Does an iPad need a firewall?

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2012-08-18 13.36.50We got into a discussion last night about using an iPad on an unsecured WiFi network, like in a Starbucks or in a hotel.  What does the iPad expose to the network?

I’ve run a pretty intense scan against my iPad using Zenmap and found that the following ports are open:

  • 62078 – This is used for synching over WiFI to iTunes.  Disabling WiFi synch closes the port.  There seems to be some security and authentication protocols involved here.
  • 5353 – MDNS. The iPad is listening for devices advertising via the Bonjour (Avahi) protocol.

So, the question is whether the data sent for synching is encrypted and whether the authentication protocol is reasonably strong.  Unfortunately, I have yet to discover anything definitive about this on an Apple site. This whitepaper from Apple indicates that there’s lots of encryption taking place.   (If you can find a link, please add a comment!)

Here’s a link to someone else who’s looked into this.

Here are the raw scan results

Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.0047s latency).
Not shown: 1945 closed ports, 53 filtered ports
62078/tcp open  iphone-sync?
5353/udp  open  mdns         DNS-based service discovery
62078/tcp apple-mobdev
Address= fe80:0:0:0:2a6a:baff:fe07:abc
MAC Address: 28:6A:BA:07:0A:BC (Ieee-sa)
Device type: media device|phone
Running: Apple iOS 4.X|5.X
OS CPE: cpe:/o:apple:iphone_os:4 cpe:/o:apple:iphone_os:5
OS details: Apple iOS 4.4.2 – 5.0.1 (Darwin 11.0.0)
Uptime guess: 25.552 days (since Tue Jul 24 00:07:00 2012)
Network Distance: 1 hop
TCP Sequence Prediction: Difficulty=252 (Good luck!)
IP ID Sequence Generation: Randomized

29 Apps Later: My Top iPhone Apps

What’s on your iPhone?

In a recent spate of emails, several of us were recommending apps to a person who was getting his first iPhone.  I have lots and lots of apps, but the ones below are the non-built-in ones I use the most.

Photo Mar 17, 6 07 13 PMFinding someplace to eat

  • AroundMe
  • Yelp
  • Google Places
  • OpenTable
  • UrbanSpoon
  • Starbucks


  • TrueHDR (this is the only non-free app listed)
  • PS Express (Photoshop for iOS)


  • New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • Associated Press


  • Google Voice
  • Twitter
  • Facebook


  • Evernote (A great tool for remembering stuff)
  • Dropbox


  • Kindle


  • WWOZ
  • Pandora
  • Public Radio
  • Shazam

Shopping & Travel

  • Cardstar (get rid of all those tags you carry on your keychain)
  • Orbitz
  • Kayak
  • Amazon


  • IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base)
  • iPark (Find your car)
  • Google Earth
  • Cogs

Getting started with Google Voice

For a long time, a cell phone was the way to make long distance calls for "free".  Well, free as in I've bought a bunch of minutes that are not tied to a particular destination, and I've paid in advance, so it's cheaper than my Costco long distance plan on the land line.  Now, however, I'm running out of those minutes and am looking to my landline for some of my calling needs.  Google Voice has come to my rescue.

Here's how it works:  I created a Google Voice (GV) account with my cell phone as the primary phone, and only phone enabled for incoming calls.  The landline was added as another phone.  When I want to call someone, I use the GV website to call them.  The calling process is that GV first calls a phone I specify (i.e., the landline) then connects it to the called party.  As far as both ends are concerned, it's an incoming call.  Cell phones may eat minutes for incoming calls but landlines (at least, as far as I know about my own billing plan) don't.  

I signed up for GV to have a "business" phone number I could use that's independent of the numbers I'm otherwise assigned (cell phone, landlines, etc.) and for the useful features. Google Voice has lots of useful features — call screening, assignable voice mail messages, voice mail transcription, ring to more than one phone — but this one will save me real money. 

How does Google make money with this?  My wife says Google is selling information about who I know — mapping my networks by monitoring who I call and who I email.  Probably. Is that worth something to someone?

Dropbox: Application of the Year

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box_reasonably_smallDropbox is cloud storage made easy.  Dropbox synchronizes a folder on your computer with a secure site on the Internet.  Any file you put there is immediately copied off site, safely away from your computer.  That’s good, but it gets better.  If you join any of your other computers to your Dropbox account, that folder is then synchronized to that computer, too.  The computers can run Mac OS/X, Windows, and Linux.  Files move back and forth effortlessly.  It just works.

There are mobile apps, too, so you can access files from your phone.  As you travel, snapping pictures, you can use Dropbox to transfer them to your computer — they’ll be home before you are.  If you’re not at your computer, you can still access your files via any web browser.

Dropbox also enables sharing. You can pick one or more folders and make them public, or share them with one or more individuals.  That means you don’t have to mail files back and forth. The latest copy is always on your computer, kept up to date by Dropbox. This is a great tool when you’re working in teams.  Everyone in the team has the files available locally, and the files are automagically kept in synchroniztion. Network traffic is minimal:  If the computers are on the same network segment, the files are shared locally, so only one of the computers has to talk to Dropbox’s servers.

Dropbox also supports versioning, so you can get back to an earlier version of a file or recover a file accidentally deleted.

Is Dropbox viable?  I don’t know.  The business model may be a variant of the underpants gnomes.  They seem to have decent funding, get good press, and show good customer growth based on viral marketing.


Shameless Plug:  If you sign up for Dropbox via this link, you get the usual 2GB of storage, plus an extra 250 MB in your free Dropbox, as do I.  Following that, if you tweet about Dropbox, you’ll get some more free space. Post something on Facebook for yet more space.  Free accounts can be expanded to 8GB!

Linux Dropbox hint:  If you’re sharing files with other computers on your LAN, open port 17500 for both TCP and UDP connections.

New mobile theme

I'm testing a module and theme for automatic detection and formatting for mobile devices on this site.  If you're accessing from an iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, or other device, please let me know how the site looks and whether it works for you. Thanks!

Easing into the smart house

When you first drop a wireless router into your house, you create a local area network (LAN).  For most folks, the purpose of the LAN is to give each device in the house access to the Internet via your wide area network (WAN) provider.  The LAN device talks to your cable modem, DSL device, or other hardware that connects you to the WAN and then the 'net itself.  Facilitating traffic among the devices within the house is generally not considered.

That's been pretty much the case in our house. Sure, I have a server in the basement that backs up my desktop and hosts my website.  We also use the LAN to move files from computer to computer.  But, until about a week ago, there was nothing that really spoke to the potential of a networked house.  It started with the simple thought:  I have over 5000 high-quality music tracks on my Mac.  Instead of playing them through headphones, how can I play them on the home theater system?  It's got to sound better with Bose speakers and a couple hundred watts per channel.  The second thought was: There are jacks I can use, but I don't want the computer in the family room.  Here's where it starts to get cool.

About six years ago, I bought a first generation Apple Airport Express to use as a portable wireless base station in hotel meeting rooms where there was a wired connection but no wireless.  When wireless became common, the base station went into a drawer. Apple built a couple of interesting features into the device. It can function as a wireless access point, or it can join an existing wireless network and function as either a print server or a music output device.  Yes, it has both a USB port for connecting printers and a standard audio jack for connecting speakers.  I reset it from access point mode to music mode and plugged it into one of the unused inputs on the theater system.  The next time I started iTunes, I selected "look for AirPlay devices".  As soon as I clicked "apply", the Airport appeared on the list of speakers.  Check.  And my music was playing in the family room. And then it got cooler!

The last thing I want to do is run upstairs to change playlists, pause the music, or hunt for a particular song.  Enter the Remote Control App for the iPhone.  This app uses connects iTunes and iPhones on the LAN.  After a few setup steps, I have full control of iTunes, through the usual iPod look and feel, from the family room.

Circling back to the topic at hand, there's nothing involved in this that uses the LAN's connectivity to the Internet.  The LAN connects our iPhones, our computers (both Windows and Mac), and our stereo system.  It's not the smart house of the future or the flying car that the Jetsons promised, but it's a pleasurable step in that direction. 

My iPhone 4 report

It’s been a bit over 3 weeks since I’ve had my iPhone 4 and it’s a keeper.  That’s not to say it was all sweetness. The first phone I got had issues.  I’d put it next to another iPhone 4 and compare the famous “AT&T Bars”.  I usually had half the bars of the other phone.  The battery was also a bit weak… It would often drain overnight.  Apple swapped the phone at a nearby store and the new one seems to be OK.  There’s still a power issue, but that traces to using push notification for two Exchange Active Synch accounts.  If I have the accounts enabled for push, the phone seems to spend a lot of time and power synching. It’s almost always warm.  Since I changed the synching to manual fetch, the phone is cool and the battery lasts for days, not hours.  I wish there were some happy medium.

The Grip-of-Death issue is real. If I hold the phone in either hand and cover the lower left corner, I can say goodbye to my AT&T signal (and whoever I might be talking to).  My free bumper case is on its way, according to a shipping notice from the Apple store.  It’s going to take about 10 days to get here.  Last time the post office scanned it, it had been sent from Tennessee to Georgia on its way to Chicago.

IMG_0014Face Time is pretty amazing.  It works pretty much like on the commercials.  The key to using it is to hold it in front of and slightly above your face. If you hold it low, you present a double chin and give a nice view up your nostrils.  It also has a gyroscope. I’m not sure what there is to do with it yet. There’s a gyroscope app, but what’s the point of that?  It’s bound to be integrated into something, soon.

Evernote: I get it!

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in7BPS.Lel1EI’ve had Evernote on my phone for a long time, using it to send lists of things from my desktop to the phone, like all of my frequent flier, hotel, and rental car numbers. And, before a trip, I’d paste the itinerary mailed by Orbitz into a new note, so it would be available on both the phone and notebook as I traveled. Today, I had one of those forehead slapping experiences. As Homer would say, “D’oh!”

I had a couple of ideas for blog pieces. I was going to email them to myself, but I know that email, once read, falls off the mind’s radar. Instead, I created a new note in Evernote called “Blog Ideas”. Now, I have a couple of to-do lists, notes for iPhone apps, if I ever learn how to make them, and a few more things. As a side benefit, this will reduce the amount of shredded paper that shows up in the dryer’s lint screen — the inevitable product of little notes I stuff into my pockets.

How do you use Evernote?

iPhone 4: Can I get what I need?

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We can talk about the iPhone 4 in a moment.  Thanks to Gizmodo, we have a good idea of what the next generation iPhone will look like as a physical and functional device.  What isn’t answered is the question to my number one issue with the iPhone: It’s not really a good phone.

IMG_0132Why am I saying that?  Here I am, sitting at my desk. There are 5 bars next to the ATT.  Phone rings, I answer, we start talking. About 30 seconds to one minute later, the call just drops.  Gone.  Kerfloot.

The picture to the left is AT&T’s “Marks the Spot” app.  Each time I lose a call, or can’t make a call, or generally have problems using the phone as a phone, I use this app to report it.  Right now, I’m sure there’s a guy heading to the cell tower nearest to me to do whatever it takes to provide me with insanely great coverage.

Mick famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.”  I want all the cool features of the iPhone 3G, plus the new features of the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 4 features

  • a bigger battery
  • a front facing camera, presumably for video chat
  • flash photography
  • better screen resolution
  • app folders
  • multiple EAS accounts

What I need doesn’t seem to be on the list — a really reliable telephone.

The iPad has not changed my life

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apple-creation-0097-rm-engWell, it’s here.

It would have been good to have a couple more billable hours today, but I used my time to follow two live blogs (Gizmodo, Engadget) of the Event That Will Change Everything, while edging ever closer to the slippery slope of the fanboy. I already have several faded black turtlenecks. I may start wearing my jeans without a belt.

There are a few things keeping me from putting a tent up on Michigan Avenue in front of the Apple store. The iPad doesn’t have a camera. This would be a great tool for on the go video conferencing via Skype. It’s also not clear whether it can, in fact, be used for VOIP applications. It’s also not cheap. How much memory is really needed? It comes with 16, 32, and 64GB at $100 for each bump from base. And the 3G capability is another big chunk of change, even before adding $15 or $30 per month for service.

The big reason to wait is that this is version 1. We all know that a year from now, Steve will be on stage showing off iPad 2.0 and It Will Change Everything.