MacWorld joins others on encryption theme

MacWorld just published the first part of a series of articles on how to encrypt everything. They have a very reasonable bottomline:

…any method by which a government agent can access our data is a conduit for thieves, companies, and other governments to use as well. Law enforcement has to adapt; we need to protect ourselves, as they cannot.

Given that cell phones cannot be searched without a warrant and now that Apple and Google have taken a stance on cell phone encryption, I hope this is the beginning of mainstream acceptance that individuals can act even while Congress cannot.

The iCloud Mental Model is Mental

From Apple’s support page

An unsaved document created with any of Apple’s Documents in the Cloud apps is automatically saved to iCloud in these circumstances:

  • The document is autosaved when you first create the document and edit it.
  • The document is periodically autosaved as you continue to edit the document.
  • On iOS devices and iCloud.com, the document is autosaved when you close the document or close the app.
  • On Macs, the document is autosaved when you close the document, but only if you opened the document from iCloud or manually saved it to iCloud.

Who on Earth thinks like this?

Google and the Future

The Guardian reports on what Google and Ray Kurzweil are doing —

Google will know the answer to your question before you have asked it, he says. It will have read every email you’ve ever written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.

I ask, why would I want that?
Answer, I certainly don’t want that at all. I find that terrifying.

OS X Yosemite Phones Home

By now, the reported kerfuffle is on many sites.

Wired has a decent, if incomplete, story but it does identify how to fix your OS X 10.10 Yosemite install from phoning home on Spotlight searches.

Luckily, Yosemite’s search-snooping can be switched off in seconds. In Mac OS X’s System Preferences, the functions can be found under “Spotlight” and then “Search Results.” From there you need to disable “Spotlight Suggestions,” “Bookmarks and History,” and “Bing Web Searches.” If you use Safari you will then need to disable the same “Spotlight Suggestions” function in the browser (under “Preferences” and then “Search”) to avoid having terms you type into its address bar shared with Apple by default too.

TheVerge does a bit better with the phrase ‘shared with Apple’.

From Apple’s statement —

… 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.

Here is Apple’s support page on Spotlight.

From my point of view there are still some problems here.

  1. You have to opt-out rather than opt-in. This isn’t how privacy should be handled. Apple goofed.
  2. Opting out requires multiple changes to System Preferences —> Spotlight —> Search Results as well as changes to Safari Preferences —> Search.
  3. How does one vendor, Apple, have such a trustworthy ‘trust relationship’ with Microsoft that it knows Microsoft’s behavior? And over time? How would Apple know if Microsoft’s implementation or behavior changed?

If you want a python script to make the changes to your system fix-macosx.com has the answer.

[Update, Oct. 31st, 2014] Tidbits has a very good article here by Rich Mogull.

My Take on AppleCare

I’ve tailored my purchase of AppleCare to my computer lifestyle over the past 14 years. Perhaps your current situation will match one of the paragraphs below.

When I started out with Apple computers I used AppleCare on all the computers I bought from Apple. That was because I had no experience with Apple hardware and I wanted protection under those circumstances. For me, this period lasted about 4 years, or 2 MacBook Pros.

Then when I bought my kids a white MacBook I bought AppleCare again, and for my laptop since I was commuting by train a lot. My assumption was that commuting would cause more wear and tear. My kids handled their white MacBook well and it died long after AppleCare expired.

I still have a laptop, but since I’m not commuting as much I have opted out of AppleCare. I haven’t bought AppleCare for any of my last 3 computers, and I’m still OK, knock on wood.

But then I’m very familiar with computers and I’m not afraid to go to iFixIt and take my casing off to replace RAM or the SSD which I have done. No big deal. Replacing RAM or the SSD extends the life of the unit. Sometimes doing this may break the warranty too, I think, but I don’t care.

I will note that AppleCare does run out and Apple Computers seem to last longer than AppleCare does. If AppleCare lasted 5 years I think it might be a no-brainer.

iCloud 2-Factor Authentication Update

It seems like the update took effect overnight. Today, using Uniboxapp, I had to use my app-specific password to login into my iCloud email account.

ICYMI, here’s Apple’s email on the topic:

Dear John Puterhead,

Thank you for using two-step verification to protect your Apple ID and the data you store with iCloud.

This is a reminder that starting tomorrow, app-specific passwords will be required to access your iCloud data using third party apps such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or other mail, contacts, and calendar apps.

If you are currently signed in to a third party app using your primary Apple ID password, you will be signed out automatically when this change takes effect. You will need to generate an app-specific password and sign in again.

To generate an app-specific password:
        1.        Sign in to My Apple ID (https://appleid.apple.com)
        2.        Go to Password & Security
        3.        Click Generate App-Specific Password

For complete instructions, read Using App-Specific Passwords. If you need additional help, visit Apple Support.

Apple Support

Despite the apparent complexity, using 2-Factor Authentication is really superior to not using it. Oh, and if you think you’ll never be hacked? You probably already have been on some site somewhere. So don’t take anymore chances.

NOTE: 2-factor authentication uses your phone to receive a code that becomes part of the web site login procedure. The possession of the phone becomes the 2nd factor, the 1st factor being your username and password. 😊