Thursday, November 12

Meet Derek Wyatt – the mobile MP

DerekWyatt2I have just finished an enjoyable few hours with Derek Wyatt MP – a true champion for new technologies as well as the first MP to have his own iPhone app!

He blogs. He flickrs. He tweets. He podcasts. Radio5Live named him as the “fastest emailing MP”. His website has overtaken the local paper as a source of up-to-date local news. He even streams all his speeches and interviews. But more than that, he has been working on many of the “back end” policies and campaigns that keep our online-world turning.

Wow. And I thought I worked hard.

It turns out he is a great fan of our work – both in the mobile world, and more generally with our e-learning and technology tools and he gave us some great advice about taking what we do in the UK out onto the world stage.

But what about his iPhone app, I hear you ask?

It is not yet live, but when it is it will give his constituents (Sittingbourne & Sheppey in Kent) mobile access to local news, as well as yet another way of getting hold of their MP


DerekWyattWe have a tradition in our office of “Knowledge Shares” – a public soapbox for anybody who has something to share to teach the rest of us, and Derek gamely volunteered a very entertaining 30 minutes of thoughts, advice and gossip ranging from learning technologies, to the 500 emails he gets a day, to some juicy stories that stay within our walls in Cambridge!

A true comedy moment happened when we inadvertently served scotch eggs and pork pies for lunch – it turns out he was outed in the news as a closet lover of pies and eggs.

A great day. Finished when he needed to rush back to Westminster for an un-expected vote in parliament. This is the first time we have met and I hope not the last.

Thursday, November 5

I’ve hacked you – now pay me!

All this week, Dutch iPhone users have been seeing this message on their beloved devices

your iPhone has been hacked because it’s really insecure! Please visit xxxx/iHacked and secure your iPhone right now

Together with a request for $4.95 for help securing their phone.

What’s going on?

It turns out that an enterprising Dutch teenager (PureInfinity92) managed to hack a large number of Jailbroken iPhones, flagging up a couple of well known security breaches. He used a combination of port scanning and OS fingerprinting to find iPhones in T-Mobile's 3G IP range and exploit a known security risk in those that were jailbroken (OpenSSH is installed with the same root access and password on all devices!)

Unfortunately for his entrepreneurship, he was quickly outed, and his paypal account blocked. He has apologised to all, offered refunds to those who paid up, and made his security advice available for free

In fairness to the guy, his original message did say:

If you don't pay, it's fine by me. But remember, the way I got access to your iPhone can be used by thousands of others. And they can send text messages from your number (like I did..), use it to call (or record your calls), and actually whatever they want, even use it for their hacking activities! I can assure you, I have no intention of harming you or whatever, but, some hackers do! It's just my advise to secure your phone (: Have a nice day!"

Find out more from the original Dutch posting (translated by Google)

So – why use Jailbreak at all?

One of the biggest problems with using iPhones, and iPod Touches as learning tools is the “closed shop”, when it comes to sharing, and distributing Apps. Teachers cannot easily share content they have made.

Developers need to pay, and be approved by Apple. All applications need to go via Apple(iTunes), and be approved by Apple. Added to that, many countries (like most of Africa!) are not even allowed to download apps from iTunes. This is a MAJOR restriction on educators looking to make and share applications.

Jailbreak is the widely used, though not-quite-legal technique of unlocking your iPhone so that applications can be directly uploaded without going via iTunes and the AppStore. Unfortunately though, it is (by definition) not as secure as the Apple’s proprietary approach, which is why PureInfinity92 managed to hack as many phones as he did.


Our team do certainly not recommend jailbreaking your iphone, though we are very against the current restrictions on regular teachers making and sharing Apps and look forward to the time that Apple opens access to their Apps up a little more (like all the other mobile App stores!)

Tuesday, November 3

Flash on my iPhone? It’s showdown time!

  • For several years Adobe has been promoting Flash as a great technology for mobile devices (and it is).
  • For several years Apple have been making amazing mobile devices (and they are).

… and, for some bizarre reason, the two have been bickering all along, and never quite making friends.

The latest move in the ongoing showdown is this slightly aggressive message iPhone and iPod Touch users get if they visit a website requiring flash: 

Apple restricts use of technologies required by product like Flash Player. Until Apple eliminates these restrictions, Adobe cannot provide Flash Player for the iPhone or iPod Touch 

This is Adobe’s second move in the past few months to push the blame back onto Apple. They also announced that the next version of Flash Professional will allow developers to build iPhone apps from their Flash projects.

This is great news, as it will open up App development to the vast army of skilled Flash developers and coders out there. And the announcement was made via this hilarious “myth buster” movie


But – the bickering is hardly over, and iPhones will still not be “running Flash”. There remains no support for websites containing Flash. If you want that, you had better stick with your:

  • WindowsMobile
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Palm Pre

etc etc etc devices!

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