Printing in iOS 4.2: Now We Know

Now we know how printing will work in iOS 4.2.

At the Apple Event on September 1, Steve Jobs focused on new iPods. However, he also made mention of the forthcoming iOS 4.2 (due out in November), especially noting that it would support wireless printing via a Print Center app. Beyond that, he offered no details as to how exactly it might work.

This, of course, led to speculation among the Mac media regarding the different possibilities.

One faction suggested that needed printer drivers would be downloaded to the iPhone on demand, similar to how things work in Mac OS X. You could then print to any driver-matched printer on the Wi-Fi network to which your iOS device was connected. I thought that this was an unlikely solution, as the size of driver software is quite large — and could quickly lead to iOS devices (especially 8GB ones) running out of free space.

A second possibility was that printing would work only via printers that have the needed driver software built-in. The prime example here is Hewlett-Packard’s line of ePrint enabled printers. This would be a fine solution except that it would severely limit the range of printers that an iOS device could access.

A third possibility was that there would be no true direct iOS device-to-printer printing. Rather, you would print to printers accessible via Printer Sharing on a Mac. This would allow for the widest range of printer compatibility but has the downside of requiring that a Mac (or PC) be active and accessible as an intermediary between the iOS device and the printer. If your Mac is asleep, for example, you can’t print.

Today, Apple posted a press release that offered details as to how the new AirPrint feature would work in iOS 4.2 — largely resolving the debate among these three alternatives. So…which of the three options turned out to be correct?

The answer is two answers: iOS 4.2 will use both the second and third methods.

Devices running iOS 4.2 will be able to directly print to “HP Photosmart, Officejet, Officejet Pro and LaserJet Pro series ePrint enabled printers.” Apparently, this includes some HP printers not yet on the market — as I could not find reference to ePrint versions of all of these printers on the HP site.

In addition, “iOS 4.2 devices can print to printers shared through a Mac or a PC.”

The one thing that you won’t need to do to print from an iOS device is download printer software to the device.

A beta version of the iOS 4.2 software is available right now, but only for members of Apple’s iOS developer program. Developers report that, for printer sharing via a Mac, an update to Mac OS X 10.6.5 (currently in beta) is also required.

If you are an iOS developer, you’ll want to get the new “Drawing and Printing Guide for iOS.” It contains complete details on how printing will work, including screenshots of the new Print Center app in action.

One oddity: The press release states that printing will work with “iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (second generation and later).” Based on what I have seen thus far, the printing feature requires multitasking — but multi-tasking is not available on the second generation iPod touch. Is this an error in the press release?

Update: Yes, the press release is in error. According to an iOS Developer page (login may be required): “Printing is available only on iOS devices that support multitasking.” The iPod touch 2nd generation is not listed as compatible.

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Islamophobia on the Rise; Why Now?

Initially triggered by the uproar over the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero, we are experiencing a new upsurge in anti-Muslim fever. It’s all over the news. Time magazine asks on its cover “Is America Islamophobic?” In the New York Times, “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

As I read all of this, I find myself asking: “Why now?” We are approaching the ninth anniversary of September 11. I would have thought that this sort of hatred and racism would have peaked several years ago. By now, we should be on the downslope.

After all, there have been no terrorist attacks by Muslims on U.S. soil since September 11. The Iraq war is slowly winding down, as we come to view Iraqis more as allies than enemies. Why is the rhetoric heating up at this particular juncture?

I believe I know. The answer is the upcoming November elections. Here’s the logic:

The “far right” — and to a large extent the entire Republican mainstream — view demonizing Obama as a key to success in November. The more unpopular Obama becomes and the more his policies are cast in a negative light, the greater the opportunity for Republicans to win seats in Congress this fall. So far, none of this is surprising.

What makes the current situation worse than typical is that a significant part of demonizing Obama rests upon popularizing beliefs that are completely and utterly false (as explored in detail in a recent Newsweek article). Primary among these beliefs is the one that says Obama is secretly a Muslim. According to the Newsweek poll, a quarter of the country (and 52% of Republicans!) now think this is true — even though it is false. As explained in the Newsweek article, the growth and persistence of this myth is aided by statements by conservatives, from those on Fox News to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) encourage this belief.

Getting people to believe Obama is a Muslim is only half the battle, however. The belief won’t have a negative impact on Democrats if people hold a positive or even neutral view toward Muslims in general. That’s why the dropping of the second shoe is promoting people’s prejudices against Muslims.

Now you have a syllogism that works for Republicans: “I hate Muslims. Obama is a Muslim. Therefore I hate Obama.” With this in place, success in November becomes almost a sure thing. And so you have national Republican figures getting worked up about mosques to a degree that would otherwise never happen.

For some people, the syllogism may also work in the opposite direction: “I hate Obama (usually for some other entirely false reason); I hate Muslims; Therefore, I believe it when people say Obama is Muslim.”

Either way, it’s part of a disturbing trend of discarding facts and truth from our political conversations. It’s all part of our current “fact-free environment.”

You’ll read how all of this is also part of a long history of such trends in our country. At other times, it was Jews, Japanese, Irish, and of course African-Americans that were the target. And you’ll read how such sins are not unique to Republicans and conservatives. You’ll hear it said that this is all pretty much “politics as usual” — as played by both parties. I would argue that there are qualitative differences between the tactics of Democrats vs. Republicans. Regardless, none of this is any justification for tolerance of the present situation.

No matter what your politics, it’s time to stand up and reject promoting myths as a legitimate political strategy.

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Apple Patent to Kill Jailbroken Devices? Nope!

For better or worse, Apple likes to keep the iOS as closed as possible. But calm down folks. There are limits beyond which even Apple won’t venture. Killing your jailbroken iPhone, without your permission, is one of them.

A few days ago, the Web was buzzing about an Apple patent, filed back in February 2009 but just now revealed, that describes new security measures that may someday (assuming the patent is ever implemented) appear in iOS devices.

Of particular interest, the language of the patent contained several references to jailbreaking, such as: “…an unauthorized user can be detected by noting particular activities that can indicate suspicious behavior. For example, activities such as…jailbreaking of the electronic device, unlocking of the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device,…can be used to detect an unauthorized user.”

It further stated: “When an unauthorized user is detected, various functions of the electronic device can be restricted.”

Numerous Web postings (such as this one from CNET) suggested that this could mean that, if Apple detects that you have jailbroken your device, it could remotely wipe your iPhone — or otherwise “kill” or “brick” it (the exact verb varies among different postings). Most ominously, Apple could do so without advance warning and without the permission of the owner of the device.

In other words, whatever else the new security measures might be able to accomplish — they would be yet another means by which Apple blocks jailbreaking.

I remain extremely skeptical that Apple has any such intent here. The truth is almost certainly more benign. This can be discerned via several phrases of the patent text, such as:

“The owner may desire to find out where the lost electronic device is located or who may have gained possession of or stolen the electronic device.”

“In some embodiments, an alert notification can be sent to a responsible party when an unauthorized user is detected. The ‘responsible party’ can be any persons suitable to receive the alert notification, such as, for example, the owner of the electronic device, proper authorities or police, persons listed in a contact book in the electronic device, or any combination of the above.”

In other words, the intent here is a system designed to help the owner (authorized user) protect the data on their iOS device, should that device be stolen. In this sense, it is an extension of what you can already do via Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe.

The logic is that an attempt to jailbreak your iPhone might indicate that someone is attempting to gain unauthorized access to your (confidential and protected) data. In this instance, and with your permission, certain security measures could be taken to prevent the unauthorized access.

The suggestions that the measures described in the patent would be used by Apple as a sort of virtual neutron bomb, killing any and all jailbroken iPhones (even if the jailbreaking had been done by the owner of the device and even if the owner would object to such “killing”), are simply ridiculous.

I have certainly been critical of many instances of Apple’s behavior in this arena over the years, especially as regards Apple’s restrictive App Store policies. But the current speculation assumes that Apple would go well beyond anything it has done this far. I don’t buy it. Actually (with the usual caveat that I am not a lawyer), it seems doubtful that Apple would have the legal authority to do so.

It’s one thing to try to prevent jailbreaking methods from working or to refuse to offer support for jailbroken iPhones. But, especially considering that jailbreaking is legal, to delete personal data from your iPhone without your permission? I don’t think so.

Let’s all take a deep breath. It’s time to calm down.

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Final Thoughts on Lost

I don’t want to beat a dead horse. Or sound like a broken record. Or whatever the proper metaphor here is. But I want to discuss Lost one last time.

Given today’s release of Lost’s final season on disc, and with the benefit of having had three months since the final episode was broadcast, I felt the time was right for some considered reflection as to what it all means.

Last we talked, I gave initial praise to the final episode, while noting that “the more I reflected on the episode, the more my enthusiasm began to wan.” I went on to explain why. Earlier in the season, I had expressed my growing disappointment with the direction the plot was headed. Clearly, I was not happy with Lost’s final season.

I remain disappointed. Even more so now.

At the end of Season 5, I was hyped almost beyond belief. The great final scene, with the bomb exploding and the inspired fade-to-white, left me at the edge of my seat. With an eight month wait before the story would continue, my impatience and anticipation for Season 6 could not have been higher if I had been a resident on the space station. When the Season 6 premiere finally arrived, I was sure I would be treated to a great ride And when the ride was over, I would buy the entire six seasons on disc so that I could take the ride again.

It didn’t work out that way. I will never watch Season 6 again. Not will I watch anything close to the entire series again. Why? Because the series ending was so disappointing that it has colored everything that came before it, casting it all in a negative light. I see this much more clearly now than I did last May. To start all over again, knowing where I will eventually wind up, not longer seems fun. Season 6 ruined it all for me.

Specifically…the flash-sideways plotline of Season 6 was by far the biggest disappointment. From my perspective, it was a complete mistake to go in that direction. The flash-sideways added a spiritual “purgatory” and “heavenly redemption” element to the show that I was never able to take seriously. It felt phony and contrived. It not only had no relevance to anything that came before, it seemed almost at odds with the direction the show had been heading in earlier seasons. Worst of all, it rendered almost everything that happened on the island as ultimately meaningless. What did it matter who lived, who died, or why, if they all ended up here for a happy reunion and a joyous stroll into the white light? What a letdown.

And that H-bomb blast at the end of last season? Another fizzle. Yes, it seemed to kick the characters back to the present. But, aside from the death of Juliet, nothing else had changed. I had expected something more.

As for the island scenes in Season 6, they were a disappointment as well. Too much time was spent having characters wander about the geography, with the only significant plot advancement coming in the final five minutes. Occasionally, even the plot advancements were rendered almost meaningless by the events that followed (e.g., we finally get to see inside the temple — only to have it, and almost everyone inside it, destroyed a week or so later). Too often, I found myself bored with the slow pace of an episode, my finger hovering over the fast-forward button.

The fact, lamented by numerous fans, that too many of the mysteries of the show were left unanswered became a minor point for me, in light of all of this other trouble. I imagined so many ways that the time wasted with flash-sideways and island-wandering could have been better spent. Instead, the writers/producers squandered it away.

I do look forward to watching the mini-episode epilog included with the final season package. The preview that I saw on the Web looked promising. And, after more time has passed, I am sure I will rewatch some of my favorite episodes again — including my absolute favorite, the Season 3 finale, “Through the Looking Glass.” But that’s about it.

Despite everything, I will always consider Lost to be, overall, one of the finest achievements of weekly series television. The final season’s mistakes can’t completely undo this. Still, the final season did ruin, for me, what I would have otherwise ranked as my single favorite television achievement ever. Now it’s just somewhere in my top ten. Not bad. But it could have been so much better.

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