Apple Falls Behind in Home Networking

| Particle Debris

Apple is a hard company to figure out. One of things I know for sure, however, is that Apple leadership has always been shy about becoming involved with technical conferences. That’s because the buzz around Apple products is so high that a visibly badged Apple employee, showing up at an industry technical conference, is deluged with questions about Apple, possible future products and touchy consumer support issues — to name a few. In the past, obnoxious or prying questions would also come up about Steve Jobs.

NetworkingAnother issue has been that the industry tends to work together on standards, hash out issues, and obtain a sense of where certain technologies are going. Sometimes, becoming embroiled in issues like that can hold Apple back. Or distract them from a prudent focus.

As a result, Apple would be conspicuously absent from many of these conferences, preferring to glean the issues from afar — or other channels. Plus, pulling back avoids leaks about Apple’s intentions.

That spotty, in person representation can often lead to a loss of professional and personal connection to the pulse of a technology. As a result, the internal agenda can be more important that detailed attention to some important consumer and technical issues. With that preamble, I am becoming curiouser and curiouser about Apple and IPv6.

A New Mystery

One example of that, perhaps, is the recent release of Apple’s AirPort Utility 6. In my review, I pointed out that the IPv6 setting was missing, removed, one can guess, because the geek factor was too alarming for the casual iPad and Lion customer. I’m still digging into the technical nature of the setting, but the fact that it’s missing has irritated a few people in the industry. I won’t go into more detail than that. The culmination has been this article at Network World: “Apple under fire for backing off IPv6 support.

I’ve reached out in the past as well as recently to Apple about this issue, and no one is talking. That can mean that something interesting and/or technical is afoot, but the company isn’t ready to talk about it. For example, and this is just a contrived example, but it’s not atypical, the current Apple AirPort Extreme, which had been capable of classic IPv6 routing foe years, may have some kind of gotcha that’s out of compliance with the way modern IPv6 will be implemented and can’t be fixed in software. So there’s some work to do, and perhaps even a new product and a new AirPort Utility coming.

That’s just an example of the kind of thing that can happen. I’m definitely not suggesting it as reality because, when I wrote “A Layman’s Guide to the IPv6 Transition,” Comcast’s John Brzozowski, Chief Architect, IPv6 and Distinguished Engineer mentioned that they had done a lot of testing with the Apple AirPort Extreme, and Apple was considered a leader at the time.

The net result of this is that we have a mystery, and I’m more and more intrigued. The recent IPv6 testing at University of New Hampshire resulted in (from the above link), this observation: “In order to pass the UNH-IOL test, home gateways must enable IPv6 by default and pass a set of interoperability tests. So far, the lab has approved six home gateways as passing 100% of its interoperability tests, including models from Cisco, Actiontec, Broadcom, D-Link and Lantiq. No Apple products are included on the UNH-IOL list.

All of this could be solved with a little technical friendliness and transparency by Apple. Anyway, I’m very interested in home networking, IPv6, and security, so I’ll be following this case closely to see what more I can find out.

Tech News Debris

Every once in awhile, I find a poignant article by someone who thought they could steer away from Apple and make everything work for them — only to find out otherwise. Here’s one of those: “How my Apple hate quite literally burned me.

Rich Mogull is a security expert, and I have always found his writings to be first class stuff. So I was intrigued by this article with a great title: “How to Tell If Your Cloud Provider Can Read Your Data.” It’s one of those articles that makes you think, “Yep. Sure. I should have been thinking about that, but I didn’t.”

The inner spy

Along those lines, the Flashback Trojan this week has once again raised the issue of whether Apple customers are complacent and why. As we know, for the sake of marketing, Apple likes to tell its customers that Macs are very secure. But there are always those people who aren’t willing to leave matters to chance and want to learn about security and take specific measures. Network security is a highly educational and sobering topic. Especially when there’s a breach that reminds us that every OS has vulnerabilities and vigilance is required.

Again, Rich Mogull had some observations on the topic. The upshot is that there are people who take the matter seriously and dig, and there are people who’d like to ignore the technical details. (Which are you?) Here’s Mr. Mogull’s observation: “The Myth of the Security-Smug Mac User.”

For example, even though Apple was late with the Flashback Trojan fix, Intego wasn’t. So users who had Virus Barrier X6 installed were protected. In the one case where we need to be social, where we need to reach out and work with the community, draw upon the collective knowledge of the Internet security experts, some Apple customers decline to be socially oriented.  A bit odd.

Finally, if you’re one of those people who likes to dig a little bit into the security of your Mac, here are two CNET articles that will take you to the next level: “A look at Apple’s Flashback removal tool” and even geekier: “Disabling Java via the command line in OS X is not easy.”

After stuff like that, I’m ready for a glass of Pinot Noir and an episode of Castle.

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Network Image Credit: Shuterstock.

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Comments

mrmwebmax

+

I enjoy your column every week, and will do so even more knowing you’re a fellow Castle fan. smile

KitsuneStudios

For those who want a little extra virus protection, ClamX AV is free on the Mac App Store. Open source virus-scanning software. Apple included it with the Server OS a while back, but it’s an excellent little virus scanner without the heavy front end measures that make Norton and the like such a pain.

wab95

Nice post, John, particularly on Mac security.

Intriguing thoughts about iPV6, including Apple’s being mum on the subject. I agree that transparency can go a long way to assuaging uncertainty and fear. A thoughtful company approach would be for Apple to distinguish between information that their clients need for optimising their user experience vs information that can tip their hand to their competitors for products/services under active development. Being quick to release information on the former would be good business etiquette, and Tim Cook’s instincts seem to lie in this plane.

The ‘Apple hate’ piece may give pause for thought among people who have a knee-jerk, Pavlovian response to Apple products. I continue to think that a sizeable fraction (I have no data) of the Apple-related dyspepsia has to do with real or perceived attitudes of Apple clients, Mac users particularly, real or imagined - with emphasis on ‘imagined’. [Edit: I meant to add, many non-Apple clients perceive Apple product users as being arrogant, Kool Aid intoxicated, technophobes who prefer to be spoon fed while reposing slothfully behind a walled garden - or something to that effect.]

As for Rich Mogull’s security piece, it jibes with my personal experience, particularly in the work place. Granted, I deal with many scientists, doctors and others with a scientific and/or technical bent, but most Mac users with whom I personally interact take security seriously, and nearly all use some form of protection, if for no other reason than to not transmit Windows viruses via file sharing, which can still occur on a Mac. My personal favourites continue to be Intego (Virus Barrier 6) and MacKeeper (Zeobit). What I like about the latter is that, by default, it does not activate its separate AV system if it detects another in place (in my case VB6). In any case, there are a host of security measures OS X users can take, apart from commercial AV options, to harden their systems, and there seems no justification in not doing so.

ibuck

Could it be that…
- some Apple fans who stand in line for new Apple products are converts who also stood in line for Windows 95?
- there are technophobes among both Windows and Apple users?
- there is zeal in the arguments of some users of any platform (Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, Mac OS, iOS, Android, RIM, Flash)?
- some users of the other platforms perceive that zeal as arrogant?

Rich Mogull:  There are zealots like this for every technology, cause, and meme on the face of the planet.

Arrogant: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities

Rich Mogull: Coming from the security world I had certain expectations of the Mac community. I thought they were naive and smug about security, and living in their own isolated world.
That couldn?t have been further from the truth.

b9bot

IPv6 isn’t supported from most DSL/Cable providers yet. As this article mentions only a handful of routers have just been certified as actually supporting it. However just because Apple removed IPv6 from it’s airport software tool doesn’t necessarily mean they will not support it in the future when providers of the internet actually use IPv6 technology. I know checking or unchecking IPV6 right now doesn’t offer me anything with my ATT DSL service.
So I think Apple removed it from there software to simplify setup, not to say they will not support it. No sense having a checkbox for IPV6 in your setup if it doesn’t do anything for you anyways. Just search for IPV6 and see what others say. Most say the same and or it makes your internet slower and to turn it off.
So I don’t know why this story claims Apple is behind in home networking, because they’re not, there just looking out for the customer that doesn’t need to worry about IPV6, since it doesn’t do anything for you right now anyways.
Apple system is still way ahead of Windows in security anyways, the proof is in the reports of infected users and companies that have lost BILLIONS of dollars because of Windows going down do to malware and viruses.
Esset Mac CyberSecurity makes the best anti-virus software for the Mac and Windows Esset Nod32. All the others make gadget filled confusing garbage that frustrates users with all of there pop up window warnings and fancy firewall blocking utilities which end up killing your network access.

the narf

There’s something very basic that commentators here and elsewhere continue to forget to their everlasting detriment.

Ordinary computer users shouldn’t have to worry about viruses, trojans and the like in order to use, what is in essence a tool. You don’t have to worry about whether the hammer you pick up to drive a nail, or the microwave that you use to heat leftovers, or even the car you drive every day can be infected by malware. 

A computer system is also a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.

The fact that an entire multi-billion dollar industry exists to fight malware shows that the dominant OS vendor has completely failed in its obligation to put out an un-infectable product.  The malware industry only exists because of this.

Only tech people—who conveniently forget that the vast majority of the populace is not tech savvy, nor does it ever care to be—think that everyone should be “manning the barricades” of anti-virus products and procedures. NotGonnaHappen.com. Deal with it.

Apple’s walled garden for their iDevices, despite all of the whining from the tech community in general and the “freetards” in particular, has successfully made these devices into tools that just work—like your microwave.  This is how ALL computing devices for the general public should be.

And Apple is going this way with the Mac App Store and the signed app requirements in Mountain Lion. For all of the tech community’s whining, this is the future, folks. Computers MUST be turned into tools that require no more thought as to their maintenance and security as a microwave.  Anything less is completely unacceptable.

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