Farewell to AirPort Base Station

Airport Extreme 8th Generation

I used AirPort since the first generation in 1999 and always found the AirPort series to be reliable and easy to configure. But starting in mid 2016 I noticed my NTT Flets mansion (PPPoE – VDSL) service slowing down to analog modem speeds at night and during the weekends.

And so began a year-long tech support journey with NTT and internet provider So-Net to find the problem. Many configuration tests, speed tests, and traceroutes later one thing was clear: IPv4 traffic in Suginami Tokyo was chronically congested. It was time to switch to IPv6 service which So-Net offers as a free option.

The IPv6 option came with a warning: “some of our customers have problems accessing sites like Amazon or Rakuten and switch back to IPv4.” I took the plunge anyway and tried using Airport Extreme (Generation 8) via PPPoE bridging and IPv6 tunneling options.

That worked better than the previous IPv4 only setup at first but it wasn’t long before using the internet after 9 pm was impractical. I then tried using Airport Extreme in bridge mode. That helped for a while but nighttime internet speed degraded over time, by summer of 2017 I was back at square one.

Another set of tests later So-Net tech support suggested a So-Net wireless router for free (the first year) “tuned for routing IPv4 over IPv6.” At wit’s end I decided to give the NEC ATERM WG1810HP wireless router a try. Like magic my internet speed problems were over.

Poking through the ATERM settings I noticed everything was preset for DS-Lite, clearly optimized for NTT FLETS. It’s also clear from reading Japanese forum posts that the NTT FLETS transition to DS-Lite has been in place for some time and AirPort Extreme routers are not equipped for the change. With Apple getting out of the wireless router business time to say goodbye to AirPort Extreme. It was a good run.

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The Incredible Shrinking FeliCa Contactless Logo

New POS systems are appearing in 7 Eleven stores with much bigger touch screens and NFC readers that add the EMV NFC logo while shrinking the FeliCa NFC mark down to a ridiculously small size.

New Panasonic JT-R600CR terminals at McDonald’s and MOS Burger are not much different and also shrink the FeliCa NFC logo until it almost disappears.

Big EMV – NFC Pay logos are mostly wishful thinking at this point rather than wide based FMV contactless support. There just isn’t that much, ahem, financial incentive on the merchant side to make it happen.

Of course the EMV consortium could always help things by adding NFC-F support to their NFC spec now that it is a requirement for global smartphone NFC certification. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one big EMV NFC logo that incorporates NFC A-B-F?

Mastercard the M of EMV would probably be willing as would JCB, but Visa the V would probably not. As always these things have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with politics, market share and money.

iOS 11.2.5 Arriving January 18?

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Apple Pay Suica performance tweaks in iOS 11.2.5 are holding steady in the beta 3 release. JR East also released a special Mobile Suica system maintenance downtime notice today. Major maintenance will be done January 30 from midnight to 4 am. There is also special iPhone only Mobile Suica maintenance scheduled for the early morning hours on January 18.

Maybe it’s nothing but the timing feels like a perfect fit for the official iOS 11.2.5 release: January 18 Japan/January 17 USA

Apple Pay Suica 2017

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John Gruber wrote a great re-review of iPhone X with a related post on the Face ID – Double Click to Confirm Apple Pay gesture. It took some time to adjust but like Gruber the iPhone X side button double click to confirm Apple Pay works better for me than Touch ID did on iPhone 7.

But I don’t use it all that much because my main Apple Pay card is Suica set to Express Transit. Apple Pay Suica Express Transit on iPhone X is a winning combination. Here are some thoughts of using Apple Pay Suica for a year.

Suica Before Apple Pay
Plastic Suica was always more convenient and much faster than credit cards or pre-paid cards like au Wallet for store purchases. Regardless of the technology: chip and pin, EMV, FeliCa, or the card type: credit, debit, pre-paid; any card that uses the credit card processing system for transactions is always slower than Suica.

I don’t think there is anything out there that matches or beats Suica or any IC transit card for transaction speed. But speed is not everything. Despite the promise and convenience of plastic Suica, recharging it was a pain.

Not the actual recharge procedure mind you, Suica cash recharge is very simple but I always forgot to recharge plastic Suica at the station when the balance got low. Either that or I was cash short for a “decent” recharge of ¥3,000 or more. Suica was convenient, but not convenient enough for constant use outside of using it as a commuter pass.

The Apple Pay Difference
Suica and Apple Pay is a perfect martini of fast cash and slow credit with the secret dash of always online mobile technology. Apple Pay Suica recharge completely removes the cash recharge docking requirement transforming Suica into a super slick card for transit and store purchases that uses the pokey credit card for occasional financial backing.

This mobile difference that removes the Suica cash recharge docking requirement makes all the difference. Purchasing or riding anything, anywhere, anytime is simply pulling iPhone out and holding it to the reader. It quickly becomes second nature.

Japanese Android users enjoy Mobile Suica via the Mobile Suica app but iPhone users enjoy out of the box built-in Apple Pay Suica support which offers more flexibility along with the ultimate flexibility of using Apple Pay Suica with Apple Watch.

Hong Kong Octopus card users with Galaxy 8 enjoy a similar built-in service that removes the physical docking cash recharge requirement with the recently launched Smart Octopus on Samsung Pay. It will be interesting to see if the new service enjoys a similar Apple Pay Suica like uptake in the new year.fullsizeoutput_87ca

The Google Maps Apple Maps News Cycle and All That

By now the Apple Maps news cycle follows a regular pattern:

  • Justin O’Beirne posts a new analysis that tech writers swoon over.
  • A big USA writer/analyst like Neil Cybart says, “I don’t use Google Maps, Apple Maps works just fine for me.”
  • Last but not least overseas commentators answer, “that might be true in the USA but Apple Maps suck here in XXX.

And so it goes but nothing is changing. Apple may indeed be working on a next generation map solution, or it may be pie in the sky. An intelligent AR approach for indoor mapping for example certainly makes much better sense than anything Google Maps or Apple Maps offer at present.

Anything is possible with the right kind of Steve Jobs like super focus. Unfortunately Apple Maps to date has been the poster child of unfocused product development.

Apple has to overcome the focus jinx for Apple Maps to change and advance beyond being the ‘me 2/me 3’ product it is now.