Archive for the ‘technology’ category

The Sovereign Republic of Apple

July 28, 2015

I have a profound admiration for Peter Thiel. There are a large number of brilliant thinkers walking the planet today. Peter Thiel, in my mind, is among them.

So, as the USA Freedom Act spins up and the Patriot Act spins apart and companies such as Apple plant their feet firmly, and rightly so in my mind, in the “strong encryption IS privacy” camp… I can’t help but pondering the societal tug of war going on when an AHA! moment hits. If corporations are people…

What if Apple Became a Country?

ala something like Seasteading which Peter Thiel has given considerable thought. Look at it on a couple merits.

  • Apple, as a country, has something like the 10th largest economy in the world.
  • AAPL could repatriate it’s own cash without the tax hit and reinvest in itself on its own tax terms.
  • Apple could…………………… (fill in the blank)

It’s a really wacky idea. Granted. And then there’s all that political baloney that comes with. But, a NEW country, founded on doing the right thing and iterating and deprecating laws like old, inefficient code. A concept like that certainly has appeal to me. Do countries even have to have soil any longer? The definition of so many things are being reframed that I wonder if the concept of a “border” is due for a change. Some Californians want to see a redrawing of their boundaries such that California becomes multiple new states. Interesting. Why couldn’t one of them be the Sovereign Republic of Apple? Yes, I know, it might be a different country surrounded by… The U.S. on all sides. The Vatican is a country. It’s surrounded on all sides by Italy. But, then, people might say, who would recognize Apple internationally? It wouldn’t be part of the U.N.! So, England isn’t part of the U.N. Either is Ireland or Scotland. The U.K. is. But, those countries are not.

See, what constitutes a country to many really… doesn’t matter. What matters is a modicum of international recognition and a declaration of independence. A governing law and a geopolitical boundary. My contention is “the ground” bit. How MUCH ground is necessary? Could the privately owned Apple Campus be declared “the ground”? How about an uncontested patch of dirt on Luna (our lunar neighbor)? Why do we HAVE to have a boundary? Nowhere does it say we have to have a capital city.

For a company that prides itself on Thinking Differently, I wonder if our buddies at Apple have ever thought of creating a new country of their own?

 

LastPass Hacked

June 16, 2015

I hate passwords. I have too many accounts and too many passwords to remember. So, I resorted to using LastPass not too long ago for simplifying sign on services. Okta was another service I’d had the opportunity to use and I found the experience of both to be quite good.

Until this morning.

There is no substitute for a good, strong password portfolio + a regimen of deprecating them on a schedule. If you’re good at eating at least once per day, you should be capable of changing your passwords once every six months (if not more frequently).

Apple has Keychain. Google has Authenticator. I’m sure Microsoft has something (probably called Keychain or Authenticator because they’re too lazy to come up with their own product names). Anyway, the point is, picking one of these and electing for an extremely long factor passcode that is 100% machine generated is probably the best way to go. I, personally, like GUIDs with mixed upper and lower case letters mixed in PLUS another character in there somewhere such as a “!” (which I don’t use). But you get the idea. A password such as has a lot going for it:

!c40d2b17-42f8-4908-b341-F6538CBE997C

First it’s nearly 40 characters long. A human isn’t going to remember a randomly generated string of mixed case and letters very easily. That is a good thing. Nor is that person going to bother to write that sort of thing down or easily transcribe it to a friend or relative.

The one thing it sucks at now is it’s public and has probably been scooped up by some machine and folded into the crazy ass long list of passwords to try while attempting to brute force past a security wall of some kind. Plus all it’s variants. Don’t even waste your time recycling it.

But, that type of password is ideally suited to living in something like Keychain and probably forgotten. Easily discarded and reset regularly. See, we get attached to passwords. It’s the familiarity of the thing. A birthdate mixed with an address mixed with a childhood friend’s dog’s name. The problem with anything remotely like those… The cracking algorithms and raw compute power available today can make mincemeat out of those in nothing flat. The ability to recurse through all the variations with brute force velocity is astounding and only getting better and cheaper to do so.

Blockchain holds a lot of promise. If you’ve not been paying attention to digital security or alt digital currencies like Bitcoin… The Blockchain holds a lot of promise. A LOT! Our digital identities are at risk. Our state secrets are at risk. Our banking is at risk. Our infrastructure is at risk. Oddly enough, our flesh and blood lives are now inextricably weaved with the digital fabric of the world. We are cyborg in William Gibson’s finest sense of it. Wearables are an interesting aside.

What’s a netizen to do?

If you’re a Mac, like me I use Apple’s built in password generator. Follow these very simple steps:

1) Click on the Apple Menu (upper left) and select System Preferences

2) Click on Users and Groups

3) Click on Change Password. If it asks for iCloud Password, Cancel or Change Password… Choose Change Password. Don’t worry, we’re not changing anything. We’re just fabricating a new password for you to use elsewhere or at the very least showing how to do it at a later time.

4) See the icon that looks like a key? Click that and a small window like the one pictured below will show up.

LastPass GUID Keychain Blockchain

 

5) One of the first things you’ll see is the Type menu dropdown. I prefer Random. Pick anything you like. But, remember, anything resembling a word is going to be more easily cracked. Apple probably oversimplifies the Quality meter. Generally speaking the farther that meter is to the right, the better the password.

6) Next, change the length of your password. See how you can manipulate the quality and security of your new passcodes? And, it’s all built into OSX.

Well, this is all good and fine. We have a new, strong password generator in our pocket.

How do we put this into practice?

I’ll show you, in my next post (because I have to create screen shots and write against an outline I’m creating in my notebook – yes, pen and paper) how to go about integrating Keychain into your web browsing of secure sites AND using Keychain across Apple devices.

See, Apple’s already solved this problem and I placed my faith in a couple of companies because of employment policy. Well, screw that. Apple has more cash money and a declared interest in the security of the digital fabric. I believe them when they say it. Google, Microsoft… not so much. Facebook, not at all. Those guys are out to monetize our behaviors across a broad spectrum, not make our lives better.

GASP! Tim Cook is human!?

October 30, 2014

Who the hell coulda guessed THAT!? Tim Cook just came right out in front of God and everyone and admitted he’s… human!

Welcome to the party Mr. Cook. We proudly admit you to the human race. We accept your (misplaced) fondness of Auburn football. You must be one helluvan uncle. And furthermore, what you do with your private moments is your’s (not our’s). Keep doing what you do so well: inspiring us to be the best we can be in all our endeavors. We’re rooting for you and the company you love as dearly as we do.

REVIEW: My First 5 Minutes with OS X Yosemite

October 18, 2014

Holy Caw! This beast is… SLEEK.

I didn’t think I would like the non-skeumorphic icons. I’m not crazy about them on iOS. Yosemite will probably carry me over that hump.

Right off the bat I was concerned about app compatibility. We’ve all been stung by that with these updates. Yet, here it is 30 minutes in. I’ve launched all my go-to apps and I only have 8 requiring update via Software Update. Yet, they launch fine, docs open, save, reopen. Try THAT Windows!

I’ll run Yosemite for a while on this production machine before I take anything else past Maverick. But, there’s plenty of reason to appreciate the polish Apple has applied to this latest version of OS X.

First impression of the UI is the login screen after installation. That’s a really nice “Hello”. Very subtle. Very beautiful. Very elegant. Very… Jonny Ive (honestly).

Next, and particularly impressive, is Safari. I’ve nearly exclusively moved over to Chrome (and Firefox for one very specific site cpanel). Safari hasn’t factored for a long time in my daily use except on iOS. Th new OS X Safari *may* lure me back across the aisle. Realistically, I doubt that… I have too much configuration invested in Chrome at this point to really seriously a permanent move. Kudos to Apple for getting their browser tight and right though. (fwiw, I still miss RSS)

There are so many fresh new nooks and crannies to explore. I’m genuinely looking forward to this one. Those who know me well, know I just plunge into these updates with a reckless pursuit to see what’s waiting on the other side and know the price for that will (usually) be picking up the broken pieces of busted apps and such. And, usually, that’s apparent within the first thirty minutes. Judging by the stability, ease of migration and lack of core apps misbehaving I have to say right now, barely 10 minutes in this is going to be one of the easiest updates I’ve been through of all the OS X releases. It does make me wonder what Yosemite Server must be like. That hasn’t happened in a long time. Which also makes me wonder about ZFS implementation (or lack of) in Yosemite. More on that later if there’s anything to pass along. A boy can hope 🙂

Kick (bleep) AppleTV Feature Suggestion

April 4, 2014

My four kids are still young. They will be for a while longer. Their little ears don’t need to hear all the <bleeping> words some of these otherwise acceptable programs have.

AppleTV has replaced Cox Cable programming in our household. If it’s not on the AppleTV we don’t see it or even know it exists. I want the ability to CENSOR (gasp! I know) the audio content that comes through.

My iTunes Radio channels are censored at my request. But, what I’d really prefer is a simple audio cut-out at the moment so and so fires off a GD or an somesuch. Surely there’s a crowdsourced database out there that pegs the bad word at 1:10:05 and can be scrubbed out.

Macs + Airsoft = An FPS Game

February 2, 2014

The craze among kids these days is Airsoft. Once the kids start blogging about Airsoft… it’s either on the rise or it’s jumped the shark. (Hint: it’s too early to have jumped the shark).

So, I’m trying to mashup my love for the Mac platform, my love for tinkering and coding and mash all that up with FPS and MMO gaming. I’ve found an FPS platform I think may be able to accommodate all of the above…

It’s been a long time since I “wrote” a game from the ground up. Think it was a move-based-game back in 1985’ish with my friends Russell and Erik. We banged it out over a weekend on a TRS-80 and wrote it in BASIC. Forget how many lines of code we laid out, it was a lot more than anything else we’d taken on before. It wasn’t what I’d call a shippable product. But, it was a more-than-solid beta with pixel collision detection (easy), variables for terrain “encumberances” – which simply meant groups moved slower across bogs and mountains than in flat terrain or ships on water. We even took a crack at group vs. group combat rules as I recall. It was an algorithmic attempt at allowing for large scale combative encounters.

The whole thing was somewhere between a digital Penté and World of Greyhawk. And now I’m about to be up to something equally entertaining.

iOS 7 Better Have…

December 13, 2012

There are some things iOS7 had better have before I consider shelling out the bucks for the next new iPhone. Here’s my iOS bucket list:

  • I need a way to import a high quality greeting to my voicemail. Hardline dialing and recording a new greeting is NOT Apple-worthy. I don’t mind recoding to the Voice Memo app or on my Mac. I just ought to be able to import a sound file as my greeting dangit!
  • I expect a way to SEND my voicemails to my iCloud account as email attachments. Or create a rule that does it automatically.
  • I expect a way to FORWARD voicemails to other iOS devices as messages. I can send a picture/video via MMS… Why not a voicemail attachment?
  • I expect a heckuva LOT more out of Siri. It’s more useless than the Maps app right now.
  • Maps is borked. Now that Google Maps app is on the App Store… I’m going back to what works. Still love you Apple. Just need excellent Maps when I need a map.
  • Something’s still not quite right about Contact sync between iPhone, Mac laptop and iCloud. I have duplicates of many contacts in the order of 19 to upwards of 30 of the same person. There needs to be a super easy way to purge duplicates. Contact management shouldn’t be this nasty a chore.
  • Speaking of chores… Apple got the Notes app sync PERFECTLY across devices. It’s not broke. Don’t fix it. 😉 Replicate it’s success for the other devices.
  • Facetime is such a great idea. I’ve tried and tried and tried to Facetime on our local wireless LAN. Each time it rings once (so I know the call is coming through) and then indicates I’m busy to the other devices. Needs to be easier.
  • The new messaging works pretty swank too. Not sure how they’d improve it just now.
  • Can we PLEASE just sync up our phones to Time Machine? Pretty please?
  • Passbook is freakin awesome! A killer, kick ass kind of awesome. The world is ready (it just doesn’t know it yet).
  • Airplay = way awesome.
  • Safari “Reader Mode” is slick. Wish there was a way to make Siri read the content while I’m driving or otherwise occupied. That’s one thing I love about Alex on my Mac.
  • Photo streams to my AppleTV is not quite as straight forward an intuitive as I would expect from Apple. Needs Improvement.
  • Newsstand is a useless icon on my phone deck. Please, let me delete it or file it in another folder.
  • Faxing from my phone should be a no brainer easier than anything to do.
  • Finally, PRINTING. Guys. C’mon. Really? Printing is right up there with copy and paste. We’ve been doing this a long time. Why can’t we seem to get this right?

iOS is a super platform. So good in fact that in our household we’re getting device confused. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve swiped our fingers across the screen of the laptop or the iMac. It’s silly really that we’ve become so accustomed to iOS that is’s bleeding over into how we interact with the other computers around us.