SSL Vulnerability

On Friday, Apple released iOS 7.0.6,  a small maintenance release that turns out fixes a very important issue with Apple’s implementation of SSL.

SSL is used to encrypt network data traffic. This is used heavily with web traffic and plays an important part in securing any data passed between your client and the service you are using.

The bug in question could allow a network intruder or hacker to capture or modify your encrypted data. The attacker could potentially masquerade as the website you are visiting, and either access any data such as user name and passwords or worse pass back malware or other harmful code. It looks like the attacker can only pull this attack off if they are on the same physical wired network or same WI-FI network. So if you are concerned, avoid any public Wi-Fi networks until you patch your iOS 7 device.

The 7.0.6 patch for iOS fixes this issue, so all users of iOS 7 are recommend that they update immediately.

Apple have also released the same patch for iOS 6 users.

As far as OS X is concerned, it also suffers from the same vulnerability. Apple have commented that they are working on a patch, and it will be released soon. As soon as it is we recommend you update asap. [UPDATE: It seems only Mavericks OS X 10.9 suffers from this bug]

Apple have released a Tech Note article which you can read here.

If you want to check if your device has the vulnerability then visit this web site via your browser https://gotofail.com

Note not all browsers are affected. Safari is because it uses the SSL libraries that have this issue, while Google Chrome, on the other hand, does not.

So another recommendation for OS X users is to switch to Chrome until Apple patch the issue.

Learn to access iCloud & remote data sources in your iOS App

You would be surprised to learn how many apps on the App store access the core data they require over some sort of cloud service. The back-end hosting this data can vary quite a bit, from iCloud, a hosted CRM system or corporate database.ios icloud training

As long as these services have allowed for access via an open standard, it’s possible to connect our iOS Apps to them.

What’s involved:

  • Overview: First off, you will need to get to grips with all the different types of services and scenarios that are available to you to host your data.
  • Understanding iCloud: Apple’s iCloud has some great features available which will allow you to store your app’s data in the cloud. By using the APIs available and a ton of other features, you can create a seamless experience across iCloud enabled devices.

iCloud Storage:

There are 3 kinds of storage available within iCloud, and you will need to know which one to use to suit you app, as each storage option has its own set of capabilities.

  • Key-Value Storage: This is can be used for small amounts of data to store discrete values such as app preferences and configuration. Key Value Storage is similar to local user defaults database except each value will be available in every instance of your app.
  • iCloud and UIDocument: Since iOS 5, you can now store documents and other data in your user’s iCloud accounts by using UIDocument. This should be used if you want to manage data that is important to your app and user.
  • iCloud and Core Data: By utilising iCloud Core Data storage, you can make the content in a single window or database app available across all of your user’s devices.

Accessing Third Party Services:

  • RSS: You can use RSS, which is a simple way of fetching data from a web based server, whether it’s textual information or images. As a developer, you will need to learn how to use the Classes that Apple offer to fetch RSS feeds.
  • Restful services: You will need to know how to access data using restful APIs, which is one of the most common ways to access data remotely.
  • JSON: JSON is the modern way of accessing remote data due to the elegant way it’s implemented and the lightweight payloads it produces. You need to know how to access remote data using JSON.

Other Services & Security:

  • Web Services: Apple have recently introduced the NSURLSession framework, which is a suite of classes that has replaced NSURLConnection as the preferred method of networking and can now be used to access web services.
  • Push Notifications : To let your users know new messages, updates or other information, you will need to know how add “push notifications” to your app.
  • Authentication: Most remote data will require some sort of authentication. You should know the main methods used to achieve this, including user name/passwords and tokens.
  • Keychain: Once you have mastered the authentication process you will need to know how to use Apple’s Keychain service and how to use it to secure save your users’ credentials locally.
  • Security: Finally, security is a big issue, and any iOS App developer will need to understand both over the air security and local security to ensure the validity of your app.
We have launched our iCloud and Remote Data course. This is a 3 day course that will take you through the key technologies in accessing data over the air. You will learn how to implement all the functionality and techniques as mentioned above, plus much more.

The Amsys System Administrators Conference is Back!

system-admin-conference-2014

Our popular System Administrators Conference is returning in the new year, the full agenda of which will be released shortly.

In the meantime, we would like to hear from you, specifically about what you would like to see at January’s conference, please let us know by filling in the form below.

Make sure that you enter all your details correctly, as we’ll be giving away one ticket to a winner picked at random!* If you are unsure about what you could suggest, just check out some of options from the list below:

  • iOS Security
  • iOS Deployment
  • MDM
  • OS X Mavericks
  • iOS Management
  • Q & As

Conference Information:

When:
TBC

Where:
Grand Connaught Rooms,
61-65 Great Queen St,
London,
WC2B 5DA

Tickets:
On sale from next week

Please register your interest and suggestions into the form below.

*winner to be announced

How to import your iPhone’s photos to your Mac with Preview!

I have to say that I discovered this neat little trick by accident the other day and since then, I have used it quite a few times!

When your iPhone is connected to your Mac computer and you open Preview, it gives you the option to import your photos from your iPhone: File > Import From (your device’s name)

This works in the same way as Image Capture and it’s an easy way if you just need to quickly view/ crop a photo, as you can just use Preview’s built-in tools.

 

import photos  via preview

Using DiskAid to extract iPhone Data

Even though iTunes and iCloud backup are perfectly suitable backup solutions for most people, I have often found it necessary to perform a restore of the iOS firmware while not wanting to restore from backup.

The reason behind that is because I have often found that restoring a backup causes random spikes in battery usage and app errors. However, there have been cases where I require my text messages or other data from my iOS device and I have been looking for a solution to backup only specific parts of it.

Using DiskAid to extract iPhone Data

The easiest and fastest application that I could find to perform those tasks reliably is DigiDNA’s Diskaid.

Additionally, it provides you with a series of very useful information which iTunes tends to make difficult to gather. DiskAid will allow you to copy data from and to your iOS device i.e. Messages, Contacts, Call History, Notes etc. and you can then fine grain your restore process or even archive your thousands of text messages to your computer to reduce clutter on your iOS device.

Eating our own dog food!

As you have probably seen from previous posts, I’m a big fan of mobile devices, especially iOS.

Here at Amsys everyone has an iPhone or equivalent, so we are always looking for innovative ways of using them in our business.

One great example is with our training department.

Our trainers are always busy, so we needed a very quick and easy way for them to be able to check their schedule. We wanted them to be able to see which courses they are scheduled to teach, along with, who is attending that particular course.

So, we have written a simple app that allows them to do just this.

The app connects to a feed produced by our backend systems, in this case FileMaker. From the App the trainer can search for their courses, filter the courses by location or date as well as seeing who is attending the course.

    

Following on from this version, another task the trainer has to perform is to log which pieces of kit they are using for a particular course. For this we used QR codes as asset tags for the equipment. Each QR code holds the devices serial number, asset number and a description.

We then added QR code scanning capability to the app which allows the trainer to very easily compile a kit list which then gets emailed back to our training administrators.

   

These sort of internal business apps are reasonably straight forward to create and cost effective.

If you have some ideas for your company and fancy creating an app yourself, then we run a number of courses to help achieve this goal including:

• 2 Day Objective-C course for beginners

• 5 Day Developing apps for iOS 6

Alternatively we have a team of developers waiting to turn your ideas into real apps.

If you need any information please feel free to contact our team on 020 8660 9999 or training@amsys.co.uk

 

How Margaret got her app live & how you can do it too!

Hearing about our students stories, accomplishments and the projects that they have delivered since attending our courses is a very rewarding time and provides us with inspiration and pride in the work that we do here at Amsys training.

Back in 2012m, Margaret, a graphic designer from Essex, took the Amsys Objective-C for Beginners and iOS App Development course. Following her training, Margaret left feeling that the course had met her objectives and had given her a good understanding of the Objective C language, therefore enabling her to pursue her own app development project.

The App is called “Unibookworm” and seeks to solve the problem with “what to do with your uni books, once your degree has finished.” Many other providers, such as Amazon, take a percentage from each sale, which is something that Margaret wanted to avoid.

After a year in the making, the App was accepted onto the AppStore, and is available to download for 69p.

Once UniBookWorm is downloaded, students can enter the book’s details, by using the quick ISBN feature which recognises the number and fills in the details for them (they can add a photo using the camera function).

Students looking for particular books can also search the Unibookworm database by author, subject, ISBN or keyword. The students can then send messages to each other to arrange payment, delivery etc.

unibookworm home screen appfind unwanted uni books appunibookworm sell your unwanted uni books app

 

Included within the app is a link (by clicking on the Purchase button) for the Barclays Pingit App, which can be downloaded and used for easy payment. You don’t have to have a Barclays account in order to use this facility.

Richard Mallion, author of our iOS app development courses, has downloaded the app and said that, Margaret had “done a fantastic job.”

For more information about our app development courses, click here, or call us on 0208 645 5806 .

How to turn your iPad into a mini mobile editing suite

The iPad for the photographer is maturing. Now in its fourth incarnation there are a number of applications and innovations that are making the iPad a useful tool for the photographer.
Without any extra apps it simply allows you to store your portfolio to show to clients, as the screen is sharp and resolution is high enough to do your images justice.

I’m a photographer outside of my role as Service desk manager and I have selected a few of the apps that I use to enhance my iPad’s capabilities

ShowTime

If the screen isn’t big enough, use an app called ShowTime, which turns your iPad (or iPhone) into a web host. This means that any computer on the same network can view a slideshow controlled by the iPad. I also use it to transfer files either way between a computer and iPad.

showtime for ipad

Do you need a second screen for editing or showing images?

Air Display means you can work on your laptop and have a battery powered second screen. You can also display the image on the laptop and drag the tool menus onto the iPad, ultimately you can have your own mini-editing suite, wherever you are.

The Eye-Fi SD card enables wireless transfer to a laptop or iPad if your camera doesn’t have wireless capability. A client can then see the images, as you shoot. If, for example, a decision maker isn’t present during the shoot, a screenshot can be sent from the iPad via email, therefore potentially speeding up the work flow. By using the Eye-Fi iOS app, you can send the images to an iPad anywhere in the world.

The only thing that I don’t quite get yet, is the premium you must pay in order to transfer RAW files. Both the Mobile and Pro versions of the card are the same, except you pay extra for the Pro card.

 

eye fi sd card

Many image work flow applications now come with iOS apps that allow for varying degrees of iPad integration into the work flow. Some examples of this software are Leaf Capture, Capture One or Phocus. While these can work with most camera models, there are some that are camera specific.

The applications above allow features that range from, just viewing the images as they are taken, to rating the images, activating the shutter, making adjustments to camera settings or checking focus through live view. They also allow for remote internet viewing, if the computer has an internet connection and port forwarding is configured on the router. You can even control studio lights from your computer or iPad if the equipment supports DNX512.

Pro DSLR’s have had the built in capability to transfer images wirelessly for some time, there is now  10/100 Ethernet. The camera manufacturer software can now activate the shutter on up to ten cameras simultaneously.

Light Blue software has a hosted solution so that you don’t need a computer to interact with it. The iPad means you can check, customer details, invoicing, your calendar and to do list on the move and have it sync with your computer.

light blue software

By using some of these applications, means that the iPad has moved from a gadget that is nice to have, to a useful tool to display your work to customers, control the hardware in your studio, help keep your company paperwork up to date while maintaining your customer relationships.

Thanks for coming to the Mac Meetup!

Amsys mac meetupHello.. thank you all for coming last night, we were so glad to see so many faces there. We hope that everyone enjoyed the evening and were able to take something away with them!

We are planning the next Mac Meetup for the 23rd of April, a new venue to be arranged, somewhere with a lot more space… and head height is definitely required!

If you have thoughts for the next venue or ideas for the next meetup, please fill in this short form (link below) or by emailing, macmeetup@amsys.co.uk

See you on the 23rd and have great weekend break!

Charley and James.

  • The Crown and Two Chairmen
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The in-App purchase nightmare and how to prevent it

I read a report on the BBC Website this weekend about an unfortunate 5 year old racking up £1500 of In-App purchases while playing with a “Free” App downloaded on his parent’s iOS Device.
The problem is that young children download these free apps with the idea that everything within it is free, free “Coins”, “Gems”, “Gold” and whatever else. In reality, however, these can easily cost you £70 or more.

This isn’t the first case of a child spending money on In-App Purchases and unfortunately it won’t be the last, however it is avoidable.

Restrictions settings on your iOS Device allow you to disable In-App Purchases, along with some other handy features, which can help protect your phone (and bank balance) when young children access your device.

To set restrictions:

Tap on “Settings”

ios settings icon

 

Tap on “General” and in the new menu tap “Restrictions”

ios restrictions settings

 

In the Restrictions settings Tap “Enable Restrictions” and you will be prompted for a 4 digit restrictions Passcode.
Note: This does not have to be the same as you main Passcode.

enable restrictions on ios

Once Enabled Scroll down to find “In-App Purchases” and toggle this to “Off”

toggle in app purchases off

This will now disable any In-App Purchases. You have many other features which you can restrict access to also.

Currently there’s no way to save these settings, so, if you disable and enable “Restrictions” later you will need to make the changes again.

Lock! Lock! Come on, please lock!!!

Without a doubt if I was stuck on a desert island the one item I would take would be my iPhone. It may sound stupid to love an inanimate object but I am in love with my iPhone.

He even has a name… Percy!

Percy’s always there, he makes me sound intelligent (thanks Google), he keeps me in touch with my family scattered across the world thanks to iMessage, he always finds a song for my mood and I have a slight addiction to Temple Run 2.

However, Percy is poorly!

His sleep/power button is stuck/broken, and his warranty has ended!

Now, I have a hard decision to make:

A. I help Percy pass on to iPhone heaven (muzuma) and replace him with a newer model
B. I take him to a shady back street hospital and wait patiently for some temporary surgery
C. I take him to a private hospital (and pay through the nose) for the best iPhone doctors to repair him, but run the risk of losing him for a replica Percy

I spent the weekend thinking W.W.P.D (what would Percy do)?

And there it was! A shinning light! A prosthetic sleep button, a way of Percy living on and living well!

If your iPhone has suffered in a similar way, please follow these simple steps!

  • Go to: Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch

 

assistive touch iphone

 

  • Slide ON, and a “virtual home button” should appear in the right hand corner

 

assistive touch button iphone

 

  • Tap the virtual screen button > Device > now tap and hold down the Lock Screen Icon

 

asssistive touch lock screen iphone

 

  •  The “slide to power off” will appear, so that you can turn of your phone!

 Turning Percy the iPhone back on again

In order to turn your iPhone ON you have to connect to a Power Source, i.e. a plug socket or USB port of computer.

I am now happy to report that Percy is back to full health and he doesn’t even miss his power button. In short, I love my phone,  but there will come a time when Percy will no longer be with me and he will be replaced but, that isn’t this day!

Now you can have AirDrop for iOS

By Richard Mallion

Transferring files between iOS devices and OS X has always been problematic in its implementation. There are may ways you can achieve this ranging from WebDav servers, iCloud to simply emailing yourself the document concerned.

A new app called “InstaShare” has arrived which mimics the simplicity of AirDrop on OS X.

InstaShare comes in two pieces. An iPhone app and an app for OS X which appears in your menu bar.

Once installed you gain a simple drag and drop interface to transfer files between the two devices either over WI-FI or bluetooth.

On the OS X side you have a very simple window where you can drag and drop files to iOS devices running the InstaShare app.

 

On the iPhone you have a similar experience. The app gives you direct access to your photo library where you can drag and drop images to OS X, as shown below.

You can also use the share option in iOS to transfer files from other iOS apps to InstaShare which can then be sent on to your OS X machine.

 

It should be pointed out that this version of the software does not encrypt the file transfer.

The app is free and is supported by ads but there is an in app purchase option of 69p to remove the ads. All in all this is a very nice and polished piece of software. The next best thing to actually having AirDrop built into iOS.

Apple introduces AppStore.com urls for iTunes Store

During the Super Bowl over the weekend, Apple introduced their new AppStore.com urls for the iTunes/Mac App store.

Historically Apple have provided each App on the iTunes or Mac App store with a unique URL.

For instance the iTunes url for our revision app is https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/revise-it/id480682657?mt=8. Not that friendly.

The equivalent AppStore.com url is http://www.appstore.com/reviseit.

This is a much more friendly and readable url. Great for developers wishing to promote their apps.

The urls themselves are auto generated by Apple and it is possible that a url will point to more than one app who have similar names. In that case a user will be presented with a list of apps to choose from.

According to the documentation,  Apple supply three types of urls

Company Name

  • iOS: http://appstore.com/<companyname> for example, http://appstore.com/amsysplc
  • Mac: http://appstore.com/mac/<companyname> for example, http://appstore.com/mac/amsysplc

App Name

  • iOS: http://appstore.com/<appname> for example, http://appstore.com/reviseit
  • Mac: http://appstore.com/mac/<appname> for example, http://appstore.com/mac/reviseit

App by Company

  • iOS: http://appstore.com/<companyname>/<appname> for example, http://appstore.com/amsysplc/reviseit
  • Mac: http://appstore.com/mac/<companyname>/<appname> for example, http://appstore.com/mac/amsysplc/reviseit

When creating an App Store Short Link, the following rules to the company or app name are applied:

  • Remove all whitespace
  • Convert all characters to lower-case
  • Remove all copyright (©), trademark (™) and registered mark (®) symbols
  • Replace ampersands (“&”) with “and”
  • Remove most punctuation (See Listing 2 for the set)
  • Replace accented and other “decorated” characters (ü, å, etc.) with their elemental character (u, a, etc.)
  • Leave all other characters as-is.

 

 

What’s Needed to Design & Develop iOS Apps

A couple of weeks ago we held an invite only free half day seminar introducing the world of iOS development to business and technology leaders. A range of important areas were discussed that are vital to any streamlined app development process, which include:

The basis of iOS development:

  • Learn about the different iOS devices and their capabilities
  • Understand the differences between different iterations of the iOS operating system
  • Learn about the different Apple Developer programs
  • Learn about the different types of applications that can be developed including their pros and cons

The available tools & necessary skills required:

  • An overview of Apple’s Development tools
  • The equipment list required to start developing
  • Understand the key skills set required to develop an iOS application
  • Understand which back office systems you can integrate with
  • Understand which web based systems you can integrate with

The initial planning stages:

  • How to plan your application including: Creating a detailed specification on the features required
  • How to wire-frame your application
  • Design: Understand what assets are required for you application as well as what tools are available to create your unique look and feel

Stages of development & knowledge needed:

  • Understand the coding processios apps ipad iphone
  • How to handle the test and bug fixing stage

Getting your app out there:

  • How to deploy your finished application

Overall the seminar was designed to give a project manager, decision maker or someone who may end up developing the app an idea of what’s involved, what skills sets you need, how to plan the project and some of the pitfalls you may possibly encounter without the correct planing and processes in place.

The seminar was a great day for all involved and has directly created its own spin off course, What’s Involved in Developing iOS Apps, that delves deeper into all the topics covered as well as a few extra hints and tips.

We’re looking to run this course on either the 9th or 23rd November at our Soho, Central London based training centre. If you would like to register your interest, or to find out any more information about this informative iOS course please get in touch by calling us on 020 8645 5806 or emailing training@amsys.co.uk

 

What’s Involved in Developing iOS Apps

Deciding that you want an app is one thing. But knowing where to start or what skills you need can leave people feeling overwhelmed as they have underestimated the amount of work involved.

Taking on any app development project is a huge task for an inexperienced project manager or business owner.

As a response to the increasing demand for answers and inside knowledge we have have developed a course specifically for those employees, MD’s or individuals that have questions such as:

  • Where do I start?
  • What resources do I need?
  • What skills set do I need?

Course dates will be release on Friday, however please get in touch if you want to find out more or reserve a place today on 020 8645 5806.

You can read the course info about What’s Involved in Developing iOS Apps here.

Google Announces New Support for iOS

By Richard

Its been a busy week for Google, this being the week of their developer conference. Hot on the heels from Apple they made quite a few announcements ranging from a Google sanctioned 7″ tablet to JellyBean, Android 4.1.

google chrome support for iOS

For us iOS users there were a few fairly significant releases.

The main one was the release of their Chrome browser for iPhone and iPad. If you use Chrome on the desktop then this could be a good companion for you on iOS, and I can report after having used it for the last few hours that it’s actually not that bad.

On first launch, Chrome will ask you to enter your Google account e-mail address and password, although this step can be skipped. By tying Chrome for iOS to a Google account, users can sync their personalized Chrome settings from their computer or other device.

Like in the desktop version of the browser, the same text box is used to navigate to a website or to search Google. This feature is also coming to Safari in iOS 6 and Mac OS X 10.8.

desktop version of chrome for iOS

Tab browsing is supported, where the tabs fan out to index cards which you can re-organise.

tab browsing in chrome for iOS

Chrome also features a custom keyboard that adds frequently used characters when searching or typing in a URL to the top of the virtual keyboard. A row featuring the colon, period, dash, slash and .com keys sits above the traditional QWERTY interface.

Google’s browser also has a dedicated microphone button for quick voice searches to the far right. Tapping on the microphone instantly puts the iPad into listening mode, and searching by voice works fairly well.

The incognito mode previously found on other versions of Chrome also makes its way to iOS. Incognito allows users to browse the web without saving their history.

incognito mode for iOS

I think Chrome is a welcome addition on iOS, but the thing that may hinder its uptake is that you can’t set Chrome to be the default browser on your iOS device, Apple only allows Safari to be the default browser. So opening a URL in a separate application, like Mail, will automatically launch the website in Safar.

Google Drive

As well as Chrome, Google also announced support for Drive, their online filesharing service, similar to Dropbox and Box etc.

The app is free and allows you to copy files up and down from your iOS device.

How long before we see a Google Maps application?

Apple Offers New Dedicated Podcast App for iOS

By Richard Mallion

When Apple released the iOS 6 beta a few weeks ago, it was widely reported that the podcast section was missing from the music app. We now know why.

Apple have just released a dedicated Podcast app for iOS running 5.1 or higher.

 

Upon launching the app, users are greeted with all of the podcasts they subscribe to laid out in a grid.

New to Apple’s Podcast experience is the Top Stations feature, which allows users to browse podcasts based on genre and subsets within those genres.

The app supports streaming or downloading of episodes and offers syncing of episode playback between devices. This means that users can, for example, start listening to a podcast on their iPhone and finish on the iPad.

As per normal Apple has added some great design elements as shown below.

A nice addition to iOS, as I always found the Music app clunky when playing podcasts.

The free app is available in the App Store now.

Enjoy

How To Use a .pac File in iOS

Following on from last week’s post, I have spent some time this week playing with .pac files. As discussed last week this is the only way to configure Proxy exceptions on an iOS device. In this post I’ll show you some basics in relation to creating, serving and using the .pac file.

How to serve and use a .pac file

Lets jump forward a step. You’ve got your proxy settings and put these into a file. Lets call it ‘proxyfile.pac’ (nice and original). Now where can you put this file so that your devices can access it?

For your standard Mac OS X clients, you can actually store this file locally on the machine. Just point the machine to the relevant area in System Preferences. I have tested this in a lab environment and this works fine with both Firefox and Google Chrome, however an additional security feature in Safari prevents this.

As of Lion, Safari now runs in an almost entirely sandboxed mode that will ignore any Proxy files that are hosted on a standard file system. The way around this is to turn on web sharing on the client and place the .pac file in the relevant place. Or do it properly…

Hosted a .pac file on a Web Server

The standard location for a .pac is on a Web server. Now due to the large amount of different Web servers, I’m sorry to say I cannot provide instructions for each, however I will draw out some general instructions for a Mac Web Server.

1. Turn in the Web Service. This is located in Server Admin (10.6 – Snow Leopard Server or older) or Server.app (10.7 – Lion Server). Also make a note of the Web Server documents folder location. In this example, our Web Server address is https://www.macserver.co.uk.

2. Navigate to the primary Web Server documents folder used for storing the webpages. As default on Lion this is “/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default”. Move your .pac file (remember ours is “proxyfile.pac”) into this folder.

3. Test the .pac file. Open a web browser and navigate to the address/proxy file. In our example, we would use “https://www.macserver.co.uk/proxyfile.pac”. This should display your Proxy file in the browser window.
Please Note: some Web Browsers and Web Servers do not support this.

4. Finally, add the above test address to the “Automatic” field for proxies. On Mac OS X launch System Preferences, and navigate to the relevant interface’s Proxy configuration page. Tick the “Automatic Proxy Configuration” box and fill in the entire URL in the provided box (as we used in step 3).
For iOS, follow the steps I outlined in my previous blog post, but instead of following step 3, select “Auto” and fill in the URL as we used above.

And that should enable your devices to use the Proxy Automatic Configuration (pac) file.

Awesome, but how do I make one in the first place?

This is the part that took the most digging around, researching and testing to pull together. I have managed to write and test a fairly basic .pac file but I have to say I’ve only scratched the surface it seems!

The .pac file can be created in Text Edit or any other basic text editor (including Dreamweaver – use the JavaScript template) but it MUST be a plain text file or it will not work. The file is comprised of arguments, commands and returned values much like an Apple script or a Bash script.

Again, much like a Bash script, the .pac file must start with an opening line, in this case:

“function FindProxyForURL(url, host)”

This basically tells the network connection that it will work out the Proxy URL and provide this back.

The information that is returned to the connection is done by the line:

“ return “PROXY [proxy address]:[Proxy Port]”; ”

The theory gets much more complex, but is easier to explain with examples.

Example 1: Direct all traffic to the proxy 41.190.16.17 on port 8080

Nice and easy, forward all traffic to one address and port no matter what. To do this, use the below content in your .pac file, changing the address where required:

function FindProxyForURL(url, host)
{
return “PROXY 41.190.16.17:8080″;
}

Example 2: Direct all traffic to the proxy 41.190.16.17 on port 8080, except data bound for addresses in the 192.168.1.1/24 range.

A bit more complicated but probably much more widely required. Again, just use this content in your .pac file, changing the address where required:

function FindProxyForURL(url, host)
{
if (isInNet(host, “192.168.1.1″, “255.255.255.0″))
return “DIRECT”; else return “PROXY 41.190.16.17:8080″;
}

Conclusion

There you have it, enough to get you started and trying things out. There’s some decent information on the Proxy auto-config wiki page to help with any more advanced configuration, but the only way is to give it a go….in a test environment of course!!

As always, please feel free to ask questions, or make suggestions for future topics in the comments below.

 

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

How to Setup & Deploy Proxy Settings on an iOS Device

This week I’ve been mainly trying out configuring web-proxy settings for iPads and iPhones. This is something that may not be very clear and so I have documented a few steps in this post.

One of the advantages of the proxy settings for iOS device, is that they are tied to the particular network you set them on. For example, if I connect to ‘Amsys WiFi’ and fill in a proxy setting, and then return home to my WiFi, the proxy setting will only be used on the ‘Amsys WiFi’ network.

If you require help with deploying iOS devices within your organisation please get in touch, or check out our range of support & consultancy services here.

Add proxy server settings to my iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch.

1. Navigate to the ‘Settings’ app and tap on ‘WiFi’

Set up Proxy Server on iOS

 

2. Next, tap on the WiFi network you need to add the proxy to. This should be one you are currently connected to.

Set up Proxy Server on iOS

 

3. This next page will display all of your network information, for the network you are connected to. Scroll down to the ‘HTTP Proxy’ settings and tap ‘Manual’.

Set up Proxy Server on iOS

 

4. A new box will appear below the setting. Fill in the Proxy Server address, the Port and (if you use it) turn on Authentication and fill in a username and password. These details should be available from whoever is responsible for your network.

set up proxy server iOS

 

Once complete, exit the ‘Settings’ App and you’re good to go!

But I’m a Systems Administrator, I know this! How can I deploy this out to my users?

There are a number of ways to deploy this out to users, en masse.

The first, and simplest is using the Apple iPhone Configuration Utility. This provides the ability to create a Configuration Profile that can be installed to any local (read ‘USB’) connected iOS devices or emailed out to users to install themselves.578

The second, and easiest (situation dependent) is using Apple’s Configurator. This is only really ideal if you’ve had a box of iOS devices delivered, not configured, then this can be ‘imaged’ with the new profile prior to be given out to a user.

The third method requires a MDM server (such as Apple’s Profile Manager Server – see the “how to configure profile manager” and “how to solve configuration problems” posts) with a method for the devices to talk to it without having the proxy settings configured. These can push out any proxy settings (including new ones) over the air.

Sounds great, but I’ve noticed there’s a field missing?

I’m afraid that it’s true. There is no GUI or Configuration Profile method to set Proxy exceptions. For some solutions, this can be a deal breaker. Dependant on the use of the iOS devices it may be required to have local addresses, or the MDM server, set as exclusions.

There are two solutions to this problem. I’ll glance over them here as they are beyond this blog post.

Solution 1: Routing. 

Depending on the exact configuration of your network, and of the routing devices that make it up, it maybe possible for the network routers to forward all local traffic internally and the rest directly to the proxy (configured by IP Address of the source and / or destination, for example).

Solution 2: Proxy Auto-Configuration File (PAC File).

This requires the configuration of a PAC File and hosting this file on an internal server. This file can contain the proxy server address, port number and any required exclusions. The iOS device can pull and apply the settings from this.

On the iOS device, in the same place you set the manual proxy, is the option to set an ‘Automatic’ Proxy. Simply change the switch to ‘Auto’ and fill in the details of the server and PAC file and you should be done.

Conclusion

A bit of a split End-User / Administrator post today. Hopefully this will answer any questions you have on Proxy settings and iOS, if not, then let me know in the comments below.

As always, please feel free to ask questions, or make suggestions for future topics in the comments below.

Further Reading

For more info on this topic, check out my follow up post on using .pac in iOS which will show you some basic ways in relation to creating, serving and using the .pac file.

If you require help with deploying iOS devices within your organisation please get in touch, or check out our range of support & consultancy services here.

Apple releases iOS 5.1.1

By Richard Mallion

Apple have just released iOS 5.1.1, offering several bug fixes and other improvements for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

This update contains improvements and bug fixes, including:

- Improves reliability of using HDR option for photos taken using the Lock Screen shortcut
- Addresses bugs that could prevent the new iPad from switching between 2G and 3G networks
- Fixes bugs that affected AirPlay video playback in some circumstances
- Improved reliability for syncing Safari bookmarks and Reading List
- Fixes an issue where ‘Unable to purchase’ alert could be displayed after successful purchase

So grab the update either over the air or via iTunes.

Prowl, like Growl, for iOS

By Richard Mallion

I’m a big fan of Growl on Mac OS X, which is a third party notification system for Mac OS X. Many applications now support it. Basically Growl notifies you when certain events happen. For instance when a new email arrives, a new tweet arrives or a new file gets uploaded to your dropbox account. However it is a very Mac OS X focussed product. These days I probably spend more time on iOS. Now Apple have their own notification system for iOS but it would be so nice if Growl on Mac OS X could push its notifications to my phone.

This can now easily be done with an application called Prowl. Prowl is the Growl client for iOS. It allows you push notifications to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad from a Mac or Windows computer, or from a multitude of apps and services.

So with Prowl, while I am on the road I can still get my desktop Mac to send me the urgent notifications in real time.

However, Prowl has one more trick up its sleeve. They have their own API and web service that basically allows any app that can generate a http request to send push notifications to your iOS device. This makes the service really flexible. For instance bash shell scripts could send notifications, Applescript, Filemaker, Safari, the list goes on. For example I have written a shell script to monitor a certain web site, when it changes I get a push notification.  Just a few extras lines to the script allowed me to do this. We are adding this to our ARM service, which is our real time server monitoring system, so when the system detects a fault a push notification is sent.

The service is free, the prowl app for iOS costs £1.99

 

 

Deployment of iOS Devices Suddenly Becomes Much Easier

Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator makes it easy for anyone to mass configure and deploy iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch in a school, business, or institution.

Three simple workflows let you prepare new iOS devices for immediate distribution, supervise devices that need to maintain a standard configuration, and assign devices to users. Quickly update 30 devices at a time to the latest version of iOS, configure settings, and install apps and data for your students, employees, or patrons.

Apple Configurator can be used by larger organizations and businesses to set up new devices, install enterprise apps, and enroll each device with a Mobile Device Management solution for remote management by an IT administrator. It is perfect for the classroom or student lab where devices need to be quickly refreshed and kept up to date with the correct settings, approved policies, apps and data. Apple Configurator can also be used to personalize devices with data and documents for specific users.

You can download Apple Configurator for free from the app store.

iOS 5.0.1 Security bug but who could be bothered?

By Richard Mallon

A new bug in Apple’s iOS 5.0.1 software could allow unauthorized access to contacts and the calling features of an iPhone, bypassing passcode protection. However the method is really tricky/slow. It involves inserting and ejecting the iPhone’s SIM card many many times, leading to a bypass of the passcode and access to the phone app after several missed calls to the device.

There is a great video of someone demonstrating this ‘hack’ here

 

Objective-C adoption grows in 2011 thanks to iOS

By Richard Mallion

Due to the hugh sales of iOS devices , the Objective-C language which is used to develop applications for iOS showed the most growth in usage during 2011.

Market share for Objective-C for the end of 2011 was approx. 6.91 percent compared to  3 percent at the beginning of 2011, driven mainly by the continuing success of iPhone and iPad.

Java maintained the top spot with a 17.47% market share. Java being used for cross platform / Internet development as well as the default language for Android development.

Here was the top 5 languages:

  1. Java with 17.47%
  2. C with 16.97%
  3. C# with 8.78%
  4. C++ with 8.06%
  5. Objective-C with 6.91%

If you would like to learn some of these languages, Amsys run several training courses on Objective-C and Java.

Guide to Siri Part 5 – Contacts App

The Contacts app has 5 basic Siri commands from which it will respond to:

  1. Who is
  2. What is
  3. When is
  4. Show
  5. Find

Below are some examples of using this command with the Contacts app:

Examples



Querying Contacts

  • What’s Richard’s address?
  • What is Richard’s Mallion phone number?
  • When is my wife’s birthday?
  • Show Alex’s home email address

 

Finding Contacts

  • Show Richard Mallion
  • Find people named Luke
  • Who is Richard Mallion?

 

Relationships

  • My mum is Janet Mallion
  • Andrew Mallion is my brother
  • Call my brother at work

 

iPad as a universal remote control?

harmony link from logitech

Having recently setup my home theatre system, I have become increasingly frustrated by the sheer volume of remote controls lying around my living room.

Oh how I would love to replace them all – TV, Sky, AV receiver, Blu Ray etc – with just one remote control.

My immediate thought was to go out and purchase a Universal Remote but as my eyes rested upon my iPad sitting in the corner I wondered, is there a suitable product to turn my iPad into a remote control?

As luck would have it, Logitech seem to have had the same idea.  Their new Harmony Link  is a small device that connects to your home WiFi network.  It turns signals from the Harmony Link app (which can be downloaded from the App store) on your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or even Android device, into infrared commands to control your various devices.

Unfortunately this is not yet available in the UK (US only at this point) and reviews seem to be mixed on the functionality of the iOS app but it definitely sounds like a product with great potential and certainly something I will be keeping an eye out for in the UK!!

Further info can be found over at the Logitech site

Available on the App store

 

 

 

Great little app to help you pay less for your pint abroad

Currency for iPhone

Picture the scene; you’re out on holiday in Valencia, enjoying the lovely beaches and the sunny weather. You pass by a number of bars and realise you have a sudden urge for a nice cool refreshing beer. However, you’ve heard rumours that certain bars will charge a much larger premium then others, relying on passing trade to not know better. Without finding and checking every bar in the area how do you know you’re getting a decent price for a pint? Try “Currency” for iPhone, iPad, Android and HP WebOS.

Features

Currency features the ability to convert to and from over 120 currencies used in over 180 countries and has the ability to auto-update the exchange rates via Wifi or Cellular networks. Additionally you can add a list of currencies to show at all times, especially good if you frequent a number of locations throughout the year.currency app

 

Personal View

As part of my work duties I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of visiting France, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Spain in the last 3 months, as well as Austria, Turkey and the USA earlier this year. As you can imagine that means that I’d be using (and spending!) 5 different currencies, some different one week to the next.

 

Trying to memorise exchange rates and use a calculator whilst in a shop is time consuming and awkward. Having the one App living on my phone (which I already carried with me) and the ability to update the rates on the hotel Wifi every evening was a great help and was one less thing on my mind when I should be working!

 

Finally, its free! What more could you want?

Links

Developer’s Website: Currency App

Currency on the iOS App Store

Currency on the Android Store

Currency on the HP WebOS App Catalog

 

 

Apple acquired NeXT 15 years ago

By Richard Mallion

On December 20th 1996, Apple purchased NeXT. This gave Apple maker a modern OS, but also brought one of its founders, Steve Jobs, back into the fold.

The NeXT OS went on to form the basis of Mac OS X and iOS.

Where would Apple be now if not for NeXT………

 

Microsoft release SkyDrive app for iPhone

By Richard Mallion

Today Microsoft their  ”SkyDrive”  application for iPhone which gives users access to Microsoft’s free cloud storage service. With SkyDrive, users can upload 25 gigabytes worth of files, with a maximum individual file size of 100 megabytes.

The free iPhone application is a 4.4 megabyte download compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It requires iOS 4.0 or later. Features of the software, according to Microsoft, are:

  • Access all of your SkyDrive content including files shared with you
  • View recently used documents
  • Upload photos or videos from your phone
  • Share a link to any file using email
  • Create folders. Delete files or folders

 

Lion borrows another element of the iOS’ soft keyboard

If you don’t remember the shortcuts to type à or è, or you simply don’t want to use the dedicated keys on your Keyboard, Lion offers a way to get accented letters using standard keys.

When you’re typing, keep a key pressed for a few seconds (say, the “a” key) and  an iOS-like menu, will pop up, to choose between variations of the same letters with different accents.
iOS 5 accents
By Hugo Costa

iOS 5: Unlock device by swiping Notification

By Richard Mallion

If your iOS 5 device is locked and you receive a notification, you can swipe the notification instead of the ‘Slide to Unlock’ widget, and you will be automatically directed to the related app. If you have a passcode, you’ll still be prompted to enter it.
Make sure you swipe starting from the icon on the left hand side on the notification as shown below.

 

BBC iPlayer now supports AirPlay

By Richard Mallion

The BBC have just updated their iPlayer app for iOS to support AirPlay , and streaming over 3G networks.

Now you catch up and watch your favourite programmes via Airplay on your TV.

Apple releases iBooks 1.5

By Richard Mallion

Apple has released an update to its iBooks app. The iBooks 1.5 update brings some substantial new features to Apple’s ereader software including the following:

  • Nighttime reading theme makes reading books in the dark easier on the eyes.
  • Full-screen layout lets you focus on the words without distraction.
  • iBooks now features an improved selection of fonts, including Athelas, Charter, Iowan, and Seravek.
  • Beautiful new classic covers for public domain books.
  • A redesigned annotation palette makes it easier to choose a color for your highlighted text.

iBooks is a free download from the App Store.

 

Get Where’s my Water free from Apple’s Facebook page

By Richard Mallion

Apple is giving yet another popular game away using its Facebook page — this time, it’s Disney’s Where’s my Water up for grabs. To grab your free copy of the great water-guiding physics puzzler, just head over to Apple’s App Store Facebook page, become a fan, and you’ll get a free promo code to download the game on an iOS device of your choice.

Box.net is giving away free 50 GB accounts

By Richard Mallion

Boxnet  are offering a  FREE 50 GB lifetime account for file storage and sharing through Dec. 2, 2011. To get your automatic upgrade, download the Box app on your iPhone or iPad and register or sign in to your account – it’s that easy. Box provides simple, secure sharing from anywhere – letting you easily store files online, send big files fast, access content on-the-go, and collaborate with others.

Download the app from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/box.net/id290853822?mt=8

New OS X Revision Tool for iPhone from Amsys

By Richard Mallion

Amsys is pleased to announce the release of their new iPhone revision app for Mac OS X Support Essentials v10.7 (Lion). If you want to test your knowledge of Mac OS X v10.7 (Lion) or you are preparing to take the  Mac OS X Support Essentials v10. 7 Exam (9L0-410) then this is the app for you.
mac support essentials v10.6 revision app
Over 200 practise questions.

Features include:

Study Mode:
You can select questions from any of the nine chapters of the Mac OS X Support Essentials v10.7 curriculum.

Test Mode:
Mimic exam conditions. Get tested with a random set of questions against the clock.

History:
Track your history. The app keeps your previous tests which you can review as well as check your progress via a chart.

 

Click here for Mac Support Essentials v10.7 revision app

iOS Keyboard shortcuts

By Richard Mallion

iOS 5 has a rather nice keyboard feature where you can assign phrases to shortcuts. Really useful if you repeatly type a long sentence such as an address.

As an example their is a default short cut of “omw” which when typed gets replaced with “On  my Way!”.

Its very easy to add your own shortcuts:

1. Goto the keyboard preference under general preferences.

2. At the very bottom you will find the “Shortcuts”

3. Here you can view existing shortcuts or create new shortcuts.

Adobe launches PDF reader for iOS

Adobe Reader for iOS was launched launched Monday, a universal app for iPhone and iPad.. The app allows users to view PDF files from email, on the Web, or in any application supporting iOS’s “Open In” function.

Among the features:

 

View PDF files

  • Quickly open PDF files from email , the Web or any application that supports “Open In…”
  • View PDF Portfolios, PDF Packages, annotations and drawing markups
  • Read text annotations such as Sticky Notes

 

Access encrypted PDF files

  • Open and view password-protected PDF files
  • Access files secured by Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management, which helps protect sensitive documents
  • Supports the highest grade of PDF encryption, up to AES256

 

Interact with PDF files

  • Search text to find specific information
  • Use bookmarks to jump directly to a section in your PDF file
  • Select single page or continuous scroll modes
  • Easily zoom in on text or images for a closer view
  • Quickly navigate through large files using thumbnails
  • Select and copy text from a PDF file to the clipboard
  • Print wirelessly with AirPrint
  • Share PDF files with other applications using “Open In…”
  • Email PDF documents as attachments

Apple Cards

By Richard Mallion

Apple has announced a new official app for iOS. Cards will use any photo taken with an iOS device, and put that photo, along with a message, on high-quality paper to your specifications. The company will even mail it out for you with Apple-designed postage and lettering. Essentially, it offers a way for you to design and deliver custom greeting cards directly from your iOS device, wherever you happen to be.

Each card will cost £3.99 which includes postage.

 

Find My Friends for iOS 5

By Richard Mallion

Along with iOS 5 and the new iPhone 4s, Apple has announced a brand new app called Find My Friends app. The app allows you to quickly see the location of friends who have opted to share their location with you. The app will offer deep levels of customization, such as letting users set a time window when they share their information. Also, at the end of the day, location sharing stops automatically and a person’s location won’t be shared again until they re-enable it.

 

Find my Fiends should be available with iOS 5 ships on October 12th.

Apple invites press to ‘talk iPhone’ at media event on Oct. 4

By Richard Mallion

Apple has formally announced its upcoming media event after months of rumors and speculation. The event will take place on Tuesday, October 4 at 10am Pacific Daylight Time on Apple’s campus in Cupertino and will be led by Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook.

Apple’s invitation graphics (shown below) include four iOS app icons (Calendar, Clock, Maps, and Phone) along with the quote “Let’s talk iPhone.” Apple doesn’t usually get this specific when sending out its invitations, but apparently it’s trying a new, more direct approach this time around. (As an aside, the icon choices are quite clever. The calendar says October 4, clock says 10:00, map points to Apple’s campus, and the phone icon shows one phone call.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heres to iOS 5, iCloud and maybe a new iPhone!!!!

iOS Expertise helps Enterprise Deploy iPads

Amsys’ expertise with iOS is helping many clients shape up to deploy iPads to their business. Amsys consultants examine the current system and identify what action is necessary to match the deployment and tools to enterprise requirements. Call us if you are considering the deployment of iPads in bulk and you need some help.