MenuWeather for iPhone Free for 48 Hours

In honor of America’s Independence Day on July 4th, MenuWeather for iOS will be free for two days starting tomorrow (Tuesday, July 3rd). Spread the word and enjoy!

iTunes Store link: http://itun.es/ibf7k9

Why Sports Scores Are Coming Natively to Siri

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past week or so, you’ve probably heard of my AssistantExtensions that bring sports scores to Siri. As of this morning, SiriNBA has been replaced with SiriSports. It’s basically the same as SiriNBA except with support for MLB and NHL scores. See a video of SiriSports in action here.

As you can imagine, I’ve been getting to know Siri pretty well and what I’ve learned is pretty exciting.

First, let me explain a little about how Siri works. When you say something to Siri, your voice recording is sent to Apple’s servers and transcribed into speech tokens. These speech tokens are basically just words. Apple’s servers interpret these speech tokens and send them, along with instructions, back to your device. Speech tokens are usually just one single word. However, there are some special cases where a speech token will be more than one word. For example, city names. In the screen shot below, you can see that when asking Siri for the weather, Apple’s servers understand that “New York City” is one thing and not three different words.

Siri understands that New York City is one thing, not three different words.

While testing SiriSports, I had to talk to Siri a lot. After implementing the ability to speak a team’s city along with the team name, I noticed something interesting. Siri understands sports teams as single speech tokens.

Siri understands that New York Yankees is not three distinct words.

Obviously, Siri does not currently support sports scores (without SiriSports). So, why else would this happen?

This isn’t the only reason that I believe sports scores are coming natively to Siri. ESPN recently released a developers API for accessing sports scores. Unfortunately, this API is only available to premium partners of ESPN. I contacted ESPN to see if they were willing to give me access for SiriSports (I know, it was a long-shot). Here’s how ESPN responded:

What's ESPN doing with Apple?

So, what exactly is ESPN working closely with Apple on? ESPN is owned by ABC which also owns Disney (which is very closely related with Apple). He may simply be referring to that. Or maybe, ESPN is going to be the one to provide Apple with sports scores. Who knows? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

UPDATE (4/22/12): It looks like Siri no longer parses sports teams as single tokens. Could it be due to this blog post? Who knows…

MenuWeather for iOS

If you haven’t heard, MenuWeather for iOS is available. There’s also an update to the Mac version which allows for iCloud syncing between Mac and iOS. Check it out here.

MenuWeather 4.2

MenuWeather 4.2 was approved and released into the Mac App Store today. This version of MenuWeather brings many new features and stability enhancements. Most of the new features are only available on Mac OS X Lion, but I’ll talk more about that later.

First off, MenuWeather now allows you to completely customize the weather information that is displayed. You’ll see a new “Weather” tab in the preferences window. In this tab you can customize what information appears for the current conditions and daily and hourly forecasts. I also added snowfall and rainfall amounts, along with a plethora amount of astronomy data (for more on this see the release notes on the Mac App Store). You can also choose to show the last time the weather was updated.

The 2 day hourly forecast has been replaced with a 7 day hourly forecast. Also, if you’re running Lion you can see the hourly forecast as submenus of the daily forecast.

On Lion, the More Weather window has been completely redesigned from scratch. Instead of separating the different categories of data (daily, hourly, alerts, maps), they’ve all been compacted into one streamlined layout (Screenshot below). On the right you’ll still have the familiar locations list where you can switch between your added locations. To the left of that you have the forecast for the next 15 days. Clicking on a day pops up a window with more detailed information along with the hourly forecast. Clicking on one of the hours in the hourly forecast shows more detailed information for that hour. To the right of the daily forecast you have the current conditions and some astronomy information. To the right of that are radar maps and severe weather alerts. Clicking on a severe weather alert shows some detailed information on it.

You may have noticed the search bar in the locations list of the More Weather window. This search bar allows you to search and view the weather for any location without having to go into the preferences and add it. This is meant to be used for getting weather quickly for a location that you don’t want to permanently add to your preferences. For you advanced users, I’ve also added a URL scheme for MenuWeather. For example menuweather://10280 will open the More Weather window and show you the weather for New York. You can use any search term as the parameter and MenuWeather must already be running for this to work. To be honest, the URL scheme feature is still pretty buggy and that’s why I’m not really advertising it.

Now you’re probably wondering why so many new features were added for Lion users but not for Snow Leopard users. This is a good question. Apple made a lot of changes in Lion. They added several new features that I took advantage of in MenuWeather. I spent a large amount of time trying to, essentially, rewrite these new features myself to add support for Snow Leopard. As you can probably guess, I failed miserably. I came close, but in the end I had to make too many design compromises to get it working. In all seriousness, you should be running Lion on your computer anyway. It’s only $29.99 and you don’t even have to leave your house to get it. Now with that being said, because MenuWeather is now fragmented between Lion and Snow Leopard, it’s going to become increasingly more difficult to maintain and add new features. Because of this, I think its best that I drop support for Snow Leopard so that I can focus my efforts to make MenuWeather an even better app! I’m sorry if this disappoints you, but like I said, you really should have Lion.

 

On a side note, I’ve added German and Simplified Chinese localizations to this version of MenuWeather. If you speak a language other than the ones MenuWeather already supports and would like to help out, please get in touch with me!

Stay Away From Siri Ports. Seriously.

Not only will they waste your time, but they can be dangerous.

The, recently released, h1siri “port” is a perfect example. Over the past day I’ve spent some time dissecting it to figure out what they’ve done. Since their server is currently down (surprising) there’s really not that much that I can find out about it. However, here’s what I do know:

  • The debian package they are distributing only installed the Siri UI files. Nothing else. No MobileSubstrate tweaks.
  • The only change they made to the UI files is that they have Siri point to their own server (https://siri.cd-team.org).
  • I’m assuming that their server modifies the ACE request from your device by replacing the invalid authentication data with their own data which has been obtained from an iPhone 4S and then sends the request on to Apple’s servers.

Since their server is offline and they have announced on Twitter that they are looking for a 4S owner to supply them with new authentication data, it’s safe to assume that the one they had been using was blacklisted. Think of it this way, thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people installed h1siri on their devices. Apple noticed that the same authentication data was being used hundreds of thousands of times from different devices in different parts of the world. Seeing this, Apple blacklisted the device. So now this iPhone 4S may have lost it’s Siri capabilities forever. The next time they get some 4S authentication data, the same thing will happen again.

In addition to what I’ve said so far, using h1siri is a security risk. Siri is very verbose when communicating with its server. Everything you say to Siri is transmitted. Your current location is transmitted. Your name and maybe even contacts are transmitted.

For example, maybe you’re composing a text message to someone with very sensitive information, or maybe your dictating something to Siri. All of this is transmitted.

While there’s no reason to assume that the people behind h1siri will maliciously use your personal data, that’s not a risk that I’m willing to take, nor should you be. This, and the fact that their authentication data will be blacklisted in minutes is reason enough for me to stay very far away from h1siri.

 

Addendum: Just to add some validity to this post, in @chpwn’s Spire tweak he warns of the same thing right in the preferences. You’ll be better off hosting your own SiriProxy.

Next Posts

Twitter

Categories

Archives