Security and will Monday see another iOS Beta?

Prior to the security issues on Apple’s site over a week ago, Apple had been on a bi-weekly cadence for iOS and OS X beta releases.  Last Monday, (July 22nd) the developer portal was down while Apple rebuilt the site to address the security issues no iOS beta was reported to be released.  With less than 24 hours to go, will they be in a position to release a beta tomorrow?  What is the impact to the overall release schedule of iOS?  What do you think?

I am hoping that the major progress we’ve seen in the last week on bringing the site back online (while still not complete, many of components are up as of this posting), has allowed Apple to focus back on working on iOS and Mavericks.  Perhaps there are some lessons in all of this for us, as developers, that security can’t be something we think about when we are done developing.  Security is something that needs to be built into our apps from the beginning.

One of my favorite podcasts is Security Now! with Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Company. A few months back, Steve talked about the effort he went thru to retrofit his entire website to https.  I think this is something that is worthwhile to consider for this site.  It is a lot of work , and exposed to him the inter-relationship of so much of our connected world.  At an app level, if you use any third party code, are you sure it is secure?  How do you go about testing for security?

The people who want to expose or exploit security issues in your code, spend much more time testing your application than perhaps you do.  They are not worried about shipping the next release.  They are methodical in how they test, probe, and attack your application.  Perhaps this is the time to start re-thinking your development and test strategy, so that security becomes a first class requirement for all that you do.

More Progress on Apple Site

Great news, last night the 2nd major round of site updates were deployed by Apple. Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 7.30.57 AM

As you can see the site now lets you get to the developer sites for iOS, Mac, and Safari, along with certificates, and software downloads.  Here’s hoping that we are not far from Apple getting back on track for beta updates!

Apple Developer Portal Update

Last Thursday I got a password reset email on my iOS developer account, one that I didn’t request. Given that I didn’t request it, I filed it away for when I had time to call Apple and find out what was going on. Well yesterday I got an email from Apple indicating that someone had hacked the developer portal and that they had shut it down in order to address the problem. The following image is a copy of the Maintenance screen they have on the site this morning. Has your account been compromised?

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 9.06.26 AM

The Guardian UK posted a great article on the hack this morning.

Keeping your code new – a dilemma

I’ve written a post on this idea from the perspective of your users, should you upgrade your app to the latest level of an operating system. I’ve even talked about how you learn by keeping up with the latest releases of API’s and interfaces. But what about the down side?

Traditionally large IT companies have forced operating systems companies to be backward compatible, so as not to lose the large revenue that they get from companies. Over the last few years, businesses have be even more cautious about upgrading hardware and software. This means that they are slowly losing influence on developer who want to create the next cool thing. Is this a start of the innovators dilemma for software developers? Do you still need to cater to the large support revenue you get from traditional enterprises? Or do you bite the bullet and develop new and radical solutions that move your user base to a new code base?

Evolving your Interface – A good thing?

While catching up on my reading the other day, I found this article over at Infoworld called – Mobile Apps Death Wish. You may call the title a little melodramatic, but it got me to think about my habit of like change and it’s impact on my users.

The author of the piece goes on a bit of rant on how newer UI techniques are actually making it harder to find information and the over abundance of graphics with text on top, is causing issues for people who have eyesight issues. I agree with the point of the light grey text on a dark grey background, especially since I tend to keep the brightness pretty low on my devices (I love extending my battery life). However, I believe that the appropriate use of graphics can really help an application get broader/nearly universal appeal without requiring much localization of text strings.

The other point the article makes is that both Android’s current auto update, and iOS7’s upcoming auto update feature are going to cause even more problems for people who do not want to change their apps. I hadn’t thought about this, since I like to learn new things and therefore (as mentioned above) actually embrace change. Yes, sometimes it is difficult or uncomfortable, but change will happen, so we may want to get use to it.

My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t like change to the programs she uses. And this is the point that the author should have made more strongly…if you are making a change, make it for a reason, not just for looks. Many applications add cosmetic changes without any regard for the impact to the function of an app. If you are going from a mostly test based interface to a completely graphical interface, make sure those who need to use screen readers can still use your app. Or give the user a choice. It is easy to just assume that everyone will like the new version, but if you work on giving both options, you – as the developer – will get to learn more! Yes, it is change for you, and that will help you expand your skills. Try and figure out how to add that new, cool graphical feature in such a way that a text only user can benefit too.

What do you think? Should we all just keep tweaking our apps, or should we figure out how to incorporate new features in such a way that it is useful for both old and new users? When should your new features necessitate a new version of the app, so users can choose between version 2 and version 3 (given the challenges of auto update?).

It’s all a matter of public record

I recently had the chance to review a locally developed app called Public Record. This application provides search capabilities for legal documents and court records in the state of North Carolina. There are multiple applications that provide this capability, but I cannot compare the functionality as I have not tried them. As a supporter of locally developed apps, I was happy to take a look when Richard Brown (the developer) reached out and asked for me to take a look. I am currently working on a video for the site; but wanted to my impressions here.

The appeal of this app is to those who need access to the data but do not have the time to travel to each county courthouse to go get the records. If you have the citation number and the county, you can pull most information. If you are just testing the app, and haven’t been the system (that you are aware of) it is a bit daunting…but no more daunting then back-end county/state systems it is pulling data from. The app seems very complete for the scope it covers, and I like the fact that it includes a built in dictionary of many of the legal terms related to the data you may be searching for.

The great story behind this app, like many developers, Richard built the app after dealing with the frustration of trying to get these types of documents thru other means. Developing an app for your own needs, and then seeing the value of it, allows users to benefit from your hard work! I hope to post a demo video soon,