iPhone Versus Android


iPhone Versus Android- Choosing The Right Smart Phone

These days, there is so much choice in the market for just about any product that it can sometimes seem bewildering. Especially when you are considering the purchase of a product that will cost a great deal of money and can play such a central role in your life – like your smartphone – you want to consider the choice carefully. Many people are intrigued by the choices offered both by Apple and by all of its many competitors offering systems running the Android system. This article offers a very brief, topline discussion of a few factors to think about.


Freedom, Man!

Probably the biggest advantage of the Android system is that it can free you up from the strictures of the “Apple ecosystem.” It really does seem that in recent years, the Apple corporate culture has become increasingly “command-oriented.” For their own corporate purposes, Apple does recently seem all too willing to force users of the iPhone to do things their way – like placing applications on the device that simply cannot be deleted. Freedom junkies get riled up by this sort of thing and want to “declare their independence.” Those types are often attracted to the Android devices.


While the software issues just mentioned might be an issue of Apple corporate policy, there are other freedom issues that aren’t really Apple’s fault – and those are issues around hardware choice. Apple’s iOS and the iPhone are proprietary software and hardware. If you go that route, you must use the hardware offerings from Apple.


Android, on the other hand, is based on an open source operating system that is not proprietary. This means anybody can offer a smartphone based on the Android OS. So in the very wide range of selections available in the Android world, you might be attracted to the bottom end of the price range – a cheap Chinese “throwaway” or you might be attracted to a top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S7. The open source nature of the Android world also gives you a huge range of choice in apps. In the Android world, there is no “mom” stopping the kids from buying and downloading “bad” apps onto their smartphones – you can decide which apps are “bad” or “good” for you.



Safety, Man!

On the other hand, the diffuse nature of the software development and the general openness of the Android world means that Android devices are significantly less secure than iPhones. This can be a bigger deal than you might think. Behind the scenes, various apps are querying data from each other and perhaps even sharing that data across the Internet in ways and with people you may not even know about.


Which of your apps has access to your Contacts list and which can share all of that data online?  Do you know and can you control it? What about your passwords? What about the history of your physical location? These are serious issues to think about. Now, this does not mean that all Android phones are negligent about security. In fact, Silent Circle’s Black Phone, which is based on the Android OS, markets itself as an extremely secure phone offering ultimate protection of your data and encryption of your messages.


Like most of the big choices in your life, there isn’t a clear “right” answer in the choice between the iPhone and the Android. If you want to hash out more of the issues, please come see us. Please don’t forget that if you are having a problem with any of your existing devices, we are local specialists in computer repair for the Raleigh and Wake Forest communities.


Mobile Credit Card Processing – Is It for Me?



Mobile Credit Card Processing – Is It for Me?

One really exciting development enabled by the Internet is the re-birth of small businesses featuring unique, hand-crafted items. Websites like Etsy allow furniture makers, jewelers, clothing designers and others to cheaply reach a global market of enthusiastic customers. And now that there is a viable business driven by the online marketplace in these types of hand-crafted items, there is a new popularity of such wares at local festivals and craft markets. Interestingly, the online space is changing retail at bricks and mortar locations. If you are a small business person – especially if you sell goods at festivals and other temporary locations where you don’t have a permanent business establishment, you may be interested in mobile credit card acceptance. The new technologies are cheap, secure and easy to use. Let’s take a quick look at some of the new technologies and sift through the possibilities.


Only Connect!

The first issue to think about – the issue that drives the other aspects of mobile credit card acceptance – is the method that the physical card uses to connect with the credit card acceptance system. The method that most people are familiar with is as old as credit cards themselves – a magnetic strip on the back of the card is swiped through a reader and thereby transfers the information about the credit card account to the computer. A much more modern technology is one in which the credit card has a micro-chip embedded in its surface. Instead of swiping the card, the payor inserts the card into the card reader (“dips” the card) and the chip on the front of the card makes physical contact with the electronics inside the reader. The third and newest method starting to appear in retail establishments is one based on “near field communication” (NFC). An NFC-based credit card acceptance system does not require physical contact like the others. It operates using radio waves and bring the two devices within about 4 inches of one another is usually sufficient for the data transfer to occur.


Apple Pay, Google Wallet

Now that you understand the methods of connection, we can talk about the newest payment systems that are coming out from tech leaders Apple and Google. Both of these systems are based on NFC technology and are extremely mobile. If your smartphone is equipped with NFC technology, then you don’t need any additional hardware at all to pay with either Apple Pay or Google Wallet. For the vast majority of people, the decision between using Apple Pay or Google Wallet will be as simple as which kind of smartphone you already have. Those who favor the iPhone will naturally use Apple Pay, while those using any Android-based phone can use Google Wallet.


Accepting Payment From Your Smartphone

Accepting payment via credit cards is slightly more complicated than making payments from your smartphone but it’s still pretty straightforward. The standard way most businesses start to accept credit cards is by first establishing a merchant account with a bank and then signing up with a credit card processing company. You can sign up to accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover and, once you’ve done that, activating the option to use Apple Pay and Google Wallet is easy. It is important to remember that you will have to pay a transaction fee for the convenience of being able to use credit cards in your small business. An even simpler way to get started is through using Paypal – which does not require a separate merchant account – but you may find that the fees are a bit higher. Finally, you will need to get your smartphone ready to accept credit cards by loading the correct software on the phone and then by getting hardware either for swipe cards, “dip and pay” cards with a chip and for Apple Pay and Google Wallet (NFC tech). Obviously, the more versatile your hardware, the broader range of customers you can serve.


Some of these procedures may seem technical and confusing, but they really aren’t. If you are a solo or small business person, come in and see us and we can help explain everything you need to know.

Artificial Intelligence is Here


Artificial Intelligence is Here: Siri, Cortana and Google Now

Computers can now do things that even just a few years ago were considered solely the stuff of science fiction. And, as in so many other areas, the tech titans – Apple, Microsoft and Google – are fighting tooth and nail to dominate the newest high-growth, transformative areas of tech. One such area is artificial intelligence (AI) powered personal assistants. All three companies have software that now competes in this space. Apple has introduced the Siri personal assistant, Microsoft has Cortana and Google offers Google Now. The technology is still in its early stages but it is already exciting to see glimpses of a very dramatic future where computers are likely to be much smaller and lighter than they are now and where people can interact with them without need of a keyboard or a screen. Computers embedded in clothing and other wearables – especially those with an active Internet connection – will make some pretty amazing things possible in just a few years.


DARPA and the Future of AI

While all of this AI personal assistant business feels pretty cutting-edge, it is actually a long time coming. Most people of a certain age can remember the computer HAL from 2001, A Space Odyssey. People have been dreaming about AI assistants for a very long time! Apple’s Siri system has been out since 2010 and the predecessor company was acquired by Apple a few years before that. The modern basis of AI personal assistants was established, perhaps surprisingly, in a program funded by the US Department of Defense. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with an annual budget of almost $3 billion, is tasked with carrying out important technological development projects that could make a contribution to national defense. About 15 years ago, DARPA funded a project called PAL – the “personalized Assitant that Learns.” The PAL system was intended to be able to handle automated data retrieval and data synthesis – essentially taking the search engine to an entirely new level. Two of the key concepts of the PAL program that have carried over into all of the current AI personal assistants are first, that the software should learn over time to be able to access Internet content and then put it together I  useful ways for the user and, second, that the software should actually learn from the user and become better and better able to anticipate his or her needs and respond to them.


The AI Personal Assistant and the Future

In thinking about the future of mobile computing, what is truly exciting is to imagine how the software and the hardware are evolving together to make powerful applications possible. While computing power continues to increase geometrically and while the size and weight required for the computer power drops, the weak link has always been the interface between human and machine. Humans have typically interacted with computers by typing their instructions and reading the responses from a screen. Because of limitations of human physiology, computer relying on this kind of interface can only be made so small. But microphones and speakers have already been miniaturized to a great degree. Now with software that makes oral/auditory interface possible, the size limitations are resolved. Not only is this great news for the vast majority of computer users, it is also good news for the visually and physically impaired who in the future will be able to interact with computers just like anybody else. When you add into the scenario universal Internet access and software that is increasingly powerful at anticipating the information required by a user, collecting the useful information from an ever broader, deeper Internet and synthesizing the information in useful ways, the results of that kind of technology are truly amazing.


The things that today’s AI personal assistant can do are just the tip of the iceberg. In just a very few short years, true Internet-enabled AI will be widely available from your eyeglasses, your wristwatch or your sport coat. Get ready for a wild ride!

Benefits of Using External Storage




Benefits of Using External Storage


Gordon Moore first wrote what came to be known as “Moore’s Law” in 1965. He wrote that he expected that the number of transistors that could be fit into an integrated circuit (and thus the computing power) would double about every two years. While Moore’s Law has remarkably held pretty much true over all these decades, the same kind of thing has applied to external memory as well. The capacity of external memory has become ever greater and the cost has dropped significantly. Especially today, in light of the affordability and capacity of available external memory, it really pays to store your content outside your computer.


Back It Up!

Perhaps the most important reason for storing your files in external memory resources is to protect yourself against data loss from a system melt-down. Admittedly, the kind of total, data-wasting burn out that used to be not that uncommon years ago really is a bit rare these days. But things can still happen. Even spilling water on your computer or dropping it could cause an irreversible loss of data. Don’t forget that you’re always vulnerable to theft of the device. And these days, people put so much more – and more valuable – data on their computers that it just pays to have a back-up.


Bigger is Better!

As technology improves, file sizes keep getting bigger. People expect their computer software to do more and that added functionality takes up a lot more space. Just think about video alone. Just in the past few years, we’ve gone from “normal” definition video to 720p to 1080p to 4K. The video looks awesome but the files are huge. Store them externally and then you don’t have to worry about filling up your laptop hard drive.


Keep Your OS Running Fast

Especially on laptops, if you allow your computer to get absolutely jammed up with big files and with software that you rarely (or never) use, you are definitely going to see an impact on your performance speed. Keep your laptop “lean and mean.” Store the files you don’t really need very often externally and keep only the things you need all the time on your laptop.


Choices, Choices

So if you’re going to use an external form of storage, what kind should you choose? The good news is that there are affordable options for just about any scenario. Thumb drives these days have such large capacity that they can even accommodate movies. External hard drives now have terabyte capacity – and they’re not all that expensive. For the ultimate in convenience and accessibility, you can even store your data online using services like Dropbox that give you access to your files wherever you have an Internet connection.


If you have questions about data back-up – or if you have a data recovery crisis – come see us and let us help! Please feel free to contact us today!