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Bloomberg - Are you a robot?
What a facile, bullshit article from Bloomberg. Where is the proof that the lack of 5G is “stinging” Apple in any way? By all reports, iPhone 11 sales are up over last year, not down. 5G is a niche technology this year, and the only phones that support it are niche phones. What Bloomberg doesn’t even mention is that Apple does not make niche phones. If they went the Samsung route they’d sell an “iPhone 11 Pro 5G” for $1,600 in addition to all the existing iPhone 11 models, just to check the “We sell a 5G phone” box.

Apple doesn’t do that.

And even if Apple could have made all 2019 iPhone 11 models 5G, there’s no way carriers would have let them, because there’s no way nascent 5G networks are ready for that many phones. Consumer-wise, I don’t know anyone who thinks “LTE isn’t fast enough for me” is a top 10 problem to solve for any phone. 5G hype is from the carriers (looking to charge more), for the carriers. Yes, we’ll all be on 5G networks within a few years, but anyone who argues that Apple has a 5G problem today, with its current iPhone lineup, is either full of shit or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

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17 hours ago by rufous
Pixel Buds 2 hands-on: Google takes on the AirPods - The Verge
Nilay Patel:

I just spent a few minutes with the new Google Pixel Buds hardware — the $179 truly wireless earbuds aren’t shipping until Spring 2020, and the units at Google’s fall hardware event aren’t actually turned on and working. So there’s no way to tell how they’ll actually sound, and how Google’s various software tricks work in practice.

Not shipping for six months is one thing; not even having usable prototypes now is another. They must have felt like they had to show them anyway — Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are already in the game.

Apple isn’t usually first in a product category, but AirPods established a template all the other tech giants (other than Facebook, so far) are following.

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yesterday by rufous
Pixel 4 and 4 XL: hands-on with Google’s new phones - The Verge
Dieter Bohn:

The other feature this local model enables is a new app: Recorder. It’s a voice recorder, but it also does real-time transcription right there as it records without needing to send anything to the internet. In a couple of tests, I found it to be much more accurate than the other real-time transcription app I’ve used, Otter. You can also do searches for anything in those transcripts later.

There’s a lot more that’s new, of course, but instant accurate transcripts in the voice recorder app is a killer feature. It’s all done on-device too.

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yesterday by rufous
How safe is Apple’s Safe Browsing? – A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering
Matthew Green, writing at Cryptographic Engineering:

When Apple wants to advertise a major privacy feature, they’re damned good at it. As an example: this past summer the company announced the release of the privacy-preserving “Find My” feature at WWDC, to widespread acclaim. They’ve also been happy to claim credit for their work on encryption, including technology such as iCloud Keychain.

But lately there’s been a troubling silence out of Cupertino, mostly related to the company’s interactions with China. Two years ago, the company moved much of iCloud server infrastructure into mainland China, for default use by Chinese users. It seems that Apple had no choice in this, since the move was mandated by Chinese law. But their silence was deafening. Did the move involve transferring key servers for end-to-end encryption? Would non-Chinese users be affected? Reporters had to drag the answers out of the company, and we still don’t know many of them.

In the Safe Browsing change we have another example of Apple making significant modifications to its privacy infrastructure, largely without publicity or announcement. We have learn about this stuff from the fine print. This approach to privacy issues does users around the world a disservice.

If Apple needs to do things differently in China to comply with Chinese law, they need to explain exactly what they’re doing and why. Otherwise people are going to assume the worst. “Trust us” is not good enough. If they’re embarrassed to explain in detail what they’re doing to comply with Chinese law, then they shouldn’t be doing it.

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yesterday by rufous
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yesterday by rufous
Twitter
Via Dino Dai Zovi, a user on Hacker News disassembled the code for Safari’s Fraudulent Website Warning feature and verified that it only uses Tencent (instead of Google) if the region code is set to mainland China.

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yesterday by rufous
Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast. - The New York Times
David Sanger, writing for The New York Times:

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

I’m starting to think this guy is a terrible president.

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yesterday by rufous
Here's Apple's statement on Safari Fraudulent Website Warning and Tencent | iMore
Apple, in a statement to iMore:

Apple protects user privacy and safeguards your data with Safari Fraudulent Website Warning, a security feature that flags websites known to be malicious in nature. When the feature is enabled, Safari checks the website URL against lists of known websites and displays a warning if the URL the user is visiting is suspected of fraudulent conduct like phishing. To accomplish this task, Safari receives a list of websites known to be malicious from Google, and for devices with their region code set to mainland China, it receives a list from Tencent. The actual URL of a website you visit is never shared with a safe browsing provider and the feature can be turned off.

After quoting Apple’s statement, Rene Ritchie has more details on how the feature works, including the fact that the URLs you visit aren’t sent to Google (or Tencent) — hashed prefixes of the URLs are sent. This became a story over the weekend when a story by Tom Parker at Reclaim the Net ran under the alarming headline “Apple Safari Browser Sends Some User IP Addresses to Chinese Conglomerate Tencent by Default”.

My assumption was that Apple was only using Tencent in mainland China, where Google services are banned. Apple’s statement today makes it clear that that is true. But Apple brought this mini-controversy upon itself, because Apple’s own description of the feature doesn’t specify when the Fraudulent Website Warning feature uses Google and when it uses Tencent. Apple’s description simply says:

Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent. These safe browsing providers may also log your IP address.

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yesterday by rufous
Apple Told Some Apple TV+ Show Developers Not To Anger China
Alex Kantrowitz and John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

In early 2018 as development on Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company’s leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to remain in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country.

Judd Apatow:

Hey and don’t mention that Turkey is bad. We sell a lot of watches there. And don’t mention Saudi Arabia murdering journalists — they love the iMac and don’t mention Russia — big iPad market.

Apple’s far from alone here. Making big-budget movies and TV shows China-friendly is de rigueur in Hollywood today, and Apple TV+ is now a player in Hollywood. But how is this not a victory for the stifling of free speech?

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4 days ago by rufous
Apple’s decision to pull an app used by Hong Kong protestors shows how much it needs China - Vox
Peter Kafka, writing at Recode:

Unlike tech companies that haven’t broken into the country or only do minor business in it, Apple is now so deep in China that leaving it could be catastrophic. Even if the company was willing to forgo the $44 billion a year in sales it makes in China, it can’t leave the deep network of suppliers and assemblers that build hundreds of millions of iPhones every year.

Earlier this year, in response to the escalating US-China trade war, Apple floated the idea that it could move some of its production outside of China to hedge its bets. But it was only willing to suggest that it would move a third of production.

So even if Apple decided to make the wrenching decision to get out of China today, it couldn’t. It is stuck there, for better and for worse.

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4 days ago by rufous
Everything New in iOS 13.2 Beta 2: Delete Apps From Home Screen, Emoji, Siri Privacy and More - MacRumors
Two features stand out to me (I’m already running the 13.2 betas on my daily use iPhone — feel like I have nothing to lose on this front given the de facto beta-y state of 13.1.2):

13.2b2 introduces two important Siri privacy features. First, you can opt in and out of “Improve Siri & Diction” in Settings → Privacy → Analytics & Improvements. Second, you can delete your Siri and dictation history in Settings → Siri & Search. In a briefing with Apple, I was told that even if you opt in to “Improve Siri & Diction”, no one at Apple will ever review a Siri interaction until 24 hours have passed. So if you ever do say anything to Siri you don’t want reviewed, you have a full day to delete your history. Also, I was told that Siri interactions will henceforth only be reviewed by Apple employees — no more contractors.

The camera app now lets you change the frame rate (24/30/60 FPS) and resolution (720p, 1080p (HD), 4K) right in the viewfinder when you’re in video mode. Previously these could only be changed by going to Settings → Camera — a real pain in the ass when you’re ready to shoot a fleeting moment. But I find this interface a bit fiddly at the moment, because there’s no feedback on tap down. It’s hard to tell even that these are two separate buttons — one for the frame rate and one for the resolution. I’d rather have the whole thing be one button that opens a picker like the iPhone 11 zoom wheel.

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4 days ago by rufous
Kuo: Apple's AR Headset to Launch in Second Quarter of 2020 - MacRumors
We know for a fact, with ARKit, that Apple has a strong interest in augmented reality. We also know that phones and tablets are not idea AR devices. They’re not bad, but they’re not ideal. So you don’t need a weatherman to tell you the wind is blowing toward Apple working on AR-dedicated hardware — glasses or goggles or something. Now we have Kuo saying it’s coming in the first half of 2020. That’s pretty close.

But if true, no one thus far seems to have any idea what exactly Apple has in mind. Are they glasses you’re supposed to wear all the time, like you do with Apple Watch? That doesn’t sound right to me. The glasshole problems all persist. If there’s a camera, it’s creepy and rude to wear them all the time. Do they make you look weird? Eyeglasses are a huge personal statement — far more so than a watch. If they all look like “Apple Glasses”, there’s going to be a huge resistance to wearing the same glasses as everyone else. And if it’s something else entirely — a product you don’t wear all day like a watch — when do you wear them and what are they meant for? Perhaps they’re more like AirPods, in terms of being situational. All unanswered questions.

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4 days ago by rufous
Disgraced Google Exec Andy Rubin Quietly Left His Venture Firm Earlier This Year
Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Rubin’s departure from Playground was also accompanied by a payout, with a source familiar placing the amount at more than $9 million. Documents related to his exit, which were seen by some investors and the company’s leadership, but not all of Playground’s staff, were reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

“Effective May 31, 2019, Playground Global ended our business relationship with Andy Rubin,” read one internal document. “While Andy is still a good friend of Playground, he no longer has any economic interest in or any ongoing roles at Playground Global or the related funds.”

“Quietly” is overused, especially in headlines, but here’s a case where something really was done quietly. Rubin founded the firm and its own staff wasn’t aware he left?

Rubin, however, is still using Playground’s money to build Essential. The two are heavily linked, with Playground investing in both of Essential’s fundraising rounds that have raised a collective $330 million and the two companies sharing the same address, according to their websites.

That’s quite a racket Rubin has going here.

It’s not clear why Rubin, Playground’s founder and figurehead, departed the venture firm, but the nimbus of persistently negative publicity around him may have played a role.

Yeah, maybe that’s it.

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5 days ago by rufous
Twitter
Craig Mod:

Do you three-finger-tap to get definitions in macOS? Does it drive you bonkers that the lookup overlay tries to access Wikipedia and other random non-dictionary things?

Sysprefs → Spotlight → [uncheck] Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Look up

Enjoy blazing fast definitions.

What a fantastic tip, if, like me, you only ever use this feature to get Dictionary lookups. I didn’t realize how slow this feature sometimes gets until I turned this off. Now it’s always instantaneous, as it should be. Remember: fast software is the best software.

(Remember too that in addition to the three-finger tap, you can use the right-click contextual menu to look up the current text selection, and ⌃⌘D to look up whatever word is adjacent to the insertion point (while editing) or under the mouse pointer (while reading a web page or PDF). These shortcuts work system wide on MacOS.)

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5 days ago by rufous
Apple Revokes Panic Developer License – Crazy Apple Rumors Site
John Moltz, at the rejuvenated Crazy Apple Rumors Site:

“Untitled Goose Game represents a clear and present threat to Chinese sovereignty,” said Yang Cheung, a spokesperson for the Chinese government.

Gesturing to a video of Untitled Goose Game gameplay, Cheung explained. “The goose is a lawless force of rampant anti-nationalism. It encourages violence against the state and disrespects authority.”

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5 days ago by rufous
China Blows Whistle on Nationalistic Protests Against the N.B.A. - The New York Times
Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernández, reporting for The New York Times from Beijing:

After three days of fanning nationalistic outrage, the Chinese government abruptly moved on Thursday to tamp down public anger at the N.B.A. as concerns spread in Beijing that the rhetoric was damaging China’s interests and image around the world.

You don’t say.

Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong.

Pretty sure there wouldn’t be as many “Free Hong Kong” signs at NBA games — or any at all — if the Chinese government had simply let this slide.

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6 days ago by rufous
Twitter
Charles Mok:

As a long-time user of Apple products and services, I highly appreciate that Apple has been championing freedom of expression as one of the corporation’s tenets. I sincerely hope Apple will choose to support its users and stop banning HKmap.live simply out of political reason or succumbing to China’s influence like other American companies appear to be doing.

We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.

As quoted in Tim Cook’s own Twitter bio:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” —Martin Luther King Jr.

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6 days ago by rufous
Twitter
I’ve seen a copy of Cook’s company-wide email, and the copy reproduced here is accurate. Maciej Ceglowski — who has been in Hong Kong for weeks — responds:

The first allegation is that “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence”. This makes no sense at all. The app does not show the locations of individual officers at all. It shows general concentrations of police units, with a significant lag.

As the developer and @charlesmok, a Hong Kong legislator, have pointed out, the app aggregates reports from Telegram, Facebook and other sources. It beggars belief that a campaign to target individual officers would use a world-readable crowdsourcing format like this.

Moreover, what are these incidents where protesters have targeted individual police for a premeditated attack? Can Mr. Cook point to a single example? Can anyone? […]

So not only is there no evidence for this claim, but it goes against the documentary record of 18 weeks of protests, and is not even possible given the technical constraints of the app (which tracks groups of police).

The second, related allegation is that the app helps “victimize individuals and property where no police are present”. Again, does Mr. Cook have any evidence for this claim? The app does not show an absence of police, it shows concentrations of police, tear gas, riot flags etc.

So, three questions, no answers:

When was HKmap.live “used maliciously to target individual officers for violence”?

When was it used to “victimize individuals and property where no police are present”?

What local laws in Hong Kong does it violate?

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6 days ago by rufous
Twitter
Transcript from journalist Tim McLaughlin:

Reporter: Two questions about the HKmap.live app. Which local laws the HKmap.live app violates and why should Apple remove HKmap.live when apps which allow users to track the location of police checkpoints remain in the app store? Thank you. […]

Chief Secretary for the Administration Matthew Cheung: I suppose the Police have already explained the reasons for it, okay? And, we have nothing further to add.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan: Indeed the taking down of the app from the Apple store is the decision made by the operating company — Apple. So, if you want to know the reason for them to take down the app, maybe you can approach Apple and the Apple store.

Complete non-answers to both questions.

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6 days ago by rufous
Apple Removes App That Tracked Hong Kong Police - The New York Times
Jack Nicas, reporting for The New York Times:

A day earlier, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial that accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in Hong Kong. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the article, which was written under a pseudonym, “Calming the Waves.”

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” Apple said in a statement late Wednesday. “This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

I still haven’t seen which local laws it violates, other than the unwritten law of pissing off Beijing.

This is a bad look for Apple, if you think capitulation is a bad look.

HKmap remains available on the web, and on the Google Play Store.

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6 days ago by rufous

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