News Technology

Kill the Apple Event (Or: My Reaction To Today’s “Let Us Loop You In” Event In One Click-Bait Headline)

A few days ago, Jason Snell wrote about how Steve Jobs transformed product announcements. Of product announcements before this transformation, Snell had this to say:

Now, it’s not as if Apple didn’t do keynotes at its events before Jobs came back. (And of course, other tech companies did keynotes at events like the Consumer Electronics Show.) But all of these were gray, businesslike affairs — glorified press conferences or nerdy product announcements accompanied by boring PowerPoints. None of them could hold a candle to what Jobs did with the events once he took control of them.

There is no event that best encapsulates the pomp and pageantry and overall spectacle of a Steve Jobs Apple event like the announcement of the iPhone in 2007. Even now, knowing exactly what was coming and how the keynote would play out word for word, you can still feel the excitement in the room that day.

Apple’s media events have been of varying quality since then, with today’s “Let Us Loop You In” event being a particular low point in my estimation. Admittedly, there were events under Jobs that were also awful — I’m looking at you, iPod Socks/iPod Hifi announcement — but they were awful because the products being released were absolute shit, not due to the quality of the presentation. They might have been selling a turd, but they showed that turd off with panache the likes of which you could not imagine.

Today’s event had exactly the opposite problem, and it’s a problem that Apple, frankly, has been dealing with for quite some time. And while I love going on Twitter to mock what’s going on, it is starting to feel like I’m picking on someone who’s just trying their best but is really not good at what they’re doing, like I’m just being mean.

I hate to say it, but I think it’s time Apple stops with this sort of media event.


Let’s Have Some Apple Event Live-Snark! Hooray!

The fine folks at Apple are holding what is likely their last media event at their Town Hall on Apple’s current campus before switching over to the new, giant-ass auditorium at their new crazy spaceship campus that will open up next year. A lot of products were introduced there — the iPod, the Xserve, the ugly and horrible iPod Hi-Fi — so expect some sort of “this room has a lot of history in it” self-congratulatory nonsense before we get to the new stuff Apple has lined up.

You can watch the event on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac by visiting this page or on an Apple TV via the Apple Events app, which you will either have to install from the App Store (on the latest generation) or has magically appeared on your home screen (on earlier generations).

I will be live-snarking the hell out of this event on Twitter — which you can either follow along with by following me on Twitter or by simply clicking the “Continue Reading” link below to see a live, regularly-updating collection of my tweets (and the tweets of others that I found amusing) during the event. I’ll also be back later to opine on whatever I feel like, presuming I feel like I have anything else to say on the matter beyond the obvious “here’s my money, Tim Cook, make things appear right now, please and thank you”.

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Last Week Tonight: Encryption

As will likely become tradition around these parts, here’s last night’s “Last Week Tonight” main story, which focuses on encryption, Apple, and the FBI. I think I’ve made my stance on this whole thing clear but, if you’re still on the fence, hopefully this will make why this is such a hornet’s nest of bad hoodoo clearer.

Politics Technology

Senator Lindsey Graham Questioning Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Apple v. FBI: War of Buttholes

Would’ja look at that, a politician that actually seems to get this whole “bad guys will find other ways to encrypt their nasty regardless of if Apple makes some GovtOS for you clowns” argument. Good job, Senator Graham!

I was actually so happy about this I went and wrote the guy a note telling him how awesome a job he did there. If you feel like doing the same, here’s the contact page from his official website.

Linkin' Log Politics Technology

Apple’s FAQ on the FBI

Apple published a FAQ on their fight with the FBI today.

And in case you run into any dummies who give you the “Of course Apple should unlock this thing because national security, and what do you have to be afraid of if law enforcement can unlock every iPhone in the universe” argument:

FBI vs. iPhone
From Tulsa World’s Editorial Cartoonist Bruce Plante
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Apple v. FBI: Dawn of Justice

As you’re likely aware by now, Apple was ordered by a federal court on Tuesday to provide aid to the FBI in order to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to one of the shooters in last December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple, in a massively delightful display of not giving a shit, is not complying with this order, and has taken to both the Court of Public Opinion and the Court of Laws and Such to fight it.

The government, naturally, is cartoonishly batting their eyelashes at the American public, cooing that they’ll totally only use this software just this one time, so there’s obviously no need to get into a tizzy about it all. “Trust us,” they hiss in our collective ear, “we’ll totally be cool about this.” Politicians of all stripes are coming out to decry Apple’s lack of blind compliance to this order, including America’s Racist, Islamaphobic, Xenophobic Id Given Human Form, Donald “The J is for Jerkoff” Trump.

As per usual, though, the politics of “We need to do things to prevent terrorists from doing bad stuff!” is mostly bullshit, and will end up hurting us all if the dumb-dumbs in the government get their way.

Recommended Reading

Before we get into my ranting on this subject, there’s probably a few things you’ll want to read first:

Caught up? Faaaaaaaantastic!

Unreasonably Burdensome Bullshit

The FBI is arguing that this order falls under the All Writs Act, which gives federal courts the power to issue orders that are “necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, points out that this act is limited to orders that don’t bypass other laws, violate the Constitution, or force a third party to act in a manner that is “unreasonably burdensome”.

Forcing Apple to rewrite portions of iOS in order for the FBI to gain access to the information on the iPhone 5c in question is, in my completely uneducated opinion, almost entirely unreasonably burdensome bullshit and, in the opinion of people who actually practice law, very likely unconstitutional.

Who Owns The Phone? It Don’t Matter, Dumbass.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was quoted on Buzzfeed News as saying the following regarding this whole kerfuffle:

I understand there are privacy concerns, but in this case the phone is owned by the county—which has consented to a search—and there is a valid search warrant… It’s not unreasonable for Apple to provide technical assistance when ordered by the court.

Sen. Feinstein is correct as to the owner of the phone — it was issued by the shitbag terrorist’s job for him, so it belongs to the county. However, if I were to call AppleCare and ask them to help me get back into my phone because I forgot my passcode (and my hands were cut off, preventing me from using Touch ID to get access), their answer would basically amount to a hearty shrug and an awkward apology. From Apple’s privacy page (emphasis mine):

Encryption protects trillions of online transactions every day. Whether you’re shopping or paying a bill, you’re using encryption. It turns your data into indecipherable text that can only be read by the right key. We’ve been protecting your data for over a decade with SSL and TLS in Safari, FileVault on Mac, and encryption that’s built into iOS. We also refuse to add a “backdoor” into any of our products because that undermines the protections we’ve built in. And we can’t unlock your device for anyone because you hold the key — your unique password. We’re committed to using powerful encryption because you should know the data on your device and the information you share with others is protected.

Admittedly, I don’t program software, so I don’t exactly know quite how an operating system is built, but I can’t imagine that rewriting the portions of iOS that handle the phone’s security are particularly easy to unravel. And it’s not like you can just rip out that one part and move on with your day, I’d wager — I’m sure there’s references all over the damn place to those security frameworks, and those will also have to be removed. That’s a ton of hours of paid labor that Apple will have to foot the bill on, and despite their hordes of cash, that’s not something any company should have to deal with.

Those costs and efforts wouldn’t be incurred to help out any other customer in the world, so why anyone would see it as completely reasonable and not at all burdensome is completely beyond me. However, that’s not the strongest argument Apple’s got up their sleeve: asking them to change their code to comply with a government order is kinda-sorta unconstitutional.

Code Is Speech, You Stupid Sons of Bitches.

One of the first victories the EFF got under their belt was Bernstein v. Department of Justice, where a student at Berkeley wanted to publish an algorithm he had created, a program to run that algorithm, and a paper that explains what the crap that algorithm does.

Fact: by the end of that sentence, I no longer had to spell-check “algorithm”.

Back in the 1900’s, the government designated encryption software as a munition, because logic. This meant that Bernstein would have to submit his idea to the DoJ, register as a freakin’ arms dealer, and apply for an export license in order to publish his findings online. That, as you might guess, was some grade-A bullcrap.

From the EFF:

The court eventually ruled that the export control laws on encryption violated Bernstein’s First Amendment rights by prohibiting his constitutionally protected speech, leading to regulatory changes that made it easier to publish encryption software online without the approval of the US government. Along the way, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in the Northern District of California issued the crucial first ruling that found that code is speech and so is protected by the First Amendment.

This court can find no meaningful difference between computer language, particularly high-level languages as defined above, and German or French….Like music and mathematical equations, computer language is just that, language, and it communicates information either to a computer or to those who can read it…

The EFF made this argument in a blog post last October: if code is speech, then forcing Apple to change their source code to work around iOS’s encryption should be considered “compelled speech”, which they are protected from under the First Amendment. They also argue that this would violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, but I’m not a lawyer, so I have absolutely no idea, nor do I feel like doing the Googling required to try and make those leaps of logic by myself.

Here’s The Thing

The FBI and DoJ are being willfully ignorant and ridiculously short-sighted in this… even ignoring the other issues regarding smartphone encryption, putting Apple in this position in the United States will likely give other governments a blueprint in how to get access to encrypted, too. As TechCrunch observed, we shouldn’t get bogged down in the technical details of what needs to be done for Apple to comply with the order… it’s a question of whether Apple should be compelled to comply with the order. Personally, I think you’d have to be a complete mouth-breathing weirdo to think that the benefits of breaking iOS’s encryption outweigh the damage it could cause.

Of course, I also happen to think that 99% of the people in the United States government are mouth-breathing weirdos, so I’m fairly concerned that this is going to end poorly.

Skeletor Yelling

h/t: Daring Fireball for a bunch of things, It’s A Very Nice Website for other stuff, and a whole mess o’ Googling.


Apple Releases the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case

Apple released the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case today:

Charge your iPhone and battery case simultaneously for increased talk time up to 25 hours, Internet use up to 18 hours on LTE, and even longer audio and video playback.* With the Smart Battery Case on, the intelligent battery status is displayed on the iPhone Lock screen and in Notification Center, so you know exactly how much charge you have left.

These improvements come at a pretty high cost, however: they make your phone look like a completely ugly piece of crap that was designed by a crazy person.

iPhone 6s Battery Case

The Verge’s hypothesis on this ridiculously horrible design is that it was done to avoid infringing on the patents held by Mophie, a company that makes iPhone battery cases that avoid looking like someone just duct taped a 4-pack of AA Energizers to the back of your phone, which makes perfect sense.

Personally, though, I’m going to believe that a few members of Apple’s design team have a bet going to see if even hideous monstrosities will sell well exclusively because they have an Apple logo on the back of them… It just makes me feel better about this for some reason.