Reuters takes offense at hacked apps in iOS

It is unclear how much revenue the pirate distributors are siphoning away from Apple and legitimate app makers.

Source: Software pirates use Apple tech to put hacked apps on iPhones | Reuters

It’s taken a long time and another massive Facebook privacy scandal for the news media to discover this underbelly of hacked apps chugging along happily due to Apple’s Enterprise Apps program.

I’ve used one on and off – Instagram++

I must say, it’s a liberating experience – I see no ads on Instagram, I see no random “Suggested Friends to Follow” crap.

I had to resort to this because my Instagram experience is vastly worse off than my wife’s and my friends’. I see, on average, 3x more ads on Instagram than others around me. How many ads does my wife see? None.

So to my mind, using Instagram++ makes perfect sense. If I can hack my way to a better UX, why shouldn’t I? It’s the same as using an adblocker.

I don’t support piracy of services. There’s no legit reason to not pay for Spotify.

As for hacked games, well, cheats and hacks have always existed, and will continue to exist, despite the alarmed voice of this Reuters article.

Also, the article got one thing wrong – I’ve observed Apple kick out the Enterprise cert almost once a month, sometimes two or three times a month. They seem to make it sound as if Reuters alerting Apple was the only thing that forced Apple into action.

They’re very much aware of the problem and can’t or won’t do much about it. Talking about it as if it’s the end of the App Store is just noise.

As for how much revenue these services generate? Not close to enough. They do seem to have a comfortable existence, and so might be able to get around Apple’s 2FA proposal by just buying a bunch of phone numbers in China. But do they run a massive profit? You bet that if they did, Apple would be all over them.

This is the same as the jailbreak community in some senses – only a small percentage of users are actually trusting these services not to misuse the extensive powers that Enterprise certs give them. Out of that small percentage, a further small percent is paying for it.

It’s sad that large companies like Facebook pulling the shit that they do often also bring to light little players that are just trying to provide a good service to users.

Now, the technical aspect of this – Instagram++ is available online for download as an IPA if you want to use your own developer account. If you don’t have a dev account, Apple now allows side-loading, but it is a cumbersome process that expires after 7 days. Apple’s earlier sideloading used to be 30 days. When Apple made it free for everyone to sideload (not just if you’re a $99/year paying developer), they reduced the time frame of the cert to 7 days, which in my mind is a total d*ck move.

If Apple really wants to combat Enterprise cert misuse while letting users do whatever they want with their systems, they can just legitimize sideloading and let me choose when my cert would expire, but Apple isn’t that generous.

Till a good solution presents itself, services like TweakBox, Tutu, and AppValley will continue to operate by hook or by crook. So be it.

The Original iPad mini and Apple’s fluid vision

It is meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of the present size. Apple’s done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them.

Source: A Look Back at the Original iPad mini – MacStories

 

It seems like Steve Jobs and Apple understood that you can’t place things too close inside the screen, but forgot that you can’t place the screen and the edge too close either, because it’ll cause hours of headaches by unwanted swipes, taps, and hard presses. The Apple of today thinks bezels are bad and it is wrong. Steve Jobs might have said the above, but he’s also the one constantly touting that they made their devices thinner, which reduces battery life and also the ‘holdability’ of mobile devices.

(Proof of the holdability issue – When was the last time you held your iPhone 7 or above naked, without a case, and felt confident that you’ll not drop it? It’s been months for me and when I did it last night, it felt alien. It seems Apple has outsourced the job of holdability to the cases that we inevitably put on our sold-a-kidney-for devices.)

I love my original iPad Mini and still use it. It’s a very well built device. The iPads of today make me feel like Apple just wants to make the jump to touch ‘computers’ instead of trying to keep the iPad what it is – a touchscreen tablet that feels different than anything else on the market.

The difference between a touch computer and a touch tablet? The former, you keep on your desk and work on using a keyboard (think Surface). The latter, your kids hold while they’re watching YouTube videos on in the car.

But this gives Apple a great new diversification strategy – do you want an iPad to work or an iPad to play?

Till now, they’ve kept these two together. But maybe, bowing to market forces, they’ll break these two use cases apart and give us two iPads that do very different things. That’ll require Apple to stop treating the iPad like it’s just the overgrown brother of the iPhone. Let’s see if they do that.

p.s. With iOS 12, if Apple is truly committed to making software releases that don’t completely destroy older devices, that’s also relevant to corporate uses. Companies don’t keep updating everyone’s hardware every two years ‘because the software got old’. So if Apple wants an iPad on every office desk (as they should), they really need to get their software updates game right, which they seem to be on a path to.

p.p.s I was going to call the title “Apple’s faltering vision” (because clickbait!) but Apple’s vision is rather fluid. If they see a market segment responding well, they go after that, instead of doubling down on losing segments like some other companies do.

Security vs Usability

I’ve come to a point where I do **not** update apps, plugins, software in general. I know that’s a regressive approach to safety, but safety can’t keep trumping usability all the time.

Source: My comment on Stephen’s Notebook

 

Every few days, I have a conversation about security vs usability somewhere. With my iPad Mini, I blindly trusted Apple to do the right thing and they’ve screwed me over. It’s a beloved device, destroyed completely by iOS 9.

So I’ve basically given up on this bullshit harp that companies sing of ‘security’ to shove software updates down our throats. Sometimes it’s their stupidity, and sometimes it’s just them being sinister. The new Microsoft is the old Microsoft. The benevolent Apple is an insidious Apple. Don’t get me started on Facebook, twitter, and Google. Gmail is just the latest casualty of our overzealous overlords.

Yes, security is a big problem. Yes, it needs constant vigilance. But just like national defense budgets, one key phrase doesn’t allow organizations to completely railroad people’s expectations, asks, hopes, and in this case, UX.

If you’re concerned that by not updating software, you’re living on the edge, restrict the things you do on that device, while keeping other devices that are completely updated and secured. Use only frequently updated third party browsers instead of the default options. Read up on the latest security scares on the Internet and just be aware of the situations you can get into. But most importantly – back up. Make frequent backups of things you care about. I don’t care if it’s as much as letting iCloud run its course every night, and Google Photos siphoning off your pics. Just do it so that if you brick your device, or get hacked, you’re not set back a hundred years.

99% of security is just keeping your eyes open.

How do you like them upgrades?

Every few days, my iPhone politely but firmly nudges me to ‘downgrade’ my iOS from iOS 10 to iOS 11. I say downgrade because that’s what iOS 11 is to me – a crappy OS that was shoved out with half baked ideas which work well for the latest and greatest iPhone, but not at all for any other device Apple supposedly still supports. Getting rid of that prompt requires careful jumping through a confusing menu that makes it too easy to accept a “sure go ahead with this change at night when no one is watching” option. Most of the time, I am able to do just that. But last night, in a haze of trying to actually use my phone, I must have hit the wrong button, because when I woke up, my phone had restarted and was magically on iOS 11.4.1. Yay.

Before I talk about iOS 11, I just want to say why I didn’t want to get on it –

  1. It’s terribly built – simple features such as the ability to close apps quickly (in a few years time, Apple will reveal that just like their battery nonsense, closing apps DOES actually increase the speed of the phone, as empirically witnessed by a Bajillion people), the ability to turn off the wifi completely through the Control Center, the ability to actually use the phone for half an hour without draining the battery completely (my wife got on iOS 11 as soon as it released and she had the worst experience possible with that OS) were nice to have in iOS 10.
  2. I won’t be able to use all my apps – Apple, with iOS 11, waged a war on 32 bit apps. Now, most apps (99.9% I’d say) were smart about it and went 64bit, but I still have 4 apps on my phone, two of which I was using every few days till yesterday, which are 32 bit. So long Stress Baal and Sunstroke. You will be sorely missed.
  3. It will most certainly screw up my Apple Watch – I have a Series 0 (zero) Apple Watch. When will I buy the new one? Probably not for another few years. It’s a watch. It’s somewhat smart and lets me see messages and cut phone calls, but that’s about it. Do I need LTE? If AT&T pays me $15/mo instead of charging it from me, I might. But one minute into using the new OS, I was told to update my Watch from version 3.2.3 to 4.3.2 and told that if I do not, the phone will force unpair my watch and reset it. Thanks Obama. I exited the Watch app on my phone and plan on opening it at some point in the future. My watch is no longer getting notifications and isn’t able to send heart rate data to the phone (so much for Apple’s “we’re helping you take care of your health” crap. If the data collection is conditional, it’s not really helpful, is it?). But I know that watchOS 4 will screw up the watch, the third party apps, the battery usage. Basically, this is Apple’s way of making you buy a new watch. NO.

Now, coming to iOS 11. I immediately noticed that most apps seem to work differently – Google Maps had some new and interesting UI changes, Egg Inc had AR, the photos app had an irritating number of new features it had to tell me about before it let me use the app, the screenshots were showing up at the bottom (which is nice), etc.

Oh wait, backup. AR. That gleaming, new, awesome technology that’s changing the world! Yeah, I used it. For about 30 seconds. Then I was done.

Literally the only thing I could imagine using AR for – Egg, Inc. With that, my AR experience has ended. Well done, Apple.

Incidentally, I only recently watched this rather interesting video about how Apple will eventually launch AR glasses and they will be more successful than Google’s half-ass attempt because, well, Apple. It’s worth a watch 🙂 –

The rest of the stuff, is as I expected – meh. The app switcher can now close apps (yay!). The wifi stupidity that Apple propagated with iOS 11 is still there (so it’s always going to drain your battery no matter what). The animations and speed of launching apps is meh. Apple really wanted to make you feel something different, and well, I feel it, but I don’t care for it. It’s more a disruption than a nice addition. Plus, if you close an app that sits at the top of the screen vs at the bottom, the animation helps you see where the app is ‘going to’, but that’s really a rather stupid thing to care for Apple. I say that because I’m sure anyone who has as many apps as I do uses the search bar to get to apps instead.

Oh, yeah, that might be the silver lining – in iOS 10, I would swipe down, type out the name of an app I want, and the phone would just sit there, like a dunce, unsure of what I want it to do. Something was really borked in the code there and sometimes the search would work perfectly and other times it would go completely for a toss. Hopefully, that experience will be more consistent with iOS 11. If not, I’ll know that Apple did not even bother improving the Siri search code underneath and just dressed it in iOS 11 style. Typical Apple. Let’s see.

I’m no Luddite. I like experimenting with new stuff. But I really was hoping to go directly from iOS 10 to iOS 12. When iOS 12 drops, it’ll most likely not support my Series 0 watch. But at least it’s purported to be better than this monstrosity Apple threw our way. It’s OK to skip an OS, it’s OK to turn off auto-upgrades and auto-updates and watch your ‘to update’ App Store list burgeon to 197 apps. It’s OK to let the latest and greatest go while developers work on hardening releases. We all do it in some sphere of our lives. It’s just that my sphere was the one I’m staring at the most during my day – my phone. I want it to be consistent, familiar, and with less fluff. Sometimes people stick to a particular iPhone for a lot longer than they can, because they like the form factor and the materials used. Well, iOS 10 was that for me. But now my phone has moved past it. Time to adopt the new and shiny and see what changes this brings. Hopefully some nice AR filters.

7 days with the Apple Watch

I was recently gifted the Apple Watch by my girlfriend and despite my initial apprehensions, I love having this device strapped to my wrist. I was test-driving the Pebble watch before this and I have an analog and a digital watch I alternated between before that. But the Apple Watch definitely has blown all of those out of the water.

As my brother Nipun once said –

Continue reading

Apple needs to release a Mind-Body-Soul LifeKit

How many miles did you walk today?
How long did you sleep?
What was your calorie intake and expenditure over the weekend?

These are questions that your iPhone can answer right now.

How many pages of a book have you read in the last week?
How much time have you spent meditating using one of the meditation apps on your iPad?
How much time have you spent on twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Reddit today?
Are your iMessages mostly positive or negative?

These are some of the questions that Apple’s iOS cannot answer right now. Continue reading

The guy in the rain

http://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/transportation/bike

Image Courtesy CU Boulder

About two years ago, when not one month had passed since I had entered the US, I once got a free bike from CU Boulder’s Bike Station. It’s a great service where any student or faculty member can rent a bike for forty-eight hours, for free. Since it was time to return it, I cycled up to the UMC, near which the bike station sits under a large tree. As I was returning the bike, it started to rain. Afraid for the newly bought iPhone in my pocket, I went into the shed and hid from the rain. Two guys were working at the station that day. The one on the inside showed me a Lenovo laptop that was basically everything proof – shock, water and temperature. It was given to the bike station specifically because it faces all the elements on nature all the time. Continue reading

App Review: Everyday.me

Whenever a trend comes to the social network scene, it comes with a flood of apps and services that do the exact same thing. I recently signed up for a service called TimeHop. It’s a neat service that emails you every day with details of posts that you made on your various social networks exactly a year ago.

 

Everyday.me is an iOS app that connects to your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and basically records everything you post online every day. Also, the service sends you emails every few days reminding you of things you did a few years ago. Sounds familiar? Yep, TimeHop does pretty much the same thing. What’s the difference? Well, Everyday.me collects all that information that you post daily and saves it ON THEIR SERVERS. Awesome way to have your data protected isn’t it?

 

Anyways, Coming to the most important part of this blog post, Am I keeping this app? Points –

1. Beautiful UI

2. You can see all you do in a stream, from across all your social networks.

3. You can tag your  posts for your own reference since all of it is totally private

4. All your data that’s kept on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will now also be stored on their servers.

 

So? Am I keeping it? No. It’s out of my phone. Sorry guys!