Kyleのシリコンバレー通信(英語)

2008年9月号 皆さん,もうiPhone 3Gは手に入れました?

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Anticipation. It is a truly pleasurable feeling. In some ways, it is almost better than fulfillment (but not quite). Such is the feeling I have now for the soon-to-be released version 2.0 of the iPhone OS. It will be happening in just a few days, on July 11th, and I think it will open up many fantastic new experiences. Some, on the other hand, will be rather pedestrian. Let's examine something that could be great but I fear will be "blah" (note that I am reserving judgment until it is actually out, so I'm hoping I will be pleasantly surprised). Apple has announced that an upcoming version of iTunes will be controllable from the iPhone and iPod touch. Some people are making a big deal about it, but it seems rather ho-hum to me. I mean, I suppose it is handy to use your phone to lower the volume on iTunes on a Mac. If I listened to my music on my Mac, or on my stereo through my Mac, that is. But I mostly listen on an iPod or iPhone, so remote control of iTunes just isn't that exciting. And there are other products that give me similar control, like Salling Clicker (www.salling.com/Clicker/) or Signal from Alloysoft (http://www.alloysoft.com/ or http://www.iospirit.com/index.php). Some of these can control different kinds of software, it sounds like lag, the bane of online gaming, is also a problem with remote control software, too. Maybe Apple's solution will be simple and elegant for what it does, but what I want is to stream my music from a remote Mac to my iPhone. And I want to be able to do it from anywhere in the world. Easy, no?

I'm looking forward the new OS, but I am really, really hoping that Apple will improve the browsing experience on the iPhone. Little things like the progressive loading of pages, caching of pages, lifting the limit on eight pages only, opening "popup" pages in the same page (so that Safari won't refuse to follow a link, telling me that I have eight pages open already), eliminating the fancy shrink-slide-enlarge I must suffer when opening a new browsing page, overly sensitive motion sensors that flip pages at the slightest tip of the iPhone, limited zoom-in ability, lack of page up and down buttons, and limited PDF viewing (no jump-to-page option). Yes, mobile Safari might well be the best phone browser out there, but as I mentioned a few months ago, Apple still has quite a ways to go to make it a superior experience.

It may be the third-party developer who will make that experience better, and with more than 500 applications available on the day the App Store opens, it looks to me like the other phone platforms need to be very, very worried. Steve Jobs was quoted in the newspaper USA Today as saying, "This is the biggest launch of my career." I doubt that myself, thinking back to the launch of the Mac and the NeXT machine, and of course the iPhone itself, but it is without doubt a critical launch. Quite a switch from the day that Jobs suggested people use Web 2.0 to deliver their apps.

USA Today also says that Steve said that 25% of the apps will be free, which I think is a decent percentage but not as high as I hoped, and that 90% of for-sale apps will be $9.99 or less. That too is a decent number. Charging much more than US$10 makes a purchase less of an impulse buy. About a third of the apps are games, which is not unreasonable, I think. The New York Times (not a newspaper that I read, or even one that I particularly admire) points out that there are 30,000 active Palm software developers. I suppose that's possible, but from what I can see their platform is stagnating. The Times also mentions that Microsoft claims more than 18,000 applications for its Windows Mobile operating system, but really, who enjoys using that OS? Apple seems to be capturing more market than Windows even without third-party apps, and now that Apple has that, too, will Windows Mobile be able to keep up with Apple in the so-called "converged device" market? I doubt it. Windows Mobile might be available from 160 cellular carriers worldwide, but Apple is working on that, too.

iPod Criminals

Just to show how criminals have been attempting to make cash with iPods and how desperate some people have been to get them, a gang out of Brooklyn, New York stole thousands of dollars from people by convincing them to rendezvous in a remote location ostensibly to buy some iPhones in bulk (e.g. 10 for US$2,000), whereupon they were robbed at gunpoint. The criminals lured them to "desolate" locations in Flatbush, East Flatbush and Flatlands in the New York City area, but were eventually arrested in a police sting, where a police officer posed as a potential buyer. I made a Tinyurl link to the Google Map page of the sting location at http://tinyurl.com/59ckkx and you can take a look at the neighborhood using the Street View function of Google Maps.

Hacking Warcraft, A New Barrier

I've mentioned a few times that World of Warcraft players have been having hacking problems, most recently last month about a friend's terrible experience, and it is a growing problem. To combat this (and perhaps appeal to the more geeky player base) Blizzard will soon be selling a token generator which gives buyers an additional authentication check to the login process. It works like most any other token generator, and the process is quite straightforward: When you get your generator, you register it with Blizzard by telling them the serial number of the device. When you login, you press a button on the device and it calculates a six digit number. You enter that number on the login screen together with login name and password, and Blizzard compares the number to the one they are expecting. If you really do have the device, you'll enter the correct number and Blizzard will confirm it is you logging in. For only US$6.50, it will give peace of mind to a lot of players (I will order one, too) and should cut down on the hacking. Six digits gives a million different combinations, more than adequate for good security. (http://www.blizzard.com/security-token) , but it doesn't help much in a man-in-the-middle attack. The hacker would still need to somehow intercept the credential after the user types it in. He could then use it himself to login as the user until that token expired. What would the user see? The hacker would probably need to send a wrong token to Blizzard, and let the Blizzard authentication server return an invalid login error. If the hacker was quick enough, he could probably transfer a good deal of equipment and gold out of the account before the legitimate user could contact Blizzard and get the password reset.

And this points to one thing that I think Blizzard could do better job with: freezing accounts when they are told they have been hacked. I read a transcript of a conversation between a GM (probably means "Games Master" but could be "Game Moderator") and a WoW player telling the GM that an account had just been hacked right now and that the hacker was still logged in. The conversation was lengthy, and numerous other members of the hacked player's guild told the GM about it. But nothing happened immediately. Although not on the scale of a bank or credit card hack, a large number of people are still affected and it is quite distressing for the victims, who have probably spent many hundreds of dollars on their "toons."

Passwords are just one part of the security equation. I recently assisted my elderly father in resetting his password and "PIN" ("personal identification number") on a financial website he and I use, and they also required him to specify three "security questions" to help identify him in future. He had about fifteen different questions he could choose from, for example "What city were you married in?" and "What was the name of your first girlfriend" and "What is the name of your mother's mother?" These security questions are an additional barrier to a hacker getting access to your account, but aren't foolproof. With sufficient background information, a determined hacker may be able to answer them. I recently had to update my Federal Communications Commission password (I'm a "HAM" or amateur radio operator) and they require that a "Password must be 6-15 characters and have a mixture of letters, numbers, and a capital letter or special character."

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