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TidBITS#982/15-Jun-09

As the excitement dies down from Apple's WWDC announcements, we're once again flitting among topics. Rich Mogull draws on his years of security analyst work to offer five suggestions for how Apple could improve Mac and iPhone security, made all the more timely by Apple finally fixing a 9-month-old Java vulnerability today. Rich also explains how you might be able to get better upgrade pricing on an iPhone 3G S, Doug McLean reveals that the new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros can boot from their new SD card slots and examines the world of artistic iPhone photography, Glenn Fleishman looks at the latest Wi-Fi SD card from Eye-Fi, and Adam reviews a tool that lets you post photo links to Twitter from within iPhoto. We also cover the release of Microsoft Office 2008 12.19 and 2004 11.5.5, and glance at the releases of Firefox 3.0.11, Script Debugger 4.5.3, and 1Password 2.9.19.
 
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Apple Patches Nine-Month-Old Java Vulnerabilities

  by Glenn Fleishman <glenn@tidbits.com>

Fixes for a number of serious vulnerabilities in the version of Java in Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 were released by Apple today - about six months after Sun Microsystems released updated packages for all other platforms that Sun supports, including Windows. Apple releases its own updated versions of Java for Mac OS X.

As Rich Mogull discussed in "Protect Yourself from the Mac OS X Java Vulnerability" (2009-05-20), the flaws could allow a Java applet on a malicious Web site to execute arbitrary code on your computer, among other vulnerabilities. To work around the problem, Rich explained how to disable Java in Safari and Firefox. Rich also chided Apple for leaving such a major hole unpatched for so long.

The Java updates can be retrieved via Software Update, or at Apple's Support Download site. The updates are listed for the last or latest releases of Leopard and Tiger: Mac OS X 10.5.7 (158 MB) and Mac OS X 10.4.11 (80 MB). No restart is required, but all browsers should be quit before installing the updates.

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Office 2008 12.1.9 and Office 2004 11.5.5 Updates

  by Doug McLean <doug_mclean@tidbits.com>

Microsoft has released its latest updates for Office 2008 and Office 2004, as well as its Open XML File Format Converter, fixing critical security issues in each program. According to Microsoft, all three updates address two vulnerabilities in Word that could allow remote code execution if you were to open a specially crafted malicious Word file.

The updates block this vulnerability by altering the way Word opens and parses files. The Office 2008 update also "readies Office 2008 for Mac for the installation of Microsoft Entourage 2008 for Mac, Web Services Edition, and must be installed before Entourage 2008, Web Services Edition is installed." That version of Entourage, which brings enhanced compatibility to servers running Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 or later by connecting via the Exchange Web Services format instead of via WebDAV, is currently in beta and expected for final release later this year.

The Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.1.9 Update requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later, and that you have already installed the 12.1.0 update (the updater is a combo updater, meaning it contains all fixes since 12.1.0). It's a 268 MB download from Microsoft's Web site, and is also available via the Microsoft AutoUpdate utility launched by choosing Check for Updates from any Office 2008 application.

The Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.5 Update requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, and that you've previously installed the Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.4 Update. It's a 59 MB download from Microsoft's Web site and is also available via the Office 2004 version of Microsoft AutoUpdate.

The Microsoft Open XML File Format Converter for Mac 1.0.3 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later, and that you are running Office 2004 11.4.0 or later, or Office X 10.1.9 or later. Microsoft recommends that you install the Office 2004 11.5.5 update prior to the Open XML Converter installation. It's a 45 MB download from Microsoft's Web site, and is also available via the Office 2004 version of Microsoft AutoUpdate.

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New MacBook Pros Boot From SD Cards

  by Doug McLean <doug_mclean@tidbits.com>

When Apple announced the swapping of the ExpressCard slot on the 15-inch MacBook Pro for an SD (Secure Digital) memory card slot, the few users of ExpressCard-compatible peripherals - at least those other than SD card readers - were understandably disappointed. (Apple claimed that only a "single-digit" percentage of MacBook Pro users used the ExpressCard slot.) For most people, the addition of the SD slot is welcome, since the majority of consumer-level digital cameras use SD cards for storage. Nevertheless, it didn't seem like that big of a deal either way.

However, a recent Apple KnowledgeBase article reveals an extremely useful and previously unmentioned feature of the SD card slot: users can boot the Mac from an SD card with Mac OS X installed on it.

To make a bootable SD card, you must first change the default partition table to GUID using Disk Utility, and format the card to use the Mac OS Extended file format (as opposed to the FAT32 file format). You can then install Mac OS X onto the device, enabling it to boot the Mac, which could be very handy in a troubleshooting situation.

The MacBook Pro SD card slot accepts cards that conform to the SD 1.x and 2.x standards. This includes Standard SD cards, which hold between 4 MB and 4 GB; SDHC cards, which hold between 4 GB and 32 GB; and the older MMC cards. MiniSD, MicroSD, MiniSDHC and MicroSDHC cards can work if used with adapters that enable the cards to conform to the necessary physical configuration. While the MacBook Pro can read (but not boot from) cards that use the FAT32 file format (the standard for most SD cards), cards that use the exFAT system will not work.

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Eye-Fi Pro Card Adds Raw Uploads, Computer Transfers

  by Glenn Fleishman <glenn@tidbits.com>

Eye-Fi has updated its line of Secure Digital (SD) Wi-Fi cards with the Eye-Fi Pro, which adds support for raw format image files. The new model ($150 for a 4 GB card) can also use ad hoc networking, a computer-to-computer Wi-Fi transfer method supported by Mac OS X and all desktop operating systems.

[View image]

For initial configuration, you connect the card to the Mac or a Windows system via an included USB card reader, after which you can set preferences and enter Wi-Fi network passwords. Several models, including the Eye-Fi Pro, are automatically configured to connect to any of 10,000 AT&T Wayport hotspots in the United States. (One year's service is included; each subsequent year costs $15.)

The card works independently of the camera; the camera is, in fact, unaware that anything is different about the card. All five models of Eye-Fi (which vary in features, and start at $50 for the basic Home version) automatically transfer files whenever they encounter a Wi-Fi network that matches one in the card's profile.

Professional - and many regular - photographers prefer to use raw image formats, as raw images retain as much as possible of the data captured by a sensor without being processed into something more palatable. Raw isn't exactly a standard, but major image-editing software can interpret and convert the various (often proprietary) formats used by camera makers. Except for this new Eye-Fi Pro, the Eye-Fi cards can't transfer raw images, though they are stored on the card normally.

Ad hoc networking, another new feature, lets you send images from the Eye-Fi Pro to a Mac or other computer without having a base station nearby. Ad hoc networking is a special mode in the 802.11 protocols that allows communication among computers and other devices without a central coordinating hub. Mac OS X is unique in having both ad hoc networking (AirPort menu > Create Network) and Internet sharing over Wi-Fi, which simulates a hardware base station (Sharing preferences pane > Internet Sharing). By adding support for ad hoc networking, the Eye-Fi Pro becomes more useful for anyone wanting to dump photos to a Mac while shooting far from a Wi-Fi network.

Eye-Fi also upgraded all cards, old and new, to include Selective Transfer, a feature that lets you choose which images and videos (on cards that support video uploads) to transfer. Previously, every photo or video would be uploaded automatically. This new option lets you tag images with a camera's protected or locking feature (which varies by camera), and only locked/protected photos are then uploaded.

With all of these changes, it seems like Eye-Fi has addressed several of TidBITS publisher Adam Engst's complaints in "Why I Hate the Eye-Fi Share Wireless SD Card," 2008-08-18.

I wrote a contrasting article at the same time as Adam's (see "Why I Like the Eye-Fi Explore Wireless SD Card," 2008-08-18) and nearly all my remaining provisos about the Eye-Fi have been taken care of.

There are still plenty of items left on Adam's list, many of which require camera makers to work with Eye-Fi to integrate the card's options into camera firmware. Companies that make cameras seem to not quite understand the way in which their users want to use Wi-Fi. Even the cleverest of Wi-Fi-enabled cameras is a pure frustration compared to any Eye-Fi card.

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iPhoto2Twitter Simplifies Tweeting Photos

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>

All the Twitter clients for the iPhone that I've seen make it easy to take a photo and post it to Twitter (via a service like TwitPic). Many of the Twitter clients on the Mac have features for posting photos too, but they often revolve around selecting files, which isn't easy if all your photos are in iPhoto. And it's a bit silly to import your normal digital camera's photos to iPhoto, and then sync them to the iPhone just to post to Twitter.

(Tip: In iPhoto, to view a photo's file in the Finder, Control-click it and choose Show File from the contextual menu that appears. You can then drag the file's icon into an Open dialog to upload it to TwitPic, for instance, but whatever you do, don't move or rename that file!)

Blue Crowbar Software has just come out with another simple solution to this problem: iPhoto2Twitter, an iPhoto export plug-in that posts a selected photo to Twitter via TwitPic.

Once iPhoto2Twitter is installed, select the photo you want to post to Twitter, choose File > Export (Command-Shift-E), click the iPhoto2Twitter button, enter a message, choose an export size, and click the Export button. iPhoto2Twitter posts your photo to TwitPic and the message, with a link to the photo, to Twitter.

[View image]

Of course, the first time you use iPhoto2Twitter, you must click the Setup button to enter your Twitter login credentials; it can also pull Twitter login credentials from your keychain, making it easy to switch among accounts.

That's really all there is to it - iPhoto2Twitter is a one-trick pony, but if you've avoided posting photos to Twitter because of a lack of integration with iPhoto, or if you just prefer to think about photos when you're already in iPhoto, iPhoto2Twitter is ideal.

iPhoto2Twitter requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and works with iPhoto '08 and iPhoto '09. It costs 4.95 euros and is a 566 KB download. Blue Crowbar Software also offers Aperture2Twitter, which provides the same functionality for Aperture 2 and costs 5.95 euros.

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Five Ways Apple Can Improve Mac and iPhone Security

  by Rich Mogull <rich@tidbits.com>

Over the past few weeks we've seen significant developments, both positive and negative, in how Apple approaches security. On the negative side is Apple's laggard response to providing a patch for a nine-month-old Java vulnerability that was fixed on other major platforms six months ago - and which the company finally fixed today (see "Protect Yourself from the Mac OS X Java Vulnerability," 2009-05-20, and "Apple Patches Nine-Month Old Java Vulnerabilities," 2009-06-15). On the positive side is Apple's recent decision to hire Ivan Krstic, the engineer behind the well-respected security architecture for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program.

These developments seem almost contradictory, on one side failing to manage one of the most basic security issues faced by a software vendor, and on the other hiring a leading mind in engineering software security. It's clear that Apple considers security important, but that the company also struggles to execute effectively when faced with security challenges.

With the impending release of the next versions of both Mac OS X and the iPhone operating system, it seems a good time to evaluate how Apple could improve their security program. Rather than focusing on narrow issues of specific vulnerabilities or incidents, or offering mere criticism, I humbly present a few suggestions on how Apple can become a leader in consumer computing security over the long haul.


Appoint and Empower a Chief Security Officer (CSO) -- Apple currently lacks both a public face for their security efforts and a single internal executive dedicated to security. But two positions aren't necessary: a Chief Security Officer (CSO) at a major software vendor like Apple can be both external evangelist and internal security manager, so Apple should hire such a person right away.

Apple's CSO would play a number of roles, including communicating about Apple's security efforts externally, directing responses to new vulnerabilities and other security issues, coordinating internal secure development efforts, and participating in product development to ensure security is appropriately considered and integrated into new products.

None of this will work if the CSO is merely a figurehead, and this must be an executive management position with the budget, staff, and authority to get the job done. Ideally, the CSO will be a member of the inner circle of Apple executives that drives the company forward, so as to avoid the position becoming marginalized in company politics.


Adopt a Secure Software Development Program -- Software is surprisingly difficult to design and program securely. Modern software is rarely built completely from scratch, relying heavily on various frameworks, code libraries, and third-party components. Even when software is designed from the ground up, few developers focus on security or have extensive secure development training. And even when you have well-trained developers, human error ensures they will never produce a perfectly secure product.

In response to these challenges, some software vendors have adopted special security development programs and processes (often called "secure software development" or the "secure software development lifecycle"). These techniques are extremely effective at reducing the number and severity of bugs that result in security vulnerabilities, and they are slowly becoming standard practice throughout large organizations and product vendors. Security development programs usually have the added benefit of improving overall software quality and reducing the number of costly patches a vendor releases.

Based on a variety of sources, we know that Apple does not have a formal security program, and as such fails to catch vulnerabilities that would otherwise be prevented before product releases.

To address this lack, Apple should integrate secure software development into all internal development efforts. This includes programmer training, development standards, design requirements, threat modeling, code review, use of security testing tools, specialized pre-release testing, and root cause analysis for post-release bugs.


Establish a Proactive Security Response Team -- Although Apple does have dedicated security engineers, and a small product security team, there is no public security response team to manage externally reported vulnerabilities or other security issues in a consistent and coherent fashion. Based on public handling of certain security issues it appears that the current product security team lacks sufficient resources or influence to effectively manage all Apple security issues in a consistent and coherent fashion.

An enhanced Apple security response team would manage communications with external researchers reporting vulnerabilities and the internal developers that develop the fixes. Since Apple relies so much on third-party software, much of it open source, the security response team would also track and coordinate security responses for these products. This could enable Apple to manage security issues like the recent Java and DNS flaws proactively, so Apple users are no longer exposed even after these components have been fixed by their programmers.

Having spent years working with both researchers and vendors, I've learned that a communicative security response team typically generates goodwill with researchers reporting bugs, and is more likely to avoid messy disclosure situations that place users at risk.


Manage Vulnerabilities in Included Third-party Software -- As I've mentioned multiple times, one of Apple's most significant security problems lies with patching versions of third-party software (much of it open source) included in Apple products. Apple has a history of patching these components long after fixes are released on other platforms (examples include Java, Samba, Apache, and DNS, and even Apple's own open-source WebKit and mDNS).

This is more than merely a roadmap for an attacker, it's an unimpeded highway straight to your Mac. For example, the world's most popular free penetration testing (hacking) tool, Metasploit, can now target Mac OS X specifically, and functional attacks (for any platform) are typically available for Metasploit only hours or days after new patches are released.

As the barriers to exploiting new vulnerabilities continue to drop, Apple absolutely can't afford to leave its customers exposed. The solution to this is a formal program to track vulnerabilities reported in third-party components, and to work with internal development teams to integrate fixes as they become available. Apple's CSO and security response team would become responsible for actively engaging with these external developers, and for ensuring Apple is able to release fixes in a timely manner.


Complete the Implementation of Anti-Exploitation Technologies -- With the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple began to include a collection of what are known as "anti-exploitation technologies." Even if Apple adopts all of my suggestions above, that still won't eliminate all security vulnerabilities in our systems. Heck, even if all Apple software is perfectly secure, we'll still see vulnerabilities in the non-Apple software we purchase for our Macs and iPhones.

Anti-exploitation technologies assume that vulnerabilities are inevitable, and try to prevent attackers from taking advantage of them to hurt our systems. Sandboxing, library randomization, no-execute flags (which tie to special hardware hooks inside our Intel-based Macs), and stack protection are all partially implemented in Mac OS X, but these implementations are either incomplete or flawed in ways that nearly eliminate their security advantages.

As Microsoft is learning, it's also important to enforce these controls in individual applications, not just the operating system, so a single Web browser plug-in like Flash or Java can't circumvent anti-exploitation technologies. Apple is in a stronger position to enforce these rules than Microsoft, thus better protecting Mac and iPhone users. Rumor is we may see some of these advances in the upcoming Snow Leopard release of Mac OS X, which would be a positive development.

It's inarguable that using Apple products today is currently a relatively safe experience, but there are early signs that if Apple doesn't start to do a better job with security policies and architecture, we customers may be at greater risk down the road. I didn't write this article because I'm worried about the security of all seven of my Macs this week, but because I'd like to continue to enjoy safe computing for the foreseeable future. By following these suggestions Apple could extend its current (if not entirely deserved) reputation for security to become a long-term leader in consumer computing security.

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Call AT&T for the Best iPhone Upgrade Price

  by Rich Mogull <rich@tidbits.com>

When Apple announced that the new iPhone 3G S pricing would be the same as that of the iPhone 3G at its launch, applause could be heard far beyond the Worldwide Developers Conference presentation hall. Since users moving from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G last year weren't charged any penalties for upgrading in mid-contract, many people assumed Apple had cut some sort of deal with AT&T to put shiny new iPhones in the hands of early adopters. But within hours after the announcement, we learned that most iPhone 3G owners wouldn't qualify for discounted pricing on launch day, or, in many cases, for an additional 6 months or more.

Most existing AT&T iPhone customers who don't qualify at the $199/$299 price points (for the 16 GB or 32 GB models) can still purchase an iPhone 3G S for "early upgrade" pricing of $399/$499. Customers who bought their phones too recently even for that pricing can upgrade for full retail price at $599/$699. To confuse the situation even more, eligibility for the different tiers of upgrade pricing isn't as simple as how long you've had your phone... and in some cases AT&T's system for determining eligibility makes mistakes.


Wireless Subsidies and iPhone Pricing -- In the United States and many other countries, we rarely pay the full price for our mobile phones. These ubiquitous computing devices pack an incredible amount of technology into a pocket-sized package, and that's especially true of powerful smartphones like the iPhone or BlackBerry. Since mobile providers make most of their profits on our monthly subscriptions, they subsidize the cost of the phones to hook us on technologies that will steer us toward more-expensive plans. Devices lose their cutting-edge appeal over time in comparison with new models, so the carriers re-hook us with additional subsidies as our contracts come close to expiring. It makes sense that mobile carriers want to recoup any losses incurred when they sell us phones below cost. (Mobile phones aren't the only devices sold at a loss; most gaming platforms like the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 are initially sold below the cost to make them, with the manufacturers making it up with the residuals paid by game sales.)

The original iPhone was sold without any subsidies, and thus when the iPhone 3G was released in July 2008, AT&T was able to offer subsidized pricing to anyone who wanted to upgrade (and lock in to a new, 2-year contract). All the original iPhones were sold at full retail price, so AT&T didn't have any gap to make up.

Since the iPhone 3G was subsidized, AT&T wants to recover its costs on the phone, which is why the company isn't offering the full, discounted prices to all existing iPhone users. While we might argue that AT&T is missing a golden opportunity to build brand loyalty before it loses its exclusive contract with Apple, or perhaps the company might want to make up for the lack of MMS, tethering, or faster network supported by the iPhone 3G S, we can't argue that AT&T is being unfair for wanting to recover the capital outlay on discounted phones. But AT&T uses more than contract age to determine when users qualify for phone upgrades, which is creating confusion as the horde of iPhone addicts prepares to mass-migrate on a single day.


A Tale of Two iPhone Families -- Like many iPhone addicts, once the iPhone 3G S was announced, I quickly logged into Apple's online iPhone store to reserve my model. I saw that I qualified only for the early upgrade pricing of $499 for the 32 GB model, sighed in disappointment, and made my reservation. I assumed pricing was directly tied to the age of my contract, but then I started to notice reports that upgrade eligibility didn't seem to be tied directly to contract expiration date. A couple days later, I also realized that we are a two-iPhone family, with my wife using my original, unsubsidized model, and perhaps we could upgrade that phone more quickly.

I decided to call AT&T directly to check my status, and that one call saved me hundreds of dollars. The online iPhone store shows you only your current pricing for a single line, not potential pricing for other phones on the same account, or when you qualify for the fully subsidized price. I learned that my wife's iPhone was immediately eligible for an upgrade, and my iPhone 3G (purchased on launch day in July 2008) would be eligible on 12-Jul-09; less than a month later, and only 12 months after purchase. I'd be able to upgrade one phone on launch day (swapping SIM cards after the fact, since my wife isn't nearly as geeky as I am), and we could upgrade the second a few weeks later. With a fairly new baby, we are looking forward to the improved photo and video capabilities of the iPhone 3G S - otherwise we would have kept my current iPhone 3G.

TidBITS contributor Chris Pepper encountered a completely different situation. Like me, he's in a two-iPhone family with an iPhone 3G for himself and an original model handed down to his wife (we do wonder how our wives put up with us at times). We've both been on AT&T for about the same length of time, although I used a BlackBerry for my first 5 months. We're on different AT&T family plans, but we pay within $20 a month of each other.

When Chris called in, the AT&T customer representatives informed him that neither of his lines was eligible for upgrades until his contract expiration dates. He was required to pay the higher early upgrade pricing even on his original, unsubsidized iPhone. At one point Chris and I were on the phone at the same time, talking to different AT&T representatives as we shared our findings over iChat. Despite our circumstances being extremely similar, our upgrade situations were very different.


Investigating Further -- After Chris and I compared results, I put out a call on Twitter and email to find out what other people were experiencing. The results were all over the map, with users in very similar circumstances (including the same subscription price tier) reporting very different upgrade eligibility dates. Fellow TidBITS editor Glenn Fleishman and I started to compare notes, and it became clear that contract date, last upgrade date, and price plan weren't the only factors involved in determining iPhone upgrade pricing.

I contacted AT&T representative Seth Bloom, who responded immediately to clear up the confusion. It turns out that phone upgrade eligibility, for the iPhone or any other hardware, is tied to overall account history, using a number of factors. Seth said,

"The main factor is how far you are into your contract. You will likely be eligible in the latter part of it. We also look as such things as how promptly you pay your bill, the date of your last subsidized handset, etc.  Please note, though, that all of these factors simply add up to how early (i.e., prior to the end of the contract) AT&T can give another subsidized device to an iPhone customer.

"Customers can check their eligibility at http://www.att.com/iPhone or by visiting any of our company-owned retail stores. If you're not currently eligible, we'll give you the date you may qualify. You also can call *639# from your AT&T handset and receive a text with information about your upgrade eligibility."


A Mistake Was Made -- This made a lot of sense. AT&T, like any company, has higher and lower value customers. High value customers tend to receive greater incentives to stay with the company. Since I was paying, on average, $240 more a year than Chris, it's understandable that I would be able to upgrade sooner. But this still doesn't explain why Chris couldn't upgrade his completely unsubsidized iPhone on launch day. AT&T didn't pay a dime for it, and thus has no costs to recoup.

Chris called AT&T back for a third time and managed to get through to a supervisor who realized something was wrong on Chris's account. By AT&T's own policies, Chris should qualify for the full upgrade discount on his wife's older iPhone. The supervisor escalated Chris's case, and he should hear back in the next couple of days.

Since none of us have access to AT&T's eligibility algorithm, there's no way to predict anyone's eligibility for a discounted iPhone without checking with the source. I personally assumed I would qualify only after my contract expired, and I'm glad I called in to learn I was eligible immediately on one line, with the second following less than a month later. Chris learned that there was a problem with his account, and he will now likely be eligible to upgrade at least his older iPhone on launch day.


Call for the Best Price -- If you don't know, for sure, that you're getting the $199/$299 pricing, we recommend that you call AT&T, stop by a store, or check their online system for your upgrade eligibility date. If you think it's wrong, especially if you have an original iPhone, ask to talk to a supervisor and see if there might be a mistake on your account.

And if you happen to be in Phoenix on June 19th, look for me in line bright and early at the Biltmore Apple Store.

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The Art of iPhone Photography

  by Doug McLean <doug_mclean@tidbits.com>

It's common knowledge: the iPhone's 2-megapixel camera is nothing special. It was unimpressive when it shipped, and every day it suffers more and more in comparison with modern point-and-shoot cameras, or even the latest camera phones. The common feature wishlist among users is long, with many hungering for more megapixels, video capabilities, zoom, and autofocus. While the camera is certainly a much-appreciated convenience, it doesn't lend itself to taking the kind of breathtaking pictures we expect from modern digital cameras. (And yes, the 3-megapixel camera in the iPhone 3G S should be an improvement; we'll know more about that soon.)

But because of its convenience, the iPhone camera, like many mobile phone cameras, is often used merely as a kind of visual text message - the photo might not look great, but it gets the point across. People use it effectively to send images via email or Twitter that say, "Look at this giant burger I'm about to scarf," or even "There's a plane in the Hudson!" And it works pretty well with Evernote for visual reminders.

But, as we'll see, the iPhone camera's technical limitations haven't prevented some artists from making great art with it, much the way artists have long produced amazing images using old or unusual photographic equipment.


iPhone Photo Pioneers -- There's a rich history of photographers using crude or basic tools, like pinhole or Holga cameras, to produce beautiful and memorable images. In many respects, those leading the charge of iPhone photo enthusiasm are seizing upon this tradition, though, ironically, their "crude" tool happens to be an expensive and sophisticated piece of technology. Among the leaders of this pack are a professional photographer, a self-described amateur, and a passionate online group of committed hobbyists.

Chase Jarvis is a professional photographer based in Seattle, Washington. In addition to running a photography studio that has garnered a slew of press and recognition, Jarvis has taken to using his iPhone for making images whose origins you would never suspect.

[View image]

"The best camera is the one that's with you," Jarvis writes, "As such, I take between 1 and 1000 iPhone images every day..." He goes on to say he uses only native iPhone apps for editing instead of the expected choice, Photoshop. Considering the crisp edges, bold colors, and dynamic compositions in his photos, it's a claim that can be hard to believe.

Greg Schmigel - a self-described amateur living in Maryland - is another well known name in the world of iPhoneography. While Schmigel is humble about his involvement in the medium, his Web site Just What I See has attracted much attention. Boasting hundreds of iPhone photos, most focusing on people in public places, Schmigel's site is a contemplation on the ephemeral beauty of the everyday.

[View image]

Another pool of iPhone camera talent gathers on Flickr, the iPhone Photography Group. With a collection of nearly 6,000 photos and over 250 active members from around the world, the Flickr group is an excellent spot to expand your conception of what an iPhone photo can look like.


Tools of the Trade -- At first glance, I couldn't figure out how many of these photos were made with the iPhone, but reading these sites made it clear that many were edited and enhanced using iPhone photo apps. This, of course, is good news since it means that you too can achieve similar results without ever leaving your iPhone or purchasing expensive photo manipulation applications for the Mac.

The most popular apps, the ones that were referenced repeatedly in the Flickr group and whose effects became easy to spot, were CameraBag, ToyCamera, Photonasis, Photo fx, and TiltShift. They enable users to apply various filters to alter the appearance of a photo. For example, Camera Bag offers filters that "age" a photo and replicate the appearance of, say, a Polaroid from the 1980s, or a crisp black-and-white shot from the 1960s. Similarly, ToyCamera approximates the warm lo-fi effects attained by, well, cheap toy cameras.

TiltShift offers only one effect, but it's an intriguing one that replicates the effects of tilt shift photography, which can result in creating pictures that appear to be photographs of miniature versions of the real thing.

[View image]

These sorts of apps are widely popular for their capability to emulate various camera effects and aesthetics. In fact, at least one app has actually been rejected from the App Store for replicating too well a set of proprietary camera effects. The Poladroid phone app, developed by Paul Ladroid, was rejected for containing features that "resemble Polaroid photographs." Given the number of validated apps containing similar features, this one will have to be chalked up to Apple's sometimes opaque review process (see "Developers Could Turn Away from iPhone App Store", 2008-09-25).

One last app worth mentioning is Stepcase's Darkroom (previously called Steadycam). Darkroom is interesting in that it helps you to take clearer pictures by using your iPhone's accelerometer. When you press the shutter button on your iPhone, Darkroom waits till your accelerometer reads as being relatively stable before it snaps the shot - resulting in a clearer photograph, especially in low-light situations. Another app called Night Camera does exactly the same thing.

For more information on the world of iPhone photography and the apps that populate it, check out the iPhoneography Blog.


Time-Traveling with Cameras -- One thing I couldn't help but notice after looking at hundreds of iPhone photographs is the apparent desire to mimic older photographic forms, techniques, and equipment. As I mentioned, apps like CameraBag enable users to transform their photographs into what appear to be images from another era.

Maybe the explanation for this phenomenon is a simple one: that low-resolution images taken with the iPhone are well suited to impersonate other forms of low-end photography? Yet perhaps the reason lies deeper; in the sudden and magical transformation from a mundane image to one with historical aura. Maybe it's the wonder of time travel that's implied - I may not be able to build a time machine, but I can make it look like I was 25 years old in 1970. Or it's possibly just another face of the collective nostalgia we seem to have for our childhood eras.

Whatever the reason, it is curious that these effects are so ubiquitously utilized by users of what is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking technological devices we've seen in recent years.

Of particular curiosity to me is that many of the images I came across replicated the appearance of Polaroid instant film - an apt ancestor of the iPhone photograph given its instantaneous nature. But this relationship is also peculiar given that Polaroid, the company, announced this past year it will no longer continue making instant film. The digital camera undoubtedly killed demand for physical instant film. Yet, people still seem to want exactly the aesthetic that their new tools put to out to pasture. It's a strange example of new technology destroying the old, only to come to resemble it. It raises a funny question: in 10 years will artists be replicating the blurry pixelated quality of the 2-megapixel iPhone camera from which most people now seek to escape?

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 15-Jun-09

  by Doug McLean <doug_mclean@tidbits.com>

Firefox 3.0.11 from Mozilla is a security and stability update to the popular Web browser. Several critical security vulnerabilities that could be exploited to run arbitrary code have been repaired. Other more minor security vulnerabilities have also been addressed, as well as an issue causing the bookmark database to become corrupted. Finally, several problems with the SQLite internal database have been fixed. (Free update, 17.2 MB)

Script Debugger 4.5.3 from Late Night Software is a maintenance update to the AppleScript authoring environment. Changes include the pasting of object specifiers as a series of nested tell blocks instead of one object reference, an improved Balance command, automatic closing of AppleScript blocks, and the capability to continue when Script Debugger detects duplicate symbols coming from your libraries. Also several issues have been fixed including a hanging bug that occurred when viewing the InDesign dictionary, a bug that blocked auto-close and balance when unbalanced characters appeared in a style comment, and a bug that caused references to 'path' outside of a tell block to create incorrect 4-character codes. ($199 new, free update, 10.8 MB)

1Password 2.9.19 from Agile Web Solutions is a minor compatibility update to the password syncing utility. The latest version brings full support for Safari 4 on Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard. ($39.95 new, free update, 11.8 MB)

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ExtraBITS for 15-Jun-09

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>


No More Prepaid GoPhone Plans for the iPhone -- According to a TUAW article by Erica Sadun, anyone using AT&T's prepaid GoPhone plan to avoid the 2-year contract will be forced to switch to a normal contract to maintain 3G data access. It's unclear how many iPhone users have jumped through the necessary hoops to use a GoPhone plan, but if you're among that group, you might want to upgrade to an iPhone 3G S just so there's some upside to being forced into a 2-year contract. (Posted 2009-06-15)


Adam Recaps WWDC in a Cowtown MUG Video Chat -- In this three-part MacNotables video podcast, Adam and host Chuck Joiner talk with the members of the Cowtown Macintosh User Group in Fort Worth, Texas, about Apple's announcements at the Worldwide Developers Conference. (It's in three parts to make the downloads more manageable.) (Posted 2009-06-15)


Apple's WWDC App Wall -- Why should I have gone to WWDC when I was able to get all the news from home? To check out Apple's wildly cool App Wall in person! TechCrunch has posted some pictures and video of the pulsating wall of apps - a four-by-five grid of 30-inch Cinema Displays jam-packed with iPhone app icons. Each time an app was purchased in the store, its icon pulsed on the wall. (Posted 2009-06-12)


Glenn and Adam Discuss AirPort Networking on MacVoices -- Listen in as Glenn Fleishman and Adam Engst chat with MacVoices host Chuck Joiner about both the latest developments with Apple's AirPort wireless networking devices and what's new in the world of Wi-Fi security. (Posted 2009-06-12)


Adam Talks Through WWDC News on Your Mac Life -- Tune in to this week's Your Mac Life show to listen to Adam and host Shawn King talk through all of what went down at the Worldwide Developers Conference. And yes, the Twitter hype is real - Shawn did get Adam to swear on the air. (Posted 2009-06-11)


iPhone 3G S Specs Revealed -- Wired is reporting that T-Mobile (in the Netherlands) has let the cat out of the bag with regard to the technical specs of the iPhone 3G S. Apple has been keeping the exact details of the new phone's chipset under wraps, but now we know the deal: 256 MB of RAM for the OS, twice that of the original iPhone, and a 600 MHz processor, up from 412 MHz. (Posted 2009-06-11)


Apple's WWDC Keynote Video Now Available -- By now you've probably read oodles of reports about Apple's keynote presentation at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference. But if you want to see how it all went down, or want to watch the many iPhone OS 3.0 app demos, Apple has posted a QuickTime video of the presentation. (Posted 2009-06-09)

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Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk for 15-Jun-09

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>


One "Trick," One Quirk in Microsoft's Bing -- Readers share their experiences with, and thoughts about, Bing, Microsoft's new search engine. (43 messages)


iTunes 8.2 not syncing podcasts correctly to iPhone -- A smart album in iTunes 8.2 explains odd podcast sync behavior. (4 messages)


New iPhone 3GS Boosts Power, Performance, and More -- Readers attempt to figure out AT&T's opaque upgrade policies for the iPhone 3G S. (5 messages)


Apple Previews Snow Leopard for September Release -- Snow Leopard's slimmed size and welcome $29 upgrade price attract discussion. (4 messages)


iPhone 3.0--Icon limit -- One welcome improvement in the iPhone 3.0 software is support for more application screens. (5 messages)


Safari 4 "Favorites" -- Safari 4's Top Sites feature could be useful, but not if you already have a system for going to your favorite sites. (2 messages)


The "other" Apple announcement on June 8 -- Apple's use of adaptive HTTP streaming invites comparison with how QuickTime currently streams content. (3 messages)


MobileMe calendar sync problem -- When MobileMe gets confused, it seems to do it in a big way. A reader details how he has tried to get calendar sync working, to no avail. Another reader reports success with Apple's help. (2 messages)


One unfortunate shortcoming of the new MacBook Pro -- The new MacBook Pro design takes us back to removing lots of screws of varying lengths in order to open the case and upgrade RAM or the hard disk. (3 messages)


How to use a Mac with websites that require Internet Explorer -- What's the best way to access a Web site that requires Internet Explorer from a Mac? (7 messages)

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