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EU

Apple Increases App Store Prices By 25% Following Brexit Vote (theguardian.com) 162

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
AT&T

AT&T Shuts Down 2G Network, Ends Cellular Connectivity For Original iPhone (macrumors.com) 127

ATT yesterday announced that its 2G wireless network was officially shut down on January 1, 2017. Since the network is no longer active, it means that, as the Verge points out, the original first-generation iPhone (also known as the iPhone 2G) will no longer receive cellular service from ATT's network. If you still happen to use an iPhone 2G, it may be time to upgrade or list it on eBay. Mac Rumors reports: Few people appear to have been using the original iPhone as there were no complaints from iPhone owners two weeks ago when the network was shuttered, but going forward, customers who keep the device as part of a collection will only be able to use it on WiFi. Originally released in June of 2007 and discontinued in 2008, the first iPhone was made obsolete by Apple back in 2013, and it has not received software updates since the 2009 release of iPhone OS 3, later renamed iOS 3. According to ATT, shutting down its 2G network frees up valuable spectrum for future network technologies, including 5G. ATT says the spectrum will be repurposed for LTE.
Youtube

Safari Users Unable to Play Newer 4K Video On YouTube in Native Resolution (macrumors.com) 122

It appears Google recently turned on VP9 codec on YouTube for delivering 4K video. However, because of this, Safari users are unable to watch videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution. From a report: Specifically, YouTube appears to be storing video on its servers using either the more efficient VP9 codec or the older H.264 codec. Safari only supports the latter, which explains why recently uploaded 4K videos are only able to be viewed in up to 1440p. Funnily enough, the same videos can be streamed by Safari in native 4K as long as they're embedded in another website, suggesting that the VP9 codec support requirement only applies to videos viewed directly on YouTube's website. Until Apple updates Safari to support the VP9 codec, Mac users who want to access newer 4K video on YouTube in native 2160p resolution are advised to use a different browser.John Gruber of DaringFireball writes, "I'm curious what Google's thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though."
Businesses

Worldwide App Downloads Grew 15% and Revenue Soared 40% in 2016 (venturebeat.com) 19

Downloads, revenue, and time spent in apps all grew by double digits during 2016, according to a report by market researcher App Annie. From a report on VentureBeat: Time spent in apps grew more than 20 percent to nearly 900 billion hours in 2016, according to the year-end report. That's just one sign that the global app economy saw healthy growth during the past year. In its year-end retrospective, App Annie said U.S. time spent in apps grew more than 25 percent. Worldwide, downloads increased 15 percent by more than 13 billion across both iOS and Google Play. The platform owners paid out nearly $89 billion in revenues to publishers from in-app ads and app store revenue, up 40 percent from the year before. That means apps generated $127 billion in revenues overall, as platform owners take about 30 percent of the revenue.
China

China Orders App Stores To Join Register (bbc.com) 23

China's internet regulator has ordered mobile app stores to register themselves with it immediately. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the move would help "promote the healthy and orderly development of the mobile internet." From a report on BBC: Most smartphones in the country run Android, but Google does not operate its Play Store locally, meaning users go elsewhere to add software. A report last year linked this to the spread of malware. Cheetah Mobile Security -- a Beijing-based firm -- reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users' mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place. This follows previous efforts to censor what appears online, including a recent demand that Apple remove the New York Times from the Chinese version of its iOS App Store. The US newspaper was the first to report the watchdog's move outside of China itself. Because of the Play store's absence, Android users in China typically go to stores operated by local tech giants including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Huawei.
Privacy

Tor Onion Browser's Creator Explains Free Version For iOS (mike.tig.as) 26

The free iOS version of the Tor browser "sparked a tidal wave of interest" after its release in December, according to Silicon.co. Mickeycaskill writes: The cost has been scrapped due to developer Mike Tigas' worries that the price was limiting access to anonymous browsing for those who need it most. "Given recent events, many believe it's more important than ever to exercise and support freedom of speech, privacy rights, and digital security," Tigas wrote in a blog post. "I think now is as good a time as ever to make Onion Browser more accessible to everyone."
"I'm still a little terrified that I've made this change," Tigas adds. For four years the Tor Onion browser was available on the Apple App Store for $0.99, the lowest non-free price allowed by Apple, providing a "reliable" income to Tigas which helped him move to New York for a new job while allowing him "the economic freedom to continue working on side projects that have a positive impact in the world." Tigas also writes that "there's now a Patreon page and other ways to support the project."

Last month the Tor Project also released the first alpha version of the sandboxed Tor Browser.
Security

Security Experts Rebut The Guardian's Report That Claimed WhatsApp Has a Backdoor (gizmodo.com) 113

William Turton, writing for Gizmodo: This morning, the Guardian published a story with an alarming headline: "WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages." If true, this would have massive implications for the security and privacy of WhatsApp's one-billion-plus users. Fortunately, there's no backdoor in WhatsApp, and according to Alec Muffett, an experienced security researcher who spoke to Gizmodo, the Guardian's story is a "major league fuckwittage." [...] Fredric Jacobs, who was the iOS developer at Open Whisper Systems, the collective that designed and maintains the Signal encryption protocol, and who most recently worked at Apple, said, "Nothing new. Of course, if you don't verify keys Signal/WhatsApp/... can man-in-the-middle your communications." "I characterize the threat posed by such reportage as being fear and uncertainty and doubt on an 'anti-vaccination' scale," Muffett, who previously worked on Facebook's engineering security infrastructure team, told Gizmodo. "It is not a bug, it is working as designed and someone is saying it's a 'flaw' and pretending it is earth shattering when in fact it is ignorable." The supposed "backdoor" the Guardian is describing is actually a feature working as intended, and it would require significant collaboration with Facebook to be able to snoop on and intercept someone's encrypted messages, something the company is extremely unlikely to do. "There's a feature in WhatsApp that -- when you swap phones, get a new phone, factory reset, whatever -- when you install WhatsApp freshly on the new phone and continue a conversation, the encryption keys get re-negotiated to accommodate the new phone," Muffett told Gizmodo. Other security experts and journalists have also criticized The Guardian's story.
Operating Systems

Apple Could Finally Sell More Devices Than Microsoft In 2017 (computerworld.com) 97

Gartner predicts Apple will ship more iOS and macOS devices in 2017 than Windows-powered devices "for the first time this century," and then increase their lead over the next two years. An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million. Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years... The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline." The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.

The article also points out that even in 2016, Windows devices came in second, and "accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android."
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Movies

Netflix Hasn't Forgotten About Its 4.3 Million DVD Subscribers (qz.com) 84

Netflix hasn't forgotten about its DVD service, which millions of people still use. From a report on Quartz: The company is touting a new app that DVD customers can use to manage their Netflix queues, search for DVD and Blu-ray titles, and get movie recommendations. Those features for DVD subscribers vanished from the main Netflix app back in 2011, leaving subscribers to manage their accounts on DVD.com. The new app, called DVD Netflix, is currently only available on Apple's iOS in the US, which is the only country the DVD service is offered in. About 4.2 million people in the US still rent DVDs from Netflix.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Veteran On Apple: Company Has Become Sloppy, Missed Updates, Delayed Refreshes (chuqui.com) 293

Silicon Valley veteran Chuq Von Rospach's blog post, in which he has criticized Apple for the things it did last year, has received quite a few nods from developers, analysts and users alike. Von Rospach, who has previously worked at Apple, has lambasted at the company for, among other things, how it has handled the Mac Pro, a lineup that hasn't seen any refresh in ages, and the AirPort routers, which too have been reportedly abandoned. From the post:Back when I was running most of Apple's e-mail systems for the marketing teams, I went to them and suggested that we should consider dumping the text-only part of the emails we were building, because only about 4% of users used them and it added a significant amount of work to the process of creation and testing each e-mail. Their response? That it was a small group of people, but a strategic one, since it was highly biased towards developers and power users. So the two-part emails stayed -- and they were right. It made no sense from a business standpoint to continue to develop these emails as both HTML [and] text, but it made significant strategic sense. It was an investment in keeping this key user base happy with Apple. Apple, from all indications I've seen over the last year and with the configurations they've shipped with these new laptops, has forgotten this, and the product configurations seem designed by what will fit the biggest part of the user base with the fewest configuration options. They've chopped off the edges of the bell curve -- and big chunks of their key users with them. The most daunting sentence from his post, according to Nitin Ganatra, who worked at Apple for 18 years and headed engineering of iOS, is, "If you just look at the numbers, things are okay."
Android

Nintendo's Super Mario Run For Android is Coming Soon (venturebeat.com) 44

Following its huge launch on iOS this month, Nintendo's Mario auto-runner, Super Mario Run, comes to Android in 2017. We still don't have a specific release date, but Nintendo has now announced that Android users can now pre-register to learn precisely when the game will be available. From a report: Super Mario Run is up for pre-registration on the Google Play Store. To ensure that that you get a notification when Nintendo launches the mobile platformer, you can sign up for alerts on the game's market page. Once Super Mario Run launches on Android, you can grab it immediately as a free download, but then you will need to pay $10 to unlock the rest of its content after the third stage. Nintendo has already seen huge success with Super Mario Run on iOS. The publisher confirmed that iPhone and iPad owners downloaded it more than 50 million times in a matter of days, which makes it the fastest downloaded app ever in the $36.6 billion mobile gaming industry.
Google

With Cyanogen Dead, Google's Control Over Android Is Tighter Than Ever (greenbot.com) 212

Last week, Cyanogen Inc announced it is shutting down all its services. A day later, CyanogenMod announced that it is going away too. Regardless of how you found Cyanogen's commercial operating system or open source fork CyanogenMod, the demise has bigger implications. From a report on GreenBot: Cyanogen might never have seriously threatened to take control of Android, but the upstart's shutdown still represents a major victory for Google. As Google showed with the launch of the Pixel, the company is taking steps to ensure no one ever gets close to stealing Android's soul ever again. [...] In many ways, Cyanogen encapsulated more of the spirit of Google's mobile OS project than Android itself ever did. As an early offshoot of the mainstream project designed and supported by habitual modders, Cyanogen was in many ways more aligned with the iOS jailbreaking community than Android proper, bringing customization and features far beyond those available in the stock OS. But almost as quickly as Android took off, Google began reining it in. By implementing stricter rules for manufacturers to prevent further fragmentation -- including licensing of its apps and mandatory inclusion of its search bar widget -- Google actively worked to keep deviant versions of Android on the fringes. Nonetheless, CyanogenMod persisted, surviving cease-and-desist orders, takeover rumors and general Google-led consternation. And now it's all over. Google won, not by waging war with Cyanogen but by doubling down on its own vision, forging partnerships with manufacturers, and working to ensure that Google's Android remained the world's Android.
Privacy

Uber Says App Doesn't Keep Track of Location; iOS Maps Extension to Blame (ndtv.com) 38

Uber recently landed itself in hot water after a report claimed that its app was tracking the location of passengers even when they had not used the service for weeks. The company has responded to the accusations. From a report: The company has come up with an explanation and says that the location-tracking is enabled for some users due to a new iOS setting. Uber stresses that it's not its app that's doing this -- but an iOS feature. John Gruber of DaringFireball in a recent post had claimed how Uber was tracking user location and it could be easily checked via Settings > Privacy > Location Services on an iOS device. The setting showed how an app was tracking the location in three options: "Always", "While using the app", and "Never." However, several users shared screenshots of the Settings page that showed Uber location tracking as set to "Always" despite not having used the app in nearly a week. An Uber spokesperson in a statement said this behaviour was attributable to use of the new iOS Maps extension, "For people who choose to integrate ride-sharing apps with iOS Maps, location data must be shared in order for you to request a ride inside the Maps app. Map extensions are disabled by default and you can choose to turn them on in your iOS settings."
IOS

BitTorrent Live's 'Cable Killer' P2P Video App Finally Hits iOS (techcrunch.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: BitTorrent has now done for live video what it did for file downloads: invented peer-to-peer technology that moves the burden of data transfer from a centralized source to the crowd. Instead of cables and satellites, BitTorrent piggybacks on the internet bandwidth of its users. Since P2P live streaming is so much cheaper than traditional ways to deliver live content, BitTorrent could pay channel owners more for distribution per viewer. And BitTorrent can offer that content to viewers for free or much cheaper than a cable subscription. The transfer technology and the app that aggregates these channels are both called BitTorrent Live. Now, almost a year after the protocol's debut on smart TVs, and six months after it was supposed to arrive on iPhone, the BitTorrent Live app quietly became available on iOS this week. Until now it's only existed on Mac, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV -- much less popular platforms. And that's after being in development since 2009. The app features 15 channels, including NASA TV, France One, QVC Home and TWiT (This Week In Tech) that you can watch live. The latency is roughly 10 seconds, which could be faster than terrestrial cable, as well as systems like Sling TV that can delay content more than a minute. The problem right now is that BitTorrent Live has a pretty lackluster channel selection. It's still working on striking deals with more name-brand channels. It could offer some for pay-per-view, but cheaper than the same content on traditional TV due to the reduced broadcasting costs.
Encryption

Russian Authorities Are Trying To Unlock iPhone 4S From Russian Ambassador's Killer (techcrunch.com) 106

The off-duty police officer who killed the Russian ambassador in Turkey was shot by Turkish special forces minutes after the crime. He had an iPhone 4S on him, and now, Haberturk, Turkish authorities asked for Russia's help to unlock the iPhone. From a report: Given that it's an iPhone 4S and it has a 4-digit passcode, it should be quite easy to unlock the device. There are many solutions out there to do this and authorities don't even need to ask for Apple's help. The iPhone 4S is quite old now and it was a much less secure device. First, the iPhone 4S runs iOS 5 to iOS 9, but many iPhone 4S owners didn't update to recent iOS versions. If the device runs iOS 7 or earlier, getting the content of the device is a piece of cake. The content of the device isn't encrypted as Apple started encrypting all data with iOS 8. Authorities can access this data quite easily. Second, if the iPhone is running iOS 8, remember that the iPhone 4S didn't have a Secure Enclave and Touch ID sensor. The Secure Enclave is a coprocessor that utilizes a secure boot process to make sure that it's uncompromized. It has a secret unique ID not accessible by the rest of the phone, Apple or anyone -- it's like a private key. The phone generates ephemeral keys (think public keys) to talk with the Secure Enclave. They only work with the unique ID to encrypt and decrypt the data on the coprocessor.
Encryption

Leaked Files Reveal Scope of Cellebrite's Smartphone-Cracking Technology (zdnet.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Earlier this year, we were sent a series of large, encrypted files purportedly belonging to a U.S. police department as a result of a leak at a law firm, which was insecurely synchronizing its backup systems across the internet without a password. Among the files was a series of phone dumps created by the police department with specialist equipment, which was created by Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that provides phone-cracking technology. We obtained a number of these so-called extraction reports. One of the more interesting reports by far was from an iPhone 5 running iOS 8. The phone's owner didn't use a passcode, meaning the phone was entirely unencrypted. The phone was plugged into a Cellebrite UFED device, which in this case was a dedicated computer in the police department. The police officer carried out a logical extraction, which downloads what's in the phone's memory at the time. (Motherboard has more on how Cellebrite's extraction process works.) In some cases, it also contained data the user had recently deleted. To our knowledge, there are a few sample reports out there floating on the web, but it's rare to see a real-world example of how much data can be siphoned off from a fairly modern device. We're publishing some snippets from the report, with sensitive or identifiable information redacted.
Google

Google Isn't Giving Up On Smartwatches; Two Flagship Android Wear 2.0 Watches Launching Early Next Year (theverge.com) 61

Google isn't giving up on its smartwatches. The company said today it will be launching two new flagship smartwatches in the first quarter of next year. These watches will run Android Wear 2.0 operating system and will be the first ones to launch with the new platform. From the report: Following the launch of the new devices, existing Android Wear watches will get the update to Android Wear 2.0. Not every existing Android Wear watch will be updated, but Google says most of the recent models will be. Certain features, such as Android Pay, require specific hardware, so not all models will support them. [...] Google will release the fifth and final developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 in January, and it is expected to include support for both Google Assistant and Android Pay (on supported devices) in it. It will also work with iOS devices, and Chang confirmed that while there will be differences between Wear 2.0 on Android and iOS, Android Pay will work on both platforms.
Programming

Apple Delays App Store Security Deadline For Developers 25

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: Apple has pushed back a deadline for developers to support a key transport security technology in apps submitted to the company's app stores. Officials said at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year that developers would have to support Apple Transport Security by the end of 2016. But on Thursday, the company announced that it has decided to extend the deadline indefinitely. ATS is Apple's collection of transport security standards designed to provide attack resistance for data that's sent between iOS and macOS apps and backend servers. It requires apps to support a number of modern transport security technologies, including TLS 1.2, AES-128 or stronger, and certificates must be signed using SHA-2. ATS also requires the use of forward secrecy, a key-exchange method that protects encrypted sessions even if the server certificate is compromised at some point in the future.
AT&T

AT&T Is Adding a Spam Filter For Phone Calls (theverge.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, ATT introduced a new service for automated blocking of fraud or spam calls. Dubbed ATT Call Protect, the system identifies specific numbers believed to be sources of fraud, and will either deliver those calls with a warning or block them outright. Users can whitelist specific numbers, although temporary blocks require downloading a separate Call Protect app. The feature is only available on postpaid iOS and Android devices, and can be activated through the MyATT system. Phone companies have allowed for manual number blocking for years, and third-party apps like Whitepages and Privacystar use larger databases of untrustworthy numbers to preemptively block calls from the outside. But ATT's new system would build in those warnings at the network level, and give operators more comprehensive data when assembling suspected numbers. More broadly, marketing calls are subject to the national Do Not Call registry. Specific instances of fraud can still be reported through carriers or directly to police.

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