WhatsApp Begins Rolling Out End-to-End Encrypted Backups on iOS and Android

Facebook has announced that it has now begun rolling out End-to-End Encrypted Backups on iOS and Android devices.

Starting today, we are making available an extra, optional layer of security to protect backups stored on Google Drive or iCloud with end-to-end encryption. No other global messaging service at this scale provides this level of security for their users’ messages, media, voice messages, video calls and chat backups.

You can either set your own password, or let WhatsApp automatically generate a 64-digit encryption key on your device.

Whatsapp End-to-End Encrypted Backups

Facebook was under a lot of pressure in recent times to introduce this feature, so I’m glad to see it finally arrive now. Considering it has more than 2 billion users, this will be a slow rollout, starting with those who are running the latest version of WhatsApp on iPhones and Android devices. If you see this option, make sure to flip the switch right away.

The folks at Cloudflare have published a fascinating look into the recent ~6 hour long downtime that the Facebook network went through, taking down not just the Facebook product itself, but also WhatsApp, Instagram, FB’s internal looks, and a lot more. It’s a somewhat technical explanation, but Cloudflare’s Tom Strickx and Celso Martinho have made it very easy to understand.

Today at 1651 UTC, we opened an internal incident entitled “Facebook DNS lookup returning SERVFAIL” because we were worried that something was wrong with our DNS resolver 1.1.1.1. But as we were about to post on our public status page we realized something else more serious was going on.

Social media quickly burst into flames, reporting what our engineers rapidly confirmed too. Facebook and its affiliated services WhatsApp and Instagram were, in fact, all down. Their DNS names stopped resolving, and their infrastructure IPs were unreachable. It was as if someone had “pulled the cables” from their data centers all at once and disconnected them from the Internet.

How’s that even possible?

It’s really interesting to see how a (possibly) minor piece of code can take down large parts of the internet like this. Honestly, it would be a good thing for the internet overall of Facebook disappears from the internet, but I feel for everyone at Facebook behind this issue. Major hugs to the people involved in bringing the network back up.

Then again, imagine messing up so bad that your boss ends up losing $6 billion.

“[…] an incredible integration of two amazing products,” I exclaimed on Twitter.

Fastmail has teamed up with the folks at 1Password to release Masked Email — a seamless integration between the two services that enables you to create unique email addresses when signing up for online services.

When you’re filling out the signup form, 1Password automatically creates a new Masked Email (email alias) for you and saves it as a Login. The good thing about this announcement is that you can manually created Masked Email aliases outside of 1Password on the Fastmail website, and if you use a custom domain with the service, your Masked Email aliases can also be created using the custom domain.

Fastmail is one of the best email services out there and I highly recommend it. As of today, I’ve been using them for 8 years and 6 months, and have been a very happy customer.

A Few Minutes with iPhone 13 Pro

I got to spend a few minutes with the iPhone 13 Pro yesterday. A friend of mine bought iPhone 13 Pro from a local Vijay Sales outlet — quite the surprise that she lucked out finding a unit there. Only happened because someone else who had made a pre-booking there cancelled and she incidentally called up the outlet asking if they had any stock. She chose the 256GB Sierra Blue version, the exact same thing I’m getting. My unit is due to arrive some time in November, so I couldn’t contain my excitement and went over to her’s to get some quick hands-on time with the phone.

I have been using the iPhone XS Max for the last three years, but decided to switch to the smaller iPhone 13 Pro (not Max) this time. Owing to this, I have been a little concerned that it’d feel too small to my liking, but the concerns were quickly dismissed after holding the phone in my hand.

These are my initial impressions & thoughts about the iPhone 13 Pro:

  • The Sierra Blue color looks beautiful in person. It doesn’t matter how many videos you’ve watched of the unit being unboxed and reviewed, the first impressions are still so delightful. There’s this peculiar sheen on the subtle blue colored frosted-glass finish at the back that just looks stunning.
  • Although smaller in size compared to the XS Max, the slight weight increase this year has, I think, proved to be beneficial to me. The heft of the phone felt right in my hands, and the bulk that the camera modules and larger battery have added made me feel that this is something I can instantly get used to.
  • The Camera modules on the back are huge, with the bump taking up more than half of the width of the phone.
  • The lenses are BIG. My iPhone XS Max lenses looked like a kid standing next to Andre the Giant.
  • The 120Hz ProMotion display feels insanely good. There have been several improvements to the display through the iPhone 11, iPhone 12 and now iPhone 13, so this is a huge jump for me. The text and elements felt rich and almost printed on the screen. The scrolling and system-wide animations were delightful. I loved it.
  • The “Surgical-grade Stainless Steel” edges are a fingerprint magnet. I shudder to think what it’d look like on the darker Graphite version.
  • The photos that come out of the camera are astonishing. Photos from my phone feel like a something out of a cheap Android OEM phone in comparison. I was especially blown away by the Night Mode quality. A random photo of a tree under a streetlight ended up being well-lit, sharp, and crisp. There was barely any ugly noise or dark areas between the leaves of the tree. I can’t wait to try out the cameras in detail.
  • The Macro mode — holy shit!
  • On that note, the automatic camera switching is super jarring.

I’m really excited for my new iPhone, and I can’t wait to take the cameras out for a review.

Om Malik has published his thoughts about the new iPad mini — based on using Apple’s review unit for ~5 days. He makes it clear that this isn’t a review, as he hasn’t spent enough time with it. Yet he felt the need to write about his early impressions. You should read the whole thing, but these two paragraphs really stood out to me.

The iPad Mini screen is about 18 to 24 inches from the eyes. By keeping the brightness below 50 percent, my eyes don’t get tired despite a long reading session. It is quite pleasant to read on the iPad Mini, thanks to its upgraded screen. I can lounge in my Eames chair, a cup of coffee on the side, and skim through morning reading relaxed and without hunching over. I much prefer this lean-back mode of consuming the words. The screen is on my desk. I can listen to a podcast in the background, but it doesn’t feel like work again. It feels more of a relaxed consumption of information.

and

The best way to extract the most out of the smallest iPad is to think of it as a device enhanced by non-keyboard input methods — Scribble with Pencil, snapping photos with the cameras, or using Siri/voice input. The improved “Scribble” allows you to make notes, do quick searches, and even find directions. It is a very addictive way to use the iPad, especially in the smaller size.

To me, this looks like the most incredible media consumption device there has ever been. It’s powerful, but small enough to hold it and use it almost anywhere. It’s quite comfortable to use, and I have no complaints about iPadOS 15 not being able to live up to the hardware.

I’d have already bought this if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg in India.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs wants the Government to Ban VPN Services in India

According to a report by the Times of India, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has recommended that the Indian government “permanently block VPN Services in the country”.

The TOI report says,

Terming Virtual Private Network (VPN) services as a threat to counter cyber threats and other nefarious activities, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs reportedly wants the Indian government to ban VPN services in the country. As per a report by MediaNama, the committee explained that the reason why VPN services should be banned in India is because VPN apps and tools are easily available online and these allow “criminals to remain anonymous online.”

I’ll recommend that you go read the entire report to understand how ridiculous it all sounds.

But in an effort to put things into perspective, I rewrote the article by changing just a few words here and there.

Terming knives as a threat to counter deadly threats and other nefarious activities, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Kitchen Affairs reportedly wants the Indian government to ban knives in the country. As per a report by MediaNama, the committee explained that the reason why knives should be banned in India is because knives and tools are easily available online and these allow “criminals to attack and kill anyone.”

For those unaware, knives are used by most households in India to assist them in cooking and making food. Also, knives became all the more important during lockdown when employees were forced to work from home and thus also cook from home. While knives allow users to cut through things that aren’t actually food and also stay “protected” to a certain degree outside, the benefits of knives is immense for anyone when it comes to making food. The committee also proposed “to put a check on the use of knives and scissors.”

According to the report by MediaNama, the committee recommended permanently blocking knife sales in the country with “the help of e-commerce service providers” across India. ““The Committee notes with anxiety the challenge posed by knives and scissors, that can allow criminals to attack or kill anyone. As of date, knives can easily be purchased, as many websites are providing such facilities and advertising them. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry of Kitchen Affairs should coordinate with the Ministry of Hardware Tools to identify and permanently block such knives with the help of e-commerce service providers.”

It further suggested that “a coordination mechanism should also be developed with international agencies to ensure that these knives are blocked permanently.” The report by MediaNama also said that the committee wants “the Ministry to take initiatives to strengthen the tracking and surveillance mechanisms by further improving and developing the state-of-the-art technology, to put a check on the use of knives and scissors.”

I wish those in power actually had the power of logical thinking.

Alphonse Eylenburg has taken the massive effort of creating this timeline & family tree of over 800 OSs in the history of computing.

In this post you’ll find a family tree and timeline of operating systems. I have tried to include all operating systems, no matter how old or obscure. Of course, a complete list is virtually impossible, as there is no way to catalogue all the tiny hobby and embedded systems that may exist somewhere.

Currently, the family tree includes between 800 and 900 different operating systems.

Phenomenal work.

/Via Stephen Hackett

Backblaze Raises Subscription Pricing of Personal Backup to $7 Per Month

Backblaze CEO Gleb Budman, writing on the company blog:

Over the last 14 years, we have worked diligently to keep our costs low and pass our savings on to customers. We’ve invested in deduplication, compression, and other technologies to continually optimize our storage platform and drive our costs down—savings which we pass on to our customers in the form of storing more data for the same price.

However, the average backup size stored by Computer Backup customers has spiked 15% over just the last two years. Additionally, not only have component prices not fallen at traditional rates, but recently electronic components that we rely on to provide our services have actually increased in price.

The combination of these two trends, along with our desire to continue investing in providing a great service, is driving the need to modestly increase our prices.

Backblaze is a phenomenally good backup service and I’ve been a happy customer for several years now, with two active backup licenses for my Macs. I joined when their pricing was $5/month and only recently, they had raised their pricing to $6/month. Even at $7, Backblaze offers exceptional value — you’re literally getting unlimited backup. And for a couple of bucks more, they’ll keep your files for a whole year! I wrote down why I like the service so much the last time they raised prices.

However, their raising prices are making it incredibly difficult to recommend the service to most of my friends. The problem with their subscription is their all-or-nothing approach and the lack of localized pricing. Many of my friends have a few hundred GBs of important data that they want to back up. The Backblaze subscription is priced at almost ₹550 per month. How do you convince someone, who already doesn’t take backups seriously, to opt into a backup strategy that costs 3 times their cellular service?

I wish Backblaze B2 was the answer, which is something the company itself recommends for small quantity backups. But a subscription where your monthly expenses can vary depending on how much data you upload/download is even more difficult to recommend to friends.

If you’re convinced, here’s my affiliate link that’ll give you month free when you sign up, and a month free to me when you start paying for it.