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Applesauce: All Things Apple – January 13, 2013

Jan 13, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – January 13, 2013

Disable Java, already. Your Country Needs You

Would you look at this…the majority of the tech press turn their eyes away for just one week to check out all the new and interesting gadgets at CES and suddenly there’s another Java exploit leaving hundreds of millions of Mac and PC users vulnerable.

The common thread throughout much of 2012, at least where Internet security was involved, was as follows: “Disable Java.”

It seems only fitting to begin the following story and rant with these succinct words. Again, it’s entirely likely that if you don’t know what Java is, you probably haven’t used it in years. Therefore, please visit this site and disable this terrible, terrible pox on computing and personal safety.

If you have an actual need for Java, then you’re probably smart enough to know which Web sites to avoid and how to keep yourself safe in other aspects as well.

To you I say: Good luck and Godspeed.

On with the story.

Java is so terrible and has such a bad reputation at this point that the United States Department of Homeland Security is now asking people to disable it on their computers.

At some point you have to wonder if Oracle will ever face charges for continuing to release such a dangerously terrible product to the market.

(Or rather, perhaps charges should instead be placed on the hackers who continue to use Java in order to exploit users…)

Once again, hackers have found a way to use Java to endanger its users and install malware on these machines. No computer is safe as this weakness can be exploited on Java installed on both Mac and PC machines.

The rest of the story is sadly commonplace at this point; Hackers install malware, these computers are enlisted to a botnet, more computers are exploited, identity theft, DDoS attacks, general madness and mayhem, on and on it goes.

The DHS’ Computer Emergency Readiness Team (also known as CERT) has issued a warning, saying they’ve not yet found a way to solve the problem other than encourage all users to disable the software which has caused so many other problems in the previous year.

“This vulnerability is being attacked in the wild, and is reported to be incorporated into exploit kits. Exploit code for this vulnerability is also publicly available,” reads the warning, which was posted online.

The flaw has been pointed out by many security experts, such as Brian Kebs and Alienvault Labs and has been found to launch apps and such without the user’s knowledge.

While this isn’t a Mac specific exploit, it can target these computers, thus landing the story here. Disabling Java is a sure fire way to steer clear of this exploit, but it’s only the first step. Users must also be wise as serpents when surfing the web. For instance, you’ll probably never get a Twitter DM from one of your friends asking you how those nudey pictures you took ended up online. This should sound particularly suspicious if you’ve never once posed for such pictures or if your friend never uses the acronym OMGWTF.

Don’t go clicking every promise for nude pictures of Megan Fox or whoever is hot these days, and for the love of Professor Cat, don’t click on anything from a suspicious email.

Come on people, do the right thing. If your DHS asks you to disable Java, you say, “how high.”

When Cook Goes to China, the Whole World Listens

Also a sure sign that the majority of the tech press has been busy reporting about unlikely $20,000 television prototypes and drinking $10 Budweisers this week, many news sites have been reporting about Tim Cook’s visit to China. As reported on redOrbit, Cook met with Miao Wei, the head of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. It’s been reported that these two powerful nerds discussed “the state of mobile communications across the globe.”

In other words, Wei likely showed Cook how cool the phones in China are while Tim defended his company’s stance on not including NFC in the latest iPhone.

On the surface, Cook visiting China is a boring story. The man could be there for any number of reasons. He was there less than a year ago to meet with those troublemakers at Foxconn, likely bringing up the fact that the eyes of the free world are looking upon them with disdain when it comes to their labor practices.

Cook and Crew seem to have whipped them into shape where these matters are concerned, and now it appears as if Apple’s CEO is simply working some palms to make their move into China even easier.

He could have had some meetings with Li Yue, CEO of China Mobile, also known as The World’s Largest Carrier that still doesn’t officially offer the iPhone. Analysts and the media alike have been keeping their eyes on these two mobile players, hoping that their size and dominance would be enough to one day bring them together. At this point, it’s damn near inevitable, isn’t it?

Of course, with APPL currently in the middle of a 4-month slump, many news organizations filled in the lack of details of this story with speculation. Could this be a sign that Apple is trying harder to push their way into China to help along their slumping sales? Is this a last ditch effort? Are they finally willing to play someone else’s game rather than insist on making the rules all the time?

And when will Sir Ive get a chance to debut a new product?

Not much is known about Cook’s journey to China this past week. All we know is that he went there, he’s been there before, and he’s said some positive things about being there in previous statements.

The rest is up to us to decide, apparently.

The way I see it, the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful company is entitled to a few privileges. As such, if the man wants a proper cup of green tea, he’s entitled to hop on a plane and take tea with one the Chinese governments top men.

While they were there, it’s entirely possible that the two of them discussed their cell phones, Wei talking about how he hates his old and outdated phone, mentioning something about how certain Web sites, like YouTube, don’t always work the way he wants. Cook, wondering if he should mention the whole Firewall of China thing, simply nods his head as he lifts the cup to his lips, trying to lose him self in the steam and the hot liquid and the crisp, bitter subtlety of it all.

It’s tough to be the top man, after all, but at least this cup of tea was worth the trip.

The Wall Street Journal Backs Up A DigiTimes Story

Since 2010, the scrum of Apple-minded analysts and tech writers have been calling on Apple to do 3 things: release a TV, release a cheaper iPhone, and release a smaller iPad to compete with all those other nonexistent best-selling 7-inch tablets.

So far only one of these things has happened.

For some reason, these people continue to believe that a company so obviously concerned with releasing top-tier, quality products would one day sink to what I lovingly refer to as the Android Level and begin shlepping cheap iPhones to any and all with $50 in their pocket.

This week, both DigiTimes and the Wall Street Journal have claimed Apple is considering such a plan and may even release such a phone by the end of this year.

According to the analysts interviewed by the WSJ, this move could help Apple recover any ground lost to cheap Android options. This phone could even look like the regular iPhone, but be made of cheaper parts. Furthermore, the Journal’s sources say Apple has been working on such a phone for years and even planned to release such a phone in 2010, but decided to continue selling older versions of the iPhone for less money.

Let’s pick this apart, shall we?

To begin, this entire story rests upon the assumption that the majority of smartphone owners care only about price and will one day give up on iPhone if they have to continue to pay upwards of $199 for the best phone on the market.

There are those who live in areas where subsidies aren’t a thing. For these people, an iPhone is quite a bit more expensive than $199. Then again, so is every other smartphone available to them. There is no doubt the iPhone is one of the more expensive phones out there, but it’s also a quality product.

I’m not sure if I could count all the reasons people buy (or don’t buy) an iPhone. There are economic reasons of course as people shy away from paying such a large sum up front and don’t want to pay extra each month for a data plan. Some choose Android because they like hacking and having the option to make their home screens ugly if they want to. Some people think the iPhone has become passé, others believe it’s become a status symbol, one their uncomfortable owning.

Some, I suspect, are still looking for a physical keyboard.

Yet, for all the reasons not to buy an iPhone, there are plenty of reasons to buy one, and price will almost never be the sole deciding factor for every buyer. The number of people who will buy an iPhone just because it’s an Apple product could help bolster their sales alone.

There’s also the tiny fact that Apple (and any other smartphone manufacturer with a product over $200) have done pretty well so far selling their luxury products. People are still making the choice to buy iPhone, and unless the company suddenly makes a full stop and ceases to improve the phone as they have over the past 5 years, there are people who will always choose the iPhone.

Secondly, there’s the bit about making the iPhone out of cheap products.

It’s a tricky business, trying to predict Apple’s future based on their past. This is the company who can turn on a dime, who will one day make a sweeping decision for seemingly no other reason than because that’s just the way they felt that day.

Yet, if we look to Apple’s past, (at least their last 20 years or so) we’d find that they’ve never once skimped on design.

Ever.

Beautiful design is a keystone in Apple’s foundation, and while Ive could probably find a way to make something lovely out of cheap material, I doubt we’d ever see the day arrive where he was asked to.

I return to my previous statement: So long as there is an iPhone, people will buy it no matter the cost. Even if there were a cheap and an expensive iPhone, people would still choose the expensive one. I don’t believe a cheap version would hurt sales, but I do think it would cause some confusion.

What’s more, the iPhones 4 and 4S are still outselling other models in the competition, and these are already priced in the “cheap” range.

Finally, the Journal and others mention that Apple has been working on such a phone since at least 2010.

You don’t say.

And here I was thinking R&D stood for Run and Dry.

(Run and Dry is when you need to dry your wet clothes in a hurry so you put them on and run around the block as fast as you can. It’s terrible ineffective and terribly painful.)

It never hurts to mention the fact that Apple stays busy by developing these prototypes and considering these options.

Like any other successful companies, Apple is always looking for their next project and/or their next exit. It just makes sense.

Yet, when used as an argument bolster, this point is made of cheap wood, so to speak.

Because, once you make this point, you must also follow it with “Apple could still decide to scrap the plan.”

Very few people in the world know what Apple could do in the future. I’d wager a guess that even Apple themselves aren’t sure what’s going to happen until it’s already done.

Yet, I’d also feel fine putting money on this rumor never coming true.

The day Apple releases such a phone is the day I agree with all those half-wits who continuously cried “Steve Jobs would never have done this!”

It’s also the day I seriously begin to worry about Apple’s future. Such a phone could be a solid admission that perhaps things are starting to look shaky at the top.

I just don’t see any of that happening in the near future.

Yeah, No Doy

Finally, in the “Yeah No Doy” section of this week’s Applesauce, rumors have begun to emerge which claim the next iPads will arrive this March. When Apple released the 4th gen iPad in the fall just months after the Retina’d 3rd gen, many began to wonder if Apple was now on an Autumnal cycle when it came to releasing their tablets. Previously, Apple had always released their iPads in the springtime, around March. There are two camps when it comes to guessing what Apple will do with the iPad. (And that’s all we’re doing anyway…guessing.) First, some believe Apple may begin releasing iPads twice a year in order to stay up to date with the fast-paced release schedules of their competitors. I can’t think of another competitor who releases two tablets a year…. Secondly, there are those who believe Apple simply wanted to get as many of their Lightning enabled products out there for the holiday shopping season, but could just release the same iPad with a new connector. Neither of these options were optimal, in my opinion. Apple ran the risk of upsetting those who just bought an iPad months ago as well as upsetting even more if they release again in March. Yet, they did what they did. What makes this rumor interesting is the source. Topeka Capital Market’s Brian White said that he had made some “checks” at CES to determine that Apple was sticking with their spring release schedule. It’s odd, since Apple has no official presence at CES. Perhaps White talked to certain employees who just happened to be there? Maybe some parts suppliers were present at this year’s CES? No matter, White makes some safe claims about the upcoming 5th gen iPad, saying it will be lighter and thinner than previous versions. The iPad mini, on the other hand, is expected to look pretty much as it does now. If there’s one thing I learned this previous week in Vegas, it’s that, sometimes, making the safe bet is the right bet. So sure, lighter and thinner iPads. I bet Apple also improves the chip and either extends or maintains the battery life of the current iPad. You heard it here first.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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