iPhone 7 and iOS 10

It may not come as a shock to most people at this point, but Apple, Inc. has just released a new model to their iPhone line-up. On what has become Apple’s annual special event to announce the latest iPhone every September, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have been announcing with an availability and shipping date of September 16th. Not only was the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus announced, but they also announced a new release of their cutting edge iOS operating system, iOS 10.

The Specs:

With the latest release of the iPhone 7, we are starting to see processing power equal to that of desktop or laptop computers just a few short years ago available in the palm of your hand. With the iPhone 7 it is no surprise that the processing power has increased yet again. Apple’s announcement of the A10 CPU for both models of the iPhone 7 debuted their first mobile quad core CPU ever. This being said, it is still common today to find many workstation and desktop computers running on a single dual core CPU.

For those of you who follow Apple’s annual events and announcements, you know that it really wouldn’t be an Apple Party without there being “one more thing.” This of course means the latest iOS, Apple’s operating system for mobile phones and tablets. With too many features to list, iOS 10 is perhaps Apple’s greatest advance to make Siri, your iPhone’s personal assistant your best friend. Apple has announced that application developers can now integrate Siri with their own applications. This was something before only available to apps developed by Apple. This was not only a nice surprise now, but as more developers begin to integrate with Siri, your life with any Apple device running iOS 10 may just get a lot easier.

My Media Server Adventure

A long time ago in a newsletter far, far away I talked about media hubs and their being the future of home entertainment. I mentioned that I had plans of my own to implement media services and a media hub in my home. Well, I still haven’t convinced my wife to let me digitize our collection of DVDs and serve them to media hubs throughout the house. I have decided it is time to take matters into my own hands. I will have to just show her how awesome it is going to be. Some folks just need some show and tell to help them along, my wife being one of them.

So here is the plan. I have some hardware that I have collected that I am going to use to build the media server of my dreams! At least one I can use to demonstrate how awesome it would be to have something like this in our home. What I am going to do for you my avid readers is tell you in this issue about my plan. What hardware and software I will be using and what my ultimate goal will be. I will continue to keep you up-to-date on the B.I.T.S. blog where I post all the articles for this newsletter and I may even do a few YouTube videos as work progresses.

Let’s get started. First I need some software that will do what I need it to do. I have chosen Plex (http://elan.plexapp.com). Plex started as a community developed application for Xbox to allow the Xbox to be used as a media hub. Plex now has apps for most major mobile devices. It has apps for popular media hubs like Roku, and some TVs and DVD players are even coming with the app already installed. Plex has a media server that allows you to store, catalog, and index all of your digital media including music, films, home videos, and pictures. It has everything plus I can install it on a Windows computer just like I would any other program.

Hardware is going to be a bit different. I have some computers with a mishmash of parts laying around my home office. The goal here will be to pull together some working hardware that meets the minimum requirements for Plex Media Server which are Windows XP, 1.6ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and 512mb of RAM. I will install the Plex app on my iPad and on my laptop to test and demonstrate streaming movies and accessing other media.

If my wife likes what she sees and I get my kids to tell her how much they love it too, I might just get the go ahead. If I get the go ahead, my upgrade will be simple. I intend to purchase a Netgear ReadyNAS to use as my media server. Plex already had an add-in to allow the media server to run on these fantastic storage devices. As a bonus, if I don’t fill it up with movies and pictures I can use the ReadyNAS to also backup my home computers and store other files on as well. None of my TV’s has the option for the Plex software to be installed, so I plan on purchasing Roku boxes for each of the TV’s in the house. I can also use the Roku for Netflix, Hulu, and many other internet based media streaming services, so it isn’t just a one-trick pony either. Wish me luck, and don’t forget to check the blog (http://jcbits/wordpress.com) over the next few weeks for updates on the progress of the project.

Microsoft Direct Access

Connecting to your company’s network can be, at times, a frustrating task. The tried and true VPN client can be a haste to configure and install. Hardware devices like firewalls and VPN concentrators require highly skilled and knowledgeable IT professionals to manage them. Microsoft thinks it has the cure for your desktop VPN blues — Direct Access in Windows 7 & 8 using Windows Server 2008 or 2012. Direct Access is a VPN connection for mobile devices like laptops and Windows 8 tablets that connects you to your company’s network anytime it senses you are out of the office and have an internet connection. The net effect of this automatic VPN for the person using the device is that they have the same experience connecting to their business network when they are in the office as they do when they are out.

Direct Access can be set up on a device using group policy. The device connects to the network for the first time, downloads the settings, and the VPN is ready to go. The user of the computer just picks it up and walks out the door. They never had to install any software, they didn’t even have to call IT to come set up the VPN connection. Once the device has left the network, NAP or Network Access Protection can be set up to check the remote client while it is away and ensures that it has the latest configuration and that it is in compliance with security requirements such as having updated antivirus.

Another exciting new feature of Direct Access in Windows 8 when connecting to Windows Server 2012 that I recently learned about is the ability to remotely provision or set up a new computer that has never been connected your corporate network. Let me spin a little tale for you. Imagine you run a small company in the Mountains of WV. Jane from your sales team takes a trip to France to meet with a new client. After she lands, she gets in a cab and heads to the hotel. When she arrives at the hotel, she realizes that she left her laptop in the cab. Thankfully you don’t allow any corporate data to be saved on devices like laptops, so all you have lost is the hardware. But Jane needs a new laptop for her presentation tomorrow. No worries. Send her out to get a new laptop from anywhere running Windows 8 Professional. All you have to do now is send her a provisioning package that she runs on the new laptop. The laptop will reboot and be joined to the domain, direct access set up, and she will have access to the company’s network and all the files she needs to nail her presentation.

Server 2012 and Windows 8 open up a number of new possibilities for telecommuters and road warriors as well as ease the burden and complexity IT departments have to deal with, making them more efficient. It is time to start seriously looking at Windows 8 as a replacement for those old laptops and adding Server 2012 to your bag of tricks when it comes to managing the increasingly distributed world of business.

Media Hubs – Home Entertainment Evolution

Our world revolves around media: pictures, movies, music, and even documents. Families are separated by their media devices, flung to the far corners of the house hunkered over computers, laptops, tablets, and other handheld devices. Each device is like an island, providing entertainment to only one person. In a previous article, I discussed how to share content like movies and music with multiple devices around the home. In this article, we are going to talk about devices that bring all of that media together in one place, the family room. These devices are sometimes referred to as media hubs.

For some time now, geeky folks like myself have been toiling away at getting all their movies, music, pictures, and DVR content in one place and sharing it around our homes, building computers that reside in our AV cabinets in the family room and using them to display this content on our TV. Our TVs and DVD players are now “Smart” and include some apps that allow us to connect to some of that media over the internet. Devices like the Roku box stream content from the internet, but also allow for other applications to be added to it that allow you to stream your personal media from a computer in your home. I am looking at building a custom solution that uses a hobby electronics device called a RaspberryPi to create a media hub for streaming content to my family room. Another new device that wants to be the only media system you will ever need is the new Xbox One. I know I talk about the Xbox in the security article of this newsletter, but it really is just that cool to make it into 2 articles. The Xbox One is a Blu-ray player, game system, video phone, TV tuner, DVR, content- streaming pile of cool. But it won’t be on sale till later this year.

There is a trend forming here, and I think Microsoft is on the right track. Being able to get to and view your content should be easy. It should in the words of Steve Jobs, “Just Work.” And people shouldn’t have to have 50 little boxes hooked up to their TV with an equally large number of remotes to operate. And while the family room has always been the hub of entertainment, the different methods of delivering that entertainment are going to converge into a single powerful media hub.

The Apple-Powered Family

I am a stalwart PC user. I know and love the Windows operating system, but over the last few years my family, like many others, has become more and more dependent on our Apple iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPods). Our used iPhones have become iPods for our kids, and we have an iPad the entire family shares. In what seems like the blink of an eye, my family has become Apple-powered, and my wife and I were unprepared. My wife asked me the other day, “How can we manage how the kids are using the internet and apps on our devices and keep them safe?” My response was, “Let me find out.” I have done my research and now I would like to share the fruits of my labor with you.

The first thing that you need to decide is who needs an Apple ID. Apple IDs are used to log you in to do all things Apple: buy/download apps, purchase music and movies from iTunes, and use iCloud. For my wife and I, it was easy – she and I each needed an ID. We figured that since our children are very young, they don’t yet need the level of independence an Apple ID would give them in the Apple world of “stuff.” We use our Apple IDs to keep our devices backed-up in the cloud and to distinguish who is who in our shared iCloud Calendars. This is a great feature for an Apple-powered family. Create a calendar in iCloud and share it with the entire family to keep track of everyone’s schedules. When someone updates the calendar, it shows up on every device instantly.

Calendars aren’t the only thing we can share. We use cloud services like Skydrive to share files and documents, with iOS 6 we share photo streams from our devices over iCloud, and we share our music and movies using iTunes. I found that built right into iTunes are features that allow me to share all of the music and movies I have on my computer with all of the other computers and devices I have in the house. I don’t have to buy that “Party Rock” song 5 times for everyone to listen to it. Apple has 2 ways of sharing your digital media on your home network: iTunes sharing and Home Sharing. Turning on iTunes sharing allows up to 5 computers on your network to watch or listen to any music or videos in your iTunes library. The only hitch is that you can’t take the file with you. Home sharing is a little different. When you enable Home Sharing, streaming movies is extended to your iOS devices and to Apple TV. You can also copy between computers, great for taking that new movie or playlist on a trip, using your laptop. You will also be able to copy media imported from a home share to your iOS device and take it with you. The iOS devices don’t seem to count against your authorized computer count.

Now let’s talk about the kids. iTunes and iOS devices have some very handy parental control features. Parental controls on your computer can be found on the Parental tab under preferences in iTunes and under Restrictions on the General page of the Settings app on an iOS device. In iTunes, you can disable access to things like the store and iTunes Radio. You can restrict access to apps, music, and movies based on content ratings and lock it all up with a password so kids can’t change the settings. iOS devices allow you to hide apps you don’t want kids to have access to, in addition to the same types of content restrictions as iTunes. You can disable in-app purchases or disable access to the store all together. These are just a few of the settings available to make iTunes and iOS devices safer for your kids. If you have created Apple IDs for your kids but don’t want to give them unlimited access to your credit card to buy apps and music, you can use the iTunes Store Allowance to purchase apps and media. At any time, you can go back and change the monthly amount, suspend, or cancel the allowance. The one place that iOS devices seem to have fallen short in the parental control department is safe web browsing. For $3.99 from the app store, the Kid Safe browser app has the solution with all the safe web browsing features you could ever want.

Apple devices empower people to do things they never did before and now, as families get more ingrained in the Apple ecosystem of devices and content, Apple has empowered families to share, learn, entertain, and be entertained in a new way. Many people think that electronic devices are pulling people further apart, but with the right know-how families can learn and play and learn to play together in a new way that works with our digital age and do it safely. For more detailed instructions on how to setup home sharing, calendar sharing in iCloud, or parental controls, visit the blog @ jcbits.wordpress.com or ‘like’ us on facebook @ facebook/JacobsCompanyBITS, where I will be posting How-To tutorials.

CES 2013!

As I am writing this newsletter, the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is preparing to get underway in Las Vegas. CES is one of — if not the — largest venues for the makers of all of the must-have tech gadgets to unveil their latest creations and technologies. This year is no different. Already, the Internet is a buzz with news about what is being debuted by manufacturers like Panasonic, Intel, and Samsung. I am so excited to see what new gadgets this year’s CES will bring.

Some companies have already begun product unveilings, like Sharp and their new display technology called IGZO and improvements to their Quattron color technology. Lots of new TV and display technologies are expected this year at CES. There was speculation that a clear, that’s right you can see right through it, display from Samsung would be unveiled. The see-through displays may be science fiction, but Corning Inc. (the makers of much of the glass used in displays from smartphones to TVs) believes it is coming at some point. Will this be the year? I guess we will have to wait and see.

There are lots of other cool things at CES; tablets, phones, wearable Bluetooth fitness monitors, new technologies from auto manufacturers, like Siri integration and Pandora radio for your car. If you thought the see-through display rumor was over the top sci-fi, then the Vuzix Smart Glasses will really put you over the edge. These smart glasses are a hands-free display for your smartphone that you wear on your head. Another technology that will be making its way from the realm of sci-fi is the 3D printer. For several years now, DIY inventors known as Makers have been tinkering with printers that can create 3D objects by printing layers of plastic one on top of the other. 3D printing is great for the inventor in need of a way to get a prototype of a part out of the computer and into the real world, but what might the average household use one for? Well, some of the projects I have seen are for printing designer home accessories like a vase or decorative artwork. I have also heard of individuals getting files to print replacement parts for toys or other common plastic parts that have broken such as gears or buttons. Today the base model 3D printer will run you $1200 — pricy for most, but the price continues to drop as more people adopt these cool little devices.

Manufacturers at CES will certainly be bringing a lot of very cool and useful new gadgets to consumers this year, and I look forward to sharing more information about some of the coolest ones with you in the next issue. I expect to see lots of new gadgets for the home network centered around wireless and audio/video streaming. Hang on technology! 2013 is shaping up to be one wild ride.

Microsoft Surface With Windows 8 Pro

We here at B.I.T.S. are very excited about the upcoming availability of the new Surface tablet from Microsoft. You may be saying that we have already covered the surface, and this is true. However, in January, a new model is scheduled to begin shipping. Surface with Windows 8 Pro! At first glance, there isn’t much different here. You might notice that while holding one, it is a little heavier, by just .5lbs. What’s so exciting about a tablet that is heavier?

The Surface with Windows 8 Pro runs, well, Windows 8 Pro. Why is that a big deal? First, Surface RT is only able to run applications that were written for the RT platform and purchased from the Microsoft App Store. Surface with Windows 8 Pro can run anything a Windows 7 laptop can run today. You may want to take that last statement under advisement, as storage and other resources are limited. Imagine however a 10″ tablet that could run that program you have been wishing would someday soon have an app for your android or iOS based tablet. Well soon your wait will be over. Second, those IT guys who don’t want you to bring in your tablet to work will be thrilled to have you bring this one in. It fully integrates with a Windows network, just like your desktop or laptop, so IT can manage it and support it just like existing desktops and laptops. That is a big win for both teams!

Ok, time for some of the important specs. This tablet has 2 720p HD Cameras, a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a microSDXC card slot for additional storage, 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless, 1920×1080 Full HD Display, 4GB RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, and comes with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. Reportedly, battery life is expected to be around 4-5 hours.

There are a few disappointments with the Surface. First, the operating system takes up a good bit of storage on the device. This loss of space can be dealt with by adding a 64GB microSDXC card or attaching an external hard drive to the USB port. Secondly, there is no support for cellular data. No Verizon or AT&T version to let you surf when there is no Wi-Fi available. With Wi-Fi to be found almost everywhere, this lack of wireless Internet connectivity isn’t the end of the world. Many smartphone data plans now allow you to turn your phone into a hot spot, and since there is a full-sized USB port, it might be possible to install a USB modem to the device. Third, is the cost. The 64GB model will be $899, while the 128GB model will be $999. Accessories like the type covers start at $120, upping the cost even more.

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro may, in our opinion, be the perfect solution for businesses looking to use tablets inside the office and out. This tablet has the support IT is looking for, the flexibility users need, and the power to run it all. Its steep price may be its only stumbling block; however, Microsoft views this tablet as a replacement for the laptop or ultrabook. This price point may just be worth it when you compare it to the price of the current ultrabooks and laptops Microsoft expects it to replace. Visit www.microsoft.com/Surface for more information about both the Surface with Windows 8 Pro and the Surface RT.

March Of The 7 Inch Tablets

Smaller tablets are all the rage in the world of mobile technology today. Slightly larger than a DVD case, the 7″ tablet is not new, but there is a new player on the field. On October 26, Apple threw their hat into the ring with the iPad mini, a 7″ tablet that just a year ago Steve Jobs said would never make it in the market. It looks like he may have spoken too soon. Let’s take a look at a few of the top 7″ tablets available today.

The Kindle Fire HD is one of the hottest small tablets on the market. The newest version of the Kindle Fire at 8.9″ is inching up closer to the size of the larger tablets. The Fire HD has a 1080p high definition screen and can be purchased with or without 4G cellular data connection. The tablet is very light, weighing in at only 20 oz. and very fast, sporting a Dual core 1.5 GHz processor. Amazon claims the device has a 9 hour battery life, which is great for watching and listening to the over 20 million songs, movies, and TV shows Amazon has to offer. That doesn’t include all the Kindle books and magazines, because of course you can read all of them on this tablet as well. The Kindle Fire also has popular apps and games like Angry Birds, Pandora, and Facebook. The Kindle Fire HD is an entertainment powerhouse starting at $299.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is one of a vast cornucopia of tablets running Google’s Android operating system. The new Galaxy Tab 2 runs Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, and has a Samsung add-on called TouchWiz, which allows you to customize the tablet’s interface by adding live panels to the home screen, feeding live content such as email, and social media updates. The tablet has access to over 500,000 apps through the Android market as well as thousands of movies, music, and TV shows. The Galaxy Tab only supports Wi-Fi, so if you want to connect to the Internet you will have to find a hotspot. The Galaxy Tab is lighter than the Kindle Fire HD, weighing only 12 oz. and smaller, sporting a 7″ 1080p high definition screen. Coming in at $199.99 direct from Samsung, this tablet is an excellent full-featured tablet though it does have its limitations.

Last on the list is the new Apple iPad mini. This tablet is an iPad…only smaller. Apple boasts that it has over 275,000 apps targeted to the iPad and they all run on the mini, just like they do on a full-sized iPad, and that does not include the other iOS apps for the iPhone that are compatible as well. The secret is in how they set up the screen resolution, 1024 by 768 – the same as the iPad 2, but with just a few more pixels packed in there to make the display even clearer. The lightest of the group – the iPad mini is just 10 oz. The iPad mini has plenty of power packed into its smaller frame. The tablet has a dual-core Apple A5 processor just like the iPad 2. The cameras – both front and back – match the specs of the most recent refresh of the new iPad, allowing you to take 5mp photos and 1080p high definition video. The iPad mini, like other iPads, comes in black or white, with or without 4G cellular, and with varying amounts of storage (16GB, 32GB, or 64GB). This tablet, like Apple states, is “Every inch an iPad.” Depending on how you size it, the price ranges from $329-$659.

The tablet market has reached a plateau where each device hardware-wise is on equal footing. When deciding which tablet you want, you will need to ask yourself which one has the software features you want and of course what apps does it run, because it is truly the apps that make tablets useful and entertaining.

Apple Event Announced

Apple today at 12:00 pm est sent out invitations to media organizations for an event with the tag “We have a little more to show you.” Expectations are that the October 23rd event will be for the unveiling of the rumored iPad Mini.
Speculation on the new device’s hardware are still flying. Most outlets are reporting that the Mini will have WiFi and 3G options. Storage will range from 8-32gb. It is expected that the screen will not be a retina display and cameras will be similar to those on the iPad now. Also expected is the new 7″ tablet will have Apple’s new Lightening connector.
As with any Apple rumors nothing is set in stone until the release date but after the spot on run of rumors before the iPhone 5 release I would expect these to be a safe bet. I guess we will find out next week.

iPhone 5

On September 21st, Apple stores were filled with eager customers. The latest iPhone had hit the shelves. Over the last several months, rumors about what the next iPhone would be flew. Would it redefine the smartphone once again? Speculations ran from the outlandish to the mundane. Now that it is here, there are a few things you should know before you rush out and buy this shiny sleek glass and aluminum work of art for your pocket.


Apple changed the connector – meet Lightning! The standard connector found on almost every Apple device is now Apple’s new smaller Lightning connector on the iPhone 5. Now before you start throwing out all of your iHome speakers and other “i” compatible gadgets, Apple has for sale a Lightning to 30-pin adapter to help ease the transition for $29. While this change is not the end of the world it is, in my opinion, the most significant change to the phone that will affect consumers. The other change and more immediately noticeable one is the size. Our little iPhone had a growth spurt. It is almost 5 inches tall. To help you visualize the difference, this new size translates to the equivalent of one more row of apps on the home screen.


Other changes are the inclusion of support of faster 4G wireless service from AT&T and Verizon, as well as enhanced Wi-Fi. The camera’s both front and rear can now record in HD (the front recording in 720p and the rear in 1080p). The new A6 processor doubles speeds, while providing some improved battery life. Eight hours of talk time or eight hours browsing the Internet or a huge ten hours of video playback. The iPhone 5 even  comes loaded with the latest IOS 6 installed, giving access to Siri enhancements and updates for many of the built- in apps, like turn-by-turn directions for Maps. The new iOS also has Facebook integration built in, much like the integration of Twitter in previous versions. You can now “like” anything, from anywhere on the phone (mostly).


While all of these new features and upgrades are great, they don’t redefine the market as we have come to expect from Apple in recent years. Unless there is a major breakthrough in the world of science, the time of redefining the smartphone market is over. Now you just have to pick the phone with the features you want.


My recommendation for the iPhone 5 is this: if your contract is up and you are an “Apple” already, get one. If not, just wait it out until your contract is up or until something you like better comes along. There just aren’t any “must-have” super features in this new device. As a matter of fact, now is a good time to test out the waters with a different device or get your first iPhone. I think it will be a while before Apple changes the adapter on these devices again, but the hassle of using an adapter for all of your accessories might just be the push you need to try a Windows Mobile or Android-based phone.