Google Investigation Shows Apple Was Right About Face ID

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Take this with a grain of salt because this tweet is all I’ve seen about this. But David Ruddock of AndroidPolice mentioned a Google investigation trying to determine if certain types of fingerprint sensors are secure.

Another CES Story: I’ve heard Google is currently investigating whether current optical fingerprint sensor designs are secure enough to be used for TrustZone auth (mobile payments, banking apps, etc). There is real concern optical FPRs may be too easy to spoof.

Although facial recognition came to Android first, it was there for convenience as a way to unlock your device. But Apple added it for security, and it looks like they bet on the right horse.

A List of macOS Touch Bar Apps

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The Touch Bar on recent Macs doesn’t seem to get a lot of love, but David Nield writes about macOS Touch Bar apps that do make use of it.

We’re only going to limit ourselves to mentioning one Apple app in the list, but dig around, and you’ll find that pretty much every native macOS program includes some Touch Bar shortcuts you might find useful.

Personally I’m of the opinion that the feature is gimmicky and doesn’t add much functionality to Macs.

Some Guidelines on how to Spot Bad Science

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Recently I wrote a PSA on Wi-Fi and cancer, and a lot of people disagree with me by sending me links to studies and other news that also disagree. That’s fine, but at the same time a lot more effort goes into scientific research than cherry picking Google results. I don’t claim to know better than these studies, but a scientific study needs to be taken into context of the field as a whole. John Oliver had a good segment on studies and how they can be misunderstood. Compound Interest has a rough guide to spotting bad science and red flags to watch out for. I’ve made use of this guide for some time, and I think it’s helpful.

This graphic looks at the different factors that can contribute towards ‘bad’ science – it was inspired by the research I carried out for the recent aluminium chlorohydrate graphic, where many articles linked the compound to causing breast cancer, referencing scientific research which drew questionable conclusions from their results.

Cortana no Longer an Alexa or Google Home Competitor

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Google Home smart speaker

Microsoft no longer sees its Cortana digital assistant as a competitor to the more popular Alexa and Google Home. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said that it should be further integrated with its rivals’ platforms instead, The Verge reported. Microsoft and Amazon already partnered for some Cortana/Alexa integration, and this is clearly where Microsoft intends to take the product next – more of an app or service across multiple platforms, not hardware to be sold.

CEO Satya Nadella revealed that Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as a competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant. “Cortana needs to be that skill for anybody who’s a Microsoft 365 subscriber,” explains Nadella, referencing Microsoft’s new consumer subscription push. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go.”

Federal HTTPS Certificates Not Renewed Because of the Government Shutdown

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Gove Expired HTTPS

The U.S. Government shutdown has affected a whole host of areas in the public sector. One that might not immediately spring to mind, but is rather important nevertheless, is federal HTTPS certificates. Techcrunch had a look into the issue and compiled a list of all the federal HTTPS certificates that expired, or are about to expire. It included domains that redirect to the Congressional record and websites for agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If you go to one of the sites with an already expired HTTPS certificate, such as disasterhousing.gov, you get a warning that the site might not be secure.

During the government shutdown, security experts noticed several federal websites were throwing back browser errors because the TLS certificate, which lights up your browser with “HTTPS” or flashes a padlock, had expired on many domains. And because so many federal workers have been sent home on unpaid leave — or worse, working without pay but trying to fill in for most of their furloughed department — expired certificates aren’t getting renewed. Renewing certificates doesn’t take much time or effort — sometimes just a click of a mouse. But some do cost money, and during a government shutdown, there isn’t any.

TWIST+ World Adapter Duo for MacBook: $32

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TWIST+ World Adapter Duo for MacBook

We have a deal on the TWIST+ World Adapter Duo for MacBook. With this device, you can turn any outlet into a 4-in-1 powerhouse. You can also charge up to 4 devices via the charger, 2 USB ports, and universal AC outlet. It’s $32 through our deal.

Thoughts About an iPad-First Workflow

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Ryan Christoffel writes about key things to think about if you want to adopt an iPad-first workflow.

Software limitations aside, the iPad clearly has a lot going for it; the iPad Pro is a more attractive Mac alternative than ever before. But moving to the iPad still involves some growing pains. The longer you’ve used a traditional computer, the harder an iPad transition can be. There are a few key things, however, that can help make your iPad adoption a success.

I’m not fully iPad-first yet because I still need to get a keyboard for it. But once that happens then my transition will be complete.

The Facebook 10 Year Challenge Might not Just be a Harmless Meme

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iphone facial recognition

If you have been on Facebook or Instagram recently, you will have noticed the “10 Year Challenge”. Users post a profile picture of themselves from 10 years ago and another from now. It is meant to be a harmless meme that laughs at ourselves and late 2000s fashion. But could there be something more sinister to it? Katie O’Neil wondered in Wired if the “10 Year Challenge” is actually helping Facebook develop a facial recognition algorithm.

Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years. Sure, you could mine Facebook for profile pictures and look at posting dates or EXIF data. But that whole set of profile pictures could end up generating a lot of useless noise…In other words, it would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully labeled set of then-and-now photos.

Federal Prosecutors Push Huawei Criminal Investigation

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huawei logo

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. are pushing a criminal investigation against Huawei. The Chinese firm is alleged to have stolen trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including T-Mobile U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported. This latest development puts even further pressure on the company. It has already been caught up in an investigation by the U.S. Government into intellectual property theft by Chinese companies. It’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December 2018 at the request of the U.S.

The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said.

Chinese Think-Tank Blasts Apple's Taiwan and Hong Kong References

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Apple China flag

A Chinese think-tank criticized Apple, Amazon and a number of other firms for the way they reference Taiwan and Hong Kong, Reuters reported. Tawain is considered a wayward-province by China. Hong Kong was returned to China by the British in 1997 and is a semi-autonomous region. Apple is amongst a number of firms that refers to both Hong Kong and Tawain as separate from mainland China, something the Chinese government has been trying to crack down on recently.

China last year ramped up pressure on foreign companies including Marriott International and Qantas for referring to Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate from China in drop down menus or other material. The report was co-written by [Chinese Academy of Social Sciences] CASS and the Internet Development Research Institution of Peking University. An official at the Internet Development Research Institution told Reuters that it had not yet been published to the public and declined to provide a copy.

Did You Know the IRS Offers Free Tax Filing?

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Private tax companies don’t want you to know this, but if your income is below US$66,000 the IRS offers free tax filing software. If your income is above US$66,000 you can still file for free, but you’ll have to do it manually with fillable forms. However, thanks to the long government shutdown this year, tax returns will end up being late.

Collection 1 is a Massive New Data Breach

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Troy Hunt, creator of the Have I Been Pwned? tool, wrote a blog post about the latest data breach called Collection 1.

Let’s start with the raw numbers because that’s the headline, then I’ll drill down into where it’s from and what it’s composed of. Collection #1 is a set of email addresses and passwords totaling 2,692,818,238 rows.It’s made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources.

To find out if your account credentials were leaked, visit haveibeenpwned.com.

Questions for Apple in 2019

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Since 2015 Above Avalon has published a list of questions for Apple, across hardware, software, services, and “big picture.” Here are the questions for Apple in 2019.

January is a great time to embrace the unknown rather than come up with Apple predictions for the next 12 months. Accordingly, this is my fifth installment of Apple questions as a new year kicks off.

It’s a big, detailed list and lays out things we wonder and things rumors have suggested.

Facebook to Introduce Stricter Rules in Countries Holding Elections This Year

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Facebook will introduce stricter rules on political advertising to a number of countries holding elections this year. The rules and tools aimed at curbing election interference will go live in India, Nigeria, Ukraine, and the European Union. The rollout will begin on Wednesday in Nigeria. Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Director of Global Politics and Outreach, told Reuters that only advertisers located in the country will be able to run electoral adverts there. Rob Leathern, a Director of Product Management at Facebook, also discussed the importance of storing electoral adverts in a searchable library.

We’re learning from every country,” Leathern said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement.” Facebook believes that holding the ads in a library for seven years is a key part of fighting intereference, he added.. The library will resemble archives brought to the United States, Brazil and Britain last year.

PDF Converter OCR 6 for Mac: $19

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PDF Converter 6 for Mac

We have a deal on  PDF Converter OCR 6 for Mac. This software allows you to make PDFs editable and searchable, while retaining the original layout, graphics, and hyperlinks. You can also scan 27 languages, merge multiple documents, and more. You can get this app for $19 through our deal.

How to Use JavaScript When Creating Shortcuts

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Shortcuts App

Redditor u/keveridge put together a nice guide on how to use JavaScript when creating Shortcuts. JavaScript lets you perform complex actions that would be hard to do with regular shortcut actions.

We make use of the Safari web browser, running within the shortcut, in order to execute the JavaScript. To do so, we:

  • make an HTML file that contains our code and provides an output;

  • pass the contents of the file to Safari as a Data URL;

  • use Get Contents of Web Page to render the page provide the output to the shortcut.

27 Adobe Alternatives to Use on Different Platforms

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It seems that Adobe is raising the price of its subscription in specific countries, although U.S. users have been spared. Lifehacker compiled a list of 27 Adobe alternatives in response.

I haven’t tried out all of these apps myself, nor am I the target audience for them—as I don’t really dabble in 3D animation, alas. While we normally recommend apps we’ve used at Lifehacker, in this case, I’ve included recommendations from the various Twitter users who have suggested them when applicable.

On my iPad I quickly bought Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, and both of them work great for my workflow.

Changing its Mind, Roku Bans Alex Jones

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Doing the opposite of most major internet companies, Roku decided for a couple of hours it would allow Alex Jones on its platform.

“After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”

If Roku was going to cave so quickly it shouldn’t have decided to let Alex Jones on in the first place. At least pretend to put up a fight for a couple more days.

Apple's Services Future. It's Going to Be Different.

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Apple’s growing services business, and its increasing openness to having its software on other people’s hardware, is one of the most fascinating stories in tech at the moment. Tech blogger turned venture capitalist M.G. Siegler has written an excellent summary of the situation on Medium. As he says, the future for the company “is going to be… different.”

Incidentally, it was a pod that really started to change the equation. The iPod. In order to reach a wider audience with that device, Apple had to do something that was seemingly against Steve Jobs’ DNA: make software for Windows. (Ice water! In Hell!) And the slope ultimately proved slippery, albeit in a slow way. Eventually, we got (and then lost) Safari for Windows. And in the more recent era, Apple Music for Android. And Alexa.