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Software

Apple Launches Single Sign-On Service To Make Logging Into TV Apps Less Time-Consuming (macrumors.com) 18

Apple has launched Single Sign-on, a service designed to make logging into TV apps much less annoying. It "allows cable subscribers to sign in once with their cable credentials to gain access to all cable-restricted content in iOS and tvOS apps," writes Juli Clover via MacRumors: Single Sign-on is limited to the United States, and according to a support document, is available for the following providers: CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GVTC, GTA, Hawaiian Telecom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling. While Single Sign-on was introduced and tested in the tvOS 10.1 and iOS 10.2 betas, the feature was remotely released today to all iOS 10 and tvOS 10 devices. Using Single Sign-on does not require one of the betas, and is instead immediately available to all iPhone and Apple TV users running iOS 10 or tvOS 10. With Single Sign-on, customers with a supported provider will use the Settings options in iOS or tvOS to sign in with their cable credentials. From then on, when accessing a supported app that requires a cable subscription, the app will ask to use the saved sign-on credentials. Most cable channels and content providers offer individual apps on the Apple TV and iOS devices, but still require cable authentication before users can access content. Prior to Single Sign-on, customers were required to enter their credentials in each individual app, a frustrating and time-consuming process.
Iphone

Apple Says Air Exposure Is Causing iPhone 6s Battery Problems (arstechnica.com) 62

Last month, Apple announced a repair program for a "small number" of iPhone 6s phones that suffer from faulty batteries. The phones that were affected by this fault were manufactured between September and October 2015. Two weeks later, Apple now says the fault was caused by overexposure to "controlled ambient air." Ars Technica reports: The same press release -- issued only in China so far, but available in English if you scroll down -- says that some owners of later iPhone 6S models are also reporting problems with unexpected shutdowns. Apple isn't replacing those batteries just yet, but the company says that an iOS update "available next week" will add "additional diagnostic capability" that will allow Apple to better track down and diagnose the causes of these shutdowns. It "may potentially help [Apple] improve the algorithms used to manage battery performance and shutdown," as well. Those improvements will be included in future iOS updates. Apple says that the battery problem "is not a safety issue," an important thing to note given the way the Galaxy Note 7 blew up in Samsung's face. The software update that Apple mentions in the release is almost certainly iOS 10.2, which is currently in its sixth beta build. The update will be the first major bug-fix release since October's iOS 10.1, and it also includes a handful of other changes like new and redesigned emoji, the TV app that Apple demoed at its last product event, and other features.
Android

Google Is Rolling Out Android 7.1.1 (engadget.com) 73

Google is rolling out Android 7.1.1 for Pixel and Nexus smartphones, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus Player, Pixel C and General Mobile 4G (Android One). You can download it over-the-air when it becomes available "over the next several weeks" or flash it yourself. Engadget details some of the new features found in Android 7.1.1: As for what you can find from a feature perspective, Google has added support for its "image keyboard" that lets you easily find and send pictures and GIFs without leaving your messaging app of choice. Google says it'll work inside of Hangouts, Allo, and the default Messaging app. Ironically enough, the feature has been available in the Gboard iOS keyboard that Google launched in the spring, but it's good to see it coming to more Android phones now. Android 7.1.1 also includes Google's latest set of more diverse emoji, specifically focused on showing a "wider range of professions" for women. And it also contains the excellent app shortcut feature that originally launched on the Pixel -- if you press and hold on an app's icon, a sub-menu of shortcuts will show up. You'll be able to quickly send a message to a specific contact or navigate to a saved location using these shortcuts, for example. They're very much like the "force touch" shortcuts found on the iPhone, but that doesn't make them any less useful.
Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 75

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Iphone

iOS's 'Activation Lock' For Stolen iPads And iPhones Can Be Easily Bypassed (computerworld.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes ComputerWorld: Two researchers claim to have found a way to bypass the activation lock feature in iOS that's supposed to prevent anyone from using an iPhone or iPad marked as lost by its owner... One of the few things allowed from the activation lock screen is connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network, including manually configuring one. [Security researcher] Hemanth had the idea of trying to crash the service that enforces the lock screen by entering very long strings of characters in the WPA2-Enterprise username and password fields.

The researcher claims that, after awhile, the screen froze, and he used the iPad smart cover sold by Apple to put the tablet to sleep and then reopen it... "After 20-25 seconds the Add Wifi Connection screen crashed to the iPad home screen, thereby bypassing the so-called Find My iPhone Activation Lock," he said in a blog post.

There's also a five-minute video on YouTube which purports to show a newer version of the same attack.
Microsoft

Nokia Dials Back Time To Sell Mobile Phones Again (bbc.com) 128

Nokia said Thursday mobile phones carrying its brand will make a comeback via a new venture that will reunite the Nokia brand with veteran Nokia execs who aim to move into smartphones capitalizing on an existing operation that sells low-cost basic phones. From a report on BBC: It's thanks to a deal with a small team based at a business park on the fringes of Helsinki, who are engaged in what will seem to many a foolhardy mission. They call themselves HMD Global -- and they believe they can make Nokia a big name in mobile phones once again. I met Arto Nummela, Pekka Rantala and Florian Seiche in a cafe on what is still the Nokia campus. That very day Arto and Pekka had stopped working for the Nokia Windows mobile phone business owned by Microsoft -- because they had acquired both it and the Nokia brand to start their new business. Yes, it is complicated, but so is the recent history of what was just a few years back Europe's technology superpower and the biggest force in mobile phones. After the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Nokia faltered and by 2011 was on what its first American chief executive, Stephen Elop, called a burning platform. Then, the phone business was sold to Microsoft, which soon found it had made a disastrous purchase as the Nokia Windows combination failed to claim a significant slice of a market dominated by Apple's iOS and Android. Now, the Finnish business -- which remained a big force in telecoms infrastructure after the sale of the mobile unit -- has licensed the Nokia brand to HMD Global, which aims to take it back to the future.
Windows

Wielding Their Windows Phones, Microsoft Shareholders Grill CEO Satya Nadella On Device Strategy (geekwire.com) 157

At a meeting with shareholders Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was asked numerous times what the company is doing about Windows Phones, and why do they keep hearing that Microsoft is abandoning smartphone manufacturer business. The stakeholders also asked why the company is seemingly focusing more on Android and iOS rival platforms instead of its own. From a report on GeekWire: Microsoft shareholder Dana Vance, owner of a Windows Phone and a Microsoft Band, said he received an email about the Microsoft Pix app but was surprised to learn that it was available for iPhone and Android but not Windows Phone. Ditto for Microsoft Outlook. He also alluded to reports that Microsoft has put the Band on the back burner. Given this, he asked Nadella to explain the company's vision for its consumer devices. As part of his response, Nadella said Microsoft's Windows camera and mail apps will include the same features as in Microsoft's apps for other platforms. "When we control things silicon-up, that's how we will integrate those experiences," Nadella said. The company will "build devices that are unique and differentiated with our software capability on top of it -- whether it's Surface or Surface Studio or HoloLens or the phone -- and also make our software applications available on Android and iOS and other platforms. That's what I think is needed in order for Microsoft to help you as a user get the most out of our innovation." Another shareholder, who says he uses his Windows Phone "18 hours a day," said he has heard Microsoft is "stepping away from mobile." He asked, "Can you calm me down ... and tell me what your vision is for mobile?" Nadella answered, "We think about mobility broadly. In other words, we think about the mobility of the human being across all of the devices, not just the mobility of a single device. That said, we're not stepping away or back from our focus on our mobile devices," Nadella said. "What we are going to do is focus that effort on places where we have differentiation. If you take Windows Phone, where we are differentiated on Windows Phone is on manageability. It's security, it's Continuum capability -- that is, the ability to have a phone that can act like a PC. So we're going to double-down on those points of differentiation."
Media

Netflix Finally Gets Download Option (netflix.com) 105

For years, people asked Netflix to give them the ability to download movies and TV episodes. Though this might not seem like that big of a deal in many regions where internet connectivity is cheap and omnipresent, same is not the case everywhere, especially in developing regions. Netflix is finally addressing this need: the on-demand media streaming service said Wednesday that people can now download shows on their Android and iOS devices . From the company's blog post: Just click the download button on the details page for a film or TV series and you can watch it later without an internet connection. Many of your favorite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you are offline.It's worth pointing out that the offline playback -- or the ability to download videos isn't available on desktop platforms. Also, it appears that a heck lot of shows currently don't have this feature -- as of today.
Privacy

Jolla's Sailfish OS Now Certified as Russian Government's First 'Android Alternative' (techcrunch.com) 98

The future for one of the few remaining alternative mobile OS platforms, Jolla's Sailfish OS, looks to be taking clearer shape. Today the Finnish company which develops and maintains the core code, with the aim of licensing it to others, announced Sailfish has achieved domestic certification in Russia for government and corporate use. TechCrunch adds:In recent years the Russian government has made moves to encourage the development of alternatives to the duopoly of US-dominated smartphone platforms, Android and Apple's iOS -- flagging Sailfish as one possibility, along with Tizen. Although Sailfish looks to have won out as the preferred Android alternative for Russia at this point. The government has said it wants to radically reduce its reliance on foreign mobile OSes -- to 50 per cent by 2025 vs the 95 per cent of the market garnered by Android and iOS in 2015. Sailfish's local certification in Russia also follows an announcement earlier this year that a new Russian company, Open Mobile Platform (OMP), had licensed the OS with the intention of developing a custom version of the platform for use in the domestic market. So, in other words, a Russian, strategic 'Android alternative' is currently being built on Sailfish.
Bug

iOS 10.1.1 Is Causing Battery Issues For Many iPhone Users (itwire.com) 91

An anonymous reader writes: A recent iOS update to 10.1.1 fix Apple's Health application has had unintended consequences for many users -- shutdown at 30% battery remaining and lack of audio using Apple Earpods. Users on an Apple forum report that the battery indicator jumps from 30% to 1% (dubbed the 30% bug) and a reboot is required where the phone then runs for a few more hours. Some have taken the iPhone back to receive a replacement only to find the same thing happens. Apple has not responded to the 11 pages of forum complaints but apparently, Genius Bar staff have identified unusual discharging of the battery -- which does not make sense if a reboot temporarily fixes the issue and returns the battery indicator to 30%. It also appears to affect all versions of iPhone that support iOS 10.x.
Iphone

Apple Is Working With LG On Next-Gen 3D Camera For 2017 iPhone, Says Report (9to5mac.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: A brief report in The Korea Economic Daily claims that Apple is working with LG on a new dual camera module "which enables 3D photographing." LG already supplies the dual-camera module used in the iPhone 7 Plus. The LG Innotek system is said to be destined for one or more of next year's iPhone models, but the report is unclear what 3D applications Apple might have in mind. Apple has patents for 3D object and gesture recognition going back many years. However, it is likely nothing more than the next generation of Portrait Mode, which uses parallax effect to create a 3D model of a scene in order to identify foreground and background in what is captured by the twin cameras. Apple may be aiming to bring Portrait Mode to all iPhone models next year, which would require a more compact dual-camera module.
Windows

VLC Media Player Previews 360-degree Video Support (videolan.org) 17

VideoLAN has released a technical preview of VLC Media Player 3.0 with 360-degree video support. The new build handles videos following the Spatial Video format, and photos and panoramas following the Spherical spec (the official test page has sample files). More on this: The files play back just like any other video, but you can now left-click and drag within the screen or use the numeric keypad arrows to look around. VideoLAN says there are multiple display modes -- Zoom, Little Planet and Reverse Little Planet -- although we couldn't immediately see how they were activated. This initial release is only available for Windows and Mac, but eventually 360-degree support will arrive for Android, iOS and Xbox One, with VR headset support likely to arrive in 2017.
Open Source

Apple Releases macOS 10.12 Sierra Open Source Darwin Code (9to5mac.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes:Apple has released the open source Darwin code for macOS 10.12 Sierra. The code, located on Apple's open source website, can be accessed via direct link now, although it doesn't yet appear on the site's home page. The release builds on a long-standing library of open source code that dates all the way back to OS X 10.0. There, you'll also find the Open Source Reference Library, developer tools, along with iOS and OS X Server resources. The lowest layers of macOS, including the kernel, BSD portions, and drivers are based mainly on open source technologies, collectively called Darwin. As such, Apple provides download links to the latest versions of these technologies for the open source community to learn and to use.
Windows

Microsoft Solitaire Collection From Windows 10 Now Available For Android and iOS (betanews.com) 50

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Back in the the mid-1990's, everyone thought they needed a computer. After all, Windows 95 made using one particularly easy, and the internet was a very attractive thing. Unfortunately, once some people got their first-ever PC set up in their homes, they didn't really know what to do with it. In the end, it would turn out that some consumers spent thousands of dollars for a machine dedicated to one thing -- playing Solitaire! Yes, this fun Windows game is responsible for much wasted time, but not just at home -- at businesses too. The card game has historically been viewed as a negative for productivity. Fast forward to 2016 and fewer people are sitting in front of large desktop computers at home -- people are increasingly turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment. Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, Microsoft Solitaire Collection comes to both Android and iOS. "Microsoft Solitaire continues to be one of the most-played games of all time on Windows for more than 25 years. What's more, the version of Solitaire you know and love on Windows 10 and Windows 8 PC and mobile devices, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, has reached more than 119 million unique players in the last four years alone! And now, those on iPhone, iPad and Android devices can play the popular card game for free," says Paul Jensen, Studio Manager of Microsoft Casual Games. "[...] with Xbox Live integration, you can sign in with your Xbox Live gamertag or Microsoft account to earn Xbox Live achievements and Gamerscore, compete with friends, and continue playing on any Windows 10, iPhone, iPad, or Android device while on the go since your progress and game data are saved in the cloud. If you're not an Xbox Live member, signing up for a free membership through the game is easy and totally worth it." It's worth noting that the "freemium" model features advertisements, but players can go "Premium" to remove those ads for $2 per month and receive other perks. You can download Microsoft Solitaire Collection from the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store.
Bug

Malicious Video Link Can Cause Any iOS Device To Freeze (9to5mac.com) 53

A new bug in iOS has surfaced that will cause any iOS device to freeze when trying to view a certain .mp4 video in Safari. YouTube channel EverythingApplePro explains the bug in a video titled "This Video Will CRASH ANY iPhone!" 9to5Mac reports: As you'll see in the video below from EverythingApplePro, viewing a certain video in Safari will cause iOS to essentially overload and gradually become unusable. We won't link the infectious video here for obvious reasons, but you can take our word for it when we say that it really does render your device unusable. It's not apparently clear as to why this happens. The likely reason is that it's simply a corrupted video that's some sort of memory leak and when played, iOS isn't sure how to properly handle it, but there's like more to it than that. Because of the nature of the flaw, it isn't specific to a certain iOS build. As you can see in the video below, playing the video on an iPhone running as far back as iOS 5 will cause the device to freeze and become unusable. Interestingly, with iOS 10.2 beta 3, if you let an iPhone affected by the bug sit there for long enough, it will power off and indefinitely display the spinning wheel that you normally see during the shutdown process. If someone sends you the malicious link and you fall for it, this is luckily a pretty easy problem to fix. All you have to do is hard reboot your device. For any iPhone but the iPhone 7, this can be done by long-pressing the power and Home buttons at the same time. The iPhone 7, of course, uses a new non-mechanical Home button. In order to reboot an iPhone 7, you must long-press the power button and volume down button at the same time.
Social Networks

Facebook's Latest Experiment: Helping You Find Free Wi-Fi Hotspots (macworld.com) 32

Users of the social network's iOS app report seeing a new feature in the More section that lets them find nearby public Wi-Fi access points. From a MacWorld story: The feature does not appear to be widely available at the moment, which means this is probably something Facebook is only testing. The social network tests numerous features all the time but this one is particularly notable. Helping users find public Wi-Fi could enable more people to use Facebook Live. If your cellular connection isn't strong, a nearby Wi-Fi location can be a big help -- unless, of course, your Facebook Live broadcast is dependent on your specific location. There could be other uses for finding Wi-Fi beyond live video broadcasts. If you're desperate to upload a photo or recorded video, then locating the closest public Wi-Fi point helps. On top of that it's just one more reason to open the Facebook app, which Facebook obviously wants to encourage as much as possible. Check where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is, see that unread notifications indicator at the top of the screen, and before you know it you're engrossed in the news feed.
Communications

Instagram Launches Disappearing Live Video and Messages (techcrunch.com) 18

Instagram is continuing to add features to its service to woo Snapchat and Periscope users. Today, the company will be rolling out two big new features to Instagram Stories on iOS and Android: live video on Instagram Stories and disappearing photos and videos for groups and friends in Instagram Direct. TechCrunch reports: Instagram Live is the most ephemeral of the major Live streaming platforms now that Meerkat is defunct. While Periscope started with a 24 hour expiration date, it eventually allowed permanent replays like Facebook Live. Instagram Live videos disappear as soon as the stream stops, which could get people broadcasting more frequently rather than saving the capability just for big flashy events or citizen journalism. Meanwhile, viewers will feel greater urgency to watch immediately because they know it's their only chance. Instagram Direct already has 300 million monthly users, but all of the messages are permanent. The existing product lets you send text, photos, and videos, and posts from Instagram to friends and discuss them. But with Instagram Stories now letting you communicate visually with overlaid text and drawing, Instagram needed a way to share these 'Gramsterpieces' privately. Now Direct will have an ephemeral Stories messages bar at the top along with a list of permanent threads below. When you go to share a photo or video to Instagram Stories, you'll be able to also select friends or groups of friends to send it to. It's much like how you can send Snapchat Stories as private messages, but adds in a groups feature. Recipients can watch the messages once, and replay them once, but then they're gone.
Operating Systems

iOS Devices Failed More Often Than Android Units During Q3, Says Report (phonearena.com) 95

A report from Blannco Technology Group has revealed that iOS devices failed more often than Android devices in the third quarter. Specifically, 62% of Apple iPhone and Apple iPad units suffered failures, compared to the 47% failure rate tallied by Android devices. Phone Arena reports: Apps crashed on 65% of iOS powered devices compared to just 25% of Android models. The breakdown for the iOS devices shows the Apple iPhone 6 with a leading 13% failure rate, followed by the Apple iPhone 6s (9%), Apple iPhone 5s (9%) and the Apple iPad Air 2 (2%). In the report, some of the blame for the high iOS failure rate is placed on the iOS 10 update. Among Android devices, the LeEco Le 2 had a 13% failure rate to lead the way. Two Xiaomi devices were next, both with a 9% rate. Those models were the Redmi 3S and the Redmi Note 3. Rounding out the top five are the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (5%) and the Lenovo Vibe K5 Note (4%). Android flavored models faced problems with the battery (seen on 7% of devices) and issues with the screen (6%). Samsung branded phones and tablets had the most Android failures among manufacturers at 11%. That was followed by the 4% registered by Xiaomi built products. Crashed apps by far was the leading problem for iOS users in North America during the quarter. Worldwide, the rising temperature of an iDevice was the biggest issue. Android users in North America had to deal with crashed apps (21%) more than other problems. Worldwide, those using an Android phone or tablet were most likely to face an issue with the USB port. Last quarter, iOS devices had a 58% failure rate, which marked the first time that Apple's devices had a lower performance rate compared to Android.
Firefox

Mozilla Launches Firefox Focus, a Stripped-Down Private Browser For iOS (venturebeat.com) 35

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for iOS. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Apple's App Store. If you're getting a huge feeling of deja vu, that's because in December 2015, Mozilla launched Focus by Firefox, a content blocker for iOS. The company has now rebranded the app as Firefox Focus, and it serves two purposes. The content blocker, which can still be used with Safari, remains unchanged. The basic browser, which can be used in conjunction with Firefox for iOS, is new. Firefox Focus is basically just an iOS web view with tracking protection. If you shut it down, or iOS shuts it down while it's in the background, the session is lost. There's also an erase button if you want to wipe your session sooner. But those are really the only features -- there's no history, menus, or even tabs.
Iphone

iPhones Secretly Send Call History To Apple, Security Firm Says (theintercept.com) 124

Russian digital forensics Elcomsoft says iPhones send near real-time logs to Apple servers even when iCloud backup is switched off. The firm adds that these logs are stored for up to four months. From a report on the Intercept:"You only need to have iCloud itself enabled" for the data to be sent, said Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft. The logs surreptitiously uploaded to Apple contain a list of all calls made and received on an iOS device, complete with phone numbers, dates and times, and duration. They also include missed and bypassed calls. Elcomsoft said Apple retains the data in a user's iCloud account for up to four months, providing a boon to law enforcement who may not be able to obtain the data either from the user's carrier, who may retain the data for only a short period, or from the user's device, if it's encrypted with an unbreakable passcode. "Absolutely this is an advantage [for law enforcement]," Robert Osgood, a former FBI supervisory agent who now directs a graduate program in computer forensics at George Mason University, said of Apple's call-history uploads. "Four months is a long time [to retain call logs]. It's generally 30 or 60 days for telecom providers, because they don't want to keep more [records] than they absolutely have to. So if Apple is holding data for four months, that could be a very interesting data repository and they may have data that the telecom provider might not."

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