Encryption

Looks like the government is at it again now that Apple has come out stating that they are not going to roll over and provide a master key to their iPhone software. Really NSA? How about the part where the terrorist didn’t use encryption in these attacks.

European media outlets are reporting that the location of a raid conducted on a suspected safe house Wednesday morning was extracted from a cellphone, apparently belonging to one of the attackers, found in the trash outside the Bataclan concert hall massacre. Le Monde reported that investigators were able to access the data on the phone, including a detailed map of the concert hall and an SMS messaging saying “we’re off; we’re starting.” Police were also able to trace the phone’s movements.

Why this matters

I know that there are a lot of people out there that think our government can do no wrong and national security is the most important thing that they can do. But there is a lawful way in which to handle this. The 4th amendment to the constitution should protect us from the massive surveillance systems that the government has put in place since 9/11. Yes, it was horrible what happened on that day and I’m still as pissed about it now as I was then. But I’m more upset at the eroding of our rights as politicians and government officials put in more programs to watch our electronic communications en mass.

Several companies have either released statements or made comments on the current state of encryption and working with the government in these matters. My company has stated this:

We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products

Tim Cook and Apple have their letter which ends with:

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

So encrypt your backups, use https when ever possible. Set really difficult passwords and use a password manager like LastPass so you don’t forget them. Remember folks, just because you have nothing to hide, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about this subject. One person in particular that has brought more to light on the intrusions into our lives put it best:

If you think privacy is unimportant for you because you have nothing to hide, you might as well say free speech is unimportant for you because you have nothing useful to say.

–Edward Snowden

Privacy Wars

A recently article from the guardian shows that your iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go. Many of your know that I’m an iPhone user and supporter as I have a often neglected iPhone App site.

You’re probably thinking to yourself right now, great, another fanboy coming to Apple’s rescue.

WRONG!

What the fuck Apple? Seriously, what the fuck? Is there a good reason for keeping track of this data? I mean seriously, what are you doing with it?

Actually, there is a good reason for it and its all about advertising. The guys at work have heard this on multiple occasions that the iPod, iPhone, iTouch, iPad are all marketing devices. Mainly for selling anything and everything from iTunes but with iAd, they can now sell you anything. It turns out with a little googling you can find that the Terms and Conditions changed with iOS 4 and there was a feature explained that Apple can track you to provide more relevant ads to your phone. And to also provide features such as Find My iPhone.

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

Apple and its partners use cookies and other technologies in mobile advertising services to control the number of times you see a given ad, deliver ads that relate to your interests, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns. If you do not want to receive ads with this level of relevance on your mobile device, you can opt out by accessing the following link on your device: http://oo.apple.com. If you opt out, you will continue to receive the same number of mobile ads, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests. You may still see ads related to the content on a web page or in an application or based on other non-personal information. This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks.

So does this make it right? No, I don’t think so. I think this sort of tracking is very very wrong. If you want to put up a service like this, it should be in the app to disclose my location. If I’m a developer, I have to allow for this pop up to appear. But apparently apple and their iAds do not. That is where we have an issue. The end user is used to the pop up appearing and only then does their location information get used. However, Apple apparently bypasses this for their iAd service which is not honoring the end user wishes in all cases.

So what can you do?

I know I only have myself to blame for this one as I should have read the terms and conditions more closely. But there is a way out of it. Just as you read above, simply go to http://oo.apple.com/ on your iOS device and you can opt out of the tracking. (Credit Geeky-Gadgets.com for this post.

What about Google

Don’t worry Android fans, you’re not left out in the cold either. Turns out the Wall Street Journal has discovered that Google is also transmitting data from the Android.

And don’t forget about the google street cars and their tomfoolery.

There is a site out there that can map the location of your wireless router via the Google Android’s Wardriving Database. I put in the mac address of my wireless router and was not surprised to find it in there with a GPS coordinate of my street. Awesome!

So now what?

Like many people out there, I was pretty pissed at Apple and Google to begin with. But at the same time, its my own damn fault, I didn’t read the Terms and Conditions like I should.

We live in a society of ever increasing intrusions into our private lives. These intrusions must be fought off in order to keep our private lives private. So my friends, opt out whenever you can and stay vigilant of new “features” that are released. Your privacy is only good if you fight to protect it.

New Hardware

Sometimes its just nice to get something new.

The big boss and I had been talking for a while about getting a new computer for home. The last one we purchased was a white MacBook Core Duo (2GHz with 1GB of RAM) The ram has been maxed out at 2GB a few years ago and I beat the hell out of that thing. Its been through major development projects over its 4 year lifespan.

What to get?

We’re a Mac shop in this household. No, I’m not some zealous nut but I’m a fan of the simplistic design. The thing that appeals to me most about a Mac is that it is UNIX under the hood. Unix is what provides food on my table so having a unix workstation with a nice interface is an extra bonus.

So our choices were going to be something coming with an Apple logo on it. Do you go with a new MacBook Pro and all its power and new hotness? For what I would want, it would be around $1500. Not bad, but… I could get something better that we BOTH could enjoy.

We mainly use our current laptop for surfing the web and checking email while sitting on the couch. When my wife goes to bed, I develop on it down in my office. Surfing the web and checking email from the couch? Sounds like a perfect job for the brand new iPad! But the development side is still missing. Sure I could just replace the iPad and still use the laptop for development. But as I mentioned, I beat the HELL out of that laptop. It doesn’t take long for me to burn through that 2GB of ram.

The Solution

iPad2 for the main web surfing and email checking from the couch. All the other apps just make it super sweet. I ordered mine online and it will ship in 2-3 weeks.

For a development box, a new mac mini. The form factor is small but still provides enough power to get me through what I need to do. I went with the dual core 2.4GHz model and upgraded the ram to 8GB. Its getting the job done and I have yet to run it out of ram with various tasks.

Both devices combined came out to what a new MacBook Pro would run me. In the end, I think I made both of us happy while staying somewhat budget friendly. Its been 4 years so it was about time to spend a little cash.

Prediction Fail

Its safe to say, my prediction on the Verizon event was completely wrong.

Verizon announced the iPhone4 for their network today.

So, will you be switching?

Personally, I’m going to be waiting a bit since I just upgraded to the iPhone4 when it was announced. When the wife and I get closer to our contracts, I have a feeling that I will be a Verizon customer. Hopefully LTE will be out by then in Des Moines.