Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The not-so-Evil Empire

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  • Gareth Ward, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    The iPad is entirely useless when first purchased (or at least mine was) without iTunes. So immediately to even use the device I have to install that software and accept any terms it requires.

    I wonder if you can return an iPad immediately post purchase if you don't accept the Terms and Conditions to start it up? Must be able to...

    In this case Brian has found a condition in the terms he doesn't wish to agree to and as a result the usability of the product the bought and owns outright is seriously compromised

    The upgradeability of the product he bought is compromised - the product as he bought it when he bought it remains exactly the same. The question is whether or not condition-free upgradeability is an implicit function you are purchasing...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern,

    The only bit of Apple kit that I have is an iPad which I use without having entered credit card details, and it works fine.

    I'm very far from an Apple fanboy - I have a self built PC system with quality parts which I find better than factory built Pc / Apple systems. I also find the Apple OS doesn't work how I'd like and for my work my system is far more suitable. I find the prices Apple charge for their components (two of my neighbours have had to replace out of warranty DVD writers) ridiculous - Foxconn brings into mind FotC "Think about it".

    Having said that, I don't see Apple as any worse than a lot of players in changing terms and conditions - certain social media seems to be far worse. Its a matter of being careful about what you agree to. I do see the ability of apps to give a free trial period and then start charging as a con if there is no confirmation for this - however this would appear that the app creator is to blame (if it happens).

    So Apple < Paragon but also Apple < Evil Empire.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Gareth Ward,

    The upgradeability of the product he bought is compromised – the product as he bought it when he bought it remains exactly the same. The question is whether or not condition-free upgradeability is an implicit function you are purchasing…

    I guess, although to some extent it can become core functionality as well when we're talking about applications that are reliant on server-based APIs etc.

    But this is probably increasingly the price we pay for a reliance on cloud-based and always-online services. The hardware becomes almost irrelevant, serving only as a gateway to the software that we really need.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    The iPad is entirely useless when first purchased (or at least mine was) without iTunes. So immediately to even use the device I have to install that software and accept any terms it requires.

    Since iOS5 you can activate and use your iDevice without a PC. You don't even need a wi-fi connection if the device is 3G-capable and Apple changed its updates to a delta format, rather than full packages to lighten the data load.

    To continue using the product in the way it’s intended I also have to continue accepting any changes in those terms that Apple chooses to make.

    True. If you wish to use iTunes for backup, sync and managing the contents of your device, you'll need to agree to the iTunes T&Cs, and to changes therein. There are software alternatives, but I'm not entirely sure I'd trust a free third-party app.

    In this case Brian has found a condition in the terms he doesn’t wish to agree to and as a result the usability of the product the bought and owns outright is seriously compromised. Maybe not to the extent the article applies, but certainly in some ways.

    His disagreement was based the belief that editorial apps trick users into purchasing subscriptions, but no example was provided of that happening. I've honestly never seen it myself and it hasn't happened to Brian. The idea that your credit card is debited to the sum of a purchase you've agreed to make doesn't seem unreasonable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Clint Fern,

    I also find the Apple OS doesn’t work how I’d like and for my work my system is far more suitable.

    I haven't been terribly happy with Lion myself, but switching to Chrome as my default browser has considerably improved matters.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Apple’s devices and the services attached to them do generally just work.

    And Steve Jobs did make the trains run on time.
    Oh, wait...

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    ...I didn't agree with the fact that [they] could access my location and identify who I am calling...

    I don't have an iPhone (though I do have a MacBook, so I don't fully qualify as a 'hater') so can't look, but I assume that iOS apps are like Android apps in that they list in the app store what they privileges they ask from the operating system. I assume Angry Birds was asking for some of the 'location' and 'telephony' privileges. These are legitimate for a navigation app, or an improved texting app (though Apple ban those, right?).

    But there is a tendency for apps to wind up asking for a wide slather of privs, even when they make marginal use of them. It's hard to tell if an app wants 'telephony' for some half baked in-game feature, as a simple error by the coder, or to build some huge, intrusive database back at the mothership.

    Anyway, I think the "they" in the quote above refers to Roxio, not Apple - although there is little regulation of what gets shared around one a user grants a privilege.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Google is the new Apple. Apple is the new Microsoft. Microsoft is the new IBM. IBM is the new... well, you get the picture. It seems to be a cyclical thing.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    One of my neighbours breaks stuff for a living - designers of products pay him to break their stuff before the black-hats do

    You should be as worried by the practices (announced and otherwise) of the apps you load as the device you load it in to - for example:

    http://corte.si/posts/security/openfeint-udid-deanonymization/index.html

    and of course he shows you how to get hi-scores at games (many apps are open to man in the middle attacks)

    http://corte.si/posts/code/mitmproxy/tute-gamecenter/index.html

    Getting hi-score on worms is good for the lulz - getting on your banking app, may be more dangerous

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2609 posts Report Reply

  • Brodie Davis,

    Apple’s devices and the services attached to them do generally just work.

    I have to disagree on this point, in my personal experience Apple's devices work as long as you stick to the workflows that their designers have thought of. As soon as you step outside of those workflows everything breaks horribly and is nearly impossible to get working right again.

    A perfect example is the iPads before IOS5, needing a computer running iTunes to run a tablet WTF. That it took 2-3 major revisions of software before they fixed that is horrific.

    iTunes is banned from all of my personal computers due to the way the updates have opt out items hidden behind other buttons (ie It always tries (until I just got rid of it) to install Bonjour and Safari, and Bonjour goes and deletes any 802.1x certificates you have attached to your network interfaces, so yay that pc can't connect to any network that has port based authentication turned on, or wireless networks that use certificates). Now this may have changed but I simply don't trust Apple anymore.

    Since Aug 2008 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    But there is a tendency for apps to wind up asking for a wide slather of privs, even when they make marginal use of them. It’s hard to tell if an app wants ‘telephony’ for some half baked in-game feature, as a simple error by the coder, or to build some huge, intrusive database back at the mothership.

    So I checked. Far out.

    I am wrong about Angry Birds. On whatever platform it runs (ie: not just just Apple but Android too), it demands access to location data and who the user is calling. The device still has to be a phone, obviously.

    But it's not the worst: Flickr has access to location data, text messages, contacts, who the user is calling, and the camera. And Shazam has the same access as Angry Birds. Facebook and Yahoo? Don't even ask. This is evil.
    I've amended the post accordingly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham,

    I am not at risk of downloading malware via the iTunes Store

    It is possible to get malware from the iTunes Store, although there might be much less than in Play or whatever Google is calling it today. It's simply not possible for Apple or Google to guarantee that an app isn't malware.

    Also, I believe iOS allows any app access to your address book without requiring any privileges. I think that's most likely a genuine mistake, and it's going to be fixed in the next iOS, but the idea that iOS protects you from malicious apps in a way that Android doesn't is simply false.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Speaking of not asking about Facebook, has everyone checked the emails in their address book? http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/07/03/facebooks-email-system-does-what-now/

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Peter Graham,

    the idea that iOS protects you from malicious apps in a way that Android doesn’t is simply false.

    So why haven’t we seen hundreds of thousands of iOS users infected with malware, the way Android users have been?

    As you say, iTunes can't absolutely guarantee the behaviour of any app, but it demonstrably offers more production than the Android market does.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Gareth Ward,

    Or you could conclude that HTC/Android (whole thing seems to be a proxy war against Google) ripped off the design work Apple did in both hardware and software.

    I remember standing in an IT mall in Malaysia about a year before the iPhone arrived looking at new HTCs on offer - big glossy touch screens with buttons you touched to launch what we would now call apps. The screens scrolled and we all went wow...

    That Apple invented the smartphone and gave us the design concept seems to have been handily absorbed into 21st Century mythology but the truth may be a little more complex.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Peter Graham,

    Also, I believe iOS allows any app access to your address book without requiring any privileges. I think that’s most likely a genuine mistake, and it’s going to be fixed in the next iOS, but the idea that iOS protects you from malicious apps in a way that Android doesn’t is simply false.

    You’re right, but access to the address book isn’t the same thing as malware. Path seems to be the worst of them. They were compiling a datavase of everyone's personal info until they were caught.

    Edit: I see a lot of stories saying that Apple was to fix this (with compulsory prompts) in iOS 5.0.2, but not that it did, or what level of granularity there is to the granting of permissions. (Android does mandate prompts, but it’s all-or-nothing, unlike Location Services, which lets the user choose not to allow location data, while still being able to use the app.) Anyone know?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Russell, you're not telling the full story (or you failed to read the subtext); when I said this wasn't an example of a conspiracy I also said I was delivering that comment on a new MacBook Pro (the screen really is lovely; I normally use a dual monitor setup but the external monitor is hardly being used at the moment). Obviously I'm in cahoots with Apple (think of me as the new "Stephen Fry") and thus I can't be trusted to weigh in on matters to do with Cupertino.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    That Apple invented the smartphone and gave us the design concept seems to have been handily absorbed into 21st Century mythology but the truth may be a little more complex.

    Yes quite true, as per: http://i.imgur.com/vJpcW.png
    The iPad/Galaxy Tab design case was quite interesting for this; the Judge included in her judgement old Japanese patents of Sharp tablets that looked quite similar. Of course she also held up both tablets and asked the Samsung lawyer to identify which was which from 10feet away - she couldn't.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Siu,

    In the Herald, the Brian might got confused with the in-app purchase for a Newsstand app compared to a stand-alone app. Newsstand app are all tied subscription in which publication gave away trial membership or offered limited content until the user enters a monthly/weekly/day-pass subscription. It is written in the app description. Stand-alone app are different, some of them have do, some of them don't.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tony Siu,

    It is written in the app description.

    That was my recollection. I didn't find it misleading or confusing in the slightest.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Anyways, my real problem with Apple isn't the risk of malware from games, or the fact both I and my employer will need a bloody expensive retina display sidescreen when I upgrade my mac. It isn't even the fact I have to carry a DisplayPort adapter around with me.

    It's that the way Apple and others are going, programming a computer is becoming a privilege (granted by the corporate state to its subjects) rather than a right.

    A few years ago I could program *anything* on my computers - new device drivers, password crackers, crypto, whatever.

    Today I've lost the device driver bit on closed source "computer" OSs (Mac and Windows) but more or less have it on Linux (subject to hardware manufacturers non-disclosures and locks).

    On an unrooted Android, I've got a more restricted set. I can't, for instance, set the date from NTP/GPS to compensate for the crappy clock on my Nexus One. On an iOS device, even less - i can only do things that fit with Apple's business model.

    That tide of restriction is steadily rising. Mountain Lion will optionally lock users to running only applications from an approved source. iOS is already there, and more and more of the user space will be running iOS/Android rather than a full PC.

    I can see Gatekeeper getting extended. Sure, today many Mac users run Perl, Java and bash scripts outside Apple's restrictions. That open space is going to get more and more fenced in. Next release, it'll be an option. Sometime after that, Apple will make users register and pay if they want a 'rooted' Mac. Eventually, it'll be gone, and computer programming will have become a privilege, to be exercised within the limits set by corporate society.

    That's my problem with Apple.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yeah - that's it for me too - I used to be an Apple fan boy - designed hardware and software for them - not any more - I don't want Steve Job's ghost looking over my shoulder telling me what I can't do. And don't insist on taking a cut on everything that I do - sell your hardware for enough that you make a profit and be done with it

    If you're worried about security design it in from day one - don't depend on someone from the Apple (or the Google, or the Microsoft) app store to check every app and get it right - that just isn't going to work.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2609 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    So why haven’t we seen hundreds of thousands of iOS users infected with malware, the way Android users have been?

    The answer to that is more complicated than simply being a comparison between the technical restrictions of the two OSs. There's a human element in getting an apps into the Apple store that both reduces the possibility of malware ending up on an iPhone *and* makes getting an app to market a more frustrating and slower for many developers.

    Then you have to look at the relative demographics of users, for example, both age and location. It's not simply a technical question.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You’re right, but access to the address book isn’t the same thing as malware.

    I think an app copying my contacts without my knowledge is malware. Similiarly, I don't want an OS to send location information to its creator without at least telling me first.

    computer programming will have become a privilege, to be exercised within the limits set by corporate society.

    That's my problem with Apple.

    I have the same problem with Apple so I don't use Apple products. There are plenty of competitors so I don't see this being a problem.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Meanwhile, Telco Commissioner Ross Patterson has not had his contract renewed, most likely because he had SKY(NET) in the regulatory crosshairs.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

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