Do you rue the day you signed up with your phone provider? Maybe you've found a better offer elsewhere and want to take your cell phone to another company. Now, if you're in the US, you are able to -- legally -- unlock your mobile and take it to whatever network you like. The bill was approved yesterday, having been brought about by a massive petition that gathered over 100,000 signatures. A 2012 ruling made unlocking illegal by closing a DMCA exemption loophole that had been permitted in 2006 and 2010.
In other parts of the world it is common practice to unlock phones and move them between providers, so it's understandable that US residents felt they were getting a poor deal. Now the bill has been approved, handset owners are able "to legally unlock their cell phones so that they can use it on other cellular networks." But this does not mean there is going to be a free-for-all; unlocking must be carried out "without violating anti-circumvention provisions".
When it rains, it pours. Sadly for Apple, it seems the company just cannot catch a break. Most recently, a nasty SSL bug was discovered in both iOS and OSX, which potentially enabled man-in-the-middle attacks and lessened security. While iOS was patched pretty quickly, OS X ws not patched until earlier today.
While that alone is enough to damage a company's reputation on security, yet another Apple vulnerability has surfaced today. Security firm FireEye has discovered a keylogging-like bug in iOS 7, which could allow evil-doers to track all touchscreen and button presses.
While I am a Linux guy at heart, I love OS X. After all, both Apple's operating system and Linux distributions are Unix-like. While Microsoft's Windows is relatively safe nowadays, I still feel safest on OS X or Fedora. Well, at least I did feel safe. While Linux remains rock solid, OS X and iOS have been dealt a huge blow from a trust perspective.
You see, on both of Apple's operating systems, there was a massive bug discovered, which rendered SSL to be virtually worthless. The bug was an honest mistake, any programmer could have made it. However, in a company the size of Apple, with all of its billions of dollars, it should have been caught. The entire fiasco puts a spotlight on Apple's checks and balances. Even if this is a one-off oversight, perception by consumers is everything. While the fruit-logo company was (arguably) quick to patch iOS, Mac users were left in the cold. Today, Apple finally throws its users a blanket, and releases an update to patch the nasty bug.
In a long, thoughtful post today, Mark Rogowsky writes for Forbes: "No, Apple Is Not Like Microsoft". He responds to arguments put forth by Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes, which Steven Russolillo summarizes in Wall Street Journal post "Four Reasons Apple is the New Microsoft".
I disagree with the original argument and its rebuttal. I encourage you to read both posts. The answer to why one stock soars while another sunders has little to do with market caps, P/E ratios, and other math metrics analysts crunch like gerbils with a new stick. People generally make decisions for emotional reasons -- what feels right to them. As I so often say, in business perception is everything.
Seventh in a series. There was no round-up of iOS apps last week, not because there weren’t any worthy releases -- this is iOS, there are always great apps to cover -- but because I was away. I’m back now though, and so normal service is resumed.
This week there were some great new apps and games released, including a stunning adventure set inside a pop-up book, a 3D tour through some of nature's wonders, and a game that aims to improve your listening skills (something my wife says I need to do -- or at least I think that's what she says).
Taking advantage of the availability of 5 TB Seagate HDDs, LaCie has introduced the new drives in three of its NAS devices, that now tout a maximum capacity ranging from 5 TB to 25 TB. The biggest of the bunch has a five-bay layout, which makes it the largest solution in its class that is available on the market today, according to the company.
The smallest of the three is the d2, which can now be had with 5 TB of storage. There are also 3 TB and 4 TB configurations, but those are older. The 2big can offer twice as much at 10 TB. Like its smaller brother, it too can be had with less storage (4 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB), but again those configurations are older. The one that is the most interesting is called 5big, and is the one LaCie calls the largest five-bay solution available now.
In its new "honestly" commercial, Microsoft shows us a man who has just purchased a Surface 2. "This deal was way too good to believe", says the happy purchaser, with a bag tucked under his arm. "Instead of paying too much for an iPad, I got this Surface 2", he adds, before telling the camera it comes with Office (a Surface commercial that mentions that? Amazing!) and Outlook, free Skype calls to over 60 countries, and 200 GB of cloud storage ("others charge for that").
He’s clearly happy with his purchase, so I don’t want to burst his bubble, but I’m going to anyway.
Tech news changed last week faster than the weather. At the beginning of the week Charter Communications was trying to buy Time-Warner Cable, then on Tuesday Apple was rumored to be close to a deal for Apple TV to replace or augment Time-Warner’s cable boxes, then on Thursday both stories crashed and burned when Comcast bought TWC out from under Charter, killing the Apple deal in the process. But does it really have to end that way? Not if Apple is smart.
I don’t care about cable consolidation, frankly, though a lot of other people do, seeing too much power being concentrated in Comcast. I would just like to see things shaken up in the TV industry bumping services quickly forward to where I’ll only have to pay for the stuff I actually want to watch. I suspect that’s where the Apple-TWC deal was heading. Apple would pay TWC for the privilege of taking over a substantial part of the cable company’s workload, cutting costs and raising TWC profits in the process. It was a desperate attempt on TWC’s part to avoid the clutches of John Malone’s Charter Communications.
It is usually Bill Gates who is heralded for his philanthropy, but according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg who is currently the most generous. In another change from the norm, malware threats to OS X, Linux and Android have increased, showing it is not just Windows that is prone to attack. As if to prove this, Mac malware has been discovered that has been designed to steal Bitcoins from victims. Factor in all of Apple's devices and the company managed to sell more units than Windows PCs are sold, although this revelation caused quite some debate.
Twitter found itself in the headlines after the James Dean estate tried to gain control of a fan's James Dean-related account. Twitter has already spoken out about the shackles binding companies from being open about government data requests -- companies are practically falling over themselves to add their names to the list -- and Dropbox is in agreement. The European Commission has expressed a desire to wrestle some control of the internet from US hands voicing fears that too much influence was being exerted,
The world of VoIP services is one packed with various names bustling for attention. One of the biggest names in the game is Viber, which started small but grew impressively as it spread across platforms -- now it has grown to the point that it is deemed worthy of handing over $900 million. At least that is the view of Rakuten, the Japanese firm behind Play.com and the Kobo eReader that agreed to part with this not insubstantial sum of money for an outright purchase of Viber Media Ltd.
With around 280 million registered users, Viber could be quite a money-maker for Rakuten who explained that the service has a "rapidly growing numbers of users, especially in emerging countries". With its fingers already in various online pies -- ebooks, shopping and streaming media through Wuaki.tv -- Viber represents yet another string to Rakuten's bow as the company "aims to be the global number one internet services" provider.
Time capsules are a cool idea, and they're something many of us put together at school. A box, tin, jar or other container to house keepsakes, momentos, favorites things and other objects that capture the zeitgeist. After 1983's International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado, the organizer decided to create a time capsule on a larger scale -- a 13 foot pipe that looked a little like a torpedo. Into it were a range of goodies from attendees and presenters. Steve Jobs threw his Apple Lisa mouse and the capsule was dubbed the Steve Jobs Time Capsule.
The plan was to unearth it in the year 2000 -- that iconic year that was seen to hold such promise and power before it arrived -- but it was lost thanks to a combination of landscaping, poor memory and a lack of mapping. The TV show Diggers brought the capsule above ground for the first time in 30 years back in September, but video footage of the excavation has only just been released.
The digital currency known as Bitcoin has been making a lot of news lately. It’s been banned in Russia, for one thing, but has also been introduced to the Bing search engine. That up and down news continues, this time heading in the southerly direction.
The good news here is that, for once, Windows users are safe -- or safe from this particular threat at least. Researchers at SecureMac, a company devoted to Apple security since 1999, have discovered a new form of malware that goes after Mac computers with an aim of pilfering Bitcoins from unwitting users.
Apple overtakes Microsoft! That’s not a headline you'd expect to read, and when you look at sales of Macs versus Windows desktops, Macs and Windows laptops, or any combination of these, it is Windows devices that are always going to come out on top. But look at things from a different angle and it is a very different story. In Q4 2013, the number of Apple devices sold exceeded the number of Windows PCs sold around the world.
This is an interesting demonstration of the notion that mobile devices are very much on the increase. Compared to Windows PCs, Macs account for a very small percentage of computer sales, but once sales of iPads, iPods and iPhones are factored in, Apple overtakes PCs -- not by much, but it is still significant. It is also worth noting that while Windows Phone is widely derided for poor sales, once these smartphones are included, Windows devices return to the top of the charts -- but again, not by much.
According to figures released by International Data Corporation (IDC), 2013 was the year that smartphones really took off -- a staggering 1 billion units shipped. As has been the case for some time, it is Android and iOS that continue to dominate, with Google's mobile operating system claiming a 78.1 percent market share, and Apple's 17.6 percent. As has been the norm, Windows Phone found itself in third place, although it did manage to increase its market share to 3 percent.
The figures are based on shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013, and when compared to the same period in 2012, Android and Windows Phone both made gains while iOS lost some of its market share. Jumping from 70.3 percent of the market in 2012, Android's growth was impressive, while iOS dropped 3.3 percentage points from 20.9 percent. Looked at in terms of percentage points, Windows Phone's jump from 2.6 to 3.0 percent of the market, it still represents an improvement of more than 13 percent.
Sixth in a series. I'm a massive fan of the Broken Sword series of games, so this week was a great one for me as I finally got to download and start playing the brand new Broken Sword adventure on iOS. I'm pleased to report it doesn't disappoint. Thanks to mobile devices (and Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns) classic adventure series are getting a whole new lease of life, which is fantastic. Fans of classic games will be thrilled to know there's a "new" Final Fantasy game out this week too.
With the Winter Olympics upon us, Apple has gathered together a collection of official Sochi 2014 apps, including the Athletes’ Hub which is well worth a download.