New Find My iPhone from an iPhone Saves Day

Last week, Apple added a new feature for MobileMe and iPhone users: When accessing MobileMe on an iPhone, it now shows “a link to use Find My iPhone from a friend’s iPhone/iPod touch if you need to locate your lost iPhone/iPod on a map, display a message, play a sound, or remotely lock or wipe it.” Previously, you could only access these Find My iPhone options via a Mac or PC.

This new addition came just in the nick of time for my wife (Naomi). Yesterday, we went to see a movie. When we got up to leave, Naomi discovered that her iPhone was missing from her purse. We had been to several places that evening. Her iPhone could have been at any one of them.

Did we need to retrace our steps, possibly taking an hour or more, in a search for her iPhone? Nope. All we needed to do was whip out my iPhone and use the new Find My iPhone option. We did. And we discovered, with relief, that her iPhone had somehow been left back at our house.

Postscript: When we returned home, we still could not locate the phone. Because Naomi had turned off her iPhone’s sound, we could not call her phone to help find it. So we used another Find My iPhone feature: “Play a sound on your iPhone, even if it is in silent mode.” That did it. iPhone found. Story over. Happy ending.

Thanks Apple, for helping save our day!

Posted in Apple Inc, iPhone, Technology | Comments Off

Apple Kicks Out iPhone Apps with “Sexual Content”

As reported by TechCrunch, Apple yesterday reversed its policies regarding previously accepted iPhone apps that contain sexual content. Numerous such apps, some having been in the Store for months, were removed. Developers received a brief email stating:

“We have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately. We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application.”

The list of now-banned apps includes many with only the mildest form of sexual content (certainly no nudity or anything that might be considered pornographic). On this list were eleven apps from Chris Pavlou, author of the the Audio Match game, whose saga to get the app into the App Store I previously covered. Making matters worse, Apple appears inconsistent in its enforcement of this new policy; several apps with sexual content remain in the Store.

Reader comments appended to the TechCrunch article epitomize the common split of opinions in this debate:

“It still does bother me that Apple has complete control over what can be put on their platforms. It might be THEIR platform, but it’s MY phone; I should be able to put whatever the hell I want on it. If they don’t want this kind of stuff in the app store then they have to make an alternative medium for distributing apps available.”

“The don’t HAVE to do anything. It may be YOUR phone, but it’s THEIR store. If you want to look at smut, use your web browser.”

“It isn’t a big deal that they removed this particular content. It is a big deal that they are removing an entire category of content. Whats next, Safari will block any website that Apple deems sexual? I can’t receive any SMS or email on my iPhone if Apple has scanned it and deemed it sexual? In my opinion Apple has switched sides in their famous 1984 commercial a long time ago. They keep doing crap like this because people keep buying their products. Until customers react they have no reason to stop.”

“If they started restricting what websites Safari can browse then that’ll be a big deal. Keeping porn out of their App Store is akin to keeping skin mags out of their brick and mortars.”

As regular readers of my writing surely know, my sympathies lean toward those critical of Apple’s position. In that regard, I note:

• While Apple is certainly entitled to change its mind about its policies, it continues to do so in a way that too often seems unpredictable and capricious. This is not good.

• Why should customer complaints about the sexual content completely determine Apple’s policy here (assuming Apple’s statement can be believed)? What about the likely vast majority of customers who had no complaints? Or the ones who would have preferred that the apps remain in the Store? Don’t their opinions also matter? If I (and enough others) complained that we wanted the apps to return, would Apple do so? I doubt it.

• Apple has a 17+ parental controls Restrictions option. If a parent is concerned about their children accessing these apps, they can enforce this option. Apple could even set up the Store so that restricted apps are in a separate area where you need 17+ access to even see them. Instead, Apple treats all of us as if we are children and Apple is the parent.

I am not saying there should be no limits. But the now-removed apps were fairly mild in content (or they never would have made it into the App Store in the first place). Often, the apps had to be revised several times (as I detail in my above-cited article) before eventually getting an initial acceptance. And yet now they have been summarily removed.

• Reversing a long-standing policy, especially one that forces out previously accepted apps, is especially difficult to navigate successfully. Such changes tend to cause all sorts of havoc for developers. Imagine the time and money that someone like Mr. Pavlou invested in his iPhone apps. At this point, it is now all for naught, as all of his apps are gone from the Store. If you were a developer thinking of doing anything the least bit edgy, would you want to risk it now — without any way of knowing in advance whether or not your app will be accepted or whether your app might be accepted and then later removed? Perhaps. But I believe it is a lot less likely. It’s not just about sexual content. This has happened in other areas as well, with apps that have no sexual content at all. I believe Apple is hurting innovation here.

• The big debate remains: To what extent should Apple be able to maintain 100% control over what apps you can install on your iPhone? Where, if anywhere, are limits on what control Apple has? There are no easy answers here. I clearly have my own bias. If I want Chris Pavlou’s apps on my iPhone (or any of dozens of other prohibited apps, many of which that have no sexual content, that I would like), I want to be able to do so. If not from the App Store, than some other way. To me, the fact that it may be “Apple’s iPhone” in some sense should not matter, any more than it should matter that the computer on my desk is “Apple’s Mac Pro.”

This is a debate that will continue to burn. Unfortunately, this latest incident is just another in a seemingly unending string where Apple throws fuel on the fire.

Posted in Apple Inc, iPhone, Technology | 1 Comment

Why the Democrats Keep Losing

Here is a quote from a recent New York Times article on the health care reform legisltaion:

“Even if Democrats could reach agreement among themselves, Republicans have vowed to use every parliamentary weapon to block the legislation. By using budget reconciliation procedures, Senate Democrats could limit debate, but not necessarily the number of amendments, and Republicans are prepared to offer dozens.

Centrist Democratic senators are also reluctant to use the (budget reconciliation) procedure, knowing Republicans would attack it as an effort to jam the bill through the Senate.”

These two paragraphs succinctly summarize why the Democrats keep losing political battles with Republicans. The Republicans unashamedly threaten to use “every parliamentary weapon to block the legislation.” They even somehow manage to do this while largely avoiding being labelled as obstructionists, despite the Democrats claim that Republicans are the “party of no.”

Meanwhile, Democrats are “reluctant” to try even one hardball procedure in an attempt to pass the bill, fearful of how the Republicans would attack them. The sad part is they are probably right. Republican attacks would harm them — while Democratic attacks on Republicans are ignored like water running off a duck.

Some friends of mine have defended this sorry situation, claiming that the explanation is that Democrats refuse to stoop to the low level of Republicans. “You don’t win by doing exactly what you criticize your opponents of doing.”

It sounds nice. But the facts say they are wrong. The Republicans are winning by doing just that. What they are doing is not illegal or immoral or unethical. It’s just not very nice. But it works. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s reality. And until Democrats accept this, they are destined to lose.

While the Democrats try to pass some vague muddled “health care reform,” the Republicans are opposing “Nancy Pelosi’s trillion dollar government takeover of health care.” Which sound bite do you think gets more traction with the public?

And so it goes.

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Sadly, some mysteries to remain “Lost”

The premiere of the final season of Lost finally arrives tomorrow. As a dedicated Lost fan, who has watched (often more than once) and analyzed every episode since Season 1, I can hardly wait. I am confident I will not be disappointed.

Still, thanks to Entertainment Weekly’s cover story on Lost this past week, I am compelled to revisit a long-standing complaint. In the article, the producers of Lost (Cuse and Lindelof) are asked “Just how many of our questions are going to get answered anyway?” The producers response is essentially one they have given before: “There are so many many questions that people probably have that we just can’t address.” They continue with their Star War’s “midichlorian” analogy, citing that some questions are impossible to answer anyway, without raising more questions, ultimately leaning to “overexplained lameness.”

Let me be clear. This is all just a copout.

Their excuse might pass muster for some minor mysteries. Given the wealth of questions that have come up over the five seasons of Lost (here is a fairly complete list of the questions), I know there are too many to expect all of them to be answered. But there are major ones that, in my view, demand an answer — at least if the series is to have a satisfying conclusion. One key question, for example, surrounds the meaning of the “numbers.”

I first commented on this in a Lostpedia blog entry last year, after the producers initially warned us of their intent. Sadly, it is just as applicable now as it was then. Here is what I wrote:

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"I just finished reading Damon Lindef's statement regarding The Numbers (where they imply that there may never be a full, or even any, explanation as to the significance of the 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers). I was more than disappointed.

I believe his statement that 'We call it the midi-chlorian debate, because at a certain point, explaining something mystical demystifies it,' is mainly a cop-out. In Star Wars, there was never any mystery surrounding the origins of the Force. It was accepted as part of the Star Wars universe, in the same way that the possibility of time travel is accepted in the Lost universe, without need of a detailed explanation. The Force was never raised as a mystery to be solved in Star Wars.

The Numbers are quite different. They were the focus of major plot mysteries in season 1 and into season 2. Why were those particular numbers selected to be entered every 108 minutes? Would it have mattered if different numbers were entered? Could it have worked with 107 minutes? Why was Hurley so involved with the Numbers and not any one else?

There are secondary related questions as well: Why maintain such an important function (typing in the numbers) via a system that is so prone to possible human failure? Why weren't the Others checking in at the Swan? Did they really just assume that Desmond would never fail to reset the switch? Why not just press the fail safe button in the first place and avoid all the hassle of entering the numbers (I believe I know the answer that but I'd still like to see it answered officially)? Why was the system needed at all? Presumably there was no such system before the Dharma people arrived; how and when did the need for it arrive? And so on and so on.

Even if we assume that the meaning of the Numbers has to do with the Valenzetti Equation (as suggested in Lost material that appeared online but never clearly in the canon of the show itself), it still doesn't answer any of these other questions.

For me, to dismiss the answers to such questions as of 'no interest whatsoever' is simply saying: 'We screwed up. We didn't have a good explanation when we went down this road. And now, rather than coming up with one, we're going simply say it doesn't matter."

>>

To some extent, what Cuse and Lindelof are suggesting is like a murder mystery where the victim is killed in some apparently impossible way. In the end, we learn who the murderer is, but we are never told how the murderer pulled it off. Instead, we are told that this ultimately doesn’t really matter. Bull! This is unfair to the reader. Just as Lost similarly appears intent on being unfair to the viewer.

The final season of Lost will be spectacular anyway. It’s just that I had hoped that the writers and producers really knew what they were doing when they introduced these mysteries over the years. And we would at last get the answers this season.

I know we will get answers to at least some of the major mysteries. I can only hope this will be sufficient.

Enough complaints. It’s time to get ready to sit back and enjoy the ride. Here we go…

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