Home > Mac News > Mac News for the Week: iPods, iPhones, Scares, and Shopping

Mac News for the Week: iPods, iPhones, Scares, and Shopping

August 28th, 2007

The new iPods are coming! The new iPods are coming! Maybe! Probably!

Well, almost certainly, now. Finally, after so long waiting for the whole iPhone wave to subside, Apple is, it seems, ready to release the next generation of iPods. Already spy images (possibly faked) of the new iPod Nano design (wide-bodied with muted colors) have been flying over the Internet. The images, which could easily have fallen into the “that’s so fake” trash pile, were given a stamp of approval by Apple Legal, which demanded their removal from the originating site (which, of course, prompted far greater coverage on so many other sites).

Rumors have been going around about a new iPod release for some time; almost every month this summer has been the rumored release date. A few days ago, it became known that Apple was holding a special event on September 5th, and the rumors started to fly that this was the iPod announcement. And now there seems to be hard evidence that this is true, beyond what Apple Legal does: iPod supply is drying up at retailers. This is about as close to a sure-fire indicator that you can hope for that a new model is coming out.

At least some of the models, probably the full-sized ones, will run on OS X. The widely-held belief is that the full-size models will also be full-screen and touch-screen; if they’re not, expect a lot of anger from expectant fans. Essentially, everybody expects the big iPods to be just like iPhones, but without the phone part. Expect WiFi to be absent; if Apple provided WiFi and the ability to use Safari, the product would probably bee too much like an iPhone. It would be cool if they had it, but unrealistic. Not to mention that with WiFi, you might even be able to get a Skype hack and turn it into a virtual iPhone.

Then there are the Nanos, apparently getting a bigger screen, and maybe running OS X themselves–though that’s lower on the probability scale, unless each machine will have a lot more flash memory than in the past.

Some even expect the iPhone Nano to be released–a cheaper, smaller, less-featured iPhone. I doubt that, as Apple seems to want to keep the two lines distinct from each other.

We’ll see in a week’s time. Until then, expect the rumors to fly wild.

In other Mac News: If you saw this story from Symantec, then you can safely disregard it.

“Apple has been demonstrated to suffer a number of vulnerabilities over the years,” he said. “Suffice to say that Symantec and other software security vendors do produce anti-virus software for the Mac because we believe there is the potential of a problem.”

And the fact that they sell software to “protect” your computer has nothing at all to do with the fact that they constantly release reports telling people how open to attack the Mac OS is. Of course, because there has never been an actual functioning piece of malware for OS X in the wild, they have to keep talking about those “vulnerabilities,” which are nothing but potential weak spots where hackers could attack… but somehow never do. A lot of these vulnerabilities require rather intricately unlikely environments and sets of circumstances, like two Bluetooth-active Macs which have not had their software updated for a year, in the same room, where one is infected and the other has a user who blindly accepts and approves of a mysterious, unknown Bluetooth device that does not exist.

So let’s lay it out once again: Macs are not invulnerable. They can be attacked. However, they never have been, and it is likely that they will not be for some time. And when they do start falling prey to viral attacks, they will still be far less susceptible to attack than Windows PCs. You don’t need anti-viral software today, but you might at some time in the future. So don’t pay attention to the companies making the software trying to scare you into buying what you don’t need.

Elsewhere, a company claims that it has developed a way to unlock the iPhone so that it can be used with any service provider. Apparently, they’re for real, because AT&T is taking legal action to stop them. From the best I can understand of what people have been saying, it is not illegal (or at least not something anyone will sue you personally for) to unlock your iPhone, but it is probably illegal to unlock iPhones as a paid service.

Under the law as it stands, you are allowed to unlock your cell phone, at least under the criteria listed here (pdf):

Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.

That means that it is probably legal to unlock your iPhone in order to subscribe to a different provider–but it is not legal to unlock other people’s iPhones for a fee. However, if I read the exception correctly, then it would not be illegal to sell software to the consumer which allows them to unlock their iPhones–so long as they are the ones doing the unlocking. However, there’s a lot in there which goes over my head, so I could be reading it wrong. Check out the pdf linked to above, and see pages 48-52 for relevant material.

The process itself is apparently software-based, takes only a few minutes, and is simple to use. The only feature which is fully disabled is Visual Voicemail, because that’s an AT&T service; however, if other carriers start using it, it should work on an iPhone. The unlocking company claims that the unlock is “restore and upgrade resistant,” which suggests that Apple can’t “switch you off” or otherwise disable the unlock via a software upgrade.

What is more interesting: the unlock seems to be able to free up the iPhone for users outside the U.S. Hmm… I think I’ll wait on that for a little while myself. First, it’ll probably cut you off from upgrades and stuff from Apple (not to mention most likely voiding the warranty), and second, by the time it comes out officially in Japan, it’ll probably be 3G, and with more flash memory. I’m guessing.

At least one consumer is fighting back against the locking in general, filing a class-action lawsuit (pdf) demanding that iPhones be unlocked for use with any carrier. I can sympathize, and I believe that locking a product like that, while it may be necessary in business sense, is unfair to the consumer. Nevertheless, this guy’s case is, to put it bluntly, stupid. The basis of the suit is that Apple did not adequately inform buyers that they were locked into using AT&T with the iPhone. Sorry, but to not have been aware of the AT&T lock-in is a lame excuse at best. Maybe, in its direct ads, Apple didn’t add a huge you’ve-got-to-use-AT&T disclaimer or anything, but the knowledge of this fact was so widespread, and the practice of locking phones so common, that you’d have to be an idiot not to realize it. Kind of like suing Toyota to make them install an ethanol engine in your car for free because, when they sold it to you, they did not go out of their way to inform you that it required gasoline.

And finally, I spent a few hours in Akihabara yesterday, trying to find a monitor solution for the new Mac Mini my school has bought. I wanted to be able to use both a monitor and a TV output for the machine, so I could face the class, see a monitor, and have the same image put on a TV behind me. Alas, it seems that this is unlikely, at least without a few hundred dollars’ worth of equipment and add-ons. I can display on a monitor, or I can display on a TV… but not both.

The trip also brought forth a few things I don’t particularly like about Macs, the biggest being the lack of microphone support. This seems so obvious, especially in the age of Skype, but Apple continues to flub this one. The “sound in” port on the Mac cannot support 99% (not a hard statistic) of the mics out there. If you want a headphone-mic setup for the Mac, you have to go with a USB solution. Not very smart. Apple has also been non-standard in the types of monitor ports it uses, as if a standard port would kill them. VGA ports don’t exist on Macs, despite being the dominant type. Even S-Video ports on the Mac differ from standard ones, or at least the ones used on PCs. And from what I can tell, there are different types of DVI ports, and the ones used on Macs are, again, dissimilar from a lot of ones used elsewhere.

Apple has been ahead of the game in several ways, like wisely dropping the floppy disk before anyone else, and having a high-speed hot-swappable cable interface (Firewire) long before USB caught up, but in terms of ports and interfaces in general, and A/V interfaces in particular, their history has been spotty. Not as bad as their history with making a decent mouse, of course.

Categories: Mac News Tags: by
  1. August 28th, 2007 at 16:44 | #1

    I’m still not holding my breath on the September 5th date. I think it’s September, but A) the 5th is a Wednesday, he always does announcements on Tuesdays for the most part B) the current iPod Nano promotion ends on the 16th C) last year was the 10th, I think he will move to the 18th to avoid the 11th date.

    As for the phoneless iPhone, they could possibly tear out the earpiece and mouthpiece, as well as bluetooth so it would have no way to be used as a phone and leave the WiFi. I *highly* doubt this one and it is more likely to have no WiFi, but it is a possibility.

    The iPhone Nano makes me laugh. It’s not going to happen. No way, no how.

  2. Luis
    August 28th, 2007 at 21:57 | #2

    I must have misread the report, I thought Apple had announced the 5th… but still, Ars Technica’s Infinite Loop claims the 5th despite the odd date. However, I did not know about the Nano promotion; that would seem to rule out something before then… or maybe not. Just because it is announced on the 5th does not mean that it is on sale just then.

    AS for the iPhone Nano, I think that depends on how Apple implements it. If you imagine the Nano in current form, I would agree. However, who knows what new form factors are being cooked up? Of course, it doesn’t have to be a “Nano,” it could be full-sized but featured-down, like no WiFi/web browser, or no music player, something like that.

  3. August 28th, 2007 at 23:00 | #3

    I think an iPhone “Jr.” is possible down the road, but 3 months from release of the main unit seems unlikely to me.

    Yeah, the 5th isn’t a lock. If we don’t get the official announcement today, I’m saying it won’t happen. I don’t think he’s ever gone with less than 8 days warning for an event.

  4. Luis
    August 29th, 2007 at 08:56 | #4

    Well, September 5th *is* a lock, now… official word has been released, complete with an iPod graphic showing the date–using Coverflow, indicating that this feature will probably be integrated. The graphic shows someone using an iPod which is not full-screen, but I imagine that they simply didn’t want to give away the new form factor too early.

  5. August 29th, 2007 at 08:57 | #5

    Yeah, I came over to say “Yeah… I suck” *laugh*

  6. Luis
    August 29th, 2007 at 09:15 | #6

    Hey, how’s this for speculation: I don’t know if they resized the invitation image over at Engadget, but the image is 440 x 292 in size. Resize that to 480 pixels wide, and you get 319 pixels tall… just one pixel short of 480 x 320, which happens to be iPhone resolution.

    Huh? Huh? HUH???

  7. August 29th, 2007 at 09:25 | #7

    um… Luis? Deep breaths buddy, deeeeeeeeep breaths…

  8. jjrs
    August 30th, 2007 at 19:44 | #8

    My guess is the fat nanos are designed that way so that the screen is big enough to play video.

Comments are closed.