Apple products are designed to “just work.” But iCloud, Apple’s integrated internet-based service for synchronizing content across devices, is an uncharacteristic wreck — and has been for awhile.
Millions of people are learning about iCloud after a 4chan user hacked several prominent actresses’ phones and posted hundreds of private photos online this weekend.
Thing is, that particular hack was allegedly the work of several hackers over several months — though they didn’t admit to how they pulled off this photo heist, it’s believed to be the result of an exploit in the Find My iPhone API, which allowed hackers to repeatedly try different passwords without getting locked out. Apple patched that exploit Monday morning.
What might irk some users is that at least one of the actresses said she deleted her photos prior to this leak. It’s possible she did delete those pictures locally on her device, but not in iCloud. Remembering to delete both copies (locally, and in iCloud) is one common usability issue that could be simplified in the future, but it’s also possible this was a case of mishandled user data, where a deleted photo could still be found on another synched device. This is actually another common complaint among users.
There are plenty of long-winded grievances about iCloud on Apple’s support forums, with tales about data loss and corrupted files after syncing and kids accidentally discovering their parents’ plans to wear Santa Claus outfits and much more. This particular piece from The Verge was written a year and a half ago, and astoundingly, the vast majority of its criticisms still apply today.
Here’s the thing: Apple can fix its cloud right now.
Let’s start with the price. Apple is and will always be “high-end,” but 5 GB of iCloud storage on a mobile device is a pretty tame offering, to say the least. Google and Microsoft offer 15 GB and 7 GB to start, respectively.
If you want another 10 GB of space, Apple wants you to pay an extra $20 a year; for $8 less, Google will give you 10x the storage for the year.
Apple should double the starting storage for users and reduce the penalty to pay for more iCloud storage. But more importantly, Apple needs to address the quirks of synchronization — sometimes you don’t want to sync information to all your devices, and syncing becomes problematic when devices disconnect and reconnect to the internet after awhile (Handoff in iOS 8 will help with this).
But perhaps above all, iCloud needs to learn how to play nicer with other devices in general.
Obviously, being closed-off is a hallmark of Apple products, but Google and Amazon are dominating the cloud space right now, while Apple is missing out on a potential revenue stream since it could allow developers to rent server space or store or process data in those servers, but simply decides not to do that.
But even if Apple didn’t open up its data centers, it could still teach iCloud to work better with non-Apple devices and be a true cloud — currently, it’s more like a small playground for Apple stuff that’s not as useful or practical as it could be.
As ReadWrite’s Jodi Mardesich points out, if you’re a developer and you want to offer your app on more than one App Store, iCloud is little more than “a backstop service they can integrate into apps — if they dare. It can provide cloud storage for apps — a place to stash saved games or documents, for instance, but [even] that can be problematic.”
Javier Soltero, cofounder and CEO of the email app Acompli, told ReadWrite “if you even have the slightest intention of creating a cross-platform tool, iCloud doesn’t make sense.”
So Apple can address the small kinks in the armor — the synching issues, the backend errors, and the bugs along the way — but the company should think bigger in terms of upgrading the platform as a whole. Now is a great time to reassess iCloud’s usefulness, particularly with so much new Apple hardware right around the corner.
It’s too closed-off and inconsistent right now — iOS 8 will be a big step in the right direction thanks to Handoff, which will hopefully fix some of the synching problems between Apple products, one of the most common complaints. But iCloud could be much more functional and easier to use, and a more reasonable storage option for developers and end users alike. Let’s hope someone says “iCloud” more than once or twice on stage come Sept. 9.
A hacker who says they are responsible for uncovering nude photos of more than 100 celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton says the mobile hit job was plotted by multiple people and took months to pull off.
Daily Mail’s James Nye found the alleged hacker’s comment on a 4chan thread early Monday. In the comment, the hacker thanked the community for its support. This person also said they were on the run, and that they’d be moving to a new location where they’d continue to post about the hacked photos and videos. The FBI has launched an investigation into the hacking and Apple has patched up a security flaw in iCloud that could have enabled the hacker(s) to access the celebrities’ private photos. Apple has not officially commented on how the security breach happened but says it is "actively investigating" the situation and that it takes its users’ privacy “very seriously.”
"Guys, just to let you know I didn’t do this by myself," the alleged lead hacker wrote on 4Chan. "There are several other people who were in on it and I needed to count on to make this happened. This is the result of several months of long and hard work by all involved. We appreciate your donations and applaud your excitement. I will soon be moving to another location from which I will continue to post.”
Here’s the screengrab of the comment, from Daily Mail:
Here are all of the ways the photos could have been hacked form iCloud.
Hello folks, and welcome to another edition of the latest and greatest from the world of Netflix streaming. Every month, a bunch of new movies and television shows are added, and we’ve got the full listing of what’s in store.
Among our favorites: “Cool Runnings,” a fictionalized but still enjoyable account of the Jamaican bobsled team with John Candy as their coach. There are some other notable comedies like “School of Rock,” a hilarious film starring Jack Black as a substitute teacher passing on his musical knowledge to kids, and the wonderful film “Good Morning, Vietnam” which stars an absolutely hilarious Robin Williams as the famous Saigon-based Air Force DJ Adrian Cronauer.
Here’s the full list:
Available on Sept. 1:
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Mobile payments is an idea that sounds much better than it is in practice. At least for right now.
The despite the efforts of PayPal, Square, and even Google Wallet, few people have actually replaced their wallets with their smartphones, which was the original idea behind mobile payments: Since most financial transactions are electronic these days (sorry cash), we should be able to make our wallets and our phones into one single product.
Apple’s alleged mobile payments system, which was actually patented years ago as the “iWallet,” describes how users could control their financial accounts and transactions on their phones, but also be able to pay for goods directly with those devices as well, thanks to a near-field communications (NFC) chip.
Services like Google Wallet use NFC, though barcodes and QR codes are still more popular among mobile payments users at the moment.
Compared to other services, Apple’s mobile payments platform, made secure by its proven Touch ID fingerprint scanner, iPhone users could see their credit card profiles, messages from their banks, and even schedule payments directly from their phones.
Apple already stores a great deal of financial data in iTunes, but by giving users control over their finances in a simple app, they can learn more about their spending habits, ore even set spending limits on their children’s’ devices, which would disallow kids from charging millions of dollars worth of in-app purchases.
Apple must have found a great solution, because it’s finally convinced all of the major credit card companies to work together on the service, according to Re/code.
While the iPhone would reportedly anchor Apple’s forthcoming mobile payments service, the company’s unannounced wearable device is also expected to play a role in this service, since the wrist device will have tight integration with the iPhone. This could allow “iWatch” customers to leave their iPhones in their pockets as they pay with their wrists.
It’s unclear if and how this service will become an extra revenue stream for Apple, but if people can actually — finally — substitute all of the items in their wallets with valid digital substitutes, it should give consumers one more reason to buy an Apple device this season.
People might be happier about having a bit more visual real estate to use their apps, but killing the credit/debit card once and for all with a simple and more efficient solution — if that’s what actually happens on Sept. 9 — would be a much bigger deal.
Apple is expected to introduce a new mobile payment service on Sept. 9, which is expected to be a standout feature in the new iPhone 6. But based on Nielsen data from July, which was charted for us by Statista, most people are using mobile payments by presenting a barcode or QR code on their smartphone, which is popular among ticketing agencies for transportation and sporting events.
While iPhones (and almost all other smartphones) are capable of presenting visible barcodes or QR codes, reports say Apple’s new mobile payments solution will leverage the company’s Touch ID security system, as well as a new near-field communication (NFC) chip, said to be exclusive to the next-generation iPhones, to pay for goods securely. According to Nielsen, 37% of mobile payment users have used NFC on their smartphones to pay for goods and services — but that could soon change if Apple finally includes NFC in one of its devices.
According to Re/code, Apple’s first wearable device will be shown off at the company’s Sept. 9 event, but it won’t be available to purchase until 2015.
There’s one very good reason for that, and it can be summed up in one word: Apps.
When the iPhone first launched, many were skeptical of its high-end starting price of $500, particularly for an untested product with a measly 4 GB of storage space. Many are similarly skeptical of the iWatch’s alleged $400 price tag.
That phone was a success anyway, but iPhone sales didn’t really take off — or become the iPhone experience we’re all familiar with today — until the iPhone 3G, which was the first phone to ship with the iOS App Store.
The App Store, which first launched in an iTunes update in July 2008, answered the big unanswered question at the time: “What makes a smartphone so special?”
Third-party apps — software that allowed users to navigate their surroundings, order food, hail a cab, or read the news — made the iPhone into a monumental success. The iOS App Store inspired others like Google and Amazon to make their own stores, and the rest is history.
Well, Apple is ready to launch another untested product — but like the iPhone and iPad, it will take time for developers to grasp and build apps specifically for the new screen and interface.
If Apple launched the iWatch in October, as earlier reports said it would, developers would only have about 30-50 days to reconfigure their apps for the iWatch or build new apps from scratch. That’s not a lot of time, especially since Apple will reportedly introduce two new iPhone screen sizes this year, which ought to send developers scrambling to optimize those apps.
By pushing the release of the iWatch to 2015, developers will have more time to build apps first for the new iPhones, and then for the iWatch, which is expected to be closely tied to the iPhone anyway. Of course, development for the iWatch will really open up once it’s available to the public, so we might not see any boundary-pushing apps for some time. We’ll likely learn more about Apple’s timetable for the wrist wearable on Sept. 9.
Nobody has seen the device yet, which might be called “iWatch” or “iBand,” but we have a pretty good idea of what it can do. Based on iOS 8, the company’s forthcoming software release for mobile devices, Apple’s rumored wearable will be able to talk to the company’s other gadgets — like iPhones, Mac computers and Apple TV — but also be able to control home electronics, and accurately measure your health for the sake of preventative care, among other features.
SEE ALSO: REPORT: The iWatch Might Cost $400
Those hoping for a phablet-sized iPhone from Apple look to be in luck.
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 was reportedly facing production issues, which might have forced Apple to release the handset at a later date, but the French publication Nowwhereelse (via BGR) just leaked a ton of new images (and even a video) of the rear shell of rumored device, suggesting mass production might be right around the corner.
As you can see from the images, which align with previous rumors and component leaks we’ve seen in the past, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 features the same new antenna bands and cutouts we’ve seen for the smaller 4.7-inch iPhone, as well as the same placement for the new power button and elongated volume buttons.
The report also calls the device “iPhone Air,” a name that’s been rumored but largely ruled out by most tech news publications up to this point, considering a large iPhone would be presumably heavier and/or thicker than a 4.7-inch iPhone. It’s been previously reported that both new iPhones will feature the same thickness.
Apple is expected to debut both iPhones at its Sept. 9 event, which will also reportedly introduce the company’s wearable device for the first time. That wearable product, however, will likely launch in early 2015, whereas the phones are expected to release in mid-September.
Check out the video of the alleged 5.5-inch iPhone below.
SEE ALSO: REPORT: The iWatch Might Cost $400
In two weeks, Apple is expected to announce the new iPhone 6 and release its latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8.
And iPhone users are going to be blown away by a handful of apps that take full advantage of iOS 8’s new features, says Matt Johnston, chief marketing officer at app testing company Applause (formerly uTest). Applause is a Massachusetts-based startup that does crowdsourced testing of mobile apps for companies like Google, Microsoft, HBO, and Runkeeper.
Johnston says a lot of developers, particularly ones that write custom apps for enterprises like banks, media companies or retailers, are not jumping in to use the new features in iOS 8 just yet.
"A lot of them are standing back with the new stuff, and saying let’s hold off updating our apps for a month or a quarter," he told Business Insider. "But the people that forge ahead and use the new features and get it right, their apps are going to appear borderline magic to their users."
These new features will give iPhone/iPad users the ability to connect their apps together and with lots of devices: Mac computers and Apple TV, of course, but Johnston says iOS 8 will also introduce plenty of "Internet of Things" activities like making your phone talk seamlessly to your thermostat.
"There’s an amazing opportunity for app developers to differentiate themselves. A year from now, We’ll all be numb to it. We’ll think, of course this new app talks to Apple TV," Johnston says.
There are three new features supplying the app magic for most third-party apps, he says.
1. App Extensions, which will allow apps to work with one another and with all sorts of “Internet of Things” devices, sharing data between apps. (Android apps already share data in this way.)
2. Continuity, which will let your iPhone/iPad work seamlessly with your Mac letting you send data and files from apps from one device to another.
3. "Kits" specifically HealthKit, PhotoKit and HomeKit.
HealthKit will connect iOS 8 to health devices and let them share data.
PhotoKit will let multiple apps work with photos and videos.
HomeKit is the Internet of Things tool for controlling connected devices in a user’s home.
When developers do use Apple’s new kits, HealthKit and HomeKit are most popular, Johnston says.
One big reason more developers aren’t yet taking advantage of the new features in iOS 8 is that Apple is expected to launch new screen sizes and a new iWatch.
App developers don’t know how their apps will look or perform on these devices and want to wait to get their hands on one.
Thing is, they don’t have to do that. Apple has given developers a tool called “adaptive layout,” which will allow their app to work on any size iOS device, Johnston says.
But many don’t want to use adaptive layout. “Some of them think they can create richer or more robust apps without this adaptive layout template getting in the way,” he says.
Probably the best news with iOS 8 is that app developers are taking it seriously, from those that make consumer apps to those that write custom apps for companies like banks and retailers.
They have been updating, fixing and testing their apps to make sure they won’t crash if users install the new OS on their existing phones, he says.
When iOS 7 was released, Johnston sounded the alarm to Business Insider, saying too many developers were not doing enough to prevent these kinds of crashes on fledgling operating systems. He advised people to wait a few weeks before upgrading.
Not so this time.
"Companies are more proactive than they were with iOS 7. A lot of companies were rushing to us days before iOS 7, pulling their hair out. More of them are testing to make sure their existing app works with iOS 8 and will not break or crash or have issues," he says.
The upshot is: Johnston thinks people are going to love iOS 8, especially “in 3-6 months when more apps are taking advantage of Healthkit or Homekit or extensions, and apps are talking to one another. It enables amazing things,” he says.
How are you feeling today? Now someone else wearing Google Glass can answer that question for you.
The Shore Human Emotion Detector (SHORE), can detect basic emotions, someone’s gender and predict how old you are in real time. The app was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Germany.
In an attempt to sidestep any privacy concerns surrounding the app, the developers have promised not send any images or data to the cloud. SHORE also prohibits you from being able to find out anyone’s identity through it.
The app can gauge whether someone is angry, happy, sad or surprised. The product specifications on the official site say that the app has a 94.3% detection rate for the gender of the face you are looking at. The technology uses a database of more than 10,000 annotated faces as its reference point for identifying real ones. The Fraunhofer Institute told CNET last week that the software took “years” to develop.
Watch a demonstration of how SHORE technology works below.
SHORE has the potential to help people with sensory processing disorders such a face blindness recognize who they are speaking to. Another potential use is to help people with autism tell what emotion the person they are spending time with is projecting.
CNET speculated on why the app isn’t available for download: ”It’s not clear if Fraunhofer has built it into a soon-to-be-available app, or if Fraunhofer is waiting to pair the tech with an app partner. Still, the SHORE app charts a less-traveled path through privacy concerns of facial recognition so that it can still be used to help people who need it.”
Home automation has been a hot topic in the tech industry lately.
Apple recently unveiled its new platform for connected appliances called HomeKit, and this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was filled with household gadgets that you can control using your smartphone.
Playtabase, a startup created by students from the University of Minnesota in 2012, takes a different approach to home automation than most.
Rather than taking out your phone to switch off your lights, Playtabase’s Reemo wristband allows you to control objects in your home by simply pointing at them.
Playtabase isn’t the only company experimenting with gesture control technology for home automation. PointGrab unveiled its camera-based gesture solution PointSwitch at CES in January, which allows you to turn off your lights with gestures, while the Myo armband allows you to control your home electronics with Jedi-like gestures.
Some of these smart home solutions, however, can be rather difficult to actually use. Often times, you need to point at a very specific area multiple times to carry out a command — negating the convenience behind the technology.
Playtabase claims that the Reemo, however, is different.
"This is something that’s going to be so easy my 85-year-old grandmother can strap on and use it," Playtabase CEO Muhammad Abdurrahman told Business Insider.
The concept certainly sounds simple. The wristband is able to control various household objects through a smart plug, which communicates with both the bracelet and the objects its connected to.
Once the wristband is connected to the smart plug, you can control appliances by pointing at them and using simple gestures. For example, to turn on a coffee pot, you could point at the coffee pot and wave toward you as if you’re telling someone “Come here.”
"We focused on making our gesture set small and memorable," Abdurrahman said.
The Reemo will work with both “smart” and standard home appliances, and you only need one plug to power multiple devices. The Reemo comes with a set of small checker-sized air receivers that you can stick on any object you want to use with the bracelet. These air receivers pick up signals from your wristband and the smart plug to interpret your gestures.
The company will be launching an Indiegogo campaign this week to raise $50,000 for the Reemo, and was recently selected to join Microsoft’s Ventures Accelerator.
The Reemo isn’t meant to be a techie device for early adopters, however. Abdurrahman said it’s intended to help the elderly easily control the appliances in their homes.
"It has to be really simple," Abdurrahman said. "Simply pointing at the things around you would make it accessible to people in a way that it hasn’t been before."
We all need to get from point A to point B. Some just do it in better style — mainly because they have millions or billions of dollars from their innovative startups.
We all know these tech moguls can be humble, but we thought it’d be fun to round up what tech cofounders and CEOs are driving these days, which range from extremely modest to ridiculously expensive.
Some of the wealthiest living in Silicon Valley own flashy $100,000 sports cars, while others are totally happy cruising around in everyday roadsters.
Immediately after the leak of hundreds of nude photos of celebrities, allegedly from Apple’s iCloud backup storage system, the internet began investigating in an attempt to discover the hacker responsible. Now, the man widely accused as being the original leaker has stepped forward to deny allegations that he hacked into the iCloud accounts of the rich and famous.
Twenty-six-year-old web developer Bryan Hamade told the Daily Mail that he was not the source of the leaks. Reddit and 4chan users alleged Hamade was the culprit after a screenshot posted online appeared to show a series of names connected with a web development company in Georgia. (Investigations by the armchair detectives of Reddit do not have a great track record. They once wrongly accused a missing 22-year-old of being the Boston Marathon Bomber; he had nothing to do with it.)
Amateur internet sleuths used the names to discover Southern Digital Media, a web hosting company in Atlanta. While some internet users initially suspected the company’s 15-year-old intern as the hacker, suspicion quickly turned to server administrator Bryan Hamade.
Hamade, speaking to MailOnline, denied Reddit’s claims, saying “I only reposted one thing that was posted elsewhere and stupidly had my network folders visible.”
"I am not the original leaker. The real guy is on 4chan posting intermittently," claims Hamade, "He’s most likely the one behind it but it does seem the photos passed around to multiple people before being leaked, so it may just be someone who has them and didn’t hack to get them. I’d never in a million years know how to hack into any of the accounts listed. 4chan just attacked me because they like to attack anyone in situations such as this."
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Hamade claimed that he’s the target of abuse from people investigating the iCloud hack, “It’s been a nightmare and I haven’t slept in 34 hours, now. 4chan users are harassing me with non-stop phone calls and emails. They email me constantly, emailing saying they’ll hack my personal websites and keep calling my phone, calling me a fag and then hanging up. They also said they’ll hack my mom’s site, so I took it down.”
“I regret it so much,” he went on to tell BuzzFeed. “I didn’t even get any bitcoin out of it. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve done and I hope it won’t ruin my life, though it probably will since it’s just the biggest news story.”
Reddit has a long history of launching frenzied investigations into current affairs. In July 2013, a Reddit community sprung up to investigate CCTV and available photographs of the Boston marathon bombings. One of the suspects identified by Reddit was later revealed to be an innocent homeless man who was later found dead.
The Castro Theatre, located in San Francisco’s Castro District, is losing the Wurlitzer organ that has called the theater its home for the past 30 years.
But the organ music will continue to play, thanks to a huge high-tech donation.
The “Mighty Wurlitzer” will be replaced by a “pipe/digital hybrid with a full piano-length keyboard and a full orchestral sound library,” according to the SF Castro Organ Devotees Association (SFCODA), a nonprofit that’s dedicated to keeping music at the theater.
The Wurlitzer is privately owned, and its owner is moving out of the area and removing the organ from the theater, as well as most of the pipes.
The theater considered purchasing the organ from its owner, but it didn’t make financial sense.
“Unfortunately, this organ, having been played constantly for over 30 years, is wearing out. It needs a total rebuild, which is very expensive,” the Castro Theatre’s resident organist and president of SFCODA, David Hegarty, tells KQED.
An organ that’s as big as the one that’s replacing the Wurlitzer would take up the entire theater if it were made of pipes. But since it incorporates digital technology, it will fit perfectly in the space provided.
“This will not merely include some after-market General MIDI modules with ‘a few nice strings’ — it will be the most expressive, gigabyte-heavy, instantaneous-response-time live performance orchestra in existence, with its own custom-designed independent sound system,” according to SFCODA’s website.
It will cost around $700,000, and is being funded by private donations, as well as money from the Castro Theatre, a grant from New York’s Schapiro Fund, and an Indiegogo campaign.
When it’s completed, it’ll be the third-largest organ in the world.
A similar organ exists in West Virginia, and you can hear Hegarty playing it in the clip below. Keep in mind, that’s just one instrument playing all those sounds:
Megan Smith, VP of Google’s secretive research lab Google X, might be the next CTO of the United States. If the 49-year-old is chosen, she will replace Todd Park, who stepped down from the CTO role to take over technology adviser for Barack Obama last week. She will be the first woman to take on the role.
Here’s how Megan Smith got to where she is now:
Here’s a video of Megan Smith at Startup Grind in 2014: