The DoJ to Apple Computer – Byte Me…

Apparently, the FBI didn’t appreciate being told to go pound bits…

The battle between the FBI and Apple regarding a certain iPhone 5c got a bit nasty last week. Frankly, I’m not surprised. I really didn’t expect the FBI to go gentle into that goodnight just because Apple said, “no.”

fbivsapple

In fact, it got a lot nastier.

Last week, according to ComputerWorld, the government filed a brief where it hinted that it may demand the Apple hand over the source code to iOS 9 and the key used to sign the OS, so they can do what Apple is refusing to do on their own.

After the government filed its brief, Apple’s Bruce Sewell said the following

We received the brief [last week] and honestly we’re still absorbing it but we wanted to get a couple of points out for you guys as you’re working your way through it.

First, the tone of the brief reads like an indictment. We’ve all heard Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey’s own statement that “there are no demons here.” Well, you certainly wouldn’t conclude it from this brief. In 30 years of practice I don’t think I’ve seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case.

For the first time we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case.

Or the ridiculous section on China where an AUSA, an officer of the court, uses unidentified Internet sources to raise the specter that Apple has a different and sinister relationship with China. Of course that is not true, and the speculation is based on no substance at all.

To do this in a brief before a magistrate judge just shows the desperation that the Department of Justice now feels. We would never respond in kind, but imagine Apple asking a court if the FBI could be trusted “because there is this real question about whether J. Edgar Hoover ordered the assassination of Kennedy — see ConspiracyTheory.com as our supporting evidence.”

We add security features to protect our customers from hackers and criminals. And the FBI should be supporting us in this because it keeps everyone safe. To suggest otherwise is demeaning. It cheapens the debate and it tries to mask the real and serious issues. I can only conclude that the DoJ is so desperate at this point that it has thrown all decorum to the winds….

We know there are great people in the DoJ and the FBI. We work shoulder to shoulder with them all the time. That’s why this cheap shot brief surprises us so much. We help when we’re asked to. We’re honest about what we can and cannot do. Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going before court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sewell is right to be a little shocked and confused on this. The government is starting to get a bit perturbed by all of this; and it’s starting to show on their end. I especially appreciate Sewell’s puzzled notion about disagreeing with the government. Just because they disagree doesn’t mean that Apple is evil and anti-American. At the very least, it just means they disagree.

It’s really the government in this case who is hurling threats and getting nasty. Which is a bit surprising… Honestly, if the government could do everything that they said they would do after receiving the iOS source code and OS signing key (should Apple actually agree to part with it) then why are they “requesting” Apple’s assistance? Requesting the OS and signing key means they can handle it by themselves. Demanding Apple assist them means they can’t; and this really seems like an empty threat.

In a related post on Twitter, my very good friend, Chris Pirillo tweeted a URL to perhaps one of the best summarization of the entire Apple v FBI case I’ve ever seen. While done as satire, its surprisingly accurate and very factual. If you’re still curious about all the facts in the case, this is a good video to watch and is entirely worth the time spent watching it from start to finish.

To further end on an additional jovial note, I saw this last week and nearly spit the contents of my mouth all over my monitors, I was laughing so hard.

While I am certain Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is serious about seeking a warrant for Time Cook’s arrest IF and WHEN they request Apple to unlock and phone and Apple refuses, he’s going to have a very difficult time enforcing a warrant from Polk County Florida in Cupertino, California, especially when its likely no “crime” has been committed.

Saying, “no” to a court order is part of the process. You can appeal the order. Sheriff Judd saying he’d arrest Tim Cook for non-compliance is just this guy trying to capture his 15 minutes of fame…and quite honestly, it clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding in the case at hand.

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Apple Plans to make us Loopy

Apple Plans to make us “Loopy” with Press Event Scheduled for 2016-03-21

…and by “loopy” I mean, “keeping us in the loop…” Yeah. Let’s go with that…

Loop you in

You know, sometimes it makes me laugh.

The entire world extends a great deal of effort trying to guess exactly what Apple has up its sleeves. Very few people actually get it right, if at all; yet at least twice a year, everyone seems to want to do their Punxsutawney Phil impression and tries to guess what Apple is going to announce at their press events.

The ballet that ensues is often interesting, but is just as often incorrect.

This year is no different than any other. People have been spreading rumors around the next Apple press event, finally announced on 2016-03-10 with the title, “Let us loop you in.” The event is scheduled for 10am Pacific Time on 2016-03-21.

I’ve looked high and low, and I’ve found that the following is generally accepted to be the best guesses as to what Apple will ultimately introduce to the world at that time. I’ve divided this up into a couple of lists, as some new information has been circulated as of midday 2016-03-10 that may make this event rather interesting.

What’s Consistent

  1. iPhone SE
    Having the 4″ and similar build and form factor of the iPhone 5/5s, the iPhone SE is expected to be a replacement of the (now entry level ) iPhone 5s. The device is said to have a metal case, a curved edge design similar to the iPhone 6s, with the A9 processor, and NFC support for Apple Pay (which would also imply touch ID, but I haven’t found conformation of that just yet). Either way, 3D Touch is not said to be included.
  2. 9.7″ iPad Pro
    Initially, people thought this might be the iPad Air 3. Recent rumors indicate that this will instead be a smaller version of the Pro line, with all of its features and everything that makes an iPad Pro an iPad Pro (magnetic Smart Connector, A9X processor, quad-speakers and support for Apple Pencil)

What’s Possible

  1. MacBook/ MacBook Pro Updates
    Intel released its Skylake processor a while ago, and Apple has yet to update any of its notebooks with support for the new processor architecture yet. I’ve seen a few sites indicate that this update is likely possible as a side comment with perhaps 1-2 very quick slides on the subject at most. Unless they make drastic changes to the product lines, in which case, all bets are off.
  2. New Bands for Apple Watch
    Expect existing bands to be offered in new colors. There may also be new product(s) in this line announced (so, like, entirely new bands). Two of the most anticipated new bands include a nylon band and a Space Black Milanese Loop (a non-Apple brand has been available on Amazon for a while now).

Apple will be live streaming the event via its website and AppleTV. It’s also possible for you to get (near live) updates via Twitter or other websites around the internet.

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Verizon and T-Mobile Rolling out Marshmallow to HTC One M8 Users

I’ve been looking for it since December…

verizon and t-mobile

Back in December of last year (2015), HTC released Android 6.0 Marshmallow for its One M9 and M8 products. I began looking for it to hit my Verizon powered One M8 in January (as originally promised) but up to now, it hasn’t hit. I began to think that may have something to do with the fact that the VzW SIM I have in my One M8 is expired.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Thursday,2016-03-03, Mo Versi, HTC’s VP of Product Management, announced that Marshmallow would be coming to M8 owners on the Verizon and T-Mobile networks on 2016-03-07.

HTC’s 2014 flagship the HTC One (M8) will begin its OTA rollout Monday 07, March 2016. Most OTA upgrades are staggered and delivered in waves, so while this update is limited to both the largest and third largest mobile carrier in the US, don’t be surprised if it takes a week or two for your device to actually receive the update notification and bits.

For those that get this or any other major OS update – REGARDLESS of platform – the best thing you can do for yourself is to blow the device and reinstall the new OS from scratch.

Most device upgrades – despite the extensive testing done by both the OEM and the mobile carrier – don’t always go well. Nine times out of ten, it leaves legacy information and configuration files on the device that negatively impact or effect how well the device functions, post upgrade. The only way to insure that you have everything working right – AFTER – the initial upgrade finishes, is to insure that everything is backed up and then perform a factory (or hard) reset on the device, and then do NOT restore that backup, but instead set the device up as a new device (or as if you had just gotten it from your carrier as brand new).

While some may see this as a defeat of the purpose of the backup you took just before the upgrade – and in some ways it is – what you’re really doing is making certain that your devices runs the new OS without any misconfigurations.

In short, don’t fear the hard reset.

Back in the days of Windows Mobile in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s I found myself doing that all the time. Really more often than I wanted to because, well, Windows Mobile was a total piece of crap. The thing never worked right, and often would function differently each and every time you either upgraded or rebuilt your device from the ground up. While things aren’t that drastic now a days – mobile device OS’ are much more sophisticated and better engineered in the 15-20 years since I started all of this stuff – being able to rebuild everything without worrying about or getting too attached to anything, is the best way to go.

Most devices have some level of configuration backup – what apps you installed, a cloud driven file system for all your data – email contacts and calendar all synchronized, etc. – so getting back to where you were BEFORE the hard reset is much easier than it used to be.

After I get the update, and have performed my hard reset, I will post a brief article on how the Marshmallow implementation looks and functions on my Verizon powered HTC One M8.

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Apple Releases Sixth Beta’s of its Operating System Suite

That suite includes iOS 9.3, watchOS 2.2 and OS X 10.11.4...

appleBeing in the beta business isn’t always the most glamorous of jobs. On the contrary – it’s often very difficult. In fact, beta testers tend to see not only the good and bad, but the downright ugly.

It’s one of the reasons why, after approximately 20 years of beta testing for both Microsoft (mostly) and Apple (most recently), I’m NOT jumping on that train on any of my production-level equipment. It’s just not worth it any more.

It used to be that when an operating system hit the BETA stage, it was pretty much operational. You could count on that version of (whatever it is) holding its own. While there would obviously be problems, those problems nearly always came with some level of (reasonable) work around that wouldn’t take your PC/ mobile device out of the picture.

That’s not the case now a days. More often than not, you could be taking your PC’s life into your hands if you aren’t careful.

So with this light of caution CLEARLY flashing in our faces, you may be interested to know that Apple has released the sixth beta of iOS 9.3, and OS X 10.11.4, both of which are available to both developers and public beta testers. Apple released watchOS 2.2 Beta 6 to its registered developers only.

This latest round of releases comes just six (6) days after Beta 5 of all three OS’. Prior to that, beta four (4) was released eight (8) days earlier. Everything prior to beta 4 was released on a strict biweekly schedule.

At this point, there are no new features; and while I haven’t had a chance to look at the seed notes for these beta 6 releases, I’d be very surprised if there were any remaining known, open issues. We should be very close to final release.

iOS 9.3 will add such as a Night Shift mode, secure Notes, and extra 3D Touch shortcuts to the mobile operating system, among other things. As of Beta 5, OS navigation via Apple Pencil has been restored to iPad Pro.

OS X 10.11.4 will include the ability to individual encrypt items in Notes and support for Live Photos (from iPhone 6s) in Messages among other things

watchOS 2.2 (when paired with an iPhone running iOS 9.3) will allow users to pair more than one Apple Watch to a single iPhone and also introduces a new look for Maps in Glances.

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The Difference between iCloud and iCloud Drive

Boy is THIS one a big muddled mess…

icloud vs icloud drive

About a month or so ago, I had a VERY good friend of mine have an issue with his iDevice.  He thought he had copied something to iCloud, but when he went looking for it after he reset his iDevice, it wasn’t there.  The hullaballoo that ensued was one for the record books as he scrambled around trying to find what he lost.

What he was looking for and if he was successful in restoring it to a place he wanted the file to reside in – while interesting – isn’t relevant.  The problem is that Apple’s cloud storage offering, iCloud, is pretty much a train wreck; and everyone that *I* know of, is pretty much totally confused and out to lunch when it comes to figuring out exactly what gets stored where, and more importantly why that object is stored THERE rather than someplace else.

I’m going to do my best to break this down and explain this as quickly and succinctly as I can. Bear with me, some of this is going to make sense. Some of it won’t. The BEST thing you can do, if you’re a Mac and/ or if you use any kind of iDevice, is simply accept that it is what it is; and then try to follow the rules.

If it doesn’t make sense to you, all I can say is, “Ask Jobs…”

What is iCloud?

This question should be labeled as one of the Seven Wonders of the [Modern] World.  Honestly, I don’t think that Apple really knows EXACTLY what they want iCloud to be; but this is the closest analogy that I can come up with –

iCloud is a giant, nebulous, all-purpose, storage locker.

Similar to the underside of a teenager’s bed, it’s the place where Apple wants to shove junk you want to save and/ or reuse from either your Mac, your PC, your iDevice, or all of the above.  Unfortunately, it’s just as organized, too.  Let’s face it, it’s a mess in there.

There are two basic components of iCloud (there are likely more, but for our purposes, and for the sake of argument, let’s just stick with two, ok?) – iCloud Backup and iCloud Drive.

ICloud Backup is the place where you can stash junk.  The data you “place” here is data like your text messages, email, contacts, calendar, photos, notes, and reminders.  Backups of your iDevices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) are also tossed in here.  Apple’s productivity suite, iWork, also places Pages, Numbers and Keynote files into iCloud Backup (and not into iCloud Drive, which I’ll get to in a bit…)

There are a few issues with all of this, and its mostly related to iWork.  However, the big thing you need to remember here is that the data here… is COMPLETELY unstructured.  You have no control over it, how or where its stored in iCloud, or even what is used to retrieve it; and this is the key to iCloud Backup.

Apple doesn’t want you to think about where you stash your stuff or what you used to create or modify it with.  The app that you use, handles all of that.

In other words, when you take a picture with your iPhone (if you have the device set to do this…), it automatically gets copied over to iCloud. After that, it’s available on every device that’s associated with your Apple ID, Mac, PC or iDevice, included.  The data just sorta shows up.

If you have to reset or rebuild any of those devices, the data is just supposed to show back up after you log back into it with your Apple ID.  There’s no “restore” command to invoke.  It just shows up in its own time. This is both good and bad.  Your data is constantly “backed up” and you don’t have to do anything to get it back.

The problem is, most people don’t think that way (when it comes to restoring data that may be lost).  There’s also NO way of going into iCloud Backup and cherry picking just the stuff you want to pull down or restore. It’s an all or nothing deal.

When it comes to your iDevices, things start to get a little muddy.  IDevice backups used to include the firmware, data and all the content (music, videos, photos, apps, etc.) on the device. The backup was a total and complete image of the device.  Now, it’s really just the configuration – a list of what apps you have installed, a list of what music, videos and other consumer content are on the device, etc.  When you restore a backup to your iDevice, the content you want comes back, but it’s all downloaded through iTunes,  or synched back to the device from iTunes via USB cable.

The issue here is, in my opinion, how everything in iCloud Backup is structured.  It’s totally UNstructured. Everything is either managed by the iCloud enabled/ aware app that created the content; or more like, it’s just shoved there, and if you want it back, the app that controls that data likely has settings that handle it all.

Apple doesn’t want you to HAVE  to think about all this. They just want to handle it for you, and unfortunately, NO ONE but the folks in Cupertino think that way. It goes against everything that the public’s been taught since 1980-blah-blah-blah.

Apple’s been fighting this paradigm for over 30 years when they first introduced the original Mac 128’s back in 1984. The whole, “you just WORK and let us think about HOW you work,” thing has never worked for the majority of the general public who, at best, work on Windows machines at work and have Macs at home. It just rubs us the wrong way… but I digress.

What is iCloud Drive?

iCloud Drive is probably the easier of the two to understand. ICloud Drive is Apple’s version of Drobox.  It’s also likely the most (in my opinion) organized part of iCloud. Period.  As such, again, it’s likely the easiest to understand; but it’s not without its foibles.

ICloud Drive is cloud-based document storage and retrieval. Like Dropbox or any other cloud-based file system, you can control what is there, what folders it’s in, etc. Whatever you place there, will copy down to any and all Macs (or iDevices running the iCloud Drive app) and PC’s running the service.

You can picture it as the box of specific junk that’s shoved under that teenager’s bed.  Everything else is a jumbled mess, but the stuff in that box is neat and organized.  Like Drobox or Google Drive you can copy items in or out of the service, and the changes will sync up or down to all connected end points.

The Lynchpin in iCloud and iCloud Drive

The one gotcha here is the way storage is managed.  It’s a one size fits all kinda thing; and its totally finite.

When you buy iCloud storage, you buy an amount that is shared between ALL iCloud services, including iCloud Drive.  So, if you buy 50GB of iCloud storage for $0.99 a month, you have 50GB available for everything you want to store, including, device backups, iCloud Drive, Photos, etc.

With the way Apple has this setup, it’s very easy for one particular service – say iDevice backups – to swallow up all your storage, leaving you with nothing for everything else.  You have to watch and manage what is being stored in iCloud; and you can do that via the iCloud control panel in Windows or via iCloud settings on your Mac or on your iDevice.

Thankfully, iCloud storage pricing tiers are now a bit more in line with everyone else’s.  All prices are monthly charges and in US dollars.  You can get

  • 1TB – $9.99
  • 200GB – $2.99
  • 50GB – $0.99
  • 5GB – Free

So, iCloud and its storage amount is very much like the space under that teenager’s bed. There’s only so much space and unless you get more (or in this analogy, a bigger bed…) once the floor space under the bed is gone, so is your ability to store anything new there.

Both OneDrive and iCloud offer 5GB for free. Dropbox only offers 2GB. Google Drive offers 15GB for free.

I hope that this helps make this clearer for everyone.  If there are additional questions on how this all works, let me know via the Discussion area, below. You can also shoot me a tweet at @chrisspera.

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The All Writs Act is an All Access Pass

Yeah… “It’s good to be the king…!

Those of you that recognize the comic line from Mel Brook’s History of the World: Part 1 will recall that it was used by Mel Brooks during the montage on pre-Revolutionary France where Brooks played King Louis XVI. The king gets to do whatever he wants. Therefore it’s good to be the king…

the all writs act

I’ve been looking for a simple explanation of the All Writs Act of 1789 and for a straight forward explanation on how it applies to the Apple v. FBI case. I found part of this, here. The Act in and of itself is a simple two sentence, two point piece of legislation that provides the government and law enforcement a great deal of latitude when pursuing justice. As its short and to the point, I’m including the full text of the statute, below:

28 U.S. Code § 1651 – Writs

(a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.
(b) An alternative writ or rule nisi may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.

(FYI – a “rule nisi” is an order to show cause; and its considered directly applicable, unless the party its directed at can prove that it isn’t)

Application of the All Writs Act requires the fulfillment of [specific] conditions:

  1. The absence of alternative remedies – the act is only applicable when other judicial tools are not available.
  2. An independent basis for jurisdiction – the act authorizes writs in aid of jurisdiction, but does not in itself create any federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
  3. Necessary or appropriate in aid of jurisdiction – the writ must be necessary or appropriate to the particular case.
  4. Usages and principles of law – the statute requires courts to issue writs “agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

Now, I’m NOT a lawyer; but I was a Regulatory Affairs Manager for a medical device company here in the States for a number of years; and I’m used to reading over legislation, regulations and legal texts. So, the following is my interpretation of what I see going on with the above, and as it relates to the Apple v. FBI case:

  1. The All Writs Act is a Blank Check
    It’s very clear that the government (read: law enforcement) can effectively do whatever it wants when it comes to a legal dead end, if it chooses to. If the government attempts to get a warrant for what they feel is a specific bit of evidence and the warrant is denied or quashed, they can fire back with this; and as long as a judge agrees, they’re in. It’s completely subjective.
  2. The Act in and of itself does not Include Any Challenges or Limitations
    Other than the first condition in the statute, noted above requiring other remedies and statutes to be exhausted first, applying for and receiving the necessary writ need only be
    a. Applied for and executed in the appropriate jurisdiction (you can’t go to a judge in NY for something you want to do in CA)
    b. Must have a basis in law (but depending on the situation at hand, doesn’t necessarily require previous application or precedent).
    c. Necessary to the case

If you think about it, that covers just about everything.

So, for this to be applicable to the Apple v. FBI case where the FBI is looking to get past the password screen on the employer owned, iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, all the government has had to do is

  1. Try to get past this screen (and they have)
  2. Have hit a technical roadblock (and they have)
  3. Have tried to other legal tools to compel Apple to unlock the phone (and they have)

What’s at issue here is twofold:

It sets a nasty legal precedent

The FBI has backtracked on its previous statements and said that “forcing Apple Inc. to give the FBI data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters would be ‘potentially precedential’ in other cases where the agency might request similar cooperation from technology companies.,” according to an article by Julia Harte and Julia Edwards on MSN.

The FBI stated during testimony given before Congress, and in response to a question from Representative John Conyers, FBI director Jim Comey stated, “of course the bureau would seek to apply the same tactic in other cases.”

Which, by the way, is a direct contradiction to statements that were made by Comey in earlier, taped, interviews where he said that all the FBI wanted was information off of this, one, individual iPhone 5c, in this case

Its unduly burdensome

In essence, as I understand it, the FBI is demanding that Apple create and maintain a new product, specifically for law enforcement, that will permit them to crack into any iPhone, any time they deem it necessary.

It’s not an add-on. It’s an entire new piece of firmware. It’s going to require all of the same development and testing and project resources that every other piece of Apple iPhone firmware requires, along with a secured, dedicated, classified, testing and development lab (in order to keep everything secret and safe.

While the All Writs Act doesn’t provide for safeguards against this, other legislation does. Unfortunately, the liability of proof of this burden lies with Apple, and not with the government. If Apple doesn’t want to do what the FBI is demanding, they’ll be required to demonstrate this to a judge (or to Congress) in federal court or in a formal hearing, respectively.

In an interesting twist, a New York Magistrate, Judge Hames Orenstein found that the government “lacks the legal authority necessary to force Apple or any company to break its own digital security protocols.”

In his ruling, Judge Orenstein indicated he agreed that forcing Apple to “[invent, code and distribute] a purposely vulnerable operating system in hopes of cracking existing device security was unreasonably burdensome.” The ruling in full can be seen here.

Armed with this, Apple has filed a formal objection to their case and has cited the decision noted above it its filing.

There’s more developing in this case, so stay tuned for additional updates as they develop.

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Apple Tells the FBI to go Pound Bits

The FBI’s request for Apple to crack the San Bernardino terrorist iPhone 5c isn’t as cut and dry as it might appear…

apple and the fbi

This story has been making headlines for quite some time now, and I honestly think that it will continue to make headlines for some time to come. In fact, I can see this subject staying in the news for at least the next couple of months…

This is perhaps one of the most controversial issues I’ve seen out of the tech sector in a very long time. I’m also not entirely certain that there has EVER been such a controversial or politically charged issue on the minds of nearly every personal computer user – like, EVER.

At the heart of the issue is the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook.  Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured another 22 during a training class and party in December 2015.  The FBI has tried to access the iPhone 5c, but have not been able to get past its passcode, which resets after 10 failed attempts, rendering the device inaccessible.

During the week of 2016-02-14 to 2016-02-20, a federal judge ordered that Apple must assist the FBI in getting past the passcode screen.  Apple, has since refused to comply with this order, stating that they intend to fight the order, which they see as a violation of the right to privacy and of civil liberties.

At issue, is not this one single iPhone, owned by the (uninvolved and unknowing) business that Farook worked for.  According to Apple, the only way to gain access to an iPhone locked with a passcode is to crack the encryption and build a back door into the OS.  According to the FBI, Apple doesn’t have to create that back door. They can simply modify this one, particular iPhone 5c and give the FBI the access they need.

First of all, I think it’s interesting that the FBI can make this determination. If they’re smart enough to figure THAT out, then why can’t they crack the Farook’s iPhone themselves?

The logical answer here is they don’t.

They’re making an assumption, and I don’t believe they know what they’re talking about. If they had the technical hutzpah to make that statement, then they wouldn’t need Apple.

Now, according to an interview with Tim Cook that aired on ABC World News Tonight, there are some very serious problems with this request. Actually, Tim Cook called the issue “complex.”

According to Cook,

“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write — maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance, maybe the ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera,” Cook said. “I don’t know where this stops. But I do know that this is not what should be happening in this country.”

In a message from Cook to Apple customers during the week of 2016-02-14 to 2016-02-20, Cook said that they had provided assistance to the FBI, but wouldn’t create a backdoor that would have the potential to crack any iPhone.  This decision was applauded by both Google CEO Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, among other Silicon Valley big wigs.  Currently, there are approximately two dozen iPhones held by law enforcement agencies around the country where those agencies are interested in the outcome of this case.

If the FBI prevails, precedent is created for Apple to provide them with the same kind or type of tool or service for unlocking those two dozen or so iPhones as well as any other encrypted iOS devices in the future.

This is the biggest concern of all, as then this leaves Apple open to similar requests from nearly every legal agency in this country as well as other’s around the world, to provide them with the same kind of access.  So, every political dissident or activist that is detained by a dissenting, international governing body that owns an iPhone or other iDevice, will demand that Apple provide them (that governing body) with the same services.

The story here only gets more and more interesting…

Bill Gates, one of the founders of Microsoft, was recently quoted as coming out AGAINST Apple’s plight against the FBI.  When asked for clarification, Gates replied,

I was disappointed, because that doesn’t state my view on this. I do believe that with the right safeguards, there are cases where the government, on our behalf — like stopping terrorism, which could get worse in the future — that that is valuable. But striking that balance — clearly the government [has] taken information, historically, and used it in ways that we didn’t expect, going all the way back, say, to the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. So I’m hoping now we can have the discussion. I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind… The courts are going to decide this…  In the meantime, that gives us this opportunity to get [in] the discussion. And these issues will be decided in Congress.”

However, in a statement released on 2016-02-26, Microsoft itself has come out in support of Apple, and not the FBI, like its co-founder, Bill Gates.  Microsoft’s support comes in the form of an amicus brief that it will file with the court next week.  Microsoft’s support is joined to that of Google’s and Facebooks, but really, according to Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith from testimony taken from a congressional hearing, the government, not the courts needs to discuss the [implementation of]new legislation to govern privacy.

The focus of Microsoft’s statements can be nicely summed up with a statement from an industry group, “while it’s ‘extremely important’ to deter crime and terrorism, no company should be required to build back doors to their own technology.”

Personally, I #StandwithApple.  While I support the US government’s stand against terrorism and generally consider myself to be a conservative, the government doesn’t need a back door into my smartphone.  Giving the government too much power and access into my privacy and personal life is NOT what I want.

I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this.  If you agree or disagree, support Apple or support the FBI, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Please share them with us in the comment section below and lend your voice to the discussion.

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Featured Review – Voila Screen Capture for Mac

Capture screen shots and video clips with this much needed Mac utility

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I’ve been a freelance writer for over 20 years.  I’m also a software QA guy.  I’ve always had a need for a screen capturing tool.  I either want to take screen shots of the programs I’m reviewing or of the errors in the software that I’m testing.  I’m actually a bit of a screen shot-aholic. Most everything that I do either for my writing gig here at Soft32 or during the day for my software testing job requires me to take screen shots of something.  This is why I really like Voila Screen Capture for Mac.  It’s a really cool utility for your Mac.

Voila is an ‘all-in-one’ screen capture solution that can capture, edit and share anything on your computer’s screen. Users can also video record the screens of their iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad in full resolution. After a screenshot is captured or recorded, the user can then share them on popular websites, send via e-mail or print using the buttons located on the UI. A complete set of tools including different capture methods, full webpage recording as well as easy sharing options make for a comprehensive and complete application that saves time and is easy to use.

Voila captures video with audio in high quality. You can capture the whole screen, or simply a user defined section. You can also capture video on your connected iDevice as well.

Voila captures full and partial screen stills as well.  Voila has a flexible capture option that allows you to grab full or user defined areas of your screen. If needed, you can also capture entire web pages along with important metadata like page title, menus and other page elements.

Once you get your screen grabs, you can also annotate them using different fonts, shapes, blur options and speech bubbles, or callouts. Once you have everything set, Voila can also help you manage your screen shot collections.  You can group similar images and videos together using custom labels.  You can add titles, tags and descriptions so you can catalog and search for just the media object you need.

Voila Screen Capture for Mac is a decent application.  It starts when you start your Mac and sits in the Menu Bar until its needed.  You’re supposed to be able to activate it via a set of user-definable hot keys, but these didn’t work consistently for me.  More often than not, pressing the hot key combinations didn’t do anything at all on my El Capitan powered 15″ MacBook Pro.

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