How to get 20 percent off everything in the App Store (and iTunes too!)

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Date: Tuesday, November 25th, 2014, 14:50
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, Deals, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, iTunes Radio, News

iTunes $100 gift card multipackGosh, I love this time of year.

It’s time to be with your family, copious amounts of eating, football and crazy deals on stuff. While everyone’s hunting for that amazing deal on Black Friday (just say no to Thursday shopping though, please) but there’s one deal in particular that I wait for each November: 20 percent off iTunes gift cards.

It should be obvious, but the benefits to iTunes gift cards are that they can be loaded onto your iTunes account and used for everything from apps, to music, to movies, to TV show, and the list goes on.

I spend about $500 per year on iTunes/App Store content, and it rarely goes on sale, so I stock up on enough iTunes gift cards to get me through the year each November during the gift card sale.

How much do you spend annually in iTunes?

Find out how to get 20 percent off iTunes gift cards after the jump…

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Review: SurfacePad for iPhone 6 and iPad

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Date: Monday, November 17th, 2014, 08:14
Category: Accessory, Cases, iPad, iPhone, iPhone 6

SurfacePad iPhone 6 - Jason O'GradySome people use cases on their iPhones, some people don’t. If you’re in the second group I’m going to give you reason to consider a case.

While purists don’t want to cover the iPhone 6′s smooth, elegant curves, it’s easy to scratch its beautiful retina display (and aluminum back) while bouncing around in a pocket, bag or purse with a set of keys – and whatever else you might have in there.

What to do?

The good news is that you don’t have to cover your iPhone with a flak jacket or suit of armor to protect your investment, there’s a nice middle ground.

Enter the SurfacePad for iPhone ($49.99) by Twelve South. Its a slim, leather, folio-type case that adds barely any heft and just enough coverage to protect the front and back of your iPhone – without covering its trademark curves.

The SurfacePad sticks to the back of the iPhone 6 with an adhesive that’s removable and reusable. I didn’t stick mine on straight the first time and removed and reapplied it a couple of times before I got it perfect. The flap wraps around to cover the screen of the iPhone and includes pockets for two cards (like a debit card and driver’s license) on the inside front cover.

When combined with Apple Pay SurfacePad makes a compelling case for ditching the bulky, old-school wallet.

The volume buttons (along the left side) are still usable through the soft Napa leather and there’s a notched cutout for the camera lens and flash. The front flap doubles as a stand (for watching slideshows and movies) when flipped around back and the supple leather both looks and feels great. The contrasting stitching adds a touch of style and distinguishes the SurfacePad from all the anonymous cases on the market.

Don’t get complacent though. Front and rear flaps only provide a limited amount of protection, that while helpful, won’t protect your iPhone from impact against a hard surface. That’s the tradeoff with a case like the SurfacePad, it’s so thin that you won’t notice it in your pocket, but it also won’t protect your iPhone’s edges if you drop it on the sidewalk.

I’ve been using the SurfacePad (with debit card and DL) on my iPhone 6 for a week and haven’t needed to reach for my wallet once. SurfacePad is just the excuse I’ve been looking for to dump my bulky leather wallet for good.

SurfacePad is available in black, red, white and my personal favorite, camel for $39.99 (iPhone 6) and $49.99 (iPhone 6 Plus).

Pictures of the SurfacePad for iPhone 6 – and the similarly beautiful SurfacePad for iPad – after the jump.

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Review: mPact Glass Extreme Screen Protection for the iPhone 6

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Date: Thursday, November 13th, 2014, 08:19
Category: Accessory, iPhone 6

mPact Glass Extreme Screen Protection for the iPhone 6 - Jason O'Grady

Ever since I can remember I’ve installed a screen film on the front of my iPhone. I’m rough on my electronics and iPhone screens take a lot of abuse.

My iPhone is a tool and I treat it like the utility that it is. While it’s a rather expensive (and fragile) tool, it gets tossed into some of the most treacherous places on the planet (pockets, bags, cup holders) and mine gets handled by one of the most unpredictable forces known to mankind – children.

I’ve always gravitated toward Japanese PET films – made from a PolyEthylene Terephthalate resin – from Zagg, and most recently Power Support, until my colleague Rob Parker (a film and video pro) introduced me to glass screen protectors a few years back. The benefit is that glass screen protection doesn’t affect screen sensitivity nor image quality.

Since that moment I’ve insisted on glass screen protectors and I won’t go back to traditional PET-based films. My new ride is mPact Glass Screen Protection ($59.99), which fits my iPhone 6 perfectly and works like a charm. It doesn’t go all the way to the edge so it won’t interfere with cases and frankly, it can’t because of the iPhone 6′s voluptuous curves.

The mPact glass is 0.4mm thick (about twice as thick as PET films) and is heat and pressure resistant for extreme screen protection. It’s coated with a shatterproof film and is both antibacterial and oleophobic which reduces germs and smudges.

Mine installed easily and has been a great addition to a great iPhone, While it wasn’t inexpensive, neither was the iPhone that it’s protecting.

Oh, and that sweet leather folio case? More on that in another installment.

How to get a free landline phone using Google Voice

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Date: Tuesday, November 11th, 2014, 11:36
Category: Google, VOIP

OBiHai Obi100 VOIP device - Jason O'GradyI’ve previously written about the OBi100 from ObiHai, it’s a cool Voice Over IP (VOIP) device turns your Internet connection into a traditional telephone line, complete with dial tone.

I can almost hear you saying, “I cut the cord a long time ago, what on earth do a I need a landline telephone for?

As it turns out, a wireless phone can come in quite handy some times, especially in places where you spend a lot of time (like your home or office.) For example, I love using a cordless phone (and a corded boom headset, natch) when I’m working around the house, cooking, and making long phone calls to call centers.

Traditional landline phones are also great for when your iPhone battery dies, or you just can’t find it because it’s lost in the couch or a jacket.

What you don’t need is the outrageous monthly fee that the telephone company charges you for the privilege of providing you with dial tone service at your home or office. When I turned off my AT&T home telephone service a couple years ago, it was costing me around $50 per month, which is completely outrageous, of course.

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The Mac mini’s Intel GPU won’t cut it as a 4K media center

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Date: Tuesday, October 28th, 2014, 07:18
Category: 4K, Apple, Hardware, Mac mini, Television, UHD, Yosmite

Yosemite's 4K support is pretty poor - Jason O'Grady

I purchased a Samsung 4K television (a UN65F9000) for our family room and was super-excited to buy a late-2014 Mac mini (Macmini7,1, model A1347) to complete our entertainment center. The problem is that the Mac mini’s anemic GPU can’t drive a 4K display at a fast enough refresh rate to play smooth video, which is a bummer.

I’ve used a Mac mini connected to a 1080p panel in my living room for years, and it’s always worked great. A Mac mini is great in a media center computer, there’s nothing like having a real web browser for watching live streams and video podcasts and VLC media player is the de facto standard for playing every video CODEC known to mankind. (Tons of people also swear by Plex but I haven’t taken the time to set it up.)

I was optimistic that Apple would properly support 4K (UHD, 2160p) after early Yosemite rumors claimed that it would. When connected to my 65-inch Sammy 4K TV, the 2014 Mac mini can only muster a paltry 30 Hertz refresh rate, which is unacceptable for video. It results in choppy, unwatchable playback. The mini’s poor video performance is a result of its underpowered Intel Iris Graphics.

If you’re thinking of connecting a Mac to a 4K panel, beware. The only Macs that will do 4K justice are those that have a discrete graphics card – and you’ll probably need a $3K Mac Pro to do it right.

I connected my MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch to the Samsung F900 panel and it too only supports 30 Hz output, which won’t fly for video playback. The 13-inch rMBP only has Intel Iris 5100 Graphics which isn’t enough to drive a 4K panel at 60 Hz. According to the Apple Discussion Forums:

  • the 15″ rMBP w/NVidia does support 60Hz
  • the 13″ rMBP w/Iris does not support 60 Hz

If you want to drive a 4K monitor at 60Hz from a Mac you’ll need one with a discrete GPU. Boom. Sounds like the best justification I’ve heard to purchase a Mac Pro yet.

What’s your Mac media center setup?

Apple patches Shellshock vulnerability, but it’s not in Software Update

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Date: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014, 01:24
Category: OS X, security

OS X bash Update 1.0 for OS X Mavericks released to address Shellshock bug on Macs

Apple released OS X bash Update 1.0 for OS X Mavericks to fix a vulnerability in the bash UNIX shell. “Shellshock” is believed to be much worse than the Heartbleed vulnerability that was discovered earlier this year.

PC Magazine wrote about two scenarios that can make OS X vulnerable to the Shellshock bash bug:

For example, Bash would be exposed if a user turned on the remote login capability for all users, including guests. But that is an action that “is probably not the most secure thing to do anyway,” Erwin wrote, as it would open up the computer to other possible attacks.

Another scenario in which adjusted settings could make a difference is on a Lion OS X server running Apache or PHP scripting environments, Erwin wrote. If Apache is configured to run scripts, an attacker could insert variables into a script that a Bash shell would run.

Curiously, OS X bash Update 1.0 isn’t available through the usual channel (the Updates tab in the App Store). It needs to be downloaded and installed manually. Based on the potential impacts of the bug it’s recommended that all OS X 10.9/Mavericks users install OS X bash Update 1.0 right away. 

iOS 8′s MAC randomization requires cellular data & location services to be disabled

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Date: Saturday, September 27th, 2014, 15:36
Category: iOS, iOS 8, iPhone, privacy

You know that we love, cherish and respect your privacy here at The PowerPage, right?

Privacy bugs will be interested in reading Apple’s new “Privacy built in” microsite, which extolls the virtues of some of the new privacy features that are baked into iOS 8. While it’s a huge step in the right directions for the consumer (so much so that the FBI is spreading FUD about it), some industry experts are taking issue with one of the new features.

At issue is what Apple calls Randomized Wi-Fi addresses. In reading that section of Privacy Built In, one could be left to believe that merchants and retailers can no longer track your movements and behavior by scanning your iPhone’s Wi-Fi MAC address. While Apple has taken steps to obscure it in iOS 8, it’s not a simple (or automatic) as Apple leads us to believe.

A new blog post from AirTight Networks’ Bhupinder Misra called “iOS8 MAC Randomization – Analyzed!” (read parts 1 and 2) takes issue with Apple’s claims that iOS 8 uses randomized and locally administrated Wi-Fi MAC addresses in the probing state. For his blog posts Misra used sophisticated packet sniffing gear to dig into the inner workings of randomized MAC addresses.

His conclusions:

On the iPhone 5s, MAC randomization happens only under the following conditions:

  1. Phone is in sleep mode (display off, not being used)
  2. Wi-Fi should be ON but not associated
  3. Location services should be OFF in privacy settings

Then after reading scandalous reports from The Washington Post and Gizmodo stating that “Apple’s new feature to curb phone tracking won’t work if you’re actually using your phone” he decided to dig a little deeper and discovered that location services should be OFF for random MAC addresses to actually show up.

It has to do with the cellular data connection setting. Basically, if the phone’s cellular data connection is ON, there is no MAC randomization! If you now turn OFF the cellular data connection (Settings -> Cellular -> Cellular Data OFF), random MAC addresses show up.

Rups!

iOS8 MAC RandomGate:  Who turns OFF location services AND turns OFF cellular data connection while using their iPhone?

So if both Cellular Data and Location Services have to be switched off to randomize MAC addresses, it’s not really much of a privacy feature then, is it? I think that Apple needs to clarify how this feature really works and it should probably remove it completely from the fancy new Privacy Built In page.

Misra says it best:

Bottom line, this further shrinks the population which is covered by MAC address randomization, perhaps to inconsequential levels and maybe even zero. Who turns OFF location services AND turns OFF cellular data connection while using their iPhone. That is why I now call it “iOS8 MAC RandomGate”.

Apple’s done a lot right with respect to user privacy, but this one seems a tad disingenuous to me.

The iPhone 6 Plus has a content problem

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Date: Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, 03:19
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone

WIRED Magazine is only available on the iPad, and that's a problem - Jason O'GradyI purchased an iPhone 6 Plus on Friday to replace my iPhone 5s and an iPad mini Retina. I figured that the large, 5.5-inch screen on the 6 Plus would allow me to consolidate two devices into one.

It turns out that while the concept of an iPhone-6-Plus-as-an-iPad (think iPad nano) sounds good in theory, it fails in practice.

The iPhone 6 Plus ships with a different build of iOS 8 (12A366) than the iPhone 6 (12A365) which allows it to do a few new tricks that aren’t possible on its smaller 4.7-inch cousin. Most notably, the iPhone 6 Plus home screen can be rotated to a horizontal (or “landscape”) view with the dock running along the right-hand side.

Another new trick: the 6 Plus home screen be flipped 180-degrees (another first) to the delight legions of commuters that connect Lightning and/or audio cables into the bottom of their iPhone only to promptly stick them into their vehicle’s cup holder upside-down. Sadly the UIs for Apple Maps and Google Maps don’t rotate 180-degrees (but Waze does).

Most of Apple’s first-party apps (including Mail, Calendar, Messages, Settings and Clock) feature a new dual-pane mode when rotated into landscape mode on the iPhone 6 Plus, similar to how they behave on the iPad. It’s a nice trick that I hope that more iOS developers integrate into their apps.

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Samsung takes swipe at iPhone 6 Plus in snarky web video

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Date: Friday, September 19th, 2014, 02:38
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Samsung

Samsung touts its Note in a new web video

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at the web video that Samsung posted on its YouTube channel. The video trolls Apple for coming out with a 5.5-inch iPhone (the fabled iPhone 6 Plus) two years after it released the Galaxy Note 2 in 2012.

The video highlights early negative reviews of the Galaxy Note (the WSJ said it “looks like you’re talking into a piece of toast,” Mashable called the Note “an unwieldy beast”). It then shows a recent BGR post from September 9, 2014 titled “The truth hurts, Apple fans: You can thank Samsung for your big new iPhone displays.”

The Samsung video then takes a few potshots at features that the Note has over the iPhone 6 Plus, including a stylus, handwriting recognition, and dual window mode.

While Samsung beat Apple to market with a “phablet” (anyone else dislike that term?), that doesn;t mean that it’s better. Apple’s a notorious second-mover on many technologies. It lets companies like Samsung test the waters with multiple screen sizes, then releases its version when it feels like, a) there’s enough of a market for it, and b) when the product is just right.

So… Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus? Which is better?

Here’s the video:

PPUG meets in Philadelphia this Saturday, June 7

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Date: Friday, June 6th, 2014, 14:42
Category: PPUG, User Group

http://thescene.s3.amazonaws.com/pics/bar/2/51481/profile/1205061797294_272.jpgJoin us for a spectacular autumnal meeting on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at noon.

The Philadelphia PowerBook Users Group (PPUG) will hold its Welcome to Springtime Festival meeting from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Manayunk Brewing Company. We usually have lunch (and a brew) while we talk mobile computing.

PPUG founders Jason O’Grady (PowerPage.org), Rob Parker, Bob Snow, as well as Youngmoo Kim will be on hand to talk about latest developments in mobile computing, new Macs, iPad, iPod, iPhones, and the latest Apple developments. Come hear special presentations from our panel and some fabulous demos as well.

Jason and the gang will discuss the latest announcements and developments from Apple’s WWDC which will have just ended on June 6th. So we will really be the absolute first user group to discuss all of the newest latest developments coming from Apple for the next year.

You don’t want to miss this meeting!

Of course we’ll have a healthy serving of Q&A.

Join us for a great meeting, it’s free and open to you and your guests.

Feel free to bring items to sell or swap as well.

OUR MEETING PLACE:

Manayunk Brewing Company
4120 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127
215.482.8220

If you are part of a Mac User Group, then forward this announcement to your membership.  All are welcome!