This post is part 33 of 39 in the series Taming the Terminal

This is the final SSH instalment. So far we’ve learned how to securely execute terminal commands on remote computers, how to securely copy files across the network using SSH, how to add both security and convenience to both those operations with SSH key pairs, and how to tunnel just about anything through SSH. In this final instalment we’ll look two approaches for creating SSH bookmarks, SSH config files, and SSH GUIs.

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“Behind People’s Backs”

Filed Under Computers & Tech, Security on October 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’m fed up with people being dishonest about the new search feature in Yosemite. You can have reasonable discussions about the pros and cons of this feature, but for goodness sake enough with the fact-free hyperbole.

I’ve lost count of how many people insist Apple is sending this information back to Apple “behind people’s backs”. Sorry, but that is a fact-free assertion. The screenshot below shows the search feature in question:

Yosemite Spotlight Popover

Here it is again with the important aspects highlighted:

Yosemite Spotlight Popover (Anotated)

If that’s “behind people’s backs” then I’m the pope!

Something I will agree with critics on is that I think that link to instructions should be a button or checkbox to disable the feature. A link to instructions is nice, a button would be perfect!

This data is not being sent for no reason, it’s being sent to offer people a richer search experience, and Apple were actually playing catchup in this regard. Here’s what Microsoft say Windows 8.1 does:

By default, the Search charm searches the apps, files, and settings on your PC and OneDrive, plus the web.

The real question is whether or not Apple have thought about our privacy when implementing this feature, and whether or not they have designed the feature well. Here is what Apple say they do:

We are absolutely committed to protecting our users’ privacy and have built privacy right into our products. For Spotlight Suggestions we minimize the amount of information sent to Apple. Apple doesn’t retain IP addresses from users’ devices. Spotlight blurs the location on the device so it never sends an exact location to Apple. Spotlight doesn’t use a persistent identifier, so a user’s search history can’t be created by Apple or anyone else. Apple devices only use a temporary anonymous session ID for a 15-minute period before the ID is discarded.
We also worked closely with Microsoft to protect our users’ privacy. Apple forwards only commonly searched terms and only city-level location information to Bing. Microsoft does not store search queries or receive users’ IP addresses.
You can also easily opt out of Spotlight Suggestions, Bing or Location Services for Spotlight.

So, your searches are not tied to your Apple ID or any other persistent ID, instead, your device creates a new random identifier every 15 minutes, so your searches are anonymous, and most importantly, they can’t be profiled because the IDs are ephemeral. The fact that the device fuzzes the location before sending it on is also very good. The fact that IP details are not logged is also good. Finally, the fact that only a sub-set of the request is sent on to Bing is great.

I do not believe Apple would blatantly lie to users. For a start, as a publicly traded company that would almost certainly be criminal, but even leaving that aside, it would be spectacularly damaging for Apple to be caught lying about stuff like this.

Bottom line, Apple have been very open about this, Apple have implemented this feature with privacy in mind, and this feature is not unique to Apple OSes. Finally, if you want to opt-out, you can.

If this really is such a scandal, why is Windows 8.1 not coming under the same fire? *cough* link bait *cough*

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With the release of Lion there seems to be wide-spread fear, bordering on panic in some quarters, that it’s the start of the end of the Mac. The feeling seems to be that Steve is pushing us all towards iPads and iPhones, and that he’s going to leave all us power users in the lurch. Sine Apple watching is so much like Kremlinology, we can’t just ask Apple PR where they are headed, we have to infer and imply based on the past and the present. The doom-sayers are projecting a future where Apple dumb-down their desktops and laptops to the point that they have no more power than their iPhones and iPads. When I look at the same past and present, I see Apple moving towards a very different future, not one where Macs become iPad-like, but one where Apple unify the look, feel and design philosophy across all their computing products, but where no features are lost. The best analogy I can come up with is the computing experience aboard the Star Ship Enterprise (the D of course), Apple are not moving to ‘iPadify’ the Mac, they are moving to ‘Startrekify’ their entire line.

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Apple have added in a few lines of extra language to their Developer Agreement for the latest version of their iPhone SDK. You can read the exact wording changes on Daring Fireball, but the effect of the language is that you have to use Apple’s XCode development environment to compile all your code. This has had the effect of killing some unsupported means of making iPhone apps, most notably MonoTouch and Adobe’s about-to-be-released iPhone Flash bundler in CS5. My initial reaction was very negative (ask my Twitter followers), but that was purely an emotional response because Apple didn’t give us any reason for this change. Because Apple didn’t explain themselves, we were left to come up with our own explanations, and the first few that came to my mind were none too positive. Ultimately, I greatly dislike Objective C, so I was pissed off at the alternatives getting the chop. But, slowly, a different story is emerging. I still haven’t heard anything official from Apple, but I think I understand what’s going on, and it changes my opinions significantly.

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Thoughts on iPhone OS 3.0

Filed Under Computers & Tech on March 18, 2009 | 4 Comments

Yesterday Apple held a press event to release details of the next version of the iPhone software, called version 3.0. You can read some of the highlights and watch a video of the whole presentation at Apple’s website. I sat down and watched it late last night, and have to say I was impressed. I was expecting to finally get some of the things I’ve really wanted, but I was blown away by the scope of this new release, and in particular, just how many new tools they are putting into the hands of the developers. Apple are notorious for inflating numbers through generous interpretations of terms, but even when you bear that in mind, 1,000 new APIs for developers to use is impressive, as indeed is 100 new user-level features from Apple themselves.

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Just a very short follow-on post related to my last iPhone post. First, we have the bad, a diary by a developers showing just how arduous the process is here. The key quote is his conclusion:

Development for iPhone is an incredibly difficult process, much more difficult than it needs to be. The arduous process of shipping an application for the Mac suddenly appears to be absolutely straightforward after going through this mess. I really don’t envy those companies who have staked their success to the iPhone platform. The amount of arbitrary hassle, uncertainty, and delay in the process can only feel vastly worse when your livelihood depends on it.

Secondly, the other side of the coin, why the hassle is worth persisting with, there’s money in them there hills!

[tags]iPhone, Apple, development[/tags]

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As February goes on we get closer and closer to the promised iPhone SDK. Before that happens I want to get my predictions down, just in case I’m right 🙂 For a start I expect we’ll get the announcement very late in the month, probably the week of the 28th. When that announcement comes it will not be what I think most people are expecting, a single SDK, it will be two. A very free and open API for developing Widget-like apps, and a very tightly controlled API for truly native apps. I also expect the apps to be distributed through the iTunes store, in the same way the software update for the iPod Touch was last month.

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A few months ago I happily reported that iTunes 7.5 had fixed one of my major gripes with the way photos are synced to iPods and the iPhone. When Apple introduced iLife ’08 they made a big deal about how iPhoto now automatically organised your photos into events for you so you no longer had to waste your time creating albums for everything. Albums and smart albums were now for creating special sets of related photos where the photos could come from any event. This makes perfect sense so I use iPhoto Events extensively.

Before iTunes 7.5 only albums were synced to iPods and iPhones. This made is much harder than it needed to be to find a particular set of photos. This was one of my initial gripes with the iPod Touch. However, iTunes 7.5 improved things dramatically. It treated Events as albums and dutifully synced them. regular Albums and Smart Albums were also synced, and given priority by placing them at the top of the list of albums, above all the Events. The only minor issue with iTunes 7.5 was that events were not in reverse order so you had to scroll to the very bottom to get to your most recent event.

With iTunes 7.6 Apple have thrown all that good work out the window. All the had to do was change the sort-order on events and they would have had it nailed. Instead they added an option so you can now sync EITHER events OR Albums, but not both. This is a real step backwards and nothing short of retarded in my view. It’s an uncharacteristically stupid and negative thing for Apple to do. They had better fix this again in iTunes 7.7 and they had better leave it fixed this time!

[tags]iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iTunes, iPhoto[/tags]

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When I got my iPod Touch I started by outlining in detail all the little gripes I had with it. I did note that most of these little things could be fixed by future software updates. When I wrote that I envisioned these updates coming in the form of firmware updates to the iPod itself, I hadn’t expected that something as simple as an iTunes update could make any sort of change. Today Apple proved me wrong.

Probably the biggest gripe I had the with the photos feature was that the iPod Touch ignored the new Events feature added by iPhoto 7 (the version of iPhoto in iLife 08). This has now been fixed in a trivially simple way. When iTunes imports your photos it adds each event as an album. This is a very simple hack that is near-perfect. The only minor drawback it has it that it’s not possible to tell which albums are real albums and which are events. But, like I said, that’s a very minor thing. I’m really happy with this update as it makes photos much easier to find on the iPod but if I could really have my way I’d change one more thing. At the moment events are sorted with the oldest events at the top of the list and the newest at the bottom. I’d flip that the other way round.

P.S. This is my first test post with MarsEdit. I’ll be reporting on how I get on with it soon.

[tags]Apple, Mac, iPod Touch, iTunes, iPhoto, iTunes, iLife[/tags]

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As things stand third party apps on the iPhone suck. Web-based apps which are confined to the browser are not the long-term answer. The problem isn’t really that JS+XHTML+CSS is a crap platform, because it’s not. It’s not perfect, but it’s a grand platform as demonstrated by the glut of Dashboard widgets out there. The big problems with the web only iPhone apps are that you can only use them when you’re online, and they are stuck in Safari and can’t be launched from the main screen. What good is a great third party app if you can’t use it on a plane or if using it abroad will cost you a fortune on roaming data charges?

I have no idea what Apple have up their sleeves, or indeed, if they have anything up there at all with regard to third party iPhone apps. But, as far as I am concerned, Apple have the solution already. It’s a pre-existing part of OS X Tiger, Dashboard. Dashboard widgets are basically off-line web apps. They are written in JS+XHTML+CSS, just like iPhone apps have to be now. But, they are installed on the machine so, when I’m on a plane, I can still use my dashboard widgets. Now, there are much smarter people than little-old-me in Apple so surely someone in there must also have come to the same conclusion? Maybe that’s why they are making developers work on web-based iPhone apps for now. The only way I can make any sense out of that decision is to look at it as a half-way-house on the road to Dashboard-like apps installed on the iPhone.

[tags]iPhone, Apple, Dashboard, 3rd Party Apps[/tags]

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