• politics,  rim,  security

    New Information on Deleted Secret Service Text Messages

    Excellent reporting by Lawrence O’Donnell and The Last Word team at MSNBC.

    During the The Last Word telecast on July 21, O’Donnell details the facts of the case, as we know them, and raises very serious questions about the deleted Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and 6.

    In summary, O’Donnell reminds us that:

    • The Secret Service has a budget of $3B annually
    • The first of three emails informing staff to preserve records was sent by the Secret Service Office of Strategic Planning on Dec. 9, 2020
    • In an undated Jan. 2021 and a Feb. 4, 2021 email, sent by the Secret Service Chief Information Officer, reminds staff of their obligation to preserve records and includes instructions on how to do so
    • The Secret Service received the first written records preservation request before the physical act of exchanging agent smartphones for new devices
    • Ornato was promoted to the political post of White House Deputy Chief of Staff
    • The Secret Service runs a sophisticated cyber-crime organization and knows the legal obligations it has to handle and preserve records

    In my previous post on the Secret Service deleted text message fiasco, I suggested that we wait until more details about what happened by brought to light before placing blame on an IT staffer. Now it is beginning to look like the Secret Service, led by Director James Murray, either willfully ignored record preservation requests and established records and information management governance policies, or directly issued orders that the text messages be deleted from Secret Service issued smartphones. With a $3B annual budget, the Secret Service has more than enough money, in my opinion, to digitally and physically archive any Secret Service agent’s smartphone that was even remotely involved with the events leading up to and taking place on January 6, 2021. To suddenly have digital records be deleted and no discussion that I have seen about going back to the physical devices used on Jan. 5 and 6, is unfathomable to me. The Secret Service knows how to perform digital forensics and records preservation.

    While it will likely be years before the full story comes out about what happened to Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, it is, in my opinion, growing more obvious this situation has less to do with an IT staffer having a bad day and that something much more politically motivated, possibly with criminal intent, has taken place.

  • apple,  developer,  gui

    Use Hidden Text Zoom Controls in Apple News on macOS

    Earlier today, I was skimming the space news in the Apple News app for macOS. Most of the time, I read Apple News on my iPhone 13 Pro Max.

    While reading a USA Today article about the James Web Space Telescope (JWST), I decided that the text was uncomfortably small, and I wanted to make the printer easier to read.

    But I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Unlike the iPhone version of Apple News, on macOS, the font control appeared to be missing.

    Let’s take a look at Apple News on iPhone.

    As you can see in the screen captures above, the iPhone version of Apple News has a prominent double A icon in the article header (on the left) that allows you to control the font size (on the right). Tap the larger capital A and the font gets larger. The smaller capital A decreases the font size.

    Now, let’s take a look at Apple News on macOS.

    Look at all that open space in the the window and toolbar controls region!

    The important thing to note here is that the macOS version of Apple News is essentially the same version of Apple News that runs on the iPad. This is due to a behind-the-scenes technology called Mac Catalyst. In short, Mac Catalyst apps are a quick way for developers to release their iPad OS apps for Macs that have either an Apple Silicon M1 or M2 CPU in them.

    Here’s the same article as it appears in Apple News on iPad.

    Looking at the controls region at the top of the screen, again, there is a lot of open space! Knowing that the iPad has the font control clearly visible in the article header makes the lack of a double A font control on the Mac even more frustrating. As an Apple One subscriber and Apple customer, I felt like I was doing something wrong.

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to find the answer: Use the Command and Plus or Minus keyboard shortcuts!

    Option 1: Use the keyboard

    To use keyboard zoom control shortcut, hold down the Command key (on either side of the space bar) and then press the Plus key or the Minus key on your keyboard to enlarge or shrink the print size.

    This keyboard shortcut has been around for a long time in macOS and Windows web browsers. When in the browser, this is a muscle memory reaction to make things readable. I use this shortcut on NYTimes.com all the time.

    Option 2: Use the Menu Bar

    If you have a hard time remembering keyboard shortcuts, there is an alternative – the View menu. It’s easy to forget about the macOS menu bar if you use iOS and iPadOS devices all the time. Outside of the Apple News app window, use the View > Zoom In or Zoom Out commands to increase or decrease the font size in the Mac Menu Bar all the way at the top of the Mac screen.

    If you want to revert back to the article’s default text size, you can either use the Command + Shift + 0 keyboard shortcut or the View > Actual Size menu command.

    In Conclusion

    I get it, application and OS platform maintenance is hard. Apple is trying to upgrade developer tools, manage macOS, iOS, and iPadOS on annual scheduled with new features, and, I hope, keep application feature parity. That’s supposed to be the whole point of Catalyst. Write one app and easily package it to run on iPad and the Mac. My small font control gripe shows how there are still holes in Apple’s plan. If Apple can’t, or won’t, keep application parity, how are customers supposed to stay on top of the differences between the same Apple application on different Apple platforms?

    And that is the real problem. Customers should never feel that they are doing it wrong.

  • mdm,  politics,  security

    About the Deleted Secret Service Text Messages from Jan. 5 and 6

    I was reading some of the coverage of the recently reported deleted text messages from US Secret Service smartphones from January 5 and 6, 2021.

    According to a Washington Post article:

    “The Department notified us that many U.S. Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021 were erased as part of a device-replacement program,” he wrote in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post. The letter was earlier reported on by the Intercept and CNN.

    There are a couple of details that are interesting about this situation.

    The first is the that the messages are reported as having been deleted as part of a “device-replacement” program being run by the Secret Service.

    If you think about how we switch from and old iPhone to a new iPhone, we do a backup to iCloud, switch over to the new iPhone, and then restore the iCloud backup to your new iPhone. But a large organization like US Secret Service, will be using a mobile device management (MDM) solution.

    MDM solutions allow IT departments to remotely manage a fleet of mobile devices. They don’t necessarily backup devices. They are used to enforce security features, automate software deployments, and, in the case of a lost or stolen device, securely erase devices that still have Internet access.

    In my opinion, having managed a corporate fleet of smartphones, the most probable answer is the most likely answer. New smartphones are purchased and activated, given to their new owners, and the owner signs into the MDM tool on the new smartphone to deploy the default configuration.

    While corporate email is stored on the server to be downloaded by the new device, plain old text messages, the ones that use the cellular network, are not.

    Specifically, what is and what is not backed up and restored during a smartphone refresh effort depends, obviously, on the migration software and procedures used by technicians during the cutover.

    In this first case, there is likely a contract IT staff member who is having a very bad day today if they made a mistake that prevented text message data from being migrated.

    The second detail, and the one that can land someone in legal trouble, is if someone in the Secret Service or their IT management firm, willfully instructed someone to erase smartphones, or by omission, leave out a migration step to transfer or archive text messages.

    This case is clearly supercharged by the US House Select Committee’s January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol and your position on The Big Lie. Deleted text messages, whether by mistake, or intentionally to obstruct justice, is only going to add more fuel to the debate.

    Colossal IT screw up or nefarious coup plot cover up?

    In my nearly three decades of IT experience, this feels like a poor IT staffer somewhere had a very bad, no good, rotten day.

    Let’s get all of the facts about what happened before blaming IT staff.

  • apple //e,  retro computing,  vintage

    Looking Inside a Recent Apple //e Purchase

    I wonder what cards are inside this Apple //e?

    The Apple //e was my first Apple-branded computer. My first computer was an Apple II-series clone, the V-Tech Laser 3000.

    As I am slowly working on restoring my main Apple //e, I’ve been buying other machines to pick up various parts that I need. For example, the second Apple //e that I purchased came with an Apple DuoDisk drive and an Apple Monitor II.

    For purchase #3, I am on the hunt for expansion cards. Specifically, the Apple Mouse Interface card.

    Here’s my vintage Apple //e unboxing video and a first look at the cards inside.

  • apple,  apple //e,  disk ii,  vintage

    Booting an Apple //e from a Disk II Floppy Drive

    After buying a replacement Apple //e earlier this year, I wanted to find and Apple Disk II Controller Card and at least one Disk II 5.25″ floppy drive.

    It took me a while to find a reasonably priced used Apple Disk II controller card and Disk II floppy drive on eBay. The card and drive needed a good cleaning before I tried to use them. While there was dust in the floppy drive, the read/write head was still remarkably clean. The card had a bent pin 1 on the drive 1 connector. I carefully bent it back into position. I used 70% Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the card and some DeoxIT D5 in the Apple //e’s expansion slot to ensure a good contact between the card and the computer.

    Apple Disk II controller card
    Apple Disk II 5.25″ floppy disk drive (1978)
    Disk II with the case removed, showing Woz’s custom disk drive analog board

    One thing that I did learn was that I was unable to have both a Disk II controller card and the newer Apple I/O controller card, for use with the Apple DuoDrive, in the same machine. To get my Apple //e to boot from the Disk II controller card, I had to remove the Apple I/O controller card before the computer would boot properly. While you apparently can’t mix and match these two types of 5.25″ Apple controller cards, you can have two Disk II or two Apple I/O controller cards installed at the same time. Just not one of each. In my experience using the //e back in the mid-1980s, you either had two Disk II drives or a single DuoDisk drive. You never mixed the two systems.

    Disk II History

    The Disk II system for the Apple II, II+ and the //e offered users improved data transfer rates over cassette tape-based storage systems and allowed for the direct access of a file by name, according to the 1982 version of the Disk II Installation manual.

    According to the Disk II article posted on Apple2History.og, Apple CEO Mike Markkula wanted a faster way to load programs on his Apple II. Steve Wozniak set out on the task of creating a custom disk drive controller board. Steve Jobs brokered a deal with Shugart Associates to sell Apple stripped down versions of the SA-400 disk mechanism.

    The Disk II Floppy Disk System, consisting of a Disk II controller card and a Disk II floppy drive, was made available for pre-order at a cost of $495 in June of 1978. Once Apple started shipping the Disk II, the price increased to $595.

    A single Disk II controller card was able to drive up to two floppy drives. The drives received power from the controller card which is plugged into an expansion slot on an Apple II-series motherboard.

    Early versions of the Disk II system were able to store up to 113.75 KB when using Apple DOS 3.2.1 and earlier. With Apple DOS 3.3, the version of DOS that I use with my Apple //e computers, Disk II was able to write 140 KB disks. Apple provided a 13 to 16-sector conversion utility to upgrade disks for use with newer versions of Apple DOS.