Opera is building free VPN services into its browser

If you’re not currently using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, Opera is making it easier by building a free VPN service baked into its browser. The feature is currently available from its developer channel version and is a VPN proxy service that allows you to surf the web as if you’re virtually travel to USA, Canada or Germany. This allows you to access restricted content and make it harder for websites to track you.

Until now, most VPN services and proxy servers have been limited and based on a paid subscription. With a free, unlimited, native VPN that just works out-of-the-box and doesn’t require any subscription, Opera wants to make VPNs available to everyone.

Opera developer browser is a free download. To activate VPN after install, go to Preferences from Opera menu and check to turn on VPN. 

Please note that Opera’s VPN only protects web traffic from inside the browser. It is not a replacement for full service VPN that protects all web traffics from other browsers and apps. 

Wish list for WWDC 2016 Part 2

We have written our Wish list for WWDC 2016 from a developers’ perspective. This is part 2 that includes some more wish lists.

MapKit for the Web

MapKit is currently limited to iOS and OS X. It is spotted that Apple is using its own map data at the newly launched WWDC site. Lets hope Apple will open up their Map database for third party web apps. Opening web API for MapKit will allow iOS and Mac developers to reuse the same data for web and Android version of their app.

Keeping OS X Command Line Utilities Current

As with any Unix based operating system, OS X contains a large number of command line utilities and tools. Apparently Apple is not keeping these tools updated even if there are security vulnerabilities.

This post highlights one example with the git tool. The version that is in the latest OS X El Capitan 10.11.4 contains two bugs that allows remote code execution. Worst still, it is not easy to remove the git version installed in OS X due to the rootless protection by El Capitan. Lets wish Apple applies their security update practice to these command line tools.

Sample Android Java app

Apple has its own Android app. How about teaching its developers how to develop one that uses CloudKit? WWDC will shock Android developers if there is such a talk.

Mac Bootcamp for Linux

It is possible to install Linux operating system such as Ubuntu for dual boot usage on a Mac. But there is no official support and installation instructions are coming from the communities. There is always the concern of hardware compatibility. There are large number of developers using Linux for their work. There is definitely a market as evident by Dell’s Linux based XPS 13 notebook. It makes sense for Apple to target these segment with a bootcamp for Linux. Apple is in the hardware business and not the OS business.

Siri API

It is long overdue. Apple seems to be ok with Amazon Echo and Alexa taking over the market.

Migrating from Parse to CloudKit

To reduce the number of non functional apps in the App Store that uses Parse, it might be in Apple’s interest to guide developers on how to migrate from Parse to its platform.

Swift Playground for iOS

It will probably be a few more years before we see Xcode for iPad, but there is no reason why there is no standalone Swift Playground for iOS. 

Push Notifications Kit

Push notifications is basic requirements for many apps but it requires a third party server in order for app to send out notifications. It is straight forward to implement such server using open source push notification server, or developer could implement push notifications via a provider.

The wish list is for Apple to be a push notifications provider in order to simplify the interfaces for apps to use push notifications. This could be implemented as add-on services on top of CloudKit. Interface could be implemented using web API or using server-to-server key similar to CloudKit.

Safari Downloader for iOS

Have you ever try to download a large file via mobile Safari? Its time Apple implements a background downloader for Safari in iOS.

Print to PDF for iOS

Print to PDF is basic feature in OS X. It is curiously missing in iOS. It should be implement right within iOS system printer to allow saving PDF output to iCloud Drive.

News app for the Rest of the World

Apple News app is available only in U.S., UK, and Australia. It appears to be an experiment for Apple as it is not rolled out to more countries months after its debut last September.

“Login With Apple” Identity Kit

Games that uses iOS Game Centre API is able to obtain unique user identity. This allows games to bypass user account registration and signin process. Apple prohibits non-games app to use this API. For normal apps, CloudKit provides similar mechanism whereby apps are able to obtain unique identifier for each user. Thus it is possible to implement a “Login with iCloud” to provide seamless signing without password.

However “Login with iCloud” requires user to grant additional permission by switching on iCloud. Not all users have iCloud enabled. The wish is for Apple to implement a general purpose Identity Kit that allows apps to implement “Login with Apple” that ties to users’ Apple ID. 

API for Notes App

Many are using Notes app for note taking. Notes app has become a goto app to store all sorts of personal data. It would be ideal if there is an API that allows third party apps to use Notes as the base for user’s data collection, be it notes, links, snippets, quotes etc.

Core Data sync with CloudKit

It is possible to roll your own codes to enable Core Data sync using CloudKit as store. It is however a complex undertaking. An official reference implementation from Apple is most welcomed.

Amazon introduces $8.99 standalone video streaming service to make Prime membership attractive

Just when Netflix implements price hikes for many of its members, Amazon is launching a standalone video streaming service Prime Video at $8.99 per month, or a dollar less than Netflix’s most popular plan. This puts Amazon in direct competition with the likes of Netflix and Hulu.

Previously Prime Video was only available with Amazon’s Prime membership, which costs $99 per year. Additionally, Amazon is now offering a monthly Prime membership at $10.99 per month. A Prime membership gives you Prime Video, plus free 2-day shipping, unlimited music streaming, Kindle unlimited, free unlimited photo storage. 

Amazon introduces $8.99 standalone video streaming service to make Prime membership attractive

Comparing the three plans, you will be paying monthly $8.99 for Prime Video, $10.99 for Prime Monthly and only $8.25 for Prime Annual. This makes the annual Prime membership very attractive if you’re a regular Amazon shopper. It is a clever restructuring of Prime plans to make it a more valuable proposition to prospective members.

One thing to note: Amazon does not have a video app on Apple TV. The only way to watch Amazon Prime video on AppleTV is to use Amazon app on iOS devices and AirPlay the video to Apple TV. Check out Amazon Prime if you’re still interested.

Uninstall QuickTime on your Windows system now

The anti-virus software maker Trend Micro has issued a call to action last night urging everyone to uninstall QuickTime for Windows as soon as possible. Trend Micro has found two critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows, and Apple is no longer providing security updates for the software.

First, Apple is deprecating QuickTime for Microsoft Windows. They will no longer be issuing security updates for the product on the Windows Platform and recommend users uninstall it. Note that this does not apply to QuickTime on Mac OSX.

So far there is no known active attacks against the vulnerabilities. Apple is strangely quite but does provide instructions on how to uninstall QuickTime for Windows. Many Windows user has QuickTime when it was a required component of iTunes for Windows. iTunes now works without QuickTime. Uninstall it on your Windows system now.

Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s thinnest, lightest and most expensive Kindle ever

Amazon releases Kindle Oasis

Amazon has just released Kindle Oasis, its thinnest and lightest Kindle ever. At $290, it is also the most expensive Kindle in the line up. However you get a bundled charging cover at the price, which adds months of usage battery life to the Kindle Oasis. This compares with weeks of battery life for Kindle ($80), Kindle Paperwhite ($120) and Kindle Voyage ($200). The new Kindle Oasis also has a screen with enhanced lighting that uses 10 LEDs. Kindle Oasis will be released on April 27. You can pre-order one now.

Reddit has a new official mobile app for iOS and Android. But you might not be able to download it.

Reddit has an official mobile app for iOS and Android. But you might not be able to download it.

Reddit purchased the popular Reddit mobile app Alien Blue over a year ago and touted the app as its “official” mobile app. Reddit has now released a brand new official mobile app for iOS and Android. You can still download Alien Blue from the App Store, but this new “Reddit” app is destined as a replacement to be the one true Reddit mobile client.

The new “Reddit” app is not as full featured as Alien Blue, as expected when you compare a version 1 app with a mature one. And it is available only in US, Canada, UK, and Australia at the moment. If you’re not in one of those countries, stick to Alien Blue. If you find Alien Blue too ‘congested’ or ‘busy’, you might want to try out Reddit mobile site on Safari. Simply change the “www” to “m” in Reddit address. For example change the subreddit URL “https://www.reddit.com/r/movies/” to “https://m.reddit.com/r/movies/“  to use the mobile site.

WhatsApp supports simple text formatting (bold, italic, strikethrough)

You can format your chat message with bold, italic and strikethrough in WhatsApp.

  • To bold , surround the text with ‘*’.
  • To italic, surround the text with ‘_’.
  • To strikethrough, surround the text with ‘~’.

To example if you enter the text “Wanna watch *Deadpool* this _Saturday_?”, WhatsApp will format the message to “Wanna watch Deadpool this Saturday?”.

Play Playstation 4 games on your Mac with PS4 Remote Play

Play PS4 games on your Mac with PS4 Remote Play

Sony has just released firmware 3.50 for Playstation 4 which adds PS4 Remote Play feature. Remote Play is available for both Mac and Windows PC. You need to enable Remote Play on your PS4. With the Playstation DUALSHOCK controller connected to the Mac via USB, install and run the Remote Play app on the Mac. You can then login to your Sony Entertainment Network account and start playing PS4 games on your Mac. A high speed network connection (preferably wired Ethernet) between the Playstation 4 and the Mac is recommended. 

The chat apps with end-to-end encryption

The chat apps with end-to-end encryption

WhatsApp stormed the world yesterday by announcing that it has migrated its chat backend system to enable chat with end-to-end encryption. This will ensure your text, photos, videos sent over WhatsApp can’t be read by anyone else, not WhatsApp and not your government agencies.

We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before. Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities.

WhatsApp has been working to bring end-to-end encryption to its 1 billion users for over two years. It even release a whitepaper explaining the technical details. The encryption is enabled by default and requires you and your friends are on the latest version of the WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is not the first chat app with end-to-end encryption. Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime is designed with encryption in mind, and has been in use since iOS 5 in October 2011. Telegram is the other popular chat app that has end-to-end encryption, but user has to manually start a secret chat to enable the encryption.

Chat apps such as SnapChat, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WeChat and Skype will encrypt the message during transit to their respective backend servers but is not employing end-to-end encryption. Your messages are not protected by design using these chat apps.

Google offering Nik Collection for free is not good news

Google offering Nik Collection for free is not good news

Google has made its high end desktop photo editing apps and plugins Nik Collection free for all. The collection includes Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine, and was priced at $150 before the announcement. Head over to Google’s Nik Collection site to download the bundle for free.

Nik’s applications are typically used by photography professionals as plugins together with Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Nik also created the popular Snapseed image editing mobile app. The company was purchased by Google in 2012, and based on the announcement, this free offering is not all good news.

Photo enthusiasts all over the world use the Nik Collection to get the best out of their images every day. As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile, including Google Photos and Snapseed, we’ve decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free, so that now anyone can use it.

Apparently Google is focusing its resources on mobile platform. Thus it is expected that there will be no major enhancements coming to these fine desktop apps.