iOS VPNs and portable storage for Apple devices

First up, serious networking stuff concerning Apple and how iOS supports VPNs and how it won't in future.

If you plan to use a mobile device in the real world where security matters then you'll need to use a VPN to connect back to the mothership. What Apple supported in iOS has been an automatic VPN invocation method called an "On Demand VPN," such that when a connection is attempted, a VPN is always invoked.

Alas, a company called VinetX (often cited as a "patent troll") took Apple to court with the claim that this technique was covered by a patent it holds and VirnetX won ... to the tune of $368 million in damages!

Apple has decided that the solution to this loss is that future versions of iOS (6.1 and later) will only establish a VPN if needed rather than always requiring one, and then only if the host DNS can't be resolved. In other words, a key method for locking down network access for iOS devices in the enterprise will be broken in the near future.

What will this mean in practice? Rather than slice and dice the topic here, I recommend reading a white paper written by my friends at Mobile Active Defense. Bottom line: Enterprises lose a feature that has been very handy and will have to rethink their "call home" strategy.

Interestingly, in 2010 Microsoft was also found guilty of infringing the same VirnetX patent and had to pay damages of $200 million, while last month Cisco was ruled to not infringe the same and thereby dodged a bullet worth $258 million! Just how broken does the patent system have to become before something is done about it? Please comment below ...

On a different note: I have a serious travel fear. Nope, it's not fear of the airplane wings falling off or of the germs I might encounter, but the fear of being bored while I hurtle through the air for hours on end.

The idea of sitting on a plane for, say, most of a day, without anything good to read or listen to fills me with dread. To me, that's even worse than the dread I have for the uncomfortable seat, the screaming child in the row in front, and the lard-butt in the seat behind who has to grab the back of my chair to lever his tush up to go to the rest room and, in the process, make my chair snap forward and waking me invariably five minutes after I've finally nodded off. But I digress ...

To be honest, I haven't finished digressing: Did you know that Samoa Air has announced that it will become the first airline to charge customers by weight? According to msnNOW: "Rates vary from $1 per kilogram ... on short flights to $4.16 per 2.2 pounds on longer routes."

Anyway, before my recent trip to the UK I was delighted to receive a new gadget, the PhotoFast i-FlashDrive HD to test. The device allowed me to effectively expand the storage on my iPad so I could take my entire digital book collection with me.

The i-FlashDrive comes in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, but with two differences from other flash drives: The first difference is the i-FlashDrive has a regular full-sized USB plug on one end and an Apple 30-pin connector on the other. It also comes with an adapter that converts the 30-pin connector into a Lightning connector for newer Apple gear. This combination of connectors allows you to add, delete and read files on the drive from all USB-equipped computers and PCs and all Apple devices, including laptops, iPads, iPhones and iPods.

The second difference is the free iOS app that you can download from the Apple iTunes store. This app mediates copying files to and from the i-FlashDrive as well as deleting, moving, copying and renaming files. It also allows you to backup and restore your iOS contact list, view documents, paste the clipboard content to or from a file on the drive, encrypt files on the i-FlashDrive, record audio direct to the drive, and it links directly to Dropbox.

The software is pretty good, though I've had it bork a few times and unexpectedly quit.

All the same I like this flash drive because, unlike some other portable storage devices, it doesn't need batteries, can be used in-flight (wireless storage devices, of course, cannot), plugs directly into any USB or Apple connector, and has better features for managing files.

For the princely sum of $99 you'll get 8GB of storage while, for the considerably more princely sum of $329 you get 64GB. This pricing makes the i-FlashDrive way too spendy, but for now it's the only cross-platform solution I've found that is quite so simple to use and a good solution to in-flight boredom. The Photofast i-FlashDrive gets a Gearhead rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Gibbs is patently at home in Ventura, Calif. Your judgment to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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