eXtensions - Saturday 2 September 2023
By Graham K. Rogers
With the date for the next iPhone announcement decided, rumors have gone into overdrive, particularly on USB-C cables. Other products may well be announced too. Apple has now explained why it decided against using CSAM image detection: the rest of us already knew how risky this method could be. The Carlos Ghosn story on AppleTV had no real conclusions: all very grey and it is hard to know who speaks the truth. Next month on AppleTV is The Pigeon Tunnel - John le Carré's final interview.
As had been rumored, Apple has now confirmed that there is to be an event, starting at 10:00 on 12 September. This is expected to be the announcement of the next iPhone. The time means that for those of us in this part of South-east Asia, the event will begin at midnight, which is way past my bedtime. By the time I wake up Wednesday morning, there will be enough online reports to help me grasp the basics of what had been announced. I will run through the Apple video later in the day.
In the meantime there have been some adjustments to the rumors, with the iPhone 15 Pro not now delayed, followed by a further rumor suggesting the Max version would be delayed which was soon dismissed by another source. It seems unlikely to me that there would be a half and half launch although a week's delay for placing orders might be acceptable with the logistics involved. It is highly probably that many of the new phones are already being shipped to strategic locations (like Singapore for this region) so that when the doors open, the distribution is smoother.
It is possible that other products will be released during the event, although I doubt there will be new Macs. Any products are more likely to be iPhone related, such as new AirPods. With the expected move to USB-C, it seems probable that the AirPods, which up to now have also used Lightning cables, could see a refresh. Christian Zibreg (iDownload Blog) outlines six products that he thinks we should expect: iPhones (of course), Apple Watches, new iPhone cases, the AirPods with a new charging case, cables for the new devices.
There has been a lot of fuss over the expected new cables, with some rumors suggesting Apple will throttle the speed. With my use of USB-C capable devices, I already have a load of suitable cables, but when I bought the Thunderbolt 4 OWC hub just before the M1 MacBook Pro arrived, I started looking for suitable cables (the hub of course comes with one). In Bangkok these were vapor-ware, indeed some retail sources did not think they existed, until I bought one out of my bag. In the end I ordered 4 cables from CalDigit and they arrived within a few days: one is still in its packaging, but the others are used regularly, particularly for backups and image transfers, although they are only 0.8m rather than the rumored 1.5m of the Apple cables.
Although Apple is expected to provide braided cables that match the color of the iPhones, black is just fine for me. I will have another look around the shops here to see if the retail arm has woken up to the latest technology, but would anticipate, "no have", "sure, sure" and other comments that do not reassure.
There are rumors concerning the way Apple uses 3D printing to make part of the case of the upcoming Apple Watch. 3D printing is not particularly new and I used an article in teaching several years ago that outlined the use of titanium oxide to form the required shape of aircraft parts. Patently Apple reports that Apple is making use of a patent they inherited that describes the use of oxides in printing the steel chassis of the Watch. Apple acquired Metaio back in 2015 and one patent they had outlined a 3D printing system.
This sort of inheritance is not uncommon. Nokia for example is a significant player in modern technology, not for the stunning phones it produces, but in some part for its patent portfolio that it acquired from Lucent when that company acquired Bell Labs with the forced break up of AT&T. Bell Labs are the guys who invented the transistor, cellular networking, UNIX, et al, and (in the 1930s) even worked out the optimum distance between two wooden telegraph poles.
There was some welcome news this week from Ivan Mehta (TechCrunch) about What's App, which is now available for the Mac. Although LINE is more widely used in Asia (it is the top free down load on the Mac App Store), What's App is used by some here but is far more widely used in Europe. Like LINE this also needs the user to log in using the iPhone. The app was easy enough to set up with the instructions and help screens provided, although (as expected) I needed the phone nearby.
Once done, the messages all appeared on the desktop and I was ready to roll. Of course, with the UK government's insistence on removing the end to end encryption (on this and other apps) it is not known how this will work in the future. The government thinks the developers will fold. Others do not. Who will blink first?
A while back Apple made a mess of its introduction of the use of CSAM images as a way to reduce (or eliminate) child pornography on its devices. It was pointed out quite forcefully by several sources, many with impeccable security credentials, that the use of hashes (digital DNA) could be abused down the road. Instead of using this to identify images of abused children that were kept in a database, the hashes might be applied to faces of those whom some governments declared to be undesirable: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Those governments might (the theories suggested) then be used to identify images on users phones. A look at how China has forced Apple to make changes on some software in the past is an indication of the potential.
This was made worse because the identification would not take place on iCloud Photos but on device, which was considered invasive. Although the system would only be rolled out for US users, it was expected to be made available in other countries: abuse knows no borders. There was an easy way out, of course: don't sync images using Photos and iCloud, which devalued the whole concept.
Apple's own documentation (technical and simplified) was clear about what it did or did not do, but seemed naive regarding the potential, despite the loud cries from user groups, security experts and others. The main support came from government sponsored sources, for example a couple experts working for the UK's GCHQ: Dr Ian Levy, technical director at the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and Crispin Robinson, the technical director cryptanalysis at GCHQ. I read their papers in August 2022 and commented then. They were as naive as Apple concerning the limits and risks, focusing mainly on the benefits of detection. All well and good, but What if? . . .
That there are many images (photos and video clips) on the internet that should not be there - and should never have been taken - is beyond doubt. The social media companies do need to police their systems, but it is not that easy. A paper by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection - "REVIEWING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE MATERIAL REPORTING FUNCTIONS ON POPULAR PLATFORMS" noted how hard it was for users to report online abuse, particularly on Twitter, as the mechanisms required details of the person reporting, thus acting as a deterrent.
AppleTV continues with its Foundation and Invasion series which I am enjoying immensely. Last weekend I took a couple of days to view the four parts of the Carlos Ghosn (pronounced "Goan") story about his escape from Japan and the background behind his arrests, particularly why he was considered unlikely to see a fair trial in Western terms: the accused is not innocent until proved guilty.
This documentary, Wanted: the Escape of Carlos Ghosn was deliberately open-ended: so many grey areas. This film makers had cleverly used content to make it appear that one side of an argument was fixed, immovable, then slowly brought in doubts. Neither the Japanese (judicial system, Nissan) nor Ghosn and allies came across as fully trustworthy. It was clear at some times that Ghosn was prevaricating and was expressing a different reality to what was being shown in the documentary.
This came across most clearly for me in the revelations about his super-yacht. That was a new one for me and it was alleged that this was one of the several expenses that he had used money from either Nissan, Renault, or indirect funding to pay for. When asked, I could sense the total waffle of a man trying to conceal the truth. Whether he did cook the books or was a victim of a Japanese conspiracy may not be clear, but he also may not be as innocent as he wants to appear. The start of his fall may well have been the ostentatious birthday party at Versailles, held at a cost estimated to be over $700,000 (Isabel Vincent, New York Post) and shown as an "expense" at Renault, although the company heads were not invited.
Another documentary about to appear on AppleTV is The Pigeon Tunnel - John le Carré's final interview. It will make its global debut on 20 October 2023. As well as being a writer of several highly-regarded spy books (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) he was for many years working for MI6 (Military Intelligence concerned with external threats), which gave him some unique insights. The trailer that Cult of Mac (Ed Hardy) links to shows some of what he said, but like Ghosn, he is at times economical with the truth.
When AppleTV arrived here, there was a lengthy free trial and Apple made similar offers in other countries as the service was rolled out. There is now considerably more content, although some will not suit all users. I also find the organization of the Home Screen on the TV difficult to master particularly with the Apple Remote. The screen on the iPad is a little better (no remote - just fingers). I saw earlier in the week that the (now) 7 days free trial in the UK is no longer available and at the weekend, iLounge (Samantha Wiley) reported that this has extended to South Africa too. The comment, "it has been pulled from the shelves" does not make it clear if this is just the 7 days. There is no reason Why, nor any information on how users there may subscribe.
In one of those tips that appear from time to time, Ankur Thakur explains how to add a document or PDF to the Home Screen of an iPhone or iPad. I usually put files that I need to access often in easily identifiable folders and add color tags, but even then the navigation is not always easy and the sidebar on the iPad changes depending on how the Files app is accessed. I sometimes waste minutes in a class looking for a file that I know is there, but where seems to have moved. The article outlines the use of shortcuts to set this up and needs careful reading. It is all a little fiddly, although and I am going to have to play with this. I gave up after deleting half a dozen new (unfinished) shortcuts.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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