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Programming

Slashdot's Interview With Swift Creator Chris Lattner 40

You asked, he answered! The creator of Apple's Swift programming language (and a self-described "long-time reader/fan of Slashdot") stopped by on his way to a new job at Tesla just to field questions from Slashdot readers. Read on for Chris's answers...
China

Viral Chinese Selfie App Meitu, Valued at Over $5 Billion, Phones Home With Personal Data (theregister.co.uk) 79

The Meitu selfie horrorshow app going viral through Western audiences is a privacy nightmare, researchers say. The app, which has been featured on several popular outlets including the NYTimes, USA Today, and NYMag, harvests information about the devices on which it runs, includes invasive advertising tracking features and is just badly coded. From a report: But worst of all, the free app appears to be phoning some to share personal data with its makers. Meitu, a Chinese production, includes in its code up to three checks to determine if an iPhone handset is jailbroken, according to respected forensics man Jonathan Zdziarski, a function to grab mobile provider information, and various analytics capabilities. Zdziarski says the app also appears to build a unique device profile based in part on a handset's MAC address. "Meitu is a throw-together of multiple analytics and marketing/ad tracking packages, with something cute to get people to use it," Zdziarski says. Unique phone IMEI numbers are shipped to dozens of Chinese servers, malware researcher FourOctets found. The app, which was valued at over $5 billion last year due its popularity, seeks access to device and app history; accurate location; phone status; USB, photos, and files storage read and write; camera; Wifi connections; device ID & call information; full network access, run at startup, and prevent device from sleeping on Android phones.
EU

Apple Increases App Store Prices By 25% Following Brexit Vote (theguardian.com) 169

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
Desktops (Apple)

Malwarebytes Discovers 'First Mac Malware of 2017' (securityweek.com) 60

wiredmikey writes: Security researchers have a uncovered a Mac OS based espionage malware they have named "Quimitchin." The malware is what they consider to be "the first Mac malware of 2017," which appears to be a classic espionage tool. While it has some old code and appears to have existed undetected for some time, it works. It was discovered when an IT admin noticed unusual traffic coming from a particular Mac, and has been seen infecting Macs at biomedical facilities. From SecurityWeek.com: "Quimitchin comprises just two files: a .plist file that simply keeps the .client running at all times, and the .client file containing the payload. The latter is a 'minified and obfuscated' perl script that is more novel in design. It combines three components, Thomas Reed, director of Mac offerings at Malwarebytes and author of the blog post told SecurityWeek: 'a Mac binary, another perl script and a Java class tacked on at the end in the __DATA__ section of the main perl script. The script extracts these, writes them to /tmp/ and executes them.' Its primary purpose seems to be screen captures and webcam access, making it a classic espionage tool. Somewhat surprisingly the code uses antique system calls. 'These are some truly ancient functions, as far as the tech world is concerned, dating back to pre-OS X days,' he wrote in the blog post. 'In addition, the binary also includes the open source libjpeg code, which was last updated in 1998.' The script also contains Linux shell commands. Running the malware on a Linux machine, Malwarebytes 'found that -- with the exception of the Mach-O binary -- everything ran just fine.' It is possible that there is a specific Linux variant of the malware in existence -- but the researchers have not been able to find one. It did find two Windows executable files, courtesy of VirusTotal, that communicated with the same CC server. One of them even used the same libjpeg library, which hasn't been updated since 1998, as that used by Quimitchin."
AT&T

AT&T Shuts Down 2G Network, Ends Cellular Connectivity For Original iPhone (macrumors.com) 128

ATT yesterday announced that its 2G wireless network was officially shut down on January 1, 2017. Since the network is no longer active, it means that, as the Verge points out, the original first-generation iPhone (also known as the iPhone 2G) will no longer receive cellular service from ATT's network. If you still happen to use an iPhone 2G, it may be time to upgrade or list it on eBay. Mac Rumors reports: Few people appear to have been using the original iPhone as there were no complaints from iPhone owners two weeks ago when the network was shuttered, but going forward, customers who keep the device as part of a collection will only be able to use it on WiFi. Originally released in June of 2007 and discontinued in 2008, the first iPhone was made obsolete by Apple back in 2013, and it has not received software updates since the 2009 release of iPhone OS 3, later renamed iOS 3. According to ATT, shutting down its 2G network frees up valuable spectrum for future network technologies, including 5G. ATT says the spectrum will be repurposed for LTE.
Youtube

Safari Users Unable to Play Newer 4K Video On YouTube in Native Resolution (macrumors.com) 124

It appears Google recently turned on VP9 codec on YouTube for delivering 4K video. However, because of this, Safari users are unable to watch videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution. From a report: Specifically, YouTube appears to be storing video on its servers using either the more efficient VP9 codec or the older H.264 codec. Safari only supports the latter, which explains why recently uploaded 4K videos are only able to be viewed in up to 1440p. Funnily enough, the same videos can be streamed by Safari in native 4K as long as they're embedded in another website, suggesting that the VP9 codec support requirement only applies to videos viewed directly on YouTube's website. Until Apple updates Safari to support the VP9 codec, Mac users who want to access newer 4K video on YouTube in native 2160p resolution are advised to use a different browser.John Gruber of DaringFireball writes, "I'm curious what Google's thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though."
Chrome

Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC (theverge.com) 79

Audiophiles are getting a new way to listen to one of the top formats for lossless music. From a report: Google has begun adding FLAC support to Chrome, and it should be rolling out to the masses very soon. FLAC support is already live in Chrome's beta build and it's live in the current version of Chrome OS, too. If you have local FLAC files or come across one on the web, the added support allows Chrome to open it up in a completely bare-bones music player that takes over the entire tab. It's not exactly elegant, but it works. And it means that Mac users with Chrome installed will have an easy way to play back FLAC files should they come across one. While there are plenty of apps that can handle FLAC -- VLC being a popular one -- no native macOS app is capable of it. Windows 10, on the other hand, includes native support.
Operating Systems

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros (macrumors.com) 164

Consumer Reports has updated their report on the 2016 MacBook Pros, and is now recommending Apple's latest notebooks. MacRumors reports: In the new test, conducted running a beta version of macOS that fixes the Safari-related bug that caused erratic battery life in the original test, all three MacBook Pro models "performed well." The 13-inch model without a Touch Bar had an average battery life of 18.75 hours, the 13-inch model with a Touch Bar lasted for 15.25 hours on average, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar had an average battery life of 17.25 hours. "Now that we've factored in the new battery-life measurements, the laptops' overall scores have risen, and all three machines now fall well within the recommended range in Consumer Reports ratings," reports Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports originally denied the 2016 MacBook Pro a purchase recommendation in late December due to extreme battery life variance that didn't match up with Apple's 10 hour battery life claim. Apple worked with Consumer Reports to figure out why the magazine encountered battery life issues, which led to the discovery of an obscure Safari caching bug. Consumer Reports used a developer setting to turn off Safari caching, triggering an "obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons" that drained excessive battery. The bug, fixed by Apple in macOS Sierra 10.12.3 beta 3, is not one the average user will encounter as most people don't turn off the Safari caching option, but it's something done in all Consumer Reports tests to ensure uniform testing conditions. A fix for the issue will be available to the general public when macOS Sierra 10.12.3 is released, but users can get it now by signing up for Apple's beta testing program.
Chrome

Latest Adobe Acrobat Reader Update Silently Installs Chrome Extension (bleepingcomputer.com) 145

An anonymous reader writes: The latest Adobe Acrobat Reader security update (15.023.20053), besides delivering security updates, also secretly installs the Adobe Acrobat extension in the user's Chrome browser. There is no mention of this "special package" on Acrobat's changelog, and surprise-surprise, the extension comes with anonymous data collection turned on by default. Bleeping Computer reports: "This extension allows users to save any web page they're on as a PDF file and share it or download it to disk. The extension is also Windows-only, meaning Mac and Linux Chrome users will not receive it. The extension requests the following permissions: Read and change all your data on the websites you visit; Manage your downloads; Communicate with cooperating native applications. According to Adobe, extension users 'share information with Adobe about how [they] use the application. The information is anonymous and will help us improve product quality and features,' Adobe also says. 'Since no personally identifiable information is collected, the anonymous data will not be meaningful to anyone outside of Adobe.'"
Portables (Apple)

Consumer Reports Updates Its MacBook Pro Review (consumerreports.org) 246

Reader TheFakeTimCook writes: Last month, the new MacBook Pro failed to receive a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports due to battery life issues that it encountered during testing. Apple subsequently said it was working with Consumer Reports to understand the results, which it said do not match its "extensive lab tests or field data." According to an article from Consumer Reports, Apple has since concluded its work, and says it learned that Consumer Reports was using a "hidden Safari setting" which triggered an "obscure and intermittent bug" that led to inconsistent battery life results. With "normal user settings" enabled, Apple said Consumer Reports "consistently" achieved expected battery life. Apple stated: "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life." Apple said it has fixed the Safari bug in the latest macOS Sierra beta seeded to developers and public testers this week.
Businesses

Apple's Share of PC Users Drops To A Five-Year Low (infoworld.com) 228

Windows 10 is installed on 24.5% of devices -- but that's only half the story. "Apple's Mac share of personal computers worldwide fell to a five-year low in December," reports Computerworld, adding that Linux and Windows "both benefited, with increases of around a half percentage point during 2016." An anonymous reader quotes their report: According to web analytics vendor Net Applications, Apple's desktop and notebook operating system -- formerly OS X, now macOS -- powered just 6.1% of all personal computers last month, down from 7% a year ago and a peak of 9.6% as recently as April 2016... The Mac's 6.1% user share in December was the lowest mark recorded by Net Applications since August 2011, more than five years ago... In October, the company reported sales of 4.9 million Macs for the September quarter, a 14% year-over-year decline and the fourth straight quarterly downturn. Apple's sales slide during the past 12 months has been steeper than for the personal computer industry as a whole, according to industry researchers from IDC and Gartner, a 180-degree shift from the prior 30 or so quarters, when the Mac's growth rate repeatedly beat the business average.
Apple's success through 2016 was "fueled by Microsoft's stumbles with Windows 8 and a race-to-the-bottom mentality among rival OEMs," according to the article, which also notes that the user share for Linux exceeded 2% in June, and reached 2.3% by November.
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Microsoft

Minecraft Has Now Sold Over 25 Million Copies on PC and Mac (neowin.net) 90

An anonymous reader shares a Neowin article: Minecraft is a 3D video game created by Markus Persson, and published on PC by Mojang back in 2011. Ever since its release, it's been very popular and has become a global phenomenon. Received positively by reviewers and consumers alike, it has been a commercial success. In fact, its continuing popularity prompted Microsoft to buy Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014. It so happens that the game has sold over 25 million copies on PC and Mac to-date. According to the latest statistics publicly available on Mojang's website, Minecraft has sold 25,072,545 copies on PC and Mac.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Veteran On Apple: Company Has Become Sloppy, Missed Updates, Delayed Refreshes (chuqui.com) 293

Silicon Valley veteran Chuq Von Rospach's blog post, in which he has criticized Apple for the things it did last year, has received quite a few nods from developers, analysts and users alike. Von Rospach, who has previously worked at Apple, has lambasted at the company for, among other things, how it has handled the Mac Pro, a lineup that hasn't seen any refresh in ages, and the AirPort routers, which too have been reportedly abandoned. From the post:Back when I was running most of Apple's e-mail systems for the marketing teams, I went to them and suggested that we should consider dumping the text-only part of the emails we were building, because only about 4% of users used them and it added a significant amount of work to the process of creation and testing each e-mail. Their response? That it was a small group of people, but a strategic one, since it was highly biased towards developers and power users. So the two-part emails stayed -- and they were right. It made no sense from a business standpoint to continue to develop these emails as both HTML [and] text, but it made significant strategic sense. It was an investment in keeping this key user base happy with Apple. Apple, from all indications I've seen over the last year and with the configurations they've shipped with these new laptops, has forgotten this, and the product configurations seem designed by what will fit the biggest part of the user base with the fewest configuration options. They've chopped off the edges of the bell curve -- and big chunks of their key users with them. The most daunting sentence from his post, according to Nitin Ganatra, who worked at Apple for 18 years and headed engineering of iOS, is, "If you just look at the numbers, things are okay."
Security

Norton Announces Core, a Smart Router To Protect Domestic IoT Devices (cnet.com) 119

fiannaFailMan writes: Norton has announced the launch of a smart router designed to protect connected home devices from intrusions. The Symantec-owned company says the device aims to keep safe up to 20 devices connected to it, including Windows computers, Macs, phones, tablets or any internet-of-things devices, in real time. Norton Core, shaped a little like a geodesic dome, can isolate an infected device from the rest of your network to prevent the spread of any malware. Some of the technical specifications include a dual-core 1.7GHz processor, 1MB of system memory and 4GB of flash memory, and the latest 4x4 AC2600 Wi-Fi standard, with a top speed on the 5GHz band of 1.73 megabits per second and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. It also features four Gigabit LAN ports and can cover between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet.
Stats

Apple Tops Holiday Sales With 44 Percent of All New Device Activations (macrumors.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: Apple's iPhone and iPad were the most popular mobile devices gifted during the holidays this year, according to new data shared by Yahoo-owned mobile analytics firm Flurry. Flurry examined device activations by manufacturer between 12/19 and 12/25, finding Apple devices to be twice as popular as Samsung devices. 44 percent of all new phone activations were Apple iPhones, while Samsung smartphones accounted for 21 percent of activations. Huawei, LG, Amazon, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Motorola trailed behind with between two and three percent of activations each. Google's Pixel smartphone, which came out in October, did not make Flurry's list. Last year, Flurry released a similar report, and Apple devices made up 49.1 percent of all device activations, while Samsung devices came in at 19.8 percent. Phablets, or smartphones and tablets ranging in size from 5 inches to 6.9 inches, continued to grow in popularity. In 2016, the phablets category, which includes the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and 7 Plus, was responsible for 37 percent of total device activations. Medium-sized phones, like the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7, were responsible for 45 percent of all activations. Activations of full-sized tablets, like the iPad, have continued to wane. From Flurry's report: "While Samsung is slowly growing in popularity throughout the holiday season, up 1% from last year, Apple devices continue to be the gift to give. Holding the third and fourth positions for activations are Huawei and LG; which is remarkable, as both manufacturers do not have an individual device within the top 35 devices activated. Their high rank is likely due to the fact that they have wide variety of devices and affordable options (hundreds of phablet and medium phones) for consumers to choose from."
IOS

BitTorrent Live's 'Cable Killer' P2P Video App Finally Hits iOS (techcrunch.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: BitTorrent has now done for live video what it did for file downloads: invented peer-to-peer technology that moves the burden of data transfer from a centralized source to the crowd. Instead of cables and satellites, BitTorrent piggybacks on the internet bandwidth of its users. Since P2P live streaming is so much cheaper than traditional ways to deliver live content, BitTorrent could pay channel owners more for distribution per viewer. And BitTorrent can offer that content to viewers for free or much cheaper than a cable subscription. The transfer technology and the app that aggregates these channels are both called BitTorrent Live. Now, almost a year after the protocol's debut on smart TVs, and six months after it was supposed to arrive on iPhone, the BitTorrent Live app quietly became available on iOS this week. Until now it's only existed on Mac, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV -- much less popular platforms. And that's after being in development since 2009. The app features 15 channels, including NASA TV, France One, QVC Home and TWiT (This Week In Tech) that you can watch live. The latency is roughly 10 seconds, which could be faster than terrestrial cable, as well as systems like Sling TV that can delay content more than a minute. The problem right now is that BitTorrent Live has a pretty lackluster channel selection. It's still working on striking deals with more name-brand channels. It could offer some for pay-per-view, but cheaper than the same content on traditional TV due to the reduced broadcasting costs.
Portables (Apple)

2016 MacBook Pro Fails To Receive a Recommendation From Consumer Reports (9to5mac.com) 212

Consumer Reports has released its evaluation of the new MacBook Pro laptops, and it's not good. The 2016 MacBook Pro is the first MacBook to fail to receive a recommendation from the nonprofit organization dedicated to unbiased product testing. 9to5Mac reports: In a post breaking down the decision not to recommend the new MacBook Pros, Consumer Reports explains that while the new models held up well in terms of display quality and performance, the battery life issues were too big of an issue to overlook. The organization tested three MacBook Pro variants: a 13-inch Touch Bar model, a 15-inch Touch Bar model, and a 13-inch model without the Touch Bar. The general consensus was that "MacBook Pro battery life results were highly inconsistent from one trial to the next." Consumer Reports explains that the 13-inch Touch Bar model saw battery life of 16 hours in one test and 3.75 hours in another, while the non-Touch Bar model maxed out at 19.5 hours, but also lasted just 4.5 hours in another test. The 15-inch model ranged from 18.5 hours to 8 hours. Generally, according to the report, it's expected for battery life to vary from one trial to another by less than 5 percent, meaning that the battery life variances with the new MacBook Pro are very abnormal. Once that was completed, Consumer Reports experimented by conducting the same test using Chrome and "found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs." While the organization can't let that affect its final decision due to its protocol to only use the first-party browser, it's something users may want to try.
Desktops (Apple)

Raspberry Pi's Linux-Based PIXEL Desktop Now Available For PC and Mac (betanews.com) 50

From a report on BetaNews: If you own a Raspberry Pi, you're probably familiar with PIXEL. The desktop environment is included in the Raspbian OS. The Raspberry Pi Foundation describes PIXEL as the "GNU/Linux we would want to use" and understandably so. It offers a smart, clean interface, a decent selection of software, the Chromium web browser with plug-ins, and more -- and from today it's available for PC and Mac. The version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms is described as "experimental" but having taken it for a spin, it seems pretty stable to me. To run PIXEL on your PC or Mac, download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB memory stick, and boot from it. The desktop environment will load ready for use.
Iphone

Nokia Sues Apple, Claims Patent Infringement in iPhone and Other Devices (marketwatch.com) 77

Nokia today announced a number of patent infringement complaints against Apple in Europe and the U.S. courts. There are 32 patents in total that Nokia claims Apple infringed, covering technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. From a report on MarketWatch: Nokia said Apple agreed to license a few of Nokia Technologies' patents in 2011, but has declined offers by Nokia since then to license other patents whose inventions have been used in Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, and the Mac. The lawsuits, filed in a Munich, Germany, regional court and a district court in Texas, cover technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. Nokia said it's in the process of filing further actions in other jurisdictions as well. "After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights," said Ilkka Rahnasto, head of patent business at Nokia.

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