Musical Interlude

This is one of my favorite songs from 1991. While it came out in 1990, this song did not get big until after the failed Soviet Union coup that lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. If you watched “The Interview” at the end of 2014, this song is played at the end.

And now, here is “Wind of Change” by Scorpions.

 

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With Age Comes Wisdom…

As I’m getting older, while history doesn’t repeat, it does rhyme. But I have this feeling that we are undergoing a fundamental shift in this world and I had to write about it.

Is there a wind of change blowing right now? Some may feel anxiety that a shift has happened or will happen. Has an evil force been unleashed upon the world? What is happening out there in the world? All of us have this sixth sense or intuition, but each one of us may be tuned to something else or ignore it altogether.

Will it be a surprise like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the implosion of the Soviet Union?

Will it be a Supreme Court ruling that changes fundamental things in this country?

Will it be a man-made horror on a scale greater than 9/11 or 3/11/11 in Japan?

Will the Big One (earthquake) hit California?

Or will it be something that comes out of nowhere and affects every individual?

All I know is that something big is coming our way. I cannot tell if this event is foretold in the Holy Bible (Daniel, Ezekiel, the Gospels, or even the revelation), but I would not be surprised if this is an event foretold in the Holy Bible.

We have to be alert and be ready for anything. If you have made preparations, they should be rushed to completion now. Be watchful.

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Finally – Verizon Galaxy Note 3 has Android 5.0

It’s the day we pay the taxman and Andriod 5.0 for the Verizon Galaxy Note 3 has been released. It’s a 2-step upgrade which will take the better part of an hour. The first step only takes 6 minutes, but the second upgrade will take over 20 minutes depending on the number of apps. Like the Note 4 upgrade to 5.0, there will be an upgrade to Google Play Services. This upgrade to the Services took the longest time. Once the 33 Mb file was loaded, the warning was cleared.

I rebooted the two times and then I did a cold boot by removing the battery. So far, the upgrade looks good but I have to check to see if the iBolt apps are working under Android 5.0

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No dice on Google Wallet and Galaxy Note 3

It appears that the Galaxy Note 3 for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile has a different NFC chip than the Sprint version. This may explain why the Google Wallet tap to pay only works on the Sprint version and the rest of us had to use Softcard.

Now that Softcard is gone, what do we do? Since the Note 3 will be two years old, it may be time to move over to the Note 4, the Note 4 Edge, or even the Note 4 successor if it becomes available. While the Note 3 is going to be a good phone with the Android 5.0, it’s time to look forward.

It’s only a few more months until the successor is announced. Let’s see what happens. Unless Google Wallet incorporates the Softcard IP and enable the drivers for the oddball NFC chip, only a hardware swap will make the Google Wallet Tap to Pay work.

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Softcard is gone

If your smartphone rebooted today, check your apps. There’s a good chance that your carrier removed the Softcard app from your phone. Since the app was a system app, all the user could do is revert the app to its factory configuration. The carrier had to remove the app from the phone.

Adios Softcard. Hello Google Wallet.

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Mobile Payments – What’s Next?

Since Softcard is shutting down this month, we have to ask ourselves about the future of mobile payments. What is next?

Right now, there are several options. The main players are ApplePay, Google Wallet, PayPal, and CurrentC. While ApplePay has gathered the most publicity, Wallet and PayPal have been around a lot longer. How did we get here?

In 2011, Google introduced its Wallet app which you could use for contact-less payments if the terminal was NFC-capable. The problem with Wallet was the access to the “secure element” of the SIM card. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile would not allow Google to have its app access the secure element. Only Sprint allowed Wallet to work with tap-to-pay on its phones. Little did we know that the big 3 blocked Wallet so they could introduce ISIS as the tap-to-pay app. ISIS was a good idea, but with only Chase, Wells Fargo, and American Express on board, most people dismissed the idea of mobile payments.

The PayPal app is a good idea but requires a few steps to pay with PayPal at the terminal. PayPal could work with any phone on any provider, but the merchant had to support PayPal. CurrentC only came to the public knowledge because of ApplePay. Several large retailers like Best Buy, CVS, and others blocked all NFC-based payment methods within a week of Apple Pay coming out.

Apple Pay is relatively late to the party because NFC support wasn’t built-in to the iPhone until the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released. But because of the support from major banks including Bank of America and others, ApplePay has started to take off. At the same time, many retailers have to upgrade their terminals to be compliant with the new EMV regulations starting October of 2015.

We cannot forget Starbucks and their massively successful app which allows payments straight from the phone. While the Starbucks uses a similar technology as CurrentC, the combination of rewards and ease-of-use for payments makes the Starbucks app very successful as a mobile payments app.

Now that we know how we arrived here in the mobile payments space, where are we going? First, we have to acknowledge that any system will be insecure until proven otherwise. The recent Apple Pay breach shows that banks still have a long way to go before card not present (CNP) fraud is solved. The new chip cards (chip and pin / chip and signature) should reduce fraud once the cards get out in the public space.

Second, banks have to do a better job of tracking and validating stolen credit cards. If Apple Pay drops a bank because of lax approval practices, then this action or the threat of a suspension would get the bank’s attention. But there is a cost-benefit issue at play. The offending bank won’t change unless there is public pressure to change.

What would the ideal payment solution entail? The first step is to reduce the amount of information between the customer, the merchant, and the banks involved. If the information is encrypted between the customer and their bank, all the customer’s bank has to do is return the approval code and that’s it. This is what chip-and-pin is supposed to do with the one-time token. If the mobile payment solution can work in a similar manner as the new chip and pin, we could have the first steps to resolve credit card fraud. But until banks can resolve the issue of stolen credit cards, we will still have problems no matter the transmission method.

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Softcard says Goodbye

As of March 31, Softcard will no longer work. Their webpage and emails direct users to download the Google Wallet application.

After that date, the Google Wallet app may be updated to support tap-to-pay functionality. I think the carriers will allow the new functionality on most phones. But for those requiring the secure element like the Galaxy Note 3 and similar vintage, it may be a long wait.

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It’s official: RadioShack files for bankruptcy

RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this afternoon. We’ll know more once the first day orders go out. 2,000 stores could be closed a part of the initial filling but that is up to the bankruptcy court.

WARN notices have gone out in Texas for 1,000 layoffs at the corporate headquarters.

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Watching the clock on RadioShack

Today, Bloomberg announced that RadioShack is in talks to sell half of their stores to Sprint and shutter the rest. The reason for this action is to prepare the company for Chapter 11 reorganization. Unfortunately, this proceeding may become a liquidation. There are several signs that any RadioShack shutdown will be quick.

First, the New York Stock Exchange has suspended trading in the stock and will remove RadioShack from the exchange due to insufficient capital requirements.This was expected as RadioShack stock has been hammered lately after a lackluster holiday season. The money is running out.

There are some rumors that some store managers have been told to ship inventory such as smartphones and other items to other stores prior to the filing. The Dallas Morning News reports that some stores are running clearance sales and that store managers know they are closing between 30 and 90 days from today. Based on these reports, the first wave of store closings will be complete between March and early May. The chain will be all but gone soon thereafter.

What beat RadioShack? First, the service has been going down for years. Second, the insane focus on smartphones by the chain overshadowed the other nice things that could have saved the company. The Maker movement could have saved the company. Now, Mouser, Digi-Key, and Monoprice offer a better selection of parts and cables with fast shipping. Other places offer the same or better items than RadioShack. Why go to the store when you can go online? Or even better, a visit to Fry’s Electronics was in order if the item was needed right now.

But the biggest failure had to be the lack of foresight with the proper use of its mailing list. The mailing list was an untapped gold mine. The marketers at RadioShack failed to see the value in its mailing list. When was the last time you saw a flyer from RadioShack? I would receive emails from the chain, but they did not show anything I wanted based on my shopping preferences. Amazon actually suggests items to buy which is very useful.

Next Web leads with the headline “Adios RadioShack and thanks for all of the Batteries.” That pretty much sums up my sentiment about the company. It’s time to say farewell to RadioShack and relegate them to the dustbin of history.

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Saw this coming – Google buying Softcard

According to multiple reports, Google is in talks to buy Softcard (formerly Isis). This is a very interesting development in the mobile payments space.

Isis was formed as a consortium in direct response to Google Wallet and its “tap to pay” functionality. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile formed this consortium to set up their own mobile payments system. The key to the system was the “Secure Element” located in the SIM card. Google wanted to access the secure element as part of the payment process. But since the big three wanted to see Softcard succeed, Google was forced to reduce its Wallet app to a loyalty card holder.

With the advent of Apple Pay, it looks like Softcard has a lot of intellectual property related to mobile payments but can’t make it work. While Apple Pay signed up many banks and credit card processors, Softcard only had three – Chase, Wells Fargo, and American Express. This left a lot of people out in the cold who could have used a mobile wallet to make payments.

Apple Pay is only available now on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus while Softcard is available on many Android phones. If Google can make this deal work (valued at $100 million), Google would gain the intellectual property. If the three wireless providers will allow Google to implement the Softcard functionality in the Google Wallet app, then we will see a real competitor to Apple Pay.

I’m not holding my breath as to when Google Wallet will have tap to pay on more smart phones. But I’m sure Softcard wants to sell and get something for its assets. The purchase is a no-brainer for Google and it will be a matter of time before we see Softcard functionality in some new or existing app.

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