Screenshot: Starbucks Android App with Mobile Tipping

Starbucks Android App Finally Has Mobile Tipping

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Starbucks letting me know that their Android app was about to get a refresh.

This was good news, because for months now the iOS app has provided users the ability to tip right from inside the app. Since I never carry cash, I almost never leave tips—something I’d be more than happy to do.

The new version of the app was made available a couple of days ago, but today was the first time I’ve made it to a store to test out the tipping function.

The app has a beautiful new UI, which I checked out right away after updating to the new version.

Onboarding inside the app was easy and intuitive. The email a couple of weeks ago had warned that you’d need your password handy upon updating as login would be required. No problem for me, as I’ve been in the habit of reloading from inside the app, which (thankfully) requires the password anyway.

I immediately looked around for the tipping function, but couldn’t find it. It occurred to me after a few minutes of poking around that perhaps it wouldn’t make sense to “tip” until you “pay.”

So today I visited one of my local stores and checked out with the app as usual. This time, a notification appeared offering several options for a tip: $.50, $1.00, and a third option that equaled the balance I had on the card (I was close to needing to reload, so it was under $2). The notification also prompted me that tipping would be available until a time that worked out to be 2 hours after my transaction.

So, I tapped $1 and saw the following:

Screenshot: Starbucks Android App with Mobile Tipping
Screenshot: Starbucks Android App with Mobile Tipping

As you can see, the app also allows you to modify your tip if you accidentally bumped the wrong amount. Nice touch!

All in all, I’m very happy with the new app, although I was a bit wary of the new permissions required. Thankfully, I’m using cyanogenmod, so I have the ability to block permissions at a much more granular level, thanks to Privacy Guard. I’ll take a closer look at those shortly.

One other pleasant surprise, for the first time, updating the Starbucks app didn’t cause the “Default Card” setting in my account to get goofed up. That was a mildly irritating “feature” of virtually every other previous version of the app.

Great job, Starbucks!

You Won't Believe How Easy It Is to Steal Your PIN Number

Protect Your PIN Number from Infrared Camera Theft

Since none of us use cash anymore (except for that one guy in accounting), often your PIN code is the only thing standing between a would-be thief and the piles of treasure you have stashed in your checking account.

Actually, the card plus PIN number is a reasonably good, if simple, implementation of the “something you have” plus “something you know” principle of security. Neither the card nor the PIN number is much good without the other. (We’re ignoring the fact that most debit cards can also be processed as credit cards for the moment.)

Obviously, hanging on to the card itself is a good start, so that covers the “something you have” side of the equation. But sleight of hand, accidental drops, and old-fashioned purse-snatching still happen today.

So that leaves us with the “something you know” piece: your PIN.

Why Be Concerned About Infrared PIN Theft?

Being a security-minded person, I’m sure you’re already in the habit of covering your fingers when entering PIN numbers. After all, it takes only a tiny bit of effort, and it prevents cameras and sneaky eyes from catching what you’re entering, right?

You Won't Believe How Easy It Is to Steal Your PIN Number

But what about heat?

You did know your fingers transferred heat to those keys, right?

And since heat dissipates at a linear rate, the heat signature reveals not just which keys got pressed, but also the order in which they were pressed!

But that’s not really a problem, right? After all, who has equipment that can detect heat?

Until recently, the ability to walk up to a PIN pad and detect which buttons had just been pressed required an expensive (and bulky!) infrared camera that would pick up the heat signature left by your fingers.

But with the advent of relatively inexpensive ($349) iPhone attachments,  infrared smartphone camera technology is easily within reach of a ne’er-do-well… especially since they might recoup that much or more in just one ATM transaction. But even for one who’s looking for something less expensive (or who uses an Android device instead of an iPhone), there’s this Kickstarter project, or even a tutorial on how to build one with an old floppy disk! (…for the Macgyver types, evidently).

In other words: stealing your PIN even up to 1 minute after you enter it is pretty easy these days.

So What’s the Solution?

It’s pretty simple, really. Just touch your fingers to several buttons and hold them there while you’re entering your PIN.

Heat multiple buttons up, obfuscate the ones you pressed.

Not so sure about all of this? Mark Rober made this video to demonstrate:

Oh yeah… and don’t use PINs that are easy to guess!

Join Michael and Bruce

My friends at Ortiz | Kleinberg, LLC are launching a nifty campaign this week to connect past clients up to their new community. A direct mail sequence will ask those interested to visit JoinMichaelAndBruce.com and enter their email addresses.

The firm is offering Publix gift cards to everyone who signs up. Alternatively, their clients can choose to donate, and the firm will give the gift cards to Habitat for Humanity of Sarasota in their honor.

The offer is only open to past clients, so if the names and email addresses don’t match up to their client database, then the gift card offer isn’t valid. (Sorry! If you haven’t worked with them in the past, this isn’t for you.)

Neat idea! We’ll be watching with interest!

Dropbox Pro: More Space, More Features

Dropbox today announced that “Pro” accounts, which pay $9.95/month, will get an automatic bump to 1TB of storage (from 100GB). Nice!

Even better, we’re getting new features like remote wipe for devices, and something I’ve wanted for a long time: expirations for shared links.

Once you send out a shared link, you no longer have any control over how many times it’s shared or used by those to whom you have not intentionally granted permissions.

They’ve also added passwords for shared links, which is nice for when you want to have a little additional control over stuff that gets out in the wild.

Granted, it’s still remarkably easy for a malicious person to push your files out to the world, so these are perhaps small blessings, but nevertheless, I feel they’ll be helpful.

Read the full announcement from Dropbox here.

Florida’s Economic Recovery Ranked #6 In Nation

Business Insider ranked the 50 states based upon various—arguably arbitrary—factors and placed Florida in the number 6 position.

Notably, the report cited an 8.9% increase in statewide housing prices (measured from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014), a 3.1% bump in payroll jobs (June 2014 vs. June 2013) and a higher-than average growth in the state’s working-age population.

Ahead of Florida in Business Insider’s rankings: Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, and Utah.

The team responsible for the report, which was published August 4, 2014, posted separately about their methodologies.

FBI Releases New Documents Showing 9/11 Sarasota Connection

We’ve all known since that fateful Tuesday in 2001 that Sarasota had a connection to the events of the day we call 9/11. I’ve written previously about being held up by the Presidential motorcade as “W” made his way to Emma E. Booker Elementary school to read to the kids. Then there was the flight school in Venice where some of the “I don’t need to know how to land” hijackers trained.

Much later, we learned some bits and pieces about the Sarasota Saudis, and—perhaps the most concerning detail—that the FBI was playing cat and mouse about what it did and didn’t know.

On Monday of this week, though, a new set of documents emerged—documents that the FBI had previously failed to acknowledge even existed—that reveal even more bizarre details about the 9/11 Sarasota connection and what appears to be an FBI coverup.

Thanks to some extremely diligent efforts on the part of the Broward Bulldog and their ongoing investigative and legal actions, the FBI released the documents which, although heavily redacted, reveal information uncovered as far back as 2002.

An article published by the Broward Bulldog and picked up by the Miami Herald reveals the new details. They include a man dumping information into a dumpster behind a Bradenton storage facility, and a man who arrived in Sarasota, FL in November, 2001 harboring apparent intentions to purchase land and establish a Muslim compound in Florida that was (is?) feared to include carrying out or facilitating terrorist activities.

The documents are available online thanks to the BrowardBulldog.org site.

Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder with New Hopper

Replacement Hopper for Starbucks Barista EL60 Grinder

Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder EL60
Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder EL60

A while back, my treasured Starbucks “Barista” Burr Grinder suffered a nasty fall.  It’s a long story. Not my best day.

The grinder itself was just fine, but the coffee bean hopper that sits atop the grinder didn’t fare so well. The “business end” of the hopper was ruined. I call it the business end because without the hopper installed, the grinder won’t run for safety reasons. It also is used to set the coarseness of your grind.

Broken Hopper for EL60 Burr Grinder
Broken Hopper for EL60 Burr Grinder

Locating a New Hopper

This should be no problem, right? I’ll just search Google for “starbucks barista grinder hopper” right?

Oh boy.

It turns out that Starbucks has sold a few different private label grinders wearing the “Barista” moniker. There were a number of results in Google that made me think I’d have no problem finding parts for my grinder. Unfortunately, though, it became clear pretty quickly from the photos on the sites that my grinder wasn’t the one they were selling parts for.

Starbucks EL60 Grinder
Starbucks EL60 Grinder

In the end, I turned the grinder over and located this sticker, which told me that I have the “EL 60″ burr grinder specifically.

While that was nice for informational purposes, it didn’t seem to be much help online when hunting for parts.

Ultimately, I decided that my grinder was manufactured by Solis, a Swiss company which offers this model which appears (from the photo, anyway) to be identical to mine. Other searches revealed that my grinder had been sold as the “Solis 166″ at one time.

Nice to know, but no parts.

After a few more rounds of Google searching, I decided that it might be worthwhile to contact Baratza, which appears to make (or at least import) the successor models to the EL 60—both for Starbucks’ “Barista” line and otherwise.

Prior to purchasing the replacement hopper from the Baratza website, I contacted their support department by filling out a form on their website.

I was very impressed with the great service I received—especially since I was only planning to spend $10 on the hopper (or, as it turned out, $14 including the lid). After inquiring as to whether or not they sold the replacement hopper I needed, I received the following via email:

Hey David,

Our hopper does not fit right onto the Barista. However, I did have one crafty customer modify one of our hoppers, he made a guide for doing the job. I have the guide attached- sorry it is in two parts, but the customer sent it to me already in PDF form like this.

Regards,

Pierce Jens
Baratza Email Support

Nice!

The PDFs that were attached were somewhat helpful, but unclear in some ways, so I decided to create this post as a way to “upgrade” the available information about how to make the Baratza hopper work on the Barista EL60 / Solis 166 grinder.

I ordered the grinder right away, and added the lid as well. I had a suspicion my lid (which was intact) would fit, but I could see that the Baratza hopper was kind-of a “smoke” color, whereas mine was clear. For $4, why not get the matching lid?

Opening the package, I decided the grinders Baratza sells today indeed must share some common ancestry with my grinder, as the hoppers are exactly the same diameter at the point where they come to rest on top of the grinder.

However, the “notches” that allow the hopper to adjust the grind—not to mention get “seated” properly in place—are not where they need to be on the Baratza replacement hopper.

EL 60 Grind Adjustment Notches
EL 60 Grind Adjustment Notches
Baratza replacement hopper as shipped
Baratza replacement hopper as shipped

So… I reviewed the modifications made by the generous and helpful person who created the PDFs that Baratza sent me, and went for it.

How I Modified the Baratza Hopper to Work in My Barista Grinder

The guides Baratza sent referenced a “rotary tool” which the customer apparently used to grind new notches in the Baratza hopper to make it fit. I’m guessing it was a Dremel tool of some sort, which I don’t have.

So I read and re-read the guides and decided that an super-sharp razor blade just might do the trick.

WARNING: Razor blades are incredibly dangerous. Seriously… use every possible precaution to avoid injury if you try this. Clear the area of any bystanders or spectators, and proceed at your own risk.

I started with 2 vertical cuts on the side that didn’t have anything in the way, as shown below. By cutting straight down, no body parts were in the “line of fire” (so to speak) in the event that the razor blade were to slip.

Baratza hopper mod: first cuts made with razor blade
First cuts made with razor blade

I was quite pleasantly surprised at how easily my sharp razor blade cut through the plastic hopper. If I got a little stuck, it just took a little forward or backward motion (not enough that I’d refer to it as “sawing”) to make progress.

I took my time, and when I had two nice vertical cuts, I very carefully made a horizontal one to finish out my notch.

Once that first notch was cut, I turned the hopper around and tried to discover what needed to happen on the other side. From what I could see, my hopper was slightly different from the one pictured in the guides I received. In my case, there was a “tab” that ran all the way to the “top” (when sitting upside down as it was when I was working on it) of the hopper rim. After some tinkering, I decided that at least part of it (enough to match the height of my other notch) needed to be removed. I decided not to remove all of it because it seemed like it may have had some purpose. Honestly, I’m not sure.

Baratza hopper mod: tab to be partially removed
Tab to be partially removed

Again, the razor blade really seemed like the ideal tool for the job. I worked very slowly and kept body parts out of the way in case of slippage.

Tab partially removed
Baratza hopper mod: tab partially removed

Once that was done, I cut a notch in the “rim” of the hopper just like the first one.

With both notches cut, I did a little comparison to even things out a bit, and ultimately cut both notches a bit “taller” than I had done originally. Once they seemed to match, I installed the hopper onto the grinder…

My Starbucks Barista grinder with its shiny new modified Baratza hopper
My Starbucks Barista grinder with its shiny new modified Baratza hopper

Voila!

The new hopper now works just as the original one did. By rotating the hopper, the grind can be adjusted from “coarse” (with the little tab above the french press as shown in the photo above) to “fine” just as before.

And… as before, the safety cutoff switch is activated properly only when the hopper is properly installed and rotated far enough to be “locked” into place.

Thank You to Baratza and the Unknown Crafty Customer

I wouldn’t have attempted this mod if it weren’t for the fantastic service from Baratza (thank you, Pierce!) and the anonymous Baratza customer who blazed the trail and wrote up the guide to the modification he or she made.

Hopefully, this guide is helpful to you. If I can answer any questions, I’ll do my best! Just add a comment below.

With this nifty mod, I plan to enjoy my Starbucks Barista EL60 grinder for many more years. It has truly been the best grinder I’ve ever owned! And… next time I need one, I’ll be buying a grinder directly from Baratza.

Enjoy!

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