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.

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. 😊

Review: Destiny

Bungie, Destiny’s creator, released Destiny a couple of weeks ago.

As of this writing I’m at level 24. And yes, ranking up to 20 does change the game from accomplishing the initial story line to taking on ‘Bounties’, obtaining better equipment like arms and armor, and taking on more difficult ‘Strike’ missions. There’s a solid overview of Destiny basics from GamePressure.com. Getting to level 20 is fun and doesn’t take a great deal of time.

There are pros and cons to this game which pretty much even out at this time, but I think Bungie has created a platform for the future. The world is quite large compared to the Halo series that Bungie also developed. The world they’ve created is not infinite but is much larger, probably by a factor of 4. It should be easy for Bungie to add more story to the game, particularly since there isn’t much of a story currently.

If you’ve ever played Halo4 Spartan Ops, it’s like that but at a much grander scale.

Pros include

  • Graphics — Beautiful and distinct worlds
  • Mechanics — Bungie is really good at giving your character the feel right in combat
  • Good villains — They get what they deserve. :-)
  • Music — Well, I like it

Cons include

  • You acquire a lot of loot whose application is not quite clear
  • Strikes are a bit too grindy
  • Competitive maps are too big, think Complex in Halo4 x2 or x3. This is true even though the teams can be 6×6.
  • Although ranking up is fun the purpose is not obvious at this point except for rewarding oneself.

I’m hopeful that, as Bungie adds to the game over time, Destiny will improve. The potential seems to be there.

2-Factor Authentication Letter from Apple Support

Dear John Puterhead,

Thank you for using two-step verification to protect your Apple ID. This email provides information about recent updates to your service.

Two-step verification now protects iCloud

Starting today, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, two-step verification also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud. For more information, read the Two-Step Verification FAQ.

Sign in securely with app-specific passwords

If you use iCloud with any third party apps such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or BusyCal, you can now generate app-specific passwords that allow you to sign in securely even if the app you are using does not support two-step verification.

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

App-Specific passwords will be required starting on October 1, 2014.
For complete instructions and answers to common questions, read Using App‑Specific Passwords. If you need additional help, visit Apple Support.
Apple Support

Facebook will grind down your resistance: Custom Managed Audiences

Reading the Derek Willis article on TheUpshot I found that political campaigns are using Facebook to place ads on your wall.

Here’s how an academic, Lindsay Hoffman phrases it,

Changes to the contents of users’ news feeds are usually greeted with skepticism if not outright hostility, but eventually users will become accustomed to these targeted messages, said Lindsay Hoffman, an associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware and coordinator for research and technology at the university’s Center for Political Communication.

Well, Lindsay, I have two questions for you. Ready?

  1. Who is paying you to say that?
  2. Do you think then that Facebook’s strategy is just to grind down everyone’s resistance over time?

ICYMI, here’s a link to an article on Custom Managed Audiences.