Tag: Apple

Digital key management and sharing to be part of mobile operating systems

Article

August Smart Lock press picture courtesy of August

Apple to lead the way with having smart lock and digital key management as part of a smartphone’s operating system.

Apple to add digital key sharing to iOS • NFCW

My Comments

Apple is the first mobile-operating-system developer to integrate the management of digital keys for buildings or cars within its iOS operating system. This includes the ability to share keys to others or revoke shared keys within your iPhone’s user experience.

It is because of an increasing number of security solutions for buildings, vehicles and the like that use your smartphone as a virtual keyring for digital keys.

Previously, what happened with digital keys was that they were dependent on apps specific to a vendor, hotel or similar smart-lock platform and you had to work these keys from that app’s user interface.

This could lead to confusion about apps that you need to use and can get very messy when you have multiple places to think of and you aren’t sure which platform they are associated with. It can also lead to screen clutter associated with the apps and you may find that they take up too much internal storage space especially if you are responsible for many places.

The approach now is to implement the digital wallet functionality offered by Apple Wallet and is part of iOS. As well, you use what the operating system offers to share out keys or revoke shared keys. That means you can use first-party messaging software like Apple iMessage or Apple Mail to share the keys; or you could use third-party messaging software like Signal, WhatsApp or Outlook Mail to share these keys.

Most likely this will be facilitated with the “share / take-further” function offered as part of the operating system, represented in iOS with a square and triangle symbol.

The problem with this functionality is whether there is the ability to limit the shared key’s functionality when you share it out. That is to limit the number of times one can use the key or the time period they can use it for, or even to limit the doors or cars that the particular digital key can open. In some cases, it may also be about implementing multi-factor authentication for these keys.

hen there is the question about what kind of interface that this Apple Wallet key-management ability will support. That is whether to use NFC “touch-and-go” operation, Bluetooth LE wireless-link or similar techniques to link with the door lock or car.

The other issue that will come about is whether Google will integrated this kind of digital key management within Android, whether as part of the digital wallets available as apps for that platform or simply within the operating system. Also it can be about whether regular computers that run desktop operating systems could have this kind of digital key management built in to their operating systems, which can be of benefit for people who manage buildings or vehicle fleets.

It can also include allowing apps and Websites to add or remove digital keys to the smartphone wallet. This will be seen as important for corporate, hotel and delivery use cases where interaction with smart locks is part of a transaction, such as registering the delivery / collection of goods or as part of a time and attendance requirement for home care and allied workers.

What this will be essentially about is to provide a one-stop shop for managing digital keys for locations or vehicles you are responsible for using your smartphone.

Apple, Google and Amazon create home theatre setups around their platforms




Apple Amazon Google (coming soon)
Set-top device Apple TV (tvOS 11 or newer) Fire TV Stick
Fire TV Cube (2nd Generation or newer)
Chromecast with Google TV
Audio Devices HomePod or
AirPlay-compliant audio devices
Echo (2nd Generation), Echo Dot (3rd Generation) or newer Echo smart speaker devices Nest Audio smart speakers
Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple TV set-top box – part of a HomePod / AirPlay enhanced audio setup for online video content

Apple, Amazon and Google have or are establishing audio-video platforms based around their smart speaker and set-top devices. This is in order to allow you to stream the audio content from video you are watching through their companion audio devices.

The idea with these setups is to “gang” the platform-based set-top box and the speakers together to provide improved TV sound for online services like Netflix. Some like Amazon describe this approach as home theatre but what happens is that if you have a pair of like speakers ganged with the set-top device, you have stereo sound with increased separation at least. It is based around these companies building it to their platforms the ability for users to have two like speakers in one room set up as a stereo pair for that same goal. Amazon’s setup also allows you to use their Echo Sub subwoofer module to improve the bass response of their setup.

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

These new Amazon Echo speakers can work as part of an enhanced-audio setup for the Amazon Fire TV set-top platform

It is in addition to being able to stream the sound from an online video source you are watching using these set-top devices to a smart speaker of the same platform for remote listening.

The current limitation with these setups is that they only work with online sources provided by the set-top device that is the hub of the setup. This is because neither of these devices support HDMI-ARC functionality in any way, which allows sound from the TV’s own tuner or video peripherals connected to the TV to be played via a compliant audio device.

These companies who are part of the Silicon Valley establishment see the fashionable way to watch TV content is to use online video-on-demand services facilitated by their own set-top devices. But some user classes would benefit from HDMI-ARC support in many ways.

For example, the TV’s own tuner is still relevant in UK, Europe, Oceania and some other countries due to these areas still placing value on free-to-air broadcast TV. This is centred around the ingrained experience of switching between channels using the TV’s own remote control with the attendant quick response when you change channels. It is also becoming relevant to North America as cord-cutting picks up steam amongst young people and they look towards the TV’s own tuner alongside an indoor antenna to pick up local TV services for current news or local sport.

Google to have Chromecast with Google TV work with their Nest Audio speakers at least

As well, some users maintain the use of other video-peripheral devices with their TVs. This will apply to people who play games on their TV using a computer or games console, watch content on packaged media like DVDs, use PVR devices to record TV content or subscribe to traditional pay TV that uses a set-top box.

It will be interesting to see whether this operating concept regarding set-top devices and smart speakers that is driven by Apple, Google and Amazon will be developed further. Here this could exist in the form of set-top devices and platforms that are engineered further for things like HDMI-ARC or surround sound.

There will also be the question about whether these setups will ever displace soundbars or fully-fledged home-theatre setups for improved TV sound. On the other hand, they could be placed as a platform-driven entry-level approach for this same goal.

Apple advises against Webcam shields on its newer Macbooks–could this be a trend that affects new low-profile laptops?

Article

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

Apple advises against using camera covers on their recent MacBooks.

Apple: Closing MacBooks with camera covers leads to display damage | Bleeping Computer

Previous coverage on HomeNetworking01.info

Keeping hackers away from your Webcam and microphone

My Comments

Apple has lately advised its MacBook owners to avoid buying and using accessory Webcam covers on their computers.

These Webcam shields are being seen as a security asset thanks to malware being used to activate the Webcam and microphone to surveil the computer’s user. But Apple advises against them due to the MacBook having the Webcam integrated with the circuitry for the screen and built in a very fragile manner. They also mention that the Webcam is used by macOS as an ambient light sensor and for advanced camera functionality.

Dell XPS 13 9360 8th Generation clamshell Ultrabook

with similar advice that could apply to other low-profile thin-bezel laptops like the Dell XPS 13

They recommend that if you use a device to obfuscate your Webcam, you use something as thin as a piece of ordinary printing paper and isn’t adhesive. This is because the adhesive can ruin your camera’s picture quality when you want to use it. As well, they recommend that you remove the camera-cover device before you close up your MacBook at the end of your computing session.

I also see this as a key trend that will affect other low-profile laptop computers like Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s that have very thin screen bezels like recent Dell XPS 13s. This is due to manufacturers designing the in-lid electronics in a more integrated manner so as to reduce the lid’s profile. Let’s not forget that with an increasing number of computers, the Webcam is part of facial-recognition-based device-level authentication if its operating system supports this function.

But you still need to protect your privacy when dealing with your laptop’s, all-in-one’s or monitor’s integrated Webcam and microphone.

Primarily, this is about proper computer housekeeping advice like making sure the computer’s operating system, applications, security software and any other software is up-to-date and with the latest security patches. As well, make sure that you know what is installed on your computer and that you don’t install software or click on links that you aren’t sure of.

You may find that your computer or monitor with the integrated Webcam will have some hardware security measures for that camera. This will be in the form of a shutter as used with some Lenovo equipment or a hardware switch that disables the camera as used with some HP equipment. Or the camera will have a tally light that glows when it is in use which is part of the camera’s hardware design. Here, make use of these features to protect your privacy. But you may find that these features may not affect what happens with your computer’s built-in microphone.

As well, you may find that your computer’s operating system or desktop security software has the ability to monitor or control which software has access to your Webcam, microphone or other sensors your computer is equipped with. Here, they may come with this functionality as part of a continual software update cycle. Let’s not forget that some Web browsers may bake camera-use detection in to their functionality as part of a major feature upgrade.

MacOS users should look at Apple’s support page for what they can do while Windows 10 users can look at Microsoft’s support page on this topic. Here, this kind of control is part of the fact that today’s desktop and mobile operating systems are being designed for security.

If your operating system or desktop security software doesn’t have this functionality, you may find third-party software for your computing platform that has oversight of your Webcam and microphone. One example for MacOS is Oversight which notifies you if the camera or microphone are being used, with the ability to detect software that “piggybacks” on to legitimate video-conferencing software to record your conversations. But you need to do some research about these apps before you consider downloading them.

Even if you are dealing with a recent MacBook or low-profile laptop computer, you can make sure your computer’s Webcam and integrated microphone isn’t being turned into a listening device.

Apple to use the ARM microarchitecture in newer Mac computers

Article

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple Mac platform is to move towards apple’s own silicon that uses ARM RISC microarchitecture

It’s Official: The Mac Is Transitioning to Apple-Made Silicon | Gizmodo

My Comments

This week, Apple used its WWDC software developers’ conference to announce that the Macintosh regular-computer platform will move away from Intel’s silicon to their own ARM-based silicon. This is to bring that computing platform in to line with their iOS/iPadOS mobile computing platform, their tVOS Apple TV set-top platform and their Watch platform that uses Apple’s own silicon.

Here, this silicon will use the ARM RISC instruction-set microarchitecture rather than the x86/x64 architecture used with Intel silicon. But Apple is no stranger to moving the Macintosh computing platform between microarchitectures.

Initially this platform used Motorola 680×0/PowerPC silicon which used a Motorola RISC instruction set microarchitecture. This platform initially had more chops compared to Intel’s x86 platform especially when it came to graphics and multimedia. Then, when Apple realised that Intel offered cost-effective microprocessors using the x86-64 microarchitecture and had the same kind of multimedia prowess as the Motorola processors, they moved the Macintosh platform to the Intel silicon.

But Apple had to take initiatives to bring the MacOS and Mac application software over to this platform. This required them to supply software development tools to the software-development community to allow programs that they write to be compiled for both Motorola and Intel instruction sets. They also furnished an instruction-set translator or “cross-compiler” called Rosetta to Mac users who had Intel-based Macs so they can run extant software that was written for Motorola silicon.

For a few years, this caused some awkwardness with Mac users, especially those who were early adopters, due to either the availability of software natively compiled for Intel silicon. Or they were finding that their existing Motorola-native software was running too slowly on their Intel-based computers thanks to the Rosetta instruction-set-translation software working between their program and the computer’s silicon.

Apple will be repeating this process in a very similar way to the initial Intel transition by the provision of software-development tools that build for Intel i86-64 based silicon and their own ARM-RISC based silicon. As well they will issue Rosetta2 which does the same job as the original Rosetta but translate i86-64 CISC machine instructions to the ARM RISC instruction set that their own silicon uses. Rosetta2 will be part of the next major version of MacOS which will be known as Big Sur.

The question that will be raised amongst developers and users of high-resource-load software like games or engineering software is what impact this conversion will have on that level of software. Typically most games are issued for the main games consoles and Windows-driven Intel-architecture PCs over Macs or tvOS-based Apple TV set-top devices, with software ports for these platforms coming later on in the software’s evolution.

There is an expectation that the Rosetta2 “cross-compiler” software could work this kind of software properly to a point that it can satisfactorily perform on a computer using integrated graphics infrastructure and working at Full HD resolution. Then there will be the issue of making sure it works with a Mac that uses discrete graphics infrastructure and higher display resolutions, thus giving the MacOS platform some “gaming chops”.

I see the rise of ARM RISC silicon in the tradition regular computing world and having it exist alongside classic Intel-based silicon in this computing space like what is happening with Apple and Microsoft as a challenge for computer software development. It is although some work has taken place within the UNIX / Linux space to facilitate the development of software for multiple computer types thus leading to this space bringing forth the open-source and shared-source software movements. This is more so with Microsoft where there is an expectation to have Intel-based silicon and ARM-based silicon exist alongside each other for the life of a common desktop computing platform, with each silicon type serving particular use cases.

A four-horse race for voice-driven home assistants

Articles

Apple Homepod smart speaker press picture courtesy of Apple Inc.

Apple Homepod smart speaker – a competitor to Amazon, Google and Microsoft

Apple readying Siri-powered home assistant: report | Yaho 7 News

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Press Release

My Comments

The voice-driven home assistant has approached a point of competition where there are four different actors involved.

This class of computing device is based around a speakerphone-type device that can respond to your voice by answering questions you put to it cause certain actions to occur at your command. It was initially brought on by Amazon with their Echo speaker and Alexa voice assistant, but was subsequently answered by Google with their Home speaker based on their Google Now platform.

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

The Amazon Alexa platform now faces some healthy competition from Apple as well

Very recently Microsoft touted one of these speakers that is based on the Cortana voice-driven personal assistant platform. Not to be outdone, Apple just announced a smart speaker and voice-driven home assistant based on their Siri voice-driven personal assistant.

All of these companies have positioned themselves in a highly-competitive manner by using the same approach to how they present their devices. Here, they allow independent hardware vendors to license these technologies to use in their own “smart-speaker” or similar products. In the case of Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, these systems can even show information in a visual manner on screen-equipped devices, whether that be in the form of a listing or a graphical “at-a-glance” display.

Harman Invoke Cortana-driven smart speaker press picture courtesy of Harman International

Harman Invoke Cortana-driven smart speaker

Similarly, they have extended their voice-driven assistant platforms by allowing third parties to add “skills” to them whether in the near term or later. These are additional abilities that users can add to their voice-driven assistant to make it perform additional tasks or interface with other devices. It also underscores the activity that these platform vendors are undertaking to integrated their voice-driven home assistant with home-automation and allied devices, allowing for things like dimming the lights or adjusting the heating at your command.

Let’s not forget that Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have over-the-top communications platforms equipped with videocall and messaging abilities that either are or will be integrated to their voice-driven home-assistant platforms. Amazon created their Alexa-based IP-telephony platform from scratch, adding it to the crowded sea of IP-communications platforms so it can tie in with their Alexa home-assistant platform. It could allow for you to ask Alexa, Cortana or Siri to immediately “drop a line” to someone using Alexa Messaging, Skype or iMessage / Facetime respectively. You could even use this to instantiate a videocall between yourself and your correspondent if both of you are using suitable equipment.

What do I see of this? Personally, I would find that hardware manufacturers such as the respected audio-equipment names may offer smart speakers and similar equipment that works across multiple platforms, requiring the user to determine which platform they want to use during setup or at a later time. Similar software developers who write interfaces for online service may be required to write “skills” for each of the platforms.

I also see it as being very similar to 1989 when there were multiple graphic-user-interfaces on the market with each computer platform having its own mouse-driven interface. Hello to “Hey Siri”, “Hi Cortana”, “OK Google” or “Alexa” to dim those lights, close that garage, start Spotify or whatever as you talk to that speaker.

Apple AirDrop has a compatibility mode to cater to older Macs

Article Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

AirDrop Not Working? Use Compatibility Mode for New Mac to Old Mac AirDrop Support | OS X Daily

My Comments

You have two Macintosh computers with one running an older version of MacOS X. Then you want to try that AirDrop file-transfer lark that Apple encourages for its platforms.

Here you may find that your Macs can’t “see” each other on AirDrop. What can you do?

You may have to run AirDrop on the newer Mac in a “compatibility mode” that allows it to behave properly for older interations of Apple’s file-transfer utility.

  1. To do this, you have to open a Finder window on the Macintosh running the latest OS X version.
  2. Then you choose AirDrop on that same Mac and make an attempt to discover older Macs that are enabled and “exposed” for AirDrop. A quicker way in would be to press Shift+Command+R together to start your AirDrop session.
  3. The result will be that AirDrop will show up Macs and iOS devices running suitable versions of their operating systems and open for discovery. If you don’t see the Mac you are looking for – the one which is running an older operating system, click the “Don’t see what you are looking for” text. This will pop up a dialog box with an option to “Search for an older Mac”.
  4. Clicking this will place your Mac in to “compatibility mode” which allows it to discover older iterations of AirDrop. Here, you wait a moment and your newer Mac will show up the Macs running the older operating system as an AirDrop target (destination). Then you begin your file transfer.

If you intend to transfer files between newer Macs or iOS devices, you need to disable compatibility mode. Here, if you are performing a subsequent AirDrop file-transfer and your Mac says that it is looking for older Macs, you just click “Cancel” then look for targets that are based on the new OS X or iOS operating systems.

I would recommend using the Compatibility mode if you are in doubt about the version of OS X the Mac you want to transfer files to or from to is running and you are not sending or receiving files from an iPhone or iPad.

The Apple TV gains gaming ability

Articles

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

The new Apple TV

Dancing in the dark with the new, improved Apple TV | Engadget

Apple TV supports ‘Guitar Hero Live,’ ‘Disney Infinity’ via Bluetooth | Engadget

The new Apple TV brings apps, Siri and a touchpad remote for $149 | Engadget

Will the New Apple TV Replace Your Gaming Console? | Tom’s Guide

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Press Release

Video

My Comments

Apple have just premiered the fourth-generation Apple TV set-top box which has answered various predictions concerning it gaining games abilities. This is amongst it premiering the iPhone 6S family, the large iPad Pro and the iPad Mini 4 – devices that Apple fanbois will be waiting outside the Apple Stores for the first sale.

This device comes with a more capable remote control which includes a microphone so you can speak to Siri. This is a similar natural-language personal assistant like you have on your iPhone or iPad.

But it is based on the tvOS operating system which will also have a development platform and app store similar to what you experience with iOS-based devices. This will also encourage the development of games for this platform.

How are you going to control the Apple TV when you are playing advanced games? These devices will use MFi-compliant Bluetooth controllers as your advanced control devices and Apple is trying to snap at the XBox One’s, PlayStation 4’s and Nintendo Wii’s heels. As well, Airbnb, Gilt and other non-entertainment companies are putting up apps for this platform. This is a function you won’t be able to gain on your existing Apple TV device, which will simply earn its keep with Netflix, iTunes, AirPlay and similar applications.

The Apple reps had demonstrated games like Guitar Hero Live to show the Apple TV’s gaming prowess and had made it feasible to continue playing games across the Apple iOS platform. The good question to raise is whether the games that are offered are as good as what is offered for the XBox One or PlayStation 4, or will they be like most smart-TV / set-top-box fodder like casual games? Similarly, could this be another attempt to open up paths for independent games studios to write games for the big screen?

What I see of this is Apple jumping in to a market that is already owned by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo and, like the Android-based consoles that have shown up before, could become very difficult waters. As well, they could work alongside Microsoft to use their regular-computer heritage to free up the big-screen gaming environment by encouraging independent games developers to write games for these devices.

Apple have fixed the iPhone message bug once and for all

Article

Apple releases iOS 8.4 with new Music app, fix for crashing bug | ARSTechnica

My Comments

Apple have just rolled out version 8.4 of the iOS mobile operating system and the main headline feature that this came with is the Apple Music streaming-music service which came about due to their takeover of Beats by Dr. Dre.

But this version of iOS also fixes a bug that placed iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches at risk of crashing if a specially-formed message came in via iMessage or other message services. This was due to problems associated with handling standard ASCII and Unicode character combinations. To get their iOS devices back to life after a crash, they had to do things like ask correspondents to send pictures.

Any iOS user can update their devices either over the air by visiting the Settings screen then selecting “General” before clicking on “Software Update”. Or they could use the USB charge/data cable to plug the iDevice in to a regular computer equipped with iTunes and use that software to deliver the update to the device.

Apple makes it easy for you to switch from Android to iOS

Articles

Opinion: With iOS 9, Apple Is On A Warpath For Google’s Users | Gizmodo

Apple’s other Android app will help you switch to iOS, “recycle” your Android for free | Android Authority

My Comments

Increasingly most operating-system vendors are reaching in to competing platforms either to allow your computing environment to be centred around their platform or simply to shift you over to their platform.

Microsoft was achieving this through supplying apps for Android and iOS to connect your smartphone or tablet to a Windows-10-centric computing environment.

On the other hand, Google and some Android smartphone vendors were developing apps that import data that exists on an iPhone or iPad to your Android device. Now Apple has written an Android app to simplify the process of moving over from Android to iOS.

But what Apple has done is not just export your contacts, messages, photos, music and videos from your Android device. Rather they have used this app to take an inventory of the apps you have installed on your Android phone and purchased from Google Play, correlate them with their iOS equivalents that are in the iTunes App Store and either install the free apps or add the paid apps to your iTunes App Store Wishlist so you can buy them there. Then they make you feel good by inviting you to hand your old Android phone to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store for recycling.

It is part of Apple’s effort to reach to the “opposing” platforms to bring them to their own platforms by using “halo” products and services which convey the positive image about the brand. In this case, it is all of the iOS devices that are Apple’s “halo products” and having these devices work with Windows or Macintosh regular computers courtesy of the iTunes program.  This same practice also ties in with the iTunes Store available on both these platforms along with the iOS platform and is leading to the Apple Music service, seen as an answer to Spotify, with the companion app being ported to Android.

This was also underscored with some Apple fanbois saying that they headed over to the Macintosh platform once they experienced Apple’s iPod, iPhone or iPad products and even them underscoring that people who use iOS devices as their mobile devices should jump over to the Macintosh platform for their regular-computing needs.

What we are seeing here is the existence of a highly-competitive marketplace affecting both the mobile and regular computing platforms with the platform vendors pulling out the stops to get people to switch. In some cases, it could become a reality where multi-platform computing will become the norm for sessile and mobile computing needs both at work and at home.

You can deregister iMessage if you move away from your iPhone

Article

iMessage deregister Webpage

Deregister iMessage from your number without your iPhone

Apple finally offers an easy solution to its missing text message problem | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Deregister iMessage site

My Comments

If you are moving towards another non-Apple platform for your smartphone or have decided to change your mobile phone number, you may run into issues with Apple’s iMessage “over-the-top” message service which you used as your enhanced messaging service with iOS.

The default setup for iMessage is to route all your regular inbound and outbound SMS and MMS traffic via this service. This can cause problems with you or your contacts not receiving messages if you are moving off the iPhone platform or phantom messages coming through from your old number when you are changing phone numbers.

To deal with this problem, you would typically use the iPhone’s Settings control panel to deactivate iMessage and is something you may have to do before you move off to the other platform or arrange to have your mobile number changed by your carrier.

On the other hand, Apple has provided an answer for those of us who have done the switchover without deactivating iMessage on the iPhone. This can happen when you are in a hurry to switch over or have your mobile service immediately provisioned on your new non-Apple phone.

Here, you visit a page on their Website and key in your mobile phone number to deregister it from iMessage. You will receive a “confirmation number” on your new phone as an SMS, which you then subsequently key in to the Website to set this deregistration in stone. If this doesn’t work, you may have to contact Apple’s technical support to make sure this happens. You may also have to contact Apple’s technical support if you are not receiving SMS or MMS messages on your iPhone after a number change.

This doesn’t affect other iOS or Mac OS X devices that use iMessage because these work on your Apple ID (email address) as being your iMessage address. It primarily detaches your existing mobile number from your Apple ID as an iMessage address.

It could be improved by providing iMessage management through an Apple-hosted Web dashboard that allows you to do things like deregister your phone number or manually add, change or delete phone numbers associated with your iMessage service. This can be of importance with situations like travellers and expats who use SIM cards from providers local to where they are travelling in order to dodge roaming fees or have local-mobile-number presence.