Apple fires back at NSA iPhone spyware claims

After the Snowden leaks regarding the scope of NSA’s spying efforts, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone to hear the recent claims that the NSA is able to install spyware on the iPhone via its DROPOUTJEEP program. Reports claim that the NSA currently needs physical access to the device in order to be able to install the spyware, but a version that can be remotely deployed in currently in the works.

Apple Denies Working with NSA on iPhone Backdoor

Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.

It’s pretty telling that Apple has had to resort to indirectly labeling the NSA as “malicious hackers”, though it’s not the only one calling the spying agency names as Microsoft has also begun to claim that the constant spying is basically an “advanced persistent threat”, something that shouldn’t be used lightly.

Microsoft Was Right To Worry That Government Snooping Constituted An ‘Advanced Persistent Threat’

The term “advanced persistent threat,” by the way, isn’t a casual colloquialism that Redmond invented. According to the Wall Street Journal, the phrase “carries special weight in cybersecurity circles and is often used to describe hacker teams backed by the Chinese government.” That comparison is striking.

Let’s not forget Mark Zuckerberg’s comments regarding this issue too.

Zuckerberg: US government ‘blew it’ on NSA surveillance

He said after the news broke in the Guardian and the Washington Post about Prism, the government surveillance programme that targets major internet companies: “The government response was, ‘Oh don’t worry, we’re not spying on any Americans.’ Oh, wonderful: that’s really helpful to companies trying to serve people around the world, and that’s really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies.”

The disappointing thing about all of this is that despite being a democracy, we’re having to rely on large technology companies who have massive clout and money to hire expensive lawyers in order to fight this. Something definitely isn’t right here.

Why Google does not license Android

Business Insider reports on the correlation between the size of the world’s internet population and Google revenues.

We all known Google depends on its search ads to generate revenue. Now Asymco has a chart to show you how Google’s ad revenue is related to the number of people using the internet.

No wonder Google wants to bring internet to areas with limited or no internet access. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud Google for its efforts to increase internet penetration. But we should keep in mind that it is not without benefit to Google.

HTC Android devices banned in Germany for infringing Nokia patents

Android Central reports that HTC Android devices have been banned for sale in Germany for infringing Nokia patents.

This comes after HTC’s lawsuit wins in the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The patent does not apply on HTC devices alone. Other Android devices that has the Android Beam function will be considered as infringing on the patent as well. It is understood that Google is working to invalidate the patent to prevent bans from being effected on other Android devices.

Twitter adds account favourite to its Android app

Digital Trends reports that Twitter has updated its Android app to allow users to favourite other users.

We can add accounts to a List. So this feature is not just about making it easy for users to keep track of their favourite tweeters. This is probably a way for Twitter to better understand the kind of tweets you want to keep track of to help improve its algorithm to recommend users for you to follow, and to serve you targeted ads.

John Gruber: Damned if they do, damned if they don’t

Whenever John Gruber takes the time to write a long post, it’s definitely worth a read, especially if it’s on the topic of Apple.

I think that he pretty much nails it that when it comes to people who want eye-catching headlines, Apple is never going to win.

It’s a damned if they do, damned if they don’t scenario for Apple. If a three-year-old device doesn’t qualify for an iOS upgrade, one could argue that Apple is excluding it out of spite, to pressure the user to buy a new device just so they can run the latest software. But if Apple does provide an update for a three-year-old phone, and the upgrade proves problematic for some of them, then they’re accused of booby-trapping it, suckering users into upgrading their iPhones to a version of iOS that makes them run worse, so that the users will run out and buy a new iPhone.

I just want to chime in with one of the major misconceptions that I feel keeps being brought up.

Apple products are expensive

This is by far the most common complaint. While it might have been true a while back, I feel I’m actually getting pretty good value here. I’m going to sidestep the fact that the current MacBook Air starts from $999, which is cheaper than a lot of good Windows notebooks out there. Instead, I’m going to use the example of my MacBook Pro which I purchased back in 2010. I can’t recall the exact price, but I paid something in the region of $1,200 for the machine, and I’ve been using it for about four years now. The only hiccup I’ve encountered so far has been a faulty cable inside, which Apple Care took care of pretty quickly.

The thing is, after four years, I constantly forget that I’m using a four year old machine. The battery still holds a reasonable charge; I’ve updated it to Mavericks 10.9.1 and don’t feel that it’s sluggish at all. So aside from a few minor features like AirPlay mirroring and faster speeds, I don’t feel that I need to rush to upgrade to the latest MacBook. If I need a performance bump, I just need to purchase an $80 SSD and it’ll feel like a brand new machine.

On the other hand, my Windows desktops are all on life support, either through failing drivers and crappy hardware quirks here and there.

Planned obsolescence? As I mentioned, my MacBook Pro is going strong. My family members are still rocking the iPhone 4 without any issues. Sure, it’s not as fast as the iPhone 5S, but it works fine. Try using a 3-year old Android phone.

The whole “planned obsolescence” thing — started by New York Times economics columnist Catherine Rampell, but promulgated by Mims himself after the ball got rolling — was a pile of horseshit. No company in the computer/mobile industry makes products that hold their value longer than Apple’s. Used two-year-old iPhone 4S’s can be sold for $300; three-year-old iPhone 4’s still sell for $200 or more. What other companies make cell phones that retain any value at all after two years?

Is Apple right all the time? Hardly, but let’s be fair here and give credit where credit is due.

Samsung wants to reach a settlement with Apple in the patent dispute

The Korea Times reports that Samsung wants to settle the patent dispute.

Samsung still prefers to sign a comprehensive “cross-licensing” deal, allowing the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer to access all Apple’s design-related, some standard-essential and commercial patents; while Apple is asking Samsung to pay over $30 per device for Samsung’s patent violations, which Samsung thinks is “too much,” said another Samsung official who is familiar with the issue.

Seeing that it is futile to deny infringement, Samsung has decided to license the patents so they can openly copy with no repercussions.

MacPaint and 416 pixels

Hardware and software working together in tandem. That’s what makes Apple special.

Why MacPaint’s Original Canvas was 416 Pixels Wide

Of course one can critique it now and point out well what happens when you add color. And when you have a resizable window? But remember, this was the age of the Mac 128k, running on a 68k at 8Mhz. The ROM itself was just 64k and all of the core graphics (Quickdraw) was squeezed into 24k. This was an algorithm born of necessity. Without this optimization the original MacPaint would have been sluggish in many of its operations (the ScrnToBuf and the BufToScreen are foundational to MacPaint).

iA Writer Pro controversy

The award winning iOS writing app Writer has recently been in the spotlight for good and bad reasons. The good news is that Information Architects (iA), the company behind Writer, has released Writer Pro, which touts some useful features.

iA’s Writer Pro maximizes the minimalist text editor

Syntax Control is a far more powerful version of the Focus mode in the original Writer, which faded out all sentences except the one that you were working on. Writer Pro lets you do the same thing for different types of words — the idea is to make it easier for writers to edit themselves by searching for repeated terms, unnecessary adverbs, and so on. “Syntax Control was planned as an original feature of iA Writer,” says Reichenstein, “but since it is a feature for editing, not drafting, it never really sat right in the basic concept of iA Writer which was, in one word: just write.”

The bad news? iA seemed to try and preempt other folks from implementing similar features by indicating that they’re willing to protect those features via legal battles. Such a stance is underestandable for new features and technology, but the issue is that some of the new features we’re talking about are intrinsically tied to a new NSLinguisticTagger Class that Apple has included in iOS for developers to harness. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that it has sparked off a healthy debate as to whether they’re being proactive, or just being jerks about it.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball and Markdown fame tweeted a pretty witty response to the whole deal.

The Internet is becoming increasingly vocal about the whole deal. Marco Arment has chimed in, and many folks are also blatantly telling others not to support iA.

iA obviously hasn’t been blind to the whole situation, as the company has apparently backtracked slightly by tweeting that it has dropped its patents pending. The obvious guess would be that this change of heart is related to the suddenly backlash from the Internet, but at least it shows that iA is paying attention.

Love them or hate them. I do like a previous interview with Oliver Reichenstein, the founder and director of Information Architects, in which he talks about the design and concept of the app.

The principles of good design have not changed. Dieter Rams said: “Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.” This applies to all disciplines of design, including web design. Web design looks like graphic design because it appears visually flat, but it is actually closer to electro-mechanical engineering than any form of drawing. As a web designer you need to consider what people do with their hands and heads. You need to design your products in a way that requires minimal input, and delivers maximal output.

BlackBerry loves Jakarta, codenames a phone after it

Tech in Asia writes about BlackBerry using the code name “Jakarta” for its new phone targeting the Indonesian market.

What better way to woo customers from a country than by code-naming a phone after its capital?

The phone better be a hit or BlackBerry will continue to see its market share slip away.

About that Apple holiday ad

Ken Segall writes about Apple’s holiday advertisement.

Most of these people mistake their personal opinion, instinct, values and/or taste for actual marketing talent. There are tens of millions of people who will stop in their tracks at this commercial and wipe a tear from their eye. As a result, they will feel slightly more attached to Apple, which is the marketing purpose of this spot.

Couldn’t agree more. It follows along the lines of the Life on iPad ad campaign to show how Apple devices are enriching lives.