Category Archives: Apple

Internet TV is Finally a Reality

The end of the coax connected cable TV era is ending. All of the cable providers have been pushing their streaming options, but the major players have not given in to offering us flexible TV lineups. Well, Comcast hit me with my 2 year price increase which took my bill for TV and Internet up to $191. And that is without any premium channels. The service was acceptable when working with their DVR (monthly rental fee for 2), but the nickel and dime costs for fees, and rental was ridiculous.

So I decided to give Google’s YouTubeTV another try. Performance was not acceptable a year ago, but today’s YouTubeTV in the Portland, OR, market is better then I could have hoped for.

“YouTube TV is a paid membership that brings you live TV from major broadcast networks, popular cable networks, and premium networks. With YouTube TV, you’ll get live sports and must-see shows, as well as DVR without storage space limits.”

Assuming you have decent Internet bandwidth the quality is up to 720p. We rely on Apple devices which provide a nice YouTubeTV App and I bought the AppleTV 4K which has the YouTubeTV App native which takes advantage of the remote control just the way the old Comcast Xfinity remote provided. Overall I am happier then I was with Comcast. However, there have been a few hiccups. It is not quite as easy to fast forward through commercials, but you can do it. And when there is a very popular sporting event like the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball games the bandwidth appears to be stressed a bit. So your resolution drops down at times, but I do not think this is the fault of the Comcast Internet feed but rather an over subscription to the Internet stream from the source. Combine that with the high pixel needs of action sports and you do experience some disappointment.

The channel lineup is better then I could have hoped for. All of the local and standard cable channels with their secondaries, all news and sports channels. I even now get the BigTen Network which would have fallen into another bundle on Comcast. I do not get the Pac12 Network, however, that network is not really prime yet and I can watch it online. Oh yes, when I cancelled my Comcast TV subscription they gave me Internet with the basic TV package because it was cheaper then just Internet alone. I have no need to hook up the basic service, but it does allow mw to easily choose Comcast Xfinity as my Cable provider on Apps like the Pac12 Network. You can also choose YouTubeTV for all of the other apps as well. The best deal is the unlimited Cloud DVR. You can record and watch all your favorite programs anytime anywhere on any device and it is personalized to everyone in your family plan. Oh yes, my total bill is now $111, $40 for YouTubeTV and $71 for Internet and I am watching the Masters on the other half of my iMac screen while I am writing this post.YouTubTVScreenShot

My fear is that quality will suffer as more people cut the cable, but for now I am very satisfied.

Get Ready for WYOD

I kicked off the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): A Summit for Decision-Makers (summary article) as the keynote speaker last week in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This Summit was put on by Merit, who provides the network service needs of higher education, K-12 organizations, government, health care, libraries, and other non-profits for the state of Michigan. It brought together public and private sector technology and security leaders, as well as experts from academia and a wide array of vendor sponsors, to discuss hot trends for employees who are bringing their own devices to work.

Keynote Address for BYOD Summit

Keynote Address for BYOD Summit

I was interested in presenting on this BYOD topic because I understand the concerns but I also feel we need to put the issue into proper perspective. BYOD is officially defined as the practice of allowing the employees of an organization to use their own computers, smartphones, or other devices for work purposes. This is the valid concern which causes us to question our preparedness for dealing with bandwidth and security issues associated with BYOD. But the acronym has become synonymous with challenges relating to the explosion of mobile internet access devices which tend to pressure our network management more than security risks. My Keynote entitled, BYOD: We just need to keep up, focused on the emerging concerns from Wear Your Own Device (WYOD) and the evolution of The Internet of Things (IoT).

Wearable devices today are not really pressing our infrastructure or security concerns, however, that is the calm before the storm. The focus for these wearables today typically points to some form of activity or health monitoring. Interaction with the Internet or local WiFi is minimal now typically because of power consumption issues. However, the stage is set for these small useful devices to interact with our personal Internet space. And the most significant use will evolve out of the NFC based authentication made popular by the Apple Pay entry for transacting purchases. The key here is the validation of mobile devices, typically today’s smartphones, as authenticators of our personal identity. Replacement of the credit card swipe for retail purchases will lead the way, however, we in IT will get to explore and support all of the other uses that will play off this technology. For us in higher education we will see this become our student’s ID Card for building access, attendance and even remote test proctoring. The technology challenge is not daunting, however, the shift of our support mentality may be difficult. We will need to protect the effectiveness of these activities along with ensuring the security. It will mean a lot more technology responsibility on our plates.

Cell Phone Authenticating our Identity

I was chatting with one of our professors and our conversation ventured into the importance of mobile devices. The topic related to why it was so important for Microsoft to gain a foothold in the mobile phone market and I explained to him the intricate connection between the consumer’s phone and their computing platform of choice. But I also told him that the mobile phone would someday be the most important component for authenticating identity which is critical for financial transactions. I’m not sure I knew exactly how that was going to play out but it is always fun to stimulate non-techies into imagining what the future might hold. I did tell him about how important cell phones were in Africa for providing a means of transferring money. So it was a natural assumption to connect the cell phone to the online or digital economy as a means of providing more secure form of authentication. And when you talk more secure you typically relate that to a dual form of authentication based on something you have and what something is better than cell phones. Anyways, this conversation led to being asked to give a talk on this topic for the local Rotary.

I relate this conversation as a lead in for the story today about how Apple might offer a means for how we pay for stuff. Apple is hinting that it may explore this territory of payment services and that the fingerprint authentication on the new iPhones was implemented with this in mind. But the real impetus may be that Apple has amassed the most impressive number of personal accounts, about 800 million, that are connected to a credit card. This number is huge especially when compared to the next closest, Amazon’s 237 million. And what was the trick to getting this many purchase ready accounts? Music Downloads through iTunes. Yes, the convenience of impulse buying for a song that I hear justified my synchronizing my credit card with my iTunes account. And I have been very pleased with the results; quick, efficient, receipt email, and trust. Yes trust, there has not been a significant security breach of Apple’s accounts.

So is Apple going to expand their payment services to include any online or even checkout counter transactions? Lot’s of issues that have to be worked out before that financial model is justified, but I would bet on it. I was originally thinking the mobile phone could provide an identity solution for verifying who you are using the 2 step authentication model. Apple has successfully expanded that to include biometrics which I think will inevitably be required in our insecure identity compromised world. Makes a whole lot more sense then offering a credit card and signing a receipt. Needless to say, control of the mobile phone market continues to grow in importance. The next authentication phase will probably involve scanning that chip they want to insert into our body, but I think for now we work from something that everyone wants to have on their body.

I’m Going to Missouri S&T

I would like for my blogging community to know that I will be changing jobs as of February 1, 2013. My new position will be Chief Information Officer for Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, MO. sandtLogoThe official press release will explain it more if you are interested. This is exciting for me because I am returning to my science and technology roots. It should bring a new flavor to this blog as I transition not only from private to public but from primarily Apple to Microsoft.

It was a great privilege to answer God’s call to help George Fox University, but I sense a new call to help our country graduate more scientists and engineers. Moving to Missouri will be a dramatic change as will the opportunity to lead a well-established STEM-based university. Science and technology is my passion so I couldn’t be more excited especially with an opportunity to get back into support of significant research activity.

The New PC Revolution

I was intrigued by my own response to the Apple product announcements yesterday. How does that work? Well, I allowed my own technical interest to play out. I watched the product announcement video, I critiqued the Jobs-less Apple presentation as any Apple fan might do. But then I stepped back and evaluated what I had seen and what my gut reactions had been. And I believe I sensed a turning point similar to what I witnessed when the PC finally emerged as the option for the masses back in the early eighties.

Apple’s new products are beautiful and carry an even higher “cool factor”, but I think the difference now is the status difference that emphasizes affluence over practicality. I caught myself asking “why do we really need such a thin iMAC with a retina display that will cost approximately $2000. Sure some power users can justify the specifications, but I sensed a new arrogance from Apple, one that says we only care or cater to the affluent buyer and if you have concerns about being locked into our platform then tough, we don’t need you. Why haven’t I felt that before.

  • Was it because the Apple products were so superior that cost was not a factor.
  • Was it the fact that I don’t really see a difference with the retina display.
  • Was it the lack of attention to even offer low cost options.
  • Was it the $329 entry price for the iPad Mini.

Yes, probably so.

If I wear my Higher Education hat, I start to question whether the recent trend of students preferring Apple laptops is still healthy in these turbulent financial times. I see the student with a white macbook as the Kmart shopper and the those with aluminum models the Neiman Marcus shopper. I see our entitled students as being concerned about this. Nothing wrong, this is who we are, but I sense that the split in the road is now pronounced. Apple only wants the high road and the profit margins that come from that market segment. Do we in Higher Education need to shift our focus to the affordable consumer market that appears to be dominated by Google based platforms?

I think the door is still slightly open for Microsoft to hold onto the corporate workplace, but it won’t be because of an Office Suite but can be about professional applications. Let’s accept the fact that a Pad computing device is more then adequate for working with today’s cloud based information. I believe we will see affordable smart computing devices appear in the hands of the consumer masses worldwide. This is a movement that redefines the Personal Computer, “PC”.  And with it, we will have an even greater need for techies to maintain computing sanity.

Growing up with Steve Jobs

I am about the same age as Steve Jobs and in many respects we did grow up together at least with our involvement with technology. He obviously was a bit more involved which was good because that had a significant influence on me. I was supposed to be a doctor but realized that was not my real dream however, I did get a degree in Chemistry out of it. As a chemist I discovered “computers” or powerful calculators that controlled analytical instrumentation in the laboratory. Yes, college courses introduced me to computers that you interacted with via stacks of paper cards but the concept of creating something on your own computer just totally grabbed me. I then heard of these personal computers like Heath Kits but it was the discovery of a ComputerLand store in Chicago that did me in. This is 1979, an Apple II computer emerging and I had to have it. The serial number was 2014. So began the journey that placed me very much in tune with what Jobs and Wozniak were up to. Owning my own computer at that time was amazing.

At this time in my career as a chemist I just happened to be making a lot of money, at least for me, due to working through a strike situation with my job. In late 1979 I convinced my college buddy who had just graduated with an MBA and Law degree to partner on starting a computer store/software business.  Jobs and Wozniak we were not but what a great adventure, start a computer business with about $10K in Steamboat Springs, CO. Maybe the location doomed ultimate success, but the adventure was real. Programming on an HP 85 actually was my best option for the lab management software I was developing but Apple was a part of our lives. Well this is a just a teaser for my life growing up with Steve. There is a book in this but the story is still evolving. I did actually run into Steve at the Frys in Milpitas back in 1987. As I remember there was a NEXT facility nearby. I have gone through the Apple roller coaster of love, confusion, pity, and amazement. Yes Steve was amazing and Apple Inc. is an impressive portion of his epitaph. I do feel fortunate to have lived during the life of one of the greatest people of all time.

Apple – Apple Events – Celebrating Steve

Does “The HP Way” still exist?

Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard

So do you think Hewlett-Packard’s change of course away from mobile and PC manufacturing is a wise change or have they lost their rudder. On the surface it probably looks wise especially to the stockholders, but how can this be positive for the company? What happened to the HP I used to work for from 87-94. I worked for an HP when Dave and Bill exerted influence upon the company. Stockholders were proud to be a part of a great company, satisfied with decent dividends. Innovation came from HP Labs and profits came from just-in-time manufacturing. A diversified company provided great strength as the strong sectors carried the weaker ones only to be repaid when their need came. HP was a great company then, do the employees today still feel that way?  Does “The HP Way” still exist?

Carly Florina took over the helm at HP from Lew Platt in 1999.  Carly had all but destroyed Lucent and definitely did not protect the HP assets. Mark Hurd took care of one of the most important HP Ways, Integrity. And now Leo Apotheker wants to transition HP over to the high profit margin past of software services. Where do you think HP is headed?

So does HP’s ride cause us to compare what Apple might be in for? Apple is probably in good shape for a while with a true Apple leader in Tim Cook taking over under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs. A bit like Lew Platt taking over HP. How long after Steve passes on will Tim Cook be allowed to maintain the Apple culture. Consider how attractive Apple’s wealth will become to their stockholders. Not that I care greatly about Apple being protected, but I do worry about the fall of great American companies. But today I worry about Hewlett-Packard.

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Relevant Article: What HP Must Do Now For CIOs

The decline of the HP Way turned off employees. Now HP must clarify its strategy to worried enterprise customers.

Culture Change seems to be Buffering our Technology Change

I have been observing IT listserv comments about what concerns they have for this year’s returning class. Seems like the traditional problems of software provisioning and student computing standards are more complicated this year as we deal with mobile devices and radical changes like software being sold via personal App Store accounts. Of course Apple is the real reason for all of this uncertainty.  Whether you like it or not mobile computing blending into traditional computing is not designed for IT management. But do we need to manage it?

I am intrigued this year by institutions that dictate or distribute computers to their students. Of course that is because this is the first year in 20 that we will not be doing that. So of course we are a bit apprehensive about what the start of classes might bring in the way of computing problems. But we just aren’t sensing any concerns yet. And I think that is because at the root of computing issues is software not the computer and our culture here appears to be far more tolerant to software options. We seem to have our major computer application issues under control via the provisioning of specialized labs, typically for engineering, music and graphic arts. The only area where I have a specific software concern is for School of Business students to have MS Excel. I can still load MS Office on a student computer but I doubt that we see more then half the new students take us up on that.

Why are we not seeing more concern about how we will satisfy the computing demands of our new students?  The overriding reason has to be based on a culture change. Isn’t it really habit and fear that cause us to be so concerned about controlling our computing environment. So a major culture influence has to be our moving so heavily to Apple over the last 4 or 5 years. This has caused many to accept alternatives approaches to computing tasks, meaning acceptance of a wider array of software. Hence we have reduced the fear component. Then I think our moving to Google Apps a few years ago for faculty and students without any real initiative laid the groundwork for acceptance of alternatives. Alternatives that were driven by convenience especially when we moved everyone to gmail last year. But we never pushed anything we just enabled it. Yes there has been a huge adoption of Google Services which must be contributing to this culture change. And now that we have eliminated the laptop program I think my community has remained calm because of this culture change.

George Saltsman, Ex. Dir. of the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at ACU, and I have done some presentations lately along these lines and I like his observation of IT over the last few decades.  In the beginning IT evangelized for more computer use. Then as everyone adopted our tools we focused on controlling that use. Now we are learning to embrace their computer use. I’m not sure if this will continue to play out but the stage is set. Something we always say over at GeoAid, “Change is inevitable, Growth is a choice”. 

Minimum Computing Requirements

Reviewing your minimum computer specifications that your IT organization will publish to advise next year’s students takes on a little more importance for us since next year will be our first where we do not provide our entering undergraduates with a laptop. So out of tradition we start with defining the minimum PC and Apple computer along with recommended operating systems. The added influence is that it must be able to to run the core software such as MS Office (mostly Word and Excel) and for us the browser influence required for Moodle and our PeopleSoft portal. As for Browsers I was surprised to witness discussion of Internet Explorer for its problems rather then as a requirement. We wanted to bless Chrome but settled on FireFox again as the recommended browser.

My team of EdTech and computer technicians also entertained my questions about the relevancy of this type of computing specification. As in, why are we still so concerned about this. Well, it appears that the real motivation was focused on our adult learners. They have the narrowest margin for hassle, they need standards and structure. Whereas I think our concern for the undergrads is driven by our need to accommodate the faculty. Hmmm, common thread there “adult” with narrowest margin for hassle and the need for standards. So my team was not ready to allow me to rock the boat by relaxing the requirements to allow freedom of choice and possible opportunity for different modes of Teaching & Learning. But I think they see it down the road.

I got back into teaching this year with a course for Business majors titled “Information Services”. I bring this up because my experience with these undergrads confirms my belief that we need to loosen our control. They do not need structure but they will do what we tell them. I am only a month into the course but it has been eye opening mostly because for what these students do not know. So we have focused heavily on the Internet and Web influence on business today. I’m also pushing that they understand what Information Services really represents typically in the world of Enterprise Business Solutions. I will have to write a more extensive post for my reflections on teaching this course later in the semester.

NFC could justify RFID thanks to Apple

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I would guess that many of you caught the story this week about the strong rumors that Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPad 2 will support NFC, Near Field Communication. This basically says that those devices will be able to authenticate close range wireless transactions which probably means we will start referring to this as the iWallet. This makes total sense and the fact that Apple launches it guarantees that it will be adopted industry wide. So this reminds me of my prediction a few years back in my post New Telco Business Model when I mentioned the concept of our Cell Phones becoming our Identification card. Of course I was advising the Telcos to take the lead on this, but I knew they wouldn’t.

I predict this will move rapidly, especially once they add a few techniques that validate that you are the authorized owner of the mobile device. This offers a 2 key authentication option that is as good as login and password. What do I mean? Well, you can’t just let an iPhone have authority to make purchases or pass through gates, so you have to have a way to verify that this is your device. It could be as archaic as entering a password on your mobile device but I’m thinking it might better justify that RFID chip implanted in your forearm that you pair with. So that chip doesn’t really hold any personal information, it just allows you to authorize that it is OK for your Near Field Communication of private information to take place. I’m thinking airport security checkin but debiting my account for purchasing coffee would be important as well. This could be huge for solidifying iTunes as our identity of choice.
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