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ExtraBITS for 18 January 2016

In this week’s ExtraBITS, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have gotten their own Broadway show, the former head of the NSA came out in favor of encryption while Tim Cook battles the Obama administration over backdoors, and we have a reminder that you, gentle reader, are not an average Apple user.

Jobs and Gates Head to Broadway -- Silicon Valley is going to Broadway: the musical comedy “Nerds” will open 21 April 2016 at the Longacre Theatre, chronicling the rise and rivalry of Apple and Microsoft. The show will have plenty of tech itself, featuring holograms, projection mapping, and an in-show app that lets the audience vote for the ending. It was written by two of the writers of Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken,” so it should be pretty funny. If you’re in New York City, it could add to an enjoyable night on the town.

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Former U.S. Intelligence Director Favors Encryption -- End-to-end encryption has gained an unexpected ally: General Michael Hayden, whose has served as Director of the National Security Agency, Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In a speech, Hayden said that he disagrees with FBI Director James Comey, who has led the charge against encryption, adding “I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America.” Hayden went on to say, “When was the last time you saw the success of legislation designed to prevent technological progress? It’s just not gonna happen.” Hayden’s support for encryption is an interesting twist that undermines the Obama administration’s argument, since Hayden isn’t exactly a champion of civil liberties: he once told reporters that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not contain the phrase “probable cause” (it does).

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Tim Cook Confronts the White House Over Encryption -- According to The Intercept, things became heated between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Obama administration officials during a meeting over encryption. Cook said that the White House should come out in favor of no backdoors in encryption, and criticized the administration for a lack of leadership. However, the administration doesn’t seem to have been swayed by Cook’s argument, insisting on a “balance” between privacy and national security. The administration gave up on legislation that would have mandated backdoors back in September 2015, but the White House has continued pressuring tech companies to open up their encryption schemes to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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You’re Not an Average Apple User -- MacNN has done something interesting — an “exit poll” of sorts, where they asked questions of 1,000 iOS users at four Northern Virginia Apple Stores, a task that took only two hours given the stores’ high foot traffic. In short, only about 20 percent of the people (200) also used a Mac, and just 20 percent of them (40) said they were capable of performing maintenance tasks. That last number was slightly higher for iOS, with 29 percent of people saying they were capable of performing basic maintenance. The takeaway is that most users — at least those who go to an Apple Store in Northern Virginia — treat their Apple devices as appliances. Of course, people in those stores may not be entirely representative of the Apple user base in other ways, but it seems safe to say that we Mac users who maintain our own computers are very much in the minority, and we have to take that into account when evaluating Apple’s actions. Be sure to read the full article!

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