#349 iBooks Author, Omnifocus, LIST!, iHandy Level, Silicone iPhone Cases, SOPA/PIPA

Why you might want to subscribe to the NosillaCast News. Blindfolded! at Macworld | iWorld. iBooks 2, iBooks Author change the textbook industry over night. Teleporting Manhattan Repertory or Super-Speed Project Management using Mac Apps, Ios Apps and Apple Gear – Part 2 using OmniFocus, an IOS application called LIST! and iHandy Level Free from iHandysoft Inc. George from Tulsa recommends silicone iPhone cases from Amzer and TPU Silicone Skin. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart explains SOPA and PIPA, why we care and why even though these particular bills have been stopped, we need to keep paying attention.


Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday January 22nd, 2012 and this is show number 349.

NosillaCast News

So last week was fun, wasn’t it? You woke up Monday morning all excited about the latest episode of the NosillaCast…or like Timothy Gregoire, happy to have some company on his 1.5 hour commute? But then, what the heck? No NosillaCast? Has the earth stopped spinning on its axis? Was she hit by a train?

You can thank Libsyn for that little interruption in service. I uploaded the show to Libsyn at around 6pm as usual, had a lovely dinner of filet mignon with a nice Merlot, and then sat down to finish up the Web site part of the work, and then I hit publish. The first thing Steve and I do is check iTunes to make sure it downloads properly and that’s the first chance I give Steve to check to make sure the audio is in good shape. Well imagine our dismay when we hit refresh, the little spinny thing started to spin and then it stopped.

I re-uploaded the audio to Libsyn as soon as this happened, hoping it was just a borked upload. No joy. then I started poking in the Libsyn interface, and noticed that it was recognizing the correct file type and file size. No way it could do that if the file was borked when it got to them. If you haven’t heard me complain about Libsyn before, this will be new to you, but get this – for a PAID FOR SERVICE, they provide NO weekend tech support! the only good news at this point was that the Twitter name @libsyn actually was paying attention and was very sympathetic, but the person behind the name was sad to tell me that he/she had no technical expertise and could’t get it fixed for me. I’m not sure why that worked to calm me down but it actually did. I felt like at least they felt bad…I opened a ticket with Libsyn and went to bed.

I sent an email first thing Monday morning to the president of Wizzard Media, Rob Walch, and I was surprised to get an immediate response that he was escalating the ticket. I’d noticed it came back as a priority #2 ticket – perhaps because it only affected a few people. Before 8am, the problem was fixed and the show was finally available.

So here’s the thing. If you followed me on Twitter, you knew all this. And if you subscribed to the NosillaCast News, you also had an early warning system. If you want to be notified when things go borky, please subscribe to the NosillaCast News by filling out the teeny tiny little form on the left sidebar over at podfeet.com. It’s quick, it’s easy and I promise not to spam you. You’ll get one email a week telling you the show came out on schedule, OR a notice if something went wrong, and you get special notices of contests and that sort of thing.

I hope this whole mess didn’t ruin your week!

Blindfolded!

I’m getting REALLY excited about Macworld | iWorld. This is last call for the NosillaCastaways party on Friday night from 6-8 at Jillians in the Metreon, so if you’re going to be in San Francisco, make sure you register by clicking the NosillaCastaways Party 2012 link in the header at podfeet.com and enter the double secret password. We will be having people checking this list. We have about twice as many people rsvp’d to the party as last year, so we’re actually in a new bigger room with a pool table!

If you’re not going to be there, there’s a way to join virtually. We’ll be doing a Google+ Hangout during the party, so check your timezones and circle me up. We’re going to use my Samson Meteor Mic and a set of headphones so you’ll actually be able to hear people and they’ll hear you. We’ll have a virtual party going on too. Hope that works!

I’m now confident that Blindfolded! will actually be a success. I did a full dry run of it with a small group the other day and they gave me some good feedback especially in crisping up the charts. I stink at charts so that help was sorely needed. The only bad thing is that I JUST made it through in 45 minutes. And that was without any questions. I usually go way faster when I’m in the moment – guess I get more nervous than I realize, so it might work out ok. I sure better get in right on time though, if the person before me is a moment over I’ll go out of my mind! We have a lot to set up beforehand too. Remember Steve will be recording the whole thing so you will be able to see it and hear it no matter where you are. If you’re at the show PLEASE come, if you’re not but you know people who are tell them to come (11am on Thursday btw), and under all circumstances wish me luck!!!

iBooks 2 & iBooks Author

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock, you’ve already heard about Apple’s education announcement this week where they claim to have reinvented the text book. I wanted to walk through it a bit here and give you my perspective on what the tools are like and what I think it means to the industry. To recap (for those with their heads under rocks), Apple announced a couple of big things First they announced that they have signed on the three largest US textbook publishers, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Now I’ve heard of the first one (just about every text book I had in college was from them, but evidently if you add the three of them together, they account for something like 90% of the textbook market.

So what did they sign them on to do? They got them to agree to deliver educational titles in the iBookstore with “most priced at $14.99 or less”. That’s huge. Now this new textbook section of the iBooktore would be fun by itself, but the next piece of the puzzle is the introduction of a tool called iBooks Author, free on OSX and available immediately. This tool allows anyone to create interactive textbooks and distribute them through iBooks for sale, or give away for free through any channel. I’ll get into that in a bit too.

They were brilliant in this introduction phase. You can download iBooks2 immediately on iPad and iPhone, and you can even download the first couple of chapters for free of several real textbooks made with iBooks Author. These things are amazing. Think about a textbook about anatomy with maybe a color photo of a heart. Now imagine an electronic book where you can rotate the heart around in space to see the full shape of it, or even have it demonstrate in a live video how it pumps. Which would be more successfully stored in your brain, or more useful when you became a doctor and pulled a heart out in your hands? I’m thinking that color image isn’t so useful.

The entire concept of electronic textbooks thrills me to no end. I remember weighing Kyle’s backpack when he was in school and it weighed 45 pounds. Those backpacks caused many back injuries, especially when kids carried their packs on one shoulder to look cool. I know there are a LOT of unanswered questions, like who pays for the $500 per kid devices, and what happens when they get dropped/stolen, but we can get past those things in a few years, but we can see the future this can bring. One more thing on the heavy backpacks, there were kids who did not carry the 45 pound backpacks back and forth to school. I remember giving a ride to a young girl when Lindsay was in high school and she was carrying a spiral notebook and a makeup kit. Her solution was to not carry the books at all (and consequently not study at all). Perhaps she never would study but I like to think she might have if it had engaged her imagination and NOT weighed 45 pounds.

We haven’t even talked about all the trees that we don’t have to cut down (could the ebook market reduce global warming?) And what about the wasted time in schools? Remember the first day picking up your books? The students wait in long lines, but the librarians and other administrators spend hours and hours organizing giant stacks of books, making sure the kids get the right ones. That simply vanishes. They don’t have enough time today, they don’t have the money to pay the administration so just make the work go away. Maybe it’s one line to pick up your iPad instead. Now iPads will get lost as books got lost, but just maybe not as often. If I had to keep track of a history book (a subject I deplored) or an iPad (a device I adored) I guarantee the iPad would be more likely to be within fingertip reach of me.

The pricing is interesting too. From what I understand, high school textbooks cost around $100 plus or minus, and schools keep them for five years, or about $20/year not counting all the administration costs. So a textbook at $15 is definitely cheaper, but of course I haven’t taken into the account the cost of the devices. I do think this would have made a lot more sense to start at the college level, since students are already used to buying books, not having books bought for them by the schools. The other interesting bit about this whole thing is wondering why the publishers were so willing to jump on board. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that they’ve jumped in, instead of resisting and fighting progress, but what’s their motivation here? How about the utter elimination of the used textbook market? It simply disappears. That’s got to have been a consideration.

I of course immediately downloaded iBooks2 and as many free chapters of books I could find. I’d like to talk about a few observations on it. First of all, some of the books are better than others. Some animations are very simplistic, and yet effective. Some have fancy pants videos that open when you open the book – which is cool the first time, but would you get sick of that? Some have tons of interaction, some have very little. All of the books created with iBooks Author allow the reader to highlight simply by dragging a finger across some text. I love this. Mostly because I was raised with the absolute dictum that you NEVER EVER EVER write in books. I simply cannot do it. I envied those who could but I just can’t. But in my own electronic book, why the heck not? you can ERASE your highlights too so no guilt at all. The other cool thing about highlighting is that all of your highlights show up in an automatically-created Notes section of the book! No more fishing through the book to FIND that thing you marked! I. love. that. It also automatically creates study cards from those notes so you can use them to refresh your memory of the bits you hoped were important before the big final exam.

The day iBooks 2 came out I showed one of the textbooks to a teacher friend of mine and while I was demoing it, I accidentally double tapped on a word and right above it, it said “speak”. She squealed with delight, explaining that she has some special ed kids who learn very well, as long as they can hear it out loud but they can’t read at all. She was thrilled that they would be able to learn just as easily.

My buddy Ron and I get into a discussion the other night about this. He was talking about how natural selection in our world today allows those who can read, those who learn how to study written language to do better in our society. Now with the advent of multi-media textbooks, the playing field may have changed dramatically, allowing those who learn visually or through audio or through movement to have the same advantages in learning. It’s a whole new ballgame, isn’t it?

I have to say a few critical things about the iBooks 2 application itself, it’s kinda buggy. It crashes a bit, locked up on me twice where I had to reboot my iPad, but I guess I can forgive Apple on a first release application that changes the world. They’d better come out with some quick updates though, I won’t be quite as reasonable in a few months if it’s still crashing.

iBooks Author

ibooks imageLet’s switch gears here and talk about iBooks Author. Like I said, it’s free to download from the Mac App Store. To start you choose one of the preset themes. I think it’s a little odd that you can’t choose from a blank slate, but I suppose this is sort of in a teaching mode to start with. I’m still trying to figure out what all the elements of the themes are to be able to tell which one I would pick, but that will come with time. The theme comes pre-populated with a Book Title page, a chapter, a section and a page within a section. They’ve thrown in junk text, aka “lore ipsum“. Oddly you can’t edit this text, as soon as you click on it, the entire text of the entire book is selected and you can only replace or delete it. That confused me at first but I guess it makes sense. If you drag in a photo, it automatically wraps the text around your photo just like it does in Pages. Does anyone know why it DOESN’T do that in Keynote? Anyway.

To add more interesting content, go to Widgets in the toolbar. You can choose media, and then drag movies directly into the page. I haven’t figured out what codecs it likes – I have quite a few .movs it refuses, some mp4s it refuses, and some m4vs it seems to like. I thought about trying to find a pattern, but I figure someone else will do it for me so I don’t have to figure it out. Unfortunately the popup denial box only tells you to open QuickTime and re-encode, but doesn’t tell you what codecs it’s looking for. I really like the Gallery widget. Insert a Gallery widget, and then drag a bunch of photos at once into it. When viewed on iOS, you get one image with a series of dots below showing you how many images you have and you can swipe or tap to flip through them. Love this! You can insert widgets for review questions, Keynote (works great), Interactive images where you can tap on different parts to learn more, and 3D images. Now I don’t have access to any of the tools to make or view 3D images but it allows you to play with the image by spinning just about the vertical axis, the horizontal axis, or complete 3D free rotation. If you’re a real geek, you can even insert html.

Like iBooks 2, I found bugs in iBooks Author. I had the most trouble when figuring out how you make your book work well in both landscape and portrait modes. When you view in landscape, your images flow right in the body of the text. They refer to portrait as read only mode (or something like that) so the images don’t interrupt the flow of the text, they live in the left sidebar of the page so they’re not so distracting. The problem I ran into was that only some of my images would show up in that left sidebar, and I couldn’t figure out why that was. I suppose this potentially could be operator trouble, but I’m not sure. I didn’t always get text to float around images, while deleting and reading the same image did allow it to float nicely.

Probably one of the coolest features of the usability of iBooks Author is the preview mode. Click that and a window pops up showing any connected iPads. Click on your iPad in the list, and it will warn you to make sure iBooks is open on the iPad. Once you’ve done that, iBooks Author renders the book and it comes up on the iPad so you can play with it. So much cooler than the simulator found in Xcode.

The EULA, or end user license agreement of iBooks Author says that you can ONLY sell your book via iBookstore after signing a contract with them, but you can give away your book any way you like. a lot of people are flipped out about this but I just don’t get it. They’re giving you the tools for free, and you remain free to create your books any way you like to sell other places, just not with the tool they gave you for free. So if Adobe comes out with a tool – use that. If Amazon comes out with a tool, use that. Do it in Microsoft Word for crying out loud! If you want to make books for Android, go ahead. Expecting Apple to give you this tool for free and then allow you to sell your books through someone else is just naïve. They’re a business, not a charity. They may be pushing that they’re doing this “for the children” but don’t be fooled – they’re in it for the money and they’ve never promised otherwise. I see nothing wrong with what they’re doing here and I didn’t even for a heartbeat expect it to be any different.

I have some big plans of what I’m going to do with iBooks Author, lots of fun to be had with this cool new tool.

Bluemango Learning

If you haven’t ever heard of Bluemango Learning, and their great products ScreenSteps and Clarify, then I sure haven’t been doing my job around here. Both of these tools are designed to help you write instructions with images and annotations that help you teach other people how to do things on the computer. The difference is that Clarify is for quick one-off instructions, like teaching someone how to set up their IMAP mail account, while ScreenSteps is for writing documentation manuals, more heavy lifting. I love both of these tools and use each one for it’s intended purpose. Both tools are cross platform working on Windows and Mac, which must make Knightwise happy. They have free trials so you have no excuse not to give them a try – so head on over to BlueMangoLearning.com and make sure you tell them Allison sent you!

Teleporting Manhattan Repertory or Super-Speed Project Management using Mac Aps, Ios Apps and Apple Gear – Part 2

This is Ken Wolf, from the NEW Manhattan Repertory Theatre. Here are some more Mac Apps and IOS apps that were instrumental in Teleporting Manhattan Rep to our new space.

Omnifocus logoThe Task Manager I used was the Mac Daddy of all Task Managers OmniFocus from the OmniGroup (www.omnigroup.com). I have been using OmniFocus for a little over two years and it has literally changed my life.

When my theatre EXPLODED from the sound, and we procured the new space, I immediately did a major BRAIN DUMP in OmniFocus where I just typed in every single thing that I could imagine needed to be done. Then I put start dates on when things needed to be done, so that they would appear in OmniFocus on the days when I would need to do them. This way I wouldn’t have a huge daunting list that would freak me out, I would just have the list of the things I needed to do that day. If I didn’t accomplish everything each day I could easily move them to another day. OmniFocus as ever worked seamlessly, keeping me on track, and on target of all the myriad of things that I needed to do. Now OmniFocus does so so much more than this so if you would like to learn more, please check out MacSparky.com – David Sparks, the other podcasting half to Katie Floyd of the Mac Power Users podcast has three wonderful Omnifocus Screencasts which are super great and easy to understand.

macsparky.com/blog/2011/4/2/omnifocus-screencast-part-1.html
macpowerusers.com/2011/04/screencast-omnifocus-ninja-tricks-part-2-of-3/
macpowerusers.com/2011/05/screencast-03-omnifocus-ninja-tricks-part-3-of-3/

Now there can be a big difference between a Task manager and a List Manager. The List Manager I used is an IOS application called LIST! – that is LIST with an exclamation point. LIST! is developed by Gary Riley and it is an awesome Universal app for both iPhone and iPad. The difference between LIST! and many other List managers is that LIST! can do lists with nested folders. So for example I had a folder for HOME DEPOT (all the stuff I needed to do the reconstruction of my theatre) and nested in that list was a folder that said TOOLS, another that said PAINT, another that said Electric, and in those folders were the list of all the individual items that I needed for that area of the store. This way when the Onmifocus task appeared that said GO TO HOME DEPOT and BUY STUFF. I would go to Home Depot and then use LIST! – each folder for each different area of the store. So efficient and so easy.

LIST! has a number of other features including ICONS that you can assign to folders (Little computers, Teddy Bears, Dollar Signs and more) the ability to email any and all of your lists, and it has alarms and more, and LIST! has a gorgeous UI. The only downside to LIST! is that it does not sync to the Mac or to other IOS devices.

One of the cool things I did was to use Photostream. At night, I would research Tools and such on my Ipad, take of screengrab of the item, and the next day at Home Depot, I would have that information on my Photostream on my iPhone. I am with you, Allison, I love Photostream!

handy logoIt was two days before we had to open the theatre. I am standing on a ladder holding a huge costume rack with one side already screwed into the wall. As I am getting ready to drill into the plaster wall so that I can secure the rack on one side, I realize I forgot to level it! And my level was in the next room, and in order to get it I would have to pull out the other side or let it slide down and crash to the floor. Oh not fun! Then I remembered that I downloaded some carpentry apps from iTunes. Holding the shelf secure I pulled out my iPhone from my back pocket and opened iHandy Level Free from iHandysoft Inc, a Free Level App that works amazingly well. It is a wonderful Level that works the the accelerometer in the iPhone. There is a visual level that looks exactly like one of those water levels and there is a digital readout above it that will give you the exact digital level. And because the sides or the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s are flat. It works so amazingly well. I set the level, drilled, screwed in the plaster bolt and I was on my way.

One of the things that drives me in life, is possibility. In any given moment in time, there is possibility for change, possibility for doing what may seem at the time impossible. Possibility is a great place to try and live from. One of the best tech tools in Teleporting my theatre for me was Google. Yes, Google – Apple’s sometime nemesis.

I don’t know from Electric, how wires and dimmer boards work – so I Googled and found a solution. I have no idea how to drill and secure theatrical lighting into plaster in a 100 year old historical building, so I Googled and found a solution. Google gave me real, practical and quick solutions to carpentry, masonry and electrical problems. Without it, I am sure Manhattan Rep would be closed.

So we did it. We teleported our theatre – It took 10 days for the building contractors to pull down two concrete walls, and it took us EXACTLY ONE WEEK to teleport Manhattan Rep.

And it never would have happened without my Apple Tech, Google and the power of possibility. What a wonderful life this is!
==============================
This has been really interesting Ken. I love iHandyFree Level. I actually use it at the gym. I wondered why some days my runs seemed to be so much harder than others, and that got me wondering whether maybe some of the treadmills weren’t level. Sure enough, the first two that I usually use were WAY off and I was running up hill! I now dial down the machine until my iPhone tells me it’s level.

George from Tulsa

As the young beauty at Starbuck’s balanced coffee, designer bag, and iPhone, the iPhone slipped from her hand and hit the ceramic tile floor with a distressing crunch. When she picked it up, the front screen was badly fractured. Not surprising since her iPhone was as naked as the day Steve Jobs approved its iconic design, complete with black glass front and back.

A week earlier I’d been in a skyscraper, closing a multi-lawyer deal. One banker had a brand new iPhone 4S but couldn’t make or receive calls even though we were up in the sky in a room with large windows. Not surprising since her iPhone was encased in so much aluminum it was combat hardened.

The iPhone is only a bit heavier than my aged Nexus One, a phone that always connects, and I’ve dropped harmlessly to concrete several times. Then, I don’t carry it naked—or surrounded by enough aluminum to build a strategic bomber. My preferred case is silicone jelly.

The most important advantage of silicone jelly is that it bounces, offering real drop projection. Jelly cases are light and stretch on and off easily, useful for fitting a phone into a dock. They don’t block signals. They have a slight adhesive effect that makes them far less likely to slip from the hand. They’re really, really cheap, come in lots of colors, and are sold by Amazon where buying through the link at www.Podfeet.com supports the Nosillacast.

Some are less than $2, though the “leading” brand is Amzer, A M Z E R, and theirs are about $10. heir slight adhesion is the only drawback I’ve found with “silicone jelly.” Just as your phone won’t slide easily out of your hand, it won’t slide easily into a tight pocket.

TPU Silicone Skin offers much less protective bounce than “jelly,” but it will slip into a tight pocket, and will protect covered parts of a phone from scratches and light whacks. Both Silicone Jelly Cases and TPU Skin cases are available for many kinds of phones as well as tablets including iPads.

For a different selection than Amazon’s, visit Amzer’s own website for cases, phone, and tablet accessories. Link to Amzer.com Storefront. As always, links in the show notes.

===============
Thanks George – I haven’t actually ever tried one of these. I did shatter my iPhone once though and I don’t ever want to live through that again. One thought about the skyscraper, it’s altogether possible the signal from the carrier wouldn’t make it up that high. Where I work we have a 12 story building where cell phones don’t work above the 3rd floor. If the company, building owner, or service providers don’t provide in-building repeaters, the signal drops off the higher you go. Now you didn’t say whether other phones from the same carrier did work, but this may have been the cause. I just bought a Spec case because it gives me a smooth plastic case PLUS a rubber flange that sticks up around the screen, I’m hoping it will protect my phone. I might try one of these silicone jelly cases anyway, for $10 it would be the cheapest case I ever bought.

Smile

John Costanzo wrote in this week to tell me how much he loves TextExpander. He uses it for his programming and finds it really useful to use small snippets to replace big or annoying gobs of code. He has a problem though that he has to use Windows at work, so he misses the efficiency. He found a free for personal use app called Phrase Express at phraseepress.com. Of course that’s not good for a work environment, but it might be good for home Windows users. It does allow him to import his settings file for TextExpander, but it doesn’t stay up to date if he adds new snippets. I add new snippets all the time, so that would drive me crazy too. I told him that the great folks at Smile have worked closely with Patrick from 16software.com, maker of Breevy for Windows. The two companies working together have figured out how to have your snippets synced between Windows and Mac on Dropbox. It makes me like TextExpander even more better in my book. Patrick is cool, the Smile folks are awesome so the two of them working together (on opposite platforms) makes everyone win. If you aren’t addicted to TextExpander yet, check out the free trial over at smilesoftware.com, but be sure to tell them you heard about it here. When you’re ready to buy, click the affiliate link in the shownotes to buy in the Mac App Store for all your Macs.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Security Light

  • Since we last talked, Patch Tuesday has been and gone, so be sure to let your Microsoft and Adobe apps/OSes update themselves.

Security Medium – Perhaps Security Lite has Failed

The aim with security lite was to get people to reflexively think about security in all they do, that way, they have a chance of making good decisions. When you don’t realise there is a choice to be made, you can’t possibly be making an informed one!

Listening to last week’s show Bart almost crashed his bike. A listener asked about a tools to help do something on Tiger. The listener was helped, and the topic ended. The giant security elephant in the room went un-seen and un-mentioned.

<—my bad! I did think that when I first read it and then forgot about it!–>

Now that we live in the internet age, it is IMPOSSIBLE to safely use any OS or any software that is out of support. The moment a vendor stops supporting an OS, you HAVE to move off it. Tiger is dead. It is unsecurable. If you have a PPC Mac you must move to Snow Leopard or Linux. Or, you must disconnect the machine from the network completely.

Why?

All software is written by humans. All humans make mistakes. Therefore, all software has mistakes. The golden rule in software testing is that there is always one more bug.

Many of these mistakes are harmless, but, many of them have critical security impacts, opening windows for arbitrary code execution, or privilege escalation. Code gets re-used for decades, so although there is new code in Leopard that was not in Tiger, the majority of the code in Leopard also exists in Tiger. There is still Windows 3.1 code in Windows 7! With it’s Unix heart, you can probably trace some of the code in OS X back to the 70s!

Computers also communicate using protocols and specifications. These protocols are also written by humans, and also have mistakes in them. So as protocols get updated to deal with problems that are discovered, un-supported machines continue to use the flawed versions of the protocols.

These flaws exist in EVERYTHING, here are just some of the things that have had critical flaws patched in the last few years:

1) Image libraries for displaying JPEG, TIFF, PNG and more

2) video libraries for playing AVI, MPEG, FLV, MP4 and more

3) PDF libraries

4) Libraries for dealing with ZIP files

5) Libraries for opening DMGs

6) Protocols like RTSP, DNS, mDNS, SAMBA (windows file sharing)

7) entire environments like Java and Flash (still bundled with the OS on Tiger)

So, you literally can’t even be safe opening a image on a Tiger machine!

All these problems are known about, and now included in free hacking toolkits like metasploit, so a bored 10 year old could have your machine completely taken over in the time it takes you to read an email or order a coffee!

Main Topic – SOPA & PIPA

What are they?

  • SOPA stands for Stop Online Privacy Act
  • and PIPA for Potect IP Act.
  • These are two bills currently being crafted in the US congress, SOPA in the house of representatives, and PIPA in the senate
  • These bills have been written by the content industry in an attempt to end piracy on the internet by introducing mandatory internet filtering in the US.
  • These bills target websites outside the USA, because they are outside US jurisdiction, and hence immune to the DMCA
  • At the heard of the bills is the idea of an internet blacklist which ISPS would be legally bound to enforce

Bart’s Thoughts:

As these bills are not finalised, their exact content is still very fluid, so it’s probably best to avoid the traps of getting sucked into the details (like how earlier versions of the bill would have killed DNSSEC) and instead focus on the big picture.

As I see it, these are the fundamental flaws:

  • These laws are being written by very smart lobbyists with an agenda, and then pushed and debated by elected representatives who are clueless as to how the internet works. 5 minutes watching them bumble around the topic on C-SPAN will illustrate this point spectacularly.
  • The vast amount of money in American politics makes all this even worse because it sets up a serious conflict of interest. The rights holders are BIG donors, and they are looking for some return on their investment!
  • This law is based on the idea of blacklisting sites. Decades of experience has shown us CLEARLY that blacklisting does not work. If it did, there would be no SPAM or viruses!
  • Censorship is indistinguishable from damage, and the internet was designed to route around damage (remember, it was designed as a military network). The internet routes around censorship – just ask former-president Mubarak!
  • This bill is written at the DOMAIN level, making massive collateral damage inevitable
  • As a non-US citizen I find that fact that this is a US law written with the express intention of controlling non-US sites to be grossly offensive! How would the US respond to Ireland trying to enforce our laws on the US? This unilateral rather than multilateral approach is deeply undermining to international relations.

Even if there were no flaws in the implementation, the concept is so fundamentally flawed that it would fail anyway!

However, there ARE flaws in the proposed implementations:

  • The use of very loose language, leaving the bill open to abuse
  • A lack of due process – this would not be the judiciary killing domains, but the executive branch – i.e. government censorship of the internet.
  • The anti-circumvention clauses which make the discovery and highlighting of abuses of the bill almost impossible
  • The provision making linking to infringing sites illegal makes it almost impossible to be safe from accidentally turning yourself into a criminal
  • The lack of a DMCA-like safe-harbour provision would kill all innovation on the net. Twitter would have to pre-emptively vet all postings to ensure they do not infringe copyright, or do not link to a site that does, or, risk massive legal exposure. I.e. rock and a hard place!

After the blackouts this weeks it looks like both SOPA & PIPA are dead, but, they will rise again, under new names, probably a year from now when there is a fresh congress and a freshly inaugurated president, free from elections for between two and six years.

Being anti-SOPA/PIPA does NOT make you pro-piracy. The attempt by the rights holders to muddy the water and shift this discussion away from the laws proposed and into an argument about whether or not we are pro or anti-piracy is a dangerous attempt to distract people from the core issues. With laws, intentions do not matter, bad law is bad law, and once it is law, it can and will be used beyond it’s stated intentions. Just because the current congress say they won’t abuse any loose language there happens to be does NOT mean that loose language won’t be abused in the future. Bad laws written with good intentions are still bad laws!

That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsors for helping to pay the bills: ScreenSteps, and Smile. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

7 thoughts on “#349 iBooks Author, Omnifocus, LIST!, iHandy Level, Silicone iPhone Cases, SOPA/PIPA

  1. George from Tulsa - January 22, 2012

    As I understand cell phone broadcast towers, they can be very directional. Which might result in part of a tall office building not receiving signals, as Allison suggested.

    In the case of the Tulsa skyscraper where I was, there were several cell phones among the lawyers and bankers and executives in the conference room. (Including one famously antenna challenged iPhone 4). The only one not getting a signal was the brand new iPhone 4s (with improved antenna). It was the one in the aluminum protective case that nearly doubled its size. The banker whose phone it was could go sit on the window ledge and hold the phone next to the glass and make a call. Everyone else was able to “phone home” from the comfort of their leather conference chairs.

    I find it amusing that so many people are influenced by the iPhone 4 series looks, then hide them in gawky cases. But better a gawky case than having the slippery and fragile (and expensive) “nekkid” phone slip from your hand and crackle up on a hard floor.

    Give silicone jelly cases a look-see. With a good screen protector and a jelly case, your phone is pretty safe. And easy to take out and admire its beauty — as well as slide into a dock.

  2. cv153 - January 24, 2012

    “If you have a PPC Mac you must move to Snow Leopard or Linux” The System Requirements for Snow Leopard is Intel processor; 1 GB of RAM; and 5 GB of disk space.

    System Requirements for Snow Leopard http://support.apple.com/kb/SP575

  3. George from Tulsa - January 24, 2012

    cv153, above, is correcting a mis-statement in the text of Bart’s “Security Medium.”

    By the way, and not that I am a deep security guru, I disagree with Bart.

    Tiger is not getting OS updates, or Security refreshes. Yet Tiger is running on so few Macs now that even though it surely has security flaws, the bad guys probably aren’t wasting time trying to crack them. If the bad guys are trying to hack into Macs, they’re coming for Lion, or Snow Leopard, which still has millions more installs than any other version of OS X.

    There’s no perfectly secure OS, so don’t throw away a good Mac just because Apple wants to sell you a new one and forces yours into premature “obsolescence.”

    And practice safe computing. Don’t click links in emails. Use the most up to date browser you can, and if you can, install security extensions on your browser. Be sure your computer is behind a router and turn on your firewall. Most important, don’t ignore password safety.

    A friend I help with computers had her office broken into and her Mac stolen. And just like in those movies, her logon and email passwords were on a sticky note, taped right beside where the computer used to sit before it was stolen. Maybe the cretins saw it there but left it behind so she wouldn’t change it. Maybe in their haste they just didn’t notice. Whatever, she left her security door open far wider than not upgrading to the latest OS.

  4. podfeet - January 24, 2012

    I’m afraid you missed the specific point Bart made. The point he made was that there are the SAME vulnerabilities in many versions of the same OS, but only the recent ones are being patched. So they don’t have to go after Tiger to hit Tiger.

  5. George from Tulsa - January 25, 2012

    There are no perfectly safe operating systems, and there’s no reason to abandon a valuable and useful Mac because Apple has blocked its OS upgrade path and is no longer providing updates.

    But if do continue running an “old” OS, be “proactive” (Some links at bottom)

    If you plug your computer in, turn it on, and connect it to any kind of network, or just leave it where someone can walk by with a USB stick and plug that in, your computer is vulnerable.

    And you’ve obviously been drinking the Apple Kool-Aid if you think Apple will armor your Mac from attacks. As Bart as often protested, Apple has been notoriously slow about “patches” and security fixes, even when vulnerabilities have been made public in an effort to spur Apple to act.

    Here’s one example of Apple leaving your computer “wide open:”

    “FinFisher’s creators advertised the ability to deploy the Trojan disguised as an update for Apple’s iTunes media player, and that Apple last month fixed the vulnerability that the Trojan leveraged.

    But the WSJ series and other media coverage of the story have overlooked one small but crucial detail: A prominent security researcher warned Apple about this dangerous vulnerability in mid-2008, yet the company waited more than 1,200 days to fix the flaw.”

    http://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/11/apple-took-3-years-to-fix-finfisher-trojan-hole/

    By all means, if you have a computer that will sustain an OS upgrade, consider the upgrade, though as Knightwise warned, the upgrade itself may render your computer essentially useless, as Lion so slowed his first gen Air down, he couldn’t use it.

    In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to enhance the security of an old OS, like Tiger, without tossing your “obsolete” Mac out the door, or turning it into a Linux box. You can even feel as at one with the Yoda of Security, Steve Gibson, who (at least with Windows) believes he’s safer with the venerable XP than Win 7 because his view is that “new” operating systems introduce new (unsuspected) vulnerabilities, e.g., the widely reported Lion “password” hack:

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/vulnerabilities/231601766

    Links to some “Proactive” steps

    http://www.livehacking.com/tag/mac-os-x-10-4-11-tiger/

    http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/27947/ard-patcher

    http://blogs.oracle.com/cmar/entry/java_1_6_finally_available

  6. George from Tulsa - January 25, 2012

    If you think there may be safety in obscurity, the link below leads to charts of desktop and mobile OS (and browser) use on the ‘net.

    If you think there’s safety in obscurity, Tiger is pretty obscure.

    http://marketshare.hitslink.com/

  7. Filiberto Soyars - May 5, 2017

    Looking forward to reading more. Great blog.Much thanks again. Great.

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