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Communications

The Verge's Deputy Editor Chris Ziegler Was Secretly Working For Apple For Two Months (gizmodo.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Late this afternoon, Nilay Patel, the editor-in-chief of The Verge, published a post detailing the circumstances around the departure of Chris Ziegler, a founding member of the site. As it turns out, according to Patel, Ziegler had been pulling double duty as an employee of both The Verge and Apple. "The circumstances of Chris' departure from The Verge raised ethical issues which are worth disclosing in the interests of transparency and respect for our audience," Patel wrote. "We're confident that there wasn't any material impact on our journalism from these issues, but they are still serious enough to merit disclosure." According to Patel, Ziegler, whose most recent post was published in July, began working for Apple in July but didn't disclose his new job; The Verge apparently didn't discover he'd been working there until early September. Patel noted that Ziegler continued to work for The Verge in July, but "was not in contact with us through most of August and into September." What's not clear is how The Verge leadership went six weeks without hearing from their deputy editor or taking serious action (like filing a missing person's report) to try to find him. Patel says they "made every effort to contact him and to offer him help if needed." Patel noted the obvious conflict of interest, and added that Ziegler was fired the same day they verified his employment at Apple. "Chris did not attempt to steer any coverage towards or away from Apple, and any particular decisions he helped make had the same outcomes they would have had absent his involvement," Patel wrote. However, it's still unclear how exactly the team at Vox Media, The Verge's parent company, ascertained there was no editorial consequences from the dual-employment. You can read Patel's full statement here. Vox Media's Fay Sliger followed up with a statement to Gizmodo: "Chris is no longer an employee of The Verge or Vox Media. Chris accepted a position with Apple, stopped communicating with The Verge's leadership, and his employment at The Verge was terminated. Vox Media's editorial director Lockhart Steele conducted an internal review of this conflict of interest, and after a thorough investigation, it was determined that there was no impact on editorial decisions or journalism produced at The Verge or elsewhere in Vox Media. We've shared details about this situation with The Verge's audience and will continue to be transparent should any new information come to light."
Google

Judge Skewers Oracle Attorney For Revealing Google, Apple Trade Secrets (arstechnica.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The federal judge who presided over the Google-Oracle API copyright infringement trial excoriated one of Oracle's lawyers Thursday for disclosing confidential information in open court earlier this year. The confidential information included financial figures stating that Google generated $31 billion in revenue and $22 billion in profits from the Android operating system in the wake of its 2008 debut. The Oracle attorney, Annette Hurst, also revealed another trade secret: Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014 to include Google search on iPhones. Judge William Alsup of San Francisco has been presiding over the copyright infringement trial since 2010, when Oracle lodged a lawsuit claiming that Google's Android operating system infringed Oracle's Java APIs. After two trials and various trips to the appellate courts, a San Francisco federal jury concluded in May that Google's use of the APIs amounted to fair use. Oracle's motion before Alsup for a third trial is pending. Oracle argues that Google tainted the verdict by concealing a plan to extend Android on desktop and laptop computers. As this legal saga was playing out, Hurst blurted out the confidential figures during a January 14 pre-trial hearing, despite those numbers being protected by a court order. The transcript of that proceeding has been erased from the public record. But the genie is out of the bottle. Google lodged a motion (PDF) for sanctions and a contempt finding against Hurst for unveiling a closely guarded secret of the mobile phone wars. During a hearing on that motion Thursday, Judge Alsup had a back-and-forth with Hurst's attorney, former San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. According to the San Francisco legal journal The Recorder, Haag said that her client Hurst -- of the law firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe -- should not be sanctioned because of "one arguable mistake made through the course of a very complex litigation."
Iphone

People Are Drilling Holes Into Their iPhone 7 To 'Make a Headphone Jack' (craveonline.com) 184

TechRax -- a popular YouTuber who destroys technology for fame and riches -- has uploaded a video where he drills a hole into an iPhone 7, claiming it to be a "secret hack" to reinstall a headphone jack in the device. The only problem is that he didn't tell people it was a joke, and of course, some people fell for it. Crave Online reports: The YouTube video has amassed over 7.5 million views since being posted online last week, with it attracting 81,000 dislikes in the process. The comments section is currently torn between people who are in on the joke, people who criticize TechRax for damaging his iPhone 7, and most unfortunately, people who have tried the "hack" out for themselves. Although this is YouTube so you can never be quite sure of whether or not these folks are trolling, parsing the comments section reveals some pretty convincing complaints lobbed in TechRax's direction. It's also firmly believable that there are people dumb enough to attempt drilling a hole into their iPhone 7, which is unfortunate but that's the way the world is in 2016. You can read the comments under the YouTube video for more "convincing complaints." But as if the report didn't make it clear enough already, the video is a joke. Apple removed the headphone jack and there's no way to get it back, unless you use an adapter.
AI

Apple Is Getting Ready To Take On Google and Amazon In a Battle For The Living Room (qz.com) 113

An anonymous reader writes: Siri may soon be making the jump from your pocket to your end table. Apple has been working on a standalone product to control internet-of-things devices for a while, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests that the company has moved the project from a research phase to prototyping. It would theoretically be pitted against other smart-home devices, including Amazon's sleeper hit, the Echo, and Google's forthcoming Home Hub. According to the report, Apple's device would be controlled using its Siri voice assistant technology. It would be able to perform the same functions that it can complete now on iPhones, Macs, and other Apple products, such as being able to tell you when the San Francisco Giants are next playing, or possibly send a poorly transcribed text message. The device would also be able to control other internet-connected devices in the home, such as lights, door locks, and web-enabled appliances, as Google and Amazon's products can. It would also have the same ability to play music through built-in speakers.
IOS

19-Year-Old Jailbreaks iPhone 7 In 24 Hours (vice.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: 19-year-old hacker qwertyoruiop, aka Luca Todesco, jailbroke the new iPhone 7 just 24 hours after he got it, in what's the first known iPhone 7 jailbreak. Todesco tweeted a screenshot of a terminal where he has "root," alongside the message: "This is a jailbroken iPhone 7." He even has video proof of the jailbreak. Motherboard reports: "He also said that he could definitely submit the vulnerabilities he found to Apple, since they fall under the newly launched bug bounty, but he hasn't decided whether to do that yet. The hacker told me that he needs to polish the exploits a bit more to make the jailbreak 'smoother,' and that he is also planning to make this jailbreak work through the Safari browser just like the famous 'jailbreakme.com,' which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone 4 just by clicking on a link." Apple responded to the news by saying, "Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks iOS."
Patents

'Corporate Troll' Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Apple For Ring-Silencing Patent (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.
Businesses

Apple Approaches McLaren About A Potential Acquisition: FT (ft.com) 136

Apple has approached British Formula One team owner McLaren for a strategic investment or a potential buyout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), the Financial Times reported, citing sources. The loss-making automotive group could be valued at around $1.4 billion. A deal with McLaren, which also makes high-performance sports cars, could give Apple key automotive technology amid reports that the company is working on a self-driving car. From the report:The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago. Update: 09/21 17:31 GMT by M :The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, is now reporting the same. The publication additional says that Apple has also held talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition.
Communications

Google Allo Messaging App Launches For iOS and Android (phonedog.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes: Google has officially launched their long-awaited messaging app for iOS and Android, called Google Allo. There are several unique features associated with this app that Google hopes will win you over. Smart Reply lets you respond to messages with just a tap, so you can send a quick "yup" in response to a friend asking "Are you on your way?" It will also suggest responses for photos. For example, if you send a picture of a dog, Smart Reply might suggest a heart emoji or "Super cute!" message, which you can select and send with a tap. Google says Smart Reply will improve over time and adjust to your style. You can also send large or small text and emojis, as well as draw on pictures. There's an incognito mode that will activate end-to-end encryption, discreet notifications, and message expiration on your chats. Arguably best of all is the Google Assistant that can be added to your chats to automatically cater useful information to you depending on what is being conversed in the chat. For example, it can deliver news, weather, traffic, sports or your upcoming flight status to your chat. You can also ask your Assistant to "share that funny YouTube video or play games with friends right in your group chat." Google Allo is rolling out to Android and iOS starting today.
Patents

Apple Patents a Paper Bag (theguardian.com) 201

mspohr writes: Continuing its leadership in innovation, Apple has patented a paper bag. We all remember the groundbreaking "rounded corners" innovation, now we have a paper bag! Just try to make your own paper bag and you'll be speaking with Apple lawyers. (Note: In fairness to Apple, this is a "special" paper bag which is stronger due to numerous improvements on your ordinary recycled paper bag -- just don't try to copy it.) The patent application summarizes the bag as follows: "A paper bag is disclosed. The paper bag may include a bag container formed of white solid bleached sulfate paper with at least 60% post-consumer content." Apple's patented paper bags are designed to be sturdy, while remaining "both pearly white and environmentally friendly." Let's just hope they don't remove the handles...
Desktops (Apple)

macOS Sierra Is Now Available For Download (engadget.com) 200

Dave Knott writes: Apple's latest desktop operating system, macOS Sierra, is now available for download. In addition to the Siri virtual assistant hitting the desktop for the first time, the free update includes features like a universal clipboard, revamped Messages, a storage optimization tool, and Apple Pay on the web.Engadget has also tested the new operating system and gave it a fairly positive review. It notes that Siri integration is "useful, if you already use Siri," and that iCloud and storage improvements have "practical benefits for everyone." But at the same time, the publication found that Siri "isn't always smart enough."
Music

It Took a Couple Decades, But the Music Business Looks Like It's Okay Again (recode.net) 125

According to latest number from RIAA, music sales in the first half of the year were up 8.4 percent, to $3.4 billion -- the best performance the music industry has seen since its peak days back in the CD era. Recode adds: That boom is fueled entirely by the growth of paid subscription services. This year's numbers include Apple Music, which didn't exist a year ago but has 17 million worldwide subscribers today, as well as Spotify, which has been growing faster than Apple and has 40 million global subs. Digital downloads via stores like iTunes, meanwhile, are falling behind. Those sales dropped 17 percent to $1 billion. And some people still buy CDs, but soon that business will be a footnote: Those sales dropped 14 percent and now make up just 20 percent of U.S. sales. All good, right? Not according to Cary Sherman, who runs the RIAA, the labels' American trade group. He has a Medium post complaining that YouTube doesn't pay enough for all the music it streams, almost all of which is free.
Iphone

iPhone 7 Plus Makes Hissing Sound Under Load, Some Users Complain (businessinsider.com) 195

Several commendable users are complaining that their iPhone 7 Plus handsets are making a "hissing" noise especially when they do some heavy weight work. Some users note that this issue extends to the iPhone 7 as well. BusinessInsider reports:Stephen Hackett, cofounder of podcast network Relay FM, tweeted that his iPhone 7 Plus "makes terrible noises when under load," and shared an audio clip of the noise. TechCrunch writer (and former Apple employee) Darrell Etherington responded that his "brand new, just-unboxed [device is] doing the same thing right now." It sounds like the problem isn't affecting all devices, and it's not immediately clear what's behind it. Hackett said on Twitter that Apple will be replacing his device with a new one, which suggests it's a defect rather than just an unexpected quirk of the new smartphone's design. There's some speculation out there as to what's causing it - but nothing concrete yet. Engadget's Jon Fingas suggests it could be "coil whine," a process where electronics make an unintended noise while working, for example.
Open Source

Apple Releases Swift 3.0, 'Not Source-Compatibile With Swift 2.3' (infoworld.com) 148

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld: "Move fast and break things," the saying goes. Apple does both with the 3.0 version of its Swift programming language...its first full point revision since it became an open source project... In a blog post detailing the full body of changes for Swift 3.0, Apple singled out the two biggest breaking changes. The first is better translation of Objective-C APIs into Swift, meaning that code imported from Objective-C and translated into Swift will be more readable and Swift-like. The bad news is any code previously imported from Objective-C into Swift will not work in Swift 3; it will need to be re-imported.

The other major change... Most every item referenced in the standard library has been renamed to be less wordy. But again, this brings bad news for anyone with an existing Swift codebase: Apple says "the proposed changes are massively source-breaking for Swift code, and will require a migrator to translate Swift 2 code into Swift 3 code."

Apple will provide migration tools in version 8.0 of their XCode IDE, "but such tools go only so far," notes the article, questioning what will happen to the Linux and Windows ports of Swift.
Education

Code.org Disses Wolfram Language, Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds (edsurge.com) 240

America is changing the way it teaches computer science. "There are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation," according to an announcement this week by the White House, while a new Advance Placement course "will be offered in more than 2,000 U.S. classrooms this fall...the largest course launch in the history of the AP exam." But what's the best way to teach coding? theodp reports: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms. (A day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President's call to action" for CS for All).

Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn't provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it's a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students."

The submission ultimately asks how should computer science be taught to teenagers. "Would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?"
Encryption

How The FBI Might've Opened the San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone 5c (schneier.com) 66

"Remember the San Bernardino killer's iPhone, and how the FBI maintained that they couldn't get the encryption key without Apple providing them with a universal backdoor?" Slashdot reader LichtSpektren quotes Bruce Schneier: Many of us computer-security experts said that they were wrong, and there were several possible techniques they could use. One of them was manually removing the flash chip from the phone, extracting the memory, and then running a brute-force attack without worrying about the phone deleting the key. The FBI said it was impossible. We all said they were wrong. Now, Sergei Skorobogatov has proved them wrong.
Sergei's new paper describes "a real world mirroring attack on the Apple iPhone 5c passcode retry counter under iOS 9." The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronics distributors. By using the described and successful hardware mirroring process it was possible to bypass the limit on passcode retry attempts... Although the process can be improved, it is still a successful proof-of-concept project.
IOS

iPhone 7 Home Button Now Requires Skin Contact To Work (todaysiphone.com) 167

Gone are the days of pressing the home button of your iPhone with an inanimate object. With the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the home button can only be activated when in contact with skin. TodaysiPhone reports: The new "solid-state" Home button found in the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus appears to require skin contact to function. As the season gets colder, and as people put gloves on, users will quickly realize that attempting to unlock the iPhone with said gloves or with a sleeve of a shirt over your finger will not work. And with the new lock screen in iOS 10, there's no way to bring up the passcode screen without pressing the Home button. Tests have shown that using gloves designed for touch screens will get an iPhone 6s Plus to unlock but not an iPhone 7 Plus. As most of us know, the Home button in the iPhone 7 is no longer a physical button -- it sits flush and uses the iPhone's haptic feedback to give the sensation of a button press. Because the button requires skin contact, it's lead us to believe that the Home button on the iPhone 7 uses Touch ID to figure out if you're pressing the button. The report notes that Carl Hancock on Twitter was able to activate the Home button using gloves made to work specifically with touch screens. The reason (in a nutshell) why we cannot interact with the capacitive Home button when wearing gloves is because the gloves block the body's natural conductivity -- humans conduct electricity and Apple's new Home button (as well as most touch screens) has an electrical charge. On the flip side, the reason why the Home button registers our skin is because it distorts the screen's electrostatic field at the point of contact, thus triggering an action.
Desktops (Apple)

23 Years Later: the Apple II Receives Another OS Update (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Yesterday, software developer John Brooks released what is clearly a work of pure love: the first update to an operating system for the Apple II computer family since 1993. ProDOS 2.4, released on the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Apple II GS, brings the enhanced operating system to even older Apple II systems, including the original Apple ][ and ][+. Which is pretty remarkable, considering the Apple ][ and ][+ don't even support lower-case characters. You can test-drive ProDOS 2.4 in a Web-based emulator set up by computer historian Jason Scott on the Internet Archive. The release includes Bitsy Bye, a menu-driven program launcher that allows for navigation through files on multiple floppy (or hacked USB) drives. Bitsy Bye is an example of highly efficient code: it runs in less than 1 kilobyte of RAM. There's also a boot utility that is under 400 bytes -- taking up a single block of storage on a disk. The report adds: "In addition to the Bitsy Boot boot utility, the ProDOS 2.4 'floppy' includes a collection of utilities, including a MiniBas tiny BASIC interpreter, disk imaging programs to move files from physical floppies to USB and other disk storage, file utilities, and the 'Unshrink' expander for uncompressing files archived with Shrinkit."
Education

Laurene Jobs Awards $10M To Pet Charter School Network of Zuckerberg, Gates 51

theodp writes: The XQ Institute -- a nonprofit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve's widow) -- announced the winners of its $100 million competition (Warning: may be paywalled) to rethink the American high school this week. Among the 10 lucky schools winning a $10M grant was Summit Elevate ("a new high school planning to open in Fall 2018"), part of the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-supported Summit Charter Schools network (HP CEO Meg Whitman is on Summit's Board). In announcing the grant, XQ praised Basecamp, Summit's personalized learning software platform that was developed by Facebook engineers, which Bill Gates has spent $1+ million on to get schools to adopt it (the NY Times characterized the Facebook-Summit partnership as "more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools"). U.S. education, it seems, is becoming The Game of Billionaires -- at last May's NewSchools Venture Summit, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (now working for Jobs) was interviewed by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Gates Foundation Program Director Jim Shelton (now working for Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan).
Iphone

Apple Replaced the Headphone Jack On the iPhone 7 With a Fake Speaker Grill (businessinsider.com) 248

Not long ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why the company felt a need to remove the headphone jack from the new iPhones -- the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. He said, "that jack takes up a lot of space in the phone, a lot of space. And there's a lot of more important things we can provide for the consumer than that jack." His colleague Phil Schiller cited "courage" for the same. As people learn to live in a world where they have to use a dongle to use their existing pair of headphones, gadget repair community iFixit found today that Apple isn't really using that "extra space" it got after getting rid of the headphone jack. BusinessInsider reports: "In place of the headphone jack, we find a component that seems to channel sound from outside the phone into the microphone... or from the Taptic Engine out," they write. Yep -- in the place where the headphone jack used to be there's a piece of molded plastic. "No fancy electronics here, just some well-designed acoustics and molded plastic," iFixit writes.iFixit adds, "Closer inspection shows a new, second lower speaker grille that leads ... nowhere? Interesting." Update: 09/16 21:21 GMT by M : Apple says it's a "barometric vent." The Verge reports: Apparently adding all the waterproofing to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus meant that it was more of a sealed box, and so to be able to have an accurate and working barometer, Apple used that space. The barometer is the thing that allows a phone to measure altitude, and Apple points out that on the iPhone 7 it can measure even minor changes like climbing a flight of stairs.
Businesses

Apple Japan Unit Ordered To Pay $118M Tax For Underreporting Income (reuters.com) 45

Apple's unit in Japan was ordered to pay 12 billion yen, or $118 million tax by local authorities after they determined it had underreported income. Apple has since reportedly paid the sum. From a Reuters report: The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau determined that the unit, which sends part of its profits earned from fees paid by Japan subscribers to another Apple unit in Ireland to pay for software licensing, had not been paying a withholding tax on those earnings in Japan, according to broadcaster NHK. Apple and other multinational companies have come under much tax scrutiny from governments around the world. The European Union has ordered Apple to pay Ireland 13 billion euros ($14.6 billion) in back taxes after ruling it had received illegal state aid. Apple and Dublin plan to appeal the ruling, arguing the tax treatment was in line with EU law.

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