Sunday, June 12, 2011

Apple iCloud: the criticism

Apple’s latest product, the iCloud, has - as usual for an Apple launch - met with a storm of media interest. But not everyone’s convinced. Here’s a look at some of the criticism it’s been receiving on the web.

Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference.
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Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference. Photo: GETTY

The guys at ReadWriteWeb are unimpressed. “Apple's new offer does not involve music streaming”, they say. “True, you can have your music collection synced across devices (up to 10 of them). But you will still have to download the music you want to play on to your iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch or Mac. You won't be able to access your entire collection and randomly shuffle between all the glorious gigabytes.” Google and Amazon will “breathe a sigh of relief”.

Steve Jobs talks about the music component of iCloud at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. (Photo: AP)

Only your own music

Over at MusicMachinery they make a related criticism: it’s only your own music you can listen to. They suggest that over the years, music companies have been pushing the “delusion” that you can buy music, but in fact you’re just “renting it until the next format change comes along”, and that a music subscription service is the logical extension of that. Paul Lamere says: “Apple (along with Amazon and Google) are going down the wrong path. The music cloud shouldn’t be a locker in the sky where I can put all the music I own, it should be the Celestial Jukebox – a place where all music is available for me to listen to.” concurs: “Apple’s music locker is a nice feature for those who like Apple’s hardware and software, but it’s not the cloud endgame: a Rhapsody- or Spotify-type music subscription service on steroids.”

Limited storage space

Most of your music won’t require storing: iCloud will recognise it and give you access to its iTunes version, rather than requiring you to store it. But if the music’s not on iTunes, you’ll have to upload it into the cloud yourself - and with a respectable but hardly voluminous 5Gb storage space in the cloud, you may find yourself short of room, as Rachel King at ZDNet asks: “What about movies and music not purchased via iTunes? Or other large collaborative files such as graphic-heavy presentations? That 5GB could go fast. Then again, it’s free so it’s hard to complain.” She also points out that “Uploading to the cloud could get expensive quickly” for 3G and 4G users, especially “if someone is constantly uploading new versions of documents, music files and apps all the time.”

iCloud is unveiled during the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. (Photo: EPA)

No TV or video

FierceIPTV, the internet TV monitor, says that Apple has “missed the bullseye” by failing to provide streaming video and full syncing. “It does allow users to sync video content”, they say, but: “The process may be a drag because users will have to upload and download files in full between devices and iCloud.”

File it “in the ‘needs more work’ queue”, they say, although they expect more from Apple soon.

Apple have tried this before, and screwed it up

This isn’t Apple’s first venture into the cloud. Wired points out that: “iCloud will be Apple’s sequel to MobileMe, a paid online service for synchronizing personal information, such as your calendars, address books, e-mail and photos, across multiple devices. Tech observers agree that MobileMe has been one of Apple’s most embarrassingly flawed products, thanks to its extremely buggy launch and limited functionality.“

Worse still, even Mobile Me wasn’t the first: it was “itself a 2008 rebranding of .Mac, which began its life in 2000 as iDisk”, they say. Can they manage to get it right fourth time? And if they do, what will happen to the MobileMe users who’ve paid $99 a year for something they’re now giving away for free? “Apple has been known to offer refunds and price adjustments in the past, most notably after the price drop of the first iPhone in 2007, which settled an uproar amongst those who shelled out $599 rather than $399. Thus, Apple might find itself in such a pinch once iCloud launches this fall”, says Rachel King of ZDNet.

Steve Jobs takes the stage to discuss the iCloud service at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. (Photo: REUTERS)

It’s not safe

In the wake of recent data scares, people are understandably wary of floating all their personal data and documents into the ether. Our own Adrian Hon writes: “Seventy-five million users’ passwords and personal data on Sony’s Playstation Network were recently accessed by hackers, handily demonstrating that even the biggest companies don’t have bulletproof security. If we are going to entrust all our data and work to a single company and a single point of failure, whether it’s Apple or Google or Amazon, we need to be confident that we’re safe. We also need to be aware that this isn’t all for our benefit, either. There are billions to be made from accurately targeting consumers with adverts and recommendations, and with a record of every piece of media we consume and purchase, companies can influence our tastes and behaviour in ever more subtle and powerful ways.”

The New Yorker agrees: “But how do you know that these companies are going to keep your e-mail, photographs, dissertation research, financial records, or notes on an article about the next Wikileaks from other corporations or from hackers or from governments? Ultimately, you don’t. The future of cloud-based companies depends upon maintaining privacy, but we use their products in the present. Accidents happen, smart people can fall for phishing scams, and thieves find ways of breaking into things, whether it’s the Kryptonite bike lock or Gmail.

Wii U Unites Divided Gaming World

At the world's biggest showcase for video games, Nintendo made the biggest splash this week with the unveiling of Wii U -- the next generation of its popular, motion-controlled gaming system.

The system's major advance, displayed for the first time this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), is a handheld controller with its own 6.2-inch touchscreen. That remote lets you play games on the controller and on the television at the same time, allowing for new gaming possibilities.

Many gaming writers who got their hands on the system -- which is in its early stages and is expected to be released in 2012 -- were impressed with its potential. Others were, at best, confused or unimpressed.

That response reminded Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's global president, of the debut of another product -- the original Wii, which would go on to become the top-selling game console in the world.

Iwata sat down with CNN on Wednesday to discuss, through an interpreter, gamer reactions to Wii U, its potential as a game changer for both casual and hardcore gamers, and what that weird name is all about.

The following is an edited transcript:

CNN: How do you feel the reactions have been to the Wii U?

Iwata: As long as the people have actually visited E3 and experienced the Wii U in our booth, the feedback is very positive. I feel a little difference between impressions of the ones who have actually visited the E3 show site and ones who are far away from this place.

It reminds me of how we presented Wii for the first time at E3 in 2006. I think this is one of the evidences to say that the Wii U is actually trying to present something unprecedented -- something very unique.

In other words, whenever anything new, anything unprecedented, is introduced to the market, the reaction is almost always mixed.

CNN: There was even some confusion over whether Wii U is actually a new console or just a controller. What can you share about the console itself?

Iwata: In an opportunity such as an E3 presentation, what we could show is a simple box. People might get the idea that this is a little bit bigger size of the existing Wii, nothing else. We focused on demonstrating something really unique, which was this new controller.

But some people had some misunderstanding -- that this (controller) alone might let you play games or that this might be a peripheral for the existing Wii game.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Google Earth catches students' penis prank

New Zealand students have put their school on the map by etching giant phallic symbols onto its playing fields with weedkiller, in a prank immortalised on internet satellite service Google Earth.

While the stunt took place more than two years ago, its effects coincided with satellites taking photographs of Hamilton for Google Earth, meaning web users cop an eyeful whenever they view Fairfield College.

Local resident David McQuoid told the Waikato Times he was online searching for a property when he came across the crude etchings, some of which measure almost 15 metres (50 feet) long.

"At first I thought it was a large piece of art work," he told the newspaper.

The school's acting principal Gerhard van Dyk was less convinced of the symbols' artistic merit, telling the Times he had been unable to catch the pranksters, who burned the phalluses into the grass on a weekend in May 2009.

School penisBy the time he arrived at the school the next Monday, the grass was already dying and giant penises were emerging all over the property.

A total of six became apparent in subsequent days, as school authorities scrambled to cover them up.

"There's not really much we could do about it," he said. "The caretaker took some more weedkiller and tried to camouflage it a bit."

Van Dyk said he would contact Google about removing the etchings but the Internet giant told the Times that they could not be blurred, as Google Earth images came directly from satellites, unlike those used for Google Street View.

Online reaction to the stunt on Fairfax Media's website was mostly positive, with one reader commenting: "A funny harmless prank, much better than the kids robbing houses or burning down buildings."

However, there was some outrage, including a reader who posted: "This is not funny, what a sick sense of humour you people have... This shows the twisted minds of today's youth."

DStv deploys secure content to iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone Read more: DStv deploys secure content to iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone | News | Rapid TV Ne

In a major extension of its mobile TV proposition, South Africa’s first-ever broadcast mobile TV service provider DStv Mobile has rolled out its services to a variety of different devices on the go, including laptops and Apple’s iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.

At the heart of the deployment has been the need to secure effectively the content that such devices will run and so the Multichoice Africa Group subsidiary is offering the service via a dongle from Korean partner company Valups onto which is embedded security hardware and software from Irdeto.

In particular, DStv is using Irdeto’s Conditional Access System 3 (CAS3) solution for cryptography, which in combination with the dongle is claimed to ensure that DStv can provide its customers with TV programmes via safe in the knowledge that the content is protected.

Accounting for the technology decision making process, Francois Theron, CEO DStv Mobile said, “DStv Mobile was tasked with the challenge of taking Africa into the innovative, exciting and very important realm of mobile TV. An increasing number of Africans can now access broadcast mobile television and Multichoice Africa wanted to be the first to ensure our subscribers could watch their favourite content however and wherever they like.

“After much research, we chose to work with Irdeto and Valups to develop our mobile dongle as the combination provided us with cutting edge technology that would ensure we could protect our content and provide an excellent customer experience. We launched the Drifta in December 2010 to allow viewers to access multiple live TV channels on their mobile devices for the first time.”

The Drifta is available already in South Africa and is set for launch in Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria.

Google, Facebook test IPv6 Internet upgrade

Today hundreds of Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, are participating in the first worldwide "test flight" of a major engineering upgrade to the Internet's infrastructure.

You didn't notice a thing? Good.

Wednesday is World IPv6 Day, a clunky name for an experiment that should be invisible to Web surfers but plays a critical role in keeping the Internet running smoothly.

One of the Net's foundational layers is the Internet Protocol, a global communications standard used for linking connected devices together.Every networked device you own -- your PC, smartphone, laptop, tablet and other gizmos -- has a unique IP address. The problem is that we're running out of them. The current system, called IPv4, has the technical capacity to handle 4.3 billion addresses. They're almost all used up: The last remaining batch was assigned out in February.

The solution is a next-generation protocol called IPv6. Just as the U.S. telephone system handled soaring growth by increasing the digits in each telephone number, the new IP system -- under development for more than 12 years -- uses longer addresses to fit more devices into the network.

Internet is expanding at breakneck speed

The old system could handle several billion addresses. IPv6 has room 340 undecillion of them. That's 34 followed by 37 zeros -- enough for every human on Earth to have trillions of personal gadgets.

But the two systems aren't easy to integrate; they're essentially parallel, independent networks. Internet service providers, operating system manufacturers, browser developers and website operators have been working for several years on the extensive technical changes needed for the switch. Wednesday's experiment is the first global road test of their work.

For 24 hours, starting at midnight UTC (8 p.m. ET) more than 400 major websites around the world are switching their sites over to IPv6 delivery. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Facebook and Yahoo (YHOO,Fortune 500) are leading the charge.

When all works well, users won't even notice the change.

"The vast majority (99.95%) of people will be able to access services without interruption: either they'll connect over IPv6, or their systems will successfully fall back to IPv4," Google wrote earlier this week in a blog post about the test. "However, as with any next-generation technology, there may be teething pains. We estimate that .05% of systems may fail to fall back to IPv4, so some people may find Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing and other participating websites slow or unresponsive on World IPv6 Day."

Google has a tool posted at that you can use to test your own connection.

'Ready for prime time': Planning for World IPv6 Day began last year through the Internet Society, a global standards-setting organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and Reston, Va. Internet service providers said they were ready to support IPv6 -- but it would be an empty gesture without IPv6 content for them to steer their customers to.

Getting Google, Yahoo and Facebook all on board for the test deployment was key, according to Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society's chief Internet technology officer. It's an "everyone leap at once" moment. Even if the forecasts prove true and just a fraction of 1% of the Internet's users encounter glitches, that adds up.

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