It’s Time For iOS To Allow Apps From Outside the App Store

Recently, Apple started removing VPN apps from their iOS App Store in China in order to comply with local laws. That may be something they have to do as a business, but it’s time to allow apps from developers outside of the App Store. Gruber:

To me, the more interesting question isn’t whether Apple should be selling its products in China, but rather whether Apple should continue to make the App Store the only way to install apps on iOS devices. A full-on “install whatever you want” policy isn’t going to happen, but something like Gatekeeper on MacOS could.

Keep iOS App Store-only by default. Add a preference in Settings to allow apps to be downloaded from “identified developers” (those with an Apple developer certificate) in addition to the App Store. In that scenario, the App Store is no longer a single choke point for all native apps on the device.

The App Store was envisioned as a means for Apple to maintain strict control over the software running on iOS devices. But in a totalitarian state like China (or perhaps Russia, next), it becomes a source of control for the totalitarian regime.

Gruber doesn’t think this will happen, but it should. These pocket computers are supremely important to communications and it’s well past time for Apple to open things up.

Apps Dropping from iOS 11

Cyrus Nemati for Slate in an article titled “iPhone Gamers, Brace Yourselves for the App-ocalypse”:

If you’re an iPhone user still addicted to Flappy Bird, be ready to experience withdrawal symptoms.
When Apple launches iOS 11 in September, the company will drop support for old 32-bit applications—which is most apps released before 2014. Apps that haven’t been updated by their developers to run on the more efficient 64-bit architecture will cease to work

That’s true, but this article is also completely ridiculous in its conclusions. Here’s one of the solutions that Nemati suggests:

One obvious move: Create an emulator. By creating what amounts to simulators of old iOS versions, Apple could keep its past alive indefinitely. It’s something we saw recently when Nintendo released NES Classic, a replica of its stocky first gaming system loaded with 30 cherished early games. At 2.3 million units sold, it’s a good example of an emulator being used to make a quick buck (or more) on the back of nostalgia.

Emulating the Nintendo Entertainment System is easy today on low-powered, cheap, hardware. The Classic Edition kind of made sense for Nintendo as a product, but it is unlikely that Apple would ever release something similar.

Planned obsolescence is Apple’s modus operandi. It needs to keep customers buying new iPhones with updated specs. It’s unfortunate for consumers, who may have grown attached or even paid for these soon-to-be-defunct apps, and a shame for the creators who may see their work disappear.

The idea that Apple wants people to be unhappy with their devices on a schedule is almost as ridiculous as the idea of the iPhone Classic. Would you continue to buy things from a company that make you unhappy? I think you should replace things when they no-longer meet your needs or when there are new features that would dramatically change the experience of using that object in your life.

I agree that there should be some effort to archive these old applications, Apple is rich enough to do something about it, but it is going to be difficult to do that in today’s software environment.

Here are some of the software and hardware hurdles anyone who wanted to archive old iOS software would have to overcome:

  1. What’s the definitive article? With desktop software and older console games you could pack something up in an ISO or a copy of a cartridge’s ROM and say “this is the definitive article.” That’s difficult to do with networked software that is constantly being updated. You might say that the final version of the software released to the public by the original developer is the definitive article, but I bet some people would want a prior version because it did something differently, or the first version because it represented the most raw and original idea the developer had.
  2. An iPhone Classic that is running an out-of-date version of iOS for using old applications would probably be inappropriate for a general audience as it would lack modern security and networking features for accessing any data online. Any exploits that enable jailbreaking also enable bad people to do bad things to that device.
  3. What about the iPad, would there have to be an iPad Classic Edition? An Apple TV Classic Edition? An Apple Watch Classic Edition?
  4. Could you imagine Apple going on stage during an event to try and explain a custom version of the iPhone that exists solely to run historical software? “Here’s the iPhone Classic, it only runs iOS versions up to 10.” It would confuse their messaging around whatever iPhone they’re actually trying to sell. That’s not our problem as users and developers, but it’s another reason why they would be less likely to have anything to do with such an effort.
  5. This old App Store. They’d also have to maintain an older version of their app store and review software updates for those 32bit apps that couldn’t be transitioned to 64bit.
  6. Users would be frustrated when something doesn’t work right because an underlying piece of infrastructure is gone like an API server for logging into games.
  7. Developers who are still around would be stuck attempting to support versions of apps that they haven’t worked on in years. Is every app in this Classic App Store going to have a “probably unsupported” label on it?
  8. Apple still needs to encourage developers to transition to 64bit. All of that infrastructure would have to exist while they’re also encouraging developers to update old apps to 64bit.
  9. Apple has offered emulators for desktop software to run during transitions in the past, but desktops have the power and the room to explain what is going on with older software running in emulation or virtualization.
  10. I’m not sure if a modern iPhone even has the potential performance to virtualize an older device without destroying the performance of modern software running on the same device at the same time.
  11. How do you explain what is going on in any way that makes sense to a regular person?

Honestly, I think the only people in a position to solve this are software pirates, and they are still going to have a difficult time trying to do that for all of the games and other software out there on mobile platforms. Any other group would have hurdles that are too large to jump over in keeping this old software alive. It’s a problem for every modern online software distribution mechanism. Sony’s and Microsoft’s online stores for the PlayStation and Xbox both have this issue. Nintendo’s laughable online shop couldn’t even give you access to software you purchased previously without calling their support line and begging for it until they released the Switch and you’d still lose your game saves if your Switch is lost, broken, or stolen.

Software preservation is well and truly fucked.

Valve Games Were Vulnerable to Software Exploits When Your Character Died

The One Up Security firm, who must be very new because this is their only published research article and their domain name appears to have been registered about 8 months ago, has released information on a vulnerability that Valve patched in their Source engine back in June.

It’s an amusing vulnerability because the exploitation of it occurs when your character dies on a game server, and your character model’s ragdoll is replaced with an exploitative payload that the researcher was able to exploit because certain security flags weren’t set on portions of Steam. This is what you see in action when you watch One Up Security’s video embedded above.

The Best iPad

Before this year’s WWDC, and especially before the iPad Cheap was revealed, Apple’s lineup of iPads was super confusing. Which was the “best” depending very much on which iPad features you valued more than others, but it wasn’t clear at all if you went down the lineup.

New readers may notice that I round the prices of each iPad up because they are deceptively priced a dollar lower than the actual pre-tax cost. Apple is nice enough to not do the penny-lower scam ($1.99) that almost everyone else does with their pricing, It would be good if Apple would also drop this bullshit that a $399 object is closer to $300 than $400, so I’ve gone ahead and fixed that for you.

Here were your options if you were trying to pick out an iPad in January:

  • iPad Air 2 at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128 GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 2 at 7.9″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A8 processor
    • 1GB RAM
    • 32GB ($270)  wifi only
    • 32GB ($400) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

There were other differences between the 9.7″ and 12.9 inch iPads that made the 12.9″ seem outdated as well. It was that true tone and wide color gamut that made the 9.7″ preferable in many respects to the 12.9. Except the 12.9″ also had twice as much memory as the 9.7″. Then, in March, Apple introduced the new iPad Cheap and eliminated the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, and a few memory configurations, from the lineup. This made the situation a little less confusing for the non-Pro models but was the first to do away with the notion that a bigger screen is more expensive.

Here’s the iPad lineup on March 31st:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

Anyone that bought a 12.9″ iPad Pro would have ended up with something missing features unless they waited until June for WWDC 2017 when the 9.7″ iPad Pro was discontinued in favor of an upgraded 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 12.9″ finally got display technology feature parity.

Here’s the roster of iPads today, post-WWDC:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($800) 256GB ($900) wifi only 512GB ($1100)
    • 64GB ($930) 256GB ($1030) and 512GB ($1230) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 10.5″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($750) 512GB ($950) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($880) 512GB ($1080) with cellular

All of the 32GB options were dismissed in the Pro line. Apple added 64GB and 512GB options to replace 32GB and 128GB, respectively. Prices were raised for the 10.5″ memory storage tiers versus the old 9.7″ iPad Pro. The final Pro storage tier jump goes from $100 to $200.

The 9.7″ iPad Pro also had half the RAM of the 10.5″ and 12.9″ models. The 12.9″ also had USB 3.0 transfer speeds over the lightning connector if you had the right adapter. The 10.5″ finally got that feature as well as the fast charging option from the 29 watt power adapter that is designed for USB-C MacBook laptops.

Both Pro’s also got upgraded A10X processors and that new ProMotion display technology that should be familiar to any gamer as Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s Freesync variable framerate technologies to reduce tearing in games. Tearing is when you’re playing a game with fast motion and you see the image split with a horizontal line for a very brief period of time because the computer couldn’t render the game fast enough. In Apple’s case these variable framerates now mean that movies look better in motion, animations throughout the operating system and apps are smoother and clearer, and drawing with Apple’s Pencil stylus can now get the display up to 120Hz, which should be super responsive. Apple is typically not very interested in appealing to game players or developers, and it still isn’t clear to me yet if there is any benefit to games with Apple’s ProMotion variable framerate solution.

If a regular person had been trying to figure out which iPad to purchase, and was trying to follow along with the news, they might have been extremely confused until after WWDC.

At this point it should be clear that the Pro line is “the best” in terms of computing power and display technology, and if you’re interested in replacing a laptop then you know to get a Pro.

One final issue that might put someone over the edge to the Pro is that both models have four speakers instead of the two on the iPad Cheap and Mini. Otherwise, it’s not as confusing anymore to pick a model of iPad out unless you’re interested in the iPad Cheap or the Mini 4. The Mini hasn’t been updated with new technology since 2015.

The good news, for almost every iPad that can run it, is that iOS 11 is going to be a huge update with big multitasking features for anyone trying to get work done.

I’m increasingly curious about how those new features will translate to my old 2nd generation iPad Mini, I suspect the answer will be almost not at all since it didn’t receive many of the split-view features that newer iPads have.

Planet of the Apps

The Outline has got this video picking apart Apple’s incredibly shitty Planet of the Apps. Like most things from The Outline, it’s not that great because it mixes useless cheap shots poking fun at Eddie Cue and the way will.i.am excitedly describes things, with legitimate issues the show has. The Outline also pokes fun at the boneheaded business ventures will.i.am and the other investors are involved in. Which, even as dumb as those are it’s good to see more people of color making money off of the notoriously racist as hell technology business. I’d almost say that monetizing tech assholes is worthy of congratulations in any other context, but we’re here to bury Planet of the Apps.

Planet of the Apps is a reality show about business people pitching their app ideas (in various stages of development) to celebrity investors similar to Shark Tank, which is a show I hate watch because practically everyone who appears on it is either the worst kind of libertarian (Kevin O’Leary) or the worst kind of libertarian disguised as a shitty neo-liberal (Mark Cuban) who epitomize this old Twitter joke:

I gave Planet of the Apps a chance when it debuted and could barely get through the first episode. From the moment it starts with the Apple Music logo you’re left wondering “how does this fit into Apple Music?” and that question is never answered. Picture MTV switching to reality shows before they became popular for music videos, that’s what this feels like. Apple Music hasn’t earned the ability to go off music programming when it’s still in its infancy as a music outlet.

What is even going on with that name? It’s clearly a chuckling reference to Planet of the Apes, but the show is so self-serious it doesn’t fit at all.

That’s why this show starts off as ridiculous in pretending to have some kind of legitimacy to a viewer, and then just completely trips over its own banana peel by showing how thin the facade of these celebrity investors is. When it comes to their knowledge of business, tech, and success Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Alba, will.i.am, and Gwyneth Paltrow seem to be woefully inept.

Gary Vaynerchuk tries to monetize an app about personal safety and gets freaked out because Google has a half-assed attempt at competing with it. Gary’s freak-out just appears to be how that guy operates, which is pretty sad.

will.i.am takes the cake when he asks if what is obviously an e-ink display on a backpack is e-ink. E-ink has been around for over a decade now. Were the studio lights too bright for him to see what was going on?

None of the celebrity investors on this show seem to know why they are successful, which isn’t very surprising, but they sure do know how to take advantage of their unlikely success to fail in other businesses.

I don’t envy any of the app creators having to deal with the celebrities trying in futility to help them, if that is even the end goal of anyone on the show. All tech investors are there to make as much money as possible, or to fail as spectacularly as possible, instead of creating a viable product. I have been one step removed from, or involved with, a number of SV businesses that were close to some kind of success as a platform that squandered their opportunity because the investors and leaders wanted to cash out.

After the celebrity investors get bored with their lame guidance and won’t continue funding these apps, the show hurls the app creator before actual silicon valley investor groups as a secondary level of shark tanking and the show tried to present these external investors as a technically knowledgable group of  savvy businesspeople.

This show attempts to demonstrate tech savvy and business success for Apple’s App Store with Apple’s clean aesthetic but makes everyone involved look as greedy and disgusting as they truly are. For example, when monetizing safety is revealed to be rooted in creating fear of your neighbors and community. What kind of ghoulish asshole wants to be involved in that?

Reality shows are almost universally shallow and disgusting, I can’t make it through most of them, but they should at least be entertaining. Planet of the Apps isn’t entertaining beyond the curiosity of watching Apple struggle and fail at something so spectacularly.

This show succeeds in one thing: proving that success in any creative endeavor is difficult, especially when you’re attempting to make money at the same time. I still don’t know how this is supposed to fit into Apple Music, besides adding a perceived value to the subscription, and I have no hope that Apple will ever produce an entertaining television show. For a company that is so proud of all the times they say ‘no,’ they’ve created something that is remarkable for existing at all. It’s a car crash I am happy to look away from.

Variety’s Janko Roettgers Interviews the Latest Hollywood Studio That Got Hacked

Some time last year the audio post-production studio, Larson, got hacked and the attackers leaked Netflix’s latest season of Orange is the New Black. Variety’s Janko Roettgers has an interview with Larson’s folks to talk about the attack. It’s not an incredibly technical overview, but it is fascinating to read.

After reading the article I would very much recommend visiting Larson’s website. It’s very 2000.

Apple’s WWDC 2017 Press Event Notes

Every year Apple has at least two big events, their iPhone event in the second half of the year and their developers conference event in the first half of the year. Each event has it’s own press briefing, here are my notes from today’s WWDC 2017 press briefing. It is long as hell.

The show opened with a comedy skit about a new Apple engineer sitting down at a new desk and accidentally unplugging the iOS app store servers, disabling every app. Soon, the world descends into chaos as people can’t get directions and we see a marketplace of people trying to substitute for the missing apps:

Tim Cook was the first live human on stage with numbers and then to announce that Amazon’s Prime Video service is finally going to the Apple TV.

WatchOS 4:
Kevin Lynch announced new Siri functionality that would automatically present information you might want on the new Siri watch face. Rotating the crown scrolls through the available information. For example you might want to see your upcoming appointments and weather changes. They’re displayed as tiny cards as seen here:

There’s also a new kaleidoscope face along with several animated Toy Story character faces.

WatchOS 4 also has more customized notifications for activity encouragement and better reward animations when you’re done exercising.

The exercise tracking is more advanced and detects when you’re paused while swimming to determine your intervals, for example. It’s also easier now to move from one workout type into another without stopping.

New gym equipment will be Apple Watch enabled and will help you record your fitness activities on that equipment when you swipe your watch near a certain area on the equipment.

Apple Music is improved on the watch with a new app.

The new WatchOS will be out this Fall with a pre-release version available to developers today.


Mac Updates:
Tim Cook introduced Craig Federighi to talk about macOS updates. macOS 10.13 will be called High Sierra, another stability update along the lines of Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion. Craig joked about the name’s obvious weed reference.

Craig promises these new features in 10.13:

Faster Safari web browsing with faster Javascript.

Safari will also block autoplaying video and audio on web pages. That’s great.

Safari will have “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” to prevent sites from identifying you across domains.

Search is better somehow. Apple didn’t really explain how

Mail gets a split view in full-screen mode to edit new messages alongside reading others and is also more optimized for storage.

Photos gets all kinds of improvements such as improvements in detecting faces.

Finally, Photos’ machine learning stuff gets synced across devices.

Photos also has way more advanced editing features on the Mac.

Apple’s Apple File System came to iOS recently to replace HFS+, APFS will be on High Sierra as well.

MacOS will also support h.265 for video compression, which will also be supported with dedicated hardware on Macs.

Craig boasted about their graphics API Metal for a while before announcing Metal 2 that is supposed to give a 10x draw call throughput improvement. It’ll also have better debugging and optimization tools.

Interestingly, Craig talked about how there is a new Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with an AMD Radeon RX 580 and USB-C hub available for developers who want to offload Metal GPU computation tasks to an external device from a Mac. It isn’t clear if this can offload desktop graphics rendering, as well, but you would assume so.

Craig announced VR support coming to the Mac from Valve with SteamVR and engines from Epic (Unreal) and Unity.

All systems that support Sierra will support High Sierra. It’ll be out this Fall with a public beta later in June.


Mac Hardware Updates
New iMacs are coming with 50% brighter displays and Kaby Lake chipsets from Intel. The iMacs are getting support for more RAM, 32 gigs on the 21.5 inch and 64 gigs on the 27. The 27 also gets fusion drives by default. The 21.5 iMac gets improved integrated graphics. The 4k 21.5 inch iMac gets the Radeon Pro 555 and 560 with up to 4 gigs of RAM.

The 27inch 5K iMac gets the Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580 with up to 6 gigs of RAM.

MacBooks and MacBook Pros are also getting updated with new chipsets.

Industrial Light & Magic’s John Knoll & Epic’s Lauren Ridge showed up to give a VR demo running on the new iMacs. The demo featured live edits to a Star Wars scene in the Unreal Engine. It was incredibly awkward and didn’t demonstrate anything new over what Windows desktop machines could do last year.


iMac Pro

 

There’s a new 27 inch iMac Pro in Space Gray to offer an option for anyone missing the Mac Pro that hasn’t been updated in years. With copious options in CPU (up to 18 cores) and RAM (up to 128GB).

According to Apple it’ll be much cheaper than a comparable workstation that would cost over $7000, this one will start at $5000. It’ll be available this December.


iOS 11
Tim Cook boasted about iOS 10’s lack of fragmentation compared to Android and then reintroduced Craig Federighi to talk about iOS 11.

iMessage apps get an updated app drawer.

iMessages is now in the cloud to sync your message history to all of your devices, and it is still encrypted end-to-end, which should mean that Apple can’t access your messages in any situation. Although practically they could do so and you might not know about it.

Apple Pay is getting person-to-person payments, and it’ll have integration with Messages. Although it’ll store by default to an Apple Pay Wallet you can transfer money to your bank account. Sounds like the introduction of an Apple Bank.

Siri is getting an improved voice that sounds more natural and is still the only option with both male and female voices. Siri will also support translation in beta with some languages. SiriKit for developers will do more and support more applications. The last update only worked with a few custom actions like sending messages in third-party apps.

iPhone photos and videos are getting new compression formats that are supposedly much more efficient. The portrait camera is getting more features for a higher quality end-result.

Memories are enhanced. Video editing is supposed to be much improved as well.

Control Center is now modular and a single page. If you 3D touch a control module you get more controls and more information for that module as it expands to take up more space on the display.

The lock screen notification area will now expand with a swipe to display all of your notifications, not just the most recent ones.

Live Photos are improved, you can pick the key photo and loop the short video in live photos or choose other effects.

Maps gets improved maps for inside buildings like malls and airports. Navigation gets speed limits and lane-guidance. There’s a new feature for drivers called Do Not Disturb while Driving, it’ll be automatically suggested while driving and hide notifications. It can also notify anyone texting you that you’re driving and that you won’t see their messages unless they’re on a VIP list or they can break through by responding with “urgent.”

AirPlay 2 supports multi-room speaker systems from all iOS devices as well as the 4th generation Apple TV.

Apple Music can optionally share your playlists and music library with your friends, developers can also access this information through new APIs.

Phil Schiller appeared on stage to announce some updates coming for developers and users. The iOS App Store gets a complete redesign that looks more like Apple Music. A new Today screen shows off new cards with different stories about new apps. There are new dedicated screens for showing off games and a different screen for non-game apps. Category editors can display videos demonstrating tips and tricks for different apps.

Craig came back to talk about other technology improvements, including ARKit for augmented reality. It’ll work with Unity, Unreal Engine, and Apple’s SceneKit. Craig demonstrated 3D objects like coffee cups and lamps displayed on surfaces like tables that are detected instead of just having the 3D objects overlaid on what the camera sees without any interaction with real-world objects. An updated version of Pokemon Go will support this new ARKit and display Pokemon on the ground instead of just floating in the air.

Peter Jackson’s WingnutAR team appeared on stage to demonstrate an AR application running on an iPad with a science fiction action scene. Using AR to display a pre-configured action sequence is pretty boring, honestly.


The 10.5 inch iPad Pro

Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with a 10.5 inch display and an A10x processor. Joz told us that this supports a full-size software keyboard along with a better keyboard case. It’ll have a better refresh rate that looks smoother when motion is displayed on the screen, so Apple called this ProMotion. It’ll also dynamically adjust the display refresh rate for whatever the content is you’re working on, for better performance or battery life at a slower refresh rate.

The new 10.5 inch iPad Pro also has the same camera as the iPhone 7 and the base model has 64 gigs of storage. They’re available for order today and will ship next week.

Craig came back to talk about iOS improvements for the iPad. The dock can now have a large amount of apps. It can be pulled up from the bottom of the screen in any app. You can pull apps out of the dock into a slide-over multi-tasking split-view. iOS 11 will also support drag and drop. There’s a new Files app that supports iCloud drive and third-party cloud file management services like Dropbox.

The Notes app now supports handwritten notes that get interpreted using OCR as text by the system for searching and can scan a document for editing.

The 12.9 (let’s be honest, 13) inch iPad Pro also gets the new display, processor, increased base storage (64GB) and other features. All of these iPads 10.5 and 12.9 also have the 2nd generation TouchID sensor with quicker fingerprint recognition, but still appear to have physical home buttons instead of the haptic-driven virtual home buttons of the iPhones 7 and 7 Plus.


HomePod

Phil Schiller came back on stage to talk about “Reinventing Home Music” with a new speaker from Apple called HomePod. The first non-Beats branded speaker from Apple since the iPod Hi-Fi. HomePod is a rotund  7-inch tall device with a little bit of an urn shape and has its own A8 chip inside. Supposedly this speaker is very advanced and detects the kind of environment it is in to adjust for different types of rooms and adjust the audio for clarity. It’ll also work with another HomePod automatically for better stereo separation.

Of course, this speaker will support Siri and be Apple’s competitor to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home device as was rumored for months. Apple says that this speaker will have advanced Siri functionality that is tailored specifically to it.

The HomePod will be $349, in white and space gray, this December.


Overall, this feels like Apple trying to catch up, in VR and AR, with a speaker for Siri and finally getting updates to the iPad Pro and an iMac Pro to help reassure Mac Pro users like video editors that Apple hasn’t completely abandoned them when the Mac Pro still doesn’t have a release scheduled beyond “not this year.”

It’s good to see VR on the Mac, but nothing today addressed the desire for a desktop Mac for gamers to play VR applications unless you want a machine with a built-in display and a GPU you can’t upgrade. As terrible as Nvidia can be as we’ve seen with the GTX 970 memory debacle, I don’t ever want to buy a desktop with an AMD graphics chipset.

I would probably want a HomePod as Apple is the only company offering an AI assistant speaker that gives a damn about privacy and isn’t just trying to sell you shit through their store like Amazon with their Echo.

HP’s Built-in Keystroke Logger

Many HP laptops have a built-in keylogger in their audio drivers according to computer security firm Modzero AG (via Ars’ Dan Goodin). Keyloggers record what you type, typically covertly, for the purposes of someone else getting access to that text data later on. In this case the researches did not find any malicious capability in the driver that uploads the recorded text to a remote location, but it is very easy to access the data coming out of the driver by anyone who has access to your computer.

It would make it very easy for a piece of malware on your computer to track what you type without jumping through extra steps.

That HP shipped this audio driver on their laptops to thousands or millions of customers since 2015 is very worrying.

You can test your HP laptop for this vulnerability by checking the list of affected models after the break or just delete these files if they’re installed on your computer:
C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log
C:\Windows\System32\MicTray64.exe
C:\Windows\System32\MicTray.exe

Continue reading “HP’s Built-in Keystroke Logger”

Windows 10 Something Went Wrong Edition

Microsoft just announced a new laptop Surface device, it’s $1000 and comes with an intentionally broken version of their Windows 10 operating system. Matt Weinberger:

The one thing to know is that the Surface Laptop is the poster child for Windows 10 S, a new version of the operating system that Microsoft says is more streamlined and secure — and offers better performance and battery life — than the standard Windows 10.

The trade-off for those perks is that Windows 10 S won’t let you install any software that’s not from the Windows Store app market, which means that, at the very least, you wouldn’t be able to install the Google Chrome web browser.

If you’re not down with that, Microsoft will let you switch any Windows 10 S computer, including the Surface Laptop, to the regular Windows 10 Pro for a one-time $49 fee — less if you’re on a tablet or something else with a smaller screen. But if you do that, Microsoft says, it can’t guarantee you’ll get the improved battery life and performance.

$50 to fix the operating system on a $1000 laptop! This loses all of the benefits of Microsoft’s touch-enabling of their operating system, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy one of these devices.

There’s a comparison to be made here to the iPad, but I don’t think that works out. The iPad was always locked to an app store, this version of Windows 10 is more like Windows RT. RT was the version of Windows for ARM-processor based Surface devices that couldn’t run x86 applications. It was based on Windows 8, limited to apps from Microsoft’s app store, and a few custom applications they produced outside of it like Office RT.

Windows RT was shitcanned because nobody wanted that environment, so this is another attempt at the same thing but based on Windows 10.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney:

 

Twitter readers will know that about 6 months ago my Windows 10 user account became unable to access any Windows 10 functions that require a Microsoft account. That’s their app store, the Xbox app, and so on. I get this error whenever I try to log in to my Microsoft account on that Windows 10 user account:

That “Send feedback” link is the only other option besides cancelling out and giving up in the dialog that Windows gives you when your login fails. “Send feedback” takes you to the Windows 10 Feedback Hub app, which, wouldn’t you know it, requires a login:

Depending on how their bug reporting works in Windows, they’ll never see any user feedback about this issue because you can’t report it directly to them through the tools that you’re giving as a Windows 10 user. Can you imagine if a Surface laptop user had this same problem on Windows 10 S? They would be furious, they couldn’t get new applications from the Windows app store.

My story got worse.

I contacted Microsoft’s Windows support team over their text support chat to get assistance with the problem after spending a few hours looking into it. After going through a few different options to debug the problem their technical support agent offered to remotely access the computer and try to resolve the issue.

The agent accessed the computer and we went through a few troubleshooting steps and then asked me what the two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account was. After I explained it, he started using Google’s search engine to research two-factor auth in my web browser.

He loaded up a Google help page that explained how their two-factor authentication system works for users.

Support agents are supposed to research problems with their computers, not the one requesting support, and Google’s help pages aren’t going to be very useful for understanding Microsoft’s two-factor solution.

That’s all very strange, but it gets better. The Microsoft support agent then disabled two-factor authentication on my Microsoft account without asking if that was OK to do first.

It’s a reasonable step to figure out if the problem with the Microsoft account logging in to Windows 10‘s app store and other functionality is the extra step in two-factor authentication, but disabling the option on the Microsoft account puts that user at risk. Almost worse was that at no point did the Microsoft support agent remind me to re-enable two-factor auth.

Finally, the support agent gave up and gave me the only option of creating a new Windows 10 user account. That is not a good solution.

I know what I would think if I were reading this, “That’s not Microsoft support!” It certainly was. They called to apologize a few days after I contacted Microsoft through a different channel with a complaint about what happened.

Still can’t log in to my Microsoft account with that Windows 10 user account.

I’m fortunate enough to be technically literate and comfortable with downloading applications manually, but a Windows 10 S user whose computer has this bug is just left with a completely broken computer unless they make a new user account or pay the $50 ransom Microsoft is charging to get access to the rest of their computer’s functionality. Unless that ransom is payable through the Windows app store, in which case they’re shit out of luck.

 

Apple Releases Clips App

It’s the Ken Burns effect but for millennials. Joanna Stern has a guide to Clips on the WSJ:

Hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps, or just cleaning your dryer’s lint tray? Either way, the titans of tech want you to record a snippet of it. Then they want you to slap on some emojis and text. Then they want you to share it with the world.

Snapchat started it. Instagram copied it. Facebook really copied it. Even Microsoft’s doing it. And now… Apple. Available Thursday for the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s Clips app lets you shoot, edit and share mobile-friendly mini-movies. If you have iOS 10.3 (the latest version), you can download it from the App Store.