardware support and closed the free google apps product Google is trying to entice me to move over to the paid google for work. (They also cal it Chrome for work).

I use my domain for both my family and work communication. Maybe I should have more than one domain but this is no different than using my cell phone for company business. The telco has not adequately solved the multiple phone number problem so why should I solve the same email problem. I have one phone number and one email address.

There are a number of good reasons to buy into Chrome for work although I've prefer Chrome for Home or Chrome for SOHO. Remote deactivate, unlimited data, kiosk and signage features, maybe even monitoring my kids. (they have iPads too and we just configured our "family sharing" feature and it's passable for now.)

I have 3 chromebooks, 4 chromeboxes, 4 chromecasts, 1 chromeaudio, 1 chromebit and 1 android phone. Between the Chrome for work and annual device licensing I'm looking at $1130. That just seems unreasonable.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A kind word for Amazon Kindle

I wish I knew exactly what was involved in the tablet economics.

  • Apple is the boutique device to own and now with the "pro" model they seems to be encroaching on their own laptop market. However, since they also provide a bulk of the media consumed by the device you'd think they would employ a better razor/razorblade model.
  • Microsoft is kind of in the tablet market except that it seems to be dominated by 3rd parties and they do not offer much media.
  • Google is a leader in the Android tablet market but there is clearly some pricing challenges between Google and the other manufacturers. While Google offers good media choices the hardware prices are between Amazon and Apple.
  • 3rd party Android are questionable unless you get a Samsung and they toy pay a premium closer to Apple.
  • Amazon Kindle seems closer to the razor blade than anyone is going to get. I really like my Kindle Paperwhite and I think I would also like an HDR. The price of an HDR is $200 and they have discounts. Add an Amazon Prime account and most media is free.
The Kindle might actually be my next media device.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Best Application Performance Monitoring?

WOW! That question is way too open ended. It's almost like asking "what's your favorite color"? And even so the question was "build or buy?" and now it seems to be "build, compose, or buy?". Even so; there are still many levels of monitoring depending on what your business is:

  • bare metal performance
  • OS performance
  • resources (CPU, Memory, Network, Disk, I/O)
  • Container
  • Application and service
  • transactions
  • backlog
First of all there are no complete solutions. They cost too much. There are regulations in PCI and HIPPA. It's too easy to leak information internally let alone externally.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

retail dilemma

My wife's FitBit HR has become discolored by the dye in a new shirt. I reached out to FitBit, however, their support department is telling me that the only option is a discount coupon for a new device. They do not offer spare parts of any kind and I have not received the coupon so I do not know how deep a discount they are going to give me. In addition to the FitBit the Old Navy shirt damaged a manicure and undershirt. All told the damage came to $200. What are the chances that the parent company is going to authorize $200 against the original $10 purchase?

My Chromebit purchase is on it's way. Recently someone posted about what would be a good ChromeOS device for his 5yr old. I suggested an ASUS Chromebox, however, many others were yammering on about laptops. I thought a Chromebit might be interesting to function in a hotel room when traveling, however, that's not as practical anymore. Consider travelling with the family. Commandeer the TV and there would be a revolt. It could end up being an advance chromecast, however, I'm not sure I want to leak private information buy having an open chrome session in a public space.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Android vs ChromeOS

In the past few months there has been some press relating to the merging of Android and ChromeOS. There have been talking heads from all corners with varying opinions that likely have less to do with Google's failure and more to do with moving eyeballs to non-Google devices.

If Google elects to do anything in this space I strongly recommend starting with the requirements. For example; there is more compute horsepower in most smartphones than there is any of the Chromebooks. So why does Chromebook install a release in 9 seconds and a new Android release can take 20 minutes?

This past week Motorols replaced my damaged Nexus 6 with a refurbished device. First of all the model was exactly alike with the same AT&T crapware. Even though I had been in developer-mode on my damaged phone the closest backup was 41 days away. Android installed most of the Apps I had installed on the previous phone and most of the data that was managed in the cloud (mostly Google software) My only complaint was that I needed to install no less than 7 system updates taking 15 minutes each.

Keep in mind that the restore process was better than Apple.

I cannot say for certain but I think Google produces a baseline Android OS that the manufacturers tweak for the individual vendors; thus the horrible AT&T splash screen. It also means that releases cannot be merged without great effort and so I needed to reboot multiple times. On the other hand Chromebook manufacturers seem to adopt the OS first mentality meaning that the hardware follows.

Can this be confirmed or is it just my intuition?

binge watching the transporter tv series

while making my way into the second season; the first season was essentially true to the movie franchise. By the time the time the second seasons gets rolling a number of things happen:

  • handler quits (she had to. the missions were getting more dangerous and that was her fault for not vetting them)
  • mechanic dies
  • house is destroyed
  • opens packages
  • everyone seems to know his name
  • sleeps with all the girls except Cat
His friend the inspector spent a lot of time trying to arrest him, even though a lot of it was cat and mouse, he was still trying to arrest Frank. Now they seem to have a symbiotic friendship. I'm naive enough to say that I have no idea if this series is based on a book or comic book, which might drive the story line. At times the writers seem to portray him as slightly damaged but with the tilting of the windmill maybe he's seeing a therapist in his spare time.

PS: Besides looking more grey some of the fight scenes are not as crisp as they once were.

another bad day for open source

One of the hallmarks of a good open source project is just how complicated it is to install, configure and maintain. Happily gitlab and the ...