September 29, 2007

Apple Kvetchings

Behold, the bleating of an upset consumer. Me, as it happens. As I've said before, I don't really consider the things Apple is doing to the iPhone 'wrong' in any legal or grand moral sense - but the part of me that is purely consumer (which has a large say in my purchasing decisions) is still ticked off at the imminent loss of functionality that is the 1.1.1 upgrade. Hence, the bleating on their feedback page.


Gentlement and Ladies-

I have been an Apple customer since my first computer, an Apple ][+ back in 1983. I have owned that machine, a Mac Plus, a Mac II, a Powermac 8500, a Powermac G4, and my current Intel iMac. In addition, I have owned the Newton OMP, 120 and 2100, as well as an original iBook, a titanium powerbook, a 1GHz AlBook, and my current MacBook Pro 15". I own an original iPod, a 40GB gen 4, a 2GB mini, and a shuffle. I waited on line to purchase the iPhone 8GB I currently carry, despite my inability to use AT&T's cellular service in my home - they have completely abysmal service here in Boston.

I have been using my iPhone constantly since getting it, again despite AT&T providing the *worst* cellular service I have experienced in my fifteen years owning a cell phone. I terminated an 11-year custom with Verizon Wireless for this device, despite their vastly superior network.

My iPhone replaced a Palm Treo 650. I had said that the minimum requirements for me to switch to an iPhone woulld be the ability to get mail, instant message via an internet IM network, read my eBooks, and use SSH on the device. All of these capabilities were easily available, with multiple choices, on the Treo 650. Despite only the first one being possible on the iPhone at launch, I bit the bullet and bought one, because the interface was so appealing and it allowed me to consolidate my iPod and phone devices. As time went on, I was glad to find that third-party developers were offering me the capabilities I had sacrificed in order to sidegrade to the iPhone.

And now comes firmware 1.1.1. I completely understand the running battle with SIM unlocking - while I may not agree with it, I have to be honest and admit that it doesn't really affect me, since the only network I'd be tempted to move to would be Verizon, and the radio hardware won't let me. I don't travel internationally often enough for the AT&T lock to be an issue, and as a Verizon customer I was used to my phone not working overseas.

However, I find myself locked out of upgradng to the latest firmware, because to do so will remove nearly all the functionality that I have come to depend on on this device. AT&T's service is so terrible in the Northeast that I have been forced to carry my work Blackberry on T-Mobile just to be fairly confident of getting a signal between the two devices. This should give you some inkling of how 'useful' the AT&T phone service is to me. However, I have been using the VPN client and the available SSH ports to manage servers, both personal and at work, when not in the office. I have become accustomed to being able to keep in touch with colleagues on IRC (using Colloquy) and AIM (using Apollo) when necessary - IRC is necessary for me as several of these colleagues are located overseas, which makes AT&T text messaging useless.

I find myself, now, with the choice of upgrading to firmware 1.1.1 and losing all the functionality that I have come to depend on on this device, being left only with the substandard cellular phone system it supports and extremely basic web browsing capabilities which won't let me use 80% of the websites I normally use due to its inability to support flash. While I use Safari as a hack to read eBooks I store on private webservers, this restricts my ability to read books to those times when I have network connectivity - and in Massachusetts, that 'E' for EDGE is not nearly as universally available as you'd think. I had had high hopes that I would be able to transfer some of my 100 or so novels onto the iPhone within a few months as development of additional software flourished.

Now, however, any effort that remains forthcoming from the mass of smart and creative people writing software for this admittedly excellently-engineered device will be sucked up into another round of trying to outguess your engineers for the meagre prize of simply being able to function. Why? Why would you work so hard to destroy functionality on this device?

I had had high hopes that, despite AT&T being so very awful, the iPhone would finally be the phone that science fiction promised me - the device I could use for all electronic and networking tasks short of those requiring the screen real estate of at least a laptop. I find myself bitterly disappointed.

J.B. Zimmerman

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September 28, 2007

Post-update Update

So Apple released 1.1.1 for the iPhone, and sure enough, it breaks shit left right and center. It's now painfully clear why that Apple clarification of warranty went out first. I'm of mixed feelings about some of this.

I am neutral about the effects on unlocked phones. As far as can be determined, the update doesn't destroy (brick) them entirely, but somehow disables their radio hardware so that activating them using any SIM card is prevented. While this is most definitely uncool, it also seems to indicate that there is some manner of recoverability, since the 'failure' is clearly a defined mode. What Apple does next is anybody's guess.

The iPhones left in this state are pretty much (to me) meant to be service magnets - that is, like cable TV providers sending out pulses to brick illegal boxes, Apple hopes that people will bring their iPhones in for service and be scolded back into the fold. The problem is that if this is the case, then Apple must have a method for restoring the phones in question, since the most likely avenue (to my uninformed self) would be to charge a service procedure fee. This indicates that a) the phone isn't damaged and b) there's a technical fix. Apple's problem is now one of timing, it seems.

The same forces that were behind the unlock and initial jailbreaking of the phone are no doubt working busily on recovering said phones - if not to their 'unlocked' status, then at least to their original AT&T functionality. Apple is therefore betting that 'most' people who have unlocked their iPhone will not want to wait an undetermined amount of time for this to occur, and will tamely submit to the official fix procedures. I don't know what those are - there are reports of iPhones being exchanged by Apple Stores, either because they haven't Got The Memo from the mothership or because the mothership might expect a few innocents to get caught in the blast? In any case, they haven't told us what the Official Apple SUBMIT procedure will be. If I'm correct about their intentions (i.e. scare everybody back into the fold) I'm betting that there will be a 'pay a nominal fix fee' procedure which involves you handing in your iPhone and getting it back unbricked with firmware 1.1.1 firmly stamped on it.

I'm disappointed in the grand scheme of things by this. I don't think it was At All Cool. On the other hand, Apple did clearly set up the rules of the game when they released the phone, so they haven't done anything 'unexpectedly dastardly.' Especially if there *is* an 'approved recovery' procedure. I am more ticked about the notion that the new firmware wipes out the AppTapp installer, jailbreaking and the installation of third party apps not related to their revenue sharing deal with AT&T. I recognize that this is because it affects me directly, whereas the unlock bit doesn't, but still - there is a contractual and revenue-based reasoning behind the attempts to control unlocking, much as I disagree with it. It's a fight that, dumb as it may be, they chose early on - and their analysis of the money to be had probably told them that it was worth it.

However, hacks that improve the functionality of the iPhone without jeopardizing their revenue? And, in fact, make the iPhone a much more desirable product? Dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I suppose I should be grateful that the new firmware doesn't brick phones with installed apps, just wipes them - but no, I'm not. I'm just pissed, and I'm holding onto my 1.0.2 firmware image with clenched fists. Until the boffins over at the DevTeam jailbreak 1.1.1 too.

I couldn't give a rat's ass about the iTunes Wifi Music store. But Frotz and ssh? Fuck you, Apple, those are mission-critical.

Posted by jbz at 2:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2007

iPhone unlock warranty kerfluffle

So Apple finally responds to software unlocks for the iPhone, and it ain't the smiling tolerance of Aunt Edna:
CUPERTINO, Calif., Sept. 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed. Apple plans to release the next iPhone software update, containing many new features including the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store (, later this week. Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones. Users who make unauthorized modifications to the software on their iPhone violate their iPhone software license agreement and void their warranty. The permanent inability to use an iPhone due to installing unlocking software is not covered under the iPhone's warranty.

(above text nabbed from Gizmodo.)

While this isn't Happy Fun News for those folks trying to use their phones on other networks, and really isn't Happy Fun News for those jag-offs trying to make business plans out of unlocking the things, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of saying "Um, not sure why this such a big deal." Seriously. First of all, let's try to separate intentional cockblocking from normal, responsible-to-shareholder corporate ass-covering, shall we?

Apple has just been through a fairly expensive customer-satisfaction exercise involving the iPhone, namely the rebate. Yes, that's pretty much entirely their own fault, no sympathy there. However, look at unlocks in that context - software designed to muck around with the internals of the phone in such a way as to prevent it from functioning normally (normally read 'as intended'). While using the loaded word 'damage' is debatable, it requires no big stretch of imagination to posit that even if current solutions haven't done so, it is possible (using those techniques) to make changes to firmware or other internals of the iPhone which not only temporarily prevent it from functioning properly but which (most importantly) prevent the dock-with-iTunes-restore method from functioning - even if they don't do actual irreparable damage to the device.

If that happens, suddenly an iPhone which is under warranty becomes a dollar liability to Apple, who must consider the possibility that the person who downloaded our notional misbehaved hack will simply march up to an Apple store and demand a new phone. Is that really Apple's problem? We can debate that, obviously. However, from Apple's point of view, hell no it isn't. This is the electronic equivalent of 'no user serviceable parts inside.'

This won't stop dedicated hackers. They possess the skills required to resurrect an iPhone which stops responding to iTunes, if that's actually possible, and they're much less likely to walk into an Apple Store and say 'hi, I broke this' if for no other reason than they want to figure out what went wrong and fix the problem. It will ensure that if a broken hack is released into the wild, Apple won't suffer financial repercussions from people gleefully downloading and using a piece of lowlevel software which Apple can't possibly have tested for safety.

I'm disinclined to worry about non-radio system hacks, either. In the above text, Apple very clearly (thrice) refers to 'unlocking software' rather than simply 'unauthorized software.' This makes it pretty clear that they're not too chuffed about your copy of Minesweeper or your install of Frotz. Especially when we consider the mechanism for updates that we've seen so far - if the update doesn't like your phone's checksum, it just restores it and then updates it. This is a pain in the ass, but it does guarantee (from Apple's point of view) that when the update is complete, you have a working phone with Apple Approved software on it. Sure, you have to hack it again to put your apps back on, and that sucks. On the other hand, if the phone was working enough to respond to the updater and complete the process, then you should be able to do so.

Enough verbage (too much, really). I, too, am ticked about Apple's stance on third-party apps for the iPhone. I rely on them to make mine into the usable device it is now as opposed to the pretty device it was when I bought it. On the other hand, I'm not going to run out and declare Doom Upon The Mothership for a little normal corporate legal shielding - even I don't see why they should be fiscally responsible if you've been mucking around with your phone deep enough to screw with its radio hardware and it gets broke as a result.

Posted by jbz at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2007

More Boston zOMGTERRORWTFBBQ bullshit.

Governor Deval Patrick, your stupid fucking bureaucracy is showing. Fix it now.

Oh, wait, you were a big supporter of this kind of idiocy last time, weren't you?

Jesus, I am so glad I'm moving myself and my income out of the Boston area so I won't have to hang my head and admit I live in the city that gives us policing like this.

Posted by jbz at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

Mary Magdalene, JOIN THE JAMMS!

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September 14, 2007

"Secure Connection Truncated" errors using Subversion + DAV over SSL

I was recently tasked with setting up a Subversion server using DAV+SSL, authenticating to a Windows domain controller. I fumbled about and did so, and it appeared to work okay, but when checking large trees in or out Bad Things would happen. Specifically, errors that looked like this:

svn: REPORT request failed on '/svn/repo/!svn/vcc/default' 
svn: REPORT of '/svn/repo/!svn/vcc/default': Could not read response body: Secure connection truncated ( 

...or like this, apparently random choice as to which:

svn: REPORT request failed on '/svn/repo/!svn/vcc/default' 
svn: REPORT of '/svn/repo/!svn/vcc/default': Could not read chunk delimiter: Secure connection truncated ( 

I had taken the following steps to try to ameliorate the problem already:

  • increased the timeout to 1000 seconds (which fixed an earlier connection issue)
  • tried disabling apache worker mpm and relying on prefork, as per a suggestion for someone losing connections using svn+ssh. That didn't work; re-enabled.
  • disabled http compression (by commenting out the loading of mod_deflate). Left that disabled just in case.
  • enabled keepalive and upped the requests per connection. No change.

Then, after investigating and watching apache while the checkout was running, I noted that the working apache process would grow during the checkout to consume appro. 27m of resident memory and then suddenly vanish when the error occured, briefly showing up in the process list as httpd <defunct>. Closer examination of the apache logs showed that these httpd children were indeed segfaulting.

This is a RHEL5 system using Subversion 1.4.5 compiled from source, being served by the distro's Apache (httpd-2.2.3-7.el5) over SSL using the distro's neon-0.25.5-5.1 at runtime AFAICT (although subversion was compiled with neon source in the tree, from subversion-deps). It is a fsfs repository on an ext3 filesystem (local disk) using mod_auth_kerb to auth to a windows DC.


So someone smarter than I continued where I left off and discovered that I was mostly right, there was a memory leak. But when I had tumbled off to get sleep, exhausted, he soldiered on, and tracked that leak to the DAV module (mod_dav_svn) in Apache. The problem, apparently, is that the DAV module was performing the authentication steps for every directory, every time it was accessed, and the leak was leaking during the auth process. Thus, in a large tree, the dozens or hundreds of auth steps would end up leaking the module into instability. The solution was to tell the DAV module not to reauthenticate for every path underneath the main one once the user had been authenticated into the repository. To do this, add the following statement to the apache config (in the vhost entry for the repo, in our case):

SVNPathAuthz off

...and in our case at least, all was well.

Posted by jbz at 2:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 8, 2007

Sheep! We're SHEEP I tell you!

And how many of us will happily take that $100 credit Steve-O is touting and turn it right back around, if this is true?



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iTunes 7.4.1 and custom ringtones

There have been some reports that iTunes 7.4 nukes custom ringtones installed on the iPhone by some software - 'iToner' was mentioned. I have ringtones that I placed there using iPHUC/jailbreak, and they're still there after a 7.4.1 sync (and, actually, it synced to 7.4 before it upgraded to 7.4.1). Just FYI. Mine are all AACs converted from MP3 using iTunes originally.

Posted by jbz at 2:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 5, 2007

iPhone approaches reality value pricing

Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone. Have since I got it. Still hate AT&T's voice and data services with a burning passion. However, when asked (as I have been countless times) by non-Apple-fanbois) if the time was right to buy an iPhone, I have typically said 'Nope. It's too expensive for what it is. It needs to do more or be cheaper.'

Well, ding. The 8GB iPhone is now $399. Which is Apple admitting that it's sucked all the rents possible out of us irrational early adopters and has finally decided to release the device to the general (i.e. more rational) consuming public. At that price? Yep, I think the phone is definitely worth it, even on AT&T.

As for me, I still don't regret it, really. I won't until the 16GB version is out for $499 or $599, because (other than having it run on Verizon) the thing I wanted most from my iPhone was more space.

I wonder if the price drop was at all due to negotations with overseas carriers?

Posted by jbz at 2:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 2, 2007

Read this, now, if you're a U.S. Citizen.

I'm not going to opine on the veracity of this. The fact that it exists at all is troubling. If it's true, it's more than troubling, it's downright terrifying in demonstrating the loss of contact with reality that this Administration has achieved.

Someone needs to stop these people, if this is what they're trying to do.

If you're an American voter, that person is you. Do it now.

Update: Fascinating. The story seems to have vanished from DailyKos, despite there being a claimed 1395 comments on that Kos URL (which we can't see). It may have just moved somewhere I can't find it. It was someone telling us of a phone call from a friend who is an LSO on a carrier in the Gulf, telling them that we're basically 'going to attack Iran' based on what she saw in terms of aircraft and ship prep and organization activity, as well as some disturbing descriptions about Marines and Navy personnel wondering why the fuck we'd be doing this.

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