[TokyoGringo] Fun Japan Fact – all cell phones’ cameras have a shutter sound

I tried to get service for my US iPhone 6S+ here in Tokyo. The delightful woman helping me warned me, “You know, if you swap this out you will get a Japan phone with the shutter sound. Are you sure?”

Oh. No. Not sure, and not by a long shot.

I recalled my first US trip with my JP colleagues where their shutter sound constantly disrupted slide presentation after slide presentation. I volunteered my phone for hundreds of silent slide pictures of decks later offered for download.

When I returned to Japan I found the sound ever present. I assumed the shutter sound a cultural choice, what with the Japanese camera stereotype and all. I filled it away as an annoyance like on-line banking and moved on.

I embrace my education. As I stated regularly on the PVC Security podcast, there is a certain freedom in knowing you will screw up at least ten times per day.

It also means I will try to get all my future mobile phones in the US (assuming the shutter sound is my major concern).

What Users Should Require in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

We, the users, should stop thinking about software as a thing to own. The direction is toward a service model for better and worse.

What should a keen-eyed shopper value?

  • No data lock-in – the user should own their data and be able to export it at any time through the native user interface without having to jump through hoops (except for encrypted data – see below). The export should be in a common format like plain text, XML, CSV, etc. and not a proprietary format.
  • Direct support – a web interface, email address, and chat at a minimum is required. Any service only offering support through an app store is a major red flag.
  • Multi-platform – unless you only live in Apple’s or Google’s ecosystem any SaaS must at least support your top two platforms. If you are GNU/Linux or Windows on your desktop, this is a must-have for your mobile devices.
  • Multi-cloud – unless you only live in Apple’s ecosystem any SaaS must support Dropbox as a second option at a minimum. iCloud is limited to macOS, iOS, and Windows but the Windows support is abysmal IMHO.
  • Mobile support – must handle landscape and portrait layouts and support tablet sizes. I am surprised at the software that still does not do this basic task.
  • Encryption – must support industry standard best encryption options. If a SaaS offers its own custom encryption RUN AWAY! Exporting encrypted data should offer unencrypted and GPG-passphrase-encrypted options though few do today.
  • Active development – this is easiest to verify if they have a public GitHub or similar repository. App stores will also show when the last update hit. Careful reviews of app store ratings can help figure out the historical time line. Check in Reddit and StackExchange and other public forums.
  • Native (non app store) desktop releases – on the desktop the ability to get the software outside of the Apple or Microsoft or Google app stores is a plus. Even if you prefer the app store version – and most users should for the added security – the developer’s willingness to offer a direct-to-the-customer version of their software with a license is a good sign. Also, any revenue the developer gets from these direct sales is 100%. Apple app store versions costs the developer 30% or so.
  • In App Purchases – not bad in and of themselves, a developer should not “nickel and dime” customers with small features. There should be an option for some kind of a premium bundle which offers all add-ons for a reasonable 1 time fee.
  • Data sync – this is a tough one. Most SaaS developers will come up with their own sync solution after changes to DropBox made it more difficult for developers. iCloud on iOS & macOS works in the Apple ecosystem. OneDrive might eventually for Microsoft and some Android stuff, and Google Drive for the Google stuff. I think so long as the sync adheres to the above you are good.
  • Local storage – some apps like 1Password and TextExpander offered local repository options but deprecated them for IMHO less than compelling reasons related to sync and cloud. Users should have the option to store sensitive data locally and forgo sync & cloud for that data.
  • Feature & scope creep – watch out for Saas that suddenly introduce changes for enterprises and large groups while removing or reducing functionality for individual users in order to accommodate the expansion.

What else should users look for in a SaaS product?

En Route to Tokyo Observations, Part I

Random musings and reflections and notes from my current trip to Tokyo:

  • The Hilton Tokyo Shinjuku doesn’t answer their phone. I tried calling three times to inform them of my delayed arrival. I called the Hilton Diamond Help Desk and even they couldn’t confirm the information was understood once they managed to communicate with the hotel. Apparently this location has a reputation.
  • Delta still doesn’t know how to board planes. Our flight took 40% longer to board than it should have (by my estimation). Boarding was like elderly man’s urination stream, dribbles and drabs.
  • Airbus might want to have airlines mount signs at the entry informing passengers where the row numbers are.
  • I do love the overhead bins on the Airbus A320(OW), the “turn your bag on its side” kind.
  • It’s funny that the cabin crew had to explain how the “space ship” style overhead controls work, and funny how they did it.
  • The woman sitting next to me is 5’0″ or so, yet she has an iPhone 6s Plus. She uses it like a tablet and it works well for her. I’m oddly impressed.
  • The Hootoo travel router ROCKS.

Motorola Provides an Argument for Apple as a Corporate Mobile Standard

I’m unlikely to recommend Android devices until Google and the hardware providers get the upgrade situation under control. I might make an exception for the Nexus and Samsung devices, but as I write this I have no faith in the rest of the Android ecosystem.

As I often do, let me tell you a story to illustrate this opinion:

When I started with IBM I chose the Motorola Droid Maxx over other Android phones and Apple iPhones.

My choice wasn’t arbitrary. I did my research.

The decision of iOS versus Android wasn’t a fair fight. KitKat made it easier to be effective. Sharing data between apps was not just easier, it was POSSIBLE on Android. iOS could copy and paste, but not much else.

The Maxx offered excellent battery life (I easily get through a full day on a single charge), a decent screen, an adequate amount of storage, and a rugged build according to my research. Two other major reasons I went with it was that Motorola was a part of Google (at the time) and they listed it as on the upgrade path to Android Lollipop.

14 months later and the only thing still true is the battery life. The screen cracked easily and repeatedly with regular use, the 16GB storage barely keeps up with my minimal workload, and it quickly becomes sluggish unless I close apps and/or reboot.

As for the upgrade to Lollipop, Motorola changed tack yesterday:

We apologize that we will not be upgrading DROID Ultra/Mini/Maxx to Android Lollipop, as we had hoped. We know how important software upgrades are to our customers, and we’re very sorry that we are unable to provide the upgrade.

The Maxx is still on 4.4.2 while Marshmallow (version 6) is the release du jour on Nexus. Verizon released few updates (and they’re complicit in the upgrade mess) but not at the cadence required. I’m sure my Maxx is vulnerable to many issues long since fixed on other platforms. Corporate mandates and enforces robust mobile security, yet I only use my corporate issued phone for email, calendar, tasks, and internal instant messaging. I don’t trust the phone to do much more. I’ve removed almost all non-stock applications.

My personal phone, the older OnePlus One with the Cyanogen Android flavor at 5.1.1, sees vastly more attention than the Motorola. On the 1+1 I do my social media and podcasts and RSS feeds and whatnot, much of which is work related or adjacent.

The funny thing: I used to carry a second phone to protect me from my benevolent corporate overlords. Now my personal phone protects my clients.

iPhones receive regular updates – some better than others, but Apple updates viable phones for a long time (the iPhone 4S, anyone?). Apps have to keep up, for better or worse. Newer iOS versions addressed the data sharing issue, making Apple  devices more useful to me as productivity tools.

The moral of my story is that I’m going through the process to replace the Maxx with an iPhone, but it’s a bureaucratic mess that takes time. Now that Motorola came clean, the upgrade path theoretically eases.

What about you? What are your experiences in this space? Have you standardized on iOS or Android or Windows? Or do you struggle with the mercurial nature of the vendors and your users? What about when vendors pull the rug out from under you? Are you considering alternate platforms like Microsoft Windows Mobile and Ubuntu?

Full Disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM and Apple are partners (who would have thought that in the 80’s?). My opinions are mine alone.

What I’m Not Missing – the iPhone 5

I don’t normally miss things, but I find myself missing my work laptop. It’s funny, since I tried to return it for being too big. It ran Ubuntu Linux well. It was maxed out with CPU, memory, disk, display, and on and on and on. I miss the dual head monitor setup in my old office.

What I don’t miss is the iPhone 5. I didn’t realize it until I read this article about Apple cutting orders of iPhone parts due to low demand.

Last year I upgraded my iPhone 3GS work cell phone with a shiny new iPhone 5. The speed was nice. The additional screen space was nice. The new Lightning connector sucks if you, like me, own a bunch of the all ready inconvenient 30-pin accessories. The iPhone 5 is light and slick and thin. While it slips into a hip pocket easily it also lends itself to drops and slips.

I was never wowed by the phone.

My personal phone is an iPhone 4S. It’s a bit heftier. It’s more energetic. Vibrate notification feels like it could fell the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It’s the same OS but seems easier to navigate with one hand. It’s fast enough. And my iPhone 4S has more space than my former employer was willing to provide with the work iPhone 5, so music and podcasts are no problem.

Will my next phone be an Apple product? Setting aside whatever my next employer offers, my next personal phone probably won’t be an Apple product, at least not one of the current models.

Connection Timeout Error on iPhone App Store

I was looking to install an app (Hipstamatic) that I had removed from my Apple iPhone. Apple had yet another example of the ineffectiveness of end-user license agreements in my way. I clicked through only to be stymied by “Connection Timeout” window.

Various sources on-line say to check your date and time to make sure it is accurate. Mine was.

Others said to reboot your device. I did with no noticeable impact.

Yet others said to re-synch with iTunes. I don’t like iTunes. I don’t use iTunes. I don’t have iTunes. I don’t even have a machine that can run iTunes. I rely on my kids’ Macbooks if I absolutely need to do something with iTunes, otherwise I avoid it like the plague.

The solution was to log out of the app store. It took me a while to find that option at the bottom of the main App Store page. I logged out. I logged in. Now I could click through to the install page.

Hope this helps!