USB-C Power Meter Helps You Spot Counterfeit Accessories Before They Fry Your Gadgets (gizmodo.com) 152

USB Type-C cables are not all created equally. In fact, some USB Type-C cables fail so badly that they will permanently damage your hardware. Benson Leung, an engineer on Google's Pixel team, discovered early last year that there's even more risk to your electronics when you've got a cheap USB-C cable with an older USB connector on the other end that doesn't properly regulate power draw. In an effort to weed out the bad cables from the good, a company called Satechi has released a "Type-C Power Meter" that makes it easy to tell if your USB-C gadgets are at risk of getting fried, or under-powered, by a sketchy accessory. Gizmodo reports: The simple pass-through adapter connects between a USB-C cable and a USB-C device, providing real-time data about the power draw, in either direction, including details about voltage, amps, and the amount of energy that's been transferred since it was first plugged in. The monitor can let you know if an external battery pack is providing the proper amount of power to a smartphone that it claims to, or if your MacBook or Chromebook is receiving sufficient power from a charging cable connected to its USB-C port to actually charge the battery. What the monitor can't do, however, is protect a device if there's a detected problem in the power flow. It's not a surge protector, nor does it have any built-in alarms or warnings because it has no idea what the power requirements are for whatever device you're using it with. You'll have to make sure you're aware of how much power a device is supposed to be drawing, and confirm that it matches what the Type-C Power Meter is reporting, as soon as you plug it in.
Desktops (Apple)

Mac Sales Declined Nearly 10 Percent Last Year (9to5mac.com) 328

It's not surprising that Mac sales dropped for Apple in 2016 as they experienced their first year over year sales decline since 2001. What is interesting, however, is that as Mac sales dropped roughly 10% and personal computers overall dropped 5.7% for the year, the top four leaders in the market all saw growth as Apple was pushed to number five. From a report: Although Mac sales were up in Q4 2016 compared to Q4 2015, an analyst note today from Bloomberg's Anand Srinivasan and Wei Mok has revealed Apple has dropped to the fifth largest PC vendor, with ASUS overtaking fourth place. The top four vendors are now Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS. The report adds, "Those four companies represent 65.2% of the overall market and each grew year -- over-year, while Apple ceded ground, declining 30 bps to 7.1%. The other 27.7% of the market is comprised of more than 200 vendors. In a market expected to consolidate, Samsung and Fujitsu are reported to be in discussions to sell their PC businesses to Lenovo."
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Seemingly Censors UltraFine 5K Monitor Reviews After Poor Feedback (thenextweb.com) 97

It appears Apple is filtering and censoring bad reviews of the LG's UltraFine 5K display. From a report on The Next Web: The deletion was first spotted by a Reddit user four days ago. Though it's possible the reviews were removed for some other reason, at first glance, it looks like censorship. It's not a good look for the company. Apple said it was getting out of the monitor business, and instead chose to work more closely with third-party partners, heavily featuring LG's 5K and 4K UltraFine displays at its recent MacBook Pro unveiling. But then the monitor received multiple negative reviews from users who were experiencing issues such as the screen failing to wake up from sleep. The Reddit post also points out that: "In many cases, attempts to fix the problem through physical reconnection[sic] of the monitor, or manual restarts, have caused the attached Mac to crash, become otherwise unresponsive, or develop problems with the touch bar (where equipped)."

Foxconn Considers $7 Billion Screen Factory In US, Which Could Create Up To 50,000 Jobs (arstechnica.com) 381

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturing company best known for its partnership with Apple, has said that it is mulling a $7 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing that could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. According to The Wall Street Journal, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou says the company is talking with the state of Pennsylvania among others about getting the land and electricity subsidies it would need to build a factory. "If U.S. state governments are willing to provide these terms, and we calculate and it is cheaper than shipping from China or Japan, then why wouldn't Sharp build a factory in the U.S.?" said Gou. The factory would build flat-panel screens under the Sharp name -- Foxconn bought Sharp around this time last year for $5.1 billion. Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu hinted in October of 2016 that U.S. manufacturing could be a possibility for Sharp, and he also indicated that Apple could begin using OLED display panels in future iPhones. Apple currently uses OLED in the Apple Watch and in the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, but otherwise it hasn't pushed to adopt the technology as some Android phone manufacturers have.
Portables (Apple)

Apple To Offer 32GB of Desktop RAM, Kaby Lake In Top-End 2017 MacBook Pro, Says Analyst (appleinsider.com) 300

AppleInsider has obtained a note to investors from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that says Apple's 2017 laptop line will focus on internal component updates, including the platform-wide adoption of Intel's Kaby Lake architecture. What's more is that Apple is expected to manufacture a 15-inch MacBook Pro with up to 32GB of RAM in the fourth quarter of 2017. AppleInsider reports: Apple took flak in releasing its latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models with a hard memory cap of 16GB, an minimal allotment viewed as a negative for imaging and video professionals. Responding to customer criticism, Apple said the move was made in a bid to maximize battery life. Essentially, the Intel Skylake CPUs used in Apple's MacBook Pro only support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. Though Intel does make processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, those particular chipsets rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops with access to dedicated mains power. In order to achieve high memory allotments and keep unplugged battery life performance on par with existing MacBook Pro models, Apple will need to move to an emerging memory technology like LPDDR4 or DDR4L. Such hardware is on track for release later this year. As for the 12-inch MacBook, Kuo believes next-generation versions of the thin-and-light will enter mass production in the second quarter with the same basic design aesthetic introduced in 2015. New for 2017 is a 16GB memory option that will make an appearance thanks to Intel's new processor class.
Operating Systems

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros (macrumors.com) 164

Consumer Reports has updated their report on the 2016 MacBook Pros, and is now recommending Apple's latest notebooks. MacRumors reports: In the new test, conducted running a beta version of macOS that fixes the Safari-related bug that caused erratic battery life in the original test, all three MacBook Pro models "performed well." The 13-inch model without a Touch Bar had an average battery life of 18.75 hours, the 13-inch model with a Touch Bar lasted for 15.25 hours on average, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar had an average battery life of 17.25 hours. "Now that we've factored in the new battery-life measurements, the laptops' overall scores have risen, and all three machines now fall well within the recommended range in Consumer Reports ratings," reports Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports originally denied the 2016 MacBook Pro a purchase recommendation in late December due to extreme battery life variance that didn't match up with Apple's 10 hour battery life claim. Apple worked with Consumer Reports to figure out why the magazine encountered battery life issues, which led to the discovery of an obscure Safari caching bug. Consumer Reports used a developer setting to turn off Safari caching, triggering an "obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons" that drained excessive battery. The bug, fixed by Apple in macOS Sierra 10.12.3 beta 3, is not one the average user will encounter as most people don't turn off the Safari caching option, but it's something done in all Consumer Reports tests to ensure uniform testing conditions. A fix for the issue will be available to the general public when macOS Sierra 10.12.3 is released, but users can get it now by signing up for Apple's beta testing program.
Portables (Apple)

Consumer Reports Updates Its MacBook Pro Review (consumerreports.org) 246

Reader TheFakeTimCook writes: Last month, the new MacBook Pro failed to receive a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports due to battery life issues that it encountered during testing. Apple subsequently said it was working with Consumer Reports to understand the results, which it said do not match its "extensive lab tests or field data." According to an article from Consumer Reports, Apple has since concluded its work, and says it learned that Consumer Reports was using a "hidden Safari setting" which triggered an "obscure and intermittent bug" that led to inconsistent battery life results. With "normal user settings" enabled, Apple said Consumer Reports "consistently" achieved expected battery life. Apple stated: "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life." Apple said it has fixed the Safari bug in the latest macOS Sierra beta seeded to developers and public testers this week.

Macbook Saves Man's Life During Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting (chron.com) 175

A 37-year-old credits his MacBook Pro laptop with saving his life during a shooting at the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. An anonymous reader quotes WPLG Miami: He placed it in his backpack, but didn't think of it when he felt an impact on his back during the shooting... When the bloodshed was over, he said he went to the men's restroom and saw a bullet hole on the laptop. He gave it to FBI agents. And he was in shock when they found a 9 mm bullet in his backpack. That was when he realized a gunman aimed to kill him, but the laptop took the bullet for him. "If I didn't have that backpack on, the bullet would have shot me between the shoulders," Frappier said.

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."

HP Made a Laptop Slightly Thicker To Add 3 Hours of Battery Life (theverge.com) 167

When a technology company like Apple releases a new product, chances are it's going to be thinner than its predecessor -- even if may be slightly worse off for it. HP is taking a different approach with its new 15.6-inch Spectre x360 laptop, which was recently announced at CES. The machine is slightly thicker than its predecessor, and HP claims it features three hours of additional battery life. The Verge reports: The difference between the new x360 and the old x360, in terms of thickness, is minimal, from 15.9mm to 17.8mm. (For reference, the 2015 MacBook Pro was 18mm thick.) It's an increase of 1.9mm for the Spectre, but HP says it's now including a battery that's 23 percent larger in exchange. At the same time, the laptop is also getting narrower, with its body shrinking from 14.8 inches wide to 14 inches wide. Unfortunately, the claimed three hours of additional battery life aren't meant to make this laptop into some long-lasting wonder -- they're really just meant to normalize its battery life. HP will only be selling the 15.6-inch x360 with a 4K display this year, and that requires a lot more power. By increasing the laptop's battery capacity, HP is able to push the machine's battery life from the 9.5 hours it estimated for the 4K version of its 2016 model to about 12 hours and 45 minutes for this model. So it is adding three hours of battery life, but in doing so, it's merely matching the battery life of last year's 1080p model. The x360 is also being updated to include Intel's Kaby Lake processors. It includes options that max out at an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics. It's supposed to be released February 26th, with pricing starting at $1,278 for an entry-level model.
Portables (Apple)

Consumer Reports Stands By Its Verdict, Won't Recommend Apple's MacBook Pro (mashable.com) 268

Consumer Reports took many by surprise last week -- certainly Apple -- when it said it doesn't recommend the company's new MacBook Pro models. The American magazine, which has garnered credibility over 80 years of its existence, said battery life on Apple's new laptops was all over the place -- hitting 19 hours in a test, but less than four hours in another. Last week, Apple's VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller insisted that Consumer Reports' findings didn't match the company's field data, and that Apple was working with Consumer Reports to understand its review. Now Consumer Reports has responded: The nonprofit organization is standing by its initial verdict in which it did not give the MacBook Pro (2016) its "recommended" rating. The organization has now said it doesn't think re-running the tests will change anything. "In this case, we don't believe re-running the tests are warranted for several reasons. First, as we point out in our original article, experiencing very high battery life on MacBooks is not unusual for us -- in fact we had a model in our comparative tests that got 19 hours," it said. "Second, we confirmed our brightness with three different meters, so we feel confident in our findings using this equipment. Finally, we monitor our tests very closely. There is an entry logged every minute, so we know from these entries that the app worked correctly," it added.

Police Request Amazon Echo Recordings For Homicide Investigation (cnet.com) 168

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from CNET: Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot are in millions of homes now, with holiday sales more than quadrupling from 2015. Always listening for its wake word, the breakthrough smart speakers boast seven microphones waiting to take and record your commands. Now, Arkansas police are hoping an Echo found at a murder scene in Bentonville can aid their investigation. [First reported by The Information, investigators filed search warrants to Amazon, requesting any recordings between November 21 and November 22, 2015, from James A. Bates, who was charged with murder after a man was strangled in a hot tub. While investigating, police noticed the Echo in the kitchen and pointed out that the music playing in the home could have been voice activated through the device. While the Echo records only after hearing the wake word, police are hoping that ambient noise or background chatter could have accidentally triggered the device, leading to some more clues. Amazon has not sent any recordings to the officers but did provide Bates' account information to authorities, according to court documents. The retailer giant said it doesn't release customer information without a "valid and binding legal demand." "Amazon objects to over-broad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course," the company said in a statement. Even without Amazon's help, police may be able to crack into the Echo, according to the warrant. Officers believe they can tap into the hardware on the smart speakers, which could "potentially include time stamps, audio files or other data."] Police also found a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, wireless weather monitoring in the backyard and WeMo devices for lighting at the smart home crime scene. Officers have also seized an iPhone 6S, a Macbook Pro, a PlayStation 4 and three tablets in the investigation.
Portables (Apple)

Apple Working With Consumer Reports on MacBook Pro's Battery Issue (cnet.com) 254

Last week, Consumer Reports concluded that it won't be recommending Apple's new MacBook Pro models. The American magazine published since 1936 by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization, cited inconsistent battery issues for not recommending the MacBook Pro for the first time in its history. Apple's VP of Marketing has since addressed the report, saying they are working with the magazine to understand the results. From a report: Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller followed up with a tweet late Friday saying Apple is "working with CR to understand their battery tests. Results do not match our extensive lab tests or field data." Consumer Reports' review says that in-house testing revealed wild fluctuations in battery life for unplugged MacBook Pro computers. In the case of the 13-inch model without a Touch Bar, for example, battery life ranged from 19.5 hours to just 4.5 hours. Apple says the devices should operate for up to 10 hours between charges.
Portables (Apple)

2016 MacBook Pro Fails To Receive a Recommendation From Consumer Reports (9to5mac.com) 212

Consumer Reports has released its evaluation of the new MacBook Pro laptops, and it's not good. The 2016 MacBook Pro is the first MacBook to fail to receive a recommendation from the nonprofit organization dedicated to unbiased product testing. 9to5Mac reports: In a post breaking down the decision not to recommend the new MacBook Pros, Consumer Reports explains that while the new models held up well in terms of display quality and performance, the battery life issues were too big of an issue to overlook. The organization tested three MacBook Pro variants: a 13-inch Touch Bar model, a 15-inch Touch Bar model, and a 13-inch model without the Touch Bar. The general consensus was that "MacBook Pro battery life results were highly inconsistent from one trial to the next." Consumer Reports explains that the 13-inch Touch Bar model saw battery life of 16 hours in one test and 3.75 hours in another, while the non-Touch Bar model maxed out at 19.5 hours, but also lasted just 4.5 hours in another test. The 15-inch model ranged from 18.5 hours to 8 hours. Generally, according to the report, it's expected for battery life to vary from one trial to another by less than 5 percent, meaning that the battery life variances with the new MacBook Pro are very abnormal. Once that was completed, Consumer Reports experimented by conducting the same test using Chrome and "found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs." While the organization can't let that affect its final decision due to its protocol to only use the first-party browser, it's something users may want to try.

Russian Hackers Stole $5 Million Per Day From Advertisers With Bots and Fake Websites (cnn.com) 93

Russian hackers have used fake websites and bots to steal millions of dollars from advertisers. According to researchers, the fraud has siphoned more than $180 million from the online ad industry. CNNMoney reports: Dubbed "Methbot," it is a new twist in an increasingly complex world of online crime, according to White Ops, the cybersecurity firm that discovered the operation. Methbot, so nicknamed because the fake browser refers to itself as the "methbrowser," operates as a sham intermediary advertising ring: Companies would pay millions to run expensive video ads. Then they would deliver those ads to what appeared to be major websites. In reality, criminals had created more than 250,000 counterfeit web pages no real person was visiting. White Ops first spotted the criminal operation in October, and it is making up to $5 million per day -- by generating up to 300 million fake "video impressions" daily. According to White Ops, criminals acquired massive blocks of IP addresses -- 500,000 of them -- from two of the world's five major internet registries. Then they configured them so that they appeared to be located all over the United States. They built custom software so that computers (at those legitimate data centers) acted like real people viewing those ads. These "people" even appeared to have Facebook accounts (they didn't), so that premium ads were served. Hackers fooled ad fraud blockers because they figured out how to build software that mimicked a real person who only surfed during the daytime -- using the Google Chrome web browser on a Macbook laptop.

At Apple, Mac Is Getting Far Less Attention - How It Handled the New MacBook Pro Is a Living Proof (bloomberg.com) 230

Apple CEO Tim Cook may have assured employees that the company is committed to Mac computers, but people working in the Mac team say the company now pays far less attention to the computer lineup, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who has been right just about every time with Apple scoops. From his report: Interviews with people familiar with Apple's inner workings reveal that the Mac is getting far less attention than it once did. They say the Mac team has lost clout with the famed industrial design group led by Jony Ive and the company's software team. They also describe a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers. While the Mac generates about 10 percent of Apple sales, the company can't afford to alienate professional designers and other business customers. After all, they helped fuel Apple's revival in the late 1990s. In a stinging critique, Peter Kirn, founder of a website for music and video creators, wrote: "This is a company with no real vision for what its most creative users actually do with their most advanced machines." If more Mac users switch, the Apple ecosystem will become less sticky -- opening the door to people abandoning higher-value products like the iPhone and iPad. The report also sheds light on battery issues in the new MacBook Pro lineup that many have complained about. From the report: In the run-up to the MacBook Pro's planned debut this year, the new battery failed a key test, according to a person familiar with the situation. Rather than delay the launch and risk missing the crucial holiday shopping season, Apple decided to revert to an older design. The change required roping in engineers from other teams to finish the job, meaning work on other Macs languished, the person said. The new laptop didn't represent a game-changing leap in battery performance, and a software bug misrepresented hours of power remaining. Apple has since removed the meter from the top right-hand corner of the screen.
Desktops (Apple)

Tim Cook Assures Employees That It Is Committed To Mac and 'Great Desktops' Are Coming (techcrunch.com) 307

Apple CEO Tim Cook has assured the employees that the company is committed to the computer lineups and that a desktop computer is certainly on the way. From a report on TechCrunch: "Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we're committed to desktops," Cook wrote. "If there's any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that." Cook cites the far better performance of desktop computers, including screen sizes, memory, storage and more variety in I/O (ha) as a reason that they are "really important, and in some cases critical, to people." So no matter how you feel about the state of the Mac at the moment, you have new machines to look forward to. No mention of whether that meant iMac or Mac Pro or both, but at the very least it's encouraging to those of us who couldn't live without a desktop computer.
Portables (Apple)

Apple Removes the 'Time Remaining' Battery Indicator In New macOS Update (loopinsight.com) 164

Apple has removed the "time remaining" battery life indicator with the new macOS Sierra update following complaints from several users of new MacBook Pro models. Apple says it stands by its 10-hour battery life claim in the new MacBook Pro models, and adds that the battery life indicator didn't show accurate information. From a report on The Loop: You can still see the image on the top of the screen, and you can see the percentage, but you will no longer be able to see how much time is remaining before your battery dies. [...] Apple said the percentage is accurate, but because of the dynamic ways we use the computer, the time remaining indicator couldn't accurately keep up with what users were doing. Everything we do on the MacBook affects battery life in different ways and not having an accurate indicator is confusing. Besides the apps we are working on all the time, there are a lot of things that are happening in the background that users may not be aware of that affects battery life.

Microsoft Says More People Are Switching From Macs To Surface Than Ever Before (theverge.com) 376

Microsoft has been targeting Mac users with its Surface commercials recently, and it appears they might be paying off. From a report on The Verge: The software giant claims that November was the "best month ever for consumer Surface sales," following a number of Black Friday deals on the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft still isn't providing sales numbers, but the company claims "more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before." Microsoft cites "the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro" and its trade-in program for MacBooks for tempting people to switch to Surface. Again, Microsoft refuses to provide numbers but vaguely claims "our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever."
Open Source

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based Operating System Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 137

BrianFagioli shares his story on Beta News: Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there is a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

Here's the release notes for both Cinammon and MATE.

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