Apple Releases iOS 10.2 Beta 3 to Developers

There’s some noticeable changes in the latest beta release…

ios 10.2Big changes, kids. That’s what can be seen coming in iOS 10.2. Especially, in the US. The most noticeable is that the Videos app has been removed. While you’ll still be able to watch video on your iDevice, you’ll need to use the TV app for that. The Video widget, introduced in iOS 10.1, has also been removed and replaced with the TV widget. In countries outside the US, both the Video app and Video widget are still available for use.

The new functionality – app and widget – includes an “up next” feature which allows you to keep track of shows and movies you’re watching. It saves your place or recommends new TV episodes and movies across multiple devices. In the Settings app, there’s also a new section for the TV app, allowing users to choose whether they use cellular data for playback; and to choose the streaming quality over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. You also get to choose whether you purchase video in HD or SD from the iTunes Store.

Additional changes to iOS 10.2 Beta 3 include the following:

SOS – The SOS functionality that allowed users to call emergency services by pressing the power button several times on the iPhone has been removed. According to Apple’s release notes, SOS is currently only available in India.

Messages – There’s a new “Send With Love” Screen Effect option in Messages that sends a heart along with a text message.

iOS 10.2 Beta 3 was released on 2016-11-14; and is currently only available to developers. It’s likely a public beta will be available in the coming days. iOS 10.2 has been promised an early December launch, and several features – including single sign on (SSO) for the TV app – are expected during this time frame.

There are a lot of changes going on at Apple. Some of these I understand and agree with, others are leaving me a bit confused. The first was the introduction of the new MacBook Pros. Unfortunately, at this point, I’m not a huge fan. Pro users don’t want thinner and lighter, they want expansion options and ports. The only pro feature that the new MacBook Pro has is price. They’ve priced a LOT of MacBook Pro users out of the MacBook Pro with this particular hardware iteration. One can only hope that Apple will see the error of their ways and price the device DOWN a great deal with the next iteration. My guess is that they WON’T do this, as Apple very rarely, if ever makes products significantly cheaper so more people can re/afford them.

It sure is expensive enough.

The other issue I have is with the true definition of Pro and how it relates to the iPad and its software. The iPad Pro could – and likely would – resolve a lot of “Pro” use if IT had some of the software that productivity professionals were looking for. Creatives would likely embrace the iPad Pro as a still and video editing machine IF the device had the software that they needed. However, as of this writing, even THAT is nowhere to be found.

All we really have is a set of hardware options – the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro – that seem to be coming closer and closer together without any REAL direction as to why, or where the grand game is going. I have no idea what future hardware direction I really should be going in.

When I compute in my home office, I know I am going to want an external monitor, will want to access local and network based storage; and will want desktop classed tools, peripherals (keyboard and mouse, etc.) to work with. So it seems that a Mac is really the way I want to go.

When I’m out and about, thinner and lighter is usually better; but I don’t want to sacrifice hardware capabilities for portability… and I certainly don’t want to carry dongles or extra or different cables.

With the MacBook Pro that I have, I SHOULD be able to last at least another three years at least, (which would place me at about the 2019/ 2020 date range; but I should have been able to do the same thing with my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, and it died two years ago due to that model’s well publicized system board defects.

So where does this leave me?

That, kids… is the $64,000 question. I have no idea.

It’s clear that if I wasn’t a tech journalist, I’d be stuck with some sort of budget based, Windows laptop. Buying a Mac without a clear way to justify the cost, especially the latest models, just means you have money and not much else. While Apple DOES want to maintain its exclusivity… its boutique standing, if you will… practicality usually sets in at some point. The thing that made the MacBook Pro so popular in the past five to seven years was the fact that while the hardware WAS expensive, it wasn’t out of reach, especially the high end models.

Now, with prices for high end machines approaching the price of a private sale on a decent, used car, many people are going to think a heck of a lot more than twice about purchasing a Mac laptop. In many cases, it just doesn’t make sense; which is problematic when you’ve made the switch from Windows to Mac and you’ve been there for 10 years.

If you’re like me and you’ve switched and your Mac is also your Windows machine (either via Parallels Desktop or VMWare), and you DO in fact buy a new Mac laptop, but can’t buy as big and as bad as before, you’re likely to run into performance issues. At that point, don’t worry. You may need to give up some hard drive/ SSD space and convert your VM to a Boot Camp partition, but you shouldn’t have issues running Windows on your Mac. You may not be able to run both OS’ at the same time, but you can still do it all.

It’s clear that there’s a lot going on at Apple. It’s also clear that both iOS and macOS are in a state of flux, and that the public doesn’t have a very clear roadmap to guide their hardware purchases. As such, you’re going to have to be very careful about what hardware you buy, if any. The last thing you want to do is buy too much, or too little.

Apple certainly isn’t making this any easier on anyone really interested in their hardware.

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WWDC 2016 Part 1 – macOS Sierra

A lot came out of the WWDC Keynote…

Apple WWDC16

There was a great deal of information that came out of Apple’s software only keynote address to press and WWDC 2016 developer attendees.  In this article, I’m going to concentrate on macOS Sierra.

macOS Sierra concentrates on a few different things. The ones that really caught my eye include Continuity, iCloud and Mac Fundamentals.

Continuity blends the lines between your devices. Your entire computing experience with you logging into and unlocking your computer. macOS Sierra now allows you to auto unlock your Mac by simply opening up your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch.  Apple Watch users can simply open the lid of their Mac laptop while wearing their Watch, and the Mac auto unlocks. Proximity and time of flight networking technology insures that it really is YOU opening up your Mac laptop.

Apple is also implementing a universal clipboard that works between your Mac, and all of your iDevices.  When you find something on your phone that you might want to use on your Mac, you don’t have to email or text it to yourself.  Now, the data is in your clipboard, and all you have to do is paste it.  One of the things missing here – at least as of this writing because I haven’t had time to play with Sierra yet – is clipboard history: the ability to remember a set, number of items copied to your clipboard.  Sierra may support this, it may not.

iCloud Drive makes documents available across all of your connected Apple devices whether they be Macs or iDevices, it doesn’t matter.  With Sierra and iOS 10, you get not only all of your documents, but your desktop and its contents available too.

iCloud Drive also now includes a feature called Optimized Storage.  Modern computers – laptops especially – come with SSD’s.  Unfortunately, most of those SSD’s are smaller than the spinning disk hard drives that everyone is used to.  Macs come with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD’s; and even with half a terabyte, your drive can fill up quickly. iCloud Drive will now intelligently make room for new files on your Mac by moving older files from your Mac to the cloud, allowing you to access them there, instead.  iCloud Drive now only REALLY keeps the data that you’re working on, locally on your Mac.

Apple Pay now works on the web through Continuity.  When you’re buying something online on your Mac, you can use your iPhone to pay for it through Apple Pay via Continuity.  All you need is your iPhone handy, and you should be good to go.

For Mac Fundamentals, Apple has taken a logical, straight forward approach.  For example, tabbed windows now appear on every app, Apple created and included with Sierra or third party app.  This change comes at the OS level and no additional third party developer support is needed.

Picture in Picture (PiP) support is now also included at the OS level.  That means you can be writing a really great Mac article (like this one…) while also watching a video in a POP window that will travel with you from Space to Space and will work with full screen apps as well.

Siri is also included as part of Mac Fundamentals. Siri has her usual sass, but includes the ability to ask the system complex queries that you can pin to Notification Center. From there you can even drag and drop them into a document.  The seamless integration of it with other new and existing Apple features make the complete package very compelling, if not ungodly expensive…  However, if you ARE all Apple all the time, AND you have a compatible Mac, then you’re really going to love what you can do with all of your Apple gear.

You can see demos on all of this (as well as the rest of the Apple WWDC Keynote) here.

Speaking of compatible Mac hardware, Apple has also released the Mac hardware compatibility list for macOS Sierra.  Those computers include the following:

2009 and later

  • MacBook
  • iMac

2010 and later

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro

While this list seems pretty decent, there are some pretty obvious computers missing from this list.  In the pre-2010 list, it seems that only MacBooks and iMacs get Sierra love.  Missing from that list are ANY kind of MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, Mac minis and Mac Pros.

For me, this means that my wife will be eligible for the upgrade, but my son-in-law with his Late 2008 Aluminum Unibody MacBook, will be left out in the cold. All of the other Macs in the house – my daughter’s Late 2015 13″ MacBook Pro, my Late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro and Mid 2012 13″ MacBook Air – will all get updates.

As of this writing, I’m installing macOS Sierra Developer Beta 1 on the MBA.  I’ll do my best to put it through its paces and then have some kind of write up in the coming weeks.

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Uninstall QuickTime for Windows – QUICK!

That is, if you want to remain virus free…

Uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit absent from Soft32.com, not because I wanted to and not because there wasn’t cool stuff to write about, but because real life intruded.  It’s always an interesting time when real life gets in the way, especially for those of us that have routines.  Thankfully, though, I didn’t have THIS problem to deal with – more malware.

However, if you’re an iDevice user on the Windows side of things, you’ll remember that iTunes historically always wanted you to install QuickTime for Windows. It used to play all video out of iTunes via QuickTime.

That, my friends, has changed.

Apple is no longer using QuickTime for Windows to play video in iTunes and apparently, has also stopped issuing security patches for it as well. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t tell anyone about this.  This was picked up and reported by Trend Micro and their Zero Day Intuitive; and has been making quite the stir ever since.

Trend Micro released the following statement on the issue:

“Apple is deprecating QuickTime for Microsoft Windows. They will no longer be issuing security updates for the product on the Windows Platform and recommend users uninstall it… Our Zero Day Initiative has just released two advisories ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242 detailing two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows. These advisories are being released in accordance with the Zero Day Initiative’s Disclosure Policy for when a vendor does not issue a security patch for a disclosed vulnerability. And because Apple is no longer providing security updates for QuickTime on Windows, these vulnerabilities are never going to be patched. We’re not aware of any active attacks against these vulnerabilities currently. But the only way to protect your Windows systems from potential attacks against these or other vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime now is to uninstall it.”

While nearly everyone should have seen a number of third party reports to this effect, there’s no information on Quick Time for Windows’ demise coming from Apple.  They just seem to have flushed it, and moved on.

Those Mac users in the audience don’t have anything to worry about. Apple doesn’t seem to be deprecating or ending support of Quick Time for Mac, just the Windows variety.

It is highly recommended to everyone who uses Quick Time for Windows, to remove it from their Windows PC’s immediately.

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Apple Introduces iPhone SE and iPad Pro Mini

There weren’t too many surprises at the recent Apple event, but let’s review to see what we’ve got…

iphone 6seYesterday, amidst what will likely be one of the very last product announcements on the existing Apple Campus, Tim Cook and Apple made some highly anticipated, rather expected product announcements in the iPhone, iPad and OS families. I’m going to run through these very quickly, as despite the small venue; the information coming out of this event was rather big.

iPhone SE

Apple’ latest entry into the smartphone arena is a 4″ model iPhone, dubbed the iPhone SE. The guts are similar to the iPhone 6s; but in a smaller package, with a smaller price. While the iPhone 6s starts at $649USD, the iPhone SE will start at $399 for the 16GB model , a full $250USD cheaper.

The main differences between the SE and the 6s are 1GB of RAM in the SE (vs. 2GB in the 6s), the smaller screen, 16GB and 64GB sizes only (the 6s has a 128GB option) and the lack of optical image stabilization (OIS). Orders for the iPhone SE will open up on Thursday 2016-03-24. The device ships on 2016-03-31.

The nitty gritty on the phone can be found below:

 

 

IPhone SE: 16GB – $399, 64GB – $499

  • 64bit A9 processor
  • M9 Motion Coprocessor
  • Always on, “Hey Siri!”
  • Improved Battery Life
  • Faster LTE
  • VoLTE
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Wi-Fi calling
  • BT 4.2
  • iOS 9.0
  • 12MP iSight Camera
  • Retina Flash
  • Live Photos
  • 63MP Panoramas
  • 4k Video, with duel 4k editing streams
  • 1080p @ 60fps
  • Slo-Mo @ 240fps
  • Apple Pay
  • New microphones

iPad Pro “mini”
While officially dubbed the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, the newest member to the iPad Pro family is really nothing more than the best of both worlds – and iPad Pro in the regular iPad form factor. It also has most of the improvements you see from the iPhone SE, minus any “voice” related features.

What most people are interested in, however, is the following:

  • Does it have a Smart Connector for powered keyboards and other accessories ?– Yes.
  • Does it support Apple Pencil? – Yes.
  • Does it work with my USB Camera Adaptor and SD Card Reader adapter? – Yes.

Some of the more specific details of this newest iPad Pro and its A9X processor include

  • 3rd generation A9X processor
  • 64bit architecture
  • Desktop class performance
  • CPU – 2.4x faster than A7
  • Graphics – 4.3x faster than A7

What can be taken away from all of this is that while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro does have desktop class performance, the 12.9-inch Pro is faster. It has an overall faster CPU, faster graphics performance, faster battery charging and faster data transfer, according to a report by Apple Insider.

The biggest take away here is that you now get most of the benefits of the original iPad Pro, but in the form factor of the original iPad Air. Wins and grins all the way around…

The new iPad Pro 9.7-inch comes in three models, two flavors

  • 32GB – $599 USD Wi-Fi Only, $729 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 128GB – $749 USD, Wi-Fi Only, $879 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 256GB – $899 USD, $1029 USD Wi-Fi+LTE

Prices for the 12.9-inch version have also been adjusted, and a 256GB option has been added here as well

  • 32GB – $799 USD Wi-Fi Only
  • 128GB – $949 USD, Wi-Fi Only, $1079 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 256GB – $1099 USD, $1229 USD Wi-Fi+LTE

Orders for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will open up on Thursday 2016-03-24. The device ships on 2016-03-31.

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Do I have the AceDeceiver Malware?

Most – if not all – iPhone users, can relax…

AceDeceiver-Malware

There’s but a great deal of hub-bub over the latest revelation that non-jailbroken iPhones can be breached with a man in the middle attack (MitM) that comes to iDevices via flaws in Apples DRM system, FairPlay.

Apple’s FairPlay DRM (digital rights management) system insures that only authorized users can get access to purchased content (apps, music, movies, etc.) through a given AppleID. However, this MitM attack allows hackers to install malware on iOS devices without a user’s knowledge or consent, bypassing Apple security measures.

According to PaloAlto Networks,“In the FairPlay MITM attack, attackers purchase an app from App Store then intercept and save the authorization code. They then developed PC software that simulates the iTunes client behaviors, and tricks iOS devices to believe the app was purchased by the victim.”

While this has previously been used just to pirate iDevice apps in the past, this is the first time this particular attack has been used to install and spread malware.  Victims first download a Windows program called Aisi Helper which is supposed to provide jailbreaking, system back up and device management and cleaning services.  Once installed, it installs malicious apps to any and all iDevices that are ever connected to the PC.

From that point forward, the malicious app redirects App Store requests to a malicious store, where your AppleID and password WILL be phished.  So, what does this mean for YOU, the iPhone user right now?

Honestly, not much; and there are two really big reasons why:

  1. Currently, this effects users in China
    … and that’s about it right now. So unless, you’re an iPhone user, in China, at least for the moment, you’re safe.
  2. This is currently a Windows only Attack
    So, if you’re a Mac, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It all starts on the desktop, as I noted above.  If you’re using a Windows PC, then be vigilant; but again, unless you’re a Windows user that actually uses a Chinese localized version of Windows (and actually resides IN China), then you don’t’ have anything to worry about.
  3. If you’re OTA Only
    …Then don’t sweat it at all. If you NEVER connect your iPhone to a Windows machine, like…EVER… then you’re perfectly safe.  Apple’s on device security measures have already covered for this, and you have nothing to worry about.

So, what can you do to protect yourself, if you’ve been to China recently, use a Windows PC, and think maybe you might-could, possibly be infected??  That’s really easy.

  1. Don’t Jailbreak your iPhone
    I know, I know, I know… I said earlier that this attack hit NON-jailbroken iDevices. The whole thing starts, though on the desktop through the program Aisi Helper. While you may not be interested in its jailbreaking services, it can be used to backup, and clean cruft from your iDevice.Here’s a piece of advice – the only thing you need to use to back up your iDevice is iTunes. Period. If you don’t connect to iTunes on your computer through a USB cable and are OTA only, then use iCloud to back up your device. If you think you need to reset your, iDevice, then use only Apple provided tools (iTunes or the Reset functionality in your iDevice’s Settings).  Using third party tools for any of this is just an invitation to trouble
  2. Uninstall the Desktop Software
    If you have Aisi Helper on your PC, uninstall it. Period.  Don’t ever install any third party tool to backup, clean, or manage content on your iDevice, unless you REALLY trust the developer. And then, it’s really, REALLY risky.
  3. Run a Virus Scan
    After its gone, run a full virus scan with the tool of your choice, and then  make sure you quarantine and then remove any threats that are found.

This development is interesting, and monitoring for it on your iDevice and outside of China (where it’s the only place this is currently a threat) isn’t a bad idea.  However, at this point, for everyone else, this isn’t too big of a deal.  The biggest thing you have to keep in mind though, is that jailbreaking your iDevice is risky, no matter how much you might hate Apple’s walled garden.

While you may not be able to do everything you might want to do with your iDevice in terms of customization and side loading applications, with the threat of malware that steals your personal information that can lead to identity theft, the cool factor and the value in breaking free largely lose their appeal.

What do you think? Is jailbreaking still a thing?  Does it really offer you the options you’re looking for?  Is it too risky?  Do you have a jailbroken iDevice?  Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and let me know?

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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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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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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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