The Origins of macOS: Steve Jobs and NeXTSTEP

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It’s easy to forget where and when macOS had its earliest origins.  Its tumultuous path had its earliest start with Steve Jobs at NeXT. “NeXTStep was developed primarily by Avie Tevanian. The coder previously worked on the Mach microkernel, a supercharged version of UNIX, at Carnegie Mellon University. Jobs convinced Tevanian to join NeXT instead of taking what, in the short term, would have been a far more lucrative job at Microsoft.” This is a nifty, concise history of how it all started.

Cloudflare Works to Make the Web More Private With ESNI

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Cloudflare is implementing a feature that encrypts your Server Name Indication (SNI). The new technology will be called ESNI.

But, today, as HTTPS covers nearly 80% of all web traffic, the fact that SNI leaks every site you go to online to your ISP and anyone else listening on the line has become a glaring privacy hole. Knowing what sites you visit can build a very accurate picture of who you are, creating both privacy and security risks.

This is a big change. Basically it will stop ISPs, rogue apps, and advertising companies from collecting and selling your browsing history. ESNI will hide the identities of the websites you visit.

How Apple Engineered the iPhone XS Battery

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The iPhone XS battery, as well as that of the iPhone XS Max, are composed of two different lithium-ion cells formed in the shape of an L (in the phone, not your forehead).

By having one big battery instead of two conjoined, you can ditch a little bit of packaging and eliminate the small gap between them, maximizing your capacity. Picture two small train cars in a row. Next to those, put another car that’s as long as both small cars combined. You can fit more into the single, because you’re eliminating two walls and some in-between space. The same principle applies.

We all tease Apple about all of its products getting thinner, but it takes incredible feats of engineering to actually do that. Featured image credit goes to iFixit.

Apple, Salesforce Partnership has Marriott Putting HomePod in Hotel Rooms

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HomePod on a shelf too close to the wall

Apple’s partnership with Salesforce could turn in to a big boost for HomePod sales. Marriott plans to use software that comes from the team up with HomePods in hotel rooms so customers can use their voice to change the room temperature, order food, and more. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said,

At Salesforce’s annual customer conference this week, Marriott International will demonstrate a new system that uses Salesforce and Apple tools so that hotel guests can turn up the heat, order a sandwich or hail a ride using Siri with an Apple HomePod in their hotel room. And at the next Marriot the guest stays at, Siri will remember the guest’s preferences—even their favorite sandwich.

That sounds like an opportunity for a lot of HomePod exposure and a nice way to boost user familiarity. I wonder if Marriott customers will feel comfortable with a HomePod in their room, or if they’ll worry about privacy.

Qualcomm Says Apple Stole Trade Secrets, Gave them to Intel

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Apple suing Qualcomm over patent royalty payments

Apple and Qualcomm’s ongoing legal battle just took an interesting turn. Qualcomm is now accusing Apple of stealing its LTE modem-related trade secrets and giving the information to Intel. Axios quotes from the legal filing:

Although discovery is ongoing, it is clear that Apple’s conduct went far beyond simply breaching the contract originally sued on. Indeed, it is now apparent Apple engaged in a years-long campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge designed to steal Qualcomm’s confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of lower-quality modem chipsets, with the ultimate goal of eliminating Qualcomm’s Apple-based business.

That’s a pretty serious allegation, and one that could be a major headache for Apple if it proves to be true. It’s no secret Apple was tired of relying exclusively on Qualcomm for iPhone modem chips and felt it was paying too much in patent royalties. Their case is scheduled for trial next spring, and it’s looking like it’ll be filled with drama.

A Migration Guide for macOS Server Users

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macOS Mojave on MacBook Pro

Apple has modified macOS Server, and with Mojave upon us, it’s good to know about the changes Apple has implemented. Here’s a link to the Apple Migration Guide. From the intro: “macOS Server is changing to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network. As a result, some changes are coming in how Server works. Beginning in the spring of 2018, several services will be hidden on new installations of an update to macOS Server. Then in the fall of 2018, new installations and upgrades of macOS Server will require you to migrate most services to other software.”

What the Heck is an Artificial Neural Network?

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What is an artificial neural network? They power many technologies such as Apple’s A12 Bionic chip, but what are they? Forbes breaks it down.

Artificial neural networks use different layers of mathematical processing to make sense of the information it’s fed. Typically, an artificial neural network has anywhere from dozens to millions of artificial neurons—called units—arranged in a series of layers. The input layer receives various forms of information from the outside world. This is the data that the network aims to process or learn about.

What I find especially fascinating is how much of a black box an ANN is. This means that while it can figure out a mathematical function, studying its structure won’t tell you what function it’s trying to figure out.

Eric Schmidt Warns the Internet Will Split Apart in 2028

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Former Google chief Eric Scmidt predicts that by 2028 the internet will split into two separate webs: A Chinese version and an American version.

If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.

There’s basically already a separate Chinese internet behind the Great Firewall of China. But the prediction here is that through the country’s Belt and Road Initiative, other countries might follow China’s example. And Google is helping.

Apple Rejects Violence, Sex, Politics in Video Platform

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News over the weekend report that Apple rejects violence, sex, and politics in the company’s video platform.

The result is an approach out of step with the triumphs of the video-streaming era. Other platforms, such as HBO and Amazon.com Inc., have made their mark in original content with edgier programming that often wins critical acclaim.

And other platforms are free to do so. I personally don’t see a problem with this, and it should come as no surprise since Apple has always positioned itself as family-friendly. It may not explicitly call itself such, but it is. And that’s fine. If I want sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, I can find it on Netflix.

Google Engineers Brainstorm About Political Search Tweaks

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An email thread obtained by the Wall Street Journal shows Google engineers talking about political search tweaks related to President Trump’s 2017 travel ban. They specifically discussed using Google search to highlight pro-immigration organizations.

“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” one email said, according to WSJ.

Google said they were just brainstorming. This seems likely to me. Google might favor its own products in search results, but going so far as to interfere with political issues? I’m not so sure. But it made me wonder how easily a roque engineer could secretly alter the search algorithms.

Inside the iPhone XS Camera Technology

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Lance Ulanoff has a great piece on Medium where he writes about the iPhone XS camera technology. He talked with photographer Pete Souza about the new iPhones, as well as Phil Schiller, Graham TownsendApple’s senior director of camera hardware, and Sebastien Marineau-Mes, Apple’s vice president of software.

One of the really big things we aim for is the first phone, the 1 millionth phone, and the 10 millionth phone we want that experience to be as close as we can humanly manage, and we put a lot of effort, and it’s not something we talk a lot about… but it’s really important to us that there’s no big variation in performance between any phone anywhere the world,” Townsend said.

Chris Evans Starring in 'Defending Jacob' Series for Apple

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Chris Evans

Chris Evans, best known for playing Captain America in Marvel’s Avengers movies, has signed on to play the lead in “Defending Jacob” in Apple’s original content lineup. The 8-episode series is based on the best selling novel by Willian Landay, and it’ll be directed by Oscar-nominated Morten Ryan. Deadline says,

Defending Jacob is described as a a gripping, character-driven thriller based on Landay’s 2012 novel published by Random House. The book tells the story of a father dealing with the accusation that his son is a 14-year-old murderer.

Apple’s original content line up is steadily growing and looks to be pretty strong. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple fares against Netflix and Amazon Prime when its shows start airing.

Math Nerds: Researchers Found a Pattern in Seemingly Random Distribution of Prime Numbers

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Prime numbers on a typewriter

I’ll be the first to note that much of this article was over my mathematical head, but it’s super cool. The short version is that some sciency-math folks decided to treat prime numbers like they were atom-like particles. Their model showed what could be a pattern in the distribution of prime numbers, something previously considered random. Motherboard has an article on it, and here’s a snippet:

Together with his student Ge Zhang and number theorist Matthew de-Courcy-Ireland, Torquato computationally represented the primes as a one-dimensional string of atoms and scattered light off them. The result, published in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment last week, was astounding: not only did they create a quasicrystal-like interference pattern, but it was a type of fractal pattern that has never been seen before. Torquato told Quanta Magazine that this implies prime numbers “are a completely new category of structures” when considered as a physical system.

Big Cable Asks For More Money, Refuses to Discuss Internet Speeds

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Big Cable companies are asking for more government handouts, and say “now’s not the time” to talk about internet speeds in the United States.

If the speed goes up, the percentage and competition levels go down – and spark uncomfortable questions like: why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?

The answer is that U.S. telecoms want it this way. They want as much money from American taxpayers as possible while refusing to do anything. The real question should be: Why do we let corporations get away with so much corruption?

Inside Look at NSO Group iPhone Malware

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Motherboard got an inside look at the NSO Group iPhone malware. It works fast and can infect fully-up-to-date Android phones and iPhones.

The company has a group of engineers dedicated to making sure the company’s tools keep working because cell phone companies are in a constant “war” against government hacking providers “to block all those open windows that allow companies like NSO to go in,” according to the entrepreneur who attended the meeting, who was told that as part of the company’s sales pitch.

Scary stuff. NSO Group sells its products to customers (governments) that target political dissidents, journalists, and even an Amnesty International researcher. It claims the product can’t work in the United States.

Activity Trackers Now Mandatory for John Hancock Insurance

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John Hancock insurance will make it mandatory to have an activity tracker, whether it be an iPhone, Apple Watch, or some other device.

The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of its life coverage.

In the past it relied on a reward system for people who had an activity tracker, like gift cards.

Amazon Unveiling New Hardware at Surprise Event Today

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Amazon Echo and Echo Spot

Amazon is hosting a surprise media event 1 PM eastern time on Thursday to announce new hardware products. The company isn’t saying what it’ll introduce, but it’s a safe bet the Echo is involved. Along with new smart speakers and a rumored Echo subwoofer, we may see some other gear outside the smart speaker space. The Verge says,

Amazon could be shifting focus toward Alexa in general, with plans to unveil up to eight smart home devices this year. Rumored products range from a voice-controlled in-car accessory to a smart microwave oven. The latter is particularly interesting given Amazon recently began offering Blue Apron-style meal kits, both online and at its Amazon Go cashier-less outposts. The smart oven, if confirmed, could potentially be tied to Whole Foods as well.

So maybe you’ll be talking to your microwave oven soon, or at least sharing more of your cooking habits with Amazon.

Astronomers Discover a Star Trek Vulcan-like Planet

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Vulcan planet

“The Dharma Planet Survey, in a new study led by University of Florida (UF) astronomer Jian Ge and team including Tennessee State University (TSU) astronomers Matthew Muterspaugh and Gregory Henry, has shown that science fiction may be a little less so; the Dharma project has discovered what may be Star Trek’s famed planet Vulcan.” Or something close to it. Concept image via UF.

Newegg Breach Resulted in loss of Credit Card Data

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A recent Newegg breach lasted a whole month, and hackers stole customer credit card information.

Hackers injected 15 lines of card skimming code on the online retailer’s payments page which remained for more than a month between August 14 and September 18, Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, told TechCrunch. The code siphoned off credit card data from unsuspecting customers to a server controlled by the hackers with a similar domain name — likely to avoid detection. The server even used an HTTPS certificate to blend in.

For the past couple of years I’ve used a service called Privacy.com. It connects to my bank account and I can create near-unlimited virtual cards to use with various places. And no this isn’t an ad, I just think it’s a great service. It’s basically a password manager for your money.