Lest We Forget, Apple’s Jony Ive Has Changed Our Lives

| Particle Debris

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week of November 27th
Apple’s Mistake of the Century

On the heels of Apple’s horrendous “iamroot” security debacle, the fix entailed a problem with some Macs accessing file servers. The Macalope called out Apple with the best combination of maturity and harsh scolding of a major screw up. Then, OSXDaily pointed out that a second, automatic update fixed the associated file sharing issue. Make sure you’re fully updated to macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 version 17B1003.

Apple UNIX

Apple UNIX logo. The luster has been tarnished.

As a long-time UNIX nutcase and professional user of UNIX systems during my career, I’ll confess that I’m apoplectic about this security snafu.  With regret, I’ve noticed that Apple has de-emphasized the UNIX foundation of its OSes, but notably macOS, in the past few years. Technical professionals no doubt notice things like that because it smacks of a lack of internal attention to and celebration of the Mac. Now we’ve seen the results.

Apple might consider hiring an accomplished UNIX graybeard, a “VP of UNIX Integrity and Security.” And give him/her veto authority over any macOS/iOS/tvOS/watchOS release until it’s been properly audited, QA’d and blessed. Clearly, something has gone wrong at Apple, and mild public statements need to be replaced by firm executive action that’s both public and makes sense. (Apple has already apologized.)

Apple has fixed the problem and is, I imagine, suitably sobered. We will move on but never forget.

More Debris

• Every product has a set of hardware features and a user interface design philosophy. But where products really shine is when you learn how to make them operate, within a technical environment, to achieve personal goals. Here’s a great example of that process. “How to cut the cord with Apple TV 4K.

ElcomSoft made a fuss this week about changes in iOS 11 security that, they claim, weakens its security. Then Rene Ritchie at iMore really dug in and explained what’s going on. Here’s Author Ritchie’s excellent response: “iOS 11 security isn’t a ‘horror story’, it’s a balancing act for your protection.” If you read only one of these links, read author Ritchie’s.

• Is it a good idea to personalize our (AI) voice assistants? Does the act of giving Amazon’s voice assistant a friendly female name, “Alexa” somehow, insidiously tie us into a Big Brother entity that permeates and controls our lives? At Slate, author Will Oremus writes: “OK, ‘Computer’ – The case for renaming—and dehumanizing—Alexa, Siri, Google, and Cortana.

It’s not an accident that tech companies have (mostly) given their voice bots human-sounding names, voices, and even distinct personalities. As I wrote in 2016, their anthropomorphic qualities subtly encourage people to trust them and build relationships with them. That benefits the companies who make them, because it gives them not only more data on us, but ever-greater influence over our choices.

If Siri is sometimes obtuse, just remember that the opposite of a mildly obtuse AI is a creepy one. Especially one that’s recording your voice and selling you stuff.

Amazon Echo and Echo Spot

The missing label: “Caution. Use with care.”

• You may have previously read that the physics and mathematics of quantum encryption makes it un-hackable. That’s true, and here’s an update from infosecurity magazine. “Researchers Demonstrate ‘Un-Hackable’ Quantum Encryption.”

I can’t wait.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weekends.

8 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    Now that the Ring is done, I hope Ive gets back to devices and systems. This fixation on thinner and blanker has gone too far. Maybe he can pay more attention to what we really need. I am fear though, that his best design years are in the past.

    • Lee Dronick

      Maybe he can pay more attention to what we really need

      Convincing Craig Federighi to add a send button to Messages in OSX so that Return adds a carriage return.. If can be done in the iOS version it can be done in OSX.

  2. Ned

    Some people work better with a certain amount of pressure, call it an extra level of challenge. I suspect Ive doesn’t have that lanky observer/patron/mentor pushing him anymore and he’s becoming lost. This happens to a lot of creatives, heck people in general. The effective boot camp DI pushes you to the next level, to go beyond what you think your limitations are.

    “Stood there boldly, sweating. in the sun. Felt like a million, felt like number one. The height of Summer, I’d never felt that strong, like a rock….” “…My walk had purpose, my steps were quick and light and I held firmly to what I felt was right, like a rock.” Bob Seger “Like A Rock”

  3. wab95


    Rene Ritchie’s article on iOS 11 security is a worthwhile read, and takes a measured tone on an otherwise divisive topic, which can be neatly summarised in one excerpt from that piece,

    “…I understand the need to balance loss vs. theft. I understand that, for some of my friends, losing access to the photos of their children because they couldn’t remember a backup or account password would hurt them far more than some theoretical attacker gaining access to them. And it is absolutely not my place or right to judge them or anyone else based on that difference in priorities. Especially because security conscious people like myself have other options.”

    That last sentence is key.

    The article also diagnoses the underlying reason why he needed to make that statement, and it is a diagnosis that extends beyond the topic of security options to all things digital, including OS configurations and access to system files, management of apps, to hardware options, to biometrics and on and on, namely,

    “People and certainly the internet aren’t often good at handling situations where multiple truths exist and the needs of different people are at odds with their own.”

    I couldn’t agree more, and sincerely wish that commenters could take a moment, and perhaps even a deep breath (there’s an app for that) before responding to posts by authors whose needs and constraints, never mind perspectives, differ from their own. It’s not simply a question of empathy or even courtesy, as important a currency as the latter is, but of achieving a wider appreciation of complex topics and their solutions. It would also facilitate our ability to appreciate a simple truth; sustainable solutions oftentimes must be a balance between competing needs, as well as the limitations of both available technologies and the humans that have to use them. As for those for whom those solutions are inadequate, in most cases, they have other options.

    I concur with the gist of Will Oremus’ article on naming our AIs. Personally, I’d prefer to call my AI ‘computer’, because that’s what I’m interacting with; a non-sentient interface, not a sentient being. Anthropomorphism is not without psychological and financial consequence, as studies on both adults and children amply demonstrate. We need only to look at the form of the robot toys on offer for home use. I don’t see the capacity to rename our AI interface, according to personal preference, could not be a feature.

    As for quantum encryption, I too, can’t wait.

    • geoduck

      As far as anthropomorphising AIs,
      There is a school of thought that sentient is not really meaningful. Consciousness and self awareness are just the result of more complex programming. Therefore who is to say Siri is less sentient and self aware than the guy on the buss with his nose buried in his phone, oblivious to his surroundings. As we cannot know what’s going on in another’s mind, though my wife believes I should be able to, we cannot say what sentience really means. There reaches a point where a programmed AI is indistinguishable from a person. If Siri reaches the point where it can pass the Touring Test, and appears for all sense and purposes to be a real human mind, then how do we know she isn’t?

  4. Ned

    As to the the sub heading to the Amazon devices photo: Where was the warning from Apple with texting on the iPhone? How many motor vehicle deaths occurred before Apple added a simple software update to deactivate features while in a moving vehicle while denying culpability? How many deaths might occur with AR glasses as people focus on fake images super imposed on reality? Will there be advance warnings? Ever been in a car where the driver watched the falling snow and not the road in front of them? Does Apple push subscription to Apple Music? Does Apple insist you add Apple Pay Cash before completing the iOS 11.2 update? They’re all trying to sell you something.

    Finally, I asked The Mac Observer about the features of ATSC 3.0, the new Over The Air TV Standard accepted by the FCC last month. This incorporates Internet features that will send viewers targeted advertisements. Formerly free, cord cutting TV will record your viewing habits better than the Nielsen ratings. Where is the concern or information over this? Ajit Pai is a big supporter of ATSC 3.0 – any concerns? How is the internet component to work? The Federal Government that can’t provide Broadband internet across the US is going to incorporate internet into free OTA TV? How is that going to happen? This standard will require new tuners or TVs and new wireless routers, possibly even new mobile devices to receive the OTA signal. The switch over is to be completed between 2020 to 2025 when the current ATSC 1.0 will be shut down.

    Targeted advertising based on your viewing habits through Over The Air TV whether at home or on the road. Location based services too? But those worries that there’s an always on microphone on a device that you can cut off, unplug or just not buy.

  5. Tom McGee

    Jony is brilliant, the best in the world, at hardware and fails miserably at software, there ought to be a law… This isn’t his fault, but Cook’s.

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