Making DNS More Secure And Private

The Domain Name System is something most people know little or nothing about, and frankly shouldn’t need to, but it is a critical backbone component of what makes the Internet work.
Like many other core aspects of the Internet, it was never designed to be secure or private, nor with the idea that one day billions of people would be using it.
A number of attempts have been made over the years to lock it down but aside from the politics of standards groups, it’s very complicated and any changes have profound implications because of the very scale of use of the Internet today.

But two new public DNS services that you can use instead of the one provided by your ISP could make a big difference, as long as you’re aware of the drawbacks in trusting them, too.

The good folks at TidBITS have a great write-up on all this, prompted by a new public DNS service from Cloudflare. I always enjoy articles like this and its a good primer on how DNS works for anyone who has ever wondered.

The New Bad Apple & iCloud Photo Sync

Synchronizing data across multiple locations or devices is a really hard problem and difficult to get right. There are many variables and determining the single source of truth is often non-trivial. There isn’t even always a right answer.

Understanding that, I have some sympathy for Apple with iCloud (as I do for Google, DropBox and others too.)

But. When you have a service that is being used by billions of consumers, the presence of even small issues or edge cases means that most likely millions of people will have to deal with it.

The good people at TidBITS1 have started a new feature called “Bad Apple” where they talk about annoying and consistent issues folks are having with their Macs. This came about after asking people what problems they were having with their Macs and:

The ensuring conversation spiraled off in numerous directions as various friends and family members griped, kibitzed, and tried to solve each other’s problems. It was fascinating because many of these people were long-time Mac users who had been blindsided by an interface change along the way, and who had thus been frustrated by their Macs ever since.

The first one covers some of the problems with iCloud Photo Library forcing you to re-sync your entire library if you do something apparently harmless like turn it off and back on again.

As I said, these are hard problems often with no easy answers but they need attention. Often this kind of work gets pushed way down the list of priorities in the rush to get new features out the door. Hopefully articles like this will raise the priority internally at Apple.

1 I have been reading TidBITS since the very first issue which I believe I read on one of the comp.mac.* newsgroups. Back in the olden times. (Really. It was 27 years ago.)

T2 & The Future of The Mac

It’s no secret that Apple has spent a lot of time and money in the iPhone’s first decade moving more and more of the architecture to custom silicon that they design themselves. This covers the iPad too of course and it reached a level of zen-like completeness with the Apple Watch and its S1 system-on-a-chip.

So it is perhaps no big surprise, but definitely fascinating, to see the same change begin to occur with the Mac, and where this is going is the subject of much speculation.

It began with the MacBook Pro’s introduction of the Touch Bar, which I personally find I rarely use or even notice though the technical achievement is admirable. Apple developed a custom chip, the T1, to handle the Touch Bar but it also handles a lot of the security associated with the laptop including Touch ID and the Secure Enclave for fingerprint data. Ars Technica wrote a great piece on the T1 if you want to learn more.

Which brings us to the T2 chip inside the new iMac Pro. Most reviews have focused, not unreasonably, on the performance of this beast with its multi-core latest generation Xeon processors. Also on its ridonculous price, starting at $5,000 and available in BTO configurations up to a cool $13,000.

Jason Snell has a great write-up on the multiple duties the T2 is handling, including thermal management, disk controller, audio management, FaceTime camera and more.

Now this could end up being nothing more than Apple wanting to simplify and control even more of the bare metal of Macs, just as they have been doing with iOS devices. But it could also intriguingly be much more than that – anything from the ability to run a more fully-featured version of iOS and its attendant apps all the way up to perhaps being on our way towards a fully ARM-based Mac.

This is going to be fun to watch in the next few years…