A take on pragmatic security and Face ID

Security in today’s world is challenging to implement without making it a matter of privacy or ridiculously difficult for the end user. Passwords, PINs or Memorable Words? While many service providers implemented a multi-step verification system, it is still far from perfect. Troy Hunt, in his recent article nicely explains this:

here’s the problem with multi-step verification: it’s a perfect example of where security is friction. No matter how easy you make it, it’s something you have to do in addition to the thing you normally do, namely entering a username and password. That’s precisely the same problem with getting people to put PINs on their phone and as a result, there’s a huge number of devices out there left wide open.

Anecdotally, I have friends working in hotels and you won’t believe how many people who forget their phones don’t even have a passcode.

I found one survey from 2014 which said 52% of people have absolutely nothing protecting their phone. Another in 2016 said the number is more like 34%. Keep searching and you’ll find more stats of wildly varying values but the simple fact remains that there are a huge number of people out there with no protection on the device at all.

Systems like TouchID and now FaceID make this friction go unnoticeable. Over the past couple of weeks we had many people and news outlets lay their opinions and concerns with where technologies are headed. It’s particularly easy in the the machine learning and artificial intelligence space to exaggerate the outcome, but at the same time I understand where these concerns are coming from. I believe it’s great that we’re having a discussion about the implications of such technologies. We had them 4 years ago with Touch ID and we are having them now. But there is no reason to fear monger the whole world, serving Black Mirror style  stories.

How well and consistent Face ID will is yet to be reported. But if there is a company who can get it right, then that is Apple. Stay secure.

Face ID, Touch ID, No ID, PINs and Pragmatic Security →

What is new in iOS 11?

iOS 11 is released today, 19th September 2017 and it comes packed full with new changes, improvements and features, both under the hood and user facing. For most of the users, the most important changes are the ones they can see. That is why the emoji updates are always better received. If you’re eager to update, remember to make a backup first & if you can, perhaps wait a few days! Here’s what is new and definitely worth a try!

 

If you are interested in finding more about iOS 11, check Apple’s official page at https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-11/. Are Technica and Mac Stories have put up great comprehensive reviews on iOS11 if you really want to geek out.

iOS 11, thoroughly reviewed →

iOS 11: The MacStories Review →

On the potential of HomePod

At WWDC17, Apple decided to focus and market the HomePod around the music quality and advancements it will bring to the home as the home speaker. And despite my tech enthusiasm, I think this is the right approach. This will allow them to reach a wider audience than the tech-savvy or enthusiasts who have for so long compared Alexa with Siri.

According to all reviews I’ve read so far this product really does sound great. So it should come as no surprise that it could be a great companion not only to your music, but to the Apple TV content too.

If the past tells us something, that is HomePod’s December release is just in time for a iOS 11.2 release. This gives Apple time for more than two minor iOS releases to come up with features that will be specific for the new HomePod. This was hinted multiple times throughout the WWDC livestream, especially in regards to AirPlay 2 that both Apple TVs and this HomePod will benefit from, but also in regards to the features tvOS will bring.

At WWDC not much has been said about tvOS except that “we will be hearing a lot more about later this year”. And with a new Apple TV with 4K rumoured for later this year, a high end speaker will go hand in hand with high quality movies and series.

So if Apple shared very little of what the HomePod can do and will do, it means they’ve got more in the works. This will allow Apple to under promise and over deliver, just like they’ve done with the AirPods.

But the aspect I want to talk about is the second category, the intelligent speakers. The Siri version they promoted was the musicologist that lives in your living room. On the HomePod, Siri will be able to handle your music requests, fine tune and change the songs’ list based on the user’s inputs, as well as answer questions about the song, artist or album. Siri will also be able to do the common tasks it can already do on all other platforms. Here is a full list of capabilities it will have, as they’ve been listed at WWDC:

  • Music
  • News
  • Unit conversion
  • Messages
  • Reminders
  • Podcasts
  • Alarms
  • Translation
  • Stocks
  • General knowledge
  • Weather
  • Traffic & Nearby
  • Sports
  • HomeKit

This list of domains that were announced are surely the main ones, but lack the Siri extensibility announced last year and this year was surely disappointing to me. payments, ride ordering, note taking are some of the main skills Siri should be able to perform.

This is the aspect that I believe and hope Apple will address with later this year as part of maybe, iOS 11.2. And I say that because for a few months now, since the rumours started going around in regards to the speaker, I have argued that if Apple was to release one, it had to do 3 things really well:

  1. Be able to hear you
  2. Be able to recognise you
  3. Be able to do understand and do more for you

The HomePod should be able to do these three things really well.

Be able to hear you

This device, unlike your phone, watch or computer is not supposed to be next to you. You’ll be addressing it from across the room, in situations when you might not even be able to reach your phone, or would be difficult to. So it should be able to hear you easily even when you are at a significant distance from it, even if there is noise around, like music, other family members talking or simply outside noise.

Thankfully, this seems to be resolved, based on what Apple presented. The HomePod is equipped with 6 microphones who is able to hear the user even if the music is playing.

Be able to recognise you

Unlike your iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac, and just like the Apple TV the HomePod is a device meant to be shared with others in your home, your partner, maybe your children of any age. But unlike the Apple TV which has a GUI one can interact with, the HomePod won’t. So what I mean by recognising is identifying who you are. This is important, especially since Apple announced the HomePod will be able to read and send messages.

The question is, whose messages? Mine or my father’s? If I ask Siri to reply to read my messages it should be able to know I mean mine. Moreover, my tastes might be different from my family’s, therefore when I say “Hey Siri, play My New Music Mix” it should bring my playlist up.

Siri is able to recognise my voice only at the minute. I’ve already tested this with a couple of friends who tried to activate “Hey Siri” on my phone and it would not trigger when I said it. The tricky part here would be recognising more than one person and connecting to each of our individual accounts.

We do not yet know what the set up process for the HomePod looks like, but I hope this has been considered.

Be able to do understand and do more for you

As much as I love Siri, and I use it quite often on my Apple Watch and iPhone, I still feel like it’s “intelligence” is limited. Besides understanding exactly what you want, which means better natural language processing, it should also be able to do more than just tell me the news.

I should be able to order a taxi, pay my bills, send money to someone. This is why I believe some sort of Siri developer integration is crucial for the HomePod to be a “smart speaker”. If not this year, we will certainly see it at some point next year.

With this said, I’m excited to find out more details about it later next month, which is when, I hope, Apple will tell us more about it.

Repository Showcase: Headless CMS with automatic JSON API, Mastodon and Mac apps

This week repository showcase is about learning and resources. First up is a collection of algorithms and data structures implementation in Java as well as some potential interview questions.

Implementation of Algorithms and Data Structures, Interview Questions and Answers→

This is the collection of algorithms, data structures and Interview Questions with solutions. This repository contains my solutions for common algorithmic problems and implementation of Data Structures in Java. I’ve created this repository to learn about algorithms. I am adding solutions continuously.

I swear I don’t pick these “interview” repos on purpose, following the similar repo from last week’s repository showcase. Next up is an interesting CMS that automatically generates the JSON API for you, written in GO.

Ponzu→

With the rise in popularity of web/mobile apps connected to JSON HTTP APIs, better tools to support the development of content servers and management systems are necessary. Ponzu fills the void where you want to reach for WordPress to get a great CMS, or Rails for rapid development, but need a fast JSON response in a high-concurrency environment.

Hot this week is the appearance of a Twitter platform alternative. Interesting part about it is its decentralized approach where anyone can run their own instance and connect to others.

Mastodon→

Mastodon is a free, open-source social network server. A decentralized solution to commercial platforms, it avoids the risks of a single company monopolizing your communication. Anyone can run Mastodon and participate in the social network seamlessly.

An alternative implementation of the GNU social project. Based on ActivityStreams, Webfinger, PubsubHubbub and Salmon.

And finally something I love about Awesome lists is how awesome they are… This one is about Mac applications and lookign through it it’s quite comprehensive.

Awesome Mac→

This repo is a collection of AWESOME Mac applications and tools for developers and designers.

Ask HN: What are the pros and cons of PostgreSQL and MySQL?

For the past two years PostgreSQL has been my RDBMS of choice and has served me well. In fact I love PostgreSQL so much I decided to use it over the MySQL in my dissertation project, but for different reasons than the one exposed. Now someone has asked a sensible question on HackerNews and I am glad they did because the conversation unfolds nicely which tidbits from both sides.

I always got the impression (since I started using it in Prod in the late 90s) that the MySQL team had never worked on an RDBMS before, even as users, and didn’t really understand it. Back then they would say, you don’t need foreign keys, you can just enforce consistency in your application, you don’t need transactions, you can just handle it in your application, and so on and so on. Monty Widenius was very arrogant and thought he knew everything. Eventually they matured a bit and realized that actually, yes, the entire rest of the database community weren’t idiots, maybe there is something to these features, but now they needed to find a way to retro-fit them onto what they had and now – 20 years later – they still haven’t figured out how to smush it into their architecture.

Whereas the Postgres crew were fresh out of the Ingres project led by the genius Micheal Stonebraker, they had a very clear vision and a culture of doing the right thing, not the easy thing. There’s a steeper learning curve but once you have learned a few things you can easily guess the rest because it’s so consistent. For MySQL you really need a “guru” because there are so many dark corners and weird edge cases that make no sense, you just have to “know” them.gaius

Ask HN: What are pros and cons of PostgreSQL and MySQL?→

And that is also where I found this article that goes in depth on why MySQL might not be such a good idea. Here is a bad argument on why you should use MySQL over something else.

  • It’s getting better, so we might as well stay on it. It’s true, if you go by feature checklists and the manual, MySQL is improving “rapidly.” 5.6 is due out soon and superficially looks to contain a number of good changes. I have two problems with this line of reasoning:
    1. Why wait? Other databases are good now, not eventually.
    2. MySQL has a history of providing the bare minimum to satisfy a feature checkbox without actually making the feature work well, work consistently, or work in combination with other features.

Do Not Pass This Way Again – Choose something else →

Ah and this also reminds me about the list of features coming in PostgreSQL 10. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a chance.