Had a strange voicemail message today. The beginning was cut off but the end of of said Verizon cares about me so I assume they claimed to be from Verizon at the beginning. All I had to do was logon “with my account” to a domain I never heard of. Nothing about it sounded right but I decided to do a little research. The domain was registered today to a registrar in Australia, unlike the legit Verizon Wireless domain registered with MarkMonitor which is used by a lot of large companies since they do brand protection. Why don’t I think Verizon would both use a different registrar and wait until the start the robocalls (it was a recorded, somewhat mechanical voice)?
I guess phone calls are so cheap these days that they can be used to steal IDs, which is what I assume the website would do. Or are Verizon accounts all that valuable? I assume they could get email, names & addresses and credit card or other payment account info. On the positive side maybe it means that email scams have become less effective.
Unless you’ve been on a desert island you know iOS6 is out now.
I upgraded both my iPhone 4S and iPad 3 on Thursday. While not completely uneventful it was relatively smooth. There were related Mountain Lion and Apple application upgrades on my Macs. In my case, it was iPhoto and Aperture that were upgraded. It took most of the evening to get everything upgraded although most of that was spent waiting, either for downloads or installs. I updated my iDevices directly, over wireless, rather than through iTunes. There’s also been a steady stream of iOS app upgrades since then.
So far I only had one real app problem, the UPS app crashed when trying to paste in tracking numbers. But that was fixed a couple days later with an upgrade.
My most serious problem is that my iPad 3 can no longer sync to iTunes over wireless. It just says it can’t find the computer when I tell it to sync. Of course, other apps can see the computer and transfer files to and from it. And my iPhone syncs to iTunes just fine. I’ve done the normal troubleshooting (reboots, re-enter settings, try a second wireless network, etc…) but haven’t dug into it. I don’t sync too often. iCloud backups work just fine.
Apple’s taking a lot of grief over the new Maps app. Based on the examples given it appears justified. The U.S. maps seem better than the rest of the world. They have the street I live on, they just don’t extend it as far as my house. Of course, my street closely parallels a second street once it reaches me, separated by a line of trees. The local directions seem fine. I already have another app I use for turn-by-turn so I haven’t tried the built in maps app for that. I never really used the old Google Maps app very much so the change is mostly unnoticed by me.
I like the “Do Not Disturb” feature, although I already keep most notifications off all the time anyway. I do wish there was a way to allow certain apps to alert all the time. Similar to the way “Favorite” callers aren’t blocked by DND. Guess we have to leave something for Apple to add in iOS 7.
The new Passbook started off by annoying me. It bumped an icon off my home screen to make room for itself. Then it didn’t properly link to the iTunes store (which was the only action it would try to do) until I did this fix. Once I got into it I was underwhelmed by needing to install each vendors own iOS6 app to use passbook. The only other way to get info into Passbook was a 3rd party website. While it’s probably OK, the security implications limit its use.
I liked the clock app, especially on my iPad where it easily shows multiple times across the world. But I knew the clock face looked familiar.
I never found much use for Siri. I was more frustrating than useful. Being able to open apps by voice is a nice addition. Of course, the apps have to be pronounceable and real words, which isn’t always the case. (I’m looking at you Waze.) I may give Siri another tryout.
I can’t say I have an desire to get the iPhone 5. Sure, its better than th 4S that I have, but not so much better. The only hardware feature I would want is LTE, but for what I use the iPhone for now it’s not a big deal. My iPad has LTE so I can tether to it in a pinch. I also tend to do more web surfing on the iPad rather than the iPhone. My contract is up at the end of November which may be a good time shop for a phone. I’m not ruling out the iPhone 4S but it will be a tough sell. If I decide to stick with the iPhone I may just stick with the 4S for another year.
I was happy to learn Audible books could now be synced across devices. That is, the “read to” location can be synced. I’ve been waiting for this. Coinciding with that new feature is Whispersync for Audio. Since Amazon owns Audible they’ve enabled syncing the “read to” location between Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks.
This has to be enabled for the title in order to work. Amazon claims over 15,000 titles are enabled. While not specifically called out, I did expect there to be an incremental cost, if not a requirement to pay full retail for both.
So I went looking for a book to buy. I found one Audiobook I already owned was enabled and in that case it was full retail for the Kindle edition. The purchase is supposed to start on the Kindle book side, but it was easier to find the enabled books at Audible.com since they were being promoted. Then I searched for it on Amazon. There is an incremental cost for “professional narration”. It varies by title but is significantly less than the full audiobook price. I found a book that was only 3 cents more for both the audiobook and ebook than it would be for the audiobook alone. (“Swarm” by B.V. Larson)
After buying the Kindle edition I was given the option to add “professional narration” for $1.99. The audiobook was currently selling at a sale price of $5 and has a regular member price of $13.96. I clicked through to buy the audiobook. I was brought to the Audible shopping cart where the book was listed to be purchased with an available Audible credit. The cash price was $13.96, no mention of the $1.99 price. So I unchecked the “use credit” box and sure enought, the price to be paid became $1.99 and I completed the purchase.
Using the sync was a bit wonky, but sync often is. I used the Audible app on my iPhone and the Kindle app on my iPad. I started off reading the ebook then fired up the Audible app. (I made sure I had the recent update first) It started at the beginning. I went back to my library and hit the “Refresh” button and things synced up. I’ve had to manually refresh the library in all my testing. The Kindle ebook seems to sync OK but does prompt me to approve the sync each time. I wouldn’t call it seamless, but it wasn’t burdensome either.
I’m not sure how much I’ll use this feature. I mostly listen to Audiobooks these days, while driving. The sync may make me use the Kindle more but I’m not sure I’ll be buying both editions up front. Nice feature. I’ll probably never use it.
Anyone looking forward to syncing audiobooks and ebooks?
This Labor Day holiday marks the unofficial end of summer here in the U.S. August was another month of updates, but nothing truly new.
Amazon started off the month with updates to their consumer cloud offerings. They split the cloud music player off from their cloud file storage. With the exception of deals for exiting customers, the change resulted in a overall price increase for users of both services. Some of the special offers of free or added space also began to expire, requiring a new subscription. This results in some increased costs, depending on the deal you were previously on. I wonder how many people took the same approach as I did and cut back their subscription level.
I had problems with the first August update of the Music Uploader for Windows. I reported the problem and submitted logs. I received an email a couple days letting telling me their was a new version which should fix my problem. I never installed it. The Cloud Music Player just never struck a chord with me.
Amazon also announced their Glacier file archiving services. This caused a lot of speculation that backup services would begin to use it. I don’t think I’ll be joining that bandwagon. The pricing is complicated but seems targeted to archiving, rather than backups. It seems like a full restore could be fairly expensive. It also look like deleting files too soon after they’re added results in some added costs (in other words, a penalty charge). The files I would consider putting there are already stored with CrashPlan and I see no reason to move them somewhere else.
My favorite update of the month was Synology DSM 4.1 which was released as the month came to an end. I’d been using the beta since its release earlier this month, so I updated on the day of release. I like Photo Station and have moved to it as a photo organizer. I don’t use the online editors and I do wish I could open the files in a local editor. But I’m used to organizing my photos in a folder structure and don’t do a lot of editing so this hasn’t been a huge burden.
Another successful upgrade was OS X 10.8.1 which fixed my problem browsing for Windows (SMB) shares that appeared with the original Mountain Lion release.
Security was in the news this month. Lessons learned included customer service is a weak link and backups are a lifesaver. I did a bit of security review and strengthened some older passwords. I’ve been using LastPass since soon after it appeared on the scene. I use it to generate complex, unique passwords for each site and save them At the risk of jinxing things, I think I’m in pretty good shape.
As if to remind me, CrashPlan and Cloudberry backups stopped working recently but CrashPlan was nice enough to let me know it missed me after a couple of days and I was able to get things going again. Local backups were working during this time.
September promises to be the calm before the storm of new releases in October. While the bits are finalized, Windows 8 won’t see an official release until October, as will Windows Phone 8. Personally, I’m more curious and excited about Windows 8 RT. Curious is probably the better word. I think Windows RT is Microsoft’s vision of a future computer and Windows 8 Intel is a bridge to get there. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but I want to see and use it.
I’ve started a new website, with fountain pens as a topic. I’m still working on it so no link yet. I’ve taken a different approach. After working on a design for months I decided I needed constraints. I like working out the technical details, but it’s one rathole after another. All fun, but not getting closer to a working website. So I decided to build it on WordPress.com. I’m familiar with WordPress and can migrate it to this server in the future should I want to. But for now I only have to worry about content and a few design decisions. I’ll probably be spending most of my available time in that area, rather than technology projects, but we’ll see.