Presenting with iPad (2)

16 05 2013

In ‘Presenting with iPad (1)’ I talked about the possibilities to present any kind of information for an audience using additional hardware.

This article is about an app called ‘Electric Slide’ working with minimal hardware requirements: a screen and a browser.

About
Electric Slide is a product of elucidate llc. We’re a DUMBO (Brooklyn, NY) based business that designs and develops mobile applications for business productivity and healthcare. Elucidate was founded by Angelo Alduino and Jim Phelan in April of 2012. Angelo and Jim are veterans of the web based collaboration field. Electric Slide was borne out of the idea that presenting is an inherently mobile activity trapped in a PC based presenting model, largely due to a lack of appropriate tools.

The app Electric Slide is designed to provide simple wireless presenting by giving each user a unique URL. Upon entering a meeting, a user can simply type their URL into a web browser and begin presenting wirelessly with their device. After uploading the content to a webserver of the company it’s delivered back to the audience controlled by e.g. an iPad, an iPhone or any other mobile device with the app installed on it.

If an internet connection is not available the presentation device can connect directly to a TV using an HDMI/VGA adapter or Apple’s AirPlay. The app also allows multiple devices to pair via Bluetooth.

Electric Slide uses the company’s proprietary technology to convert all content to HTML5. Animations and effects are preserved so that PowerPoint presentations and other documents can be viewed without loss of formatting.

The app is free and the free account offers 50 MB of storage, up to five simultaneous live viewers and presenting videos of a maximum length of one minute. The meeting length is limited to 90 minutes. The PRO account limitations are: 1 GB storage, 50 live viewers, 30 minutes video length

The pros …

  • Present to small groups or remote viewers just using a browser without any setup procedure
  • Optional connection to TV using an HDMI / VGA adapter or AirPlay
  • iPad as the presenting device can be controlled by an iPhone via Bluetooth
  • Live broadcasting of photos

The cons …

  • Right now, Apple’s Keynote presentation files are not supported – though support for them is planned for a future update. This should be added as Keynote is by far the best presentation app right now for the iPad.
    Keynote presentations have to be uploaded as PDFs.

  • Internet Explorer 10 is not supported.
    The viewers have to use Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.
  • No audio support
    All viewers must share the same room.

How it works …

  • Register at http://www.electricslide.net
  • Create a ‘Room Name’ that will form part of your custom URL used when you present.
  • Once the file uploads to the Electric Slide’s webserver and gets processed you can broadcast it to your custom URL right away.

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Look at this image to see the options for controlling the presentation.

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Summary …

An impressive idea where, I hope, some features will be added in the near future to bridge the gaps.

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Presenting with iPad (1)

13 05 2013

With an Apple TV you can use Apple’s AirDisplay feature to display the screen of any iOS device on a TV.

If you don’t need all the further functionalities of Apple TV there is a low cost alternative for e.g. displaying Keynote presentations on a TV or on a wall with the help of a beamer.

To do so you need

  • Apple Digital AV Adapter
    available in the Apple Store for iOS devices with 30-Pin or Lightning adapter
  • HDMI cable
  • HDMI capable TV / Beamer

The connection …

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The running system …

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Keynote presentations …

Connect the iPad with a HDMI capable beamer instead of a TV.
The app

Apple Keynote Remote

installed on an iPhone allows you to control Keynote presentations. The iPhone works like a remote control for the iPad, which displays a Keynote presentation. As you may know, you can add notes to each slide of a Keynote presentation. These notes can be displayed on the iPhone while presenting the slides. To change from slide to slide you use the swipe gesture.

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The Alternative …

A disadvantage of any adapter connected to the iPad is the immobility of the device.
The alternative is an Apple TV connected to a HDMI capable TV and your local WiFi network.

Fo more information see

Apple TV

Keep in mind that if you decide to purchase an Apple TV you may additionally need the Apple Digital AV Adapter to connect to a beamer.





Short-Haul Flight

3 05 2013

iOS Airways welcomes you on our flight from iPhone to iPad.
Please be sure your seat belts are fastened as our captain will go by the speed of light.
If you’re going to leave anything after touch down, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.

The basic idea …

M2M or machine-to-machine communication, or technology that supports wired or wireless communication between devices. An example of M2M technology might be a set of devices that monitor traffic in a city and communicate the information to the city’s traffic lights in order to regulate the flow of traffic.
(http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com)

There are several ways to establish M2M for sending files from one device to another.

  • iOS device – Computer
    Using iTunes File Sharing or computer software like iExplorer which allows access to app specific folders on an iOS device
  • iOS device – Any device
    Send by E-Mail using Apple’s mail client
    A suitable app must be installed on the destination device to open attachments
  • Send to a cloud storage and share the file
    An app with the original file must support server access with built-in access for well-known providers WebDAV
  • iOS device to another own iOS device
    Transmit via iCloud
    Not all apps support iCloud at the time
    Access is only possible if both devices use the same Apple ID
  • iOS device NAS
    NAS (network attached storage) can be a computer’s hard disk or a hard disk or a USB storage attached to Apple’s Airport router or Time Capsule

Examples …

Here are some apps supporting direct transfer from one iOS device to another even if the destination device is running under a different Apple ID:

  • Tap Forms Database
    by Tap Zap Software, Inc.
    WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Safety P+V
    by 83Technology
    Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Safety Notes
    by 83Technology
    Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Phone Drive
    by 83Technology
    Bluetooth and WiFi
  • GoodReader
    by Goodiware
    WiFi
  • USB Disk Pro
    by Imesart
    Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Air Sharing
    by Avatron
    WiFi
  • Documents
    by Readdle
    WiFi
  • Instashare
    by Lukas Foldyna
    WiFi and Bluetooth

Transfer Methods …

  • WiFi and Bluetooth
    One device acts as a push server.
    Usually the destination device firstly has to accept the connection.
  • WebDAV support
    The iOS device acts as a WebDAV server for a computer.
    On the computer you access the device by entering an URL like
    http://10.0.1.3:8080 (IP address of the iOS device and Portnumber for communication).

Establishing connections …

This description is valid for Phone Drive by 83Technology and explains the different connection methods.

File transfer between Mac or PC

Connect your device to same Wi-Fi network with PC or Mac.
Tap “Sync” icon and select “Mac / PC File Transfer” button to find out your device address.
Web Browser
Enter the IP address on your computer web browser to access file transfer interface.

Mac OS X

Open Finder.
Select “Connect to Server” from the “Go” menu.
Enter the IP address and click “Connect”.
Note : If you do not enable Authentication just select “Guest” and click “Connect”.

Windows

From My Computer click on the “Map Network Drive” toolbar button.
Enter the IP address and click “Finish”.

File operations
Click on “Edit” button or swipe right and select the file you wish to perform operations.
Tap on “Menu view” icon to choose file operations. (Copy, Move, Zip, etc)

File sharing to another iPhone or iPad (Bluetooth / Wi-Fi)

Connect both devices to same Wi-Fi network or enable bluetooth.
On of the device tap on “Sync” icon and select “iOS to iOS File Sharing” button to search for nearest device.
Select the device name that found and accept connection for file transfer.

The UIs of assorted apps …

Rate the developer’s approaches to UIs for transferring files.

Instashare …

Instashare is an aptly named utility that lets you instantly share files between your iOS devices and your Mac and Windows PC (Beta).

Sharing is quite simple. Open the app on both iOS devices.
On a device all connectable other devices appear on the right side and the file list on the left side. You transfer files by Drag and Drop from left to right.

Instashare uses WiFi or Bluetooth. An Internet connection is not required.

In addition, you can transfer files of any file type from a Mac to your iDevice, and vice versa. Files received by a Mac appear on the Downloads folder, while those received by an iOS device can be found in Instashare’s local app folder.

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Public Wi-Fi …

Sometimes, when using public WiFi for transfering files, problems might occur when starting the file transfer or displaying the list of nearby devices. Instashare is using ports 1000 and higher but public WiFi’s (Coffee shops, Airports, …) may block these ports. Best practice to settle this problem is creating your own WiFi access point which in iOS terms is called ‘Personal Hotspot’.

Personal Hotspot
A Personal Hotspot is one of your iOS devices with a connection to the internet.
This device may act as an access point for an other device that means, the other device does not connect to the internet directly but via the device serving as Personal Hotspot.

Go to Settings – Personal Hotspot and turn the switch to ON.
With your other device you now can connect to the Personal Hotspot in the same way you would connect to any other WiFi network.

Summary …

Instashare is the winner when it comes to a rating of the UI.
Simplicity and intuitive handling is the key to a top rating.

Transfer is only supported for one file at a time.
Selection of multiple files should be offered in an upcoming feature update.

Note (2013-05-02)
At the time I wrote this article PDFs could not be transferred from other apps to Instashare by using the ‘Open in’ command. But this problem was settled by Lukas. So now it works. Thanks Lukas.

Summary …

I myself use the mentioned apps and assessed them all very critically.
Tablets are a new technology (first iPad came in 2007). While the hardware is already grown up the software is still embryonic. Apple’s App Store makes no difference between hobby and professional developers. So for customers it’s not easy to find out the right app. And there is a further problem: the reliability of a developer, the power to refine the product and the energy to survive in the fast growing market of rock-bottom goods.

Most of the users working on an iPad without it’s big brother perceive the desirable features an app should have. But it seems to me that most of the developers are not able to adjust to the market.

Please comment on this blog.
Both, positive and negative comments are welcome.





Syncing Bookmarks

27 03 2013

You can sync Safari Bookmarks on iOS devices with Safari bookmarks on a Windows PC.
This is pretty cool (to say it with the most frequently used words of Tim Cook) if you started reading on a website in the office and want to continue reading on a mobile device.

Requirements …

After installing iCloud Control Panel for Windows you have to enter the credentials for your Apple ID.
Set the checkbox for Safari.
Set the other checkboxes if you want to sync other data too.

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From now on bookmarks set on any of your iOS devices will be synced with Safari on your Windows PC. If you found an interesting link on your iPhone bookmark it. When you return to your PC you will find the same bookmark in the same folder of Safari on your PC and vv. That means if you bookmark on your PC you can continue reading this website on your iPad after leaving the office.

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Syncing is also possible with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer but not with two browsers and not with Google Chrome. For Google Chrome there is a an option called ‘Other Devices’ that loads up current and recent tabs on any other device you own that’s signed into Chrome. Opening a new tab can go either to this screen, your bookmarks (also synced), or frequently visited sites.

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Further notes on Google Chrome for iOS …

Chrome’s sharing options are: Google+, GMail, Mail, Facebook and Twitter.
There is no way to install extensions like ad-blockers, interface customizations and add-on services.
Web pages look identical to Safari, probably because they use the same engine to render them – a restriction Apple places on browsers for iOS.
Chrome cannot be set as the default browser – again Apple won’t let that happen.





Mac Back

25 03 2013

If you use iCloud contacts can be automatically synced across your other iOS devices. Go to Settings – iCloud – Contacts and switch the slider to ON.

For backing up your contacts you can use iCloud or iTunes backup or sync your contacts e.g. with Microsoft Outlook. The disadvantage of iCloud backups as well as iTunes backups is that you cannot restore contacts (or other app specific files) separately. Apple’s backup system allows only to restore the whole device.

So in some cases it’s useful to backup the contacts separately.
To do so you need an app and it would be nice to have some additional features like Deleting Duplicates. Duplicates may occur if syncing via iCloud failed for any reason.

Here is an app available at Apple’s App Store which makes you independent of iTunes and iCloud.

My Contacts Backup Pro
by GLOBILE BILISIM BILGISAYAR HIZMETLERI ILETISIM DANISMANLIK SANAYI TICARET LIMITED SIRKETI

Note
This was not written by a child when exploring iPad’s keyboard it’s just the company name of the developer. It’s like my last name when multiplying the number of characters by 5.33.

The app has a plain and simple user interface with meaningful help text.
I myself use it since more than one year without any problem.

Here are the features …

  • Backup contacts using vCard or CSV file format
  • Send backup file via E-Mail
  • Save backup file to Dropbox by linking the app with a Dropbox account
  • Restore the generated backup file from within an E-Mail by simply tapping on the attached backup file
  • Transfer of contacts between different iOS devices with different Apple IDs
  • Supported iTunes and WiFi File Sharing
  • Remove duplicate contacts
  • Delete all contacts in Apple’s address book
  • Set reminder to backup regularly

Here is the UI …

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Feature requests …

While writing this article I contacted the McBackup support and here are the answers.

Can vcf backup file used for transferring contacts from Android to iOS devices?

Yes it can. iOS and Android platforms support vCard (VCF) since it’s an universal contact file format : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VCard

But because of following reasons, transferring VCF files between these platforms are not always %100 compatible or successful:

* Now there are 3 different versions (2.1, 3.0 and 4.0) of vCard format and some properties (fields) are not supported on some versions. But all iOS devices Mail clients support vCard 3.0 and some of Android devices (especially) support vCard 2.1. But new Android devices support vCard 3.0

* Device manufacturers use some non-standard (private) fields in their Address Book and vCard supports these private extensions, with an “X-” prefix but transferring these fields between platforms are not always successful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VCard#vCard_extensions

Is there any option to encrypt the backup file?

Not yet but we can add an option like this easily such as storing backup file in a pasword protected zip file. But this backup file can not be restored with Mail clients easily. Our solution is very easy and simple because you need any app or program to restore contacts from backup file. But encrypting a backup file needs extra operations and apss.

Managing duplicates …

If you just want to manage duplicates in contacts use the free app OneContact developed by Hasso Plattner Insitute and CAS Software, IT Systems Engineering at the University of Potsdam, Germany.
With this app you can manually resolve conflicts of nearly identical contacts and delete duplicates. The app investigates about 1000 contacts per minute.

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Thanks for reading my blog.





Device To Device Transfer

10 03 2013

Why should I transfer my data over thousands of miles using an internet connection although my devices are only a couple of inch apart!

Normally nobody takes care of an efficient transfer method but sometimes there is no WiFi or Cellular connection. In this case you cannot transfer data from one iOS device to another except you use iTunes on your computer. That’s certainly not comfortable.

Connections between two devices in general can be established via WiFi, an internet connection (e.g. syncing via iCloud) or a connection method called Bluetooth (henceforth referred to as BT).


Wikipedia
Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength radio transmissions in the ISM band from 2400–2480 MHz) from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks (PANs) with high levels of security. Created by telecom vendor Ericsson in 1994, it was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. It can connect several devices, overcoming problems of synchronization.

While most people think of BT as the way that wireless earpieces get connect to phones, it’s actually a more general purpose technology that allows many kinds of devices to be used.

This post will give you some detailed information about BT and its application from within BT capable apps.

Turning on Bluetooth …

Complete this procedure to connect with accessories for iPad/iPhone e.g. BT Keyboard or BT Headset:

http://ipod.about.com/od/iphonehowtos/a/Iphone-Bluetooth-Pairing.htm

The process of connecting a BT device to an iPhone is called PAIRING. Regardless of what kind of device you’re pairing to your iPhone, the process is basically the same. Follow these steps to complete the iPhone/iPad BT pairing process.

Begin by making sure your iPhone and BT device are near each other. BT signals can only extend a few feet.
Next, put the BT device you want to pair with the iPhone in discoverable mode. This allows the iPhone to see the device and connect to it. Making a device discoverable requires different steps on different devices. For some it’s as easy as turning them on, for check the manual.
Go to Settings, tap BT and turn it on. A list of all the discoverable BT devices will appear.
If the device you want to pair with is listed, tap it.
To pair some BT devices with the iPhone, you need to enter a passcode. If the device you’re trying to pair is one of those, the passcode screen will appear. Consult the device’s manual for the passcode and enter it.

Keep in mind that BT is a short-range connection (distances up to 164 feet/50 meters) and will be lost if you move the connected devices too far apart.

While BT doesn’t drain as much battery as Wi-Fi, keep it turned off when not in use.

Using Bluetooth …

You cannot pair iPhone and iPad.
Nevertheless BT can be used for the ‘Personal Hotspot‘ feature for providing an internet connection for iPad via the cellular connection of an iPhone or vice versa.

Even if you could pair these devices you wouldn’t have any benefit because there are no apps provided by Apple (Photos, iWork, iMovie, Calendar, etc.) which support data transfer via BT.
I may be wrong but that could be the reason why pairing of two iOS devices makes no sense from Apple’s point of view. Anyway, a programming interface is available so that app developers are able to support BT if needed.

Applications using BT …

These apps for example support BT:

Safety P+V (Photos management)
Safety Notes (Notes management)
Phone Drive (File Management)
Wireless Drive (File Management)

How it works …

Let’s have a look on Safety P+V by 83Technology, an app with a perfect UI.
This app is for managing photos and videos in folders which can be created by the user. You additionally may define a password to secure the data. Further features are:
transfer photos from and to the camera roll
move photos and videos from one folder to another
print photos and open them in another app

Here is a description how to transfer photos or videos between two iOS devices.

Note
On both devices WiFi is turned OFF and BT is turned ON.
The devices must NOT BE PAIRED.

  • Open open SAFETY P+V on both devices.
  • Tap the Sync icon on the device which is the sender.
  • Select iOS Wi-Fi / Bluetooth Transfer. The other device is then listed under ‘Devices nearby’.
  • Select the objects you want to transfer and tap on Send.

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The selected files are transferred into the ‘Image Sharing’ folder from where you can move them into other folders.

Other apps supporting BT …

There are some other apps available in Apple’s App Store supporting a BT connection between two iOS devices. But on my point of view all these apps make no sense.
Why? Consider the following situation:

You want to transfer an iWork document to another device.
If an internet connection is available the best way is to use iCloud as the documents are synced automatically. If there is no Internet and no WiFi connection available you have to firstly transfer the document to the local folder of the BT supporting app via ‘Open In’. Then the file must be transferred from the BT supporting apps local folder via ‘Open In’ to the iWork app.

My rating: ZERO STARS FOR USABILITY

Summary …

BT is a reliable, powerful, fast and secure wireless technology for data transfer with minimized power consumption. Apple’s BT implementation on iOS devices is mostly incompatible with smartphones or tablets from other vendors.
For some inexplicable reason it’s not available as a standard feature for data transfer between iOS devices.

Thanks for reading my post.





Risky Free Clouds

17 01 2013

To register for a free cloud storage is easy and fast.
Go to the website, fill in your E-Mail address and a password and click on Submit. You will get a confirmation E-Mail. Confirm and you can access 2, 5 or up to 25 GB space in the cloud.

But did you read all the Terms and Conditions of your provider?

I extracted regulations from some well-known providers. Others operate with nearly the same terms. See what may happen with your data if it’s a free account.

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Dropbox

Dropbox allows you to store up to 2 GB free of charge. Dropbox reserves the right to terminate Free Accounts at any time, with or without notice. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, if a Free Account is inactive for ninety (90) days, then Dropbox may delete any or all of Your Files without providing additional notice.

GoogleDrive

We are constantly changing and improving our Services. We may add or remove functionalities or features, and we may suspend or stop a Service altogether.
Google may also stop providing Services to you, or add or create new limits to our Services at any time. We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.

Box

In addition to other termination provisions, if your account it not currently subject to a paid subscription plan with us, we at our discretion may terminate your account if: (a) you do not engage in any activity in your account within thirty (30) days after becoming a Registered User, or (b) you do not engage in any activity in your account for any period of one-hundred and twenty (120) consecutive days. In the event of such termination, any Content you may have stored will be lost.

SkyDrive

Can Microsoft remove my content from the services? Yes. We may ask you to remove your content from the services if it violates this agreement or the law. Failure to comply may result in loss of access to, or cancellation of, the services or your Microsoft account. Additionally, Microsoft may remove your content without asking you if we determine it’s in violation of this agreement or the law, or if we receive a notice of intellectual property infringement from a third party.

SugarSync

Free Accounts don’t have all the features of Paid Accounts and are subject to limitations described in these Terms and as implemented by SugarSync from time to time. For example, you may have only one Free Account at a time and if you don’t use the account for a period of 90 days or more (for example, no synching or back up of files for 90 days), your Free Account may be automatically terminated. A Free Account holder may upgrade to a Paid Account by following the SugarSync upgrade procedures.

iDrive

We reserve the right to terminate Free Accounts at any time, with or without notice. Without limiting the foregoing, if a Free Account is inactive for ninety (90) days, then we reserve the right to terminate the Free Account without providing additional notice. An inactive account is an account where no login has occurred either automatically or manually for a specified period of time.

As you can see all providers may terminate your account without notice.
So what can you do to minimize the risk of loosing data?

  • Sync files in the cloud with a local folder
  • Use different providers and sync your files periodically for the corresponding locations
  • Upgrade to a paid account

This blog is about the usage of Apple’s iOS-Devices and you may ask, what can I do without having any Mac or PC to save copies of my files?

As you know iOS-Devices cannot be upgraded to higher memory if needed so you get a problem if you have to manage large data volumes.
What you can do is to attach an external storage to your router and save copies of your files locally on that device. What you need is a helper app which can connect to your provider and the network attached drive. You can do this job e.g. with FileBrowser from Apple’s App Store.

Refer to my blog

iWork to Airport

for a description of using this app for iWork documents or photos.

Read these posts for further informations about providers …

Costs of Cloud Storages

Which Cloud Provider fits best





The cloudy iCloud

8 01 2013

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

iCloud is one of the largest improvements ever made to increase usability and productivity of electronic devices.

But …

Are my backups and synced data secure on iCloud?

What this blog contains …

  • The simple answer
  • Some details about iCloud-Security
  • The good news
  • The worse news
  • The Apple ID
  • Summary
  • An example how it should be
  • Attachments
    Encryption techniques
    Recommendations
    Managing data with iWork

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The simple answer …

The simple answer is that your data is at least as safe as it is when stored on any remote server, if not more so. All data is transferred to computers and mobile devices using secure sockets layer via WebDAV, IMAP or HTTP. All data (except E-Mail and Notes) are stored and encrypted on Apple’s servers. Secure authentication tokens are created on mobile devices to retrieve information without constantly transmitting a password.

Some details about iCloud-Security …

(quoted from Apple’s Terms and Conditions for iCloud)

Access to Your Account and Content
Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.

This means that Apple employees have the technical ability to read your data.

There may be procedural, technical, or policy controls to make this unlikely, but the capability is there. That means that if Apple’s cloud ever gets compromised by a sophisticated attacker, the attacker could potentially access all your data. In other words, any data breach or accident on Apple’s part could potentially expose your data. This may not be too likely but even respected companies like Google have been breached. A breach or other exposure of the iCloud servers is not unthinkable.

E-Mails and Notes are not stored in encrypted form, while on Apple’s servers. This might be dangerous as E-Mails often contains sensitive information (e.g., account passwords, reset links, etc.).

When Government comes knocking Apple will not be transparent about requests for access to your data and not telling users when their data has been disclosed to the government.

The risks are not limited to government requests.
If you get sued, or end up in a contentious divorce, the opposing party’s lawyers could subpoena your data from Apple, and Apple would be required to disclose it to them, if they are relevant to the case. But who knows it before investigating the contents?

The good news …

Data is encrypted using SSL while it is transferred (in transit) between your computer and the iCloud servers. Also, data is encrypted while it is stored on the iCloud servers (at rest).

The worse news …

iCloud uses server-side encryption, not client-side encryption. When sending data to the cloud, it gets encrypted on your machine with SSL, then decrypted at the iCloud servers, then re-encrypted using an encryption key that only Apple knows for storage.

The Apple ID …

The security of your data on iCloud is only as good as the passphrase on your Apple ID.
Therefore, if you want your data to be secure, you need to choose a long and strong passphrase. Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the current systems that tend to nudge users towards choosing short, weak passphrases.

    The OS refuses to store this passphrase in the keychain, requiring you to type it in frequently. If you use an iOS-Device, you will frequently need to type in your Apple ID passphrase (e.g., every time you install or update an app). Because entering a long and strong passphrase is a major pain on an iPhone, many users may end up choosing a short, poor passphrase just for convenience sake — which unfortunately leaves their iCloud data poorly secured. So, the current design may tend to encourage many users to use a weak password, leaving their data at risk.

Summary …

iCloud’s security practices are largely in line with mainstream practice in this area. iCloud appears to have a reasonable and professionally designed security architecture. While there are some security risks, for most people, iCloud’s security is likely to be good enough, and the convenience benefits of iCloud will likely outweigh any risks for most folks.

However, storing your data in the cloud does increase the risk. For some particularly sensitive users (health records, financial institutions, lawyers, etc.) it might be prudent to avoid storing the most sensitive data in the cloud.

An example how it should be …

The solution are apps which already store their data encrypted on your device and use the highest level of iOS Protection classes that is ‘Accessible only when Unlocked’ (disadvantage: syncing won’t start happening immediately when your phone is turned on) and ‘Non-migratable’ (disadvantage: if you migrate all of your device settings and data to a different device you will have to re-enter the password).
These data will be, let me say DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED, when transferred to iCloud and stored there. They cannot be accessed with server-side keys only.
An example is 1Password (AgileBits) for managing passwords, bank accounts and beyond.

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Interested people even with less technical understanding should read these articles about security design basics …

AgileBits Cloud Storage Security

Lost iPhone and Safe Passwords

Attachments …

Encryption techniques …

Full-strength, randomly generated, user-managed key
This is the most secure setting. Access to the full server data gives the attacker no useful information. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to use. Enabling a new device requires coordination with an existing device. If users lose all of their devices, e.g. if they only have one device and it breaks, there’s no way to recover.

Password-derived key
The data is encrypted with a key derived from the user’s password. This is not as secure as the previous setting, since most user passwords are not nearly as strong as full-strength crypto keys. However, as my colleague Brian Warner is exploring, it may be possible to still make it quite expensive to break into a single user’s dataset, and prohibitively expensive to go fishing for data across many user accounts. Usability is significantly increased: a user can set up a new device simply by typing in their password. However, the crypto conundrum remains: lose your password, lose your data.

Server-side security (applied to Apple’s iCloud)
Users don’t manage keys, and servers technically have access to the user data. A number of techniques can be used to meaningfully restrict the chance of a leak (e.g. disk encryption or other type of encryption where the server holds the key somewhere.) Security against insider attackers is not nearly as high as with the two previous solutions. This is, of course, how almost every service on the Internet works today. It is the only model that maps to user intuition, where a user can forget their password, lose their devices, and still recover. Apple holds the (encryption) key!

Turn off apps which should not sync their data using iCloud or which should not include their data into iCloud backups. To do this go to

Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – Your device

and deactivate all apps which data you do not want to be handled by iCloud services.
Do something similar with data of Apple’s pre-installed apps
(Mail, Calendars, Contacts, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Photo stream).
But if you do so you will loose all the benefits coming with iCloud.

Recommendations …

Consider three vulnerabilities …

  • Access in accordance with Terms and Conditions of the cloud provider
  • Stealing of the device
  • Hacking of your device
  • Hacking of the cloud storage

To keep your data secure there is no simple workaround.
But you can do your best with theses settings and keeping your sensitive data away from apps not supporting encryption.

  • Use a strong password for you Apple ID even if it is not convenient
  • Use an Unlock Code for your device
  • Use the Auto-Lock option for time-based automatic locking
  • Use unlock codes for lockable apps managing sensitive data
  • Do not use cloud storages for saving data managed by apps not supporting encryption already on your device

If your thoughts are still in turbulence …
Keep your devices under lock in Fort Knox, switch them off and lock the door with your one and only key. Don’t loose the key!

Managing data with iWork …

The most powerful setting is using the iCloud service for syncing iWork-Documents across your devices. It’s simple and automatic and predestined for frequent usage of different devices.

But keep in mind that these documents should not contain sensitive data as they are NOT DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED like those of the app 1Password mentioned above.

As an alternative manage sensitive data e.g. in NUMBERS and exclude this application from iCloud syncing and iCloud backup. To back up the data use iTunes with a strong backup password.

Note
Another solution would be to store iWork documents highly encrypted via WebDAV on a cloud storage which does not use server-side encryption. At the time Apple does not support this feature.

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DBMS on iOS-Devices (1)

3 01 2013

As I develop applications based on Microsoft Access I am highly interested in solutions for Apple’s iOS-Devices. The strong benefit of a database is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread informations. Apple’s App Store offers a lot of apps suitable for productive operations but all the informations saved by these apps are cut into pieces saved in app-specific folders. That’s a consequence of the iOS-Filesystem and it is not intended as criticism of developers.

See my blog Every app is an ‘iLand’.

iOS-Data Management is, sorry to say, a back step into the late Middle-Ages where card boxes for every requirement were state-of-the-art.

Due to the relevance of the topic this is my first blog about databases with follow-ups.

A database …

If you create structured data (e.g. contacts, where every contact consists of a set of fields (e.g. name, email-address, phone number, account, bank) with different contents and save them as a file you have a very simple database. Its just a container in which similar data are stored.
Lets call the set of fields a TABLE (Library) and the contents of one set of fields a RECORD and a subset of all records a QUERY (collection) and one or more tables and queries a DATABASE

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An improved version of a database contains many tables, stores your data securely, lets you collaborate simultaneously with other people and gives you fast information about people, stocks, insurances, words in other languages and beyond. But the pure data won’t let you do the jobs. It would be like searching in a very bulky phone book where data are not sorted.
So you need database management software (DBMS) to support your curiosity.

A Database Management System (DBMS) is a set of programs that enables you to store, modify, and extract information from a database, it also provides users with tools to add, delete, access, modify, and analyze data stored in one location. A group can access the data by using query and reporting tools that are part of the DBMS or by using application programs specifically written to access the data. DBMS’s also provide the method for maintaining the integrity of stored data, running security and users access, and recovering information if the system fails.

An extremely powerful feature of databases comes up, if you connect data in different tables. In the above mentioned example the record contains the fields ‘account’ and ‘bank’. This two fields can be connected to the database of your home bank and will show you your accounts current.

A database solves many problems with your otherwise widely spread data.
Where is the “egg-laying, milk-bearing woolly sow app” that makes it all easy to manage?

The short answer is: nowhere.

Anyway there are some apps working on databases but their usability is strongly limited and much foresight is demanded from the user to hit the apple.

After a while you will manage a lot of different data.
And every night during your slow-wave sleep questions pop up:

  • Can I switch to another app without loosing my data?
  • Does the app still run if a new iOS-Version is coming from Cupertino?
  • Are the data available on my second device?
  • Are my data locked against all the nosy nerds?

And here is the bad news:
There is only one app meeting the requirements extensively.
iOS is a new technology compared with Windows or Mac OS. Most of the developers are not yet ready to analyze the requirements of customers (thinking they bought a computer which is only a bit smaller than his brother). And its obviously a question of pricing to get on the green track.

Databases for iOS-Devices …

The best small business solution is Microsoft Access.
This is my personal experience over decades of programming and designing.
But an iOS-Version is not available. There is only one app ‘ACCESS mobile database client’ from Impathic. This app is not even capable to fetch a Microsoft Access database except via iTunes-Filesharing.

After investigating 7 apps there is only one app from a serious developer which may be taken into account. Its BENTO from FileMaker Inc., USA.

But even this app does not sync multiple devices except via BENTO for Mac.
iOS-Users do not like these solutions as they have to install a server version on a Mac, if they have one, configure it and go deeply into the details. FileMaker is not discussed here, because you cannot create your own databases on an iOS-Device. The full version and a Mac is required.

To clear it up: I never worked with the Mac version of FileMaker or Bento so I cannot give a rating for this product. What I see are some facts about Bento which are summarized here:

  • Databases are not synced across iOS-Devices
  • Fetching data from external storages only via CSV-File received by E-Mail
  • Fields like ‘media’ or ‘checkbox’ get lost when using CSV-Format
  • No support for cloud storages neither for well-known providers like Dropbox nor WebDAV-Connections
  • No import of PDFs into fields of type ‘media’ (voice recording, import from camera roll or captured media is available)

An application …

Bento is an easy to use DBMS for iOS-Devices with a plain user interface.
I your requirements don’t clash with the lacks above its the best solution available in the App Store even for normal users.

To give you an impression of BENTO I imported 5000 records from a CSV-File.

Checking invoices …

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Cons …

  • No IF-Statements in calculated fields
    (Support only for numerical calculations and String-Operations)
  • No alignment of calculated fields
  • Some crashes, however without data loss
  • No queries with conditions when building new collections
    (single select of records only)
  • Printing is not supported

Pros …

  • Perfect UI, easy to use
  • Good performance (tested with 5000 records)
  • Understandable helps
  • Easy to use design tool for forms
  • Special field types Checkbox, Choice, Rating
  • Show/Hide-Fields option
  • Permuting of columns
  • Resizing of column widths
    (‘automatic and manual adjustment)
  • Sorting for all columns

Note
All missing features in BENTO for iOS are available in the Mac-Version.

Part (2) of this topic will be posted on 2013-01-05.

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