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Tom Briant

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth's Weekly Web Wrap-up for April 3, 2016

Apple is flying a pirate flag over its headquarters — here's why

Friday (April 1) is the 40th anniversary of Apple's founding, and to celebrate, Apple flew a pirate flag over its headquarters.

Walt Mossberg reviews the iPhone SE and the new iPad Pro

Review: Apple’s iPhone SE Is the Perfect Smaller Smartphone

Who should (and should not) buy the iPhone SE

Another review

The iPhone SE is an even better value than we thought

The iPhone will finally stop ruining your sleep — here's how

The blue glow of an iPhone's screen isn't good for our bodies at night – it suppresses the brain's release of melatonin, which throws off your body's sleep. Thankfully, the new iPhone update — iOS 9.3 available now — will change that.

REVIEW: This is Apple's best iPad

Apple releases iOS 9.3.1 with fix for link bug

Apple today released iOS 9.3.1 to fix a bug that could cause tapping links to stop working in Safari and other apps. The problems were caused by certain apps with poor implementations of the "Universal Links" feature introduced in iOS 9.

Apple issues iOS 9 update to fix app-breaking bug caused by tapping links

Apple today released an update to iOS 9 to fix an issue that made some apps like Safari and Mail unresponsive, and in some cases crashed them entirely, when trying to open links.

The bug may trace back to Apple's new Universal Links feature introduced with iOS 9 back in September. Universal Links was designed to allow developers to connect URLs with specific mobile apps, letting users tap a link to a website and have it open in the site's mobile app instead.

iPad Pro 9.7 review: damn the torpedoes

"We believe that iPad is the perfect expression of the future of personal computing."
So said Tim Cook at the introduction of the new iPad Pro 9.7.

So is it?  Read this review and find out.

How to Password Protect Notes in iOS 9.3 and OS X 10.11.4

Alongside the iOS 9.3 update, Apple's OS X 10.11.4 introduces similar support for password-protected Notes.

New Apple Campus 2 drone flyover offers latest close-up of construction progress

First iPhone SE teardown reveals mainly 5s/6s parts inside, but a few surprises too

It’s often been said the iPhone SE is an iPhone 6s crammed into the body of an iPhone 5/5s, and for the most part, it looks like that really is the case.

While there is still much to discover about the iPhone SE, what is becoming clear is that this is not your typical Apple release. There are very few new parts, but that hardly means there is no innovation. As is the genius of Apple and its fearless leader, Mr. Cook, it is the combination of all the right parts that make a successful product. Finding that just-right balance of old and new, and at such a low cost, is no easy feat.

Why Apple teaches its factory workers how to write calligraphy

While calligraphy might seem like a odd pursuit for iPhone assemblers, it's a widely practiced art form in China.
Studies have even shown that Chinese calligraphy relieves stress.

Clear space on your iPhone by watching a movie
Or, more accurately, by trying to watch a movie but failing on the first attempt because your iPhone doesn’t have enough space, which causes iOS to clear out space to make room for the movie, at which point you cancel the movie rental and don’t watch the movie after all, but you have freed up a bunch of space on your iPhone.

Well, you could still choose to watch the movie if you feel like it.

Why Apple and Google are struggling to design simple software

millions of consumers are facing a simple problem. Or rather, they're facing a problem with simplicity, as both the number of smart products and the functions of those products multiply.

16 percent of consumers who've tried to buy an Internet of Things device found it too complicated to use. Even worse, 18 percent of consumers couldn't even get those devices to connect to the Internet.

If most people still don't understand how to use them? That's a design problem.

software isn't getting easier to use. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

For years, the simplicity went to Apple, which has been a ferocious champion for clean design that doesn't give you more information than you strictly need.

But now, even at Apple, the crown is showing signs of slipping. For example: have you looked at iTunes lately?

The simple designs of past products were never meant to accommodate the range of offerings that are now demanded by consumers.

Which gets us to the next problem: simple design is far from simple.

Some Apple History
When Apple introduced the Apple II, the need for a home computer was largely untested
This article is a re-publishing of an old article that was written in 1977.

When Apple launched the Apple II in 1977, it was still far from certain that consumers would want or need a home computer.

I really tried, but there’s just no way I can live with the Galaxy S7

In March, I penned an article about the one thing preventing me from ditching my iPhone and switching to a Galaxy S7 edge. In my eyes, Samsung’s latest flagship phone is as close as any company has come to the ideal physical smartphone experience given current technology limitations.

the software is still Android even though it’s hiding beneath TouchWiz, and I explained in my piece that it simply doesn’t afford a user experience that can approach iOS.

I had a few good conversations with people and a common concern was voiced: I hadn’t given Android enough time.
So, I decided to take the advice of several readers who emailed me and use the Galaxy S7 edge as my main smartphone for a week.

It didn’t change my mind.

the experience Android provides, and the experiences those apps provide, just isn’t on the same level as the iPhone.

there is an attention to detail and a level of craftsmanship in iOS that simply isn’t equalled in Android. It’s all the little things that might seem minor on the surface, but that combine to separate the two.

it’s absolutely insane and inexcusable that apps running on the most powerful Android phone on the planet stutter and stammer.

Condolences to Apple for its Big Win

The FBI said Monday that it’s dropping its case against Apple because it found a way to hack into the iPhone 5C used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Previously, the FBI had maintained that accessing the data on the iPhone would be impossible without Apple’s help.

That’s good for Apple, which wanted to avoid being enlisted to break the security of one of its own products. But it also means there’s now a hacking method floating around that can circumvent the security of an iPhone 5C running the iOS 9 operating system—and that could work on other phones as well.

... it could undo any public-relations boost that Apple received during its legal fight. For Apple, one upside of the FBI case was the spotlight it shone on the company’s security features. The company would probably want to avoid writing, “Not even the FBI can get in!” on its website, but through this high-profile case, millions of Americans became aware of that fact—until it wasn’t true anymore. Not only was the FBI able to get in (albeit with a little help), but it’s not clear that Apple even knows how it happened. That’s not a great look for a company that prides itself on privacy and security.

US has asked Apple, Google to help unlock devices in more than 70 cases
About 30 of the cases are as recent as 2015, according to the ACLU

U.S. government agencies have filed more than 70 orders requiring Apple or Google to help law enforcement agencies unlock mobile devices since 2008.

The All Writs Act, from 1789, allows courts, with some limits, to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

Here's a map of where Apple and Google are fighting the All Writs Act nationwide

This map is visual proof against the government’s argument that this case was about one iPhone. And it goes to show that even though the San Bernardino case has been vacated, Apple and Google may still have a long fight ahead of them under the All Writs Act.

This request from a grieving father shows why Apple absolutely cannot build a back door into the iPhone

Apple has faced other heartbreaking requests from people who want to access dead relatives' iPads and iPhones in the past.

So Apple punts, saying truthfully that while it's sorry, it can't unlock an encrypted phone without its passcode.

"No one should have a key that turns a billion locks," CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Time. "It shouldn't exist."

Liam Bartlett: How Apple got it wrong protecting personal privacy over public safety

The struggle between the FBI and Apple in the US highlights the conundrum between public safety and personal privacy rights in the fight against Islamic extremism.

the FBI asked Apple to create software that would allow it to have unlimited guesses until they could unlock it. Apple refused, claiming it could get into the wrong hands and be used for nefarious purposes. It was a weak and revealing response. Aside from admitting its internal security is questionable, Apple was simply protecting its brand.

At a time when the FBI was chasing down leads to ensure public safety, Apple was more concerned with commercial prestige and profits than rooting out terrorists.

Apple, Google Ordered To Unlock Smartphones Since At Least 2008

"The FBI wants you to think that it will use the All Writs Act only in extraordinary cases to force tech companies to assist in the unlocking of phones," ACLU attorney Eliza Sweren-Becker said. "Turns out, these kinds of orders have actually become quite ordinary."

Apple vs. FBI: Suddenly, the script has flipped

Someone (FBI won’t say who) managed to crack an iPhone for the FBI in a relatively short time via an unspecified method.
Now Apple wants to know how the cracking was done, and the FBI wants to keep the hack secret.

AW comment:
The FBI’s secret contractor isn’t the only one who could do it.  Other hackers will figure it out too, and eventually Apple will learn how.  How many iPhones will be hacked before that happens is anyone’s guess.

Reader comment:
Whatever path the FBI took was always available to them. In reality, they were basically bullying Apple to create precedence  and get the backdoor and the whole thing backfired on them.  Did they find anything worthwhile on the iPhone?  I am sure they will make up something to prove they were right.

Forget iPhone encryption, the FBI can’t touch the software ISIS uses

Two important apps that ISIS uses are Telegram and TrueCrypt.  They both originate from outside the U.S.  Telegram was written by a Russian and TrueCrypt was written by “anonymous folks” from around the world.

They can both be used on most smart phones, including the iPhone and, if they are, it’s not enough to crack the iPhone:  You have to crack Telegram (if used) and / or TrueCrypt (if used) also, or you still don’t get the information. The problem is that Telegram and TrueCrypt are both uncrackable (as far as anyone knows right now).

If the terrorists behind the San Bernardino murders were using them, the FBI is still can’t get any information from that particular iPhone.

35 of the most absurd texts people have gotten from their parents

Good for several laughs.

Don’t blame Bitcoin for the madness of men

Bitcoin has real potential as a means to conduct seamless and secure online transactions. Its role as a key player in our fintech future should be assured.

But in order to achieve this status, its price needs to stop fluctuating so wildly. The main cause of the Bitcoin roller-coaster has been speculation. Speculation has consequences.

How Smartphones Will Become Unboring

Tech journalists rarely write about staplers and loofas and toaster ovens and Allen wrenches—all important, productive objects in daily life—because they are old and boring. They are solved problems. They are background.

The generic smartphone, the smartphone qua smartphone, is becoming background.

And that’s fine! Every high technology moves to the background eventually.

The new trend is now towards specialized devices.  smartphones will be given over to specialization—and all its bizarre utility.

The 20 most popular TED Talks of all time

I’ve analyzed 500 TED Talks, and this is the one rule you should follow when you give a presentation

"Thou shalt tell a story."

"What sets TED talks apart is that the big ideas are wrapped in personal stories," Charlie Rose once said on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. Rose nailed it.

No other tool of persuasion has the same effect as a personal story.

The best stocks for the virtual-reality revolution

I think there will be a virtual-reality bubble and it will peak in a couple years from now.

You need to be careful about picking the technological revolutions you invest in. 3-D printing investors have learned the hard way that if you invest too early in the revolution, however real it ultimately might turn out to be, that you can still lose your shirt if the tectonic plates aren't actually moving yet. In contrast, you can already see the technological tectonic plates shifting for a virtual reality revolution that will change the way we watch movies, surf the Internet, do surgery and socialize on Facebook.

One way that you can be sure to see the technological tectonic plates shifting is when venture-capital firms begin to get involved in a big way.

Over the next few years, virtual reality will carve out its own niche in the consumer-electronics space if it can just prove to both consumers and investors that it is not a fad that will disappear.

The most important part of the VR wars is getting developers on board.

Why there’s no such thing as a "robo adviser” (i.e., computer advisor)

A robot can help with asset allocation, but it can never advise you as a human does

Robo advisers aren’t really advisers. They’re robo asset allocators. The robotic allocations are susceptible to flawed risk profiling and inefficient portfolio management for most people with a sophisticated financial plan. The business of asset allocation is too personal and customized to ever become fully automated so the best solution is some integration between the human and robot sides.

David Pogue:
What’s the best free scanner app for your smartphone?

The Nameless Mouse Behind the Largest-Ever Neural Network

Neural networks are one of the frontiers of computing research.

A bunch of scientists studied a mouse’s brain, in tremendous detail, to come up with a neural network map of its brain.
Researchers hope the map will help them understand how the brain is organized and why.

Mad Scientists Created Synthetic Bacteria With Only 473 Genes

Behold syn3.0, a synthetic bacterial genome that’s smaller than anything found in nature. Biologists hope it will further our understanding of the fundamentals of life and inspire the creation of new synthetic life. 

It’s known as a “radically minimalist” genome because it has just 473 genes—the minimal number required for this bacterial cell to sustain the most basic functions of life, including reproduction. The details of this extraordinary achievement can now be found in the latest edition of Science magazine.

Our goal is a cell so simple that we can determine the molecular and biological function of every gene.

Unexpectedly, [the minimal cell] contains 149 genes with unknown biological functions, suggesting the presence of undiscovered functions that are essential for life.

Smallest-yet genome reveals how little we know about life — synthetic or real

This week, a team of biologists headed by genomics pioneer Craig Venter published a study in Science that should amaze and excite the world: they built a life-form, and they have no idea how it works.

let’s be clear about what these organisms are — crippled genetic freaks that could never survive outside of the lab.

Their final genome had exactly 473 genes in it, and a whopping 149 of these are currently mysterious.

what are the base, indispensable genetic technologies that life cannot do without? Figuring that out would not only grant insight into genetics, but into the definition of life itself.

To help enthusiasts who want to know what’s really going on under the hood, Craig Smith has written The Car Hacker’s Handbook

The Car Hacker’s Handbook is a comprehensive guide to reverse-engineering and understanding the digital control systems in a modern vehicle. The book includes information on building your own test beds for analyzing the software in a vehicle’s control computers.

As you read The Car Hacker’s Handbook, the first thing that comes to mind is trouble. Malicious individuals could use the information and techniques described in this book to take control of people’s automobiles and use that control to demand ransoms, cause accidents, or even commit terrorism.

“The risk concerns me,” Smith admited. “But one thing I’ve learned is that keeping things to yourself works for the black hats. Once you shine a light on things, they get fixed. So if you’re not talking about it, that’s a worse situation. Sometimes it’s off-putting for industries when a researcher says there’s a problem with a product, so we do have to be sensitive. We have to play nice so we can all get safer sooner.”

Smith is one of the founders of Open Garages, a loose organization dedicated to providing public access, documentation, and the tools necessary to understand today’s modern vehicle systems. The organization is seeking to bring the ethos of open source software to the automobile world, and this book is part of that effort.

Turns out con artists have an easier time fooling smart people

20% of employees are willing to sell their work email passwords

that shows humans are the weakest link when it comes to security, says SailPoint President Kevin Cunningham.

Iran Hacker Used Google Search Technique

Federal prosecutors said a search technique called "Google dorking" allowed an Iranian hacker to tap into a computer system that controlled a New York dam.

Actually, “Google dorking” is used to identify weak spots and computers that can be hacked by other methods.

The bigger concern is that businesses and government are not securing their computers enough.  If the were secure enough, Google would not be able to get more data than they should from those computers.

Hackers breached networks at some of the country’s top law firms

Encryption Is a Luxury 
The people that most need privacy often can’t afford the smartphones that provide it.

for many smartphone users, strong data encryption was never really an option. Most Android phones don’t encrypt the data that’s stored on the device, and many come with messaging services that don’t encrypt data that’s sent back and forth between devices.

Apple sells its cheapest current iPhone for 400 dollars; new Android phones are available for as cheap as 30 dollars.

“When encryption remains a luxury feature, those who are the most surveilled in our society are using devices that protect them the least from that surveillance,” said Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s clear that the woeful state of Android privacy and security is disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable in our society,” says Soghoian

Ransomware gets a lot faster by encrypting the master file table instead of the filesystem

In just a few short years, ransomware -- malware that encrypts all the files on the computer and then charges you for a key to restore them -- has gone from a clever literary device for technothrillers to a cottage industry to an epidemic to a public menace.

But ransomware has a serious Achilles heel that's kept it in check: encrypting a lot of files is computationally expensive, especially when there isn't much free space on the victim's hard-drive. That means that ransomware either has to run very slowly (increasing the chances that it'll be detected and stopped before it can gobble up too many files) or very obviously (slowing down the victim's PC so badly that they may figure out something's up before it gets very far and pull the plug).

A new ransomware, Petya, deploys a rarely seen technique that massively speeds up the encryption. Petya attacks the drive's Master Boot Record and Master File Table, the metadata files that allow a drive to start up a computer and know which files are in which sectors. Without these two files, disks are unreadable by normal measures -- but these two files are relatively tiny and can be encrypted in seconds, rather than days.

This is what happens when someone hacks your Spotify account

A trip down memory lane

50 Must-Have Features for Small-Business Websites (Infographic)

'Machine learning' is a revolution as big as the internet or personal computers

"Nobody actually knows how to program a car to drive," Pedro Domingos says. "We know how to drive, but we can’t even explain it to ourselves. The Google car learned by driving millions of miles, and observing people driving.”

machine learning allows algorithms to learn through experience, and do things we don't know how to make programs for.

"There were two stages to the information age," Domingos says. "One stage is where we had to program computers, and the second stage, which is now beginning, is where computers can program themselves by looking at data." 

Perhaps that's why Google's Eric Schmidt says that every big startup over the next five years will have one thing in common: machine learning.

5 things you should know about two-factor authentication

If there's one online account that's worth protecting above all others, it's your email. That's not just because it contains your private conversations, but because it serves as a gateway to your other accounts.

If you're using a password manager [such as 1Password], make that your next priority.

John McAfee Claims FBI’s Battle With Apple Was All Precedent, Government Contractor Cellebrite Had The Technology

The best free online business courses starting in April

Edward Snowden's guide to internet privacy

Here’s an old, but much more detailed article about this.

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