Businesses

"Maybe It's a Piece of Dust" (theoutline.com) 370

An anonymous reader shares a report: I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken -- it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice. "Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem -- a misbehaving keyboard -- Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"
Patents

Apple To Appeal Five-Year-Long Patent Battle After $439.7 Million Loss (theverge.com) 69

Appel has been ordered to pay $439.7 million to the patent-holding firm VirnetX for infringing on four patented technologies that were apparently used in FaceTime and other iOS apps. According to The Verge, Apple plans to appeal the ruling -- continuing this long-running patent battle, which began back in 2012. From the report: VirnetX first filed suit against Apple in 2010, winning $368 million just two years later. It then sued again in 2012, which is the suit that's being ruled on today. Apple initially lost the suit, then filed for a mistrial. It won a new trial, lost that trial, was ordered to pay around $300 million, then lost some more and is now having that amount upped even further. That's because a judge found Apple guilty of willful infringement, bumping its payment amount from $1.20 per infringing Apple device to $1.80 per device. Those include certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX says the ruling is "very reasonable." Apple didn't issue a statement other than to say that it plans to appeal. While $440 million isn't a lot of money for Apple, there's principle at stake here: VirnetX is a patent troll that makes its money from licensing patents and suing other parties. The company's SEC filing states, "Our portfolio of intellectual property is the foundation of our business model."
AI

Voice Assistants Will Be Difficult To Fire (wired.com) 180

mirandakatz writes: As voice assistants crop up left and right, consumers are facing a decision: Are you an Alexa? A Google Assistant? A Siri? Choose wisely -- because once you pick one voice assistant, it'll be difficult to switch. As Scott Rosenberg writes at Backchannel, "If I want to switch assistants down the line, sure, I can just go out and buy another device. But that investment of time and personal data isn't so easy to replace... Right now, all these assistants behave like selfish employees who think they can protect their jobs by holding vital expertise or passwords close to their chests. Eventually , the data that runs the voice assistant business is going to have to be standardized."
Businesses

Apple's Tim Cook Shares What He Learned From Steve Jobs (businessinsider.com) 167

Speaking at Oxford, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared a lesson learned from the "spectacular" commercial failure of the Power Mac G4 Cube in 2000 -- and from his mentor Steve Jobs. An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: "It was a very important product for us, we put a lot of love into it, we put enormous engineering into it," Cook said of the G4 Cube on stage. He calls it an "engineering marvel." At the time, Cook was Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Operations, recruited personally by then-CEO Steve Jobs... While the design was a hit, it was $200 more expensive than the regular Power Mac G4, a more traditional-looking PC with very similar specs. And some Cubes would develop cosmetic cracks in the acrylic cube casing due to a manufacturing flaw. In his talk, Cook says that Apple knew the Cube was flopping "from the very first day, almost..."

Ultimately, Cook says, it was a lesson in humility and pride. Apple had told both employees and customers that the G4 Cube was the future. And yet, despite Apple's massive hype, demand just wasn't there, and the company had to walk away. "This was another thing that Steve [Jobs] taught me, actually," says Cook. "You've got to be willing to look yourself in the mirror and say I was wrong, it's not right." In a broader sense, Cook says that Jobs taught him the value of intellectual honesty -- that, no matter how much you care about something, you have to be willing to take new data and apply it to the situation.

He advised his audience to "be intellectually honest -- and have the courage to change."

And the article points out that today there's a small but enthusiastic community who are still hacking their Power Mac G4 Cubes.
IOS

Latest iOS Update Shows Apple Can Use Software To Break Phones Repaired By Independent Shops (vice.com) 127

The latest version of iOS fixes several bugs, including one that caused a loss of touch functionality on a small subset of phones that had been repaired with certain third-party screens and had been updated to iOS 11. "Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6S displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts," the update reads. "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information." Jason Koebler writes via Motherboard: "This is a reminder that Apple seems to have the ability to push out software updates that can kill hardware and replacement parts it did not sell iPhone customers itself, and that it can fix those same issues remotely." From the report: So let's consider what actually happened here. iPhones that had been repaired and were in perfect working order suddenly stopped working after Apple updated its software. Apple was then able to fix the problem remotely. Apple then put out a warning blaming the parts that were used to do the repair. Poof -- phone doesn't work. Poof -- phone works again. In this case, not all phones that used third party parts were affected, and there's no reason to think that, in this case, Apple broke these particular phones on purpose. But there is currently nothing stopping the company from using software to control unauthorized repair: For instance, you cannot replace the home button on an iPhone 7 without Apple's proprietary "Horizon Machine" that re-syncs a new home button with the repaired phone. This software update is concerning because it not only undermines the reputation of independent repair among Apple customers, but because it shows that phones that don't use "genuine" parts could potentially one day be bricked remotely.
Education

Steve Wozniak Announces Tech Education Platform 'Woz U' (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder who changed the world alongside Steve Jobs, has today announced the launch of Woz U. According to the release, Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future. Alongside the education platform, Woz U will also offer platforms for tech companies to recruit, train and retain their workforce through on-site customized programs and subscription-based curricula. There also will be a platform for K-12 students, which will be distributed to school districts, that will offer STEAM programs to identify talent and nudge those individuals into a tech-based career. And if that weren't enough, Woz U will eventually introduce an accelerator program "to identify and develop elite tech talent." Woz U also has an app on the App Store that will help people understand which field of tech they're best suited for, so they can set up their curriculum accordingly. Pricing has yet to be announced.
Iphone

Apple To Ditch Touch ID Altogether For All of Next Year's iPhones (macrumors.com) 135

Earlier this week, a report said that Apple is planning to equip next year's iPad Pro with the hardware necessary for Face ID. Now, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, it appears the company is taking that one step further with its 2018 iPhones. All of the iPhones Apple plans to produce next year will reportedly abandon the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in favor of facial recognition. Mac Rumors reports: According to Kuo, Apple will embrace Face ID as its authentication method for a competitive advantage over Android smartphones. Kuo has previously said that it could take years for Android smartphone manufacturers to produce technology that can match the TrueDepth camera and the Face ID feature coming in the iPhone X. Face ID, says Kuo, will continue to be a major selling point of the new iPhone models in 2018, with Apple planning to capitalize on its lead in 3D sensing design and production. Kuo's prediction suggests that all upcoming 2018 iPhones will feature a full-screen design with minimal bezels like the iPhone X, meaning no additional models with the iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus design would be produced. That would spell the end of the line for Touch ID in the iPhone, which has been available as a biometric authentication option since 2013.
Businesses

Woz Wants To Retrain You For a Career in Tech (cnet.com) 66

Steve Wozniak wants you to work in tech, and he's going to help you do it. From a report: The Apple co-founder is launching Woz U, a digital institute aimed at helping folks not only figure out what type of tech job they might be best at, but train for it. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how," Wozniak said in a statement Friday. Woz U starts off as online programs, but there are plans to build campuses in 30 cities around the world. Those cities will be announced within the next 60 days, Shelly Murphy, corporate relations for Woz U told CNET. In a press statement, Wozniak said Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future.
Businesses

Qualcomm Seeks China iPhone Ban, Escalating Apple Legal Fight (bloomberg.com) 36

Qualcomm filed lawsuits in China seeking to ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones in the country, the chipmaker's biggest shot at Apple so far in a sprawling and bitter legal fight. From a report: The San Diego-based company aims to inflict pain on Apple in the world's largest market for smartphones and cut off production in a country where most iPhones are made. The product provides almost two-thirds of Apple's revenue. Qualcomm filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court claiming patent infringement and seeking injunctive relief, according to Christine Trimble, a company spokeswoman. "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them," Trimble said. An Apple spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Qualcomm's suits are based on three non-standard essential patents, it said. They cover power management and a touch-screen technology called Force Touch that Apple uses in current iPhones, Qualcomm said. The inventions "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple uses to improve its devices and increase its profits," Trimble said. The company made the filings at the Beijing court on Sept. 29. The court has not yet made them public.
Google

Google Is Really Good At Design 183

Joshua Topolsky, writing for The Outline: The stuff Google showed off on October 4 was brazenly designed and strangely, invitingly touchable. These gadgets were soft, colorful... delightful? They looked human, but like something future humans had made; people who'd gotten righteously drunk with aliens. You could imagine them in your living room, your den, your bedroom. Your teleportation chamber. A fuzzy little donut you can have a conversation with. A VR headset in stunning pink. A phone with playful pops of color and an interface that seems to presage what you want, when you want it. It's weird. It's subtle. It's... good. It's Google? It's Google.

It was only a few years ago that Google was actually something of a laughing stock when it came to design. As an aggressively engineer-led company, the Mountain View behemoth's early efforts, particularly with its mobile software and devices, focused not on beauty, elegance, or simplicity, but rather concentrated on flexibility, iteration, and scale. These are useful priorities for a utilitarian search engine, but didn't translate well to many of the company's other products. Design -- the mysterious intersection of art and communication -- was a second-class citizen at Google, subordinate to The Data. That much was clear from the top down.

Enter Matias Duarte, the design impresario who was responsible for the Sidekick's UI (a wacky, yet strangely prescient mobile-everything concept) and later, the revolutionary (though ill-fated) webOS -- the striking mobile operating system and design language that would be Palm's final, valiant attempt at reclaiming the mobile market. Duarte was hired by Google in 2013 (initially as Android's User Experience Director, though he is now VP of design at the company), and spearheaded a complete reset of the company's visual and functional instincts. But even Duarte was aware of the design challenges his new role presented. "I never thought I'd work for Google," he told Surface Magazine in August. "I had zero ambition to work for Google. Everybody knew Google was a terrible place for design." Duarte went to work on a system that would ultimately be dubbed Material Design -- a set of principles that not only began to dictate how Android should look and work as a mobile operating system, but also triggered the march toward a unified system of design that slowly but surely pulled Google's disparate network of services into something that much more closely resembled a singular vision. A school of thought. A family.
Education

Learn To Code, It's More Important Than English as a Second Language, Says Apple CEO (cnbc.com) 296

Apple CEO Tim Cook says it is more important to learn how to code than it is to learn English as a second language. From a report: The tech executive made the remarks to French outlet Konbini while in the country for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called for tech companies to pay higher taxes in Europe. "If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding than English. I'm not telling people not to learn English in some form -- but I think you understand what I am saying is that this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world," Cook tells Konbini. "I think that coding should be required in every public school in the world. [...] It's the language that everyone needs, and not just for the computer scientists. It's for all of us."
Security

Security Researcher Finds a Fundamental Flaw in iOS (krausefx.com) 162

Felix Krause writes: Do you want a user's Apple ID password to get access to their Apple account or to try the same email/password combination on different web services? Just ask your users politely, they'll probably just hand over their credentials, as they're trained to do so. This is just a proof of concept, phishing attacks are illegal! Don't use this in any of your apps. The goal of this blog post is to close the loophole that has been there for many years, and hasn't been addressed yet. For moral reasons, I decided not to include the actual source code of the popup, however it was shockingly easy to replicate the system dialog.
Iphone

Face ID Is Coming To the iPad Pro Next Year, Says Report (macrumors.com) 73

According to MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said iPad Pro models set to be released in 2018 will come equipped with a TrueDepth Camera and will support Face ID. Apple is believed to be adding TrueDepth cameras to the iPad Pro to introduce a user experience that's consistent with the iPhone X and boost competitiveness. From the report: According to Kuo, TrueDepth Cameras will be limited to the iPad Pro, which is Apple's main flagship tablet device. Kuo also predicts 2018 iPhone models will adopt the new camera technology coming in the iPhone X, as he has mentioned in a previous note: "We predict iOS devices to be equipped with TrueDepth Camera in 2018F will include iPhone X and 2018 new iPhone and iPad models. Because of this, we believe more developers will pay attention to TrueDepth Camera/ facial recognition related applications. We expect Apple's (U.S.) major promotion of facial recognition related applications will encourage the Android camp to also dedicate more resources to developing hardware and facial recognition applications."
Iphone

Apple Doesn't Deliberately Slow Down Older Devices According To Benchmark Analysis (macrumors.com) 163

According to software company Futuremark, Apple doesn't intentionally slow down older iPhones when it releases new software updates as a way to encourage its customers to buy new devices. MacRumors reports: Starting in 2016, Futuremark collected over 100,000 benchmark results for seven different iPhone models across three versions of iOS, using that data to create performance comparison charts to determine whether there have been performance drops in iOS 9, iOS 10, and iOS 11. The first device tested was the iPhone 5s, as it's the oldest device capable of running iOS 11. iPhone 5s, released in 2013, was the first iPhone to get a 64-bit A7 chip, and iOS 11 is limited to 64-bit devices. Futuremark used the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Graphics test and calculated all benchmark scores from the iPhone 5s across a given month to make its comparison. The higher the bar, the better the performance, and based on the testing, GPU performance on the iPhone 5s has remained constant from iOS 9 to iOS 11 with just minor variations that Futuremark says "fall well within normal levels." iPhone 5s CPU performance over time was measured using the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Physics test, and again, results were largely consistent. CPU performance across those three devices has dropped slightly, something Futuremark attributes to "minor iOS updates or other factors."
China

Chinese State Media Report Bloated Battery in Apple's iPhone 8 (reuters.com) 36

A fresh case of Apple's new iPhone popping open due to a swollen battery has been reported in state media in China, the world's biggest smartphone market where the U.S. firm is seeking to revive faltering sales. From a report: The incident comes as Apple investigates similar cases reported in Taiwan and Japan of batteries in its latest iPhone 8 Plus becoming bloated, causing the device's casing to open. On its website on Thursday, China's state-backed ThePaper.cn cited an iPhone buyer surnamed Liu as saying his newly purchased iPhone 8 Plus arrived cracked open on Oct. 5. There was no sign of scorching or an explosion. Liu told ThePaper he bought the handset through online marketplace of JD.com. He said he did not charge the new device and returned it to the seller. The fresh reports comes on the heels of another story last week where Apple claimed that it was looking into a similar matter.
Google

Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will (theverge.com) 380

Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.
IOS

iOS 11's Misleading 'Off-ish' Setting For Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is Bad for User Security (eff.org) 162

Last month, we covered a story about how turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 11's Control Center doesn't really turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. EFF has called the situation bad for user security. From the report: Instead, what actually happens in iOS 11 when you toggle your quick settings to "off" is that the phone will disconnect from Wi-Fi networks and some devices, but remain on for Apple services. Location Services is still enabled, Apple devices (like Apple Watch and Pencil) stay connected, and services such as Handoff and Instant Hotspot stay on. Apple's UI fails to even attempt to communicate these exceptions to its users. It gets even worse. When you toggle these settings in the Control Center to what is best described as "off-ish," they don't stay that way. The Wi-Fi will turn back full-on if you drive or walk to a new location. And both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will turn back on at 5:00 AM. This is not clearly explained to users, nor left to them to choose, which makes security-aware users vulnerable as well. The only way to turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios is to enable Airplane Mode or navigate into Settings and go to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sections. When a phone is designed to behave in a way other than what the UI suggests, it results in both security and privacy problems. A user has no visual or textual clues to understand the device's behavior, which can result in a loss of trust in operating system designers to faithfully communicate what's going on.
Businesses

Uber's iOS App Had Secret Permissions That Allowed It to Copy Your Phone Screen, Researchers Say (gizmodo.com) 91

To improve functionality between Uber's app and the Apple Watch, Apple allowed Uber to use a powerful tool that could record a user's iPhone screen, even if Uber's app was only running in the background, security researchers told news outlet Gizmodo. From a report: After the researchers discovered the tool, Uber said it is no longer in use and will be removed from the app. The screen recording capability comes from what's called an "entitlement" -- a bit of code that app developers can use for anything from setting up push notifications to interacting with Apple systems like iCloud or Apple Pay. This particular entitlement, however, was intended to improve memory management for the Apple Watch. The entitlement isn't common and would require Apple's explicit permission to use, the researchers explained. Will Strafach, a security researcher and CEO of Sudo Security Group, said he couldn't find any other apps with the entitlement live on the App Store. "It looks like no other third-party developer has been able to get Apple to grant them a private sensitive entitlement of this nature," Strafach said. "Considering Uber's past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this."
Security

Apple Addresses a Bug That Caused Disk Utility in macOS High Sierra To Expose Passwords of Encrypted APFS Volumes (macrumors.com) 85

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumours: Brazilian software developer Matheus Mariano appears to have discovered a significant Disk Utility bug that exposes the passwords of encrypted Apple File System volumes in plain text on macOS High Sierra. Mariano added a new encrypted APFS volume to a container, set a password and hint, and unmounted and remounted the container in order to force a password prompt for demonstration purposes. Then, he clicked the "Show Hint" button, which revealed the full password in plain text rather than the hint. [...] Apple has addressed this bug by releasing a macOS High Sierra 10.13 Supplemental Update, available from the Updates tab in the Mac App Store.
Google

Google Debuts Its $400 Google Home Max Speaker To Rival Apple's HomePod (techcrunch.com) 60

In addition to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google debuted a $400 speaker, called Home Max, that looks to compete directly with Apple's recently announced HomePod. The Home Max is a larger Google Home that features stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials. It's expected to go on sale in December in the U.S. TechCrunch reports: It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack. Home Max can output sound that's up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both 'chalk' and 'charcoal.' Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it's Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more. Google also launched a budget-friendly Google Home Mini that features the Google Assistant but in a smaller form factor. 9to5Google reports: Google touts the Home Mini as having a powerful speaker with "crisp" 360 degree sound. The Mini can also be connected to any Chromecast wireless speaker, but there is no 3.5mm jack like Amazon's Echo Dot. In the center, there are four white lights that note when the Home Mini is listening or responding. Besides saying the "Ok, Google" hotword, users can tap on the Home Mini to issue a command. Google also retained the Home's original button for disabling the microphone with a toggle next to the charging port. The Google Home Mini will be go on sale later this month for $49, with pre-orders starting today.

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