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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Farewell to the Galaxy Note 7

After nearly 4 years with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, I upgraded to the Note 7.

I pre-ordered the device and had it the very first day it was available. It never ran hot, or even warm. The warmest it ever was is after leaving it on the charger well after it was charged to 100%. Even then, when I took it off the charger, it still ran cooler than every other smartphone that my entire family has ever owned in normal operating condition in the middle of winter. Aside from the gimmicky curved edge screen, which makes the device look pretty but functions as a completely unreliable writing surface (so true, I have to question Samsung's decision to not allow consumers the choice it has previously, between getting a flat screen model and a curved glass model, as the Note has always been equipped with a hypersensitive S Pen and it is intended as an unrivaled creative's platform), and the smaller usable screen size of the Note 7 (which increases typo occurrence incidences exponentially), it has otherwise never given me an ounce of trouble.

While the smaller curved edge glass screen is a considerable design flaw, the Note 7 ran impressively quickly despite all the different and varied applications that I ran on the device. I honestly can't believe that there was an electronic engineering issue. Remember, the Note 7 was reportedly exploding into a small fireball when completely powered down. This seems to speak to either sabotage by someone during assembly in the clean room (perhaps a disgruntled employee adding a pinch of metal dust into the battery compartment, or someone whos careless and sweat fell directly into it and pooled in the battery as they worked on it - then the watertight and airtight device didn't allow for the perspiration to evaporate or otherwise escape) or an engineering flaw where some barometric sensitive sensor shorted-out the device.

The very fact that I had to turn-in my Note 7 once, after waiting years to find an upgrade device that I would not only settle for, but also be stuck with for the next couple of years, shows how loyal I was to the Note platform. But frankly, the end of the true Note line of phablets ended with version 4, when Samsung decided to stop supporting microSDcards with the Note 5, which is exactly why most smartphone users chose Google's Android smartphone platform over Apple's iOS platform iPhone.

Quite honestly, I cannot believe that Apple does not even come-up with their own proprietary removable storage card solution.  If I go out and record my son's ball game, I am going to be consuming 4 GB of space in full High-Definition. Now that 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) is available at nearly quad the resolution of Full HD, the same recording would consume 8 to 12 GB of storage (depending on detail capture settings and video compression settings).

Relying on the cloud for UHD video recording and high resolution photo storage is not only a means of embezzling from their own customers and requiring (usually overpriced) subscriptions, but it also adds significantly to the noise and load of the cellular data networks, as well as internet junk traffic. And mobile data networks are not so reliable, especially in rural and developing areas. Quite honestly, pushing everyone to the cloud is bullying and the result of this is data air-time spam, because it is neither necessary, convenient nor secure. How many times do we have reports that the internet is down (not only locally, but nationally under significant attack by foreign agents)? And no matter how secure the cloud is reported to be, the idea that we should trust anyone with our personal photos and videos is sinful for anything but back-up purposes.

The issue is not that the cloud may or may not be secure, it is that humans are fallible. The very fact that we are relying on the cloud as a storage solution for anything but incremental backups puts us at a specific disadvantage in securing our own data, and opens us up to ransomware, exploitation, blackmail and even the authorized snooping and sharing of our private lives and documents by anal governmental scrutiny. Although hacking the cloud may seem a hard task, the rewards of doing so, and the payoff so tremendous, I can pledge to you that great risks will be taken and over the course of time, it will be done.

All of this is the result of engineering stupidity. The whole system is designed this way not out of convenience (because it is not), not out of security (because the cloud will not only be hacked, but the NSA is constantly cataloging anything and everything that transpires over the air and on the internet), but only as a marketing tool in order to sell you more services (the cloud) which everyone will eventually have to charge for in order to keep it safe... and yet everything is shared with the NSA and nothing (not one iotta of data or voice) transmitted is ever secure.

As a few examples, I will mention that... Yahoo has admittedly been sharing everything with the government since asked, without even questioning it. Google's unrivaled data is considered a national security issue, and it has very close documented ties to Homeland Security (its Director was a former Google security liason) and not only complies with, but provides professional assistance to the NSA.  In fact, the NSA's data collection facilities are growing at unbelievable rates.

I know that that is a long side-trip, but it is an important one.  AI has been entering the marketplace and itself can become a security risk if not developed and handled properly (see the warnings from Steven Hawkings, Elon Musk and Bill Gates).  The fact is that we are not only voluntarily giving our data over to our communication and internet providers, but purchasing our most personal and private equipment from foreign powers.  Some of these foreign powers, especially China, has obvious alternative state sponsored corporate spying on behalf of the government, has a documented track record of spying, malicious hacking and other dubious activities that threaten not only national security, but even individuals' security, savings, pensions, privacy, data and reputation.

These decisions are considerable mistakes, made directly and knowingly to positively impact sales through marketing, expand their market reach and/or their espionage capabilities.

Now, you may be thinking that I am a nut because I am so security anal.  Actually, I am not.  What I am talking about deals mainly with what is to come.  But the fact that major corporations are making poor selfish and insecure decisions that affect us all based on increasing their ability to expand their marketing or market reach at the detriment of their own brand name is actually the perfect example of how the drive for sales improperly effects decision making.  And because this is our history, we are doomed to repeat it unless we wake up.

This has everything to do with why I enjoyed the Note platform, believe it or not.  Because South Korea is a US ally, whom my father fought for in the Korean war, I do give them some credit.  The microSDcard helps me stay secure while keeping my phone usable as a good and reliable snapshot and video camera.  Even the S Pen (hypersensitive scribe) allows me to deal with the reduced screen size in the Note 7 and avoid typos (now that it is no longer a member of the beloved phablet platform I have come to enjoy).  I also have huge reservations about my carrier, Verizon, who now owns Yahoo that has so easily shared so much with my way-too-nosey government, and has its own intimate relationship with that same US government.  But here in the rural upper midwest US, there isn't much choice for good, reliable cellular coverage.

That said, I used the Note 2 and Note7 to take photos and video of wildlife on a daily basis while riding my trail bike.  I have amounted quite a few photos and videos of deer, fawns, turkey, geese, ducks and turtles, as well as amassed a wide variety of landscape scenes.  And that hobby helps keep me fit by riding around the city bike trails on my bicycle.

Samsung officially calls it the 'Note7', I suppose to differentiate it from the common generic word, and a possible brand evolution to assist in differentiating the Note8 from their 8 inch Note?

I thought I was in the clear when my replacement Galaxy Note7 went through a mandatory update and the white battery icon turned green in the notification bar and the 'always on' display, but clearly I was not.  It was out of pure reluctance when I weighed my options as to whether or not to give-up my upgraded phone, and I went back to the Verizon store without an acceptable, decent phone solution so many times before the Google pixel phone photos were leaked.

Quite honestly, no one competes with the Note platform.  There is an option to get a third party multi-pressure sensitive pen that can be used with an older Apple iPhone, but the 6S Plus and the 7 are not yet supported.

Despite my love/hate relationship with Google, and despite everything I wrote above (that I know Google is spying on me and everyone else for the government), I do want a good camera with my phone.  I've already had to make the conscious compromises with Google over Gmail, Android, Adwords, AdSense, as well as with Verizon, who used to be WorldCom and already has shaken my confidence many times since joining their network.  But, at least these are the evil demons I know.

Though I will never trust either of them, I have no choice but to use them if I want a mobile communication device.  Verizon is the only reliable network in my area, especially in rural communities.  Google's Android platform is the only one that offers its code as an open source platform.

But the Google Pixel comes with its own set of headaches.  You can only get it with no more than 128 GB (ever), as there is no microSDcard support.  Google markets it with an unlimited photos & video drive account in the cloud for as long as you own the phone, but you can bet that they will be showing ads there and require a paid subscription ransom in order to remove them.  But how do I dare trust them with all of my photos when they are a known government collaborator?

Unfortunately, I have to make these compromises all the time in order to stay in the industry I am in.  But it still pains me.  Just because I'm not a criminal or radical doesn't mean that my privacy won't be violated constantly by these corporate giants on behalf of the government.  But it is what it is, and the only safe computer is one that no one can access and I live on the internet, so I will never be safe.

It's a calculated risk, but I pre-ordered the Google Pixel XL.  Yesterday, I sent my Note7 back to Samsung in their fireproof box (it took forever to arrive here).  I really did want to keep it, but I didn't want to be a liability for owning one.  I sure as heck didn't want to burn down my house or never ride in an airplane ever again (though I can't afford to go much at all, I rarely want to fly anywhere now that I have to get to the airport 2 hours ahead of time and risk my privacy being violated all over again by any kind of search).

The truth is that our privacy is now violated constantly in the name of national security and we have to come to terms with that.  Perhaps trusting Google to build a phone on their own platform that will work and take the best smartphone pictures ever is my only possibility.

I wanted to go back to Motorola and use their optical zoom snap-on camera mod, but there is no microSDcard support on the Z.  To top that off, there is no headphone jack, and I need that for PayPal Here and Square Register.

Whether or not the Pixel camera is any good is hard to tell.  The reports are good so far, but the Note7 had a bad-ass camera that shined, too.

Damn, I'm going to miss that phone.

So, I wound-up grabbing a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, as well.  This allows me to have the old reliable Note platform that I knew, is an upgrade to my old Note 2 that I relied on for so many years.  It's only 3 years old, and functions with the old OS I liked.  Because I have the built-in IR Blaster with it, when I retire it, it can function as my remote control.  If it dies like my Note 2 did, I will write-off Samsung forever because I still have a Motorola Droid X that I use as a desk clock.
But the Note7 was still the best compromise I have ever found in a phone.  Damn!

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