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Apple's Annual Sales Fall For First Time Since 2001 ( 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Apple just posted its first annual sales decline since 2001, the year it launched the iPod and kicked off a tremendous run of groundbreaking products. The tech company revealed Tuesday that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, from a record $234 billion in 2015. The sales decline is closely connected to the falling sales for the iPhone, which remains Apple's largest source of revenue. Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the September quarter, down from 48 million iPhones in the same quarter a year earlier. That marks the third consecutive quarter when iPhone sales and overall revenue have declined from a year prior. Many analysts have raised concerns that the global smartphone market is saturated. Customers are taking longer to replace their phones. And Apple's latest iPhone is a dead ringer for the previous two models, eliminating some of the desire to upgrade. The good news is that this sales decline may prove to be a blip and not the new norm. Apple is projecting that it will post sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion a year earlier.

Apple Has Created 'Detailed Mockups' of iMessage For Android ( 58

One of the biggest features on iOS that isn't available on Android is iMessage, an instant messaging service that allows users to send information over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and other forms of internet access to other iOS or OS X users. Earlier this year, there were been rumors swirling around the possibility of the service coming to Android due to Apple's increased focus on services, "which means opening up certain avenues beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms." Today, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has added fuel to the fire by mentioning that he's "heard from little birdies" that a handful of "detailed mockups" of iMessage for Android have been shared around Apple. MacRumors reports: The user interface of the Android app is said to have gone through numerous designs, from one that looks identical to the version on iOS, to another that has a "pure Material Design," using Google's design language it developed a few years ago. Gruber still thinks iMessage on Android "might happen sooner or later," mainly because of iMessage's new monetized Messages App Store, which could net Apple increased income in its already profitable services category if it translated the app to Android. Apple undoubtedly created mockups for all types of products and services, the vast majority of which never make it to release, and it's unclear exactly how far along the iMessage for Android preliminary designs were at the time of their circulation through Apple, or when exactly that occurred. Still, Gruber notes that while an Android version of iMessage "may never see the light of day," even the existence of such mockups "strongly suggests that there's no 'of course not' to it."

The Phone Hackers At Cellebrite Have Had Their Firmware Leaked Online ( 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in digital forensics, has dominated the market in helping law enforcement access mobile phones. But one apparent reseller of the company's products is publicly distributing copies of Cellebrite firmware and software for anyone to download. Although Cellebrite keeps it most sensitive capabilities in-house, the leak may still give researchers, or competitors, a chance to figure out how Cellebrite breaks into and analyzes phones by reverse-engineering the files. The apparent reseller distributing the files is McSira Professional Solutions, which, according to its website, "is pleased to serve police, military and security agencies in the E.U. And [sic] in other parts of the world." McSira is hosting software for various versions of Cellebrite's Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), hardware that investigators can use to bypass the security mechanisms of phones, and then extract data from them. McSira allows anyone to download firmware for the UFED Touch, and a PC version called UFED 4PC. It is also hosting pieces of Cellebrite forensic software, such as the UFED Cloud Analyzer. This allows investigators to further scrutinize seized data. McSira is likely offering downloads so customers can update their hardware to the latest version with as little fuss as possible. But it may be possible for researchers to take those files, reverse-engineer them, and gain insight into how Cellebrite's tools work. That may include what sort of exploits Cellebrite uses to bypass the security mechanisms of mobile phones, and weaknesses in the implementation of consumer phones that could be fixed, according to one researcher who has started to examine the files, but was not authorised by his employer to speak to the press about this issue.
Desktops (Apple)

It Looks Like Apple is Killing the Physical Esc and Power Keys On New MacBook Pro 352

Curious minds on the internet have uncovered an image file on their Mac, which was added by Apple in the latest macOS update. The image reveals a new laptop that fully fits the description of rumored MacBook Pro, which Apple is expected to launch on October 27. The laptop in the picture has what seems like a "contextual" OLED display (some are calling it Magic Toolbar display) on the top. What's interesting from that picture is that there's no physical Escape key or Power key to be found anywhere.

Editor's note: We usually tend to avoid covering leaks and rumors, but several readers pitched the story to us, and media outlets are also covering it now, which adds some credibility to the matter.

Seth's Blog: Hardware is Sexy, But It's Software that Matters ( 77

American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin argues that though hardware is nice and dandy, it is the software that matters. And not just software that runs on a computer, "but the metaphorical idea of rules and algorithms designed to solve problems and connect people," he writes. Godin has used the piece to note how Apple has increasingly grown focused on hardware, and as a result, it's not putting much effort to fixing its software. He writes, "Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it's free, no competitors. Keynote, a presentation program that hasn't been improved in years. iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty. iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon. No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they've stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new." From the article: Software can change faster than hardware, which means that in changing markets, bet on software. It's tempting to treat the user interface as a piece of fashion, some bling, a sort of jewelry. It's not. It's the way your user controls the tool you build. Change it when it stops working, not when you're bored with it. Every time you change the interface, you better have a really good reason.John Gruber disagrees. He writes: Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don't lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can't even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable -- there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It's unsettling.

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus ( 50

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.

Most 'Genuine' Apple Chargers and Cables Sold on Amazon Are Fake, Apple Says ( 191

Apple says it bought Apple chargers and cables labeled as genuine on and found that nearly 90 percent of them to be counterfeit. The revelation comes in a federal lawsuit the company filed against a New Jersey company over what Apple says are fake products that were sold on Amazon. Engadget reports: When Apple got in touch with Amazon about the issue, the website told the former that it got most of its chargers from Mobile Star LLC. The iPhone-maker stressed that since counterfeit cables and chargers don't go through consumer safety testing and could be poorly designed, they're prone to overheating and catching fire. They might even electrocute users. Tim Cook and co. are now asking the court to issue an injunction against the defendant. They also want the court to order the seizure and destruction of all the fake chargers in addition to asking for damage

Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy ( 516

An anonymous reader shares a report on Yahoo (edited): Last year, Fletcher Previn became a cult figure of sorts in the world of enterprise IT. As IBM's VP of Workplace as a Service, Previn is the guy responsible for turning IBM (the company that invented the PC) into an Apple Mac house. Previn gave a great presentation at last year's Jamf tech conference where he said Macs were less expensive to support than Windows. Only 5% of IBM's Mac employees needed help desk support versus 40% of PC users. At that time, some 30,000 IBM employees were using Macs. Today 90,000 of them are, he said. And IBM ultimately plans to distribute 150,000 to 200,000 Macs to workers, meaning about half of IBM's approximately 370,000 employees will have Macs. Previn's team is responsible for all the company's PCs, not just the Macs. All told IBM's IT department supports about 604,000 laptops between employees and its 100,000+ contractors. Most of them are Windows machines -- 442,000 -- while 90,000 are Macs and 72,000 are Linux PCs. IBM is adding about 1,300 Macs a week, Previn said.

iPhone 7 Plus Qualcomm LTE Modem Significantly Outperforms Intel LTE Modem, Study Finds ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: With the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple elected to use LTE modems from two different sources, Qualcomm and Intel. The A1778 and A1784 iPhone models use a GSM-only Intel XMM7360 modem while the A1660 and 1661 iPhone models use a GSM/CDMA-compatible Qualcomm MDM9645M modem. Apple's decision has already caused some disappointment among customers because the GSM-only Intel modem is not compatible with as many carrier networks as the GSM/CDMA Qualcomm modem, and now independent testing conducted by Cellular Insights suggests there are some significant performance differences between the two modems, with the Qualcomm modem outperforming the Intel modem. Using an RS TS7124 RF Shielded Box, two RS CMW500, one RS CMWC controller, and four Vivaldi antennas, Cellular Insights created a setup to simulate LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower using two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one with an Intel modem and one with a Qualcomm modem. The goal of the test was to measure the highest achievable LTE throughput starting at a Reference Signal Received Quality of -85dBm (a strong signal) and gradually reducing the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower where signal is weaker. Three LTE bands were tested: Band 12, Band 4 (the most common band in North America), and Band 7. In all three tests, both the iPhone 7 Plus models offered similar performance in ideal conditions, but as power levels decreased, Cellular Insights saw "unexplainable sharp dips in performance" in the Intel modem, finding a gap "north of 30%" in favor of the Qualcomm iPhone 7 Plus. In the charts, the Qualcomm modem maintains noticeably higher throughput speeds than the Intel modem as signal strength decreases. According to Cellular Insights, in every single test, the iPhone 7 Plus with a Qualcomm modem "had a significant performance edge" over the iPhone 7 Plus with an Intel modem.

Higher-End Smartphones Make You Happier, Says JD Power Study ( 126

A new J.D. Power study published Thursday found that users who pay more for their smartphones report higher satisfaction than those who pay less for their smartphones. The study also found that among ATT and Sprint customers, Samsung phones ranked highest in overall satisfaction, while T-Mobile and Verizon customers preferred Apple iPhones. Jessica Dolcourt via CNET writes about the other conclusions made by the J.D. Power study: - Customers of ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon (full-service carriers) report more satisfaction than customers on Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile (co-contract carriers).
- Full-service customers pay an average of $361 for their phones compared with prepaid customers' $137 average.
-Customers who pay more for their phones report higher satisfaction.
- This is likely because high-cost phones perform better. (Editor's note: no duh)


Target Passes Walmart As Top US Corporate Installer of Solar Power ( 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Target is the top corporate installer of solar power in the USA with 147MW installed on 300 stores. Walmart is close behind with 140MW, while Ikea has installed solar on 90% of its retail locations. The Solar Energy Institute of America (SEIA) report shows over 1,000MW of solar installed in almost 2,000 unique installations by the largest corporate entities in the country. Additionally these groups have more than doubled their installation volume year on year, with 2015 seeing a total of 130MW, while 2016 is projected to be closer to 280MW. Big box retail locations offer some of the best potential spaces for solar power to be installed -- on top of square, flat structures and in previously built parking lots. The average size of an installation by a company in this group is about 500kW -- 75X the size of an average residential solar installation. The RE100 organization has signed up 81 global corporations (many on the SEIA list) who have pledged 100% renewable energy. "We're incredibly proud of the progress we've made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact. Our commitment to installing solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020 is evidence of that progress" -- said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target. The geographic breakdown of solar installations is based upon three main drivers -- good sunlight, expensive electricity and state level renewable mandates, with Southern California having all three. The northeast USA, with its expensive electricity and aggressive clean energy push, has been on par with California (50% of total solar) for commercial installations. A report put together by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) breaks down the various state level laws that support corporations going green -- and, without surprise, it becomes clear that the legal support of renewable energy is a definite driver.

Television Needs To Be Reinvented, Says Apple SVP ( 199

Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Service at Apple, isn't happy with the current state of how people watch TV. He said we currently live with a "glorified VCR," the interface of our current TV is the problem and we need to reinvent it. Cue pointed out a number of other issues he has with today's TV:"It's really hard to use [a cable box or satellite TV]. Setting something to record, if you didn't watch something last night, if you didn't set it to record, it's hard to find, it may not be available. There may be some rights issues," Cue said. "It's great to be able to tell your device, 'I wanna watch the Duke basketball game, I don't care what channel it's on.' I just want to watch the Duke basketball game. Today you got to bring in the TV, go through the guide, find which sports programs or whatever -- it's just hard to do."

China Overtakes the US in iOS App Store Revenue ( 53

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch: China has now overtaken the U.S. to become the largest market in the world for App Store revenue, according to a new report out this morning from app intelligence firm App Annie. The country earned over $1.7 billion in Q3 2016, which puts it ahead of the U.S. by over 15 percent. The U.S. had been the number one iOS market since 2010, the report notes. Today, Chinese consumers spend more than 5 times the amount they were spending compared with just two years prior. In addition, the report predicts that China will drive the largest absolute revenue growth for any country by 2020. The estimations are likely accurate -- App Annie had said at the beginning of the year that if China's rapid App Store revenue growth continued at the same pace, it would overtake the U.S. by year's end. And that has now occurred. This growth is largely being driven by games, and here, China's lead has also widened over the U.S. during the past quarter. Games drive 75 percent of App Store revenue, even though non-game apps make up the majority (75%) of those distributed in Apple's mobile marketplace.
Data Storage

32GB iPhone 7 Has 8 Times Slower Storage Performance Than 128GB Model ( 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Apple isn't telling you everything about its phones. Few weeks back, GSMArena reported that the 32GB iPhone 7 and 7 Plus had significantly slower storage performance than the 128GB and 256GB models of the device. In a new video, Unbox Therapy's Lew Hilsenteger conducted a series of speed tests that confirm the discrepancy in storage speeds between the different configurations of Apple's phone -- and it turns out the 32GB iPhone is about eight times slower than the larger capacity storage version of the device. For his first test, Hilsenteger used the free PerformanceTest Mobile app to compare the read and write speeds of the iPhone. While there was little difference between the read speeds of the 32GB and 128GB models, there's a huge disparity when it comes to write speed. The 32GB iPhone writes at 42MB per second, which is nearly eight times slower than the 128GB version's 341MB per second. Hilsenteger then performed a real-world speed test, which included transferring movies from a MacBook to the iPhone using a USB cable. While the 256GB model took two minutes and 34 seconds to complete the 4.2GB file transfer, the 32GB iPhone 7 needed a total of three minutes and 40 seconds for the same transmission.
Operating Systems

Researchers Bypass ASLR Protection On Intel Haswell CPUs ( 72

An anonymous reader writes: "A team of scientists from two U.S. universities has devised a method of bypassing ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) protection by taking advantage of the BTB (Branch Target Buffer), a component included in many modern CPU architectures, including Intel Haswell CPUs, the processor they used for tests in their research," reports Softpedia. The researchers discovered that by blasting the BTB with random data, they could run a successful collision attack that reveals the memory locations where apps execute code in the computer's memory -- the very thing that ASLR protection was meant to hide. While during their tests they used a Linux PC with a Intel Haswell CPU, researchers said the attack can be ported to other CPU architectures and operating systems where ASLR is deployed, such as Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. From start to finish, the collision attack only takes 60 milliseconds, meaning it can be embedded with malware or any other digital forensics tool and run without needing hours of intense CPU processing. You can read the research paper, titled "Jump Over ASLR: Attacking Branch Predictors to Bypass ASLR," here.

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