The Very-Real-Need Edition Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Regarding Reuters’s Report That Apple Dropped Plan For Encrypting iCloud Backups, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

If that is the case — that Apple’s legal department killed the project to avoid “poking the bear” — then it’s ultimately irrelevant whether Apple briefed the FBI in advance or not. It’s acquiescence, and users will be left unprotected. Not just in the U.S., where the FBI has jurisdiction, but everywhere in the world where encryption is legal.


Surely there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people every day who need to access their iCloud backups who do not remember their password. The fact that Apple can help them is a benefit to those users. That’s why I would endorse following the way local iTunes device backups work: make encryption an option, with a clear warning that if you lose your backup password, no one, including Apple, will be able to restore your data. I would be surprised if Apple’s plan for encrypted iCloud backups were not exactly that.

Apple Allegedly Dropped Full iCloud Backup Encryption Under FBI Pressure, by Josh Centers, TidBITS

Both our security editor, Rich Mogull, and iMore’s Rene Ritchie have heard that part of the motivation for not offering a personal encryption key is the number of people who lock themselves out of their iCloud accounts. As long as Apple holds those encryption keys, the company can help users get back into their accounts and restore their data.


Regardless, Apple is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The company’s privacy stance dictates that it should allow users to encrypt their iCloud backups such that even it can’t peek into them. Simultaneously, Apple also has to deal with accusations, now from both Democratic and Republican administrations, of protecting criminals. And it must also walk the more prosaic line of trading off a hard-line privacy stance against the very real need to deal with simple human error at a massive scale.

Apple’s Decision On iCloud Backups Is Wrong, But Also Understandable, by Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac

So while it isn’t the ideal approach by Apple, it is a pragmatic one with few downsides. And one that might, in the long-run, reduce the risk legislation forcing Apple to compromise iOS, which would create massively greater risks.

Inside The $10 Million Cyber Lab Trying To Break Apple’s iPhone, by William D. Cohan, Fast Company

The district attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance Jr., and the city’s cybercrime unit have built this electronic prison for a very specific purpose: to try, using brute force algorithms, to extract the data on the phones before their owners try to wipe the contents remotely.

Welcome to ground zero in the encryption battle between state and federal law enforcement officials on one side, and trillion-dollar tech giants Apple and Google on the other. About five years ago, with the introduction of its iOS8 operating system, Apple decided to encrypt all of its mobile devices—protecting both consumers and criminals from prying eyes. Google quickly followed suit, locking down its Android devices. The result has been an escalating cat and mouse game between Washington and Silicon Valley, with prosecutors like Vance trying to break into the phones, and Apple and Google racing to stop them.


Apple Card Users Can Now Download Monthly Transactions In A Spreadsheet, by Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

One of the big questions I got around the time the Apple Card launched was whether you’d be able to download a file of your transactions to either work with manually or import into a piece of expenses management software. The answer, at the time, was no.

Now Apple is announcing that Apple Card users will be able to export monthly transactions to a downloadable spreadsheet that they can use with their personal budgeting apps or sheets.

iOS-based Devices: Zero-touch Management Essentials, by Jesus Vigo, Techrepublic

There are several components that build on one another, like layers of a cake, to provide the infrastructure necessary for enabling zero-touch management. There is no one killer application or service that does it all, but rather a symbiotic environment that must exist to ensure that iOS devices are supervised and managed accordingly. I'll identify the different components, explain how they work, and how they integrate into the overall scheme.

How To Use Microsoft To Do As A Cross Platform GTD Solution, by Josh Ginter, The Sweet Setup

Recently, I took a deep breath and a step back to see what kinds of cross-platform GTD options there are available to hybrid Mac and PC users. And while Todoist may be the immediate thought for most Sweet Setup readers, it was actually Microsoft’s own To Do app that caught my attention.

I can almost perfectly replicate my Things 3 setup inside Microsoft To Do and have cross-platform support to boot. In fact, it’s so close to be replicated functionality that I may abandon Things 3 for good.

Sensei: A Beautifully-Designed Dashboard And Set Of Utilities For Your Mac, by John Voorhees, MacStories

Sensei is a brand new Mac app that monitors the status of various components of your Mac’s hardware and provides a set of utilities to optimize its performance. The app is certainly not the first to offer these features – there are tools built into macOS and third-party apps that can accomplish many of the same functions, and in some cases more. However, what sets Sensei apart, and what has quickly won me over, is its ability to translate the data it collects and implement its utilities in a beautifully-designed, standalone app.


Apple Reminds Developers About Updates For HTML5 Apps And Changes To Kids App Categories, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

Apple today updated its developer news site with details about two upcoming changes that developers should be aware of.


Apple Planning To Make Original Podcasts Promoting Its TV Shows, by Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Apple sent out a request for pitches last summer, asking podcast producers to pitch ideas for audio programs with some connection to its shows, one of the people said. The company has since discussed making podcasts with producers of its original series, according to two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t final.

The Smartphone Has Changed How History Is Written, by Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

The driving force here is simple enough. Digital photos drive down the cost of archival research, allowing an individual to capture far more documents per hour. So, an archival visit becomes a process of standing over documents, snapping pictures as quickly as possible. Some researchers organize their photos swiping on an iPhone, or with an open-source tool named Tropy; some, like Alex Wellerstein, a historian at Stevens Institute of Technology, have special digital-camera setups, and a standardized method. In my own work, I used Dropbox’s photo tools, which I used to output PDFs, which dropped into Scrivener, my preferred writing software.

These practices might seem like a subtle shift—researchers are still going to collections and requesting boxes and reading papers—but the ways that information is collected and managed transmute what historians can learn from it. There has been, as Milligan put it, a “dramatic reshaping of historical practice.” Different histories will be written because the tools of the discipline are changing.