Understanding the WEB

29 09 2013

For many people it’s a daily task to use the internet for business or private purposes, for improving knowledge, access bank accounts, sharing information on the big social networks, or just surfing for fun.
Since the mid-1990s the internet has a tremendous impact on culture, commerce, science, and the way how people communicate (E-Mail, Social Networks).

Less people know how the WWW really works.

Here is a short description as well as a review of the app EAW (Explain the Web) with which teachers can create some background information for their pupils.

The Internet …

Wikipedia
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve several billion users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW), the infrastructure to support E-Mail, and peer-to-peer networks.

TCP/IP network access expanded again in 1986 when the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) provided access to supercomputer sites in the United States from research and education organizations, first at 56 kbit/s and later at 1.5 Mbit/s and 45 Mbit/s. Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Internet was commercialized in 1995 when NSFNET was decommissioned, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic. The Internet started a rapid expansion to Europe and Australia in the mid to late 1980s and to Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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The connection …

Here is an infographic about the steps to connect to a website.

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The app EAW …

Explain a Website (EAW) is a specialized screencasting tool that allows recording the interaction with a website within the iOS web browser.

How does it work?

You enter the name of a website in the address bar and tap “Go” on the keyboard. The browser will display the chosen website. You can then draw on various elements of the website or highlight them, while talking. Everything will be recorded as an EAW project. You can then export the project to various cloud services or publish on YouTube.

The toolbar at the bottom of the screen contains three sets of buttons – on the left, drawing and highlighting tools, in the center – recording and playback, on the right – save/load functions.

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Possible applications …

  • Teaching children about the usage of websites.
    See also
    the app Explain Everything by Morris Cooke
  • Discussing a website design with colleagues.

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Disadvantages …

  • Only hand-written annotations are possible.
    So a touchscreen pen is an indispensable tool.
  • Annotations cannot be created as separate files referring to a specific position on the website.
  • Some more saturated colors for marking would be useful.
  • The app cannot be used in portrait mode which is often useful when explaining websites.

Related links …

Internet stats

Glad to have you here on http://iNotes4You.com.
Thanks.





TeamViewer Mobile Support

26 09 2013

With over 100 million installations (says the company) TeamViewer is a standard tool to give support and assistance to people in remote locations. The application can also be used for presentations. You can show your desktop to an audience.
It’s even possible to allow interactions from your partner and configure the application for audio and video support. Within a support session files can be transferred in both directions.

So TeamViewer is much more than just a remote control application.

It works on all platforms (Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android), is free for private use, easy to install and to work with, and needs no special configuration of the firewall, a proxy, or a NAT router.
TeamViewer basically works on all computers where internet access is available via HTTP protocol. Additionally port 443 (HTTPS) is checked. Alternatively port 5938 can be opened for outgoing traffic.

TeamViewer GmbH
TeamViewer HD is free for personal use, i.e. use TeamViewer HD completely free of charge to access your private computers or to help your friends with their computer problems.

The developer is the German TeamViewer GmbH, Goeppingen. The company was founded in 2005 for exclusive development and distribution of web-based communication and collaboration.
Widely spread server networks ensure efficient and affordable high performance connections based on geolocation.

While the standard version of TeamViewer connects two computers the new product supports a connection from a computer to a mobile device (running with iOS or Android) to provide support even for those for users.
TeamViewer Quick Support for mobiles was released on July 9, 2013.

The features …

Communication

  • Chat
  • File transfer

Configuration

  • Add E-mail Account
  • Add Microsoft Exchange Account
  • Push and pull WLAN settings

Support

  • Import iOS Configuration Profile
  • Store confidential information into the device clipboard
  • Process list
  • View device information
  • View system diagnostic information
  • Real-time screenshot of the device

The connection is secured with 256 Bit AES Session Encoding.

Get started …

Three easy tasks to use the app:

1 Download and launch the app.
2 The other side, (e.g. the support technician), needs to install and start the TeamViewer full version on his/her computer.
3 Pass your ID on to your trusted technician, who is using the TeamViewer full version.

After entering the TeamViewer ID on the computer the user is asked to allow the connection.

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Screenshots …

See these screenshots to better understand the textual feature description.

File transfer …

TeamViewer Quick Support for mobiles allows file transfer from the computer to the iOS device.

Summary …

TeamViewer Quick Support for mobiles is a first approach to support mobile users. Apple’s iOS is an operating system with many restrictions. This increases security so that iOS devices practically aren’t under attack. On the other hand these limitations don’t let direct access from other devices happen.

So what are the benefits for normal users?

Well, it would be the file transfer from a computer to an iPad or iPhone.
Unfortunately the transmitted files cannot be used for further purposes e.g. by using the ‘Open in’ command to open a text document in Pages or a spreadsheet in Numbers. Even images cannot be transferred to the camera roll. So all transferred files stay in the local folder of TeamViewer Quick Support. If the developer doesn’t add an appropriate feature file transfer is nearly useless.

Regarding the capability of configuring a device everything can also be done by Apple’s configuration utility.

So, it’s a bit overstated (at the time) to talk about an efficient support tool.

If someone gets software trouble with his iPhone or iPad no technician can help because he cannot control the device. If an app is the reason, it usually has to be deleted and reinstalled. If the OS is faulty or the hardware is damaged there is also no way to help using remote maintenance.

Related links …

iPhone Configuration Utility

App Review TeamViewer

TeamViewer GmbH

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.
Please stay tuned.





iPhone Configuration Utility

23 09 2013

iPhone and iPad are often seen as gadgets.
The reality is also that many companies successfully integrate mobile devices in the company’s IT infrastructure to improve business processes.
Apple offers some tools which help companies to manage their mobile devices. Theses tools are mainly for configuration purposes and take into account that mobile devices for business use have to fulfill strong security requirements and should be configurable from a central point instead of doing this for each single device.

Apple
iPhone Configuration Utility (iPCU) lets you easily create, maintain, encrypt, and install configuration profiles, track and install provisioning profiles and authorized applications, and capture device information including console logs.

Configuration profiles are XML files that contain device security policies, VPN configuration information, Wi-Fi settings, APN settings, Exchange account settings, mail settings, and certificates that permit iPhone and iPod touch to work with your enterprise systems.

Note
Apple’s iPhone Configuration Utility can also be used for configuring the iPhone of your daughter or son to set some useful age-dependent limitations like access to the App Store or other requirements like using a strong passcode for unlocking the device. This prevents some severe troubles if the device gets stolen or lost.

With the iPCU you can create so-called profiles which can be transferred directly to a device, saved to a cloud storage from which they can be installed, or simply sent to the destination device by E-Mail as an attachment. Tapping on the attachments then starts the installation procedure.

I want to show you how Apple’s iPhone (and iPad) Configuration Utility basically works.

Installation …

You can download the free app iPCU for Mac or PC here:

iPhone Configuration Utility Mac

iPhone Configuration Utility Windows

Note
The screenshots were taken from the German version as it was not possible to install an English version. Sorry about that.

After installing the application the home screen looks like this:

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Among others it shows all technical details of your device as well as profiles configured in former sessions.

Feature overview …

With iPCU you can configure important settings of Apple’s mobile devices and deploy them later. Here is a brief feature overview. You will see all the configuration options when clicking on Provisions and select a profile.

  • 01 General Settings
  • 02 Passcode Setting
  • 03 Restriction Settings

    Allow installing apps
    When this option is off, the App Store is disabled and its icon is removed from the Home screen. Users are unable to install or update their apps using the App Store or iTunes.

    Allow use of camera
    When this option is off, cameras are completely disabled and the Camera icon is removed from the Home screen. Users can’t take photographs or videos, or use FaceTime.

    Allow screen capture
    When this option is off, users can’t save a screenshot of the display.

    Allow voice dialing
    When this option is off, users can’t dial their phone using voice commands.

    Allow In-App purchase
    When this option is off, users can’t make in-app purchases.
    Force user to enter store password for all purchases
    Requires users to enter their Apple ID password before making any purchase. Normally, there’s a brief grace period after a purchase is made before users have to authenticate for subsequent purchases.

    and more

  • 04 WiFi Settings
  • 05 VPN Settings
  • 06 E-Mail Settings
  • 07 Exchange ActiveSync Settings
  • 08 LDAP Settings
  • 09 CalDav Settings
  • 10 Subcribed Calendars Settings
  • 11 CardDav Settings
  • 12 WebClip Settings
  • 13 Credentials Settings
  • 14 SCEP Settings
  • 15 MDM Settings
  • 16 APN Settings

Creating a profile …

I took an easy example for explaining the basic actions of configuring, deploying, and using iPCU.

Let’s create a configuration profile for an icon on the homescreen which allows to directly edit an E-Mail and send it to a given recipient.
We can do so using the section WebClip Settings.

Transferring and using a profile …

To transfer the profile to an iOS device you can

  • transfer it directly by connecting the device via the USB connector
  • send the profile (an XML file) as an attachment to an E-Mail account accessible from the iOS device

By tapping on the attachment the installation process starts.
Follow the instructions shown during installation.

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When exporting a profile iPCU allows to generate the profile with the following options regarding security:

  • 1 without
  • 2 sign profile
  • 3 sign and encrypt profile for (just) this device

If the .mobileconfig file is signed it can be installed by any device, as long as the profile hasn’t been altered. So signing a profile is an essential security feature.
Once installed, the profile can be updated only by a profile that has the same identifier and is signed by the same copy of iPhone Configuration Utility, which provides the certificate.

If the profile is signed a ‘Verified‘ note appears if you go to Settings – General – Profiles and select the profile immediately after installation.

Useful Links …

He are some further links for those who are interested in using iOS devices in businesses:

Mobile Device Management

iOS Deployment Scenarios

iPad @ Work

iPad @ Work Vol 2

Apps @ Work

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.
Comments and Likes are highly appreciated.





A Glimpse on iOS 7

22 09 2013

iOS 7 is out since September 18, 2013.

Designers play an essential role in the development of successful products.

Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, KBE RDI (born 27 February 1967) is an English designer and the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc. He has the overall responsibility for Industrial Design and also provides leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) software teams across the company. He is the lead designer of many of Apple’s products, including the MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iOS 7.

KNE (Knight Commander)
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by King George V. The Order is composed of five classes in civil and military divisions.

RDI (Royal Designer for Industry)
Royal Designer for Industry is a distinction established by the British Royal Society of Arts (or RSA) in 1936, to encourage a high standard of industrial design and enhance the status of designers. It is awarded to people who have achieved “sustained excellence in aesthetic and efficient design for industry”. Those who are British citizens take the letters RDI after their names, while those who are not become Honorary RDIs (HonRDI). Everyone who holds the distinction is a Member of The Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry (founded in 1938).

Designers are always like philosophers. Endless thinking about their product regarding uniqueness, acceptance of potential customers, usability, feasibility, and more is their daily task always with the risk to fail.

In 2012 Apple published the

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

a noteworthy read on design principles for Apple’s mobile devices.

As we can see in different publications around the world, iOS 7 is not everyone’s gusto but ‘beloved’ by most of the Apple fans.
Fashion of clothing changes every year but changes of operating systems have to be well-considered because people get familiarized with the UI and do not accept basic changes within a narrow timeframe.

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Let’s take a look on some flaws of Apple’s new OS although there are many innovative features like

  • Multitasking View
  • Control Center
  • Safari Page View
  • etc

for improving usability and user experience. See these screenshots of Multitasking and Safari on an iPhone. The Multitasking View shows you not just icons like in former iOS versions but app screens. This improves the usability. Users are conten- and not icon targeted. The recognition value is drastically improved.

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But the details of the implementations have to be revised.

Flaws …

Here are some impressions of iOS 7 with critical annotations.

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The alternative summarizing all controls at the top of the screen.

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All ergonomic guidelines suggest a contrasted view on a screen with clearly defined colors for viewing and acting sections. Apple disobeys these scientifically validated results by presenting a white keyboard and a coexistent white workspace.

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In rumors and publications after the release of iOS 7 authors and fans focussed just on the design of the new icons, the dynamic wallpapers and the new simplicity ignoring that users most of the time do not look on their ‘Beautiful Home Screen’ but use their apps. So improvements and changes of the user interface have to be assessed by working in apps. Slight contrasts and inconsistencies actually hamper fluent usage.

Apple’s principles …

Here are some excerpts of Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines and comparing these principles with the actual version of iOS 7 we can see significant variations.

Performance …

I actually use iOS 7 on an iPad 3 and iPhone 4S, so on quite new devices.
The overall performance didn’t change significantly if it’s compared to iOS 6. But some essential features are of really bad performance and sometimes confusing:

  • Multitasking
    If you move over to the new Multitasking View and open an app it first has to be waked up again by iOS. So if it’s already visible iOS and the app are still executing operations. In Apple’s iWork Suite e.g. Keynote opens and it takes about 3 sec before users can act with the app. The wake-up process is not indicated by displaying an hourglass-like animated icon.
  • Keyboard
    The keyboard in some built-in apps is sluggish and sad to say, not revamped. If you ever used a touchscreen with clammy fingers you would be thankful to have cursor control keys.

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Other flaws (on my very personal opinion) are …

  • File Management
    A PUBLIC folder where apps can save documents and other apps have access to. With this feature redundancy of files caused by frequent use of the ‘Open in’ command could be reduced.
  • Photo Management
    An easy way to transfer photos to the main photostream without creating a new folder.
  • Support of AirDrop for all devices running on iOS 7.
  • Colors
    Customization of the text color of app names as well as of the background color of folders to increase readability with all wallpapers.
  • Icons
    Free arrangement of icons on the Home Screen and in folders for better grouping.
  • Closing apps
    There is still no gesture for the iPhone (e.g. 3-Finger Zoom Out) to close an opened app. You have to use the home button. On an iPad the 4-Finger gesture is available and it’s really helpful.
  • Navigation
    You can navigate to the top of a website, the list of messages, or E-Mails but there is no chance to go to the bottom. That really nerves and increases the contamination of touchscreens with fat. Even the new iPhone 5S is not lipohobic.

Summary …

Many pros and many cons came up with Apple’s new operating system for it’s mobiles. It’s the first release of a completely revamped OS. So we have to be sympathetic. Even Microsoft failed when releasing Windows 8. We have to wait for further upgrades but I’m sure that Apple comes up with many improvements.

It’s out of question that iOS 7 is a big step forward. Apple claims to sell perfect products. So they have to work on the details now.

Related links …

The New Philosopher

Apple’s Intangible Assets

Thanks for dropping by.





Non-Linear Presentation

20 09 2013

Presentations are usually created with Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft’s Powerpoint as a linear flow of single slides.

But every slide has a topic and so the idea is to present information by using a mind mapping tool.

There is a high rated app called Final Argument and it’s described on

Concise Learning Blog (Prof. Toni Krasnic)

which admittedly is much more powerful than my simple solution.
Anyway here is a description of the more simple way using well-known Apple hard- and software.

The accessories …

  • Apple Keynote
    for creating the presentation slides
  • Apple Digital AV Adapter
    for connecting the iPad with a beamer via HDMI cable

alternatively

  • Apple TV
    for wireless transmission of iPads screen on a TV

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The creation process …

  • Step 1
    Create the presentation with Apple’s Keynote.

    In my example it’s ‘Printing from iOS devices’ describing the different options to print documents from an iOS device using Apple’s AirPrint, Fingerprint by Collobos Software, and Google’s Cloud Print.

    In Apple’s Keynote use the arrow-right control on the upper right corner.
    Take a screenshot of each slide by simultaneously pressing the Home and the Sleep/Wake button. The screenshot is saved in the camera roll.

  • 20130714-113128.jpg

  • Step 2
    Open the mind mapping tool iThoughts HD for the iPad.
  • Step 3
    Create the mind map reflecting the outline of your presentation.
  • Step 4
    Add the screenshots made from the slides to appropriate topics.

Now the mind map, reflecting the structure of your lecture, contains all slides as images.
Each slide can be displayed by using the gesture ‘Tap and Hold‘ on an image. The image then will be displayed in full-screen mode.

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The presentation …

  • Connect the hardware components.

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  • Open the mind map with iThoughts.
  • Tap and hold on a topic to display the slide.
  • Add an appropriate icon to mark the slide as shown.
  • Add an appropriate icon to mark a slide for further inquiry.
  • Add a comment where necessary.

It’s recommended to use a copy of the original map so that you can easily go back to the version without any icons and comments added during the presentation.

The benefits …

The table of contents is visualized by a mind map.

The visualized table of contents can be expanded or collapsed to focus yhe audience on important points.

The mind map is available during the whole presentation by simply returning from a slide back to the map.

The mind map and a PDF of the slideshow can easily be distributed to the audience using the following alternative features of iThoughts:

  • Send by E-Mail
  • Share in Twitter or Facebook
  • Share on Dropbox, Box or any other cloud storage accessible via WebDAV

For shared files the following file formats are available:

  • iThoughts
  • Alternative mind map formats
    MyThoughts, Freemind, Mind Manager, Novamind, XMind, iMindMap, MindView Win/OSX, Concept Draw, Mind Genius
    Presentations are usually created with Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft’s Powerpoint as a linear flow of single slides.
  • Microsoft Word/Powerpoint
  • PDF
  • Image + HTML
  • Standard CSV
    Comma Separated Values
  • OPML
    Outline Processor Markup Language
  • Markdown
    easy-to-read and easy-to-write plain text format
  • Thanks for dropping by.





Pearltrees

16 09 2013

Accessing the internet is more and more done by mobile devices. It’s simply much more convenient than taking out a laptop computer and waiting for it to boot up. If you also do so the majority of your bookmarks will be located on your mobile devices, which can make it inconvenient to share a couple of links referring to a special topic with your friends. Sharing and collaboration is hampered because syncing of bookmarks across devices is usually limited to one and only one Google (Chrome) or Apple account (Safari).

Furthermore it’s not possible to add notes or other stuff to bookmarks managed by browsers.

As an alternative one can use a mind mapping tool like iThoughts for the iPad where the main topic is connected to subtopics containing links to websites. Using these links is usually followed by opening the devices standard browser and so you always have to return to the source application to view further topics.

Based on these considerations an app called Pearltrees (universal app for iPad and iPhone) was developed. It’s intended to bridge the gap between simple bookmarking and visualization of information retrieved from websites.

The features …

The developer describes his application as

Pearltrees . Cultivate your interests.

A pearl is an object which may contain a link, a photo, or a note.
Pearls can be organized in trees that means they can be connected to each other and build up a pool of information with the main topic in the center.

So a pearltree is like a folder that contains subfolders which can be pearls or further sub-pearltrees. You can collect what you like by turning it into a pearl and then organize your pearls into pearltrees as you like. Pearltrees can be opened (expand), closed (collapse), and put it into other pearltrees and share where and with whom you want.

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A visual interface allows you to create an unlimited number of folders and subfolders containing links, photos, or notes.

Because Pearltrees is a collaborative digital library, you can discover the pearltrees others have already organized on topics that interest you. For this you can explore related pearltrees, use search, or let yourself be guided by the notifications you receive.
Pearltrees also allows you to follow the activity of pearltrees organized by other enthusiasts. By ‘picking’ a pearltree and adding it to your account you will be informed when new pearls or comments are added. Finally, you can collaborate with others to organize a topic as part of a team.

A glimpse on the Home Screen of Pearltrees shows that it doesn’t follow any guidelines for a suitable user interface. There are two taskbars (one would be enough) with controls which aren’t in any context with the creation process (e.g. Buttons for the installation of the Pearler bookmarklet, What’s new, and Go Premium). All controls should be only accessible when opening the settings dialog.

Summarized:

Pearltrees is a visually organized collection of links and photos which can be accessed from others. So it’s like a social network where ‘posts’ (pearls) are arranged around topics similar to mind maps.

It’s like Pinterest with a mind map-like layout.

Can Pearltrees compete with main functionalities of a social network?

No, it can not.

It will not get the importance of a social network as it is limited to those users having Pearltrees installed on a device running with iOS or Android. All other networks just require a browser without additional software.

Collections of commented links with added images would be useful but in many cases it’s indispensable to use this collection in an additional context e.g. as an outline in a text document or on a website. Pearltrees doesn’t offer any different file format like OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), PDF, or a simple text format. So all information is bound to the existence of the app.

So the companies announcement

Sharing with whom and what you want

is a bit boastful and in reality limited to a small number of people having an account on pearltrees.com.

Obviously collected information can be created with an underlying structure but it’s highly confusing to take advantage of it. It’s the wrong approach to organize and share interests except for leisure purposes.
Admittedly mind mapping is a perfect technology for visualizing information but Pearltrees provides a map layout which is a bit confusing. Opening a pearl hides all other pearls so the overview of collected pearls gets list. Additionally, rearranging of pearls cannot be done by just moving objects to other pearls using gestures. You have to do it within a dialog.
Other well-known format attributes available in mind mapping tools like color, text size, etc. are not available. Expanding and collapsing selected topics is also not available.

Getting started …

After installing the app you have to sign up for an account at pearltrees.com.
Objects will than be created on a cloud storage of the company.
Sign up can be done via Facebook, Twitter, or by E-Mail.

The app starts with a pearl in the center.

The first thing you have to do is installing a bookmarklet for Safari, which enables you to collect links as pearls. The installation procedure is clearly described. For frequent use of Pearltrees it’s recommended to locate the bookmarklet within the visible part of the bookmarks bar.

After doing so the app is ready to add new pearls.
If you tap on + you can select the type of the new pearl. It can be a Pearltree, a weblink, a photo gallery, or a note. To add a weblink you need to know the address. If it’s in the clipboard it can be pasted, if not, close Pearltrees, open Safari and use the installed Pearler bookmarklet to collect links. After tapping on the Pearltrees bookmark you can select the location for the new link.

The following steps were carried out to create the pearltree shown in the image below.

  • 01 Open Safari
  • 02 Open the website iNotes4You
  • 03 Select the article ‘Apple, a unique company’
  • 04 Tap on the bookmarklet ‘Pearltrees’
  • 05 Add the website to the central pearl ‘iNotes4You’
  • 06 Open the website ‘Air Mail by Apple’
  • 07 Add the website to a new pearl named ‘Printing on iOS devices’
  • 08 Adding two more websites about printing

The disadvantages …

In most cases information is retrieved from links to websites so Pearltrees competes with usual browsers and their bookmark feature.

So what’s the really new idea of Pearltrees?

I didn’t find an answer except the unusual layout which looks nice but gets a bit confusing if there are many trees with many pearls but not clearly defined pearl titles.

Note
To edit the title of a pearl -which is generated from the link and not often suitable- you have to close Safari and do the work in Pearltrees.

It’s neither an innovative mind mapping nor a suitable note taking tool. It allows saving links by using the Pearler bookmarklet which is quite comfortable.

If there is no connection to the Internet there is an option named ‘Poor connection. Tap here to start offline!’. This option doesn’t work. A message comes up and prompts to quit the app.

Because of it’s form factor Pearltrees is not recommended for smartphones like the iPhone. It might be used for a special topic with a small number of links.

In Pearltrees everything is public and collaborative by default. So you have to register for a Premium version with annual fees to keep your bookmarks private. Otherwise all the pearls you create are publicly accessible.

It’s not acceptable to pay for a workspace if you don’t use the app regularly for a long time. There are many free cloud storages available where you can share all kinds of files. I understand that the company is interested in continuous payment flow but this strategy is not accepted by the majority of the users.

The Benefits …

A funny application of Pearltrees could be to summarize a holiday with some links, notes, and many photos. Friends with access to this data can easily explore your experiences and holiday highlights posted on Facebook, Twitter, or sent by an invitation via E-Mail.

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For Twitter and Facebook fans it might be interesting to pearl the links posted on their accounts. Transferring Tweets or Facebook posts to a further platform might be a way to summarize information spread over an account.

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.
I appreciate your sharing to other networks.





Fingerprint Technology

12 09 2013

Many publishing media predicted that Apple would introduce the fingerprint scanner for it’s model iPhone 5S presented on Apple’s Keynote on September 10, 2013. Rumors were based on a patent application in 2012 and leaked images posted in publishing media around the world.

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General information …

A friction ridge is a raised portion of the epidermis on fingers consisting of one or more connected ridge units of friction ridge skin.

These epidermal ridges serve to amplify vibrations triggered, for example, when fingertips brush across an uneven surface, better transmitting the signals to sensory nerves involved in fine texture perception. These ridges may also assist in gripping rough surfaces and may improve surface contact in wet conditions.

The flexibility of friction ridge skin means that no two finger prints are ever exactly alike in every detail.

Identification …

Fingerprint identification, known as dactyloscopy is the process of comparing two impressions of friction ridge skin impressions from human fingers to determine whether these impressions could have come from the same individual.

Since the early 20th century, fingerprint detection and analysis has been one of the most common and important forms of crime scene forensic investigation. More crimes have been solved with fingerprint evidence than for any other reason.

The procedure for capturing a fingerprint using a sensor consists of rolling or touching with the finger onto a sensing area, which according to the physical principle in use (optical, ultrasonic, capacitive, or thermal) captures the difference between valleys and ridges.

The electronic scan is the more modern way to take prints.

All the possible methods can be grouped into two major families:

  • Solid-State fingerprint readers
  • Optical fingerprint readers.

When a finger touches or rolls onto a surface, the elastic skin deforms. The quantity and direction of the pressure applied by the user, the skin conditions and the projection of an irregular 3D object (the finger) onto a 2D flat plane introduce distortions, noise and inconsistencies in the captured fingerprint image.

These problems result in inconsistent, irreproducible and non-uniform irregularities in the image.

During each acquisition, therefore, the results of the imaging are different and uncontrollable. The representation of the same fingerprint changes every time the finger is placed on the sensor plate, increasing the complexity of any attempt to match fingerprints, impairing the system performance and consequently, limiting the widespread use of this biometric technology.

In order to overcome these problems, as of 2010, non-contact or touchless 3D fingerprint scanners have been developed. Acquiring detailed 3D information, 3D fingerprint scanners take a digital approach to the analog process of pressing or rolling the finger. By modelling the distance between neighboring points, the fingerprint can be imaged at a resolution high enough to record all the necessary details. It’s done by sophisticated software which digitizes analogous information.

Features of a fingerprint …

In biometrics and forensic science, minutiae are major features of a fingerprint, using which comparisons of one print with another can be made.

The major Minutia features of fingerprint ridges are

  • ridge ending
  • bifurcation
  • short ridge (or dot).

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The ridge ending is the point at which a ridge terminates. Bifurcations are points at which a single ridge splits into two ridges. Short ridges (or dots) are ridges which are significantly shorter than the average ridge length on the fingerprint. Minutiae and patterns are very important in the analysis of fingerprints since no two fingers have been shown to be identical.

The software …

Pattern based algorithms compare the basic fingerprint patterns (arch, whorl, and loop) between a previously stored template and a candidate fingerprint. This requires that the images be aligned in the same orientation. To do this, the algorithm finds a central point in the fingerprint image and centers on that. In a pattern-based algorithm, the template contains the type, size, and orientation of patterns within the aligned fingerprint image. The candidate fingerprint image is graphically compared with the template to determine the degree to which they match.

The importance …

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. They are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body. Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, face recognition, DNA, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina etc. Behavioral characteristics are related to the behavior of a person, including but not limited to: typing rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods.

Performance …

The following are used as performance metrics for biometric systems.

  • FAR or FMR
    false acceptance rate or false match rate

    It’s the probability that the system incorrectly matches the input pattern to a non-matching template in the database. It measures the percent of invalid inputs which are incorrectly accepted. In case of similarity scale, if the person is imposter in real, but the matching score is higher than the threshold, then he is treated as genuine that increase the FAR and hence performance also depends upon the selection of threshold value.
  • FRR or FNMR
    false rejection rate or false non-match rate

    It’s the probability that the system fails to detect a match between the input pattern and a matching template in the database. It measures the percent of valid inputs which are incorrectly rejected.
  • ROC
    receiver operating characteristic or relative operating characteristic

    The ROC plot is a visual characterization of the trade-off between the FAR and the FRR. In general, the matching algorithm performs a decision based on a threshold which determines how close to a template the input needs to be for it to be considered a match. If the threshold is reduced, there will be fewer false non-matches but more false accepts. Correspondingly, a higher threshold will reduce the FAR but increase the FRR. A common variation is the Detection error trade-off (DET), which is obtained using normal deviate scales on both axes. This more linear graph illuminates the differences for higher performances (rarer errors).
  • EER or CER
    equal error rate or crossover error rate

    It’s the rate at which both accept and reject errors are equal. The value of the EER can be easily obtained from the ROC curve. The EER is a quick way to compare the accuracy of devices with different ROC curves. In general, the device with the lowest EER is most accurate.
  • FTE or FER
    failure to enroll rate

    It’s the rate at which attempts to create a template from an input is unsuccessful. This is most commonly caused by low quality inputs.
  • FTC
    failure to capture rate

    Within automatic systems, the probability that the system fails to detect a biometric input when presented correctly.

From theory to reality …

Are you ready to unlock your iOS device by using the fingerprint technology?

Honestly said, I was not when I saw all the rumors and read all the articles about the reliability of this technology. That’s why I published a bet on Google+.

Is it really a unique biometrical identifier?

It might be but that’s not the first question which has to be answered. It’s the question whether the detection method and the underlying software keeps the assumed uniqueness under all conditions like temperature, degree of contamination, age, etc.

Scientists say …

No completely accurate method exists. Current methods only can tell us with a degree of certainty if two fingerprint images match.

Access can be denied because of the following reasons …

  • 1 Displacement
  • 2 Rotation
  • 3 Partial overlap
  • 4 Non-linear distortion
  • 5 Variable pressure
  • 6 Skin condition
  • 7 Noise and feature extraction errors

So it’s indispensable to offer an alternative access method which usually is a more old-fashioned but also more secure way to get access.

Since 2011, Atrix smartphones from Motorola have included a fingerprint scanner in the power/lock button. But the devices also require users to set a recovery PIN, which highlights how enterprising attackers might simply attempt to crack that, instead of trying to fool with fingerprints.

The Informationweek
A fingerprint reader, could definitely make life more convenient by freeing users to not have to enter the four-digit passcode or a complex alphanumeric passphrase.

That’s because entering a passcode or passphrase on a smartphone is a usability chore. Blame small screen size and the absence of tactile feedback, which make it all too easy to “fat-finger” a virtual keyboard, especially when entering long passphrases.

Fingerprint scans, obviously, could eliminate the need to enter a complex password, arguably without compromising access security. One crucial related success factor, however, will be speed. If the average user employs a four-digit iPhone passcode and can enter it in less than a second, then the new biometric feature will need to be faster. Otherwise, the majority of users will stick with a faster option, which for many continues to involve no passcode at all.

From a hardware standpoint, making a fingerprint scanner small enough and fast enough to meet that requirement will be a challenge. Notably, less expensive fingerprint scanners tend to involve swiping a sensor, which serves the dual purpose of also keeping the sensor clean. Apple’s description of the feature describes a user “touching the home button with their thumb,” and such technology is trickier to package in an iPhone form factor. “Full-finger scanners are more expensive as they must have the necessary resolution to scan your entire finger in one go,” noted ExtremeTech, “and they also have a tendency to get crudded up, because you’re not constantly cleaning them with a swiping action.”

Furthermore, the technology — unless packaged in dedicated, standalone devices like the eyeball and fingerprint scanners used in some airports — remains unproven. “Fingerprint scanning, eyeball scanning, voice and face recognition are all at least a decade away from being reliable enough to use as authentication methods” in non-dedicated, mass-produced devices, says SMS authentication pioneer Andy Kemshall, technical director at SecurEnvoy, via email. “The technology simply isn’t sophisticated enough.”

The solid state technology, younger than the optical one, has the undoubted advantage of allowing a greater miniaturization of the scanner, and this makes it more well-suited for the integration into small devices like smartphones and tablets.

  • Sensing area
    Manufacturing large and pure silicon chips is difficult and rather expensive; therefore, the solid state sensors nowadays available in the market are characterized by a small area.
  • Robustness and lifetime
    The silicon surface is in direct contact with the finger, or sometimes protected by a very thin coating, makes the solid state scanners rather weak with respect to mechanical damages or (in the case of capacitive sensor) to electrostatic charges. For a solid state scanner the cost of the sensing elements is dominant. The lifetime of a solid state scanner is usually shorter than optical’s.
  • Maintenance
    Solid state scanners need a more frequent cleaning, to remove from the sensor surface deposits of grease or dirt left from the fingers which highly deteriorate the quality of the acquired images.

Apple’s solution …

Apple purchased the company AuthenTec, Melbourne, Florida, in 2012. This company is specialized on fingerprint technology and so the essential know-how to use the technology in iOS devices was transferred to Apple.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on July 18, 2013, published one of the first AuthenTec patent applications assigned to Apple, with the property describing an advanced method of fingerprint identification that can be implemented into a mobile device.

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Apple is the first company to bring a well-functioning fingerprint sensor (Touch ID)) to a smartphone.

Motorola Mobility implemented one such sensor into the back of its 2011 flagship the Motorola Atrix, which allowed users to swipe their fingers across it to unlock the device. The crucial issue though was that the sensor itself seemed awfully finicky and wouldn’t always correctly accept a user’s finger inputs. That little stumbling block ultimately meant that the fingerprint sensor wound up being more hassle than it was worth in most cases.

The home button of the iPhone 5S is now made of sapphire glass to reduce the potential for damaging one of the 5S’ most notable features, and it’s bounded by a steel detection ring that determines when your finger is on the home button and fires up the Touch ID sensor. Touch ID is also capable of keeping tabs of multiple different fingerprints. This is quite useful if the device is e.g. used by family members.

Mikey Campbell (AppleInsider)
(2 days before Apple’s announcement)

There stands a variety of ways to accomplish biometric fingerprint readings, including the stereotypical “swiping” motion made famous in movies, as well as methods using optical, thermal, pressure and capacitive measurements, among others. AuthenTec, which Apple purchased in 2012 for $356 million, uses a few different capture methods in its products, though the tech most likely to be used in the iPhone doesn’t involve swiping. Typical methods of swipe authentication, usually direct capacitance, involve a thin “strip” sensor that captures and stitches together multiple images of a fingerprint as a user sweeps their finger across the sensing plate. With direct capacitance, an electrical field is applied to the sensor, which detects ridges and valleys — the skin structures that form fingerprint whorls — by measuring variations in capacitance at the sensor plate. Lower capacitance denotes skin that is farther from the sensor, or valleys, while higher capacitance is associated with ridges.

A more accurate and robust method of capture is called radio frequency field sensing, or AC capacitance. Like direct capacitive sensing, this technique also measures capacitance of a sort, but the similarities end there. Instead of measuring the effect on an electrical field, a low frequency RF signal is inserted into the finger and received by the sensor. In this case, RF signal strength captured by the pixel traces are measured and the corresponding data is translated to form an image of the print.

Benefits of RF field/AC capacitance sensing include static non-swipe readings, resistance to dust and capability for the sensor to operate even when covered by layers of protective material. These types of sensors are usually larger in size to allow for a wider capture area.

Mike, you said,

It remains wholly unknown if Apple has incorporated this particular fingerprint technology into the next-gen iPhone …

but you hit the nail right on the head. You are definitely an AppleInsider.

Summary …

We now have the fingerprint sensor in Apple’s iPhone 5S, the flagship of the company. The technology is quite complicated but the engineers of AuthenTec and Apple solved all the problems and Apple is rehabilitated as an innovative company. And it’s not only the fingerprint sensor that can be seen as a breakthrough but also the 64 Bit processor architecture, and, and, and.

Regarding security everyone should know that the fingerprint is stored on the device only in a digitized format and does not go the way into iCloud when backing up a device. Authorities like “Nothing Secure Any longer” may knock on Apple’s door but the fingerprint remains a secret of the A7 processor.

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Feel free to download this map summarizing essential points from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Where’s the beef?

The technology is quite complicated and we heard scientists saying the technology isn’t reliable. But Apple implemented it.

Are Apple’s and AuthenTec’s technicians magicians?

Well, I cannot assess this issue. But as a programmer I know that the software digitizing the scanner’s more or less precise information can be excellent or a bit more fault-tolerant. So the system works seamlessly but is not qualified to take a UNIQUE impression of the fingerprint.
It just works (the companies slogan when introducing Mac OS X in 2007) if the number of measured points is low but it goes along with a decreased quality and it’s likely that uniqueness gets lost.

Related links …

Touch ID Security

Using Touch ID

Apple Patent, acquired from AutheTec

Motorola Fingerprint Scanner

Solid State Fingerprint Sensor National Institute of Standard and Technology, USA

Handbook of Fingerprint Recognition Konda Jayashree, University of Nevada, Reno

Fingerprint Recognition Andrew Ackermann, University of California, Los Angeles

If you visited my site with your mobile device, I promise not to abuse your fingerprint you left behind on my website when using your touchscreen.

Thanks for dropping by.








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