Apple Falls Behind in Home Networking

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.


Network Image Credit: Shuterstock.