Why I’m Quitting Apple – Specifically iPhones

To start, I’ve always been an Apple fan – more than that really, an Apple evangelist, when it comes to technology, unified hardware/software platform, design aesthetics, mobile app security and so on.

Back in 2007, I bought the original iPhone 1 even though there was not even 3G service in my region (rural KY). Finally it came. Over the years I bought the iPhone 3G, 4, 4s, 5s and now am still using an iPhone 6s because my contract ends in February. I also had the original iPad 1, original iPad Mini and now have a iPad Mini 2 that serves my purposes.

But come time to buy another phone, it will NOT be an iPhone… Here’s one of the numerous reasons why, starting at the latest and are two major ones that have made it hard to explain to people why I like(d) Apple.

The Fire

The other day a clients, and good friend of mine, house burnt down. It was a complete loss, his phone, laptop and everything else he owned was completely destroyed, he basically had the few clothes on his back and his vehicle.

Being a small business owner, he went to his cellular carrier and bought a new iPhone 8 as soon as he could. He lives in a very rural area and didn’t even really need WiFi at home, so when I saw him at the local tap room, he would almost religiously backup his iPhone to the iCloud ever since the Android he had prior was stolen and he wasn’t able to retrieve all his data remotely.

I had actually recommended him get an iPhone as a replacement to it because I’ve restored to new devices for years and never had any troubles.

So it’s now after his life was turned upside down and everything is lost and one little additional thing happens to him. He forgets his iCloud password… No big deal, just got to the iForgot page. I meet up with him, start through the process, he remembered the iCloud account User ID so we enter that, his phone number, partially obscured (***-***-**95) is displayed and we enter the full number, it’s the “Trusted Number” on his Apple ID. A text message is received from Apple and is entered correctly, but since the new iPhone be bought is not the original “Trusted Device” on his account, it will not allow him to reset the password.

So it suggests “Account Recovery”… Account Recovery asks him no additional information such as his security questions or CC information verification and immediately states it is going to take 12 days to recover…

12 days? Really? So your house burns down, just suck it up and take a 12 day vacation from business and wait for Apple to get around to helping you.

So I read around Apple forums where it says additional information may be required and he was ready to give, but it couldn’t be done online… So I called Apple Support with him, we explained the situation and the rep stated, unequivocally, that there was nothing that could be done and that “12 days wasn’t so bad, some people have to wait up to a month”… We reiterated the complete loss he experienced in the fire and the rep said there was nothing he could do.

I don’t blame the rep, I blame Apple.

  • I understand the need for security, but when my friend can’t even immediately provide the additional information needed (online or via a rep), that is unacceptable.
  • His new iPhone should have automatically became the new “Trusted Device” on his Apple ID since both the ID and the phone are connected to his phone number through the carrier that is a direct partner of the Apple Corporation. This is the most obvious, simple and secure way in my opinion.
  • Granted, my friend probably didn’t update his iCloud since the last round of security precautions were put in place, but Apple should have either a) Forced him to via on phone messages, where he would’ve contacted me or b) allowed him to recover with the lesser security on his account since he established it.

It seems that in the process of studying all use cases, implementing them and making the iCloud accounts the most “secure”, Apple forgot that sometimes the information needed to do so was never entered into someones iCloud account, hence them should have “forcing” the user to update the information.

To finish up this particular issue, 12 days is way too long, not having ANY way to expedite the process is unacceptable, especially when Apple users place virtually their entire lives, which Apple encourages, onto their device. In my friends case, the iPhone was his only Apple device and if my suggestions are taken, will be his last.

Older iDevices

Another friend of mine received an older iPad that still had her iCloud account connected to it. She also forgot her password and since it was an older account, it didn’t have all the information Apple *currently* requires to reset the password, therefore that account could not be removed, older apps connected to that account could not be updated, etc. So she decided to wipe it, being an older iOS version, it allowed her to wipe it, but when it came back to the setup process an “iCloud Activation Lock” was put in place and, basically, could not be removed.

The entire iPad become worthless and bricked and since it was bought used, she could not provide the original proof of purchase Apple required. I did my best to “hack” my way in, find a way to install another OS or something to make the device usable again, but Apple locks even their hardware down so much, none of that was possible.

Not having infinite time or money to pursue it, I gave up helping that person. I apologized for Apple being how they are to both of the people mentioned and will no longer recommend Apple devices to any of my clients, friends or family ever again if asked.

Conclusion

Apple isn’t perfect, Android isn’t perfect, nothing is really, but I personally feel much better having my devices intimately connected with my GMail account (GSuite), that I use every day, than with an iCloud account that I don’t and is completely based on Apple’s methods. At least Google offers secure and smaller waiting period to recover accounts. Even though I have friends horror stories of account recovery with Google, I know myself or my clients I manage will never have that issue.

So what am I getting next? Most likely a Google Nexus 5X or 6P that is directly integrated with the GSuite account, the same GSuite account connected even to the Google Chromebook I’m typing this message on at this very moment.

If this article was helpful and you’d like to “tip” me and motivate more writings, I accept DOGE coins: D9boV9otyoLvCQPy7WvTdTCW2v2tRkKj9c

 

PHP 7 so much faster than PHP 5

php7-transparentEarlier this year, I decided to make the leap to PHP 7 prior to it officially becoming a part of my servers distribution (I run Ubuntu).

It has probably been the easiest and best change I have made to my personal server stack in a number of years.

Granted, it wasn’t without a few minor issues. In the custom PHP code I wrote for clients, I got a little lazy over the years and did not open my PHP code blocks with <?php … and still just had php.ini to allow that, but I decided to go through my custom code and add the

Switching to PHP 7 gave a very large advantage… The speed. It is substantially faster than PHP 5. I ran benchmarks on my 1GB linode before and after the switch and PHP 7 literally doubled the speed of code execution.

Here are my basic server specs on most of my servers. There are minor variations.

Linode 1GB VPS
Ubuntu 14.04.5 LTS
MySQL 5.5.50-38.0 Percona Server
Nginx 1.4.6
PHP 7.0.9-1 (FPM)

Along with the PHP 7 switch, moving from the unmaintained Cherokee web server to Nginx as well as adding WP-Supercache to *all* my WordPress sites, the speed increase is VERY notable. Almost like I’m using a CDN when I am not. 

Between my three primary servers, I am running 53, 43 and 37 sites on each. Probably 75% WordPress, 25% Static HTML bootstrap type sites. CPU load times are never greater that 1.0 and usage rarely exceeds 5-10% (Primarily thanks to WP-Supercache).

Linode Improves… Again!

linodeI know I talk about Linode a lot on my site here, but they are my faithful VPS hosting provider, so I want to support them as much as possible.

Recently, Linode made the jump to SSD drives for VPS and at the same time, doubled the RAM for them. SSD drives are not new for VPS providers, for example, Digital Ocean has used SSDs for over a year and at a lower price point for a basic server ($5/mo for 512mb RAM & 20GB space). Linode has a higher starting price point, but it’s well worth the price considering the robustness of the Linode experience including the control panel, very active support staff and excellent hardware.

I currently have 5 VPS on Linode, but manage another half dozen or so for clients. So when it came to “testing” out the SSD upgrade, I wanted to try it on my own first. It was relatively simple. The only caveat was that a few of my VPS were setup with 32-bit kernels. I had to change them to 64-bit and that was all. I clicked the “Upgrade” button in the Linode control panel and it only took about 10-15 minutes to migrate my VPS to new SSD servers with the 1GB memory upgrade. I then proceeded to update Ubuntu to 14.04 LTS on them all and they are running smoothly. Very painless.

Doing a hdparm drive benchmark, it is notably faster than before.

Before

Timing cached reads: 6854 MB in 1.99 seconds = 3442.87 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 404 MB in 3.02 seconds = 133.82 MB/sec

After

Timing cached reads: 19672 MB in 1.98 seconds = 9931.54 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 2856 MB in 3.00 seconds = 951.48 MB/sec

So, in conclusion, Linode continues to make major improvements to their infrastructure without raising the cost to the end-user. I hope they keep up the good work and they will have my business for years to come.

Linode “Nextgen” upgrades

Linode “Nextgen” upgrades

Linode has invested over a million dollars into upgrading their network, servers and bandwidth to levels that are unparalleled when it comes to all the features they have already made available to subscribers.

There are three parts to the “Nextgen” upgrade so far.


The Network

“We’re spending $1 million making our network faster. Way faster. Cisco Nexus 7000 routers. Cisco Nexus 5000 switches with Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders. Linode outbound network cap increased 5x. Outbound monthly transfer quota increased 10x.”

The Hardware

“We’re investing millions to make your Linodes faster. Crazy faster. We’ve begun a refresh of 3/4 of our entire fleet to a new ‘NextGen’ host hardware specification. And we’re upgrading all Linodes to 8 cores! Right now. As in all you need to do is reboot to double the computing power of your Linode.”

RAM Upgrade

“We’re doubling the RAM on all of our plans. This upgrade is available to existing and new customers. New Linodes will automatically be created with the new resources. Existing Linodes will need to go through the Upgrade Queue to receive the upgrades.”


These upgrades represent a MAJOR upgrade. I went from 1.2 TB of outbound to 12 TB. That is quite substantial. The 8 core hardware upgrade is a little harder for most to quantify, but it’s better than the 1-2 “visible” cores I get on DigitalOcean or other “minor” providers. The RAM went from 512 (for me) to 1024. That is very substantial as well when you determine how many sites you can run on a single 512 machine and how many more you can run with double the RAM.

I actually, to Linode’s loss, removed one of my VPS servers and moved sites over to one of the newly upgraded ones. I’m sure, once I outgrow my latest linode, I’ll expand to a new one once more, but for the time being, I love having the additional resources. For my “first” linodes and client ones, it’s great to have the additional resources, especially the “pooled” bandwidth.

Anyone who is looking for a VPS server would be stupid not to get one on Linode with all they have to offer. I manage 9 linodes split between 3 different accounts and the piece of mind that my sites are “safe” is reassuring. I have linode backups on half of them. 30 day S3 and personal rsync backups on the others and do not have to worry about my clients.

Here is my referral link.

Why I like Linode (after using others)

Why I like Linode (after using others)

When I started hosting websites for clients, I hosted them in-house, literally, in my house. This was nice because I had direct control over the servers and could quickly fix them or migrate data if there were hardware failures. But obviously, it does not scale very well when it comes to bandwidth, and if you need many servers, the power and cooling requirements can get out of hand.

GoDaddy

At the point when I felt my home setup was “obsolete”, I then took the plunge onto GoDaddy dedicated servers, 2 of them at the time. One was for websites and ran Windows 2003 Server with IIS. The other was a mail server and each had DNS running on them so I didn’t have to depend on/pay for a third-party DNS provider.

GoDaddy dedicated servers ended up being the biggest mistake I ever made.  They ran well for a while, but then a worm of some kind crawled around their internal network and came in through some backend they use to manage the servers.  I had everything well locked down, all Windows sharing turned off, including unneeded admin shares (C$, etc.) and had the firewall pretty tight. It took around 3 days to recover fully from the crash and even though the machines were virtually “destroyed”, I was fortunately able to FTP out all my customer data.

Crystaltech

I moved most of my ASP & .NET sites over to a Windows 2008 Server at CrystalTech. Including email (SmarterMail), which I love, but with the limited space on a Windows VPS, it is quickly filling up with email (people rarely delete things when using IMAP). I still use Crystaltech and they’ve been very stable, but their cost is quite a bit higher than other virtual solutions.

Slicehost

After the GoDaddy crash, all my PHP sites moved to virtual servers running Ubuntu with a standard LAMP stack. Apache got old real quick. It required constant tuning.  I explored many web servers to find one with better performance, at one time, I had three setup for ALL my virtualhosts where all I had to do was stop all the web daemons, change the config of the one I wanted to use to 80 and just start that one, bring up all my sites on a different daemon.  I finally settled on Cherokee and have NEVER looked back.

Slicehost, in my opinion, had HUGE potential at one time (pre-Rackspace buyout).  The support was phenomenal, everyone in the company was open and reachable. I many times talked to the founder via chat and email.  But all of that went down the drain with Rackspace and all Slicehost’s offerings and prices went stagnant.

I recently cancelled Slicehost completely after getting a hard to access domain, whose DNS was hosted with Slicehost, to change their nameservers to Linode’s.

Others

I’ve used a number of other minor providers from time to time that I won’t get too much into here. None of them seemed to be as “turnkey” as places like Linode and Slicehost when it came to the admin backend experience. They were either too complicated or did not even have some of the basics required for “full service” hosting.

Linode

Linode, so far (knock on wood), has been the best company I’ve ever done business with. Rock solid, great support at all hours, fast host servers, lots of datacenter locations, excellent control panel, iPhone app, etc. I can’t say enough to express my happiness with the service.

I currently host a number of VPS servers with them and have brought over a few clients onto their own server(s).  We host everything from test servers to full production and even PBXs. All runs perfectly.

It will be a sad day in VPS hosting land if Linode ever gets bought out by some mega hosting company like Rackspace.

To end this up, decentralization has been the best thing I have done and it is multi-faceted. I separated websites onto multiple, less expensive virtual servers, which prevent ALL my sites from going down when something happens to one of them. I’ve moved most of my clients to Google Apps for Domains, both business and standard, for email.

My uptime has dramatically improved, my customers are happier and that’s what matters.

What I think Apple Should Do…

Dear Steve Jobs,

I feel that with the “death” of the XServe Server and the uncertain future of Mac OS X Server OS, Apple should delve into offering hosted services to pull in entities who are now scattered among numerous other services such as Google Apps for Domains, commercial hosting, and numerous other third party hosted or self hosted apps, which require a lot of maintenance, multiple accounts, billing, etc.  Many of my IT associates who have switched to Apple laptops and desktops have commented to me that they hate still having to use non-apple apps to complete their daily business.

For example, the MobileMe interface already is an attractive and functional interface for email, contacts, calendar, iDisk, Photos and location services.  How much harder would it be to allow a company to signup and fully attach their own domain to the MobileMe framework.  Perhaps even create a separate enhanced version of MobileMe in their [Apple’s] newest “cloud” datacenter in North Carolina and, over time, have an ‘a la carte’ offering of additional new services that users need/request.  Maybe even allow developers to write custom Apps that can be cleanly integrated into the web interface and a matching app for the iOS device(s).

Keep the price reasonable, no more than $1-2/mo per user, which would be very attractive for small businesses, special pricing for larger corporations and perhaps discounts when Apple devices are purchased and attached to an account.  Perhaps 1 year for free when any iOS device is purchased to draw users in.

The advantages of this would be numerous, it would give small businesses and organizations a unified and complete “Apple Branded Experience” on their Mac PCs, iPhones, iPads, etc.  Almost everyone I know has a Apple device of some kind and many would prefer to use their own domain.  Apple does offer the capability of attaching a domain to your MobileMe webspace, but that does not extend to customization of the other services.

Also, with minor modifications to the existing MobileMe framework, it would bring a whole new potential residual revenue stream that millions of users could utilize.  It may also spur additional companies and users to buy Apple hardware knowing that all these services are so well intergrated. Adding similar features as Google Apps for Domains and improving upon them would make it a very attractive alternative.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do use and am VERY happy with Google Apps for Domains, but it would be nice to have some competition from another major player to keep things interesting.  Google does accomplish a lot of what I’ve stated in this email, but it’s not as “pretty”, well integrated and cost effective for those with many needs.

Perhaps Apple could even purchase a VoIP company and add that to their portfolio of services.  With an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and an old Mac Mini, it would be nice to get deep integration of all my communications needs while not being forced onto the @me.com domain.

I guess only time will tell how far Apple is willing to ascend into the cloud.