Let’s Talk SMS, Facebook Passwords, Freedom, Security and Lebanese Twitter Political Play

Back in April of 2012, the ISF requested some data from the ministry of telecommunication. Their request was refused. People freaked out. Bloggers blogged. Tweeps tweeted. The following day, all was well.

Flash forward a few months and it’s early December 2012. The ISF requested the same data from the ministry of telecommunication. The request was refused. People freaked out. Bloggers blogged – and I took part this time. Tweeps tweeted. The following day, all was well.

The Lebanese fight for “privacy” is seemingly a one-day affair that needs to be instigated by some politician on twitter with obvious aspirations. Rally the masses. Get them to be afraid. And you’ve hit the jackpot. So when the big prize ends up being cashed, the fueling stops and people relax because things turn out all well as if nothing happened. I’ve made my stance from this whole debaccle clear. I refuse to be carried away by political rhetoric and I refuse to be bullied into believing that this matter is a notion of freedom versus security. It’s not. Your freedom and security do not negate each other. Criminals are not free to have an umbrella of safety over their heads just because of some person’s melodramatic understanding of freedom. So as some theatrical Lebanese threaten to leave the country to better ones such as the US, the land of the free and the brave, they forget about such things such as the Patriot Act and the mere fact that many of them will be wire-tapped and monitored just because they’re Lebanese. But ignorance is bliss. So let’s for a moment pretend as if our data is actually private and examine what this data is all about.

Facebook and Twitter passwords:

Our Twitter and Facebook passwords were supposedly not part of this “data request” as the minister said. But them being part of the request is besides the main point. The main question here is does the ministry of telecommunication have our passwords and log-in data? Do they have our emails and log-in information? And if so, how did they get them? I’m pretty sure Twitter and Facebook, both companies being above governments, won’t crack down and hand them over. I’m also sure that gmail and hotmail and yahoo or whichever mail client you use employs the highest standard of encrypting. Cracking https connections is not impossible but it’s also a very tedious operation, from what I gathered. I am not an expert but apparently the government getting the passwords of all Lebanese citizens to all their different accounts is a very difficult operation. So which is it? Is the Lebanese ministry of telecommunication using illegal equipment to crack our data, the likes of which were used transiently last year by the Iranian government, which was eventually forced to stop when its actions were uncovered? And if the ministry has these devices, shouldn’t we panic about them tapping into our privacy first before we panic about them handing it over? In other words, shouldn’t #ProtectPrivacy be more like #StopSpyingOnUs?

SMS, BBM, iMessage, etc…:

SMS is trackable and getting access to them should be, as I’ve said, only based upon judicial subpoenas. Those who believe their SMS messages are off-limits regardless of circumstance are delusional and simply ignorant. Moreover, last time I checked, BBM and iMessage were very well-encrypted. I also highly doubt that companies like Apple (which can basically buy Lebanon at this point) and RIM need to schmooze up to the Lebanese government by giving them access to your iMessages or BBM messages. Should you worry about outsiders reading the content of your text messages? You have every right to. But you also need to know that even if the ISF got their hands on your data, they won’t have neither the manpower nor the time to go through all your gossiping because, at the end of the day, we as the mass collective of the Lebanese population are irrelevant. However, in case you still believe that this request with its tentative obvious breach of privacy is very Lebanese-like and doesn’t happen in more developed countries, which some of you cannot but wait to go to, this article (link) is for your reading pleasure. And that’s the land of the freeeee and the home of the brave. I guess enticing rhetoric about freedom and security is only appealing until a certain point where you realize that other “better” countries have these types of requests as well. The only difference is their requests don’t get milked politically as is the case here, which brings me to point #3.

Twitter Political Play:

The mess on Twitter yesterday was nothing more than a pure political game by a politician who played you like pawns. He made you all believe that the ISF wanted unlimited access to your data when in fact they were only requesting access to data for the two months leading up to Wissam Al Hassan’s assassination. Forgive my French but politicians wouldn’t give a shit about your privacy if it meant it could help them reach political gains. If your “protected privacy” was of benefit to the politician who’s supposedly protecting it, rest assured he would have been the first one demanding it be released. There are no principles here. There are just interests. And people were gullible enough to actually believe a Lebanese politician – no matter who he is – would actually stand up for their privacy. Politicians wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about your privacy if blocking it meant they can get their peace of mind by not allowing others access to something they already have. You’re worried about your private information falling into the hands of the ISF? Well, I’ve got news for you. Your information is already in the hands of people who are worse than the ISF. I guess you’re smart enough to know who. So now said politician can flaunt around what took place on Twitter yesterday for some political gains in a game of chess that’s only leading to elections next year where this politician hopes to get a parliamentary seat. And if that’s not clear enough, perhaps the leaking of “top secret” information from within the government – the first time this happens in recent memory – pertaining to the ISF request is proof enough.

It’s sad when we, as Lebanese, can’t trust our security forces to protect us. They can’t even protect themselves and somehow we hold that against them. The situation in the country is akin to a blind man driving a wretched car on a slippery road in a snowstorm and we’re sitting around freaking out about our “privacy” which is already being accessed hourly by people who should never have access to it. But ignorance is bliss. Keep believing that some politician has kept your privacy intact. Keep believing that you have privacy. And you worry about it for one day because that’s definitely more than enough.

Advertisements

Apple Unveils Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Messages App

It looks like OS X Lion will have a short time to stand as the newest update for OS X. Mountain Lion is coming this summer for all Mac users and it’s bringing more iOS features with it to the Mac, including Twitter integration, more iCloud integration, Game Center, Notification Center, Notes, Reminder, etc…

For a full list of what features OS X Mountain Lion is bringing, go to this link. Or you can check out the following:

This is OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

This is notification center

The new Notes app

Game center integration... awesome, no?

This is reminders

Apple has also introduced a new feature called Gatekeeper helping users to specify from which sources apps may be installed on their computers. For a hands-on experience of Mac OS X Mountain Lion, you can check out Engadget or Macworld.

And as promised, Apple has unveiled a new messaging app for the Mac. This new app, called Messages, will replace iChat in function. It will allow unlimited messaging to any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 5.0 or higher. It will also integrate Facetime, whilst supporting normal chatting services such as Gmail, AOL, etc…

This is Messages

The good news? You won’t have to wait long to get Messages. A public beta is already available for you to download (click here). Messages requires OS X 10.7.3.

All in all, a great time to be a Mac user, isn’t it?

Our Experience With iOS 5

Ever since Apple unveiled the new iOS 5 features about two weeks ago, I was itching to try them out. The beta was released and I had refrained from updating, thinking it was too buggy. But I couldn’t hold out anymore and I took the plunge. And I have to say, it was a good decision on my part.

I am the type of people who hate jailbreaking because I don’t see its use. I was forced to jailbreak my original iPhone in order to be able to use it in Lebanon and felt its performance get affected a lot. Therefore, I refrained from doing so to all iPhone updates that I purchased.

And even though iOS had many shortcomings (no operating software is perfect after all), I felt it was enough considering what I used of the phone. Flash-based games or websites are almost useless to me and, well, I felt the negative aspects about iOS could be compensated for by the wide array of brilliant apps, most of which were free, as well as the top-notch hardware that was running the OS.

I’m almost against people who like to jailbreak just to get cracked apps for free. I’d rather pay $0.99 and keep my phone’s operating system intact, but that’s just me.

This post was written with extensive input from a friend of mine that I met because of iOS 5. David Schoborg’s input will be present along with mine, although his will also hold comparison to the other leading platform: android.

David:

Like Elie, when I heard about new feature set in iOS 5 I was quite excited. I have a pretty extensive history with Android, and was pushed into this Apple universe when my wife wanted a smartphone. I’m not just an end user, I’m a power user. I’m that guy that gleefully flashed ROMs, kernels and alike on a plethora of Android phones. Bricking my phone? A risk worth the reward. Yep, I admit it, I’m a gadget geek.

Her desire to join me in the age of mobile presented a bit of a problem. Was I going to be able to survive in, what I considered at the time, this dumbed down experience?

All in all, I’ve had a great experience with my iPhone and iPad. Great applications, great hardware, best in class battery life, but lacking in one major area: the notifications are the worst I’ve ever had to deal with!

SMS? I’m being interrupted. IM? Again, interrupted. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like having your camera app ready to go, getting ready to capture that perfect picture and being interrupted with an IM reminding you to pick up milk on the way home. Trust me, it stinks.

So, I resulted to jailbreaking my phone, because it was so bad that I couldn’t deal with it, especially after using Android, and enjoying unobtrusive notifications.

Then came iOS 5. I’ve been running it for 2 weeks, jailbreak free, and the little things here are what make it great. I’m going to share some of my experience with iOS 5 and compare it to my Android experience.

– iMessage:

I cannot stress how easy and smooth the whole iMessage process has been. You go into messages in settings, set it up with a simple click (yes, it’s an on/off button) and a few minutes later, you’re good to go. You can enable iMessage to work on many IDs: phone number, different emails and you can also set your caller ID to be any of those verified emails or phone number.


And then you just chat with whoever you want. In my case, I’ve been extensively chatting with Dave (our iMessage thread has like 500 messages so far). And the whole thing goes without a hitch (unless you factor in Lebanese internet but that’s not Apple’s fault).
This is basically how iMessage works. You type in the name of the person you want to text and the iPhone checks if this person’s number or email is registered in Apple’s database as a user of iOS 5. If the number or email check out, the phone switches to iMessage. It’s that simple. No extra iMessage application, it’s all integrated.

– Notifications:

Elie: Unlike popular belief, I was never bothered by the iPhone’s notification system. It could be that I never used – nor do I intend to – android but, even though it was intrusive, I went without a notification system for over two years with my original iPhone.
But when I started using iOS 5 along with its new notification system, my whole use of the iPhone got so much better. I no longer had to press the “dismiss” button whenever someone texted while playing Doodle Jump or Whatsapping someone.
There was simply a thin bar at the top of the screen with whatever notification I got inside it.

And if I missed the notification, I could pull a notification center screen from the top by dragging it down and it would have all my notifications there. I could simply click on one of them, go to the corresponding app and respond accordingly.

Moreover, the lockscreen allows you to answer specific notifications by sliding across them.

And David agrees with me as well.

David: In all honesty, iOS does a better job than Android here. The concept is similar to Android, creating a notification pulldown from the status bar where you can see what’s occurred, and deal with it on YOUR terms. You drag down from the bar, and it’s all there.


What I like about this approach more is that the notifications give you more information that what you currently get from Android. You can read the first few lines of an email, message, or that alert from CNN that used to interrupt your round of Angry Birds, can now be read and dealt with at your leisure.

Also, you have a couple of Apple provided widgets (Stocks, Weather) that are pretty helpful as well. Weather is finally geolocation aware, so no going in and switching cities around to figure out what the weather is going to bring.

Ultimately I hope Apple gives developers access to produce widgets as I could see this being really useful for them in providing more functionality for their apps.

And what’s even cooler? You get this on the lock screen too.


You can slide to read the incoming notification, or deal with it later. No more having to open the email application to see what’s been delivered. This is something Android doesn’t offer currently, and is very helpful to see what’s happened, without having to unlock the phone.

PS: The style of notifications you get on the lockscreen for receiving a text has changed with iOS 5 beta 2 to something that looks like this:

 

– iCloud:

I have yet to fully harness the powers of iCloud, mostly because of our ridiculous internet. But I can see the potential. The other day, I downloaded the Lebanese iPhone camera app Dermandar on my Mac. Then, moments later, I saw that it was downloaded on my iPhone as well. I also set up an @me email, which I have yet to use extensively as I’ve gotten way too used to gmail for my liking. But, hate or like iCloud, the potential is definitely there. How Apple advances with this will determine whether this is something people will love or not.

David, on the other hand, isn’t as positive about iCloud.

David: Apple also introduced iCloud with iOS 5. iCloud promises “cloud services done right.”

I’ll have to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nice additions, but I feel it ultimately falls short.

Having contacts, calendars, and documents able to be backed up and synced in the cloud across all of your iDevices is great. However, anyone really interested in this is already using Google via their mobile sync for iOS to accomplish this task.
Photostream is my personal favorite added feature. It’s similar to Google, backing up your photos in the cloud, but I just love the feature of adding a folder to the PC or Mac and the photos just show up. (They sync when you connect via WiFi and then are permanently backed up on your personal computer. The last 1000 photos are backed up in the cloud, unlimited on your PC/Mac.)

iTunes in the cloud is basically allowing you to re-download the songs you’ve already purchased to your other devices on the account, or back to your phone. Let’s be honest, this should’ve been in place already. It’s nothing more than a glorified history of your music purchases.

Where I think Apple really missed the mark is with the iTunes Match service. For $24.99 a year, anything in your iTunes library on your PC/Mac is able to be accessed in the “cloud” via your iDevices, even stuff you haven’t purchased from Apple. Sounds great! (I have over 20,000 songs that could potentially be offered to me even though I’ve only purchased literally 30 of those through iTunes)

Here’s the problem.

Let’s say you are out and about with your iPhone. You look at the selection on your phone, nothing’s doing it for you. So you reach out to iTunes Match to grab a song off the cloud that’s on your library at home. Stream it right? Unfortunately that’s not the case. You have to fully download the song. Compared to Google Music (beta) and Amazon’s Cloud Player, it’s really a disappointment in comparison.

I, personally, see David’s point with iTunes Match. But we need more info about the service to fully judge it. If Apple will in some way “iTunes-ize” all our songs and we get to keep them after the year is up, then I think iTunes match is a great service. If the songs get deleted after a year, then I think streaming them would have been a much better option.

Other notable additions include the total integration of twitter in the iOS which I’ve only used so far to tweet a few pictures. Wireless syncing is also there and it has been activated in beta 2, as were OTA updates.

However, something that wasn’t advertised and that I found was interesting, especially while making calls, was a pop-up screen about how unsecured my call was.

Not sure if this is only exclusive to my Lebanese carrier but I figured it’s worth to note the existence of such a thing.

David: WiFi Syncing and No PC set up are in iOS 5 as well, and honestly, these are long overdue: a nice enhancement, but nothing groundbreaking. Being able to back up into the cloud and restore your settings and app data is great too, but again, a little late to the party.

All in all, I think iOS 5 does somethings better than Android, it’s also falls short in some, particularly the cloud offerings.

iOS 5 brings some much needed enhancements, offer some really cool new features and shortcuts (You can now get to the camera from the home screen by a double click of the home button. Yay!), and bests Android in notifications.

It’s a worthy upgrade that all of you should jump on as soon as you can.

And here it is folks, our experience with iOS 5 so far. And as David said, the moment the update is available for the public, you absolutely need to update! It’s that awesome!

David can be contacted via his twitter account or his Facebook account.