Businesses

Fallen Tech Star Imagination Technologies Up For Sale After Apple Row Bites (standard.co.uk) 23

UK chip designer Imagination Technologies -- which is in dispute with Apple, its largest customer -- has put itself up for sale. Shares in the company more than halved in April when Imagination said that Apple was to stop using its technology. From a report: The firm was regarded as a leading light in Britain's burgeoning tech sector, but ran into trouble when the phones giant, by far its biggest customer, said it would no longer rely on it for graphics design. Apple accounts for more than half of Imagination's revenues and last year held takeover talks with Imagination. Two parts of the business, MIPS and Ensigma, were already up for sale. Imagination said it has received "interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole group." It is in "preliminary discussions" with the aid of bankers from Rothschild.
Iphone

Virgin Mobile Becomes World's First iPhone-Exclusive Carrier, Offers Year of Service For $1 (betanews.com) 94

BrianFagioli quotes a report via BetaNews: Goodness gracious, Virgin Mobile USA has made quite the bold moves today. The cellular service provider has become the world's first iPhone-exclusive carrier. In other words, it will no longer offer Android at all. Crazy, right? This is through a partnership with Apple, and Virgin will offer many versions of the device, including iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The craziness doesn't stop there, however, as there is even something much more exciting -- Virgin Mobile USA is offering unlimited talk, text and data for a dollar. No, that is not a typo -- a single buck will get you unlimited everything for up to a year! This is through a new scheme called "Inner Circle."
Apple

Chris Lattner, Poached From Apple To Become Tesla's Top Software Executive, Quits After 6 Months (bizjournals.com) 137

Tesla said last night Chris Lattner, the vice president of Autopilot software, has left the company about six months after the electric car-maker hired him away from Apple. From a report: Lattner had led the software development team in charge of Autopilot. Tesla executive Jim Keller is now in charge of Autopilot hardware and software. The company announced it had also hired OpenAI research scientist Andrej Karpathy, who will serve as Tesla's new director of artificial intelligence and Tesla Vision. "Chris just wasn't the right fit for Tesla, and we've decided to make a change," the company told reporters in a statement. "We wish him the best." Lattner tweeted last night, "Turns out that Tesla isn't a good fit for me after all. I'm interested to hear about interesting roles for a seasoned engineering leader!" Lattner is a widely respected figure in the industry. He is the main author of LLVM as well as Apple's Swift programming language. We interviewed him earlier this year.
Government

Tim Cook Told Trump Tech Employees Are 'Nervous' About Immigration (cnbc.com) 322

Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.
Businesses

Leaked Recording: Inside Apple's Global War On Leakers (theoutline.com) 81

Reader citadrianne writes: A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. The briefing, titled 'Stopping Leakers -- Keeping Confidential at Apple,' was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team. According to the hour-long presentation, Apple's Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military. Top-notch reporting from The Outline, consider reading the full report. During the briefing, a company executive said they have been able to find two employees who leaked information to media.
OS X

The Behind-the-Scenes Changes Found In MacOS High Sierra (arstechnica.com) 204

Apple officially announced macOS High Sierra at WWDC 2017 earlier this month. While the new OS doesn't feature a ton of user-visible improvements and is ultimately shaping up to be a low-key release, it does feature several behind-the-scenes changes that could help make it the most stable macOS update in years. Andrew Cunningham from Ars Technica has "browsed the dev docs and talked with Apple to get some more details of the update's foundational changes." Here are some excerpts from three key areas of the report: APFS
Like iOS 10.3, High Sierra will convert your boot drive to APFS when you first install it -- this will be true for all Macs that run High Sierra, regardless of whether they're equipped with an SSD, a spinning HDD, or a Fusion Drive setup. In the current beta installer, you're given an option to uncheck the APFS box (checked by default) before you start the install process, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will survive in the final version. It's also not clear at this point if there are edge cases -- third-party SSDs, for instance -- that won't automatically be converted. But assuming that most people stick with the defaults and that most people don't crack their Macs open, most Mac users who do the upgrade are going to get the new filesystem.

HEVC and HEIF
All High Sierra Macs will pick up support for HEVC, but only very recent models will support any kind of hardware acceleration. This is important because playing HEVC streams, especially at high resolutions and bitrates, is a pretty hardware-intensive operation. HEVC playback can consume most of a CPU's processor cycles, and especially on slower dual-core laptop processors, smooth playback may be impossible altogether. Dedicated HEVC encode and decode blocks in CPUs and GPUs can handle the heavy lifting more efficiently, freeing up your CPU and greatly reducing power consumption, but HEVC's newness means that dedicated hardware isn't especially prevalent yet.

Metal 2
While both macOS and iOS still nominally support open, third-party APIs like OpenGL and OpenCL, it's clear that the company sees Metal as the way forward for graphics and GPU compute on its platforms. Apple's OpenGL support in macOS and iOS hasn't changed at all in years, and there are absolutely no signs that Apple plans to support Vulkan. But the API will enable some improvements for end users, too. People with newer GPUs should expect to benefit from some performance improvements, not just in games but in macOS itself; Apple says the entire WindowServer is now using Metal, which should improve the fluidity and consistency of transitions and animations within macOS; this can be a problem on Macs when you're pushing multiple monitors or using higher Retina scaling modes on, especially if you're using integrated graphics. Metal 2 is also the go-to API for supporting VR on macOS, something Apple is pushing in a big way with its newer iMacs and its native support for external Thunderbolt 3 GPU enclosures. Apple says that every device that supports Metal should support at least some of Metal 2's new features, but the implication there is that some older GPUs won't be able to do everything the newer ones can do.

Iphone

Steve Jobs Wanted the First iPhone To Have a Permanent Back Button Like Android (bgr.com) 189

anderzole shares a report from BGR: Brian Merchant's new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, provides a captivating and intriguing look at how the most revolutionary product of our time was designed and developed. Through a series of interviews with Apple engineers and designers who played an integral role in the iPhone's creation and development, Merchant maps out how the iPhone came to be after more than two years of non-stop work at breakneck speed. One of the more interesting revelations from the book is that the iPhone design Apple unveiled in January of 2007 might have looked vastly different if Steve Jobs had his way. According to Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple's elite Human Interface Team, Steve Jobs wanted the original iPhone to have a back button in addition to a home button. Believe it or not, the original iPhone could have very well looked like a modern-day Android device. "The touch-based phone, which was originally supposed to be nothing but screen, was going to need at least one button," Merchant writes. "We all know it well today -- the Home button. But Steve Jobs wanted it to have two; he felt they'd need a back button for navigation. Chaudhri argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. One button that does the same thing every time you press it: it shows you your stuff. 'Again, that came down to a trust issue,' Chaudhri says, 'that people could trust the device to do what they wanted it to do. Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex.' A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs. 'I won that argument,' Chaudhri says."
Iphone

'The Unwillingness To Foresee The Future' (stratechery.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a few excerpts from Ben Thompson's analysis: Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumor, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone," he said. "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in." What if Steve Jobs' company did bring an iPod phone to market? Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorized." I was reminded of this quote after Amazon announced an agreement to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion; after all, it was only two years ago that Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey predicted that groceries would be Amazon's Waterloo. And while Colligan's prediction was far worse -- Apple simply left Palm in the dust, unable to compete -- it is Mackey who has to call Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the Napoleon of this little morality play, boss. The similarities go deeper, though: both Colligan and Mackey made the same analytical mistakes: they mis-understood their opponents' goals, strategies, and tactics.
Apple

The Right To Repair Movement Is Forcing Apple To Change (vice.com) 165

The executive director of Repair.org says Apple has "decided to be nicer to consumers in order to stop them from demanding their right to repair," according to Motherboard. Slashdot reader Jason Koebler shared this article: It's increasingly looking like Apple can no longer ignore the repair insurgency that's been brewing: The right to repair movement is winning, and Apple's behavior is changing. In the last few months, Apple has made political, design, and customer service decisions that suggest the right to repair movement is having a real impact on the company's operations...

Apple has repeatedly made small concessions to its customers on the issues that Repair.org and the larger repair community have decided to highlight. The question is whether these concessions are going to be enough to satiate customers who want their devices to be easily repairable and upgradable, and whether the right to repair movement can convince those people to continue demanding fair treatment.

The article notes that at least 12 U.S. states are still considering "fair repair" laws, which would force Apple to sell replacement parts to both independent repair shops and the general public.
Displays

Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74 (arstechnica.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine... Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, "Alto is the direct ancestor of today's personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker's creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible."
In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft's Tablet PC, "which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s," according to the article. "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."
Iphone

The Size of iPhone's Top Apps Has Increased by 1,000% in Four Years (sensortower.com) 128

Research firm Sensor Tower shares an analysis: As the minimum storage capacity of iPhone continues to increase -- it sits at 32 GB today on the iPhone 7, double the the iPhone 5S's 16 GB circa 2013 -- it's not surprising that the size of apps themselves is getting larger. In fact, Apple raised the app size cap from 2 GB to 4 GB in early 2015. What's surprising is how much faster they're increasing in size compared to device storage itself. According to Sensor Tower's analysis of App Intelligence, the total space required by the top 10 most installed U.S. iPhone apps has grown from 164 MB in May 2013 to about 1.8 GB last month, an 11x or approximately 1,000 percent increase in just four years. [...] Of the top 10 most popular U.S. iPhone apps, the minimum growth we saw in app size since May 2013 was 6x for both Spotify and Facebook's Messenger. As the chart above shows, other apps, especially Snapchat, have grown considerably more. In fact, Snapchat is more than 50 times larger than it was four years ago, clocking in at 203 MB versus just 4 MB at the start of the period we looked at. It's not the largest app among the top 10, however. That distinction goes to Facebook, which, at 388 MB, is 12 times larger than it was in May 2013 when it occupied 32 MB. It grew by about 100 MB in one update during September of last year.
Music

Spotify Continues To Grow Faster Than Apple Music Thanks To Free Tier (macrumors.com) 24

Joe Rossignol reports via Mac Rumors: Spotify today announced it now has over 140 million subscribers worldwide, including users that only listen to the free ad-supported tier. Spotify last said it had over 100 million subscribers in June 2016, so it has gained around 40 million listeners in one year to remain the world's largest streaming music service. Spotify didn't update its number of paying subscribers, which stood at over 50 million worldwide as of March 2017. By comparison, Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week announced that Apple Music now has 27 million paying subscribers, just weeks before the streaming music service turns two years old. Apple Music doesn't have a free tier, and Apple doesn't regularly disclose how many users are using the free trial.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook Shares His Experience Of Working With President Donald Trump (bloomberg.com) 348

In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about his experience of working with Donald Trump. He said: I feel a great responsibility as an American, as a CEO, to try to influence things in areas where we have a level of expertise. I've pushed hard on immigration. We clearly have a very different view on things in that area. I've pushed on climate. We have a different view there. There are clearly areas where we're not nearly on the same page. We're dramatically different. I hope there's some areas where we're not. His focus on jobs is good. So we'll see. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord was very disappointing. I felt a responsibility to do every single thing I could for it not to happen. I think it's the wrong decision. If I see another opening on the Paris thing, I'm going to bring it up again. At the end of the day, I'm not a person who's going to walk away and say, "If you don't do what I want, I leave." I'm not on a council, so I don't have those kind of decisions. But I care deeply about America. I want America to do well. America's more important than bloody politics from my point of view. Let me give you an example of this. Veterans Affairs has struggled in providing health care to veterans. We have an expertise in some of the things at the base level that they're struggling with. So we're going to work with them. I could give a crap about the politics of it. I want to help veterans. My dad's a veteran. My brother served. We have so many military folks in Apple. These folks deserve great health care. So we're going to keep helping.
Iphone

The Next iPhone Will Have Wireless Charging, Says Apple Supplier (9to5mac.com) 124

Robert Hwang, CEO of a large iPhone manufacturing company in India, has let slip that the upcoming iPhone will have wireless charging. Hwang told reporters after the company's shareholder's meeting: "Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit." 9to5Mac reports: Just this week, new glass panels purporting to be from the upcoming iPhones have given us another glimpse into the devices' designs. Showing off an iPhone 7s, 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, the images indicated that the glass back panels would open the door for wireless charging across all the devices. According to Hwang, Wistron's India facility is currently making "a small number" of handsets for Apple. He states the growth in manufacturing will hinge on relations between Apple and the Indian government.
Businesses

Apple Issues $1 Billion Green Bond After Trump's Paris Climate Exit (reuters.com) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects on Tuesday, the first corporate green bond offered since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion -- the largest issued by a U.S. corporation -- as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement. Apple said its second green bond is meant to show that businesses are still committed to the goals of the 194-nation accord. "Leadership from the business community is essential to address the threat of climate change and protect our shared planet," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.
Google

Play Store Downloads Show Google Pixel Sales Limited To 1 Million Units (arstechnica.com) 70

While Google has yet to release official sales numbers for its flagship Google Pixel smartphone, a Play Store app may shed some light on roughly how many units are in circulation. The Pixel Launcher, which is installed by default on the Pixel and Pixel XL, just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier, leading us to assume that Google has finally sold 1,000,000 Google Pixel units. Ars Technica notes that "the Pixel is seen as Google's answer to the iPhone, but considering Apple sells 40 to 50 million iPhones in a quarter, Google has some catching up to do." From the report: This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number -- except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones. The Play Store device targeting ensures no one other than Pixel owners can download the Pixel Launcher, and the install count doesn't include sideloading. The most popular sideloading site, APKMirror, has more than 1.3 million downloads on just a single version of the Pixel Launcher, so we know that sideloaders actually outnumber legitimate Pixel Launcher users. There are some statistically insignificant root shenanigans you could pull to download the Pixel Launcher from the Play Store on a non-Pixel device, but there is no way the number of sold Pixels is higher than 1 million units at this point in time.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Mac Computers Are Being Targeted By Ransomware, Spyware (bbc.com) 54

If you are a Mac user, you should be aware of new variants of malware that have been created specifically to target Apple computers; one is ransomware and the other is spyware. "The two programs were uncovered by the security firms Fortinet and AlienVault, which found a portal on the Tor 'dark web' network that acted as a shopfront for both," reports BBC. "In a blog post, Fortinet said the site claimed that the creators behind it were professional software engineers with 'extensive experience' of creating working code." From the report: Those wishing to use either of the programs had been urged to get in touch and provide details of how they wanted the malware to be set up. The malware's creators had said that payments made by ransomware victims would be split between themselves and their customers. Researchers at Fortinet contacted the ransomware writers pretending they were interested in using the product and, soon afterwards, were sent a sample of the malware. Analysis revealed that it used much less sophisticated encryption than the many variants seen targeting Windows machines, said the firm. However, they added, any files scrambled with the ransomware would be completely lost because it did a very poor job of handling the decryption keys needed to restore data. The free Macspy spyware, offered via the same site, can log which keys are pressed, take screenshots and tap into a machine's microphone. In its analysis, AlienVault researcher Peter Ewane said the malicious code in the spyware tried hard to evade many of the standard ways security programs spot and stop such programs.
Android

Google Hires Key Apple Chip Architect To Build Custom Chips For Pixel Phones (variety.com) 52

A recent hire at Google indicates big changes are coming for future versions of the Google's Pixel phone. Manu Gulati, an Apple micro-architect who worked on the company's chip development for nearly eight years, has just joined Google. From a report: Gulati started working at Apple in 2009, and was instrumental to the company's efforts to build custom chips for the iPad, the iPhone and Apple TV. Apple began using its own chips in 2010, starting with the introduction of the iPad in 2010, which was powered by the company's A4 chip. To this day, the company uses custom-designed microchips for each of their devices, which make it possible to optimize processors both for performance and energy consumption. In the industry, these integrated chips for mobile devices are also known as SoCs, or "systems on a chip." In contrast, Google relied on a chip designed and manufactured by Qualcomm when it introduced its first Pixel phones last fall. The same chip is being used by a number of other Android phone manufacturers, including HTC, LG, Lenovo and Asus -- all of which goes to say that these phones all offer very similar performance specs. Qualcomm has become the de facto-manufacturer for higher-end Android phone chips, making it harder for the companies to differentiate their devices from one another.
AI

Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Making an Autonomous Car System (bloomberg.com) 146

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It's concentrating on self-driving technology. "We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects," Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple's plans in the car space. "It's probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on." [...] "There is a major disruption looming there," Cook said on Bloomberg Television, citing self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing. "You've got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame." Cook was also bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles, a market which last week helped Tesla become the world's fourth-biggest carmaker by market capitalization, even as it ranks well outside the top 10 by unit sales."It's a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station," Cook said.
IOS

Chess.com Has Stopped Working On 32bit iPads After the Site Hit 2^31 Game Sessions (chess.com) 271

Apple's decision to go all in on 64bit-capable devices, OS and apps has caused some trouble for Chess.com, a popular online website where people go to play chess. Users with a 32bit iPad are unable to play games on the website, according to numerous complaints posted over the weekend and on Monday. Erik, the CEO of Chess.com said in a statement, "Thanks for noticing. Obviously this is embarrassing and I'm sorry about it. As a non-developer I can't really explain how or why this happened, but I can say that we do our best and are sorry when that falls short." Hours later, he had an explanation: The reason that some iOS devices are unable to connect to live chess games is because of a limit in 32bit devices which cannot handle gameIDs above 2,147,483,647. So, literally, once we hit more than 2 billion games, older iOS devices fail to interpret that number! This was obviously an unforeseen bug that was nearly impossible to anticipate and we apologize for the frustration. We are currently working on a fix and should have it resolved within 48 hours.

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