China

Apple Moves To Store iCloud Keys in China, Raising Human Rights Fears (reuters.com) 23

Apple will begin hosting Chinese users' iCloud accounts in a new Chinese data center at the end of this month to comply with new laws there. The move would give Chinese authorities far easier access to text messages, email and other data stored in the cloud. From a report: That's because of a change to how the company handles the cryptographic keys needed to unlock an iCloud account. Until now, such keys have always been stored in the United States, meaning that any government or law enforcement authority seeking access to a Chinese iCloud account needed to go through the U.S. legal system. Now, according to Apple , for the first time the company will store the keys for Chinese iCloud accounts in China itself. That means Chinese authorities will no longer have to use the U.S. courts to seek information on iCloud users and can instead use their own legal system to ask Apple to hand over iCloud data for Chinese users, legal experts said.
Cellphones

Apple Devices At California Repair Center Keep Calling 911 83

Since October 2017, Apple has made around 1,600 false alarm 911 calls from a distribution site in Elk Grove. "We've been seeing these calls for the last four months from Apple," said police dispatcher Jamie Hudson. "We're able to see quickly where the call is coming from, so when we get one from Apple, the address will come up with their location." CBS Sacramento reports: On average, Elk Grove Police say they've received 20 accidental 911 calls a day from Apple, roughly 1,600 calls since October. Hudson says the calls take valuable seconds away from calls that could be real life-and-death emergencies. "The times when it's greatly impacting us is when we have other emergencies happening and we may have a dispatcher on another 911 call that may have to put that call on hold to triage the incoming call," he said. The calls are all coming from an Apple repair and refurbishing center off Laguna Boulevard. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Communication Center is also getting these calls -- 47 since January 1. Dispatchers there say they sometimes hear technicians working in the background. Apple hasn't confirmed which of their devices is actually causing these calls: the iPhone or Apple watch, but both devices can be triggered easily. With just a touch of a button, SOS comes on and 911 is called.
Iphone

Soderbergh's Thriller Shot on iPhone Premieres in Berlin (reuters.com) 62

Director Steven Soderbergh said this week he so enjoyed making his psychological thriller "Unsane" on an iPhone, he would find it hard to go back to conventional filmmaking. From a report: "Unsane", which premieres at the Berlin film festival, was shot over just two weeks - way shorter than the months a movie usually takes. It tells the story of Sawyer Valentini, who moves to a new city to escape her stalker David but finds herself admitted to a mental health institution where he works.
Businesses

Apple In Talks To Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners (bloomberg.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom. The iPhone maker is one of the world's largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries. The talks show that the tech giant is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries are sufficient, with the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatening to create a shortage of the raw material. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones. Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer. Its first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were more than a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: What Do People Misunderstand or Underappreciate About Apple? (fastcompany.com) 478

In an interview with Fast Company, Apple CEO Tim Cook says people who have not used his company's products miss "how different Apple is versus other technology companies." A person who is just looking at the company's revenues and profits, says Cook, might think that Apple "is good at making money." But he says "that's not who we are. In Cook's view, Apple is: We're a group of people who are trying to change the world for the better, that's who we are. For us, technology is a background thing.

We don't want people to have to focus on bits and bytes and feeds and speeds. We don't want people to have to go to multiple [systems] or live with a device that's not integrated. We do the hardware and the software, and some of the key services as well, to provide a whole system. We do that in such a way that we infuse humanity into it. We take our values very seriously, and we want to make sure all of our products reflect those values. There are things like making sure that we're running our [U.S.] operations on 100% renewable energy, because we don't want to leave the earth worse than we found it. We make sure that we treat well all the people who are in our supply chain. We have incredible diversity, not as good as we want, but great diversity, and it's that diversity that yields products like this.
What do you think?
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'I've Only Had Good Years' (businessinsider.com) 84

Business Insider: Under CEO Tim Cook's watch, Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPhones, booked hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, and launched new products like AirPods and Apple Watch. In fact, Cook says, he's never had a bad year as CEO of Apple. "I've only had good years. No, seriously," he said in an interview with Fast Company. "Even when we were idling from a revenue point of view -- it was like $6 billion every year -- those were some incredibly good years because you could begin to feel the pipeline getting better, and you could see it internally. Externally, people couldn't see that," he continued.
Displays

Samsung To Cut OLED Production Due To Poor iPhone X Sales 150

Samsung's panel-making division, Samsung Display, is reportedly reducing OLED panel production at its South Chungcheong plant due to lower than expected iPhone X sales. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Samsung now plans to cover 20 million or fewer iPhone X devices for the quarter ending in March, a large decrease from the expected 45 to 50 million units. CNET reports: Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the quarter ending in January, down by 1 percent on the previous year. The $1,000 price tag on the iPhone X was blamed for the volume shortfall -- but also contributed to the company making record-breaking profits. Samsung did not respond to CNET's request for comment.
IOS

Apple Updates All of Its Operating Systems To Fix App-crashing Bug (engadget.com) 70

It took a few days, but Apple already has a fix out for a bug that caused crashes on each of its platforms. From a report: The company pushed new versions of iOS, macOS and watchOS to fix the issue, which was caused when someone pasted in or received a single Indian-language character in select communications apps -- most notably in iMessages, Safari and the app store. Using a specific character in the Telugu language native to India was enough to crash a variety of chat apps, including iMessage, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Gmail and Outlook, though Telegram and Skype were seemingly immune.
Android

We've Reached Peak Smartphone (washingtonpost.com) 222

You don't really need a new smartphone. From a column on the Washington Post (may be paywalled): Sure, some of them squeeze more screen into a smaller form. The cameras keep getting better, if you look very close. And you had to live under a rock to miss the hoopla for Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Many in the smartphone business were sure this latest crop would bring a "super cycle" of upgrades. But here's the reality: More and more of Americans have decided we don't need to upgrade every year. Or every other year. We're no longer locked into two-year contracts and phones are way sturdier than they used to be. And the new stuff just isn't that tantalizing even to me, a professional gadget guy. Holding onto our phones is better for our budgets, not to mention the environment. This just means we -- and phone makers -- need to start thinking of them more like cars. We may have reached peak smartphone. Global shipments slipped 0.1 percent in 2017 -- the first ever decline, according to research firm IDC. In the United States, smartphone shipments grew just 1.6 percent, the smallest increase ever. Back in 2015, Americans replaced their phones after 23.6 months, on average, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. By the end of 2017, we were holding onto them for 25.3 months.
Desktops (Apple)

Twitter Kills Its Mac App (betanews.com) 52

BrianFagioli writes: Twitter has announced that it is killing its Mac app. Without warning, the company pulled the app from the Mac App Store and issued the following tweet. "We're focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that's consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.
Iphone

Apple Says That All New Apps Must Support the iPhone X Screen (9to5mac.com) 80

Today, Apple emailed developers to inform them that all new apps that are submitted to the App Store must support the iPhone X's Super Retina display, starting this April. What this means is that developers of new applications must ensure they accommodate the notch and go edge-to-edge on the 5.8-inch OLED screen. 9to5Mac reports: Apple has not set a deadline for when updates to existing apps must support iPhone X natively. From April, all new apps must also be built against the iOS 11 SDK. In recent years, Apple has enforced rules more aggressively when it comes to supporting the latest devices. Apple informed the news in an email today encouraging adoption of the latest iOS 11 features like Core ML, SiriKit and ARKit. Requiring compilation with the iOS 11 SDK does not necessarily mean the apps must support new features. It ensures that new app developers are using the latest Apple development tools, which helps prevent the App Store as a whole from going stale, and may encourage adoption of cutting edge features. The rules don't mean that much until Apple requires updates to also support iPhone X and the iOS 11 SDK, as updates represent the majority of the App Store. Most developers making new apps already target iPhone X as a top priority.
Software

Ask Slashdot: Could Linux Ever Become Fully Compatible With Windows and Mac Software? 357

dryriver writes: Linux has been around for a long time now. A lot of work has gone into it; it has evolved nicely and it dominates in the server space. Computer literate people with some tech skills also like to use it as their desktop OS. It's free and open source. It's not vendor-locked, full of crapware or tied to any walled garden. It's fast and efficient. But most "everyday computer users" or "casual computer buyers" still feel they have to choose either a Windows PC or an Apple device as the platform they will do their computing on. This binary choice exists largely because of very specific commercial list of programs and games available for these OSs that is not available for Linux.

Here is the question: Could Linux ever be made to become fully compatible with all Windows and Mac software? What I mean is a Linux distro that lets you successfully install/run/play just about anything significant that says "for Windows 10" or "for OSX" under Linux, without any sort of configuring or crazy emulation orgies being needed? Macs and PCs run on the exact same Intel/AMD/Nvidia hardware as Linux. Same mobos, same CPUs and GPUs, same RAM and storage devices. Could Linux ever be made to behave sufficiently like those two OSs so that a computer buyer could "go Linux" without any negative consequences like not being able to run essential Windows/Mac software at all? Or is Linux being able to behave like Windows and OSX simply not technically doable because Windows and OSX are just too damn complex to mimic successfully?
Apple

Apple's New Spaceship Campus Has One Flaw -- and It Hurts (bloomberg.com) 216

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: The centerpiece of Apple's new headquarters is a massive, ring-shaped office overflowing with panes of glass, a testament to the company's famed design-obsessed aesthetic. There's been one hiccup since it opened last year: Apple employees keep smacking into the glass. Surrounding the Cupertino, California-based building are 45-foot tall curved panels of safety glass. Inside are work spaces, dubbed "pods," also made with a lot of glass. Apple staff are often glued to the iPhones they helped popularize. That's resulted in repeated cases of distracted employees walking into the panes, according to people familiar with the incidents. Some staff started to stick Post-It notes on the glass doors to mark their presence. However, the notes were removed because they detracted from the building's design, the people said.
Encryption

Two Years After FBI vs Apple, Encryption Debate Remains (axios.com) 175

It's been two years since the FBI and Apple got into a giant fight over encryption following the San Bernardino shooting, when the government had the shooter's iPhone, but not the password needed to unlock it, so it asked Apple to create a way inside. What's most surprising is how little has changed since then. From a report: The encryption debate remains unsettled, with tech companies largely opposed and some law enforcement agencies still making the case to have a backdoor. The case for strong encryption: Those partial to the tech companies' arguments will note that cyberattacks and hacking incidents have become even more common, with encryption serving as a valuable way to protect individuals' personal information. The case for backdoors: Criminals are doing bad stuff and when devices are strongly encrypted they can do it in what amounts to the perfect dark alley, completely hidden from public view.
Android

FBI, CIA, and NSA: Don't Use Huawei Phones (cnbc.com) 238

The heads of six top U.S. intelligence agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. "The six -- including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence -- first expressed their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE in reference to public servants and state agencies," reports CNBC. From the report: "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Chris Wray testified. "That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure," Wray said. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."

In a response, Huawei said that it "poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." A spokesman said in a statement: "Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities."

Apple

Apple's HomePod Speakers Leave White Marks on Wood (bbc.com) 86

Apple's new smart speakers can discolour wooden surfaces, leaving a white mark where they are placed, the firm has acknowledged. From a report: The US company has suggested that owners may have to re-oil furniture if the HomePod is moved. The device went on sale last week after having been delayed from its original 2017 release date. Apple told Pocket-lint that it was "not unusual" for speakers with silicone bases to leave a "mild mark." But the gadget review site told the BBC it had never seen anything like this problem. The website's founder, Stuart Miles, told the BBC that a speaker left a mark on his kitchen worktop within 20 minutes.
IOS

Apple's Software 'Problem' and 'Fixing' It (learningbyshipping.com) 99

According to media reports, Apple is planning to postpone some new features for iOS and macOS this year to focus on improving reliability, stability and performance of the existing versions. Steven Sinofsky, a former President of the Windows Division, shared his insights into the significance of this development: Several important points are conflated in the broad discussion about Apple and software: Quality, pace of change, features "versus" quality, and innovation. Scanning the landscape, it is important to recognize that in total the work Apple has been doing across hardware, software, services, and even AI/ML, in total -- is breathtaking and unprecedented in scope, scale, and quality. Few companies have done so much for so long with such a high level of consistency. This all goes back to the bet on the NeXT code base and move to Intel for Mac OS plus the iPod, which began the journey to where we are today.

[...] What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don't just show up and say you want all three and get a "sure." On the other hand, this is precisely what Apple did so reliably over 20 years. But behind the scenes there is a constant discussion over balancing these three legs of the tripod. You have to have all of them but you "can't" but you have to. This is why they get paid big $.

[...] A massive project like an OS (+h/w +cloud) is like a large investment portfolio and some things will work (in market) and others won't, some things are designed to return right away, some are safe bets, some are long term investments. And some mistakes... Customers don't care about any of that and that's ok. They just look for what they care about. Each evaluates through their own lens. Apple's brilliance is in focusing mostly on two audiences -- Send-users and developers -- tending to de-emphasize the whole "techie" crowd, even IT. When you look at a feature like FaceID and trace it backwards all the way to keychain -- see how much long term thought can go into a feature and how much good work can go unnoticed (or even "fail") for years before surfacing as a big advantage. That's a long term POV AND focus. This approach is rather unique compared to other tech companies that tend to develop new things almost independent of everything else. So new things show up and look bolted on the side of what already exists. (Sure Apple can do that to, but not usually). All the while while things are being built the team is just a dev team and trying to come up with a reliable schedule and fix bug. This is just software development.

AI

Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa (theverge.com) 70

According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.
Music

Reddit Audiophiles Test HomePod, Say It Sounds Better Than $1,000 Speaker (arstechnica.com) 327

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple released its much-hyped HomePod speaker to the masses last week, and the general consensus among early reviews is that it sounds superb for a relatively small device. But most of those reviews seem to have avoided making precise measurements of the HomePod's audio output, instead relying on personal experience to give generalized impressions. That's not a total disaster: a general rule for speaker testing is that while it's good to stamp out any outside factor that may cause a skewed result, making definitive, "objective" claims is difficult. But having some proper measurements is important. Reddit user WinterCharm, whose real name is Fouzan Alam, has made just that in a truly massive review for the site's "r/audiophile" sub. And if his results are to be believed, those early reviews may be underselling the HomePod's sonic abilities. After a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, Alam found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a generally well-regarded bookshelf speaker that retails for $999. What's more, Alam's measurements found the HomePod to provide a "near-perfectly flat frequency response," meaning it stays accurate to a given track without pushing the treble, mids, or bass to an unnatural degree. He concludes that the digital signal processing tech the HomePod uses to "self-calibrate" its sound to its surroundings allows it to impress at all volumes and in tricky environments. "The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker," he writes.

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