iBooks Author and iBooks 2 for iPad

Apple announced their new iBooks 2 for iPad and iBooks Author applications this morning.  During a portion of the presentation, they indicated a new book could be created and previewed on an iPad in a few minutes.

So I decided to take it for a quick test drive and see if it was really that easy.

About five minutes to download the Mac desktop app iBooks Author and update my iPad to the new iBooks 2 version.

About five more minutes of poking around in the menus of the new iBooks Author app to:

  • create a new document, give it a title, and use the inspector to set the Author attribute.
  • add a couple chapters and edit their them titles.
  • import some photos, use the inspector to adjust placement and text wrapping.
  • plug the iPad in via USB cable, and select the iPad “Preview” icon in the iBooks Author menu.
  • review the new iBook on the iPad.

Ok, so I didn’t take time to add a lot of custom content.  But overall it was as easy as  working with Keynote and Pages.  Many of the menu controls and inspector features are the same.  iBooks Author has numerous options for inserting media, tables, keynotes, and other objects.  You can choose to create a new chapter, section, or page by inserting an existing document and select from a variety of layout options.

So yes, you really can get started and create a simple iBook in five to ten minutes.  If you have some existing content with fairly simple structures, it should be quite easy to convert to an iBook.  Adding a new chapter, inserting an existing Pages document, and inserting some quiz questions was also very fast and only required pressing “Preview” again to update the iBook on the iPad.

I’ll try out some of the media and interactivity features as soon as I have some more time. If you are looking for these features, the “Widgets” icon on the menu bar is the fountain of interactivity.  The “Review” widget is the place to look if you’d like to create a quiz sheet within your iBook.

iPads/iPhones in government and military.

Here are some links to additional information about using iPhones/iPad in the government and the military.  Might give some additional ideas about what’s possible with the iPhones and iPads.

Two-Factor Authentication Solutions for VMware View

 

Are there VMware View, Two-Factor Authentication solution, alternatives to using RSA SecurID?

In these times of budget tightening, organizations are experiencing concerns about the growing costs of RSA al-a-carte pricing for each component and license count.  As a result, this article will explore the question of RSA alternatives.

Currently, the organization is using RSA SecureID Tokens for two factor authentication.  In addition to Active Directory usernames and passwords, users are required to enter a SecureID Passcode when accessing certain resources.  Additionally, the user is required to prefix the generated token with a PIN.  In this case, the PIN is required to be an alpha-numeric value of a minimum length and character combination type.  Passwords and TokenPINs are required to be changed after a specified number of days.

As the organization seeks to protect additional resources and make more services available to a mobile workforce, they are finding the RSA costs can grow very quickly.  In some cases, adding another RSA feature can effectively double the organizations license costs.

As a result, I’ve been asked two investigate several alternative solutions for compatibility with VMware’s View products.

With View 4.x, VMware provided significant ease of integration for incorporating RSA Secure ID.  Here we’ll be looking at what additional capabilities (and compatibilities) are available in View 5.x.

The organization is particularly interested in potential compatibility with Entrust or Symantec.  I’ll note any other two-factor solutions I find for View 5.x, but I’ll focus on the details of the two customer preferred solutions.

VMware View

VMware View 5.x supports a variety of client types making inbound connections via the View Manager Server or the View Connection Server.  The View Connection Server functions as a security gateway and also enables some protocol optimizations which help simplify and improve the service for external user connections.

Authentication Methods

VMware architecture documentation for View 5.0 states VMware View uses your existing Active Directory infrastructure for user authentication and management.  For added security, you can integrate VMware View with RSA SecurID and smart card authentication solutions.

  • Active Directory Authentication – Each view connection server is joined to an Active Directory domain, and users are authenticated against Active Directory for the joined domain.  Users are also authenticated against any additional user domains with which a trust agreement exists.
  • RSA SecurID Authentication – RSA SecurID provides enhanced security with two-factor authentication, which requires knowledge of the user’s PIN and token code.  The token code is only available on the physical SecurID token.
  • Smart Card Authentication  – A smart card is a small plastic card that is embedded with a computer chip.  Many government agencies and large enterprises use smart cards to authenticate users who access their computer networks.  A smart card is also referred to as a Common Access Card (CAC).

Using Smart Cards with View

Smart card authentication is only supported by the Windows based View Client and View Client with Local Mode.  It is not supported by View Administrator.

View Connection Server instances can be enabled for smart card authentication. This requires adding your root certificate to a truststore file and modifying the View Connection Server settings.  Client connections must be SSL enabled.

To use smart cards, client machines must have smart card middleware and a smart card reader.

The requirement to pre-install middleware and hardware card readers means that Smart Cards solutions are not compatible with usage of untrusted end-point computers such as internet cafe machines and other public internet kiosks.

Additionally, there are few available Smart Card reader solutions for mobile devices.  This web page lists some Bluetooth CAC readers military users have found for connecting to DOD services.  Costs range from $200 to $500.

Although DOD approved Bluetooth CAC readers are available, VMware’s mobile client apps do not support this authentication method.

Other security solutions vs compatibility with View 5.x

RADIUS – Customers have been asking VMware for RADIUS support for quite some time now.  As of Dec 6th, 2011, View still does not support RADIUS.  While VMware personnel have long stated they are working on it, there remains no indication of when it might ever become available.

Some customer have speculated that this could have something to do with EMC ownership.  VMware still trades under it’s own NYSE stock ticker (VMW), but it was acquired by EMC in 2004 and operates as a separate software subsidiary.  RSA was acquired by EMC in 2006 and operates as a security division.  EMC does not provide separate financial information for the RSA division.  I won’t speculate on this theory, but I do believe due diligence require that customers understand the material relationships of their key vendors.

VPN

There are numerous VPN solutions available for a multiple of user scenarios.  Two many to list here.  Instead I’ll just briefly describe VPN two scenarios which might satisfy most use cases.

Browser Based VPN

The concept is two provide a mobile user with a client-less VPN service.  The user accesses a browser based service which can then authenticate and launch a VPN tunnel to the end user’s device.  Some of these offerings create tunnels which can be used by non browser applications.

Juniper is one vendor providing a commercial offering via their line of SSL VPN products.  Juniper does offer support for two factor authentication; but verifying the extent of that support is beyond the scope of this VMware View document.

Mobile Device VPN

Most mobile devices now include native operating system support for multiple VPN technologies by including client software APIs from commercial vendors such as Cisco and Juniper.  Many of these Mobile VPN clients support multi-factor authentication.   Additional certificates, keys, passcodes, or secrets can be included in the provisioning and authentication process to enable identification of the device and the user.

Custom integration of alternate Two Factor solutions

In many technology projects, we would at least consider customer integration of an alternate solution.  Usually I will present a case against in-house customization; but I do prefer to provide the option so the customer can decide for themselves.  Unfortunately, VMware does not offer or support any mechanisms for integrating custom authentication services into the View Client, the View Administrator, or the View Connection Server.

There is no supportable means to have View utilize the two-factor solutions from Entrust, Symantec, or others.

Conclusions

Given the current realities of the VMware View product, there appear to be only two solutions for using two-factor authentication with this service.

RSA SecureID

VMware provides tight integration between View Clients, View Servers, and the RSA products.  Given their relationship with EMC and RSA, it is highly probable that RSA integration and support will continue to be a strong feature of the View products.

Mobile Device VPN

For users accessing these services from a mobile device, a Device VPN offer many choices for two-factor authentication solutions.  Additionally, the Device VPN greatly simplifies the user experience as they only have one connection to manage from which they can access all of their authorized organizational resources.  However, a Device VPN solution may not satisfy the organization’s security requirements for non-managed personally procured equipment (ie., private cell phones).  Requiring users to “opt-in” to organizational device management solutions in exchange for gaining access can mitigate security issues inherent in personal devices.

If a Mobile Device VPN solution is implemented for a community of View Client users, then a security and policy review may determine that Active Directory authentication would be sufficient for the final View Client connection (which would occur within a two-factor authenticated VPN tunnel).

In my opinion a Mobile Device VPN solution wins out for the following reasons:

  • better leverage of network infrastructure.  I believe in controlling network access and admission prior to reaching the application service.
  • less vendor lock-in.
  • easier to respond to evolving authentication challenges.
  • easier to maintain separation of application security from network security.
  • better overall user experience when consuming multiple services from the hosting organization.

Some additional thoughts on remote access

VPN on a stick

For remote users who require a largest desktop experience during their Vmware View Windows session, there is another option I was not asked to include in the analysis but will mention here.  PC on a stick.

The user is provided an USB Thumb Drive containing a bootable Linux image.  The Department of Defence (DoD) provides a free Linux image which government agencies or (private organizations) can freely customize to their own needs.  Or you can roll your own from a wide variety of Linux distributions.  The DoD image is referred to as Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) and distributed in ISO form.

Organization can pre-configure this bootable image with authentication agents, VPN clients, application clients (such as View or Citrix), and whatever else appropriate.

Several USB Thumb drives are available which incorporate keypads to require a PIN entry before booting.  Other even provide a built-in finger print reader on the surface of the drive.

Client-less VPN or Browser Based SSL VPNs

Some organizations are resistant to provisioning their users these additional security devices, and even go so far as to insist they need a way to remotely authenticate a user who has lost their laptop, cell phone, identification badge, secure token, and pc on stick usb drive.

If that user was just mugged, they’ll probably be more concerned with contacting 911 and their bank then logging in to update another spreadsheet for the office.  On the other hand, if that user just mysteriously lost all of these items with no apparent cause… perhaps they shouldn’t have access to secure environments in the first place.

Apple ID account management – password resets, purchase history, iCloud, etc

Unfortunately Apple still hasn’t provided a “one stop shop” for managing all aspects of an Apple ID and a customer’s relationship with Apple.

Personally, I find myself periodically needing to review or update account related information in up to five different places.  Here’s a summary of what’s in each area and how to get there quickly:

note: this article assumes you already have these accounts are only provides a quick refresher on how to navigate back to various areas to update or verify things.

1.  The Apple ID:  your Apple ID is the root anchor of your relationship with Apple.  There are numerous paths you can navigate to access this information, but the simplest seems to be visiting this URL from a web browser:  appleid.apple.com

From this location, you can manage your password, the email address for your account, and your contact information.  For most websites (where the relationship is much less involved), I usually stuff these data fields with bogus information.  However, I do purchases things from Apple and they use the information here to as part of that purchase process.  So it becomes necessary to enter correct information.

note:  If you’ve grown tired of receiving the Apple emails each week about the latest thing they have for sell, the “Language and Contacts Preferences” is the location to turn those off.  A portion of the URL for these settings is automatically generated during each login session, so I cannot provide a direct link.

2. The iTunes Account:  your iTunes account is intimately linked with your Apple ID, but to manage the additional account information, the best location is within the iTunes desktop application.  (You can also do this from an iOS device, I’ll cover that what’s possible there and how to do it in another article.)

Within the iTunes desktop application, navigate the iTunes Store (from the list of things in the left side navigation bar – usually just below your Library).  Assuming you’re logged in, the upper right corner of the iTunes window should show your Apple ID (email address).

Placing your mouse/cursor at the end of the email address provides a drop down menu.  Select “Account“.

From this area, you can manage:

  • payment information
  • computer authorizations
  • iTunes in the Cloud devices
  • purchase history
  • Ping (if you use that)
  • and some additional Settings

Some of my iTunes transactions are business related, so the purchase history is very helpful for retrieve receipt information for my reporting needs.

Additionally, the “iTunes in the Cloud: View Hidden Purchases” is helpful now that iTunes: Purchased allows you to hide previous items from display.

3. The iCloud Account: Most of iCloud is best managed from an iOS device.  If you login to the web interface at http://www.icloud.com the primary management feature is an option to reset the photo stream.  Click your user name in the upper right corner, and select Advanced from the pop up menu.  For now, Reset Photo Stream is the only option presented.  There is also an URL Link to the Apple ID account management web page described above.

To manage you iCloud Account from an iPad:  start by launching the Settings icon and find the menu option for iCloud.  At the top of the detail view window, select Account (it already should be displaying the email address for your iCloud account).

From here you can manage your iCloud password, your Storage Plan, and (if applicable) your iCloud Payment information.

For most folks, this will be the same payment information as your Apple ID above (you’ll be asked to authenticate with that Apple ID login).  However, some us who had previous .MAC accounts have ended up with two Apple IDs… and won’t necessarily have the same login or payment information as our primary Apple ID.  Although it seems to work ok most of the time, some day “It’s complicated”.

While you’re in the Settings | iCloud menu window, you can also turn various features on or off.  And you can use the Storage & Backup selection to view numerous options.

If you’ve elected to utilize the iCloud backup feature for your iOS device, this is where you find the option to omit various applications from being backed up.  This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to stay within the free 5GB quota.

4. The Apple Store Account:  This is the account for purchasing physical products.  From a web browser, visit this URL:  http://store.apple.com/us/account/home

The primary things to do here are tracking orders and viewing previous order history.  Unlike Amazon, Apple only provides 18 months of order history.  So if you need to reprint invoices for tax receipts or such, don’t delay to long.

These pages also link to the information for your Apple ID.

5. The MobileME Account:  Although I’ve migrated from MobileME to the iCloud service, I still have access to the remainder of my iDisk service subscription.  I’d like to hope that Apple will provide an iCloud equivalent before they completely turn down the MobileMe iDisk service; but I’m not really expecting them to.

Apple has set June 30, 2012 as the last day for the MobileMe services.  I’ve already moved my web hosting and pictures from the service.  And only use iDisk for limited (and short term) things at this point.

Within the MobileMe web interface, move your mouse over your user name (in the upper right hand corner) and click on Account to view settings, options, and account information.  If you still have data, photos, or web pages in MobileMe, it’s time to start finding a new home for them.

Footnote:  When I started writing this note, I thought it would be a short reference containing links to the Account tools for Apple ID, iTunes, and iCloud.  As I verified everything, the note continued to grow and grow.  I really hope someone from Apple is paying attention this problem and working on a solution to simplify how we maintain our relationships with their products and services.

It’s slightly ironic that I need more management interfaces for my Apple account than I need remote controls for my home theatre setup.

iPad documentation and user guides

Note:  When the new iOS 4.2 operating systems is released (and the subsequent wave of application and accessory updates follows) some of the features and UI (user-interface) patterns will change.

Each iPad came with a small white packet.  That packet contains a couple stickers, a sim removal tool, and a standard FCC type product pamphlet.  It also contains a 3×5 type card with a photo of the device.  The front of that card points out the physical controls; the back of that card lists the initial 4 steps needed to get started as well as the URLs for more information.

If you install the free iBooks application, there is an available iPad User Guide (free from the bookstore).  It’s a 309 page e-book, and fully searchable.  Also, the iBook application includes the ability to set bookmarks.  This would be the best solution for the TSD folks to set up, as it would ensure the users always have a complete reference guide available with the device regardless of their connectivity situation.

Apple’s website has video guides to all of the features:  http://www.apple.com/ipad/guided-tours/

There’s also a more “traditional” type user guide in the form of a 19MB, 154 page PDF.  This PDF can be loaded into the iBooks application’s “library” (printing it out would kinda defeat the purpose of having a technology like the iPad).

The Apple iPad Enterprise Deployment Guide might be of interest to the IT folk, probably not so much for the users.  It is a 1MB, 90 page PDF.  In our organization, most of what is covered in this document is being done via the centralized McAfee EMM (formerly Trust Digital) platform.  While this document would provide an overview of what iPad features can be managed, the IT folk should not try using the configuration tools/profiles described (as that would create conflicts with the TrustDitigal server).

And, yes, there is an “iPad for Dummies” title on Amazon.  The Amazon page also identifies several other similar books.

iOS Profile Manager… using variables in payloads

Using variables in profile manager payloads:
The substitution variables you can specify are shown below. You can combine the variables with static text, such as “%shortname%@example.com”
%email%                 The user’s email address
%short_name%        The user’s short name, for example, mdunbar
Profile Manager Logs:
To view the profile manager log open the console app and then select open from the file menu, open the file located at
   /Library/Server/ProfileManager/Logs/profilemanager.log
Ports for PUSH NOTIFICATIONS:
  • TCP 443
  • TCP 1640
  • TCP 2195
2195 TCP Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) Push notifications
2196 TCP Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) Feedback service

iOS location services — save a battery please

When coding for iOS location services:

Set a distance parameter to indicate how accurate the location information needs to be.  If the location only needs to be something like “region” or “nearest city”, setting a location/accuracy value of 3 or 4 KM reduces resource usage.
— the system will recognize that “Cellular Location” is sufficient for this accuracy setting and avoid activating WIFI or GPS when it’s not needed.

displaying web content withing an iOS app

I’ve been using some work related iOS apps which have a frustrating habit of kicking you out to a Safari browser to view something, and then leaving it up to you (the user) to find your way back into the app and also to deal with the left over Safari windows later.  Had this app developer paid attention to the interface guidelines, perhaps they would have noticed a better design pattern.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Instead of sending the user to an external Safari browser session (which has no good options for navigating “back” to the part of your app the user was at);

incorporate one of these into your app:

iOS web content:
UIWebView
NSUrlConnection

HTTP Authentication
NSUrlConnection to download content

OffscreenRendererViewController – does a background conversion of the web content to create an image of that page and then display the image to the user within the app’s view.

iPad app review:

I just tried out the Bamboo Paper app.    I’ve been using PenUltimate ($1.99) for about a year now.  Bamboo is quite similar, but has a way to go before matching the features.

Bamboo has one feature PenUltimate doesn’t:

*pinch/zoom…. that is a pretty slick feature, makes it much easier to zoom in and touch up or correct something.

 PenUltimate features that Bamboo doesn’t have:

  • Portrait or Landscape.
  • File mgt via iTunes.
  • More paper (background) choices.
  • Multiple notebooks.
  • An optional setting to enable a “wrist detection” detection feature.  They’ve coded the app to tell the difference between finger tips and accidental palm/wrist contact with the screen

Conclusions: I’ve learnt enough about iOS Objective C to know the BambooPaper developer is going to have brain-ache trying to match the wrist detection feature.  The fact their app has problems with creating stray lines when initiating a pinch gesture shows they are still having issues working out their usage of the iOS API UIGestureRecognizer.  (Since their emphasis is on selling the stylus, which creates a smaller touch event, I doubt they are very concerned about cleaning up the code to help folks trying to draw with big ol’ sausage fingers).

There’s also a bit of geometry and trigonometry required to make a drawing app work with the screen orientation auto-rotation.  Omitting that from their first release is going to mean a lot of UI rework for the developer.

My recommendation is to wait and see if the developer tidies up the app and adds the missing features (before they lose interest in move on to something else).