All posts tagged “Apple

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FBI vs. Apple : Everything you need to know part 2


The Apple vs. FBI story has evolved so much in the past weeks, I thought I needed to write a separate post just on the updates. Admittedly, the story is far more complex and nuanced that I initially presumed, and everyone wants to be part of the conversation.

On one side, we have the silicon valley tech geeks, who seem to be unanimously in the corner of Tim Cook and Apple, while on the other  we have the Washington D.C policy makers, who are equally supportive of James Comey and the FBI whom he directs.

But to understand this issue from a fair and balanced perspective, we need to frame the correct question, not just what the issue about, but who is the  issue really focused on.

This isn’t just about the FBI or Apple

Framing this as the FBI vs. Apple or The Government vs. Apple is wrong. This is Law Enforcement vs. Tech Companies.

The FBI is just a part of the The Government, specifically the part tasked with investigating federal crimes.James Comey, FBI director, is genuinely trying to do his job when he uses the All Writs Act to compel Apple to create a version of iOS that would allow them to brute-force the PIN code.

But there are other parts of The Government, like the NSA, who have the wholly different task of national security. To them, if a smartphone, is genuinely secured from FBI, then it’s secured from Russian Cybercriminals and Chinese State Sponsored actors too (probably!).

And because so much data are on smartphones, including the smartphones of federal government employees, the national security interest of America is better protected by having phones that are completely unbreakable, rather than ones the provide exceptional access to law-enforcement. Exceptional being defined as, no one has access except for law enforcement, and perhaps TSA agents, maybe border patrol and coast guard–you can see how slippery a slope ‘exceptional’ can be. Oh and by the way, exceptional doesn’t exist in end-to-end encryption.

Former NSA director, Michael Hayden, has openly said “I disagree with Jim Comey. I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America”. So it appears the NSA has an interest of national security that competes with the FBIs interest of investigating crimes.

The Government isn’t a single entity with just one interest, rather it is a collection of agencies with sometimes competing objectives, even though they all ultimately serve their citizens.  Experts believe the NSA has the capability to crack the iPhone encryption easily, but are refusing to indulge the FBI, because–well it’s hard to guess why the NSA don’t like the FBI.

Susan Landau,  a member of Cybersecurity hall of fame (yes it does exist), detailed two methods the FBI could hack the iPhone in her testimony to House Judiciary Committee. Both methods involved complicated forensics tools, but would cost a few hundred thousand dollars (cheap!) , and wouldn’t require Apple to write a weakened version of iOS. If the goverment can get into the phone for $100,000 , that would mean it couldn’t compel Apple under the All Writs Act (AWA).

Remember, the FBI buy their spyware from the lowlifes at hacking team, which means they’re about as competent as the MACC and Malaysian PMO, but if Comey and Co. can afford $775,000 on shit from Hacking Team, I’m guessing $100,000 for a proper computer forensics expert isn’t a problem.

But maybe there’s an ulterior motive here, at the very recently concluded Brooklyn iPhone case, Magistrate Judge Orenstein noted that necessity was a pre-requisite for any request made under AWA, and if the FBI have an alternative for a reasonable price, then Apple’s support was not necessary, and hence outside the ambit of the AWA. So maybe the NSA isn’t providing the support to necessitate the NSA.

An this isn’t singularly about the FBI either. The New York A-G is waiting for this case to set precedent before he makes request for the 175 iPhones he’s hoping to unlock for cases that aren’t related to terrorism or ISIS. You can bet he’s not the only A-G waiting for the outcome, and it’s highly unlikely for the Judge to make her ruling so specific that nobody except the FBI could use it as precedent.

But it’s also not just about Apple. The legal precedent set by this case would apply not just to every other iPhone, but possibly every other smartphone, laptop, car or anything else we could squeeze into the definition of a computer. This is about more than Apple, and that’s why the tech companies are lining up in support of Mr. Cook, 32  such companies the last I vs. them

But now that we’ve framed the ‘who’ , let’s frame the ‘what’.

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Why Apple is really suing Samsung

I’m not the biggest fan of Apple, I consistently compare my Galaxy S3 (which is great) to my wifes Iphone 4 (which is not so great). So when I first heard the news that Apple was suing Samsung for a ridiculous amount of money because of things like ‘slide to unlock’, ‘pinch to zoom’  and even ‘bouncing effect while scrolling’, I thought it was just a signal that Apple was afraid of someone stealing it’s dominance in the Smartphone market.

However, out of sheer coincidence I came across the 2007 keynote address for the iPhone by Steve Jobs. This was the original keynote for the original iPhone (5 years before the iPhone 5), and I was astounded. It was like attending a history lesson for one of the most defining moments in technology. One of the great things about the keynote though, is it ‘enlightened’ me on the lawsuit, and allowed me to see the lawsuit through Apples–or more specifically Steve Jobs–eyes, and it’s only through his eyes did I understand why Apple was suing Samsung, I still don’t agree with it, but I can definitely see why Apple is going through great lengths to make life miserable for Samsung and Google.

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Apple Launches iTunes Store in Malaysia

Finally… it’s arrived!!

It was a long wait since my first iPod, but finally the iTunes has landed in Malaysia. Apple made a rather quite launch of the iTunes Store in Malaysia, meaning the days of logging into iTunes with US accounts and gift card purchases are over. Malaysians now have access to an entire treasure trove of songs available for the same prices as they are in the US. That’s about $0.99 – $1.69 per song, or $9.99 per album (roughly).

I was so excited, I immediately logged onto iTunes with my Malaysian account to check out the details, it took a while, since I’d forgotten my Malaysian account password, but soon after I was greeted at the iTunes store by Jason Mraz himself. I was also informed that the iTunes Store in Malaysia had more tailored local content these include songs from P. Ramlee, Man Bai, Chinese songs as well as Hindi songs (kuch kuch hota hai for $0.69 anyone?). It’s also good to see that Kau Ilhamku by Man Bai was Top of the Charts, signifying locally driven content. Where else would you see Belaian Jiwa and Moves Like Jagger on the same charts?

Also there are more P. Ramlee songs on the Malaysian iTunes store than there is on the US iTunes store, so it’s tailored to Malaysian taste.

Of course that raises the questions, are there more ‘American’ songs on the US store than Malaysia?

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MacinCloud: Develop iPad / iPhone apps on Windows

So you want to develop an iOS application for your iPhone or iPad.

Thinking of being the next big app to hit the appstore.

Only one problem, developing applications for the iPhone and iPad require a Mac or more specifically a machine running Mac OS X. It could be you actually own a Mac, you could go and buy yourself an RM1800 Mac Mini, or you could try a hackintosh, although just creating a hackintosh would be a small project in itself.

Now Hackintosh is actually way beyond the scope of this article, so rest assured I’m not asking you to do anything ridiculously technical or suspiciously illegal. (although those are my favorite type of things to do)

If you’re reading this though, chances are you have a windows PC at home, or even Ubuntu, that’s quite standard and sufficient if you wish to develop Android apps, and they rake in money too.

iOS apps however, are a different beast all together and require a Mac OS X device, which is pretty easy to purchase in Malaysia, but they don’t come cheap. You may want to think hard before plunking down an extra 2-3 thousand ringgit just to ‘try’ your hand at app development. Just like you wouldn’t want to buy 3 year subscription to your neighborhood gym only to go 5 times in the first month — and then never again!