10.20.2014

Otterbox Commuter versus Symmetry for iPhone 6



This is a brief comparison video of the Otterbox Commuter Series versus the Otterbox Symmetry Series for the iPhone 6.  I've been a huge fan of Otterbox cases for years because of the protection that they provide for the cost.  Other cases will offer more protection or cost less, but not at the same time.  Additionally, some of the Otterbox cases that they've begun to offer in the past few years offer great protection with little bulk.  I was sold when I watched YouTuber MobileSyrup repeatedly throw his phone down the sidewalk and road with no damage using a relatively thin Otterbox Reflex case.  The other huge plus here is I got my iPhone on launch day and both of these cases were available for purchase that day.  Watch the video above to see which case I think wins out between the two and why.

9.04.2014

Armored Fiber Jumpers


Over the years I've come across situations where I needed to extend a fiber jumper from one location to another and didn't feel that a traditional jumper would be protected enough in our environment.  The first solution to this problem was to run the fiber jumper through some plastic conduit.  This not only took a very long time, but looked terrible when we were done.  The second method was to pay a company for a made to order armored fiber cable.  The trouble here is the cable is way too stiff and when you get to the end you still have a few feet of standard, unprotected fiber cables.  This also looks messy on the termination end.

loose fibers at the end of an armored cable
certainly don't belong in a harsh environment
When I first started searching online I had a hard time finding armored fiber jumpers.  However, this past year I was introduced to a company that changed all of that.

SanSpot.com* is an online company that specializes in optical storage and networking needs.  I haven't used many of their products, but I can speak very highly of the heavy armored fiber jumpers they carry made by Optospan.  I've purchased a few of these over the past year and continue to purchase them for when I'm installing a fiber jumper in a less than ideal environment.  For example, if I'm connecting a telco fiber termination to a router in another room or if I'm connecting an IDF to an FDP in a harsh environment.  These cables are premium quality and made to last.  They mention military and tactical environments in the description and I can believe it.  The cables are very flexible but very durable.  They are wrapped in steel and Kevlar and come in many sizes and configurations.  You will pay almost double of what a normal fiber jumper costs, but it's well worth it.  I highly recommend you check out their website the next time you're in the market for a fiber jumper that's being installed in a less than ideal environment.

A 10M heavy armored cable from SanSpot.com
Armored 10G fiber uplinking a switch on the
opposite side of the data center.
An armored cable in a sea of traditional fiber jumpers.
SanSpot mentions that this fiber is 100 times stronger
than regular fiber optic cable.


*I am not affiliated with SanSpot.com or Optospan.com in any way nor do I receive any compensation from them.  I'm simply a satisfied customer that's trying to get the word out about an otherwise hard to find product.


7.01.2014

TWC Greendot Scam

Recently I was targeted twice by a scam that is circulating regarding TWC.  I tried to contact TWC and inform them so they could email their customers.  When they didn't seem interested I figured it best to post it here in hopes that someone will Google this and be informed before they are ripped off.

The first time I was contacted by a guy claiming to be from TWC.  He informed me that because of being a valued customer and because I signed up during a promotional period he'd like to tell me about a promotion I'm eligible for.  He was going to cut my bill in half and triple my Internet speeds for the next two years without signing a contract.  All this sounded too good to be true.  He then told me that the only catch was I needed to pay for a years worth of service up front.  This sounded more reasonable.  There has been a lot of discussion about fiber Internet coming to NC so I assumed TWC was trying to get me locked in for a year so I wouldn't switch to an up and coming competitor.  I told the gentleman that I would call him back if I decided to take advantage of it and he was persistent that he would call me back.  I then asked him to verify my account number.  Up until this point he had been able to tell me my home address, my telephone number, my email address, the type of service I had and the date I signed up.  He said he needed to look up my account number and then hung up on me.

Later that week I was contacted by a second guy that wasn't nearly as polished.  His accent was much thicker and he was harder to understand.  I immediately asked him to verify my account number.  He said he was with the promotions team and they didn't have access to that information but he would happily verify all the same information that the first guy had.  I told him since TWC has my credit card number already couldn't he just take the money that way.  He said that Green Dot prepaid cards were more secure and I needed to pay with that.  I then just proceeded to tell the guy how terrible it was that he would take advantage of people and steal from them.  I eventually had to hang up on him.

I called TWC to inform them of the situation.  The guy I spoke with was extremely rude and said they already knew about it and there was nothing they could do about it.  I told him that at the very least they should send an email to their customers letting them know it's happening.  Afterwards I was asked to fill out a survey and I gave him a terrible review.  I received a followup call the next day just generally asking me if I was happy with my service.  The representative asked me to verify my name and phone number.  She then asked for the last four of my SSN.  I told her I wouldn't provide that and I needed her to verify my account number.  She wasn't allowed to do that and I explained to her the two phone calls I received and how I can't trust anyone claiming to be from TWC.  She eventually, reluctantly verified the first three digits of my account number.  I told that lady that someone needs to do something about these scams and she said she would contact someone to see if they could send out an email.  As of writing this I haven't received anything from TWC warning me of this scam.

Final thoughts:  I'm guessing that TWC has been compromised in some way.  Not entirely since they didn't know account numbers, but to some extent.  Going forward I only do business with TWC if I call them or if they can verify my account number to me.  Maybe that's not sufficient enough, but it seems to work against this scam.  Additionally, like they always say, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

4.04.2012

Why Instagram

Instagram is a wildly popular photo application that allows you to apply a number of different filters to photos either already on your phone or ones taken through the application.  It also integrates a social media aspect in that the pictures you pass through Instagram are uploaded to a stream that can be viewed by other Instagramers if you so choose.  You can follow celebrities and friends alike to see what photos they've been Instagraming.  Some people who are anti social media will brush this off as another fad and won't understand its usefulness.  Thus this post was written.

Instagram isn't just another social media application.  It's a very simple, yet powerful, photo editing application.  Instagram can take an otherwise ho hum, boring picture and make it quite artistic.  Not only that, but it can take an otherwise terrible, dark picture and turn it into a beautiful work of art.  I'll provide two examples and let you decide for yourself.


Before

After




Before

After

10.05.2011

Which Mobile OS is the Best



I'm constantly asked which mobile operating system is the best.  The more appropriate question should be which one is right for me.  As a former BlackBerry fanboy gone Apple fanboy, I definitely have my opinions on the matter.  Read on to see which OS is right for you.

Traditionally BlackBerry and Windows Mobile were known as the only smartphones available.  With the introduction of Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS operating system that's no longer the case.  Windows Phone is attempting to make a comeback, but having no experience with that I'll leave it off in this article.  Maybe in the future I can get to spend some time with it and update this article to include my thoughts on it as well.  For what it's worth a lot of technical writers are really excited about its potential.

For starters let's look at BlackBerry.  The OS that BlackBerry smartphones use hasn't been truly updated in years.  They've added new features but it's still the same clunky OS that it's always been.  Sure it's very customizable and powerful, but most users will get lost in a sea of menu's and never been able to find the options they're looking for.  However, BlackBerry smartphones are praised for their physical keyboards and battery life.  If you're one of the few remaining people that believe they need a physical keyboard, then maybe a BlackBerry smartphone is for you.  Later this month Research in Motion (RIM) is set to unveil it's new QNX based OS for phones and tablets entitled BBX.  It's a complete rewrite of their OS based on the same real-time OS that runs nuclear power plants, core Cisco switches, and car GPS systems.  It has a lot of great potential, but the proof's in the pudding.  We'll have to wait until it's released before we'll know if RIM still has a chance.

Next up is Google's Android OS.  Based on the idea that the OS is open source and available for free, Android has become very popular in the smartphone space over the past couple of years.  There is a huge market full of useful apps, most of which are free.  Also, the OS has the highest level of customization of any mobile OS available today.  Because of all the manufacturers that are making Android phones, the selection is huge.  If you don't like the current Android phones that are available just wait a week and a new one will launch.  Google is set to announce Ice Cream Sandwich, their next version of the Android OS, on Oct 11th.  Many people have said that this version of the OS will be a game changer for Google.  We'll have to wait and see.

Last in this comparison is Apples iOS.  Apple's iPhone has become wildly popular since it was introduced a few years ago.  Apple typically refreshes its hardware once a year and also makes a major update to is OS at the same frequency.  Of course there are incremental OS updates that occur throughout the year as well.  Apple has always been thought of as closed and very limited in terms of options and customization.  That's all changed with iOS5.  It's as if Apple looked at all the great features of Android and BlackBerry and implemented those into its OS.  In typical Apple fashion, the features are late to the game but once they're implemented they are much better than the competition.  iOS5 brings 200 new features over the previous OS and will be available on Oct 12th.

At this point the biggest differentiator between Android and iOS is the experience.  Lots of sites and marketing slides will show you a spec comparison of Android hardware versus the current iPhone hardware.  On paper the Android hardware may win.  But in reality it doesn't matter how many GHz your processor is if the software is poorly implemented.  Apple has a unique advantage that Google doesn't yet.  Apple designs the hardware and the software.  (I say yet because Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility and that may change.  Although Google says it won't.)  Not only that but they only have to design the software to run on 2-3 phones at a time.  A quick look at Verizon Wireless' website shows they currently offer 16 different model of Android phones.  And that's just one carrier.  This advantage allows Apple to make a much more fluid experience on their phones.

Android on the other hand always comes off as jittery to me.  Pull up the list of applications and scroll through them.  If you're watching closely you'll notice the list jerkily scrolling as you move through it.  Watch any hands on video of a new Android phone launch and you'll see what I mean.  At some point during the review of this brand new phone you'll see the lock screen stutter as it's opened or an icon that needs to be clicked on 2-3 times to get it to launch.  That's not what I expect from a $200 smartphone with a dual-core processor and more RAM than most Windows XP machines.  My default test for how fluid an interface is involves pulling up the pictures application and scrolling through them as fast as possible.  If they've put some thought into it the pictures should be able to scroll as fast as you can move your finger.  That unfortunately isn't the case with Android phones.

A huge plus for Android is its openness.  This allows for far greater customization than you could ever imagine.  If you don't like the way you scroll through the icons, to put it in Apples words, there's an app for that.  You can completely reskin your phone just by installing apps.  Also, the widgets allow you to run applications in the background that can quickly be viewed just by swiping around on your home screens.  When it comes to customization and making the phone your own, Android is king.

Unfortunately that's also a downside as well.  Every manufacturer feels the same way about customization as you do.  They typically apply some manufacturer skin on top of Android which ends up making it a more bloated system.  Also, as you move from one Android phone to another, you'll have difficultly performing the same tasks since it will be a little different on each phone.  For most people that's not a big deal, but as an IT administrator it makes it slightly more challenging to show users how to do things on their phones.  Lastly this affects upgrades as well.  Once Google releases a new version of Android, it then has to go to the manufacturer for approval.  During this process you have to wait weeks, if not months, while the manufacturer tweaks their skin to make it work with the new update.  This is a very frustrating process.

The other major attraction to Android is navigation.  Google has included turn-by-turn navigation in Android for free.  It works really well, too.  Apple is still using the traditional aerial view with a blue dot that shows you your current location.  It works great for me, but a lot of users really prefer the turn-by-turn version for obvious reasons.

Apple's new assistant feature called Siri
Lastly, in iOS 5 Apple has introduced a new assistant feature named Siri for the iPhone 4S.  It features the first artificial intelligence on a phone that you can actually talk to using normal conversation.  It sees things in context and doesn't use keywords queues like most voice response systems.  It works with the native apps and there are APIs that will allow app developers to leverage it going forward.  Instead of trying to describe it, you should just watch the video demo.  This has the potential to be a game changer for Apple if it works as described.

In conclusions, there are lots of valid reasons that Android is as popular of a mobile OS as it is.  Navigation, huge device selection, openness and customization are just a few of the key reasons.  However, my pick is still the iPhone.  Once you see the fluid experience that it offers it's hard to use anything else.