How Apple Dodged Heartbleed

Daniel Eran Dilger, writing for AppleInsider:

Building its own security software meant that Apple and its developers were no longer captive to the external development issues and eccentricities related to the OpenSSL open source project, which despite its critical importance and broad use by the industry, was being funded through donations and was, incredibly, maintained by a very small team of just four core developers.

Interesting piece about Apple deciding to build their own cryptography API.

Yahoo as Default Search on iOS

Kara Swisher reports on Marissa Mayer’s attempt to convince Apple to switch iOS’s default search engine from Google to Yahoo. I don’t think I’ve ever used Yahoo search full time at any point in my life, and I don’t think Apple will go for it.

This is Amazon’s Smartphone

BGR got their hands on a prototype of Amazon’s upcoming smartphone. “Set to debut in the coming months,” the smartphone runs a highly customized version of Android and features a 3D interface that uses infrared cameras in all four corners of the screen to track face movement.

Samsung Misled Investors About 2011 Galaxy Tab Sales

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

When Strategy Analytics was telling the world that Samsung sold nearly 2 million Galaxy Tabs in six weeks, the truth was that it took Samsung all of 2011 to sell half that many in the U.S., its single biggest smartphone market.

(Via SchwarzTech.)

NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Years

What an embarrassment.

Researcher Proves Heartbleed Bug Exposes Private SSL Keys

Josh Ong, reporting for The Next Web:

Fedor Indutny, a core member of the node.js team, has proved that it is in fact possible for an attacker to sniff out the private SSL keys from a server left exposed by the Heartbleed bug. The proof came in response to a challenge from CloudFlare that called on the security community to grab the keys from a demo server.

If there was ever a doubt in your mind, this proves that the Heartbleed bug is the real deal.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

On That Rumored 12-inch MacBook Air

Stephen Hackett, regarding the recent rumors of a 12-inch MacBook Air:

Apple’s got a history of trying to ship Macs without fans — think iMac G3 and the G4 Cube — but nothing recently. The MacBook Pro with Retina display ships with asymmetric fans, and the new Mac Pro uses one large fan, but a modern Mac with no fan seems almost impossible.

I’m not sure about “impossible.” However, it does seem very unlikely in a notebook computer. But, Apple’s never been one to ignore things that seem impossible or unlikely.

I do disagree with Stephen when it comes to the size of notebook computers. He currently uses a 13-inch MacBook Air which he says “takes up a sizable amount of desk/lap space” and previously owned an 11.6-inch Air which he believed to be too small for him.

I’ve used an 11.6-inch MacBook Air since Apple released their mid-2011 models and I’ve absolutely loved the size. I can’t think of one reason over the past two-and-a-half years that I’ve had for wanting a bigger screen. If there is anything I’ve ever wanted more of it’s battery life, but I purchased my Air before Apple bumped the 11-inch’s battery up to nine hours — mine is rated at five.

Notebook size does have an affect on what size battery Apple is able to fit in the computer. But, I think that when you start talking about battery life above eight hours the differences are negligible for most users (including me). There could be benefits in releasing a 12-inch notebook rather than an 11-inch but I’m not sure what those would actually be.

If Apple releases a 12-inch MacBook Air I’m sure it will be a great product, but I’m not convinced that the size will be the best feature.

Automattic Acquires Longreads

Automattic is a company to watch. They don’t typically garner headlines, but they make great web services and products and every once in a while acquire companies that are doing neat things.

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

The developers of Threes speak on all of the recent rip-offs of their iOS game. I can’t imagine how it would feel to work for over a year on an iOS game, only for it to be cloned en masse and for some of those clones to be more popular than the original.

First Episode of ‘Silicon Valley’

HBO put the first episode of Silicon Valley on their YouTube channel earlier this week. I finally had a chance to watch it last night and it’s very good. This is the kind of show that makes me miss having cable.

11+ Sound 1

Andrew Kim showcases another product with some beautiful photographs. This time the 11+ Sound 1 bluetooth speakers. I’m still very happy with my Jawbone Jambox, but if I was in the market for a set of bluetooth speakers these would be high on my list of consideration.

Windows in the Car

Microsoft’s CarPlay competitor. I’m not sure why car manufacturers would build this into their vehicles when Windows Phone only takes up about 3% of the market.

This is Android TV

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

According to documents obtained exclusively by The Verge, Google is about to launch a renewed assault on your television set called Android TV. Major video app providers are building for the platform right now. Android TV may sound like a semantic difference — after all, Google TV was based on Android — but it’s something very different.

Everybody’s in the set-top box business.

Cortana, Microsoft’s Answer to Siri

Microsoft has been playing a lot of catch-up lately.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind Of A Mess

Dave Smith reviews the Amazon Fire TV for ReadWrite:

Unfortunately, the device doesn’t live up to its own hype. Perhaps Amazon’s homegrown solution was a bit premature and its ambitions too lofty, because while Fire TV can do almost everything, little of it is done right.

Dave wasn’t happy with the device. He talks about how quick the user interface is but also points out that the voice search functionality only works for Amazon’s own video content.

Perhaps it was rushed to market.

Rumored Apple TV Updates

Mark Gurman, back in January, details updates to the Apple TV that his sources expect to see this year. Mark also points to Phil Dzikiy’s reporting on iLounge that games will be coming to the Apple TV. At the time Phil believed that the release for such an update would come in March or earlier. But, it would make more sense for an announcement such as this to take place at WWDC where they’re speaking to developers interested in making games for the device.

Maybe Amazon pushed the Fire TV out the door because they knew Apple was going to be announcing something big for the Apple TV soon.

Thoughts on the Amazon Fire TV

Amazon has announced and released the Fire TV. Many of the gadget websites have spent some time with it and I’m hopeful that the device will shake up the streaming media market. I don’t expect I will ever have one in my living room, though. I’m currently entrenched in iTunes video content and I’m not terribly interested in switching to a new media ecosystem.

Beyond the Fire TV’s inability to playback iTunes content, the biggest problem I have with the device is its remote. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure its a fine remote. But I own a Logitech Harmony One for my living room and a Logitech Harmony 880 for my bedroom, both of which are unable to control the Fire TV because of its reliance on Bluetooth. I understand that in order to have the voice search functionality they backed themselves into a corner and were forced to avoid IR, but this is probably the biggest deal breaker for me. I love my Logitech remotes and have been using them for over five years, I’m not ready to switch so that I can have access to voice search and Amazon Instant Video content.

It is interesting that most of the features that the Fire TV has that the Apple TV doesn’t can be added by pairing the Apple TV with an iOS device. Not only can you simply AirPlay Amazon Instant Video content, but you can also use your voice to conduct searches with Apple’s Remote app (simply tap the microphone key on the iOS device’s keyboard when performing a search). I don’t want to understate how important AirPlay is to Apple when it comes to competing with other streaming media boxes. The Fire TV does have similar functionality when paired with the Kindle Fire HDX but it isn’t as ubiquitously available in all applications. But, what AirPlay does for Apple is always give them a feature to point to when a competing set-top box has access to more streaming media services than the Apple TV. AirPlay gives Apple a leg-up on the competition when it comes to the number playback options available.

One thing that’s very interesting about this announcement is Amazon’s decision to compete with the Apple TV and others based on specs. Amazon is listing the box’s specs pretty high on the card, right underneath its integration with Prime Instant Video and voice search. Amazon seems to think that users are going to buy this box because it has 2GB of memory and a quad-core processor. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but real consumers never bought a DVD player because it loaded discs faster than other DVD players. People like us did, but we don’t take up the lion’s share of the market. Consumers that aren’t tech enthusiasts care about being able to watch the content they care about, features, and price. Luckily Amazon is doing fairly well in all three of those fronts, which is why I’m confused as to why they’re trying to compete based on specs. I understand that having higher-end hardware allows the Fire TV to have neat features like ASAP, which preloads content it thinks your going to watch, but the Fire TV have far more impressive features that separate you from the rest of the market. Why would you spend time talking about something that most users don’t understand when you could talk about landmark features that separate you from the competition?

According to Amazon’s comparison chart (I can’t believe they made a comparison chart) the Fire TV is blowing away the competition with its gaming features. The only other dedicated streaming media box that has access to games is the Roku 3 which according to Amazon’s comparison chart (never mind this thing might come in handy) has less than one hundred titles available while the Fire TV has over a hundred titles and an optional gaming controller. The Fire TV is built on Android so I don’t expect it will take developers too much work to make their games available for the new streaming box. If I was a developer I would be very interested to see how the Fire TV does and I’d be prepared to start porting my games to it. The Fire TV has the potential to sell very well if Amazon pushes it properly and I wouldn’t want to leave money on the table by ignoring potential customers.

Amazon’s game controller is available separately for $39.99. And, it is the same incredibly ugly controller that surfaced a few weeks ago. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier spent some time with the controller saying “It’s a lot like an Xbox 360 controller, with some extra media buttons and a significantly worse d-pad.” That’s not exactly a raving endorsement, but it’s much better than I was expecting. Hearing that it’s a lot like an Xbox 360 controller doesn’t excite me at all — I’m more of a Playstation controller guy, more specifically the Playstation 2 controller before they ruined the L2 and R2 buttons. But, the Xbox 360 sold incredibly well and I don’t blame them for trying to make their controller feel like a 360 controller. A lot of gamers feel very at home on an Xbox 360 controller.

One of the most understated features of the Amazon Fire TV is FreeTime Unlimited, likely because it isn’t coming out until next month. But, according to Amazon’s Fire TV product page:

FreeTime Unlimited is an all-you-can-eat content subscription designed for kids ages 3 to 8 that brings together movies, TV shows, apps, and games that kids and parents love. Subscribers enjoy unlimited access to content from Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and more from just $2.99 per month.

This is a huge deal. Netflix has their Just for Kids section and now Amazon Instant Video has a competing feature. And, it’s cheaper to boot. My sister and brother-in-law have two young children and I can imagine them purchasing a Fire TV for the kid’s play room specifically for this service. Especially if they lock the rest of the box down and dedicate exclusively to FreeTime Unlimited. I haven’t been able to find a lot of details regarding the service other than what Amazon mentioned on their product page, but I’m interested to see how the service actually works and get more concrete details on pricing other than “from just $2.99 a month.”

The Amazon Fire TV is a neat little box that has some really interesting features. But, I can’t help but wonder what Apple has in store for the Apple TV in the future. I think the writing’s been on the wall for a while, eventually the Apple TV will get an App Store with games and more robust media applications. I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t happened yet — every year I sort of expect an Apple TV SDK to be announced at WWDC and we still haven’t seen anything yet. Maybe Amazon will put enough pressure on Apple to force them to make a move. I don’t play a lot of video games anymore, but I’m sure I’d find myself playing a game or two if the option was available on my living room’s primary source of content.

Craig Hockenberry on Wearable Computing

Required reading for anyone even mildly interested in where wearable computing could be going.

Apple iPod Hi-Fi

Andrew Kim, taking a trip down memory lane:

It was 2006. Apple was dominating the mp3-player market and so far ahead of the competition that it wasn’t funny anymore. Apple pulled a classic Sony move and introduced the unbelievably compact iPod nano a year before. To annoy everyone even further, they also launched what is arguably the best iPod in history, the 5th generation iPod. So what was there to do for Apple? Build a speaker for the iPod of course.

There’s some beautiful photography in this piece talking about the iPod Hi-Fi — one of Apple’s few blunders over the past decade. Like Andrew, I’ve always had a fondness for the device. I never owned one — it was a bit too expensive for me — but I always wanted one. I even spent a brief period of time contemplating buying a used one on eBay after they were discontinued.

Amazon Dash

Every barcode scanner device reminds me of the CueCat. The Dash does seem a lot more useful, but I can’t help but wonder if this is really more convenient than searching for and ordering the item on your smartphone.

World Wide Developer Conference Starts June 2

Apple is changing the way they’re selling WWDC tickets this year:

Developers can apply for tickets via the WWDC website now through Monday, April 7 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, and tickets will be issued to attendees through random selection. Developers will know their status by Monday, April 7 at 5:00 p.m. PDT. There will also be 200 Student Scholarships available, giving students around the world the chance to earn a free ticket.

Crackle Obtains Exclusive Streaming Rights to NBCUniversal Films

From the press release:

Crackle and NBCUniversal Television & New Media Distribution today announced an exclusive, multi-year content licensing deal to stream feature films from NBCUniversal’s rich film library on the free, ad-supported streaming service. Beginning today, Crackle users will instantly have access to several new premium library feature films, with more than 140 new library titles rolling out over the next three years.

It’s always a good when more good quality content becomes available to cord cutters.

(Via Engadget.)

Amazon Announces ‘Fire TV’

Amazon has entered the streaming media box market today with their newly announced Fire TV. Watch streaming video from many of the same sources available on the Apple TV and Roku headlined by Amazon Instant Video.

The Fire TV includes an Bluetooth remote with a built in microphone to make use of the Fire TV’s voice search feature. Amazon is also selling a gaming controller to pair with your Fire TV to play a library of 100+ titles available at launch including Minecraft, Asphalt 8, and The Game of Life.

Google Mandates ‘Powered by Android’ Branding on New Devices

Russell Holly, writing for Geek.com:

Android is not a household brand. Google is but, despite having a significant portion of the global marketshare, their smartphone OS is not. And as long as hardware manufacturers are allowed to design their own user interfaces for Android, it’s going to be very difficult for the average consumer to look at a Nexus 5, an HTC One M8, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 and know that they are all running the exact same operating system. Google is hoping to change that, and one method the company has started to use is mandating that the phrase “Powered by Android” be present during the boot animation on new phones.

Android isn’t looking any better to me. And, I can’t imagine Android is looking any better to smartphone manufacturers. Google continues to enact new policies that don’t seem to fall in line with the way Google wants users and manufacturers to perceive their brand. Stuff like this doesn’t make me want to buy an Android phone, it makes me want to avoid them.

On a side note, why do websites like Geek.com think it’s a good idea to have these floating navigation bars along the top and/or bottom of their webpage? It doesn’t look good and I see less and less of your actual content — content that I came to your website to see. And, it’s especially annoying on smaller screened devices like tablets, smartphones, and smaller-screened laptops. Cut it out.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

Thoughts on Office for iPad

Jim Dalrymple on Microsoft’s recent release of Office for iPad:

Microsoft is about four years late in solving a problem for users. The suite of apps should have been released near the introduction of the original iPad in order for it to have a full impact. Unfortunately, the delay gave—or forced—users to find an alternative. And they did—iWork.

Microsoft is too late to the party to make any waves. Four years is an eternity in software development — people have moved on and found alternatives and I doubt Microsoft is going to convert anyone other than large companies that are already invested in the Office ecosystem.