iPhone Tracking and Privacy

posted 29 Apr 2011, 01:03 by Chris Beach   [ updated 29 Apr 2011, 01:33 ]

Reading the number of varying articles on the iPhone tracking database you keep noticing a comment along the lines of 'I don't want a iPhone user tagging my wifi with GPS and uploading it'.  To me this shows two things, 1) A massive misunderstanding, or at least overlooking, of how WiFi works, 2) The grossly exaggerated rights people think they *should* have regards to privacy.

WiFi works by PUBLICLY broadcasting a electromagnetic signal, a 'radio' wave at around 2.4-2.5Ghz.  It broadcasts it in all directions and through most walls.   Devices that want to connect can pick up this signal and then negotiate a connection.  The negotiation can be simple or complicated if the WiFi has encryption or MAC filtering.  But the negotiation is still 'public', it's equivalent to someone pressing the door bell, anyone can press it, but only you get to decide if you answer and let them in.  It's doubtful the iPhone even went through the negotiation stage though, that takes effort, and all it needs to know is that a WiFi was broadcasting at this location.  i.e. it noticed you had a door and a doorbell, but it didn't press it.

This isn't an invasion of privacy, as you don't have the right to broadcast something and then complain when people pick up what you broadcast.  But in fact its more than that you don't own then electromagnetic spectrum around your house.  So you can't stop/block any radio, wifi, tv, gps or light travelling from outside/inside your house to inside/outside.  If its a communication signal then you can attempt to secure it, most have some kind of security layer.  Note this won't stop the signal, just the usage of the information contained within it.

i.e. if a member of the public is standing on the public road they can look at your house and into your house if you have unblocked Windows.  That is their right.  Or a Google StreetView car can drive down the public roads and take 360 degree photos and see your cat in the window.  If you don't like this then, as the house owner you have the choice to put one-way glass in or simply just close the curtains!

24bit Music

posted 23 Feb 2011, 05:33 by Chris Beach   [ updated 23 Feb 2011, 05:49 ]

Another Arstechnica article, this time about a push for 24bit/96kHz files.  One quote from Jimmy Lovine stood out: "What we're trying to do here is fix the degradation of music that the digital revolution has caused."  This annoyed me, the 'Digital Revolution' didn't cause the degradation, the codecs and ability to transmit the high quality files has existed from day 1.  What caused the degradation was the industry dragging its heals, refusing to license their content, or only allowing poor quality 128kbps files and still insisting on cd prices.  Which means this push will have to tackle the hardware side as well as the distribution stores.  The latter of which is easy, a file is a file after all.  But the silicon doing the hardware decoding of mp3's, (which gives you the battery life), can't just switch and decode lossless 24 bit files.
It's only now that emusic as 320kbps MP3's are becoming 'normal', but even that isn't close to being a digital copy of the CD.  So I would still recommend buying the CD and ripping manually.  Personally I use 64kbps-320kbps vbr mp3's, in order to strike a balance between quality, file size and file portability.
But I do hope that this push for higher quaility does lead to better lossless codec support on the mainstream devices.

Windows Phone Update Failure: Tiny Tip of the Iceberg

posted 23 Feb 2011, 04:50 by Chris Beach

ArsTechnica has an article about the first Windows Phone update going wrong.  This should be highly embarrasing to Microsoft, they need to move fast with Windows Phone 7, with regular feature packed updates...not fluff up their first attempt with a boring innards fix.  Without these they just wont grab the market or media attention that Google does so excellently.
But that wasn't the point of this post.  The point was that the entire 'computing' industry needs to start addressing these fundamental failures.  It cannot be acceptable for a user to type random codes into their devices to recieve another random code, just to check if the offical update is going to render their device useless.
These phones have been out less than a year.  There just no reason for the update not to tested on all combinations of devices.  Even that statement is missing the point, there shouldn't be 4+ versions of the same device in the first place. 
What this shows is that the industry is still far too tolerant of unfinished and broken devices being sold to consumers...and unfortunatly consumers are accepting that fact.  I do not think that we (My day job is a programmer) can keep going down this path.  Consumers should expect their purchased devices to work and do all the things they are heavily advertised to do, and expect this on Day 1.  Not 6 months later after they've installed numerous patches/updates/firmwares/roms.
The most common argument is that the industry moves fast, so companies have to release while the wave is at its peak.  Although this is true, the computing industry moves extremely fast and at massive scales, the problem is that I don't think there is any indication that it will slow down, so the support and quailty needs to improve dramatically.
As to how, I think the first thing is standards, we have them, but they aren't good enough.  Either they are too flexible, which leads to things like bluetooth where half its features aren't supported by the current most popular phone the iPhone.  Or they are rushed, like HDMI and blu-ray which leads to multiple versions of basically bug fixes.  There is no reason for blu-ray's to have a legal warning saying this video might not work, but tough if it doesn't.
If its a standard any choices or flexibility should be invisible to the end consumer, they should be able to say 'my device has X that means I need a cable X or support for X'.  Not 'my device has X but which version of X is it?  Where's the small print in the manual that tells me?'
If its a new standard then the regulators need to make sure that the marketting is clear, HDMI isn't a standard, HDMI v1.3 is.   That's what needs to be on the shiny sticker.
Do we really think we can live in a world where your toaster needs a firmware update, because they forgot there's white and brown bread??? 

Software Name

posted 23 Feb 2011, 00:48 by Chris Beach

Trying to decide on a 'company' name for the various bits of software and games that I write.
So far I've got:
  • CBu
  • Hades Soft
  • Tri6
  • Stryfe

And at the moment my choice is Hades Soft...dunno why but most of the naming ideas are greek underworld or evil related!!


posted 23 Feb 2011, 00:11 by Chris Beach

Just made a minor change to the site, so that I can now use it more like a blog!
Previously I just commented on various sites, but I've decided to link to the site and make my comment here.

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