Google

Google Maps Ditches Walking Calorie Counter After Backlash (engadget.com) 364

Following online backlash, Google is removing a planned feature in Maps that shows you how many calories you'd burn when in walking mode. Google's attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle caused a number of people to lambast the feature on Twitter, claiming it would "shame" and even "trigger" those with eating disorders. Engadget reports: Taking note of the negative reaction, Google is now dumping the experiment. It confirmed to Engadget that the update was briefly tested on iOS, and has been abandoned based on user feedback. As The Hill's Taylor Lorenz noted in her tweets, there was no way to turn off the feature. Lorenz also claimed that using pink cupcakes as the unit of measurement was "lowkey aimed at women." Others pointed out that Maps wasn't the appropriate place for the update. After all, there are plenty of fitness and calorie counting apps that keep track of your activity and consumption -- again emphasizing how misplaced the feature was.
Wireless Networking

Every Patch For 'KRACK' Wi-Fi Vulnerability Available Right Now (zdnet.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: As reported previously by ZDNet, the bug, dubbed "KRACK" -- which stands for Key Reinstallation Attack -- is at heart a fundamental flaw in the way Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) operates. According to security researcher and academic Mathy Vanhoef, who discovered the flaw, threat actors can leverage the vulnerability to decrypt traffic, hijack connections, perform man-in-the-middle attacks, and eavesdrop on communication sent from a WPA2-enabled device. In total, ten CVE numbers have been preserved to describe the vulnerability and its impact, and according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the main affected vendors are Aruba, Cisco, Espressif Systems, Fortinet, the FreeBSD Project, HostAP, Intel, Juniper Networks, Microchip Technology, Red Hat, Samsung, various units of Toshiba and Ubiquiti Networks. A list of the patches available is below. For the most up-to-date list with links to each patch/statement (if available), visit ZDNet's article.
Patents

Apple To Appeal Five-Year-Long Patent Battle After $439.7 Million Loss (theverge.com) 69

Appel has been ordered to pay $439.7 million to the patent-holding firm VirnetX for infringing on four patented technologies that were apparently used in FaceTime and other iOS apps. According to The Verge, Apple plans to appeal the ruling -- continuing this long-running patent battle, which began back in 2012. From the report: VirnetX first filed suit against Apple in 2010, winning $368 million just two years later. It then sued again in 2012, which is the suit that's being ruled on today. Apple initially lost the suit, then filed for a mistrial. It won a new trial, lost that trial, was ordered to pay around $300 million, then lost some more and is now having that amount upped even further. That's because a judge found Apple guilty of willful infringement, bumping its payment amount from $1.20 per infringing Apple device to $1.80 per device. Those include certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX says the ruling is "very reasonable." Apple didn't issue a statement other than to say that it plans to appeal. While $440 million isn't a lot of money for Apple, there's principle at stake here: VirnetX is a patent troll that makes its money from licensing patents and suing other parties. The company's SEC filing states, "Our portfolio of intellectual property is the foundation of our business model."
IOS

Latest iOS Update Shows Apple Can Use Software To Break Phones Repaired By Independent Shops (vice.com) 128

The latest version of iOS fixes several bugs, including one that caused a loss of touch functionality on a small subset of phones that had been repaired with certain third-party screens and had been updated to iOS 11. "Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6S displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts," the update reads. "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information." Jason Koebler writes via Motherboard: "This is a reminder that Apple seems to have the ability to push out software updates that can kill hardware and replacement parts it did not sell iPhone customers itself, and that it can fix those same issues remotely." From the report: So let's consider what actually happened here. iPhones that had been repaired and were in perfect working order suddenly stopped working after Apple updated its software. Apple was then able to fix the problem remotely. Apple then put out a warning blaming the parts that were used to do the repair. Poof -- phone doesn't work. Poof -- phone works again. In this case, not all phones that used third party parts were affected, and there's no reason to think that, in this case, Apple broke these particular phones on purpose. But there is currently nothing stopping the company from using software to control unauthorized repair: For instance, you cannot replace the home button on an iPhone 7 without Apple's proprietary "Horizon Machine" that re-syncs a new home button with the repaired phone. This software update is concerning because it not only undermines the reputation of independent repair among Apple customers, but because it shows that phones that don't use "genuine" parts could potentially one day be bricked remotely.
Security

Security Researcher Finds a Fundamental Flaw in iOS (krausefx.com) 162

Felix Krause writes: Do you want a user's Apple ID password to get access to their Apple account or to try the same email/password combination on different web services? Just ask your users politely, they'll probably just hand over their credentials, as they're trained to do so. This is just a proof of concept, phishing attacks are illegal! Don't use this in any of your apps. The goal of this blog post is to close the loophole that has been there for many years, and hasn't been addressed yet. For moral reasons, I decided not to include the actual source code of the popup, however it was shockingly easy to replicate the system dialog.
Iphone

Face ID Is Coming To the iPad Pro Next Year, Says Report (macrumors.com) 73

According to MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said iPad Pro models set to be released in 2018 will come equipped with a TrueDepth Camera and will support Face ID. Apple is believed to be adding TrueDepth cameras to the iPad Pro to introduce a user experience that's consistent with the iPhone X and boost competitiveness. From the report: According to Kuo, TrueDepth Cameras will be limited to the iPad Pro, which is Apple's main flagship tablet device. Kuo also predicts 2018 iPhone models will adopt the new camera technology coming in the iPhone X, as he has mentioned in a previous note: "We predict iOS devices to be equipped with TrueDepth Camera in 2018F will include iPhone X and 2018 new iPhone and iPad models. Because of this, we believe more developers will pay attention to TrueDepth Camera/ facial recognition related applications. We expect Apple's (U.S.) major promotion of facial recognition related applications will encourage the Android camp to also dedicate more resources to developing hardware and facial recognition applications."
Android

Slashdot Asks: Does the World Need a Third Mobile OS? 304

Now that it is evident that Microsoft doesn't see any future with Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile), it has become clear that there is no real, or potential competitor left to fight Android and iOS for a slice of the mobile operating system market. Mozilla tried Firefox OS, but that didn't work out either. BlackBerry's BBOS also couldn't find enough taker. Ideally, the market is more consumer friendly when there are more than one or two dominant forces. Do you think some company, or individual, should attempt to create their own mobile operating system?
Microsoft

Microsoft Exec Says Windows 10 Mobile is No Longer a 'Focus' (engadget.com) 135

From a report: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore informed Twitter users that new features and hardware for Windows 10 Mobile "aren't the focus" any more. There will be fixes and security patches, of course, but you shouldn't expect more than that. As for why the platform has been all but dropped? The executive boils it down to one main reason: the difficulty of getting developers to write apps. Microsoft tried paying companies to produce apps and even wrote them itself when creators couldn't or wouldn't get involved, but the number of users was "too low for most companies to invest." Why build an app for a relatively small bunch of Windows phone owners when there are many more Android and iOS users? Belfiore himself switched to Android for the "app/[hardware] diversity." It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. You can point to a few other factors in Windows' fate on phones, such as slowness in responding to Apple and Google as well as an inconsistent hardware strategy (you could rarely count on getting a timely sequel to a handset you liked). Whatever the reason, it's safe to say that Microsoft isn't just acknowledging that Android and iOS hold a clear lead -- it's quashing any hopes for a comeback, at least for the foreseeable future.
Iphone

Apple Doesn't Deliberately Slow Down Older Devices According To Benchmark Analysis (macrumors.com) 163

According to software company Futuremark, Apple doesn't intentionally slow down older iPhones when it releases new software updates as a way to encourage its customers to buy new devices. MacRumors reports: Starting in 2016, Futuremark collected over 100,000 benchmark results for seven different iPhone models across three versions of iOS, using that data to create performance comparison charts to determine whether there have been performance drops in iOS 9, iOS 10, and iOS 11. The first device tested was the iPhone 5s, as it's the oldest device capable of running iOS 11. iPhone 5s, released in 2013, was the first iPhone to get a 64-bit A7 chip, and iOS 11 is limited to 64-bit devices. Futuremark used the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Graphics test and calculated all benchmark scores from the iPhone 5s across a given month to make its comparison. The higher the bar, the better the performance, and based on the testing, GPU performance on the iPhone 5s has remained constant from iOS 9 to iOS 11 with just minor variations that Futuremark says "fall well within normal levels." iPhone 5s CPU performance over time was measured using the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Physics test, and again, results were largely consistent. CPU performance across those three devices has dropped slightly, something Futuremark attributes to "minor iOS updates or other factors."
IOS

iOS 11's Misleading 'Off-ish' Setting For Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is Bad for User Security (eff.org) 162

Last month, we covered a story about how turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 11's Control Center doesn't really turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. EFF has called the situation bad for user security. From the report: Instead, what actually happens in iOS 11 when you toggle your quick settings to "off" is that the phone will disconnect from Wi-Fi networks and some devices, but remain on for Apple services. Location Services is still enabled, Apple devices (like Apple Watch and Pencil) stay connected, and services such as Handoff and Instant Hotspot stay on. Apple's UI fails to even attempt to communicate these exceptions to its users. It gets even worse. When you toggle these settings in the Control Center to what is best described as "off-ish," they don't stay that way. The Wi-Fi will turn back full-on if you drive or walk to a new location. And both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will turn back on at 5:00 AM. This is not clearly explained to users, nor left to them to choose, which makes security-aware users vulnerable as well. The only way to turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios is to enable Airplane Mode or navigate into Settings and go to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sections. When a phone is designed to behave in a way other than what the UI suggests, it results in both security and privacy problems. A user has no visual or textual clues to understand the device's behavior, which can result in a loss of trust in operating system designers to faithfully communicate what's going on.
Businesses

Uber's iOS App Had Secret Permissions That Allowed It to Copy Your Phone Screen, Researchers Say (gizmodo.com) 91

To improve functionality between Uber's app and the Apple Watch, Apple allowed Uber to use a powerful tool that could record a user's iPhone screen, even if Uber's app was only running in the background, security researchers told news outlet Gizmodo. From a report: After the researchers discovered the tool, Uber said it is no longer in use and will be removed from the app. The screen recording capability comes from what's called an "entitlement" -- a bit of code that app developers can use for anything from setting up push notifications to interacting with Apple systems like iCloud or Apple Pay. This particular entitlement, however, was intended to improve memory management for the Apple Watch. The entitlement isn't common and would require Apple's explicit permission to use, the researchers explained. Will Strafach, a security researcher and CEO of Sudo Security Group, said he couldn't find any other apps with the entitlement live on the App Store. "It looks like no other third-party developer has been able to get Apple to grant them a private sensitive entitlement of this nature," Strafach said. "Considering Uber's past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this."
Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Edge To Android and IOS (venturebeat.com) 127

An anonymous reader writes: If you want more proof that Microsoft is embracing Android and iOS, boy, do we have it for you today. The company has launched Edge for iOS in preview, promised Edge for Android is coming soon, and launched Microsoft Launcher for Android in public preview. Edge for iOS preview is available via Apple's TestFlight and is limited, per Apple's rules, to 10,000 users. Microsoft is inviting Windows Insiders in the U.S. to sign up here. Android users can also sign up at that same link -- the preview will hit the Google Play Store in the coming weeks. Microsoft is hoping to release Edge for Android and iOS out of preview "later this year." The Microsoft Launcher is available in preview for English users in the United States on Google Play. Microsoft promises to bring it to other markets "over time" and launch it out of preview "later this year," as well.
Input Devices

Meet The Next Major Operating System: Amazon's Alexa (zdnet.com) 168

ZDNet's editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus: Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa 'routines' feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying "Alexa, good night," and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.

It's not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills...

It's still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers -- an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.

Businesses

Apple is Really Bad At Design (theoutline.com) 366

Joshua Topolsky, writing for the Outline: Once upon a time, Apple could do little wrong. As one of the first mainstream computer companies to equally value design and technical simplicity, it upended our expectations about what PCs could be. "Macintosh works the way people work," read one 1992 ad. Rather than requiring downloads and installations and extra memory to get things right (as often required by Windows machines), Apple made it so you could just plug in a mouse or start up a program and it would just... work. Marrying that functionality with the groundbreaking design the company has embodied since the early Macs, it's easy to see how Apple became the darling of designers, artists, and the rest of the creative class. The work was downright elegant; unheard of for an electronics company. [...] But things changed. In 2013 I wrote about the confusing and visually abrasive turn Apple had made with the introduction of iOS 7, the operating system refresh that would set the stage for almost all of Apple's recent design. The product, the first piece of software overseen by Jony Ive, was confusing, amateur, and relatively unfinished upon launch. [...] It's almost as if the company is being buried under the weight of its products. Unable to cut ties with past concepts (for instance, the abomination that is iTunes), unable to choose clear paths forward (USB-C or Lightning guys?), compromising core elements to make room for splashy features, and executing haphazardly to solve long-term issues. [...] Pundits will respond to these arguments by detailing Apple's meteoric and sustained market-value gains. Apple fans will shout justifications for a stylus that must be charged by sticking it into the bottom of an iPad, a "back" button jammed weirdly into the status bar, a system of dongles for connecting oft-used devices, a notch that rudely juts into the display of a $1,000 phone. But the reality is that for all the phones Apple sells and for all the people who buy them, the company is stuck in idea-quicksand, like Microsoft in the early 2000s, or Apple in the 90s.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Releases macOS High Sierra; Ex-NSA Hacker Publishes Zero-Day 53

Apple today released the newest version of its operating system for Macs, macOS High Sierra, to the public. macOS High Sierra is a free download, and offers a range of new features and improvements including the new Apple File System, and support for High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) for better compression without loss of quality, and HEIF for smaller photo sizes. Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who now serves as chief security researcher at -- Synack, posted a video of the hack -- a password exfiltration exploit -- in action. Passwords are stored in the Mac's Keychain, which typically requires a master login password to access the vault. But Wardle has shown that the vulnerability allows an attacker to grab and steal every password in plain-text using an unsigned app downloaded from the internet, without needing that password.
Google

Apple Replaces Bing With Google as Search Engine For Siri and Spotlight (geekwire.com) 54

Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac. From a report: TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools. For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing. Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine. In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that "we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Google is reportedly paying Apple $3 billion this year to remain as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.
Bug

iOS 11 Is Causing Massive Battery Drain Problems (betanews.com) 158

Mark Wilson writes: A study conducted by security research firm Wandera shows that iOS 11 is causing iPhone and iPad batteries to drain faster than ever -- much faster. The difference between iOS 10 and iOS 11 is anything but minor; batteries can drain in half the amount of time following the upgrade. Wandera's report shows how, on average, an iPhone or iPad running iOS 10 takes 240 minutes of usage to drain the battery from 100 percent to zero. With iOS 11 installed, this number plummets to just 96 minutes -- over twice as fast. Users have also complained about the issue.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman vs. Canonical's CEO: 'Will Microsoft Love Linux to Death?' (techrepublic.com) 269

TechRepublic got different answers about Microsoft's new enthusiasm for Linux from Canonical's founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, and from Richard Stallman. Stallman "believes that Microsoft's decision to build a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) amounts to an attempt to extinguish software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve." "It certainly looks that way. But it won't be so easy to extinguish us, because our reasons for using and advancing free software are not limited to practical convenience," he said. "We want freedom. As a way to use computers in freedom, Windows is a non-starter..." Stallman remains adamant that the WSL can only help entrench the dominance of proprietary software like Windows, and undermine the use of free software. "That doesn't advance the cause of free software, not one bit," he says... "The aim of the free software movement is to free users from freedom-denying proprietary programs and systems, such as Windows. Making a non-free system, such as Windows or MacOS or iOS or ChromeOS or Android, more convenient is a step backward in the campaign for freedom..."

For Shuttleworth, Windows' embrace of GNU/Linux is a net positive for open-source software as a whole. "It's not like Microsoft is stealing our toys, it's more that we're sharing them with Microsoft in order to give everyone the best possible experience," he says. "WSL provides users who are well versed in the Windows environment with greater choice and flexibility, while also opening up a whole new potential user base for the open source platform..." Today Shuttleworth takes Microsoft's newfound enthusiasm for GNU/Linux at face value, and says the company has a different ethos to that of the 1990s, a fresh perspective that benefits Microsoft as much as it does open-source software. "Microsoft is a different company now, with a much more balanced view of open and competitive platforms on multiple fronts," he says. "They do a tremendous amount of engineering specifically to accommodate open platforms like Ubuntu on Azure and Hyper-V, and this work is being done in that spirit."

The article also points out that Microsoft "does seem to be laying the groundwork for WSL to extend what's possible using a single GNU/Linux distro today, for instance, letting the user chain together commands from different GNU/Linux distros with those from Windows."
Cellphones

Apple's Swift 4.0 Includes A Compatibility Mode For 'The Majority' Of Swift 3.x Code (infoworld.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Swift 4.0 is now available. It's a major upgrade to Apple's Swift, the three-year old successor to the Objective-C language used for MacOS and iOS application development. The Swift 4 upgrade enhances the Swift Package Manager and provides new compatibility modes for developers. Apple said Swift 4 also makes Swift more stable and improves its standard library. Swift 4 is largely source-compatible with Swift 3 and ships as part of Apple's Xcode 9 IDE...

Swift 4's new compatibility modes could save you from having to modify code to be able to use the new version of the compiler. Two modes are supported, including the Swift 3.2 mode, which accepts most source files built with Swift 3.x compilers, and the Swift 4.0 mode, which includes Swift 4 and API changes. Apple said that some source migration will be needed for many projects, but the number of source changes are "quite modest" compared to many previous major changes between Swift releases.

Apple calls Swift 4.0 "a major language release" that also includes new language changes and updates that came through the Swift Evolution process.
Firefox

Firefox For iOS Gets Tracking Protection, Firefox Focus For Android Gets Tabs 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today released Firefox 9.0 for iOS and updated Firefox Focus for Android. The iOS browser is getting tracking protection, improved sync, and iOS 11 compatibility. The Android privacy browser is getting tabs. You can download the former from Apple's App Store and the latter from Google Play. This is the first time Firefox has offered tracking protection on iOS, and Nick Nguyen, vice president of product at Mozilla, notes that it's finally possible "thanks to changes by Apple to enable the option for 3rd party browsers." This essentially means iPhone and iPad users with Firefox and iOS 11 will have automatic ad and content blocking in Private Browsing mode, and the option to turn it on in regular browsing. This is the same feature that's available in Firefox for Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the same ad blocking technology used in Firefox Focus for Android and iOS.

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