United States

Roku Is the Top Streaming Device In the US and Still Growing, Report Finds (techcrunch.com) 42

Roku is the top streaming media player device in the U.S., and its growth is only increasing. According to the latest industry report from market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 37 percent of streaming devices in U.S. households are Roku devices, as of the first quarter of this year. That's up from 30 percent in the same quarter last year, the report notes. TechCrunch reports: The growth is coming at the expense of Roku's top competitors, like Apple and Google, with only Amazon's Fire TV able to increase its install base during the same timeframe. Fire TV devices are in 24 percent of U.S. households, as of Q1 2017, up from 16 percent last year. That climb allowed Amazon to snag the second position from Google's Chromecast, which has an 18 percent share. Lagging behind, Apple TV's market share fell to 15 percent -- a drop that Parks Associates Senior Analyst Glenn Hower attributes to Apple TV's price point. Roku last fall overhauled its line of streaming players with the intention of plugging every hole in the market. That strategy is seemingly paying off. There's now a Roku device to meet any consumer's needs -- whether that's an entry-level, portable and affordable "stick," to rival the Fire TV Stick or the Chromecast dongle, or a high-end player with 4K and HDR support, lots of ports, voice search remote, and other premium bells and whistles.
Privacy

Wading Through AccuWeather's Response (daringfireball.net) 64

On Tuesday, ZDNet reported that popular weather app AccuWeather was sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm, even when a person had disabled location data from the app. In a response, AccuWeather said today "if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user." But it is misleading people. John Gruber of DaringFireball writes: The accusation has nothing to do with "GPS coordinates." The accusation is that their iOS app is collecting Wi-Fi router names and MAC addresses and sending them to servers that belong to Reveal Mobile, which in turn can easily be used to locate the user. Claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone's cash. The accusation comes from Will Strafech, a respected security researcher who discovered the "actual information" by observing network traffic. He saw the AccuWeather iOS app sending his router's name and MAC address to Reveal Mobile. This isn't speculation. They were caught red-handed. GPS information is more precise, and if you grant the AccuWeather app permission to access your location (under the guise of showing you local weather wherever you are, as well as localized weather alerts), that more precise data is passed along to Reveal Mobile as well. But Wi-Fi router information can be used to locate you within a few meters using publicly available databases. Seriously, go ahead and try it yourself: plug your Wi-Fi router's BSSID MAC address into this website, and there's good chance it'll pinpoint your location on the map. "Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather," the company writes. In what way is the name and MAC address of your router not "user information"? And saying the information was "unused by AccuWeather" is again sleight of hand. The accusation is not that AccuWeather itself was using the location of the Wi-Fi router, but that Reveal Mobile was. Here are Reveal Mobile's own words about how they use location data.
Businesses

Apple Puts Brakes on Self-driving Car Project, Report Says (theguardian.com) 68

Apple is following the road taken by Waymo, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, and downshifting on its still-unannounced self-driving car project, according to a report in the New York Times. From a report: The company has been working on its automotive technology under the internal code name "Project Titan" since at least 2014, and once intended to build its own vehicle from start to finish, creating a true "Apple Car." Now it's put the car-building side of the project on hold, perhaps indefinitely, as it instead focuses on creating and perfecting the software and hardware necessary to get a self-driving car on the streets. Apple is now planning on working with other car-makers to get its self-driving tech into the garages and driveways of customers, according to the paper. One upcoming example of that collaboration: an autonomous shuttle service that will ferry employees back and forth between the company's Silicon Valley offices in Palo Alto and Cupertino. That project, which will use conventional cars with self-driving kit bolted on, is known as "Pail", standing for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the street address of the company's main campus. The name highlights the delays in the project, since Apple's main campus is already in the process of being moved to Apple Park, an enormous ring-shaped office down the road.
IOS

Popular Weather App AccuWeather Caught Sending User Location Data, Even When Location Sharing is Off (zdnet.com) 123

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: Popular weather app AccuWeather has been caught sending geolocation data to a third-party data monetization firm, even when the user has switched off location sharing. AccuWeather is one of the most popular weather apps in Apple's app store, with a near perfect four-star rating and millions of downloads to its name. But what the app doesn't say is that it sends sensitive data to a firm designed to monetize user locations without users' explicit permission. Security researcher Will Strafach intercepted the traffic from an iPhone running the latest version of AccuWeather and its servers and found that even when the app didn't have permission to access the device's precise location, the app would send the Wi-Fi router name and its unique MAC address to the servers of data monetization firm Reveal Mobile every few hours. That data can be correlated with public data to reveal an approximate location of a user's device. We independently verified the findings, and were able to geolocate an AccuWeather-running iPhone in our New York office within just a few meters, using nothing more than the Wi-Fi router's MAC address and public data.
Iphone

iPhone 8's 3D Face Scanner Will Work In 'Millionths of a Second' (phonearena.com) 152

According to a report by the Korea Herald, Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 will ditch the fingerprint identification in favor of 3D face recognition, which will work "in the millionths of a second." PhoneArena reports: The Samsung Galaxy series were among the first mainstream devices to feature iris recognition, but the speed and accuracy of the current technology leave a lot to be desired, and maybe that is why current phones ship with an eye scanner AND a fingerprint reader. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, is expected to make a full dive into 3D scanning. Both Samsung and Apple are rumored to have tried to implement a fingerprint scanner under the display glass, but failed as the technology was not sufficiently advanced. The new iPhone will also introduce 3D sensors on both its front and back for Apple's new augmented reality (AR) platform. This latest report also reveals that Apple will not use curved edges for its iPhone 8 screen, but will instead use a flat AMOLED panel. The big benefit of using AMOLED for Apple thus is not the curve, but its thinner profile compared to an LCD screen.
Apple

Apple Looks For Exceptional Engineer With a Secret Job Posting (9to5mac.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes: A hidden Apple website that hosts a job description and invitation to apply for an important position has recently been discovered. The posting describes a role that should be filled by a "talented engineer" who will develop a critical infrastructure component for the company's ecosystem. Discovered late yesterday by ZDNet's Zach Whittaker, the secret posting was found at us-west-1.blobstore.apple.com (now pulled). The posting stated how critical the role is, the scale of the work, key qualifications, and a description of the type of employee Apple is looking for. In the "How Critical?" section Apple says that the engineer will be working on developing infrastructure that will deal with millions of drives, tens of thousands of servers, and Exabytes of data.
Businesses

Hollywood, Apple Said To Mull Rental Plan, Defying Theaters (bloomberg.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple and Comcast on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said. After months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to arrive at a mutually beneficial way to create a $30 to $50 premium movie-download product. The leading Hollywood studios, except for Walt Disney, are eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix. They have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing to the concept. But the exhibitors have sought a long-term commitment of as much as 10 years for that revenue split, which the studios have rejected, the people said. Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.
IOS

iOS 11 Has a Feature To Temporarily Disable Touch ID (cultofmac.com) 138

A new feature baked into iOS 11 lets you quickly disable Touch ID, which could come in handy if you're ever in a situation where someone (a cop) might force you to unlock your device. Cult of Mac reports: To temporarily disable Touch ID, you simply press the power button quickly five times. This presents you with the "Emergency SOS" option, which you can swipe to call the emergency services. It also prevents your iPhone from being unlocked without the passcode. Until now, there were other ways to temporarily disable Touch ID, but they weren't quick and simply. You either had to restart your iPhone, let it sit idle for a few days until Touch ID was temporarily disabled by itself, or scan the wrong finger several times. The police, or any government agency, cannot force you to hand over your iPhone's passcode. However, they can force you to unlock your device with your fingerprint. That doesn't work if your fingerprint scanner has been disabled.
Encryption

Hacker Claims To Have Decrypted Apple's Secure Enclave Processor Firmware (iclarified.com) 111

According to iClarified, a hacker by name of "xerub" has posted the decryption key for Apple's Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware. "The security coprocessor was introduced alongside the iPhone 5s and Touch ID," reports iClarified. "It performs secure services for the rest of the SOC and prevents the main processor from getting direct access to sensitive data. It runs its own operating system (SEPOS) which includes a kernel, drivers, services, and applications." From the report: The Secure Enclave is responsible for processing fingerprint data from the Touch ID sensor, determining if there is a match against registered fingerprints, and then enabling access or purchases on behalf of the user. Communication between the processor and the Touch ID sensor takes place over a serial peripheral interface bus. The processor forwards the data to the Secure Enclave but can't read it. It's encrypted and authenticated with a session key that is negotiated using the device's shared key that is provisioned for the Touch ID sensor and the Secure Enclave. The session key exchange uses AES key wrapping with both sides providing a random key that establishes the session key and uses AES-CCM transport encryption. Today, xerub announced the decryption key "is fully grown." You can use img4lib to decrypt the firmware and xerub's SEP firmware split tool to process. Decryption of the SEP Firmware will make it easier for hackers and security researchers to comb through the SEP for vulnerabilities.
Desktops (Apple)

In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron (dev.to) 138

Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.
Businesses

Apple Is Bringing a Billion Dollar Checkbook To Hollywood and Wants To Buy 10 TV Shows (recode.net) 79

Apple is officially open for business in Hollywood. From a report: The company is telling content makers it wants to spend $1 billion on its own stuff over the next year. That's music to studios' ears, and a tune they have been expecting for some time -- especially after Apple hired two top Sony TV executives in June. We still don't know what Apple wants to do with that content: The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make up to 10 "Game of Thrones" -- or "House of Cards"-scale shows, but that's not enough to launch a full-scale subscription service.
Google

Google Pays Apple $3 Billion Per Year To Remain On the iPhone, Analyst Says (cnbc.com) 101

In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."

Google

Google Hires Former Star Apple Engineer Chris Lattner For Its AI Team (bloomberg.com) 49

An anonymous reader shares a report: Chris Lattner, a legend in the world of Apple software, has joined another rival of the iPhone maker: Alphabet's Google, where he will work on artificial intelligence. Lattner announced the news on Twitter on Monday, saying he will start next week. His arrival at Mountain View, California-based Google comes after a brief stint as head of the automated driving program at Tesla, which he left in June. Lattner made a name for himself during a decade-plus career at Apple, where he created the popular programming language Swift. Lattner said he is joining Google Brain, the search giant's research unit. There he will work on a different software language: TensorFlow, Google's system designed to simplify the programming steps for AI, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Communications

iOS 10 Quietly Deprecated A Crucial API For VoIP and Communication Apps (apple.com) 122

neutrino38 warns that iOS 10 includes a significant change "overlooked by the general public": It deprecates an API that is crucial for VoIP and other instant messaging applications that enable keeping one socket active despite the fact that the application would run in the background. As a replacement, developers need to use PushKit: when an incoming call is to be forwarded to an iOS VoIP client, the VoIP infrastructure needs to:

- withold the call
- contact Apple push infrastructure using a proprietary protocol to wake up the client app remotely
- wait for the application to reconnect to the infrastructure and release the call when it is ready

This "I know better than you" approach is meant to further optimize battery life on iOS devices by avoiding the use of resources by apps running in background. It has also the positive effect of forcing developers to switch to a push model and remove all periodic pollings that ultimately use mobile data and clog the Internet. However, the decision to use an Apple infrastructure has many consequences for VoIP providers:

- the reliability of serving incoming calls is directly bound to Apple service
- Apple may revoke the PushKit certificate. It thus has life and death decision power over third-party communication infrastructures
- organizations wanting to setup IPBX and use iOS client have no option but to open access for the push services of Apple in their firewall
- It is not possible to have iOS VoIP or communication clients in network disconnected from the Internet - Pure standard SIP clients are now broken on iOS

The original submission argues that Apple is creating "the perfect walled garden," adding that "Ironically, the only VoIP 'app' that is not affected is the (future?) VoLTE client that will be added to iOS one day."
Music

SoundCloud Saved By $170 Million Emergency Funding As CEO Steps Aside (techcrunch.com) 16

Last month, SoundCloud announced it was cutting about 40 percent of its staff in a cost-cutting move to help it compete against larger rivals like Spotify and Apple. One week after that announcement, TechCrunch published a report claiming "the layoffs only saved the company enough money to have runway 'until Q4' -- which begins in just 80 days." It now appears the company has closed the necessary funding round to keep itself afloat. TechCrunch reports: CEO Alex Ljung will step aside though remain chairman as former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor replaces him. Mike Weissman will become COO as SoundCloud co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss stays as chief product officer. New York investment bank Raine Group and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek have stepped in to lead the new Series F funding round of $169.5 million. SoundCloud declined to share the valuation or quantity of the new funding round. Yesterday, Axios reported the company was raising $169.5 million at a $150 million pre-money valuation. That's a steep decline in value from the $700 million it was valued at in previous funding rounds. The new Series F round supposedly gives Raine and Temasek liquidation preferences that override all previous investors, and the Series E investors are getting their preferences reduced by 40 percent. They're surely happy about that, but it's better than their investment vaporizing. Raine will get two board seats for bailing out SoundCloud, with partner and former music industry attorney Fred Davis, and the vice president who leads music investments, Joe Puthenveetil, taking those seats.
The Courts

Developers File Antitrust Complaint Against Apple in China (reuters.com) 27

A Chinese law firm has filed a complaint against Apple on behalf of 28 local developers alleging the firm breached antitrust regulations. From a report: The complaint, lodged by Beijing-based Dare & Sure Law Firm, accuses Apple of charging excessive fees and removing apps from its local store without proper explanation, Lin Wei, an attorney at the firm told Reuters on Thursday. "During its localization process Apple has run into several antitrust issues ... after an initial investigation we consulted a number of enterprises and got a very strong response," said Lin. The law firm invited developers to join the complaint in April and on Tuesday filed it to China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission, which oversees antitrust matters in the country.
Safari

Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs (daringfireball.net) 189

Favicon -- or its lack thereof, to be precise -- has remained one of the longest running issues Safari users have complained about. For those of you who don't use Safari, just have a look at this mess I had earlier today when I was using Safari on a MacBook. There's no way I can just have a look at the tabs and make any sense of them. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don't have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs. With many tabs open, there's really nothing subjective about it: Chrome's tabs are more usable because they show favicons. [...] Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don't even show a single character of the tab title. They're just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari's tab design a non-starter to switching. I don't know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari's tabs, but I can only presume that it's because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari's toolbar area. [...] And it's highly debatable whether Safari's existing no-favicon tabs actually do look better. The feedback I've heard from Chrome users who won't even try Safari because it doesn't show favicons isn't just from developers -- it's from designers too. To me, the argument that Safari's tab bar should remain text-only is like arguing that MacOS should change its Command-Tab switcher and Dock from showing icons to showing only the names of applications. The Mac has been famous ever since 1984 for placing more visual significance on icons than on names. The Mac attracts visual thinkers and its design encourages visual thinking. So I think Safari's text-only tab bar isn't just wrong in general, it's particularly wrong on the Mac.
Iphone

Apple Refuses To Enable iPhone Emergency Settings that Could Save Countless Lives (thenextweb.com) 279

An anonymous reader shares a report: Despite being relatively easy, Apple keeps ignoring requests to enable a feature called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS. Enabling AML would give emergency services extremely accurate locations of emergency calls made from iPhones, dramatically decreasing response time. As we have covered before, Google's successful implementation of AML for Android is already saving lives. But where Android users have become safer, iPhone owners have been left behind. The European Emergency Number Association (EENA), the organization behind implementing AML for emergency services, released a statement today that pleads Apple to consider the safety of its customers and participate in the program: "As AML is being deployed in more and more countries, iPhone users are put at a disadvantage compared to Android users in the scenario that matters most: An emergency. EENA calls on Apple to integrate Advanced Mobile Location in their smartphones for the safety of their customers." Why is AML so important? Majority of emergency calls today are made from cellphones, which has made location pinging increasingly more important for emergency services. There are many emergency apps and features in development, but AML's strength is that it doesn't require anything from the user -- no downloads and no forethought: The process is completely automated. With AML, smartphones running supporting operating systems will recognize when emergency calls are being made and turn on GNSS (global navigation satellite system) and Wi-Fi. The phone then automatically sends an SMS to emergency services, detailing the location of the caller. AML is up to 4,000 times more accurate than the current systems -- pinpointing phones down from an entire city to a room in an apartment. "In the past months, EENA has been travelling around Europe to raise awareness of AML in as many countries as possible. All these meetings brought up a recurring question that EENA had to reply to: 'So, what about Apple?'" reads EENA's statement.
Businesses

Apple Employees Rebelling Against Apple Park's Open Floor Plan, Report Says (neowin.net) 271

During a new episode of The Talk Show podcast on Daring Fireball, John Gruber touched on the topic of the open floor plans that Apple has implemented within its new campus, Apple Park. A WSJ profile of Jony Ive, where he talked about Apple Park, mentioned how programmers, engineers, and other employees had already expressed concerns about working in such an environment. Gruber shared what he has heard: I heard that when floor plans were announced, that there was some meeting with [Apple Vice President] Johny Srouji's team. He's in charge of Apple's silicon, the A10, the A11, all of their custom silicon. Obviously a very successful group at Apple, and a large growing one with a lot on their shoulders. When he [Srouji] was shown the floor plans, he was more or less just "F--- that, f--- you, f--- this, this is bulls---." And they built his team their own building, off to the side on the campus ... My understanding is that that building was built because Srouji was like, 'F--- this, my team isn't working like this.'"
IOS

Developers Explain Why iOS Apps Are Getting Bulkier (ndtv.com) 140

Reader joshtops shares a report: Apps are getting bigger in size, in part because developers add new features, something many users obviously appreciate, developers say. "Apps are getting bigger because iOS devices are more powerful, and developers are building more and more complex things for them without considering the impact the size will have around the world," developer Stephen Troughton-Smith tells Gadgets 360. But in part, it is also happening because developers are being careless, and adding more than one instance of files, Troughton-Smith added. "So Facebook, Twitter, and other large companies have perhaps tens or hundreds of people building their iOS apps. A lot of the components for these apps are developed independently as components, or frameworks. For each additional component you glue together into an app, there is some overhead," he explained. "Some of the teams will duplicate functionality some other team wrote. Images and other resources end up being duplicated." The high-resolution image assets that developers are required to add also contributes to the size of an app, two India-based developers, and Peter Steinberger, founder and CEO of PSPDFKit, a dev kit that is used by several popular PDF apps, told Gadgets 360. Apple can itself take some blame, too. Developers using Apple's Swift language, which the company introduced in 2014, are required to add several components to their apps that make them heavier. "Apple's new Swift language, for example, requires a bunch of components to be embedded each time it's used, because it's not yet 'ABI stable,'" Troughton-Smith explained. This means developers need to embed the versions of libraries they've developed against, and not count on the one available on the system. Another developer who didn't want to be identified said a typical app built with Swift language requires as many as 30 Swift runtime libraries to be stuffed within the app. On top of this, he added, "you will be surprised at just how many apps use common code found at places like GitHub. Developers often don't care about removing the bits that wasn't relevant to their app," he added.

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