Apple said today it will kick off this year's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5. Much like every year, the developer conference is the place where we can expect to see what's coming to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS later this year. This year, the event is being held in a different venue: the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the original home of WWDC. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: First, announcing early really helps people who have to travel long distances to attend, particularly those from outside the U.S. The San Jose Convention Center is the original home of WWDC -- that's where it was held from 1988 through 2002. (WWDC 2002 was the year Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 during the keynote.) San Jose is way closer to Apple headquarters. San Francisco is about an hour drive from 1 Infinite Loop. The San Jose Convention Center is only five minutes away from Apple's new campus. Schiller emphasized to me that this is a big deal: more Apple employees from more teams will be present, simply because they won't have to devote an entire day to being there. (This could be a particular boon to WWDC's developer labs, where attendees can get precious face time with Apple's engineers.)
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You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
John Biggs, writing for TechCrunch: In what amounts to one of the purest and most interesting experiments in assessing the value of Mac OS's App Store, the founder of Rogue Amoeba posted a description of what happened when he pulled his app Piezo. The result? More revenue as a whole without much damage to sales. The impetus for the move came after Apple pulled the Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100-day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn't care which platform they were using -- 84% of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license. The bottom line? "It feels great to have full control over my business and to avoid App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues," wrote Dash creator Bogdan Popescu. When Paul Kafasis tried to move away from the App Store he was worried he'd lose half of his sales. After all, many months saw about 50% of sales coming from the App Store directly. When he pulled the app a year ago, however, all of those App Store sales turned into direct sales through his website, a fact that surprised and amused Kafasis.
Your home Wi-Fi performance could soon get much better thanks to new Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm announced today, the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for broadcasters (routers and access points) and the QCA6290 SoC for receivers (Wi-Fi devices). They belong to the first end-to-end commercial Wi-Fi portfolio to support the all-new 802.11ax standard. From a report on CNET: Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 is a highly-integrated all-in-one platform designed for access points, gateways and routers. The 14nm chip integrates an 11ax radio, MAC and baseband, and a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU as well as a dual-core network accelerator. It uses a 12x12 Wi-Fi configuration (8x8 on the 5GHz band and 4x4 on the 2.4GHz band) and supports MU-MIMO for uplink. As a result, it can deliver up to 4.8 Gbps while maintaining fast connections over a larger coverage area than any 802.11ac chip. On the client side, Qualcomm says the QCA6290 SoC can offer up to a 4x increase in throughput speed in a crowded network. It supports 2x2 MU-MIMO and can realize the full benefits of the 8x8 MU-MIMO thanks to its 8x8 sounding mechanism. The chip can combine 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands using its Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) feature to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speed. Compared with 802.11ac, the chip can reduce power consumption by two-thirds.
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Apple stated that Q1 FY2017 was an all-time record for quarterly revenue. The media dutifully and mostly uncritically spread this "great" news for Apple. Technically the claim is true, the revenue was an all-time record. True but misleading. Although Apple didn't lie as such, you might say there was a sin of omission, and a definite spin of the facts. Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Once in a while, however, they need a 14 week quarter. You might call it a "leap quarter". There was a good explanation of this financial practice a few years ago in Slate. Apple's Q1 2017 was a 14 week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. John Gruber writes at DaringFireball, "Adjusted for the extra week, Apple actually had another down quarter."
If you're using an older, outdated version of Skype, you may want to consider updating soon. Microsoft said today that starting on March 1 people will no longer be able to sign in to version 7.16 of Skype for Window desktop and older versions, and version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and older versions thereof. VentureBeat reports: "If you're one of those users, all you'll need to do is download the new update," the Skype team said in a blog post. This isn't the first time Skype is retiring old software. But that doesn't mean the upcoming move won't rankle some people. Version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and version 7.16 of Skype for Windows both came out less than a year and a half ago -- in December 2015. So it's not as if this is very old software. Still, Microsoft has been doing a lot to improve Skype in the past year. It's been migrating the app to its Azure public cloud infrastructure, and adding chatbots. Current versions of Skype -- like version 7.44 for Mac -- come with amenities like better previews of websites and better support for emoticons and other content in the input box for chats. "We've poured our energy and passion into creating something truly special, and this is just the beginning," Skype said.
Late last month, we learned that LG's UltraFine 5K Display, which was designed in part by Apple to work with the new MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, would flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers if placed within two meters of a router. The company has acknowledged the issue, and says it will add enhanced shielding to its 5K monitors to prevent interferences with nearby wireless routers in the upcoming batch. From a report: "LG apologizes for this inconvenience and is committed to delivering the best quality products possible, so all LG UltraFine 27-inch 5K displays manufactured after February 2017 will be fitted with enhanced shielding," the company said in an email. Existing models will be able to be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding, which will allow the monitor to be placed near a router.
According to Bloomberg, Apple is designing a new chip for future Mac laptops that would take on more of the functionality currently handled by Intel processors. The chip is a variant of the T1 SoC Apple used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard's Touch Bar feature. The updated part, internally codenamed T310, is built using ARM technology and would reportedly handle some of the computer's low-power mode functionality. From the report: The development of a more advanced Apple-designed chipset for use within Mac laptops is another step in the company's long-term exploration of becoming independent of Intel for its Mac processors. Apple has used its own A-Series processors inside iPhones and iPads since 2010, and its chip business has become one of the Cupertino, California-based company's most critical long-term investments. Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac's low-power mode, a feature marketed as "Power Nap," to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to one of the people. The current ARM-based chip for Macs is independent from the computer's other components, focusing on the Touch Bar's functionality itself. The new version in development would go further by connecting to other parts of a Mac's system, including storage and wireless components, in order to take on the additional responsibilities. Given that a low-power mode already exists, Apple may choose to not highlight the advancement, much like it has not marketed the significance of its current Mac chip, one of the people said. Building its own chips allows Apple to more tightly integrate its hardware and software functions. It also, crucially, allows it more of a say in the cost of components for its devices. However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel chips for use in its laptops and desktops, the people said.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: When it launched late last year, the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar was largely reliant on first-party applications to show off what it could do. Since then, a number of other companies have jumped on board, helping the secondary screen grow into something more than novelty. Of course, as with any new technology, there's going to be some unanticipated downside. Test taking software company Examsoft, for one, believes the input device could help facilitate cheating among students taking the bar exam. What's perhaps most interesting here, is that the company's calling out one of Touch Bar's more mundane features: predictive text. "By default," the company writes, "the Touch Bar will show predictive text depending on what the student is typing, compromising exam integrity." It's hard to say precisely how the company expects a standard feature on mobile devices to help students pass one of the more notoriously exam out there, but The Next Web notes that some states have already taken action. North Carolina, for one, has required test takers with the new model MacBooks to disable the Touch Bar, while New York is banning the machines altogether.
Adobe announced last week that it is discontinuing sales of Contribute, and Director, adding that support to Shockwave for Mac will also be stopped in March. Fast Company's editor Harry McCracken ran into Marc Canter, the industry legend who cofounded MacroMind, the company that created Director back in the 1980s. Following is an excerpt from their conversation: I took the opportunity to ask Canter for his thoughts about Director, which was born in the pre-web era when CD-ROMs seemed to be the future. He told me that 85% of the CD-ROMs published in the medium's golden age were assembled using the package. "You'd buy this $800 product and hang a shingle and make multi-millions," he said. Canter also lamented that Director doesn't receive the same appreciation for its pioneering role in interactive content creation as does Apple's HyperCard, which appeared two years after Videoworks and had a much briefer period of relevance. He's right. Even though Director long ago faded away, it gave way to Flash, which was rendered irrelevant by HTML5 -- and it deserves a spot on any list of the most significant foundational technologies of all time.
Reader Krystalo writes: Adobe today announced Adobe Contribute and Adobe Director will no longer be for sale nor supported as of February 1, 2017. At the same time, Adobe is also stopping Shockwave for Mac updates and support on March 14, 2017 after the last release of the product. The reason Adobe gives for the death of Contribute and Director is simple: The company's customers are embracing "the new features and efficiencies offered by Creative Cloud." As for Shockwave, its content is made with Director, so the company is merely tying up loose ends. It's about time.
Windows PCs are starting to chip away at Apple's strong grip of the high-end computer market, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said on an earnings call Thursday. From a report: Microsofts licensing business, which sells Windows to third-party PC makers, was up 5 percent last quarter, confirmed CFO Amy Hood during an earnings call on Thursday. The "non-pro" (consumer) market grew 5 percent, beating the overall decline of the PC industry. "Our partner ecosystem continued to see growth and share gains in the Windows premium device category," Hood continued. Those gains would have eaten into Apple's share of that market, which has been dominated by Macs until recently. There are other things that could have contributed to this, of course. Many long-time Mac users have been somewhat disappointed with Apple's most recent releases, which come with big changes that not everyone is willing to embrace.
Long time reader AmiMoJo writes: Japan has introduced "My Number", a social security number assigned to citizens and used to access government services. Unfortunately, the My Number management web portal requires the Java plug-in. Because this plug-in is deprecated in many browsers, only Internet Explorer 11 (32 bit) and Safari on Mac are supported. The explanation (translated) given for this is that in order to access My Number contactless card readers Java is the only option. Some browsers support IC card access but it seems that it is not mature enough to be viable.
It's not surprising that Mac sales dropped for Apple in 2016 as they experienced their first year over year sales decline since 2001. What is interesting, however, is that as Mac sales dropped roughly 10% and personal computers overall dropped 5.7% for the year, the top four leaders in the market all saw growth as Apple was pushed to number five. From a report: Although Mac sales were up in Q4 2016 compared to Q4 2015, an analyst note today from Bloomberg's Anand Srinivasan and Wei Mok has revealed Apple has dropped to the fifth largest PC vendor, with ASUS overtaking fourth place. The top four vendors are now Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS. The report adds, "Those four companies represent 65.2% of the overall market and each grew year -- over-year, while Apple ceded ground, declining 30 bps to 7.1%. The other 27.7% of the market is comprised of more than 200 vendors. In a market expected to consolidate, Samsung and Fujitsu are reported to be in discussions to sell their PC businesses to Lenovo."
It appears Apple is filtering and censoring bad reviews of the LG's UltraFine 5K display. From a report on The Next Web: The deletion was first spotted by a Reddit user four days ago. Though it's possible the reviews were removed for some other reason, at first glance, it looks like censorship. It's not a good look for the company. Apple said it was getting out of the monitor business, and instead chose to work more closely with third-party partners, heavily featuring LG's 5K and 4K UltraFine displays at its recent MacBook Pro unveiling. But then the monitor received multiple negative reviews from users who were experiencing issues such as the screen failing to wake up from sleep. The Reddit post also points out that: "In many cases, attempts to fix the problem through physical reconnection[sic] of the monitor, or manual restarts, have caused the attached Mac to crash, become otherwise unresponsive, or develop problems with the touch bar (where equipped)."
Apple is bringing Night Shift, a feature aimed at changing the tone of the display to better suit the eyes at different time of the day, to its desktop operating system. From a report: macOS Sierra 10.12.4, seeded to developers this morning, introduces a major new feature: Night Shift for the Mac. Night Shift can be toggled on and off using the new Night Shift switch located in the Today section of the Notification Center.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems. As expected, it's a massive release that includes dozens of improvements and new features, starting with support for Microsoft Office 2013 and 64-bit application support on macOS. Highlights of Wine 2.0 include the implementation of more DirectWrite features, such as drawing of underlines, font fallback support, and improvements to font metrics resolution, font embedding in PDF files, Unicode 9.0.0 support, Retina rendering mode for the macOS graphics driver, and support for gradients in GDI enhanced metafiles. Additional Shader Model 4 and 5 shader instructions have been added to Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 implementation, along with support for more graphics cards, support for Direct3D 11 feature levels, full support for the D3DX (Direct3D Extension) 9 effect framework, as well as support for the GStreamer 1.0 multimedia framework. The Gecko engine was updated to Firefox 47, IDN name resolutions are now supported out-of-the-box, and Wine can correctly handle long URLs. The included Mono engine now offers 64-bit support, as well as the debug registers. Other than that, the winebrowser, winhlp32, wineconsole, and reg components received improvements. You can read the full list of features and download Wine 2.0 from WineHQ's websiteS.
An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: Apple is finally going to give its developers a way to respond to customer reviews on its App Store and Mac App Store -- a feature that's long been available to Android developers on Google Play, much to the chagrin of the Apple developer community. According to developer documentation for the iOS 10.3 beta, when this version of Apple's mobile operating ships, developers will also be able to ask for reviews in new ways, in addition to responding to those posted publicly on the App Store. Apple's ratings and reviews system has felt antiquated, and has been a source of frustration for developers and users alike. When a customer leaves a negative review, developers couldn't respond to the criticism -- which is sometimes unwarranted -- in a way that other App Store customers could see. For example, a customer may be misunderstanding a feature, or may have complained about a bug that's been fixed in a later release.
Reader Krystalo writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 51 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes a new warning for websites which collect passwords but don't use HTTPS, WebGL 2 support for better 3D graphics, and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) playback. Mozilla doesn't break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say "half a billion people around the world" use the browser. In other words, it's a major platform that web developers target -- even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.
You asked, he answered! The creator of Apple's Swift programming language (and a self-described "long-time reader/fan of Slashdot") stopped by on his way to a new job at Tesla just to field questions from Slashdot readers. Read on for Chris's answers...