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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Slow (and Boring) News Week..?

I mean… Is it just me, or am I the only one that doesn’t see a lot happening right now..?

I look at the news often.

In fact, I look at specific sites throughout the day to insure that I don’t miss anything. Unfortunately, we seem to have entered a period where absolutely NOTHING fun and interesting seems to be hitting the wire. I mean, I could be totally wrong on this one, but I really don’t think I am.

There really isn’t much of ANYTHING of note or interest going on… Anywhere… At all… and I’m bored out of my mind.

Yes, yes, yes… There are somethings that are going on; but nothing that would make at least what I would consider to be a good news and analysis article on its own. Instead, I’ve decided to combine a few of them here as I have a few things to say; but I won’t have too much to say on them, as honestly, I’ve either partially covered the issue, or I personally don’t think they’re all that news worthy OR all that interesting… However, here’s some of the more interesting of the lot:

Microsoft Ain’t Giving up on Windows 10 Mobile
Really..?

I find this one a little hard to believe. I told everyone what I think of Windows 10 Mobile (it’s a waste of time, money and resources); but for some reason, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson seems hell bent on beating this dead horse, claiming he saw it twitch. Or, just claiming that he’s not giving up.

I have no idea why. It doesn’t make a lick of sense…

I’ve already predicted the death of Windows 10 Mobile (and the Windows Phone platform) and I know I’m not alone in this belief.

I mean, even Mary Jo Foley agrees with me…

MJF-Tweets

It’s hard to believe that Microsoft is apparently ignoring the obvious and that they won’t exit the market. I’d rather see them spend the time, money and resources on something that may actually add value to the market. Any strides they make in mobile will likely get swept under the rug and/ or forgotten before it really has a chance to make any kind of genuine impact.

I also don’t agree at all with Satya Nadella. I don’t think that “business phones are a segment where Windows Phone devices were catching on.”

Nadella’s further statements that, “…the fact your latest soccer app is not available or some social networking app is not available is not much of an issue (in business scenarios)…” is also grossly short sighted, in my opinion. There are little to no third party apps available for Windows Phone on the consumer side. There are even less enterprise focused apps available for the device platform. While, Nadella goes on to say that, “…what matters… is identity management, security [and] protection,” is dead on, even in an enterprise setting, its (device-based) apps that sell a specific platform. Unfortunately, Windows Phone has little to none.

This appears to be a huge mistake on Microsoft’s part. The fact that they don’t have a real tablet-tablet (most Windows based tablets are really nothing more than tablets that run full-blown Windows 8.x or Windows 10… there aren’t any Windows 10 Mobile tablets…) is a huge hole that Microsoft and their hardware partners don’t seem to be interested in filling; and even if they did at this point, it would still be too little, too late.

The platform is dead, Satya and Terry… Get over it and move on.

Reports of Apple’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated
One… One. That’s it. Just one.

Apple has had one (and only one) quarter in 8 years (or over 32 quarters…) where shipped iPhones dropped from the previous quarter; and the entire financial and tech world is saying that Apple’s growth period is over.

Really…?? Y’all can dope that out after just ONE bad quarter?

Wow.

I bow to your superior analytical skills…

But let’s look at the facts

“Apple shipped 51.1 million units, which isn’t as bad as was expected (the figure to beat was 50.7 million units).” While the figure represents a 32% drop over the previous quarter and a 16% drop over the same quarter last year, Apple still beat the advice it sent to the Street by about 400,000 units. And while sales of the iPhone SE haven’t made up the difference (causing some to think that it’s not a big a hit with consumers – which it may not be… ) it still represents Apple’s 4th best iPhone quarter to date.

iPhone Sales

Sooooo… lemme get this straight – this is the first “bad” quarter in 8 years, because sales are down (and perhaps, down significantly…), but it’s the 4th best iPhone sales quarter EVER… so “repent for the end is near…?”

Really??

Articles like the one(s) I’ve sited in this section really piss me off… They spout and spew all kinds of “statistical” information, but ultimately only reflect a single data point. When you can show a steady, revenue bleeding, cash drop, like the one at Blackberry (click the “ALL” link under the graph), then, yeah… you may have a point.

BB Shares

One quarter, however, where you don’t sell through the roof, doesn’t mean that the party’s over.

Apple Seeds New Betas to Developers and to the Public
Third betas of both OS X 10.11.5 and iOS 9.3.2 have been sent out to both Apple’s developer community and to those consumers who’ve signed up for the Apple Beta program.

Both updates seem to be concentrating on security and performance improvements as well as bug fixes.

Apple vs. FBI
Oy!

Sometimes I really people would just grow up.

Yes, I’m getting a bit salty about all of this. This is another one where I think my 4 year old granddaughter has more maturity than some of the players in this mess…

Feinstein-Burr: Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016
In the wake of all of this, “unlock this phone – no, you can’t make me” hullaballoo, perhaps the biggest reason why non-technical people shouldn’t draft or sponsor legislation rooted in technical issues has come to light.

Now, quite honestly, this is (probably) the biggest piece of crap that I’ve ever really seen come out of Capitol Hill. Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Burr have drafted the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016. The bill, in short basically states that if properly ordered to, people must comply with any court order for data; and if that data is “unintelligible” – i.e. encrypted – then it must be decrypted by the party ordered to provide it.

This bill would make consumer controlled encryption, like the kind in the iPhone or in WhatsApp, illegal. It outlaws end-to-end encryption.

This type of logic is the same type of logic used to justify gun control laws in the US – if you’re not doing anything illegal then you don’t need [guns, encryption].

That type of logic is the first step to tyranny, as the language in the draft legislation indicates that the obligation of persons cited in the order must provide “assistance as is necessary.” This language indicates that “the bill goes beyond the current laws that the government has used to try to compel tech firms to help with data access such as the All Writs Act.

Even more disturbing and concerning, the draft bill also includes the requirement that any licensed distributors must also ensure that all “products, services, applications or software” they distribute must provide the same easy access for law enforcement, which means that Apple is responsible for unlocking encrypted data from encrypted apps when the author cannot, will not, or the US has no jurisdiction to compel them to do so. This means that Apple has to vet every app and make sure it has been backdoored or has weak enough security so it can comply with the request.

The bill is so badly written and steeped in privacy and technology issues that the White House has officially declined to publicly support it. At least the current administration is savvy enough to identify a stinker when they see it…

FBI Can’t and Won’t Share iPhone 5c Exploit
This is just sad…

The FBI has officially stated that it can’t and won’t share the method it used to hack into Farook’s iPhone 5c. While they paid over $1.3M for the method, apparently, they didn’t purchase the RIGHTS to the method, and therefore, they can’t disclose it.

AND per their own admission, they also aren’t smart enough to figure it out on their own, either.

And don’t get me started on the usefulness of what they found, either… because they didn’t find a bloody thing.

While some people will say this is also a good thing – they didn’t get instructions or information from any domestic or international terrorist network while planning or committing their crimes – I don’t know if THAT tidbit was enough to justify not only the price, but the whole $**t storm as well. In the end, this seems to be a huge cluster bump. I’m not saying that the FBI did the wrong thing in this issue, but I do think they picked a very poor test case to press this issue with.

Apple Issues Statement on Body Found in Conference Room
Yesterday, a body was found in an Apple conference room at 1 Infinite Loop, and unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of information on the discovery made available to the public.

The Santa Clara Sheriff’s office has confirmed that the body found was male and that no foul play was involved. The cause of death has not been released; and the name of the deceased has not been revealed.

There was a lot of confusion wrapped around this issue with a number of different reports about more than one person involved, some kind of crime or foul play, blood on more than one person and a 911 call. Thankfully, that appears to all have been either refuted or corrected. Unfortunately, everyone is being very tight lipped about the entire situation. It isn’t often that someone passes away at work. The only reason why this is getting any press, is, unfortunately because it happened on an Apple campus.

Apple released the following statement on the issue. While it doesn’t go into any kind of detail on what happened, it does show their support for the victim and his loved ones:

“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of a young and talented coworker. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends, including the many people he worked with here at Apple. We are working to support them however we can in this difficult time.”

What do you think of all of this? Is the news slow, or is it me? Do you have any comments on any of the items I covered here? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on it all.

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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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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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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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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.

Download

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Feature Review – Boom 2

If you want to make it sound good, you more Boom, Boom, Boom..

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I’ve been using computers for a very long time. I do just about everything that I enjoy on them. In fact, most everything that I do all week long is on a computer. Mostly… I write, as I’m certain that many of you who follow this blog know and understand.

While I write, I often either watch movies or listen to music. The biggest problem with doing this on a laptop is, of course, audio. Laptop speakers are just so-so, no matter what brand of computer you have. Computer speakers are a dime a dozen; and honestly, Apple doesn’t make any. They may include them inside all of their computers, but I don’t think they’re that great. I think they can use all the help they can get. That’s why I really like Boom 2. Its THE app to have if you want to improve the quality of the sound coming out of either your Mac’s internal speakers or from your third party, desktop speakers… and its really cool.

Boom is a system wide volume booster and equalizer that make everything sound louder, clearer and better. Built from the ground up, Book takes advantage of the latest audio technology in OS X. The latest version several features that offer users a variety of professional audio options that allow them to take complete control of their computer’s audio.

When the app starts for the first time, it auto calibrates itself according to the type of Mac that you have. It has power system wide volume boosting capabilities, and provides advanced, precision equalizer controls, that give you control over every aspect of your Mac’s audio. It was designed for Macs running Yosemite and higher, taking full advantage of both the hardware and the OS’ 64-bit architecture.

The app effects all audio coming from your Mac. It makes the audio coming from your speakers sound louder, richer and fuller. It has advanced controls allowing you to put a professional spin on the sound coming out of your Mac, regardless of whether or not you know anything about sound mixing. Boom guarantees you finer audio control.

To help make your Mac’s audio the best it can be, Boom comes with new audio effects – Ambience, Fidelity, Spatial, Night Mode, and Pitch. These are all effects that can be used to bring out the best in the sound coming out of your Mac.

  • Ambiance helps you feel the music around you. With it active, you can hear notes from every corner of the room, making it feel like a live performance.
  • Fidelity makes the music come alive with crisp, sharp tones.
  • Spatial puts you in the center of your audio, immersing your in realistic sound
  • Night Mode nominalizes the audio to produce sounds that aren’t too loud or too faint. This is the perfect setting for action movies.
  • Pitch allows you to change the actual pitch of the audio that is playing. You can listen to things a full note higher or lower than its actually recorded.

Boom has a cool remote app, too, called Boom 2 Remote, downloadable from the iTunes App Store, and it works with both iPad and iPhone. With the app, you can control the audio on your Mac. You can also manage play of VLC, Spotify, QuickTime and iTunes on your Mac, from across the room.

I’ve got Boom 2 installed on my MacBook Pro, and I have to tell you, I’m really impressed. The audio coming out of my Mac is fuller, deeper and so much more alive that it was before. Its really hard to believe that a desktop app can make the sound coming out of my computer sound so much better, but it has. For the price, this is probably one of the better “upgrades” you can give your non-upgradable Mac.

From my perspective, there’s no reason why any Mac owner shouldn’t be running this. Its one of the best apps I’ve installed in a very long time.

You can download Boom 2 here

Boom 2  Boom 2 Boom 2 Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.28.05 AM

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