iPad is one of the safest computing devices you can use

I haven’t addressed this since 2010 so it is worth repeating again.  The iPad is one of the safest computing devices you can use, probably more secure than your PC, but you have to set it up properly.

First, the biggest security risk probably is physically losing the device. iPads are a great size and easy to carry everywhere, which also makes them easy to leave behind or forget. Luckily for us Apple gave us “Find My iPad.”  Under Settings-> iCloud->turn on Find My iPad.  You also have to have location services turned on, so go to Settings->Privacy-> then turn on Find My iPad (while you are there check to see what other apps are using location services).  And of course you have to have an iCloud account.  You should also enable Remote Wiping, which allows you to delete the data on a lost iPad (as long as it can connect to the Internet). But again to do this you will need an iCloud account which is configured in Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> iCloud.  This service also allows you to remotely send a signal to the device to play a sound and/or to display your phone number and a message that the device is lost and ask the person that finds it to call you.  And if all that fails, to wipe the device. It’s a great service!  Find my iPad is actually misnamed, because the same service works on iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs, basically all your Apple devices.

Also, all iPads ship with hardware encryption built-in, but you need to enable it. The simplest way to do that is to set a passcode on your iPad. As soon as you do, your data will be automatically encrypted. To enable a passcode, go to Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock and then enter a four-digit code twice. If you’d like to be extra-safe, on that same page, you can turn the Simple Passcode option to off then you can then use longer codes. You should also set Require Passcode for no more than 5 minutes and turn Erase Data on.  And please turn on Auto-Lock!

Note: if you have small kids that play with your iPad, you may not want to turn on Erase Data.  Erase Data will erase all the data on your iPad if the wrong passcode is entered 10 times. Something a little one just might do.

You can find more information at:





And if you use wifi hotspots like those you find at Starbucks, McDonald’s, or at hotels / airports please use a personal VPN!


I personally like https://www.witopia.net  and the price point is good.  But you can find other options at:  http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/readerpicks/tp/The-Best-VPN-Service-Providers.htm

On my iPhone I have done all the above (again, please at least turn on a passcode and auto-lock) plus I have also turned OFF “Siri” and “Reply with Message” under “Allow Access When Locked” on my iPhone.















Traveling to Canada and getting real tired of the phone fees!

So, I love my job.  No really.  I LOVE MY JOB.  One of the perks of my job is I get to (ok, sometimes have to – it is a job after all) travel.  I like a little travel now and then.  I go to some cool places; Austin, Boston, Seattle, LA, and even Newport Beach was ok.  And I have been going to Toronto quite a bit lately now.  It’s a nice city. I always have a good time there, but I am scared to death to turn my phone on.  I hear the horror stories of people making a few calls and ending up with $200+ phone bills. Or forgetting to turn off cellular and getting a $4,000 bill for data.   So the last couple of times I’ve traveled to Toronto I call Verizon ahead of time and turn on the international plan so Canada is covered, but I am getting really tired of the fees Verizon Wireless charges for traveling outside of the US.  This last trip I didn’t even use my phone at all except when I was on wifi and the fee was still $25.

So, I am looking at my alternatives.  Even though we are trading partners and some people say Canada is the 51st State up north, I can not find a US cell provider that offers reasonable coverage and rates in the US and Canada.  So do I buy a cheap unlocked phone and buy a SIM card when I am up there next?  I did that years ago with an old iPhone 3. I just read about Truphone’s Tru SIM international cards, but it’s pretty easy and probably cheaper to just buy a cheap SIM card once I get to where I am going.

Some guys that use to work for me bought an unlocked mifi in Singapore and then got a local SIM card so they could not only get their phones on wifi, but it also worked for their laptops.  And my iPad doesn’t get cellular service while I am in Canada either, so maybe that would be nice. Seems easier than the phone, but I foresee technical issues.

Honestly, I am getting tired of paying my standard Verizon Wireless bill here in the US and then also paying $20 a month for my iPad.  So is there an alternative mifi I can use in the US and in Canada (even better if it works in Europe too)?  I have looked at Karma and FreedomPop.  I love Karma’s pay for what you use model.  And they both seem very reasonable (much much cheaper than Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-mobile) and both have pretty good coverage in the DC area.  But neither work very well in Maine (or any other less populated area) and neither has coverage at all anywhere in Canada (or Europe).  So I do not see that route fixing my entire problem, at least until they expand their coverage significantly.

It won’t help me in the States, but if I plan ahead I could rent a XCom Global International mifi Hotspot.  But at almost $18 a day (plus you pay for shipping) that will quickly turn out to be more than I have been paying Verizon Wireless.

So, I am looking at Boingo.  Boingo looks like a win win – 1) it solves my $20 per month iPad fee from Verizon and 2) I’d be able to get online while in Toronto (and they say most of Europe too).  And I’d save money!  For Boingo’s mobile only plan, it’s just $8 a month for two devices.   From looking at their map they seem to have decent coverage in the DC area.  And I checked Austin, Boston, LA, and Seattle seem to have good coverage too.  And it looks like they have saturated the area around the University of Toronto, so I’d get excellent coverage there too.  Anyone have any hands-on experience with Boingo?  Should I ditch my iPad’s Verizon wireless plan and go Boingo instead?  It looks like I’d still get coverage here in DC and everywhere else I travel (including Toronto) and save $12 a month to boot.   I’d love to hear from people subscribing (or that use to subscribe) to Boingo about their experience.

Anti-virus on a Mac? Yup, it’s time.

It is sad to say, but Mac has become a target for malware. Mac Defender proved that.  So it’s time to start using an anti-virus.  There are many out there.  Sourcefire has ClamAV which Mark Allen has put a nice front end on to create ClamXav (open source and free, but please donate) which works well on a Mac.  Another good option is a slightly more user friendly Sophos http://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/free-tools/sophos-antivirus-for-mac-home-edition.aspx (again free).   I’ve tried using Norton and McAfee in the past but they were resource hogs. I don’t think it matters as much what you use, just that you are using one.  

Little Snitch is nice too, it’s not an anti-virus but it does alert you to all the apps that are talking across your network. Interesting to see if nothing else. 


No script is another tool to look at if you use Firefox (or not scripts for Chrome). Again, I allow most scripts to run, but it is good to see what scripts different websites are running and what they are tracking.

iPad2 vs what? Part 2 (I might have an answer!)

I think I have finally figured out the competition to the iPad 2.  It’s the MacBook Air!  No, seriously, the Air.


I have been able to use a 13 inch Apple MacBook Air at work for the last couple of weeks and I find I rarely pick up my Samsung Galaxy Tab at work now.  The Galaxy Tab is still great while I am sitting waiting on for my daughter or for surfing while watching TV (normally the iPad2 is being used by someone too, I rarely get to touch it).  But I haven’t use the Galaxy Tab for data capture or creation since I started using the Air.  The Galaxy Tab, much like the Apple iPad 2, is great for consuming content, but honestly still has some serious flaws in creating content.  The Air doesn’t have those limitations. I have a full screen and a full size keyboard.  It’s fast and powerful with a huge hard drive and 4GB of memory. All the applications that run on my MacBook Pro seem to run just fine on the Air. So I gave up a DVD/CD slot, which, honestly, I rare use anymore anyway.  It’s like when we lost the 3.5 inch floppy drive, who misses that anymore? Even the price points aren’t that too far off between the two devices. And I still have iTunes, Kindle, Evernote and most of the apps I use on my Galaxy Tab or iPad2.  I didn’t loose anything. The killer device against the iPad 2 is the MacBook Air!


Work has settled on the 13 inch Air as the best compromise of power vs. form.  And I have to say the screen is great (1440 x 900) and I love how long the battery lasts. And it’s fast, wake from sleep is instant and boot time is less than 15 seconds.  It is so thin (0.11 to 0.68 inch thick, it tapers – thin in front, thicker in the back) and weights in at only 2.9 pounds.  But, I think, if I were to buy an Air for my own personal use, I’d go for the smaller 11 inch.  I know the battery doesn’t last as long and the screen would be smaller, but the 11 inch form factor would make it a direct competitor to the iPad2 for me. And a much more capable competitor!


I am still interested in seeing what “iPad killers” finally roll out this year.  Samsung always does a good job with their consumer devices and LG should come out strong. The RIM Playbook will be a non-starter, I think everyone knows it’s dead on arrival. Dell is boring, even for business users.  The HTC Flyer seems to be over priced and very similar to the old (Oct 2010) Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Xoom could be competitive, if they had flash and 4G already and lowered the price $100 to $200.  A few other players (Hello HP / Palm!) are talking about cool stuff, but I haven’t seen anything real that I can touch yet. So, right now, the only competition Apple has is…  Apple!  Check out the MacBook Air, if you produce content, or are a creator (Developer), then it could turn out to be a better solution for you than the iPad 2.

iPad2 vs what?

I love my Samsung Galaxy Tab, but even I have to admit that the iPad2 is a sexier tablet.  The Galaxy Tab was an early release and it doesn’t support Honeycomb (hopefully will in the future, maybe – yeah, I know, not likely).  But where are all the new tablets that were hyped last year?  The Xoom is out, but crazy expensive with no flash and you have to send it back to get 4G later? Dell is rolling out a couple of lame solutions.  Where is HP?  LG?  The Playbook? The new Galaxy Tabs we are seeing on blogs?  Why is everyone rolling over and just giving the market to Apple so far?
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