Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update: Apple has posted a Q&A page with information about the data in question, exactly what that data is, and changes they have planned.

This is, well... it's at least very interesting. Which is to say, it’s something that has to make you wonder: Even when core location tracking is not active, apparently your iOS4 device is keeping a log of everywhere it goes. Which is to say, everywhere it goes with you.

The four images here are a visualization of the info harvested from my own iPad, retrieved automatically from a iTunes backup of my iPad on my Mac (click on each of the images to view full-size). I should note that the locations are actually displayed in a less accurate fashion (visually) by the program that generates the map plots, so as to somewhat avoid any issues and abuse associated with exact location tracking. The information in the data file being analyzed is substantially more accurate and detailed.

From cell tower triangulation (it appears this is where the data comes from), you can see a cross country trip I took with a friend from New York to New Mexico, visits to the Denver/Boulder area, and of course a whole slew of travel around the Pacific northwest, where I live.

Also of interest is that I very recently (within the past two months) had my iPad replaced when the sync jack went bad, yet much of the data is from the old iPad in addition to the new one. Obviously when I restored a backup on the old one to the new one, the data was retained as part of the restore. Interesting. Also, there's location info that's recorded on mine, and in some cases I don't see the location data for areas I know I have been to. I'm not completely sure of the rhyme or reason for that.

Video of the two guys who discovered this and created the visualization program is here. They discuss how this was discovered and go into some detail about the data, where it lives and what they found. Video is via the Where 2.0 conference.

Got a 3G iPhone or iPad? You can run the "iPhone Tracker" app on your own Mac and see what your iTunes backup has sitting around on your computer. If your iTunes backups are encrypted (not a default setting) the data is still there but it's not readable.

On it's face and in isolation this is not exactly a huge deal. The location data is not being sent anywhere as far as we know. It resides on your iPad or iPhone (3G models) and on your computer where you sync to iTunes. Well, that's assuming you don't sync to someone else's computer, of course. In that case, they might have your location data available to view and play with.

And really, that's why this could be a big deal, on some level. And it's not just that the data is being collected, cataloged, stored and exists, it's that it's been there since iOS4 was released, and we didn't know because no one really noticed until now. Someone had to get curious, poke around, dig into the data and discover it by accident. Makes you wonder what other info might be hanging around in places we don't know about, eh?

Hopefully Apple will explain exactly what all the data is, why it's there and how it's used - in great detail. It can't be there for no reason, and I can think of a few cool reasons for collecting the data, but unencrypted and no notification of tracking is a little concerning to me. I'm looking forward to hearing from Apple to understand more.



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Apple | IT Security | Mobile
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 5:25:29 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I’ve been a Google Voice (and before that GrandCentral) user for a few years now. It’s a terrific service that provides One Phone Number to Rule Them All, so to speak. You can associate multiple different phone accounts (land, mobile, satellite, whatever suits you) with one Google Voice number and can change them at any time. So, anyone can dial or send text messages to your Google Voice number, and you control which phones ring and when, and where your text messages go.

Today Google announced that they are offering a service for $20 that allows you to port your existing mobile phone number to Google Voice, which means you can start using GV without having to take on a whole new phone number. That’s a great thing when you want to avoid the hassles of getting people to start using a new number.

But there are a few things you should know before you make this move, so you can be sure it’s for you.

Google Voice supports most – but but not all – of the features you have on a typical mobile/smart-phone plan. Certainly you will be able to receive calls, get voice mail, and send/receive text messages (especially on Android with the awesome GV app).

There are, however, a few common mobile features that are not supported by Google Voice:

  • Multi-media Messaging Service (MMS): If you like to send video, picture or audio messages to your friends and family, Google Voice can’t do this. I regularly have to tell people trying to send me their video or picture to send it to my email or my actual cell phone number provided by the carrier (which I don’t give out – that would defeat the whole purpose of Google Voice). So, if MMS and one number if critical for you, you should wait until GV gets around to supporting this.
  • Calls to your Google Voice number are not counted as calls to a mobile number for the purpose of mobile carrier call plans. So mobile-to-mobile minutes won’t get accounted for in the same way.
  • With a couple of exceptions, calls you make from phones attached to you Google Voice account will not show up on called ID as having come from your Google Voice number. The exceptions to this are when calls are initiated through the GV web app (in which case Google’s systems dial you up on your phone then connect you to the person you’re dialing) and a few of the GV mobile apps like the ones for Android and iPhone. The Android app actually builds itself into the Android OS’ dialing system and it’s truly seamless. On the iPhone you need to dial using the Google Voice app.
  • For text messages to be sent to mobile phones and for them to appear as coming from your GV account phone number, they need to be sent through the GV service, too. This means using the Google Voice interface on Android OS (which you can set as your text messaging default, by the way), via the iPhone app, etc., or from the most useful Google Voice web app interface mentioned earlier. I use the web app all the time for text messaging from my computer browser. But it’s different, so you need to realize that.
  • Text messages sent by applications and to/from short message codes (like Skype, your bank, etc.) don’t work.

That said, Google Voice is a terrific service that lets you have one phone number that can ring and deliver messages across several other phones. I use two Google Voice numbers – one I give out as my home phone and the other is for work calls. If I am working from my home office, both numbers cause my home phone to ring, but no one actually knows the number of my home phone – they just know the GV number that I gave them. If I move or far whatever reason change hone phone or work or cell phone numbers, I don’t have to worry about telling anyone. I just change the associated numbers in my Google Voice account. If I am on vacation somewhere across the country for a few days and want calls made to my home GV number - but only from my family members - to ring a phone number at my friend’s house, but only after 8am and before 11pm, and not during the next two hours because I want to get a nap… Google Voice can do that for me, too. It’s really quite powerful and easy to set up.

You can set schedules for different phones, and having a complete history of every call, voice mail and text message available in the browser app is really very nice. If any of the phone numbers associated with the different phones you have connected to your GV account and number should change in the future, there’s no need to tell the world. The people you know can just keep dialing your GV number, and in the background you can change that number that AT&T gave you back in the day when you got your first iPhone and point it at your new Verizon number. Hey, I’m just sayin’...

More information about porting numbers and Google Voice in general can be found at:



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Android | Apple | Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 1:43:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Earlier today, I was working in my home office and using my iPad alongside my computer. I started a download to update some app data on the iPad, which was fully charged at the time, and went back to my computer to do work-related stuff.

A couple hours later I went back to the iPad and pressed the home button to try to wake it up, with no response. I tried the wake/sleep/power button, same lack of response. Thinking it might be a dead battery (but wondering how that could happen in such a short period of time) I plugged it into the charger and left it there. Normally that would result in some screen activity if the battery had died, but after a couple hours on the charger the iPad was still dead.

After several minutes of futzing around with the iPad on and off the charger, and pushing every button on the iPad, I remembered a button combination that's used to execute a power reset and boot the iPad into recovery mode.

So, I did that combo, holding the Power/Sleep and Home buttons down at the same time for around 15 seconds while the iPad was on the charger. Sure enough, the iPad restarted and fired right up normally. It had a partial charge (about what you'd expect for the amount of time it had been running on battery before it died) and WiFi was disconnected, but after reconnecting to my WiFi network things were all back to normal.

Hopefully this saves someone a trip to the Apple Store or a call to the fine folks at Apple Support.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:53:39 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, December 24, 2010

For people looking to add some last-minute fun to the "here comes Christmas" time, a friend let me know about a cool video service at http://www.portablenorthpole.tv/ that lets you do some serious customization and personalization, with the end result being a personal message for the recipient from Santa himself. And, best of all, it's free!

The message topic, various phrases, recipient name, nickname and a photo can be specified by you, and it only takes a few minutes to do the whole thing. Plus, anyone can do it. The site walks you through all the steps one at a time. There's also a mobile version at the Apple App Store.

If you want to see an example of a personalized video, you can check one out here.



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Friday, December 24, 2010 11:12:19 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, December 23, 2010

Time has come for Jolly Ol' Saint Nick to pay his visits to the good little girls and boys this year. Here are a couple resources you can use with the kiddos to interact with Santa and build up some additional excitement for the Christmas event.

As always, NORAD is tracking Santa's progress throughout the Christmas delivery window. You can go with your kids to http://noradsanta.org for lots of information and links to various tracking resources. There's even a mobile version of the site (m.noradsanta.org) and a Twitter feed (twitter.com/noradsanta). Oh, and on Facebook, too at http://facebook.com/noradsanta of course. Here is the obligatory YouTube video:


But, that's not all. For those parents who might want to arrange a call from the Jolly Old Elf himself, there's an app (or two or three) for that. For those living in the Android world, here are a couple:

CALLME! Christmas - Allows you to choose a child's name and a message and receive a "phone call" (actually an app that plays the audio locally) that you can answer with your child. Lots of good options and pretty cool.

Christmas Call from Santa - This one allows you to receive up to four actual calls. In this case, any phone can be used and a real phone call comes in with a good or "don't be naughty" greeting.

And - from the BONUS department - Check out the interactive Talking Santa (free) app in the Android Market. It's a lot of fun and the kids will enjoy it.

For those without a smartphone, there's also a service on the web called Santa's Hotline that you can use to arrange calls to your child - by name - from Santa. You schedule and choose the call. Very cool.

Merry Christmas everyone!



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Android | Random Stuff
Thursday, December 23, 2010 11:07:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, December 09, 2010

I recently went on a trip across the country with a good friend, and ended up in the town where we grew up – Los Alamos, New Mexico. My final stop before returning to Oregon was the Four Corners area – Farmington, Durango and Shiprock. Here are a few pictures from the New Mexico portion of the trip, which a few people have asked for hi-res copies of. You can click on each one to see the full size version, and then right-click on the large version and choose to save it to your computer if you like. And since it comes up more often than not eventually, please note that commercial or publication use just requires asking nicely. :)

Shiprock, New Mexico

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Front Hill Road view, Los Alamos, New Mexico

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Clines Corners, New Mexico

ClinesCornersSign

Fence, 210 North Allen

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Photography | Random Stuff
Thursday, December 09, 2010 1:04:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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