Cloud Providers for iOS Devices

22 02 2013

There is a rapidly increasing number of Cloud-Providers. You have to decide which fits best. Otherwise your data will be spread over the world and its hard to find out where they are.

I checked free accounts of 12 providers and their usability on Apple’s iOS-Devices as well as their PC-Client versions since more than one year. This article describes my experiences with all the free offers.

Summary of the main test criteria:

1 iOS-Client-Software available

  • to display the frequently used file formats like PDF, TXT, CSV, XLSX, DOCX, iWork-Format (.numbers, .keynote, .pages)
  • to manage files and folders
  • to get links for sharing files
  • to share multiple files via a single link

2 PC-Client-Software available

  • to permanently sync local folders on Mac/PC with cloud folders
  • to set up the sync direction (two way or one way syncing)

3 Encrypted transfer of data between local device and cloud storage

  • to avoid the usage of special apps for encryption like BoxCryptor for Dropbox
  • to securely manage data in transit (while transmitted between the provider and the device) and at rest on the cloud storage

4 Amount of free space

  • should not be less than 5 GB
  • reasonable prices for account updates to higher capacities

5 WebDAV-Support

  • to set up an additional connection other than the native provider’s native app via administrative tools like USB Drive, GoodReader, ReaddleDocs, …
  • to assign shares to a drive letter on a PC and work with this ressources within any application (e.g. saving documents from iWork directly to the cloud

6 Performance, Activity, Usability

  • immediate syncing with high performance
  • plain activity indicators on Mac/PC for sending and receiving files on Mac/PC
  • available context menu on the Mac/PC icon with all necessary functions for accessing local sync folders, preferences, recently updated files, etc.

7 History

  • availability of a file history
  • availability of restoring deleted files from the trash within a reasonable timeframe

Main facts …

Cloud Free WebDAV Encrypt Syncing
iDrive 10 GB yes no multiple, selectable folders
Dropbox 2 GB no no one folder+subfolders

iDriveSync and Dropbox provide powerful apps for Mac/PC as well as iOS devices.

Dropbox and iDriveSync sharing options on iOS devices are:
E-Mail, Message, Facebook Message, Post to Facebook, Tweet

A special functionality of Dropbox is the ‘Camera Upload’ which uploads every photo you made with your camera on an iOS device.

Both providers do not support encryption in transit.
If the provider is compromised your data will be unsafe.
Except WUALA (CH) no provider fulfills the necessary requirements for safe transfer and storage.
Admittedly cloud providers ensure encryption but the Terms and Conditions of nearly all providers authorize them to review the data or pass them to authorities on demand.

Dropbox currently does not support WebDAV whereas iDrive does. That must not be a disadvantage because the PC-Clients support convenient syncing with local folders and most of the iOS-Tools (like USB Disk, GoodReader, Documents, …) support direct access to the storage of well-known providers.

If using the iWork suite intensively Dropbox is not the best candidate as there is no support for WebDAV. If iCloud syncing for iWork is turned on (Settings – iCloud – Documents + Data) they are admittedly transferred to other iOS devices but only those using the same Apple ID. So sharing is only supported by mailing the document as an attachment.

iDriveSync supports WebDAV and therefore can be configured in iWork using the ‘Copy to WebDAV’ feature. What you have to do is to enter the server address (http://dav.idrivesync.com), your credentials and to share the iDriveSync folder with your colleagues.

Both iOS apps support the display of the above mentioned file types except CSV files.

Another benefit of iDriveSync vs. Dropbox is the pricing (1.38 $ /50 GB/y vs. 3.75 $ /50 GB/y).

So the overall winner is iDriveSync.

Useful links …

Sharing Multiple Files on iDriveSync

Costs of Cloud Storages

Risky Free Clouds

Which Cloud Provider fits best

Some impressions of the UI …

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Printing from iOS-Devices

25 01 2013

When people are evaluating mobile printing solutions, one of the options is to buy a new printer.

If you already use a printer (even if it’s not AirPrint capable) it cannot receive print jobs from your iOS device. FingerPrint by Collobos addresses this problem.

The application finds your printers automatically and makes them available to your iOS devices.

How to …
Consider a network with an attached printer and an iOS-Device in the same network. Install FingerPrint on a Mac or PC connected to this network.
For your iOS-Device no further action is needed that means no special app has to be installed.
FingerPrint finds all network attached printers automatically and they can be selected on the iOS-Device the SELECT PRINTER dialog of every app which supports printing.

This image shows the situation after selecting ‘Open On My PC’ in the printer dialog of the iOS app (e.g. printing from Apple’s presentation app Keynote).

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Open On My PC …
Whenever an app features the PRINT button you can choose any of your printers attached to the same network.
‘Open On My PC’ will open a document stored on your iOS-Device with the appropriate app on your Mac or Windows PC.

Virtual Printer …
Normally we think of printing as sending a document to paper. With Virtual Printers FingerPrint can send documents to locations e.g. Dropbox.
To do this a new virtual printer has to be defined just by setting the property ‘Folder’ to the location of a synced Dropbox folder on your desktop computer. The virtual printer is then available in all iOS apps by tapping on PRINT and selecting this virtual printer. The document then is saved to the specified folder and synced with the cloud storage via Dropbox client application. This is very useful for apps which do not support your special cloud provider.

iWork …
iWork cannot directly save to Dropbox because Apple only supports WebDAV access which at the time is not available for Dropbox.
As an alternative use iDriveSync (7GB free) which supports WebDAV and even a client for Macs and PCs is available.





Poll: Disadvantages of iOS

27 12 2012

The investigation of whether an iPad can replace a computer leads to a wide variety of results. Pros and cons are discussed in many forums. People try to find many arguments for a peaceful ‘iPad/Computer’ coexistence and others deny the computer’s chances of survival.

I don’t really understand the discussion.
Was there ever a discussion of whether you better use a truck or a pickup to supply a supermarket?
If you have the appropriate driver license you can do both but you won’t do it often with a pickup except your truck has got a problem.

Use the appropriate device at the right time for a task, the device was designed for.

I you have both, iPad and computer, you will see that there is no difference between the digital world and the real life. Replace something and you will miss something.

Another question is of more interest for me.

Please participate in my survey..
(powered by Polldaddy.com an AUTOMATTIC experiment)





Fighting against the partition law

22 12 2012

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 theses apps are cut into pieces saved in app-specific folders. That’s a consequence of the iOS-Filesystem.

See my blog Every app is an ‘iLand’.

So it’s time to analyze the usability of apps working on databases to fight against the partition law of iOS.

See my blogs about databases coming January 2013.

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From USB to camera roll

20 12 2012

To compare some settings on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus with those of an iOS-Device, my son made some screenshots of his Android-Device and gave it to me on a USB-Stick.
To use the photos in a blog, I had to copy them to my iOS-Device.

My home configuration …

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The right app …

There are plenty of options for getting files on and off your iOS-Device, from adding them to specific applications using iTunes, to using cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Box and SkyDrive.

But its always the same problem with this giant App Store.
How to find the app that meets the requirements, does’t crash, is updated to new versions of iOS in a timely manner, provides an understandable and fast support and is consistent with Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

The app FileBrowser adds to a lot of (mostly useless) apps for transferring files.
The good news is, it supports the Windows-friendly SMB-Protocol.

Essentially, FileBrowser lets you access any SMB share, whether that’s on a Mac, Windows PC or network attached storage device, on a local network or across the internet. You can browse and download files, send them by mail and easily transfer them from one location to another.

It’s quick, and easy to use once set up – but if you’re not familiar with SMB, that set up can take a while (although the app tries to help you as much as possible with clear instructions).

Steps to do the job …

Set up the connection …

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Copy …

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Work out low-fat gestures

15 12 2012

Touch screens are not lipophobic.
Here are workarounds to reduce fatty deposits.
So jump-start your postgraduate training by learning these gestures.

Working on iPhone …

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Working on iPhone and iPad …

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Note
Avoid abrupt drops of websites so that they are not ripped into pieces.
The angle between the planets surface and iPhone’s vertical border should be less than 37 angular degrees to slow down the process. If you need support visit the App Store and install a free version of a Bubble Level-App.





iWork and iCloud

14 12 2012

iCloud is a powerful feature provided by Apple for syncing, backing up and managing documents on Apple-Devices. If you use more than one iOS-Device you cannot believe how much benefits you will have when iCloud is turned on. It’s the highest integrated service for Internet capable devices ever provided by a company.

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Configure your device …

To use iCloud you must ensure that the following settings are made on all of your devices.

  • 1 Tap the Settings icon on the Home screen, select iCloud, then enter your Apple ID.
  • 20121208-123658.jpg

  • 2 Tap on Documents and Data and switch it on. This allows apps to store documents and data in iCloud.
    (Later you can switch this feature off for individual programs e.g. a Banking app for that you don’t want to store its data in iCloud. You find this feature under iCloud – Storage an Backup – Manage storage – Your device – Backup options.)
  • 20121208-123707.jpg

  • 3 In Settings scroll down to the list of apps and slide the Use iCloud switch from Off to On for all of your iWork-Apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote).
  • 20121208-123716.jpg

Once iWork is configured, you can collaborate with yourself on all of your devices.

Activity indicators …

If you now open an iWork-App e.g. Numbers you will see an Arrow-Up-Symbol in the upper right corner of the documents you already created. The symbol is an indicator for ‘Uploading to iCloud’. During upload of the file you will see a progress bar.
20121208-125000.jpg

20121208-131415.jpg

Look at this document status which is largely unknown and keep in mind that you cannot access those outsourced documents without an active internet connection. If you don’t have access to a WLAN it’s a good idea, to allow syncing via 3G/LTE connections (see Step 2 below ‘Configure your device’).

20121208-125012.jpg

Essentials …

Here are a few things to keep in mind about using iCloud.

  • If you organize your spreadsheets into folders on one device, you see the same folder organization on all your online devices set up to iCloud.
  • If you change the title of a spreadsheet on one device, the title is changed on all your online devices set up to iCloud.
  • If you save a spreadsheet to icloud.com/iwork from another device, it appears on this device only after you open Numbers while connected to the Internet.

Deleting a document …

If you delete an document, it’s deleted from iCloud and from the applications folder on all your online devices set up to iCloud. The deletion is definite. There is no trash and no accessible history of older versions which could be restored.

20121208-154457.jpg

Conflicts …

Normally you will not get a conflict between different versions of the same document except yuor devices are not connected to the internet while editing the documents. Look at the following issue.

On an iPhone the document ‘Checklist’ was modified while the device had no internet connection. The document shows an upward-pointing arrow. That means the file is in the queue for uploading to iCloud.
If this device connects to the internet again, the document would be uploaded.)

If the same document now is edited on an iPad with internet connection, while iPhone is still unconnected, the document will be stored on iCloud in a newer version. If iPhone reconnects to the internet the following dialog comes up:

20121208-204723.jpg

In the Resolve Conflict window, tap the circle next to each of the spreadsheets you want to keep.
You can select as many of the spreadsheets as you want. The Keep button reflects the number of spreadsheets selected.

If you select more than one of the spreadsheets, all of them are saved to this device. A number is appended to the spreadsheet’s filename, so that no two files have the same name. For example, if you keep two spreadsheets called ‘Checklist’ they appear as ‘Checkliste’ and ‘Checklist 2′.

All the saved spreadsheets are automatically pushed to your other online devices that are set up to use iCloud.

Deactivating iCloud for iWork …

To complete the description:

20121208-155511.jpg

What you should always keep in mind is that iCloud is bound to your Apple ID.
If you sell a device your iWork documents (and all other data) are still accessible in iCloud via your unique Apple ID.

Thanks for your attention.





Killing a digit

13 12 2012

Apple’s calculator for the iPhone supports a gesture to delete the last digit of a number.
Have you been aware of this feature?
If not, why not? It’s in the line of Apple’s iOS Human Interface. The gesture is well-known in Mail but not implemented in Calendar. Don’t ask me why. Google it for your postgraduate training.

20121212-182137.jpg





Bridge the gulf, Apple

1 12 2012

There are some documents provided by Apple presenting cases of business applications on the iPad, e.g.

iPad @ work
iPad @ work Volume 2

These e-Books give an overview how iPad features and apps allow you to streamline common daily business tasks.

That’s the theory.
Lets take a look at the reality.

Consider the following scenario …

You have to provide an iWork-Document (created with Apple’s iWork-Apps Numbers, Keynote or Pages) on different cloud storages (with recommended complex passwords), e.g. two Numbers-documents containing data worth being protected.

As a normal user with basic knowledge there are some questions which have to be answered:

  • What is a secure way to transfer data?
  • Which cloud provider guarantees a secure storage?
  • Do I need additional apps to work efficiently?
  • Are the additional apps stable?
  • Is there a fast and understandable support if errors occur?
  • Which apps should I buy to improve the usage of the device?

Generally you have 3 features which allow you to move documents:

  • Send by E-Mail
  • Open in another app
  • Save to WebDAV

Using ‘Send by E-Mail’ …

Apple’s NUMBERS does not support sending more than one document to a recipient.

Apple’s Mail does not support access to iWork-Documents to send them as attachments. Only photos and videos can be inserted.

Apple’s Mail does not support E-Mail distribution lists.

So for easy distribution of documents via E-Mail you will need an additional app.
But is it possible to use the ‘Open in another app’-Feature of iWork to provide the helper app with the required documents?
Does the app support IMAP-Accounts? If it does you have one more E-Mail-Client installed on your device.
If it does not, you will not see what you sent in your other E-Mail-Client.

Using ‘Save to WebDAV’ …

iWork supports only one connection to a WebDAV-Server. Changing the server from time to time requires the knowledge of the address and the password which might be complex so that you have to look it up in your Password-App.

(The app ‘Documents To Go’ from DataViz, Inc. allows access to 4 preconfigured servers.)

Summary …

There are many features not supported by iOS or standard apps of Apple.
So it will take a long time until you have found out the right apps for your specific requirements.
You will need additional time to find out which app fits best to to do your work.

So
Bridge the gulf, Apple
and take frequently used workflows into account when updating iOS and the iWork-Suite. There are still to many stumbling stones.

And …

Is it an advantage to offer more than 600.000 apps? No it is not, except I have the option to first look within a limited time whether an app meets my requirements or not.

The security of iOS, the iOS-Filesystem and the usability of the File-Management
are not well-balanced so far.





S/MIME Secure E-Mail communication

27 11 2012

If you want to communicate via E-Mail in a secure way, activate S/MIME for your E-Mail-Account in the settings of your iOS-Device. S/MIME was first introduced by Apple in iOS 5.

The problem …

Maybe you experienced an E-Mail from a friend where the subject line seems a little odd. Upon opening the E-Mail you noticed that it was SPAM. Somehow a spammer was able to use your friends E-Mail address (spoofing an address) which, understandably, made you feel comfortable enough to open and read the message. These experiences forced the need for having a more secure form of E-Mail.

If you send a letter through the post office do you simply print a piece of paper and drop off in a mailbox, or do you put it in an envelope? If you are worried about people reading your message, why do you send an email without a ‘virtual envelope‘? As an email passes through routers, switches, and from one mail server to another without it being inside a virtual ‘envelope’ (thus encrypted), anyone could look at your letter.

How it works …

Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) can secure your mail by encrypting a message at the source and only decrypting it once it’s in the hands of the receiver. S/MIME also supports digital signatures, so you can know for sure who sent the message and that it wasn’t changed in transit.

If S/MIME is activated the iOS-Mail application will show a little checkmark (within a gearwheel) after the sender’s name if a message was signed.

If something is wrong with the certificate or the message was changed after it was signed, iOS-Mail displays the senders name in red followed by an open padlock.

A common reason for signature failures is people using self-signed certificates or using CAcert, which isn’t considered a trusted authority by Apple and others.

The bad news is that you normally have to pay for a Digital ID from a Certificate Authority (CA) e.g. VeriSign.

If certificates are cheap (or even free) the certificate authority only checks whether the person requesting a certificate is actually in control of the E-Mail address in question, with no actual identity checking.

What you need …

A Class 1 Digital ID e.g. from Symantec/VeriSign.

The process from APPLY to INSTALL …
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How to install …

  • Apply for a Digital-ID.
  • Wait for confirmation and issue. It may last up to several days depending on the verification strategy of the CA.
  • CA issues your digital certificate for installation on a PC/Mac.
    Follow the instructions of CA, when you get the download link for your certificate.
  • Install the certificate in the certificate storage of Safari/Internet Explorer.
  • Export it using file format PFX.
  • Send the PFX-File as an attachment to the appropriate E-Mail-Account (the account the certificate was applied for).
  • Open it on your iOS-Device and tap on the attachment (PFX-File).
  • iOS identifies this format as an importable Identity Certificate for installation as a Profile. Follow the instructions. Pay no heed to any strange message.
  • Turn on S/MIME-Option.
    Two additional sections (Sign, Encrypt) will be displayed.
  • Turn on Sign and Encrypt.
    You can select one of the certificates you own a private key for. Clicking it puts a checkmark next to it and this is the certificate that will be used to sign all outgoing messages from this account.

How to communicate securely …

  • Send a Mail to the recipient.
  • The Recipient must install your certificate (by tapping on the sender’s name) for future secure communication.

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Additional information …

  • Apple has chosen to not indicate that a message was signed in the standard configuration under iOS. To enable this feature, you have to go into the Settings… Account… Advanced for each E-Mail-Account, and then enable S/MIME. If you have other iOS-Devices you have to repeat all steps for every device.
  • Recipients will get an attachment smime.p7s if you send an E-Mail with your certificate. This attachment can be ignored.
  • iOS doesn’t automatically store the certs of people who sent a signed E-Mail to you. Instead, when someone has sent you a signed message, you have to tap the sender’s name and then you can install the certificate for future use. If you try to send a message to someone you don’t have a certificate for while encryption is enabled, their name turns red to alert you to the problem. A lock icon indicates that a message was encrypted.

Related links …

Apple about S/MIME

IBM about S/MIME

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.








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