Steve Jobs 1 – Adobe 0

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Apparently Steve’s bet on mobile platforms free from Flash will have ramifications beyond Apple IOS devices.

While competitors happily used the lack of Flash support to help spur sells of their non-Apple devices, Adobe has now abandoned a strategy to continue to develop Flash for mobile devices (I think they mean mobile OS’s) and instead will work more diligently to comply with the HTML5 standard.

More information can be found in the exclusive ZDNet article here.

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Simple AirPlay setup for whole house audio

I’ve been enamored with home audio since I was a very young.  I can recall turning on radios in separate rooms of the house so I could run from room to room playing my guitar along with the radio, preparing myself for future “rock-stardom”.  Fortunately for us all the long hair and spandex didn’t survive the 80’s but my desire to have audio in every room of the house didn’t.

Since then, I’ve spent more time (and money) than I should trying to build a fully distributed, multi-source audio distribution system, or what has been marketed at Whole House Audio but the big A/V vendors.  None of these efforts have been inexpensive, user friendly, or as functional as I would have wished.

Needless to say, I was very excited at the potential uses of AirPlay when it was initially introduced by Apple.  Utilizing this feature built into IOS devices and iTunes, you can easily put together a reasonable system (from a cost and complexity standpoint) that will give you fairly good results.

I’m certain there are more ways to do this than I’ll give you here, so please don’t flame me for forgetting your preferred method….

Step 1 – Start with a source

The most basic of AirPlay sources is iTunes.  If you’ve accepted iTunes to be your central storage for all digital media, this gives you a good based from which to start. iTunes gives you a lot of flexibility here and can easily be controlled via the Apple remote app from any IOS device.

From iTunes or the Remote app you can select your music or playlist as well as the destinations within your home.  Each AirPlay target has a separate audio level control available so you can balance out the levels to your preference (or the devices capability).

If you don’t want to use your media library and you prefer to stream your music selections, you are in luck.  You can use a streaming source, like Pandora, to feed AirPlay.  In this case I will use an iPad which I have Pandora set up on.  Launch the app and start playing your preferred playlist.  Once it starts you can double-click the home button to bring up the “multitasking bar”, swipe to the right and you’ll see your audio controls, from there you can click on the AirPlay button to choose which target you would like to use.

Step 2 – Simple target devices (or audio destinations)

Since AirPlay has been out for just over a year now and manufacturers are now starting to integrate it’s features into their devices.  Audio/Video receivers from Denon and many small speaker/dock devices have implemented AirPlay, but I’ve yet to see one of these solutions that are reasonably priced to use if you wanted to stream music to say 5-7 locations in or around your home.

The approach I’ve taken doesn’t really care if the speakers or stereos are “AirPlay enabled” or not.  In fact, most of my target systems are built from either powered speakers or systems we’ve had in our home far longer than the existence of AirPlay.

So how do I connect them?

One of the simplest and underrated devices from Apple is the Airport Express.  While it has the capability to extend your wireless network (albeit at the expense of your throughput), make USB devices like hard drives or printers wireless, or provide ethernet connectivity to a non-wireless device, the biggest feature is it’s ability to be an endpoint in an AirPlay environment.

On every airport express is a combination mini-toslink and analog miniplug connection.  So you can connect to a RCA input with a mini to RCA cable or directly to a digital input with the mini-toslink to toslink cable.  I am very aware that Apple sells a nice “kit” with both these cables for an astonishing $39.  A quick Google search will find an appropriate cable for your application for less than $5 per cable.

I have Airport Expresses using both options.  Where I have a bookshelf stereo unit with optical input, I’ve connected the AE via the toslink cable.  However in a simple and somewhat portable setup, I’ve used another AE simply connected to a pair of powered computer speakers.  With these two options, you can probably accomodate most any stereo or powered speaker setup you have in place today.

To extend my options a bit further, I’ve also utilized Apple TV2s as target devices for AirPlay.  ATV2s fit quite a different category of use verses the AE.  The biggest difference for me is the lack of an analog audio out on the ATV2.  While it has a full size optical output, it can perform the same function as an AE connected to a receiver with an optical input.  This is truly a matter of preference, do what you wish here.  The deciding point for me is what is the end device.  If it’s really at TV, then the ATV2 is the preferred component.  If it’s an audio only device, then the AE is my preferred device.

So now rooms like bedrooms and the family room don’t necessarily have to have a dedicated audio system in them to have audio streamed to them.  The downside to this particular option is that you have to have the television on in those rooms in order to have the audio output.  Whereas you can leave the stereo or speakers connected to the AE always on and set to a preferred volume level.

Step 3 – MultiSource?

While not a traditional multi-source setup, you can get a similar function from this setup.  I cannot use iTunes running from my central media server to serve up different playlists to different rooms/targets.  This would be a wonderful feature if someone on the iTunes dev team could work that out.  However you can use a couple of sources (possibly multiple iTunes or IOS devices) to control separate sets of speakers.  So my daughters could use the iPad to connect to speakers in the bedrooms upstairs to play Radio Disney while I have iTunes or my iPhone streaming music to all the speakers downstairs or outside.

If you’re looking to distribute audio on a fairly reasonable budget, I don’t believe you can easily beat this setup.  It definitely gives you a lot of flexibility about what you want to put where (from a target perspective) and can easily grow to fit your needs.  As each iTunes and IOS update come out, I eagerly look to see what new AirPlay options may be enabled.  Especially as Apple starts to introduce the ability to distribute video in the same manner.  But that’s a whole other topic…

Cell Phone Ghost Ring?

Have you ever had the sensation that your cell phone was ringing, only to reach into your pocket to find out it wasn’t?

This is an occurrence of what I like to call, a ghost ring. As, by nature, humans are creatures of habit, and most of us will have our cell phone in the same pocket every day.  Because of this repetitiveness our nervous systems have “learned” this sensation.  Technically this is like the phantom limb sensation that amputees would sense.  Neurologist have come to understand that this is is due to modifications in the  somatosensory cortex.  In case you don’t know what that is (I didn’t) it is the main sensory receptive area in the brain for the sense of touch.

When the phone rings (and thus vibrates) there is an external sensation that everyone senses.  When this happens consistently over time the brain becomes more and more accustom to the repetitiveness of this sensation.  Much like the phantom sensations of amputees, when the device is removed there is an “expectation” of the brain for the sensation to occur and thus, it does.

I became very excited about a post on this idea because I thought I may have been on to something.  Certainly there are thousands of closet ghost ring sufferers out there who are simply waiting for someone to lead them out of the darkness (okay, maybe that’s a little over the top…)

As with any good idea, you want to Google it to make sure it’s not already been addressed elsewhere.  I will admit I was a little disheartened when I immediately saw a result from Urban Dictionary.

ghost ring – when one feels a vibration in their leg, as if their cell phone was ringing, but actually the cell phone was not on vibrate, or was absent altogether

But beyond this posting, there wasn’t anything else noted.  So remember you heard it here first… unless you happened to read it on Urban Dictionary. 🙂

DISCLAIMER: All of my medical training comes from prime time television and the Internet… so before any neurologist call me crazy or incorrect, please keep this in mind.

Indian Government “give us access to all email!”, RIM “I’m sorry we can’t do that, would you like some text messages?”

Image representing Research In Motion as depic...

Image via CrunchBase

I have expressed concern in the past with RIMs position that it would explore providing access to communications between it’s devices in some countries.  My concern had usually stemmed from the fact that RIM has a proprietary encryption system and has sold itself to the business community as being the most secure communication medium for cellular devices.

As China, India, and Germany have pushed RIM and demanded access to their communications in order to continue to operate in their regions, I’ve waited to see what the ultimate outcome of this standoff would be.  Would RIM hold it’s line on securing it’s platform and risk loosing the ability to do business in those countries or would it cave to the demands of these governments (and in my opinion risk loosing much more business in many other countries).

Well it appears the answer is BOTH!  Fortunately the communications that go through RIMs network and their communication servers (the BES) will not be opened to these parties.  However RIM has offered that it can, and will provide Blackberry Messenger communications, if the proper local legal procedures have been followed to request those messages.

So what does that mean?

Emails and communications that use RIMs Enterprise services (i.e. the Blackberry Enterprise Server services) remain encrypted with the proprietary encryption and will not be accessible.  These communication services are dependant on the BES server being in place and sending and receiving communications.

What is available is the Blackberry Messenger service which utilizes PIN messaging.  What the key difference is that this is nothing more than a fancy interface into SMS messages that traverse the carriers secondary cellular channel and can provide messages directly from device to device without the need of a BES server.  Because this avoids the enterprise server (and the logging capabilities of the server) many users prefer this method of communication as they know their employer is not able to see/log the messages they send each other (without physically having the device).

Will the Indian gov’t accept this as meeting their initial request?  No, not likely.  However it was a pretty good concession by RIM to provide something without completely jeopardizing their ability to provide service in these regions.  I applaud RIM for not conceding and providing access to their encryption scheme.  I hope they can hold the line on this one…

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iOS 4.2 is out! Update your iDevice!

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Image via CrunchBase

While many people (me included) are happy to update their devices to iOS 4.2 for the new features enabled, most are not aware of the security fixes included that are also necessary.  iOS 4.2 (like many iOS updates prior) includes fixes to address multiple vulnerabilities. Exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code, initiate a call, cause a denial-of-service condition, gain system privileges, or obtain sensitive information on your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch.  (While there is an update for AppleTV also, I’m not aware of what, if any, vulnerabilities were addressed with that update).

A quick overview of these fixes includes fixing an issue with the new iAD service where the ads could send you to malicious sites, fixing mail issues where properly formatted HTML emails could send information back to the sender of the email, and a network issue where properly formatted PIM messages could cause a denial of service situation or the device to completely shut down.

To see a full list of the vulnerabilities addressed, please see Apple’s security page here:  http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4456

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Android and iPhone exploits revealed in past week

Over the weekend, a new Web-based jailbreak became available for iOS devices, offering users a simple method to open their devices to installation of unauthorized third-party applications.  An error in the processing of Compact Font Format (CFF) data within PDF files can be exploited to execute arbitrary code e.g. when a user visits a specially crafted web page using Mobile Safari.

This is applicable to any iOS 4 device (all new iPhone 4s, iPads and any upgraded iPhone 3G and 3Gs).  On of the main features of iOS 4 was the SandBoxing approach to applications.  This exploit bypasses the SandBoxing by exploiting a third party app.  I have to say this doesn’t help Adobe’s popularity in Cupertino.

Time will tell if Apple will release a patch to iOS to resolve the issue or if Adobe will have to update their code.  For the time being, the best advice is to browse “safely” (if that’s really possible anymore) or just not browse at all.

The Andriod exploit has a completely different twist on it.  Spider Labs released a DVD at Defcon last week that provided a method to root the device.  Once the exploit is applied the Android device acts as a bot for the hacker who has full remote-control over the device providing access to all the user information on it.  What makes this more interesting is that Spider Labs is an ethical hacking team using this approach to incentivize manufacturer to provide  a fix to the issue more quickly.

“It wasn’t difficult to build,” said Nicholas Percoco, head of Spider Labs, who along with a colleague, released the tool at the Defcon hacker’s conference in Las Vegas on Friday.  Percoco said it took the team about two weeks to build the malicious software.

CNET reported that there were ten companies had data compromised.  The list included Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Apple, and Google amongst others.  All information was solicited through one phone call to an employee of the company.

************** UPDATE Aug 5th **********************

CNET has posted that Apple has acknowledged the issue and already have a fix.  They did not mention when it would be released but a software update is imminent.

************** UPDATE Aug 11th *********************

Apple has released iOS 4.0.2 for iPhone and iTouch as well as iOS 3.2.2 for the iPad to address this vulnerability.  Of course the a side effect to addressing this vulnerability is that it now breaks the functionality of JailbreakMe 2.0.  Not that this should be a surprise.