Moving from Android to iPhone 6S : First Impressions

I recently moved back from using a Samsung Note 2 for almost 3 years to a brand new iPhone 6S plus phone. Before my Note 2 I had a iPhone going back all the way to the original iPhone.

Why did I originally move to Android ?

Mainly because of the big screen and me being a voracious ‘binge sf reader’. iPhones didn’t offer large size screens at that time, and my eyes are having more and more difficulty reading tiny texts. Using a large screen and larger sized fonts on the Kindle app solved that problem for me and converted me to the big phablet phones.

Also, I became bored with my iPhone. Everything I could want was in there, but all the settings have been pre-selected by someone else. I wanted to see what I could do more with an Android.

While I definitely enjoyed tinkering with every Android setting possible, there came a time when I wanted to move back, especially when the iPhone 6 came out with the large screen variant.

The reasons why I moved back to an iPhone 6S Plus

  • The slowness of my existing phone: After using my android phone for almost 3 years, it became so very slow that I wanted to throw it at the wall. Having your phone ring and not being able to answer the call because the swipe you make takes 20 seconds to be recognised (and the caller has already hung up) is a major issue for me. Starting up your camera and waiting 10 seconds for it to come up ? Too much. I know that I could get some speed back by reinstalling, but really, this is not how it should work.
  • Not getting the 4G network: only 3G was possible. This is slowwww when you know that 4G is out there if you have the right phone.
  • No upgrade : almost every iphone gets an upgrade to the latest iOS for several years after. Not so with Samsung phones, which, due to the extra stuffing Samsung puts in, gets -maybe- one OS upgrade, and then almost a year after the upgrade originally came out. Then they promise another one, but never deliver. Anybody wanting to go for an Android phone, take a Motorola or Nexus phone, they upgrade easily.

Things that I noticed immediately on my iPhone

I’ve put a positive or negative score next to each item, to indicate how ‘bad’ I feel this is.

  • (–) No individual sound levels for sounds are available (eg. the alarm clock and the ringer share the same volume) !
  • (—) Worse, a bug that makes it that when you select ‘no sound’ for the alarm, only vibrate, the vibrate does not work!
  • (+++) The blazing speed of the new A9 chip !!
  • (+) Using 4G instead of 3G is nice, but to my surprise it is only a little bit smoother.
  • (+++) Integration with iTunes and Mac OS X in general is just so smooth and it. just. works. Photos sync, music syncs…
  • (-) Still no sd card integration, you must pay a premium for using the integrated memory, but I knew this already
  • (+) “Hey siri” works, but I don’t use it too much, not yet integrated in my old mind.
  • (++) Logging into your phone with the touch of your finger – nice !
  • (+++) Quickly checking the picture you have just taken – bliss !

Honestly, the thing that I could hardly believe was the alarm clock volume that is not separate from the ringer volume.

This new phone of mine can do just about anything, yet the alarm clock sound is stupidly fixed to the same volume as the ringer sound ! I kept looking for a setting that I missed, but no, forums confirm that this is not possible with the default alarm clock. It’s linked to the ringer volume.

I’m definitely not the only one having this problem… and meanwhile, in Android each app has it’s own volume setting.

Sure, there are plenty of third party apps out there that do, as well as workarounds. But really, for this expensive piece of integrated hardware and software to not have a user-optimised ‘John Ive’-fixed-it-for-you-way of doing this is beyond the pale.

Conclusion

I’m quite happy with my new iPhone 6S, it has wondrous new features and incomparable speed to my old phone, yet at the same time I’m stumped that basic things like individual sound volume didn’t get fixed or better said, *still* haven’t been fixed. All in all, it’s still a big improvement over my old phone and I enjoy using it every day, hopefully for the next few years !

UP24 and why I will buy a Fitbit next time

TL;DR The design flaw of the UP24 makes for a product that breaks easily and cannot be repaired. It is too expensive for what it delivers.

Last year, the second of July 2014, I bought an activity tracker from Jawbone, called the UP24. It was very stylishly made in matt black plastic. It performed well and has made me realise I need to move more. So far so good.

But now, less than a year later it is broken. The plastic is deforming at both ends, the small status light no longer works, battery charging is nearly impossible because the connector is loose and the button on the other end no longer works.

It has become just a piece of dark plastic that I will probably have to throw away. 150 euros down the drain (it currently sells for 129 euros, fyi).

My colleague, who has a Fitbit, recently broke his plastic bracelet. Rather than buying a new activity tracker, he just bought a new bracelet for about 30 euros. Still a lot of money for a plastic bracelet, but a whole lot cheaper than buying a new Fitbit.

The Fitbit itself is just a small device inside the bracelet, so he transfered it into his new bracelet. While he paid 30 euros for the bracelet, at least his is still functioning. At least he had the choice to replace it whole or in part.

I love the app, I love the functionality. But I don’t like throwing money away.

The next activity tracker will need to be sturdier, and/or be able to be repaired or have similar functionality like the Fitbit. So the next activity tracker unfortunately for Jawbone, won’t be anything from them.

SquareUp accepts CHIP cards now – will it be enough to get back on track ?

It seems that Square has seen the light, perhaps sooner than the rest of the US : swiping your card is showing to be more and more to be a security and fraud risk. In 2015, all new cards in the US will contain an EMV chip.

This is the reason why I wrote on this same blog in 2011 that Square wouldn’t be able to work in Europe in it’s current configuration

So a few weeks ago, they introduced a new cardreader that can accept EMV Chip-enabled cards. The EMV page contains some worthwhile statistics about exactly *why* the US is moving to using EMV cards. The numbers are staggering : it seems that the US has 24% of all credit card sales, but 50% of the fraud !

The following are lots of links to articles around the web discussing this new card reader and it’s impact for Square.

Mashable has a short article about this new reader, but if you want the technical in-depth details, go for the Ars Technica article. There you can learn for example that the new card reader is not yet fully chip-and-pin compatible : for now, you can only do a signature using the chip card, as the new guidelines in the US do not require that PIN is enabled.

Forbes has some interesting tidbits as well about Square, that it has lost 100 million in 2013, and has burned through more than half of it’s venture capital. Not good for a young company that needs to grow.

Which makes me think that Square is betting big on this new card reader to climb back out of the red.

If they are very quick (and *if and when* their adapter can also do PIN) they might still be able to grab themselves a slice of the market here in Europe and other parts of the world – there are still people here that would love to use the Square card reader as well. However, more and more competitors are launching themselves here, for example iZettle is already active in several European countries.

Just updated to WordPress 3.8

I just updated to WordPress 3.8 – phew !! Sure are a handful of changes. Not too sure about the newest template, I’ll leave it activated for now, but it’s not how I want my site to look…

For example I have put all my widget elements in the right side container, so my blog posts can have a bit more space. Apparently this is not possible by default, as the text just stays centered in the middle instead of taking up all the space as intended. The theme as-is also seems not to be fully responsive, as it does not expand past a certain size… hmmm. Needs some investigation.

Devolo Support Sucks.

There. I’ve said it and I mean it.

Their products, when they work, do work fine. But when something goes wrong, you can’t count on support. So I’m steering clear of their devices AND their support, and I’m sharing my feelings in this on my blog.

 

Here’s the rant (quite a long read, got a lot to get out of my system) :

Devolo support seems to consist entirely of first-level support people that only know how to provide support by sending you a pdf with ‘things you can try’. At no stage did I feel that I reached second-level support or that I talked with someone that actually *read* my emails and asked me further technical info based on previous emails.

The overall feeling I got from the emails was that they wanted to get rid of me, but didn’t know how or that they were obliged to follow the rules, i.e. always respond to a customer request, even if it is to resend the same pdf with the same info you sent previously.

As you can read in my other blog posts, last year, about 7 months ago I needed a solution for routing my ethernet signal to my new work room on the first floor. Having used Devolo Dlan Duo devices before without any problem whatsoever I went out and bought 3 Devolo DLAN AV500 devices : 2 with just one ethernet port, 1 with 3 ethernet ports for the various devices (even my TV now has an ethernet port).

From the start, something went wrong with the device that was connected to the router. Every so often it would hang and I would need to go downstairs and unplug and replug it. Then it would work again. Later I found out that it’s actually the ethernet port itself that shuts down, it can still be reached via the power connection so you can actually do a reset from the DLAN cockpit software without needing to unplug it.

So to restate the fact :

  1. The device works, and works fast, no slowdowns, no short dropouts, it just works
  2. Suddenly it stops working, usually when transferring a large amount of data
  3. You ‘reboot’ it and it works again, just as fast as before
  4. It will -days or hours- later suddenly stop working again
  5. See 3…

This didn’t look to me as a typical hardware problem : it’s solved when you restart the device or reset it to factory settings. To me, it looks like a software problem, one or other counter is going haywire and a reset is needed.

So I contacted Devolo support via email in October 2012, and began a very long email back-and-from conversation that lasted until last month June 2013. To be honest, there were usually a few weeks between the answers what with work and family, so not every day a mail was sent.

I also wrote 2 blog posts about this problem that got quite a bit of reaction from other people who are having a similar problem. At the moment I’m writing this, at least 20 people have expressed that they are having the same problem. There have been 1172 visits to that particular blog post already, and unless they do something to fix their product it will only go up.

In the end, after numerous tests (update of the firmware to the latest dev build then, plugging 2 devolo’s in one extension cord to see if they have a good connection, having to confirm and reconfirm and then again reconfirm that no there is no slowdown AT ALL, switching one device in for the other) Devolo software support decided  that my device had a hardware fault, based on the fact that when it crashed, there is no visible indication that it has done so. And then it told me to sort it out myself by going back to the shop and asking for an exchange.

Tell me how YOU can explain to a shop attendant that you want to exchange the device because it is faulty when it shows NO VISIBLE indication that it is faulty ? I don’t know about shop attendants in your country, but the ones I know in Belgium are quite aloof and suspicious when you want to return hardware after 7 months of use.

I have several times told Devolo support that I am not the only one with the problem, please see my blog and read the comments. At no time did they respond to this. Probably because then they might have to actually investigate it, spending time and resources to actually solve the problem for everybody affected.

In the end I bought a new device to replace the Devolo DLAN 500AV+ but this time a Powerline device from D-LINK. Since both the devices use the same common “Homeplug” standard, they just recognise each other and start working together immediately together.

Problem solved, at my expense of course. But at the expense in the long run of Devolo as well. I’m no longer a customer of theirs, will buy other devices than Devolo, and I am making the world know of this so other people know what happened.

A Small iPhone to Android Survival Guide

Here are a few tools that I discovered to ease the transition from the iPhone world (iCloud, iTunes, Contacts, etc) to the Android world. These tools help you to approach the same level of comfort that you have with your iPhone (although it’s certainly not a complete experience).

So far I’ve installed the following :

  • iSyncr : lets you sync your iTunes content audio and video – needed to sync your music
  • Swiftkey : this keyboard has predictive input and allows you to swipe your words, which is way faster than pecking the words out – the iPhone really should have this type of input as well !
  • MX Player : plays all the videos I’ve thrown at it, has all the codecs
  • 1Password : it’s a weak “read-only” solution so you’re not able to add new content to it, but at least I still have all my passwords with me when I need them – free.
  • 1Weather : a good weather forecaster, but there are several ones around
  • Kindle : the ebook reader from Amazon

Here are a few links from similar iphone-to-android-switchers :

I’m neglecting my personal blog…

But then, I’m busy.

Actually my biggest peak is not shown, but somewhere early 2007 or so I had compiled a big list of tips and trick for a HTC windows Phone, and it became very popular. Once I switched to an Iphone I no longer added new content, and you can see that in the decline.

The uptick around march-may 2009 is more visitors because I wrote some articles about flex3 and how to use it (or at least how I used it).

At the end of 2009 I started up my other blog called DataConnect.be and it’s app, Twita. Most of my time is now focused on those sites trying to create an analysis program for twitter.

Technology Advancement (1990)

When I left for work this morning, I took my iPad with me.  While I was reading my mails in the train via my 3G connection, I suddenly realised how much advancement we have made, how much easier things are now technology wise speaking:

In 1990 when I was studying Information Science (or started to) :

  • email was something used in universities
  • bulletin boards via dial-up modem were still the rage
  • Punch cards where still a required learning subject, so was assembly code
  • I learned C (not C++) via a terminal on a mainframe that emulated C in order to run it, and took up a whole room
  • We still had big rule printers in separate rooms which made the most godawful noise printing on paper fed from a box below them
  • We had Winchester disks for our mainframe, mounted on wooden blocks. When our class initiated the database queries we learned, they all vibrated like washing machines.

The year after I graduated, they replaced the whole caboodle with 2 Unix machines that fit in 2 shoe boxes – one for the hard drive, one for the cpu.

And now, almost 20 years later, I’m reading my email via a wireless 3G connection on an ultra-slim touch-enabled device that seems to have dropped out of some futuristic movie, and it seems that hardly any time has passed.

But in reality, lots has changed in those years. And when I think back on those years without the internet, I feel so very happy to be able to participate in this, the knowledge available at my fingertips, the social media to find just the right persons to communicate with, the speed with which you can do calculations, the ability to share your work with others, the connectedness of it all.

And I’m just really glad to be here in the now and not 20 years ago 🙂

5 Things to think about before using WordPress.

[I’m gonna upgrade the site today, so you might experience temporary interuptions while I do a backup of the existing pages and content and replace with the newest, latest WordPress version, version 2.6.3.]

A friend of mine recently said he wanted to start blogging, and was looking at WordPress to use as a blog. I quite like WordPress, as you may have noticed. I have been using it for some years now, but there are some caveats to be aware of for a blogger new to WordPress:

  1. If you decide to host your own blog, be prepared to upgrade at short notice. Since WordPress has become very popular to use as a blog platform, the hackers target this much more now as well. My blog got hacked this year sometime during the two or three weeks I was vacationing and enjoying the summer, so you really need to regularly visit your blog and check it (WordPress now tells you in the admin interface that an update is available). An alternative is to use the blogging platform that WordPress provides via www.wordpress.com.
  2. Test any new plugins that you want to install one by one, especially if they are new or in beta.
  3. Disable free registration for users; this seems to be a popular way of attacking, first creating a user on your blog and then using privilige escalation to get write access to your site. If you want that other people contribute to your blog, define them yourself.
  4. Get an Akismet API key (free for personal bloggers) and open up your comments for all visitorss : let akismet do the heavy work of checking your comments for spam, and give your visitors the chance to react.
  5. Make a regular backup of both your wordpress db content and your files on the site; especially, do this before you upgrade !

There are many more tips, but these are the ones that I practice.