Two tech stories have hit the news over the last week, and both are to do with information about who you are and where you are. I, like many others, am affected in some way by both.The first to break was news that Apple’s iPhone has been tracking and logging my every movement (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13145562), and somehow sending them back to Apple for whatever reasons Apple sees fit. Or, rather, for whatever reason the link-hungry news media can think of during warm spring pub sessions. The other news item is that Sony’s PSN network has been hacked, and up to 77 million users’ personal details have been taken (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13192359). This potentially includes payment details. That’s a massive haul of private data, and if credit card details have gone missing, that’s a lot of useful information for fraudsters. So, where am I? Well, Apple doesn’t know. I’ve downloaded a handy application for the Mac called iPhoneTracker (http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/), which interprets the data collected by the iPhone and plots it on a map. When zoomed out, you will see clusters of dots which do show a broad pattern of locations, but is Apple really pinpointing me down to the square metre resolution achieved by GPS and logging it? Is it, for example, following me up and down the high street, logging my random meanderings around town? Well, here’s a map of central Chelmsford:
Those red dots are the locations recorded by my iPhone. It’s hardly conclusive about where I’ve been. It’s certainly not showing the visit to, say, Costa for a cup of tea, or me dropping film off at SnappySnaps for processing. The dots are just mobile phone masts, which the iPhone uses for triangulation for its location services.Another example for you – last weekend, I went to the coast. Here’s a map of the general area I visited.
The red line shows where I walked. The phone masts, again, are registered, and some reflect the drive into the town, but it appears that I was also in Harwich and Felixstowe. You will notice, again, that the dots fall on a grid pattern, and this grid as a very low resolution. The observant amongst you will note that my red line runs along Walton’s pier. Again, the iPhone has failed to place me accurately anywhere along that structure.So I’m not that fussed about the phone. Apple posted yesterday what the phone is up to (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/04/27location_qa.html)
“3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?“The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.” That fits in with the patterns of dots we’re seeing on the maps – they are iPhone masts and Wi-Fi hotspots. They are not GPS locations. In fact, if you look at the Chelmsford map, it’s not picking up the various hotspots dotted around the HIgh Street at all – BT OpenZone and Cloud seem to be ignored. The resolution offered is very low. Hardly good enough to draw any real conclusions. This all brings me to the second, and far more contentious data breach (if you can call what the iPhone is doing a “data breach”), and that is the loss of Playstation Network data. This is far, far more serious, yet the focus of some tech journals would make you think that it’s small potatoes compared to what Apple are up to. The data that has been stolen from the Playstation Network gives are more information about location than Apple’s phone data does. Sony have lost names, addresses, email addresses and passwords (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13192359) – enough information for real, substantial damage to be done. Certainly enough for phishing type attacks. Couple this with the admission that payment details (that’s credit card numbers, dates and the 3-digit security number) may also have been lifted, and there’s plenty of scope for mischief. Sony have lost 77 million records. That is 77,000,000 – a very big number. The population of the UNited KIngdom was around 61 million in 2009 (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=6). It could be that that data is in the hands of the Bad Guys; the kind who take out loans in your name, leaving you to deal with the bailiffs. The kind who will try to get your bank details off you and empty your accounts. Of the two, I am more worried about the Sony theft than the iPhone problem. The former is criminal negligence on the part of those responsible for securing the data, whilst the latter appears to be a storm in a teacup. Where am I? Apple don’t know, but some fraudsters very likely do.
You may have read my tale of woe. I updated my iPhone 3G to iOS4, and it went wrong. Hideously wrong.http://hairydalek.posterous.com/my-iphone-ios4-update-woes And I am not alone – Apple’s support forums are reporting similar issues – this update seems to have affected many people. It seems that the “-34” and “files not found” errors I was getting was something to do with the downsampling of music to 128kbs. I did get the phone running, but it’s slow and choppy. I like the folders in iOS4, and I had started to organise my apps into folders. However, given the limited features for 3G users, this seems to be an update to get iAds out to as many people as possible (I am dreadfully cynical about advertising). The other problem was speed. The iPhone is dreadfully unresponsive. Apps take for ever to start up. The soft keyboard is very choppy and unresponsive, and in Twitter for iPhone takes forever to appear. I took the decision yesterday to downgrade to 3.1.3. I know this is dangerous, and I could have a non functioning phone at the end of it, but I though I’d bite the bullet. The instructions here seem to be pretty easy to follow. http://www.maclife.com/article/howtos/downgrade_iphone_os_40_beta_back_iphone… And indeed they were – after a little fiddling with iTunes, and the Terminal, I got my iPhone 3G back to 3.1.3. It synced it’s apps, and a quick test showed me that it is indeed snappier, faster and more responsive that it was running iOS4. The Twitter for iPhone app starts up more quickly, and typing on the keyboard is far more pleasurable. The bonus was that my in app data, which I had thought was gone for good, was restored. I used one of the backups taken during my attempted recovery process (just because I thought it may contain some useful data), and it appears that data stored in apps, which I lost during the iOSX 4 process, has been restored. Maybe I could have used those backups for iOS 4 too after all. Now, as stated, reverting your iPhone is potentially dangerous. The method I linked to seems to have worked for me, but this is no guarantee that they will restore your phone. Use it at your own risk. The same applies to any hack of this nature. Thanks to MacFormat dude @chrisphin for Tweeting this fix the other day.
This week, Apple pushed out the iOS 4 update for their iPhones. This update is supposed to be compatible with the iPHone 3G (which is what I have), so I elected to update it. Little did I know problems it would cause.The update took ages – this is partly because there was an iPhone backup done. iTUnes warned me that this could take a while (“hours” was the key word here), so I left it to get on with it. When I eventually checked back, the update had been applied, but I found this error window on iTunes:
Now, I don’t know what an error of -34 is, but a quick Google showed me that I was not alone. The following day, I thought I’d try again. However, plugging in the phone gave me a warning that a previous restore was incomplete, and I should restore again. So this is what I did. Again, I got the -34 message. I also discovered that amongst the list of backups, the one that was important (ie the pre iOS4 update) one was missing.OK, thinks I, the restore is broken – but I’ll sync it anyway. Bad idea. I got this error:
I tried again, but this time got about 30 variants of this error message to click through:
I believe that this is down to me having iTunes downsample tracks to 128kbps so I can get as many on the phone as possible. Maybe it could not find them.Anyway, by now I had come to obvious conclusion that the thing was totally messed up, and I opted to do a total wipe and restore the phone from scratch. This meant that I would lose a lot of in app data, some which was important, but as it appears that the backup I would need to get that lot back was some fiction iTunes has concocted to make me go away and watch anything non-Football related on the telly. After I did that, and all content was restored, the phone was working again, and iTUnes was no longer complaining abut missing files or -34 errors. This is not a problem I have had in isolation – there are many people with iPhone 3G models who have had similar experiences. I just don’t think the 3G update was tested properly before release. iOS4 works, albeit sluggishly, on the 3G, but I am not sure if it was really worth the hassle I went through.